Tag Archives: Mercer Island

Buy Me!

24 Jul

I am not in the business of selling houses.  However, I just have to share this one because I am passionate about it.  Here on Mercer Island is an almost exact replica of our house, minus one bedroom and the family room as well as the land.  Also designed by Fred Bassetti and Morse in 1961, it looks like it’s in really good shape and ready for some love.  The description reads:

A Memorable Experience…Meticulously Crafted and Designed Mid Century Masterpiece Created by Renowned Architects, Bassetti and Morse-Famous for Designing Many Seattle Landmarks. The Home Stays True to its Original Intent with an infusion of Tasteful Updates Throughout! This Extraordinary One Story Residence is Flooded with Natural Light from the Walls of Windows, Vaulted Ceilings and Numerous Skylights Throughout and Sits on a Tranquil, Lush and Fully Fenced ¼ Acre Corner Lot.

I really like what they did with the decking in the back and the almost original kitchen is lovely.  I love the entry way and the landscaping too.  I would take to back to its more original state by removing the mirrors, the granite countertops and the carpet.  I hope someone buys it and loves it as much as we love ours!  (Thanks Kathy for bringing this to my attention!)



Font of Knowledge

6 Dec

Remember these? I spent hours…(nerd alert!)…I mean hours pouring over these books.  They sat right next to the World Book Encyclopedia, the source of all knowledge for school reports before the internet, in my grandmother’s house. (Yes, I will be able to tell my grandchildren I was born before the internet and blow their precious little minds.)

They are called ‘Childcraft: The How and Why Library’ and they are wonderful.  All 15 of them. (Okay, 14 because I bought the set without realizing the number 8 was missing.) I had been watching them at the Mercer Island Thrift Store. The first time I saw them, I was brought back by the smell and the wonderful mid-century illustrations. I walked away and went home with these gorgeous babies I wrote about here instead.

The second time I didn’t find anything good and pouted about it. I consoled myself by looking at these books again before I left. I had a moment of ‘Should I buy these? Should I?’ Nah. I don’t need them. I don’t really. But they bring me back to a room with a Nelson built-in, smoky gray marble flooring and wood paneling. It was my uncle’s room and it also had a full sized poster of Jimi Hendrix on the closet door, but that’s neither here nor there. They were the EXACT ones. The exact color and edition in my grandparent’s house. They even smell the same.

I said to myself that if they were there the next time I went, still sitting sad and lonely and unappreciated on that bookshelf, I would buy them. I mean at $15…a dollar a piece…it’s a deal. (Actually, it was a little more than that because #8 was missing but whatever.)

And guess what? Today, they were still there waiting for me. And guess what else? I couldn’t resist. (I also couldn’t resist an awesome piece of MCM furniture, but more on that later.)

My glorious 15 volumes (minus 1) are:

1. Poems and Rhymes

2. Stories and Fables

3. World and Space

4. Life Around Us

5. Holidays and Customs

6. How Things Change

7. How We Get Things (And the era of conspicuous consumption begins…)

8. About Us (and missing! Tried Ebay, no luck.)

9. Make and Do

10. What People Do

11. Scientists and Inventors

12. Pioneers and Patriots

13. People to Know (I always thought I would end up being one of these.)

14. Places to Know (I dreamed of going to all of these.)

15. Guide and Index

I am totally geeking out looking through these and having memories flood back both from the photos, words and the smell. I swear these books are responsible for my love of learning and my total over the top nerdiness. It’s fascinating to me to see how so much of the mid-century mentality pervaded these pages. Expect to see more postings from these pages in the future. Luck you!

Karl Gets a Face Lift

21 Nov

Okay, so the disclaimer first:  This project is a direct, and I mean direct, rip-off of the same (almost exact same) project on Young House Love. Where else would I get this idea?

Remember Karl? Well, we love him. So much. He’s comfy and he’s big and all six of us can sit on him and watch a movie. Dogs, too. He takes a ridiculous amount of abuse from all of us as well and stands up to it like a man. We think he is sexy and sleek. However, unconditional love doesn’t apply here. I have my standards and his legs weren’t quite up to par. (Neither are mine, for that matter, but that’s not the topic here, people.)

