Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ColorForm Fun

Wow! We sure were able to get a lot done this past weekend! I keep telling myself that because it felt like we worked it, and yet we were able to cross only one thing off that aforementioned list.

In truth, we kinda got the Living Room painted. Kinda, like, ‘not really’. We did get the walls cleaned, patched, sanded and primed, tho. Saturday started with getting the girls ready to spend the day with Abuelita (Grandma), and two hours later they were off. Again, our primary goal was to work on the things that we could not do while they were here in the house. This means ‘stuff’ like priming with the shellac-based primer that seals in the smoking odors of the PO and prepped the top coat of “renters’ high-gloss bone white” paint for a new coat of our liking. The stuff is highly noxious but you need not de-gloss a surface for it to adhere (using TSP or sandpaper).

Another Diversion

So, just as the girls drove away, the cat [we have 3, but it will always be the same one who makes mention on this blog] managed to find the sole flower from the garden Roxana had just placed in a nice thick glass vase on the fireplace mantle the night before [Of note: we have NO house plants and no flowers in the house for this reason…but once in a while we always try].

Well, just as I turn around and see the beast, he nabs at the meager foliage and attempts to yank it out of the bottle, only to send it shattering to the Living Room floor, coffee table and new rug. Luckily (sic) it deflected to smash on the fireplace threshold, but the itty bitty glass shards were everywhere. I had to pick these up by hand and vacuum as I did not want to sweep them across our still relatively new hardwood floor.


An hour or so later, the Living Room was relatively vacated and clean, and I released Goatie from his ‘confine-ment’ (shut into a bedroom). We then proceeded to mask off the trim and floor and patch & sand the walls. One nice thing about craftsman homes and the like is that actual wall space is quite minimal when it comes to painting, much of it being taken up by trim, wainscoting and acquisition by the ceiling. Allow me to reiterate the rule that 90% effort is in the preparation, whereas 10% is for the actual ‘work’.

And then we were ready to prime the walls. This particular primer is incredibly runny, but it sticks to anything and anything sticks to it, ripe for plenty of options.

On Color

So we get the point of laying down the color. We were looking for something along the line of a muted/aged yellowish-orange. The Behr paint color we selected (which frankly looked VERY different online from the paint chip sample) was called ‘Squash’. The color we got was different still from either of the 2 translations we saw previously. On the wall, it looked quite more saturated, like a much younger color than the ‘mature’ one we were looking for.

Standing there, Roxana (color theorist she is) looks to me and declares “that’s a kindergarten yellow”. And just then, it hits me. I hear the song in my head “the wheels on the bus go round and round…” as I realize that this is the color of a school bus. This is NOT the color we wanted, not that I don’t like this color, just not on the wall. This is the same color you find on a Number 2 pencil, not in an austere-yet-friendly semi-social gathering space!

Joining The Club

After reading from so many other housebloggers on the difficulty of getting the color just right, we had thought we could nail it on the first try. Wearing our smugness on our face like egg yolk, we must contemplate our options.

We can adopt one of the many faux texturing techniques utilizing another color to sway it toward the hue we desire, with sponge or rag or whatnot. This is what we shall most likely do as it will take the least amount of time/effort. So we have left the masking in place for the time being.

Venetian Plaster

I, however, was pushing for the Venetian Plastering technique. And I really mean a hybrid akin to that, as traditional Venetian Plaster was attempting to recreate a marble effect, complete with a polishing to a slick shine. I don’t care for marbled walls or for a high gloss shine. What I want is an aged mottling of some color. Either way, it is rather labor intensive.

When Roxana & I were in college studying Architecture, one of the trends in studio was to model one's projects with MorphBoard. I don’t know who really came up with this, but we picked it up from Architectural-rockstars Morphosis (Santa Monica based) in the 90’s. Their models would look like they were carved out of something, and it was sexy.

Phhht! to foamcore and museum board and flat dead colors!

[NOTE1: The above 3 pictures are borrowed from the article at ArtSparx] [NOTE2: The following 2 pictures are courtesy of Morphosis, they show their models of the Performing Arts Pavilion (Los Angeles ~1992) and the Chiba Project (Tokyo ~1992) respectively]


MorphBoard was just the cheapest chipboard (cardboard) we could get (like free), and a series of layers (3-5) of modeling paste mixed with acrylic paint spackled on and then sanded [modeling paste is a medium for painters (art-kind) to give 'body' to their paintings. There are various grades and some have too much latex to be sandable]. Some would choose variations on a single color, while others would select complimentary colors (opposites). We tried graphite shavings, brass flakes, silk tread... It was sort of a challenge to see if one could make the nastiest looking board based on the colors or sloppiness one chose. The problem is they always ended up looking sweet after the final sanding, you could do no wrong.

