House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal V

“Monk’s House lay at the bottom of the village street that winds down from the high road between Lewes and Newhaven and on which nearly all of Rodmell has been built. It was a modest brick and flint dwelling, weather-boarded on the street side, two stories high with a high pitched slate roof; inside, many low small rooms opened one from another: the ground floors were paved with brick, the stairs were narrow with worn treads: there was of course neither bath nor hot water or W.C. Rising behind the house was a profuse and untidy garden, with flint walls and many outhouses, and beyond the garden was an orchard and beyond the orchard the walled churchyard. The more Leonard and Virginia looked at the place, the more they liked it. They tried their best to find faults, but only succeeded in liking it better.”

Quentin Bell  Virginia Woolf: A Biography

strawberries-1

Strawberries in honor of Monk’s House and VW, and and all the creativity and lifted spirits inspired by houses!

House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal IV

“I visited Charleston [Farmhouse] last December on an extremely cold, gray, day, and immediately felt its Chekhovian beauty and sadness. The place has been preserved in its worn and faded and stained actuality. It is an artist’s house, a house where an eye has looked into every corner and hovered over surface, considering what will please it to look at every day – an eye that has been educated by Paris ateliers and villas in the South of France and is not gladdened by English prettiness. But it is also the house of an Englishwoman (an Englishwoman who on arriving at her rented house in St. Tropez in 1921 wrote to Maynard Keynes in London to ask him to send a dozen packages of oatmeal, ten seven-pound tins of marmalade, four pounds of tea and ‘some potted meat’) – a house where sagging armchairs covered with drooping slipcovers of faded print fabric are tolerated, and where even a certain faint dirtiness is cultivated.”

Janet Malcolm “A House of One’s Own” (The New Yorker June, 5, 1995)

teacups II

 

But clean teacups.

I love Charleston Farmhouse – Vanessa Bell’s house in Sussex – so inspiring and so lived-in.

 

 

House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal III

“No wonder people get in a permanent state of denial about the need for building maintenance. It is all about negatives, never about rewards. Doing it is a pain. Not doing it can be catastrophic. A constant draining expense, it never makes money. You could say it does save money in the long run, but even that is a negative because you never see the saving in any accountable way. When, after months or years of nagging, you finally do the work – refinish the floor, hire the roofers, replace the damned furnace – you have nothing new and positive, just a negated negative. The problem that needed fixing turned into an even worse problem during the chaos of repair, and then it went away. Even the Bible is on your case for waiting so long: ‘By much slothfulness the building decayeth.’ (Ecclesiastes, X, 18).

Yet the issue is core and absolute: no maintenance, no building. And that’s what usually happens. Every building is potentially immortal, but very few last half the life of a human.”

Stewart Brand How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built

friends

These guys feel the pain.

 

House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal II

“The front door has always been a place of great symbolic importance. Ever since men lived in caves, the front door – and its threshold – have demarcated the transition between inside and outside, between safety and danger, between the public and the private worlds. We angrily show people the door, or considerately we walk them to it; we knock on the door and wait to be invited in. It is the place for many everyday ceremonies of arrival and departure, for familial hugs and for furtive, adolescent goodnight kisses. It is the memory of these that gives front doors personality – that is why we adorn them with Christmas wreaths and Thanksgiving corn.”

Witold Rybczynski The Most Beautiful House in the World

entry way collection

And then there is the entry way.

House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal I

“Houses are really quite odd things. They have almost no universally defining qualities: they can be of practically any shape, incorporate virtually any material, be of almost any size. Yet wherever we go in the world we know houses and recognize domesticity the moment we see them.”

Bill Bryson At Home: A Short History of Private Life

bowls

Bowls – maybe they all have bowls.

A Bungalow in Eagle Rock – and a Spring Salad

Flying from Anchorage and arriving in Southern California for the weekend felt such a treat – similar cloudless blue skies, but much warmer temperatures and no late March ice underfoot! We visited gardens in bloom, worked in our son’s garden, and ate great meals.

Our son and his sweet bride have made their classic California bungalow, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, so welcoming. One-story with a garage on a fairly busy street, it has commonalities with Downtown Abbey and our house in Washington – white walls and fir floors, books and pictures – but it invites one outdoors.

A few steps up from the garden, a large, veranda-like covered porch stretches across the back of the house. With newly dark-stained wood floors, an old blue-cotton covered loveseat, cushioned wicker chairs and a hammock, everything about this porch makes you want to linger with a book. The guest room opens onto the porch (all the back doors are sliding doors, no snow or wind to keep out), and I love to step straight out in bare feet.

