Two Types of Wood…the kitchen countertop

As L. Francis Herresmhoff used to say:  “to most people, particularly the ladies, there are two types of wood.  One is stained red and called mahogany, and the other is not stained red, and is not called mahogany.”  This quote makes me laugh for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that L. Francis, was often spot on the money.

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Big impact.

The reason I got to thinking about old L. has its roots in my perpetual state of unrest.  I feel like I’ve been in No. 4 for longer than all my other properties – of course that isn’t true, but it feels like a life sentence in inertia.  If you can bear with the drama for one more moment, I hope you will understand that I don’t like to be caged and the capital gains regulations have me hemmed in!  Alas, a few more months and I will be able to put it on the market, and I’ll be back to ranting about some other thing like a plumber not showing up, or the property of a lifetime not presenting itself to me.  The first will most certainly happen, the second is likely never too.

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“Woodn’t this counter work for you?”

The thing of it is, with the Manse complete, I’m feeling a little lost for a design project.  I am working on the yard, and don’t get me wrong, there are many rewards associated with working outdoors, and designing a landscape plan, but it’s not the same as an interior.  So, enter stage left – Francis.  That guy put the bright work in mahogany.  He could make it shine like nobodies business, and it made me think – who needs stone, or granite or quartz, marble for a kitchen counter top?  I know he wouldn’t have approved of plastic laminate, after all he did refer to fiberglass hulls as “frozen snot”, so there you go – why not mahogany?

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Mirrors are magic.  Making small spaces feel expansive.

I saw a picture of a wet bar – that’s a rich person’s equivalent of a 500SF room for shoes.  This one was just a little bit of thing though, and that appealed to me.  It was about the size of small closet, it’s back mirrored to make it look larger and a little mysterious.  It’s cabinets done in a high gloss royal blue, and its counter….a beautiful red stained wood…wood that looked suspiciously like, well you know.  It was varnished until the light reflected off of it like a diamond on the hand of an heiress.  Brilliant.

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Creativity has no bounds.  Check out those doors.

Since most of my kitchens are about the size of a closet, I thought to myself, why not?  Shouldn’t I have all the glamour of a wet bar in my next little apartment.  Don’t answer – I’m doing it.

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The mirrors have it.  Reflections of….

Cabin Fever: configuring space

As I prepared to write this post I thought a Northeast winter a good analogy for tight spaces, and it is.  It has a special way of making you feel trapped. Snow piled high in 10 foot drifts, creating tight, single file lanes on sidewalks, blocking sight lines, turning sunshines meager attempts at entry away.  Then I thought, what if you were sitting on a chaise poolside in Brazil.  It’s possible you couldn’t relate to the desperation one feels having been dumped on, again and again.  That seemingly innocent, fluffy white stuff, becomes so evil.  So, if you ARE in Brazil, or Costa Rica, or Bali, imagine instead Hurricane Anna Clara, Tica, or Kirana (ironically this means “ray of light”) have blown their way into your corner of the world, forcing you indoors.  Lights out!


Hanson Street Takes Shape

Now that we are all trapped together, we can really begin to understand the importance of a good layout, no?  Whether you are in 3000 feet or 500, how you choose to place your furniture can have a major impact on your state of mind, and the state of your knees.  Oh, I hate bumping into table corners, and navigating a relay race of objects to get from one side of a room to another.  I just had a semi panic attack as I recalled attempting to make a bed that was wedged up against a wall.  Ugh, frustrating.  That is not the experience I want for me or my guests.


Low Tech Templates help you plan to get it right.

I’m a planner, I plan things.  That’s not to say that I am rigid about it.  I un-plan nearly as much as I plan.  That’s what I refer to as process, or acceptance that most things are entirely out of my control.  A room layout is in my control, the space configuration I am given – out of my control.


For the tech savvy options abound.

There are lots of cool tools for the tech savvy to plan their space. Room Planner, The Make Room, House Plans Helper are a few that exist, though I cannot vouch for any of them.  I prefer a manual approach and use templates – in this case – I made my own because I wanted the exact dimensions of the furniture I plan to use in No. 4.  Low tech templates exist too, and many designers will begin their process with a roll of trace paper, and a marker.  I like to be able to pick up my sofa and coffee table, and move them around.  That’s were some of my very best ideas are generated.


Just like mine.  A two bed with dining and living room.  Table stowed when not in use.

Last night, as I shuffled the coffee and side tables about I discovered an essential truth.  It will not all fit in.  The living space, which is open to the kitchen, and must serve as a dining space too, has no room at all for a dining table.  Now that’s not a problem for me per se, but while I don’t bother to cook for myself, I am an excellent cook, and enjoy entertaining.  And what of the others that will come after me?  Won’t they want a place to eat that isn’t the coffee table?  I suspect yes, so I channeled L. Francis Herreshoff and The Common Sense of Yatch Design, and asked myself how he would solve this challenge in the cabin of a boat.  I think I have come up with a clever plan.  It will require the custom construction of a panel that will get fastened to he back of the kitchen wall facing the living room.  Like an old style card table, the legs will fold up to allow the “table” to be stored flat against the wall, and to make a magical appearance for dinner parties.  Yes, furnishings will need to be moved to accommodate this, but it will work.

Boat design is so perfectly resourceful.  Thank you L. Francis.