Now plaster is not a far cry from modeling paste, as both adopt color and are sandable. So I suggested we go for this, as we both had plenty of experience making MorphBoard, this should be no different. But in the end, I lost the debate for now, and I have to admit that I agree. This prolongs a ‘weekend task’ for a month or more, as our renovating pacing is snail-like while our daughters are so little. And besides, as my wife put it, “there are other hobbies to pursue as well”, like painting (art-kind), sculpting and making miniatures.

And here's a gatuitous picture of our 'other' cat. He, also, was a rescue cat. He's albino and completely deaf. He is large, lanky and his meow is more like a yell, so we initially named hime Yeti. But because of his sugary-sweet disposition we have taken to renaming him Pink Maus. Pinky is also epileptic. But, perhaps we should have called him Ziggy Stardust 'cuz it seems like he comes from Mars and he's got that languid catwalk-thing down. Either way, he doesn't mind all this name changing business.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Toddlerhood & The Art Of Home Maintenance

Ok, so I really mean Home Restoration, but I kinda prefered that title, juxtaposing Zen with Toddlerhood. I mean that there's a certain fine line between blissful parentage of little ones and the desire to run out the door screaming. Fixing up an (overly?) idealized old home seems quite akin to this. And only moreso because in the battle for my weekend time, the girls always win, and the house is left with late night stealth restoration leaving me feeling like a ninja (props to Home Improvement Ninja), high in tension yet strangely in the zone. It also doesn't help that I am notoriously clumsy and am penchant for dropping hammers and such. But these silent restoration sessions are now the order of things since we have moved in and my girls cry "Daddydaddydaddy!!!" while I am home, rather than "going to the house to work" while we were still renting not long ago.

To give you an example, the (single) window I recently replaced on the front door was done with only 5 well timed semi-silent whacks of the hammer so as not to awaken the sleeping occupants, so stealthy was I. And the back door upgrade was effected while the almost 3 year old napped in the adjacent room. I opted for my aphonic hand tools over my "get it done quick" powered ones that time, and I actually perferred them afterall.

So this is the first actuall weekend since moving in that we plan on devoting to our restoration efforts. This has come about because (a) our almost 3 year old will soon be 3 years old, and we plan to host a little birthday party for her at the new home as she still calls it and the house isn't quite ready for prime-time, if you follow me. The other reason is (b) we were able to procure a day of babysitting with a grandmother. While other married with childrens take these opportunities to date like teenagers, married with children and old homes use it to do that dusty, messy, noisy, paint-fumey work that has been staring at them from the To-Do list since Day One. And maybe, just maybe, we might sneak in a quick little date at the end of it all.

We will be trying to focus on the work we could not do while the girls are in the house, so stay tuned to see what we really could get accomplished. This is what we hope to do:
- prep the plaster walls in the living & dining room for a primer coat of paint
- paint those walls (after we actually decide on the color & technique)
- finish the last bit of flooring in those rooms (yes, we have some bare spots still)
- get the built-in seats sanded and re-hinged
- finish stripping the built-in buffet...the countertop cavity where the mirror is

Wish us luck!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the Cat

Why would I blog about a cat on a houseblog? Well, I shall tell you. Because of HIM, we had to 'up' a project on our todo list. Here is the culprit:That's him, the one 'IN' the catgrass that we had just planted. Here is another one where he was trying to steal my lunch, the theif. Shortly after adopting him, he would come to us in the mornings with curled up whiskers like he had just gotten a perm until we finally figured out that he was checking out the toaster to see if it had anything swipe-worthy (like we toast bacon or something in there), STICKING HIS MUG IN THE SLOTS WHILE IT WAS HOT. He would steal broccoli from a cooking pot like it was a filet mignon, and growl at us if we tried to take the steaming vegetable back. Keep in mind that he is sitting on my monitor as I type this and maneuver around his furry butt (my screen is mounted below my desktop).