The young couple has transformed their barren back yard, a rectangle of scrubby grass, into a city oasis. Just a small square of spring-green grass remains and around it, in generous garden beds, grow a pomegranate, persimmon, olive, lemon, orange, and banana tree. (It astounds me to write that list.)

A tall wooden spirit house from Thailand occupies one corner, surrounded by shrubby drought-resistant plants, and St. Francis stands in another corner amongst rosemary, lavender, and blooming sweet william. A row of closely planted podocarpus screen the near neighbors.

The winter kale was ready to be pulled and replaced by zucchini, pepper plants, and tomatoes (later in the season they might come north to Alaska and Washington). After planting, watering, and weeding it’s March bliss to a Northwesterner to have a beer under a sun umbrella on the brick patio – and to eat breakfast outdoors as well.

The new kitchen is brightened by tubular skylights, white walls and cupboards, and made colorful by open and glass-fronted shelving full of pottery and travel treasures. An eating counter with stools replaced the wall between kitchen and dining room. It’s great place to perch and watch a fabulous meal come together, thanks to the sweet bride!

She served “Vegetables and Brown Rice Salad,” and later sent her recipe. (It seems like you could easily vary both the vegetables used and the quantities.)

In a large bowl mix together a couple of diced carrots, a cup of white beans, a couple of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of sliced shallots, a zucchini (cut in half and sliced), finely sliced kale, and kalamata olives. To dress this mix, the sweet bride recommended regular oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressing, suggesting I add a little soy sauce or sesame oil. She warned me to add the dressing sparingly.

Mix in a cup of cooked brown rice, combined well with a tablespoon of lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Rice and white beans and real spring – treats!

Wm:T house

House Rules

Rules we abide by (or ignore) in our own houses can be complex and mysterious in origin. Where do we get these notions that fill our home rulebook?

My mother is the source of some of my rules: no ketchup bottles or milk cartons on the dining table, and from her Irish roots, “if you kill a spider, it will rain the next day.” She believed houses should always have fireplaces but no overhead lights actually used. We lived in a 27-foot trailer for some time, so I’m not sure that rule worked out for her, but I’ve remembered and obeyed it.

An old neighbor of long ago, the one, who had four little towheaded boys when our towhead joined the neighborhood line-up, was the source of several tricks and truisms. (I was so new to both homeownership and motherhood at the time that I readily absorbed her rules.) She declared that if the toilets weren’t clean, the house wouldn’t seem clean, and recommended at the approach of unexpected visitors to pull out the vacuum. A vacuum in the middle of the floor signals a cleaning in progress!

My old friend who lives on Bainbridge Island taught me about counter wiping. We joke about it, but it’s true. A nurse, she knows germs. Also, she possesses Scandinavian blue-and-white clean genes, and her house can sparkle – with towels and sheets fresh from hanging on the line outside, cut flowers on the kitchen table, homemade preserves.

No shoes in the house is second nature to anyone who has lived in Alaska.

From my very good high school friend’s mother, I learned to always leave a house or a cabin clean when departing. Dirty windows block a huge amount of light. That’s longtime Anchorage garden writer Jeff Lowenfels’s rule to encourage light for houseplants – and lifted spirits for humans.

My painter friend taught me to shut the shades and close out the dark each evening, a ritual I love here where the winter nights are even darker (not now thankfully!).

The rules for how to hang paintings come courtesy of Don and Julie Decker, the owners of the Anchorage gallery where I used to show. The museum rule is the center of the painting at about five feet above the floor – the Deckers could masterfully eyeball that height. It’s so easy to hang things too high, and as our younger son said to me recently, it looks weird once you notice.

Cheryl Mendelson in “Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House” taught me her way to make beds – to add an extra flat sheet over the wool blanket, then fold the top sheet over that – protecting the blanket. Mendelson’s book contains 854 pages and many rules – great stuff really – how to “properly” wash dishes by hand, how to light a fire, how to clean most anything in a house.

And same with Ellen Sandbeck’s “Organic Housekeeping,” a gift from Mrs. Hughes, I read it from front to back, and the rule I remember is no sponges (“bacterial incubators”) for dishes. Ever. Maybe.

Rules. Are these rules about rigidity or about comfort? You must have them also. Probably some of yours contradict mine.

But we all know what rules are for, right?!

Scizzors,chore lists