I have a thing for dark wood furniture. I don’t know why. Similar to my hair, I used to love blonde wood. As I’ve gotten older though, dark appeals to me more. Maybe because with a gaggle of girls, dark wood is much more forgiving. (Unlike dark hair, which points at the gray like a big arrow. Not sure where the hair analogy came from but it’s exhausted its purpose here.) In fact, I am not entirely certain what design decision they were making with the blonde legs, but I guess the Nordic peoples just love blonde.

So like all things that are less than perfect around here, we painted them. (No, not the children. We haven’t painted them yet. Or ourselves.) It was an easy process, especially since I didn’t do it.  The amazing Brett just flipped Karl on his back, removed the legs and took them to his place of magic, the man cave. We kind of like ‘low Karl’ but clearly Baker thought something was very off.

There he sanded them because they had a slight glossy finish, lined them up and painted them with the Benjamin Moore Bittersweet Chocolate that is the go-to color for wood in the house. It took two coats and he came up with this clever device (two slats of wood…brilliant) to let them dry without marring.

And then voila! Put them back on Karl and he is a new man.

And I have to say, my least favorite room in the house is becoming my most favorite. Might as well because this is where we spend most of our time. I am happy to say that we’ve gone from here:

To here:

(Of course, with the work detailed here, here and here.) Now if I can only get rid of that chair.

Weekend Show and Tell

20 Nov

We are all about the Holidays this weekend, which for those of you that know me, is kind of weird. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a total Grinch. Not total. I just tend to be overwhelmed by the hoopla around the Holidays, Christmas in particular.  However, I like Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving a lot, probably because I love to cook and Thanksgiving has been a personal Top Chef contest between me, myself and I every year.  Even when the girls spend the actual Thanksgiving holidays with their other parents, I would cook Thanksgiving the previous weekend just so I didn’t miss out on the opportunity.

This is the first year in my memory that I will not cook Thanksgiving dinner. Brett will be recovering in the hospital from a hip replacement, which will happen this week. Yep, you heard me right. A hip replacement. At 39. That’s what you get when you punish your body with all kinds of snowboarding and cycling. He said the hospital makes a Thanksgiving dinner for the patients, but I just can’t imagine that. I will most likely pick up something from a restaurant to take to him because I can’t imagine putting in all the work for two people. (Then again, maybe I will. I may need a Thanksgiving 12-step program.)

So I am getting in my Thanksgiving fix by featuring the holiday on this Weekend Show and Tell.

I also geek out with holiday movies. For me, that is the best thing about the season. And as you know, we are all about Peanuts so the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a favorite. Maeve says that the bonus episode on the DVD ‘The Mayflower Voyage’ is her favorite. We are so geeky that we even watched the History Channel ‘The Real History of Thanksgiving’.

I also really love the movie ‘Home for the Holidays’ with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr directed by Jodie Foster. The great thing about this movie is that it goes there. You know what I mean. It’s the totally unpolished look at what an American Thanksgiving looks like, warts and crazies and all. Except Dylan McDermott never turned up at any of our Thanksgiving dinners. The best part is the parent’s house. Check out the awesome kitchen.

I also ran across a post from 1950s Atomic Ranch House with vintage Thanksgiving magazine ads. What a hoot! You know, turkey really does go better with a Lucky Strike. Plus, could that sandwich in the Coke ad look and less appetizing?

We will be volunteering at the Mercer Island Farmer’s Market special Harvest market today.  And then later, Clark Brett will be hanging up Christmas lights since he won’t be walking much after Tuesday. Be on the lookout for posts on our first Christmas in MCM style.

100 Ways to Improve Your MCM Home (Almost)

17 Nov

Okay, okay. Just to prove I am not a total negative Nancy, there was also a list on Lotta Living that was ‘100 Ways to Improve Your MCM Home’. However, not to be an ‘I-told-you-so’ but there were only 25 on the list. Restoration is hard work! Apparently harder than screwing up, which really should be a metaphor for life. I rely on, in fact recruit you dear reader, to add your other 75 ideas in comments.  Come on now, give it a go. Old Joe College try. What must one do to improve their MCM home 60 some-odd-years later? (Italicized parenthetical commentary applies.  Always.)