So I hope that I have adequately established that this cat is a beast. We initially named him B-goat...as in Billy Goat, as in "eat everything within reach", but he hassince earned a plethora of monikers in the meantime. Here are just a few:

Mr. Shino Bicho Complainer Saucy Sandy-Claws Chicken-Hawk Troubles

Anyways, back to why I would blog about a cat here. Roxana went out to the backyard to do some gardening with Michaela while the 6 month old slept. This cat always throws a fit if someone goes outdoors without him. Understand this: He is an indoor only cat; we do not let him out, even occasionally or as a treat so it's not like he knows what he's missing. BUT, if he does get out, he just goes to eat all the grass he can, or beat up any neighbor cats he sees (BTW, he caught a possum once, a Richmond, CA, possum while we were living there...twice his size!). At least he's easy to catch.

So, while he throws his tantrum about wanting to go out, too, Goat jumps up and pulls the deadbolt on the back door, locking my wife and oldest daughter outside, while the baby slept inside, he making a racket all the while. So with no other options, Roxana breaks the flimsy plexiglass on the door to open it back up. Now I had to either replace the silly plexiglass glazing with proper glass, or just replace the door altogether with something more substancial.

And if you have been following this blog at all, I'm sure you'd guess that I would choose the later and go for the upgrade. You would be right. We liked that the back door had a window to let more light into our cavernous (sic) kitchen, and yet we wanted a door what would go with the rest of the original doors throughout the house (5 interior doors). They are all just a simple framed door with a single inset panel. So we went with such a door, but with a double glazed full panel instead. Same by proportions, but different.

So, I spent that weekend mortising the hinges, and mounting the deadbolt (albeit a bit more stiff). I am no expert at hanging doors and windows, but I can do it with realive success. Besides, I got to play with my new planes and chisels (I love hand tools). You will notice that the door looks crooked, and it is because the house is sinking in that corner most egregiously due to the neighboring apartment building sporting a failing retaining wall. This is the result of a 5-6" drop in that far corner! Now sure how the apartment people got this redwood retaining wall by the city when they did, but now I have to deal with it. Anyone know building law & how I can get them to fix this?

So, when we get around to either leveling or lifting the house, the door 'should' fit correctly, and all the frozen peas I keep dropping will stop rolling to that far corner like they are posessed.

Note: This entry will be updated very soon, with more pictures, and a slightly emmended text. Stay posted, m'kaye?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pimp My Door (part 1)

Okayyyy, as I keep droning on about the damage I did to our front door (ie. breaking a little window), I shall finally conclude this bombination with it's resolution: New Upgraded Glass. Well, maybe just *a* new window for now.

Why do I feel this entry is worthy of more than just a picture and a "here-you-go", you may be asking? Well...because I really had to think about this one before I did it, and it appeared that another such window was replaced at one time without so much thought. I didn't want to damage it further than I had.

Here's the dilemma (which turned out to not really be a dilemma afterall). Each of the 8 little window openings is actually just a simple cut-out of the solid door. The glazing is held in by 4 beveled strips of oak on either side, glued and nailed to the door. I knew that if I could somehow remove one of the peices, the others would be cake. But being that the nails holding each peice were finish nails, I was faced with choosing to (A) gouge out a nail (and leave an ugly divit) or (B)pry the first strip out until it snapped in half. This is what some former owner chose to do.


I figured there had to be a better way that wouldn't leave damage. So I opted to just sink the nail. I got myself the smallest drift pin (center punch, if you will) I could find, 1/16". These are more common in the auto repair or mechanical realm, so try looking in such a shop. I marked the depth on this tool with some tape and hammered the little nail clear through.

Pry-ers and Pliers

Then, using a thin knife, I dislodged the glued bond. This also breaks the shellac/finish skin and prevents any chipping/splintering. The peice is then pried out laterally with a stiff spackle knife. And there you will see that little sunken nail still in the door that you can now pull out with some needle nose pliers.

More scoring with the knife and then the remaining peices can be pried out normally. After cleaning up the opening surfaces, I set the new beleved glass in with glaziers putty and glued the little wood stops back in along with another finishing nail in the original hole, albeit slightly larger/longer than the previous ones.
And Voila! I have to say it's looking pretty nice, especially up next to those plain panes which also happen to be a bit sandblasted (grumblegrumble). My only regret is that we were hoping for more bevel, but at $1.22 each, I really can't complain.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Diversion

Yeah, like I need another one! Well, this one actually helps me. We (my office...an architecture one) held a sketch-off one recent weekend. All 50 of us were given snazzy new sketchbooks on that Friday and told to submit one drawing (or whatever) of any subject/medium by Tuesday by 11. Well, the weekend came and went as life with little ones (read as 2 daughters under 3 years old) tends to do. The evenings are no better as I am so wound out and can barely make it through and episode of the Wire or somesuch.

