Monday, August 27, 2012

Limelights in the House

Limelight hydrangea, 1940s Strahan wallpaper,
antique French milk pitcher and vintage French alarm clock. 

I had a great week last week.  The weather was perfect and I took three days off to do nothing.
I slept in (which means 7:00), walked a lot; in fact, took a six-mile walk to get some Farrow & Ball paint samples, sanded my bedroom floor, visited some antique shops to look for bathroom vanity possibilities, cooked some really healthy meals and did a little gardening. 

I could get used to that.

I'm really impressed with the Limelight hydrangeas I put in last summer.
They've held up really well to the heat and drought and should look great well into October.
I took out a bunch of things in an adjacent area of the garden and just added a big mass
of Russian sage that I think will look great next to these white and green flowers.

I couldn't help but bring a big bunch of them in the house for Jane's party.

I hope you have a great week!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard Illumination Night

Illumination Night, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

If the gingerbread cottages of Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard aren't cute enough by day...

...the candy-confection cottages are lit up
one night each summer for Illumination Night.

This celebration is over a century old.

I wasn't able to attend myself but one the Urban Cottage roving photographers was
on the island to capture the event for you.

I'll shut up and let you enjoy this enchanting event.

Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her photos!
(Daytime photos are from Google image search)

If you would like to attend Illumination Night, it's typically held the third Wednesday of August.  I would probably start planning your vacation now as it's quite a popular event.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Water Issues

While trying to figure out what to do with the peeling bedroom wall, the roof and chimney, I got the brilliant idea to try a moisture meter to see if water getting behind the chimney was, in fact, the cause of the peeling.

I was like a little kid on Christmas when my new toy arrived with the mail.  It had just rained the day before--gulley washers--so the timing seemed perfect.  I couldn't get it open fast enough and get the battery installed.

I turned it on and stuck it on the wall.

0 percent moisture.

Seemed odd, actually.  Am I sticking it far enough into the wall?

Does it work at all?

So I took it outside to try it on the wet back porch railing.

21 percent.

In another place, 18 percent.

I checked the wall several times over the next few days each time getting the same result.

It's great news but now I have to figure out what happened and try to fix it.

Around the same time, I got a call from Sam (my contractor) saying he had a few weeks open and asked if I wanted to finish the downstairs bathroom.   It took me a little by surprise.  I haven't picked fixtures or tile and, even more importantly, I need to replace my water main.  I learned recently that my water main was installed in 1918.  It was lead and, given its age, the fittings can be so brittle, they can disintegrate when you try to turn off the water. 

If your house is over 50-60 years old, you may want to put this on your to-do list!

My neighbor's son is the neighborhood plumber but it's kind of a big job so he referred me to a company--a landscaping company actually--that could replace it.

Replacing the water main requires digging up the street and sidewalk and the contractor took care of    calling Dig Safe, a free service that contacts all of the utilities who come and mark where the water, electric, gas and other utilities are underground so they can be avoided.  It's not only a useful service, it eliminates any liability I might have if a contractor hits an unmarked utility.

Replacing my water line also requires coordination with City who replaces the pipes between the water main in the street and the turnoff valve outside my house.  My contractor then replaces the line from the turnoff valve into my basement.

The blue line marks the path of the water line.

It was kind of a no-brainer but it still needed to be done.

Each utility uses their own color to mark their lines.

The city posts "no parking" signs a few days before the job date.  I believe my contractor paid for the no-parking permits so they're included in the overall cost of the job.

Normally a no-parking permit costs about $25 per day per vehicle so it seems the parking permits added about $200 to the cost of the job.

I thought this job would be much more complicated than it was.  They attached the new 1-inch copper pipe to the old one and just pulled it through underground.  The contractor was great; they even washed the dust off my front porch. The whole job took about four hours.  Total cost:  $1860.

Now I can start thinking about finishes for the bathroom.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo Masterpiece

My family from Arizona was coming back east for a visit so I drove to Western New York, where I grew up, for a family reunion of sorts.  Having grown up in the country about an hour from Buffalo, a trip to the "big city" was often reserved for a special occasion like Christmas shopping.  We weren't even aware there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Buffalo until about 2007 and this seemed like a special occasion to visit the Darwin Martin house.

When you turn off Buffalo's Main Street onto Jewett Parkway, you immediately notice something is different.  The street's gentle curve showcases the mature trees that line the streets.  Most the houses are set back from the street leaving a true front yard which seems so unusual in such a densely built urban area. 

It turns out that this Parkside area of Buffalo was designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect behind Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace just to name a few.  It's a little surreal when the Victorian neighborhood yields to Frank Lloyd Wright's sprawling Darwin Martin House, actually a complex of several Wright-designed structures commissioned by Martin. 

The house on the right was first built in 1903 for Darwin Martin's sister.  It's now known as the Barton House.  The Darwin Martin house is in the right and it's connected to a conservatory and carriage house by a long pergola.

Original stained glass window on the Barton House.

Side of Barton House (right) and terrace of Darwin Martin house (left).

It's hard to believe these were built in 1903, the beginning of the Edwardian era.  Think 10 years before Downton Abbey was filmed!  

Photo of workers during construction.

The Darwin Martin house is considered an excellent example of Wright's prairie style characterized by strong horizontal lines created by long low spaces, shallow hipped roofs, low chimneys, terraces and cantilevered overhangs.  The steel beam construction also allowed for an open concept interior for the first time.

The horizontal lines are supported with long narrow yellow Roman bricks with recessed mortar in the horizontal joints.

To minimize vertical lines, Wright used drains to catch water from the gutters without using a downspout.

View from Martin house across the street.

Front entrance of the Martin house.

From the rear of the Martin house, the pergola extends back to the conservatory (under the pagoda) and the carriage house on the left.

Exterior of conservatory.

While it seems amazing that all these structures remain intact, it's not really the case.  Darwin Martin retired a millionaire but lost his entire fortune during the depression.  After his death in 1935, his wife was unable to maintain the house and she abandoned it in 1937.  The house remained vacant until 1954.  

Darwin Martin House circa 1965.  Photo:  Wikipedia.

In 1962, the pergola, conservatory and carriage house were demolished to make room for four apartment buildings.  

I did an extensive search on the internet to find photos of the complex during that time but could only find one photo of the apartment buildings being demolished.

The pergola and carriage house were rebuilt in 2007 and the entire complex in undergoing a $50 million renovation.  Photos are not allowed inside the house but I've assembled several old photos I found online of the home's interiors.

The receiving room.  All of the furniture was designed by Wright and about 80 percent of the original furniture was saved by Martin's son and has placed back at the house.

The receiving room today.

The living room.

The living room fireplace.

The Martin and Barton children in the garden, 1907.

The dining room.

All the interior spaces are all quite open.  Each of the spaces are defined by sets of brick piers into which bookcases are built.

The kitchen has a very different feel than the rest of the house.  It was done at a time that people were learning about germs so the kitchen is white and pristine so dirt could be seen.   It is presently undergoing restoration but the original sink is still in place.

View from the foyer down the pergola into the conservatory.

A replica of the Winged Victory of Samothrace sits at the far end of the conservatory.

Photo:  Prairie School Traveler

The conservatory today.

The Barton house was privately owned until 1994 when it was purchased by a benefactor and donated to the complex.  I understand the price was about $500,000.

The Wright-designed gardener's cottage was also privately owned until 2006 when it was purchased and became part of the complex.

All the buildings in the complex are now open to the public for tours.  If you're ever in the Buffalo area, you should make it a point to visit.  More information can be found here.