1. Buy one. Buy two if you can. Buy a really dilapidated/remodeled one for restoration & preservation.

2. Replacing large single pane glass with double pane units in colder climates by setting new insulated units into the existing wood window wall and adding new wood stops of the same profile. (Umm, wasn’t this a no-no in the 100 Ways to Screw Up your MCM Home?)

3. Ripping off those cheap asphalt shingles and putting down a nice new modified bitumen. Replace all your decking while at it .

4. Rip out those cheesy suburban foundation plantings and replace them with a cool modern landscape.

5. Remove very cute, but unfortunately inappropriate, daisy crystal chandeliers and replace with streamlined round glass Eichler globes.

6. Strip gaudy metallic gold red flocked wallpaper and replace with vintage grasscloth. (We saw a house recently where the grasscloth had been dry-walled over. Yes, dry-walled. The horror!)

7. Tear off wall to wall vinyl flooring with floral pattern circa 1984 and install new Armstrong VCT floor.  (Word!)

8. Tear out the ugly black wrought iron fence, and put in a nice modern looking grapestake slat one made of redwood or cedar.

9. For those on a concrete slab…remove the carpet or vinyl tile and polish the cement.

10. Rather than paint the existing sheetrock walls, put in some birch or lauan paneling and give it a nice stained finish. Believe it or not, it actually makes the room feel bigger.

11. Take out the bad tile countertop in the kitchen or bathroom (the one with all the grout lines to collect dirt and bacteria)and replace it with a nice formica or terrazzo one.

12. Replace the bad front doors with some nice flat panel ones, and while you’re at it…get rid of those brass doorknobs and put in some nice modern Schalge stainless steel ones.

13. Tear out the creeping vines growing all over everything surrounding the house.

14. Add some nice Nelson Bubble lamps in appropriate places. They instantly give your house a modern feel.

15. Remove the garden gnomes and cute angels and put a few tikis in their place.

16. Replace the white vinyl grid windows with some nice aluminum Milgard ones.

17. Take out the roses in the front yard (the ones that makes it look like an 80 year old woman lives there) and put in some nice horsetail reed or fountaingrass.

18. Go meet your neighbors and get them on the bandwagon too.

19. Embrace your atrium and make it the center of your house by installing a Koi pond/fountain. The sound of running water is better than Yoga.

20. Replace the colonial looking coach light on the front of the house with an appropriate MCM original or a simple geometric one if you can’t find an original.

21. Glass, glass, and more glass (especially if it opens to the outside world)

22. Resist the urge to paint everything WHITE. If ceiling beams are painted outside, use paint to match them up with interior ones. Do a wall or two in a bright accent color. Look at vintage photos (not contemporary ones) to see that people weren’t afraid of color when these houses were built.

23. Hack off that lousy stucco that the previous owner slathered on top of your ribbed Eichler style wooden siding! Restore the siding and give it a nice coat of some pretty color like Necco Wafer pastel lime!

24. Strip any nasty paint off the fireplace.

25. Get the neighbors involved. Try to get everyone into the revitalization of the neighborhood.

It Was a Mad Mad World

16 Nov

My grandmother passed away last March; she of the world’s most perfect(ly strange) mid-century modern house. Going back to Texas was an odd thing for me because I have probably been home only a dozen times since I left to go to school in Chicago in 1990. While I was home listening to the great reminiscing about my Grandmother, I realized that I, and I think my entire family, have always romanticized my grandparents, especially since my Grandfather passed at a fairly young age and my Grandmother never dated or married for the next 20 years. I like to think it was a great love, scored to a soundtrack of Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughn, and maybe it was. It was also most likely a product of unwavering Catholicism and an era where women didn’t get divorced because women didn’t work. I know they had the same ups and the same downs as every married couple, including myself with one not-so-successful marriage under my belt. So I admire them for that.

Through the lens of our time, they drank too much, smoked too much, ate too many animal products and fat. (Though Michael Pollan would approve of their diet because none of it was processed and it was always home-made by my grandmother, cabbage rolls and beef and noodles and a pot roast every Sunday night.) They lived within their income (sizeable at times) and never used credit cards that weren’t paid off every month. They dressed for occasions in clothes that cost more than we could imagine and didn’t come from Forever 21. They believed in the American dream and frankly lived it.