So I get up on the morning of to get ready for work at the time I am supposed to get up (which is a rarity these days), and I decide I need to have something to submit. Afterall, I got this new sketchbook and it's the least I can do to be a team player. No time to tune my pens (the rapidographs that I love but are infintely fussy and a pain in the rumpus if you don't use them daily and just let them sit and dry out), so I grab a quasi-trusty old mechanical pencil (disposable kind)...the one that suffered a wash in the laundry and has the busted tip that I salvaged from another broken mechanical pencil.

An hour later, I deem I would be arriving at work the time I usually do (9:30) so I stop, unfinished and acceptably satistfied...not really to my personal standards, but worthy of a show of submission (like I kinda tried).

Well, as you have already figued out, my drawing won [danceskipwhee] Apparantly hands-down and I was given a 4g iPod nano (red) for my troubles! How cool is that? This is our first iPod, btw, and I have to admit that I love this iPod culture! [grooooooove]

They already had the back laser-engraved:

Quattrocchi Kwok
We make stuff up

I was told during judging to talk about my peice so all I pretty much uttered was "(mumblemumblemumble)...confluent behaviours from disparate objects in effluency". After the general laughs I titled my bit Confluency. Truthfully, this is how I draw subject/process-wise. It's what I know, or rather, "it is what it is".

Friday, April 06, 2007

Alive and Kicking

Holy Cow, have I been out of the bloggers' circle for some time. It's been almost 1½ months since I last graced this medium. But, fear naught, for though there has been little told of our doings, much has been doing in the interrim...but alas, little has been done. I mean to say that many house-restoration projects have been initiated, but none of them have actually been completed, thus explaining my scarceness. I had hoped to post "finished" projects, rather than "just started" ones, but I suppose I need to get over that hang-up already.

So, although this is just a check-in, I shall outline the entries that I have in the works and assure you all that they shall be posted in short time, whether I have finished the job yet or not.

First up: Front Door (8) Mini-Window Replacement/Upgrade
After I broke a window just before we moved in, I vowed to upgrade the plain glass with a beveled glass. I have since replaced the broken one, so now we have one fancy window out of 8.

Next up: Back Door Replacement/Upgrade
Our back door was rather flimsy, with the half-panel window of thin plexiglass (not very secure) even flimsier. While Roxana was out in the garden with our 3 yo Michaela, our indoor-only cat bolted the door shut while throwing a fit about wanting to go out too, thereby locking my wife & daughter out of the house. She had to break this pithy faux window to get back inside. I therefore chose to replace the whole door rather than just replace the window, since we intended on doing that anyways (but much later than immediately). I have the hinges and deadbolt mortised in and secure, but have yet to do the knob and finish-coat the wood.

And then: Front Porch Light Upgrade
Tired of the bathroom fixture light on our sexy porch (with a view of the SF Bay), we purchased a fitting new one from Hubbardton Forge (Ooooo! I love their fixtures!!!). Well, after I installed the light (in the dark, mind you), we realized how awful the porch ceiling looked. Beforehand, it was the light that we noticed as the eyesore, now with our beautiful light, the bead-board ceiling looks hiddeous, as though we had not noticed it there before. It needs a thorough scraping/stripping and a new finish.

And currently: Window Coverings!
This, we are still trying to figure out. Neither Roxana nor I are particularly fond of curtains, but neither do we favor the akward bulkiness of blinds, either in the window cavity which would block some of the window, or over the trim, while all of our trims/rails are tied together so seamlessly and look quite sharp uninterrupted. But something needs to be done ASAP as our 4'x9' uncovered front window makes us feel like we are starring in our own reality program, we feel so exposed. So, after much ado, we are opting for some form of Shori panels (for light but privacy day-wise) along with curtains (for privacy night-wise). In the meantime, we have been using childrens' puzzle foam mats which looks quite silly, imho.

And more in the coming month:
- finally finishing the flooring!
- prepping and texturing the living/dining walls and a painting
- hardware upgrade on the living/dining built-ins

So, stay tuned and I will be keeping this site up-to-date again.