Hive House

For my 40th birthday Jules sent me a copy of the Design Sponge DIY home decor book (thanks Jules).  Thumbing through the pages I began to realize that with very little effort our house could be transformed.   We rent, and our house only has two bedrooms, so by the end of elementary school Seth is bound to outgrow it.  We could invest in better carpet, but time flies and we would be moving before the carpet was even broken in.  We could paint every room in the house, but that takes valuable time and I would rather be swimming, snowboarding or soccer gaming.  We needed to choose what to do to make it our own within budget and reasonable time.  Here is what we did.

A few years ago we purchased a Modernica day/bed sofa in golden yellow.  You can see it here in the “thinking” corner of our living room.  I purposely leave this corner open.  Seth commonly lounges on the sofa with his head hanging over the edge and reads a book.  You can see there is one open there in the bright morning light.  The perpetually changing pile of books and 70’s yellow fabric reminds me of old school institutional libraries – no frills places where you can let your guard down and open your mind.

Light is an issue in this house.  The cottage is positioned on the eastern slope of a mountain, so there is never a “bright” time of day.  That said, the sofa sometimes seems dark and moody, but more often it has a sunny lively demeanor.  The cushion on the ottoman comes off.  When Seth is away the pillow stays on.  When Seth is here he takes the pillow off and uses the resulting coffee table for the business of the little boy.  The pillows are the perfect  firmness for Lego play, comfortable enough to let your imagination flow, but stable enough to land a ship on.   It is remarkable how much a piece of furniture can facilitate  life.

Up until Labor Day weekend the wall below that runs across the house from the living room to the kitchen was painted primer white.  Ryder made me stay home from whatever trouble I would have gotten in had I gone camping, and forced me to paint the wall.  Well not exactly forced.  Once I started to see how unifying and chipper the color was I could not stop.  I always turn into my mother in situations like these, hyper-focused forgoing sustenance and rest till my vision is realized.

Choosing a color to paint a wall can be an endless chasm of choices.  That is, if you don’t already have a piece of furniture in a happy color that you love.  Gold complements all the people who live here, and I would go so far as to say that painting our wall gold has brought us even closer to domestic bliss.  Our house now feels like what  a bee must experience collecting pollen on a giant sunflower.  Warm filtered light reflected off the yellow petals, yet still in the shadow as you cling to the upside down flower in the endless pursuit of collection.  I now think of our house as the “hive house”.  “Hive” in the sense that it is warm and buzzing with bees, but also “hive” as if we hived off a portion of summer and preserved it here to live in through the damp cold of the Santa Cruz Mountain winter.

Painting the central wall “Midas Touch” required other walls to be updated too.  The wainscoting below was a “redwood” color.  Before the gold was even dry,  I dug in the garage for some old primer and covered the offending orange.  Now the light in the kitchen itself is even cooler, but it is off-set by the glow from the rest of the house.  I like the way the two temperaments play off each other.  I might add that our vast crop of Lumina pumpkins does a good job transitioning the eye.

This painting had to hang somewhere, but it sort of clashes with the gold.  We hung it on an old nail in the living room and the placement was perfect.  The living room is, for all intents and purposes Seth’s room.  The mechanized little boy vibe of the oil is a nice juxtaposition to the cozy reading chair, vintage children’s books and “Goodnight” house. This corner is dominated by the wood stove, and in the winter it is alive with the primal element.  I think this painting will hold it’s own when winter waltzes in and we are forced to acknowledge our survival hefting logs and tending coals.

Speaking of heating, we do not use the gas heater on the wall because propane is simply too expensive.  Instead we use molding hooks and Ikea frames to document the drawing du jour.  I was finding that although Seth always has sketch books at his disposal, he will often draw great works on computer paper.  Since the heater is metal I was using magnets to a fix these drawings.  However, it still looked messy and I found myself  never stopping to enjoy the work.  In the frames, I look more closely at the drawings and admire the detail.  The frames are easy to use so Seth can take the work in and out as he pleases.  At some point down the line I would like to make a fabric slip cover for the heater, but for now we are working with the “Duchamp” of it.

Earlier in the summer we made a few critical mods to the kitchen.  The most impactful being the chalk board paint island.  You can see the grey triangle tiles in the back splash.  They are impossible to change.  When the island was white the first place you looked was those darn triangles.  We had to upstage them, yet acknowledge them, such that no one could accuse us of “throwing up a distraction”.  The chalk board, especially after a wipe-down matches the tiles perfectly.  We use the chalk board for everything.  My favorite use was over the summer.  Seth had to stay at home with me while I worked on certain days.  We would write down the schedule on the board together.  He liked the physicality of it, and the fact that he had “buy-in” to the schedule.  It was a handy parenting tool because he could read the times he had written on the board, and he could check the clock on the stove.  If I was on a call with a client I would simply point to the board and that was his cue to check the time parameters.  This worked well except when I was outside the tolerances :-).

Behind this curtain are the washer and dryer.  I am perpetually closing the curtain after people, but the pretty allium pattern rewards me for my toil.

My favorite update to the copesthetics of the kitchen was the addition of proper stools at the drawing table.  The house had come with some white dowel stools that were falling apart when we got here.  We decided to retire those and drop some cash for well designed relatively good quality stools.  I like the fact that the legs are tapered and they blend perfectly with the vintage drafting table.  We spend so much time at the table making stuff that is critical to our futures.  Good stools seemed like an investment worth making.  Although, it is funny that we spent our decorating budget on the least flamboyant items in our home.

I hope your summer was abundant, and autumn finds you well stocked with ideas for the long winter ahead. – Alis