There is a famous story in our family that personifies their marriage, in fact my mother mentioned it in my Grandmother’s eulogy. My Grandmother and Grandfather always had a toddy (what a benign word for bourbon and water) together in the evening when he would come home from work. He would sit at the end of the sofa with his stocking feet on the ottoman and she would sit next to him in her rocking chair, which she pulled over from its regular spot about five feet away to be closer to him. When they had finished, she would trot off to the kitchen to finish supper and he would finish his drink. When he wanted more, he would lift his glass and shake it, rattling the ice, to get her attention to bring him another. This horrifies many people, myself included in my younger years. However now, I see it as something that worked for them and that works for me. (Reminder: this was not only the 60s but it was also the the South people.)

But I also know they had a hell of a lot of fun. When sorting through my grandmother’s belongings, we found boxes of old photos. The series below makes me smile and says mid-century madness better than any words I could ever conjure. Thanks to my sister for sending them to me. I think this was some kind of 40s Flapper party (at least I hope so.) They make my day because they were the original Mad (as in crazy) Men.   How else does one describe a bunch of people in bed at the end of the night and my grandfather reclining and  lovingly holding two booze bottles? Those were the days.

100 Ways to Screw Up Your MCM Home

15 Nov

From Lotta Living, a wonderful thread on ‘How to Screw Up Your Mid-Century Home’ shared by our friend Jerry Gropp.  Though I wish I could take credit for this list, it’s great and hilarious list and the house we own has been violated more than once. Yikes! Italicized parenthetical comments expose our shame. Gotta love people with obsession passion.

1) Adding a steeper roof on top of your flat or shallow pitched roof. (Ooops! This was done on our house!)

2) Ornate front door. (Etched glass windows)

3) Adding a second story.

4) Putting in a country kitchen.

5) Installing a white metal colonial style garage door in place of the original redwood sided door

6) Adding vinyl double hung replacement windows

7) Heading to Home Depot/Lowes with home equity loan money in hand

8 ) Adding inappropriate window  i.e., paned windows, decorative shutters, fancy storybook scrollwork/moldings. (Ugh! Again.)

9) Replacing your tar & gravel roof with Spanish tile.

10) Covering your tongue & groove ceiling and wood beams with sheet rock

11) Roof over the atrium and add desirable square footage

12) Putting a white picket OR Wrought Iron fence in the front yard (or ANYWHERE for that matter)

13) One word: Stucco

14) Two words: crown molding!

15) Three words: 70s wall paneling.

16) Carriage lights (Guilty again.  Three strikes for us. But we didn’t do it. I swear!)

17) Slathering one color of paint over everything – double points if it’s Peach, Pink or Yellow.

18 ) Painting over stone

19) Replacing single pane glass in the glass end gables with double paned glass or plywood

20) Vinyl siding

21) Installing gaudy brass light fixtures.

22) Covering up glass or painting over it. Exterior siding over what used to be glass under the two sets of windows in the J&J rooms. Inside paneling was installed over the glass.

23) Replacing in slab ductwork with overhead ductwork

24) Enclosing the car port / Converting the garage into living space (Oh god, we’re screwed.)

25) Granite!!!!!!!!

26) Install over-sized “professional grade” appliances (Viking, SubZero) in small galley kitchen.

27) Covering poured terrazzo with Home-Depot ceramic tile

28 ) ANYTHING made out of bright, shiny brass

29) Tear it down to build a McMansion

30) Wall to wall carpet over hardwoods… so wrong!

31) Replacing original wood framed windows with aluminum framed sliding glass doors

32) Basin sinks / oversize tubs / Anything described as turning your bathroom into a “personal spa” or “retreat”

33) Installing inappropriately decorative house numbers.

34) selling off all the one of a kind, original architect designed furniture and light fixtures because it “doesn’t fit in”

35) Putting in grid windows

36) Installing a ceiling fan in a vaulted, exposed beam and tongue and groove ceiling

37) Using a pick axe or jack hammer to remove original 8×8 linoleum tiles so one can install Home Depot terra cotta pavers and pimpin’ purple carpet.

38 ) Installing hardwood floors over a radiant heated concrete slab

39) Cutting down the fascia, removing original down spouts to install gutters.

40) Whitewash the interior with white paint to make it feel larger

41) Marble!!!

42) Stupid Door Handles

43) Visual overload

44) Big Greek / Italian /Mediterranean columns added to the front (or inside). Also, gaudy statues and fountains containing cherubs, angels, naked people, The Virgin Mary etc.

45) Painting over unpainted exterior wood instead of staining. (Feel like I am about to face the firing squad.)

46) Collecting and displaying too many knick knacks in a 1200 sq ft MCM house

47) Removing all signs of nature outside by putting concrete everywhere, thereby defeating the harmony between house and nature attitude of many modernists.

48 ) Sticking a mantle on a stone fireplace that isn’t supposed to have one.

49) Putting a white lattice archway in the front yard walkway with flowers and vines growing all over it.

50) Plain ole’ neglect…having a cool MCM home, and letting it go…chipping paint, rotted fascia, overgrown foliage etc…

51) Paint a redwood tongue and groove ceiling

52) Covering beautiful terrazzo floors with nylon fiber wall to wall carpet to “update the place”

53) Installing an aluminum awning

54) Popcorn ceilings

55) Installing the cable box right outside the front door

56) Putting in one of those one-piece molded plastic mailboxes on a post.

57) Fake brick exterior siding

58 ) Compromising your principles.

59) Misunderstanding/confusing “Ranch House”with “Ranch Style” house thus recreating the Little House on the Prairie

60) A sweet barn style shed.

61) Lace curtains

62) Placing ANYTHING in or around the house from Hobby Lobby, Kirkland, or credited to either Thomas Kinkade or Mary Englebreit.

63) Smothering the interior with cheesy wallpaper.

64) Removing perfect mahogany paneling so that it can be replaced with drywall (this also includes just covering it with drywall).

65) Saltillo Tiles

66) Adding onto the back, after all, all that glass makes a great room divider!

67) Never throwing anything away.

68 ) Adding exposed conduit, wire mold, or worse, exposed wiring to beams and columns of you post and beam home.

69) Buying a mid-century modern home and then normalizing it to make it look like any other home.

70) Round top windows!

71) Raising up your slab on grade MCM home and adding a basement under it.

72) Replacing your vintage globe lights with too much cheesy low-voltage lighting.

73) Adding a shingle roof in place of a tar and gravel roof on a pitch that is too low for shingles. IT WILL LEAK!

74) Three or four masonry materials where one or two will do.

75) Invite 100 scooterist over to your house, with a live punk band, and 5 kegs of PBR (no, I haven’t done this… yet)

76) Adding an addition not in the style and design of the home

77) Allowing termites to gobble it all up

78 ) Anything faux

79) Hire an architect who doesn’t understand Modernism

80) Not participating on the Lotta Living board

81) Stained glass or beveled glass windows

82) Tiling over original magnasite deck… extra points for bad colorful folk art tile

83) Placing a Pink Flamingo in your Garden/Yard

84) Describing MCM houses as “retro”

85) Placing an A/C unit on the top of your roof

86) Refacing an original fireplace, let alone with a thin flagstone laminate

87) Installing arches or rounded corners in a room opening or between rooms

88 ) Turning the master bedroom into a den

89) Replace your garage door with a brick fireplace

90) Inappropriate furnishings?? (see flowery couch with detailed, routed wood)

91) Adding brick driveway columns topped by gold stone lions

92) Building a circular turret on the front of the house

93) Adding lattice to the front to “improve the look and privacy”

94) Covering the metal columns with wood to make them look like more like classical columns.

95) Hanging seasonal flags (i.e. santa, the easter bunny) outside your entryway

96) French doors to patio

97) Sawing off the overhanging roof and beams

98 ) Covering up exposed beams so the house look like other conventional framed homes

99) Adding turned pickets to all railing for that “country French” look!

100) Looking over an untouched, near-pristine home and then declaring , “It has such potential!”

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