Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Autumn and apples

It's the only way to go as October looms and apples are bountiful. A hand-crank apple peeler, slicer and corer.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Daydream rekindled

With the prospect of acquiring the 1850 farmhouse next door and its 132 acres, thoughts of California living had subsided considerable. But I recently saw this small, efficient house with its stunning siting, and everything I found appealing about the Bay Area came flooding back.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Colin Rowe

The architectural critic and historian Colin Rowe was the eminence grise during my years in the architecture at Cornell, here recalled by many who knew him, and who were influenced by him. I always found hi to be extraordinarily kind, certainly funny, and simultaneously frank and exceptionally patient. He once came into our studio, hearing Bach being played, and asked why we were not listening to Mozart. The explanation that Bach was very "architectural" clearly did not carry any weight: "But architecture is commodity, firmness and delight, and what can be more delightful than Mozart?" was his query.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Le flâneur va l'ouest (le milieu de l'ouest)...

For the third time (the charm, right?) we've returned to Grand Rapids, this time to a mid-century modern house designed by Obryon and Knapp architects and built by Albert Builders in 1959. To see the house, and perhaps better understand what we were thinking, visit the Boston Street blog: http://bostonstreet.blogspot.com (click on picture to enlarge).

Friday, October 25, 2013

The roar of the greasepaint...

The New York Times published a fascinating piece about the sound levels of Manhattan in the 1920s - clearly things were truly roaring in the Twenties. I'll be curious to see, er, hear how loud or quiet San Francisco is in comparison. We've made substantial strides in alleviate noise pollution over the years. I'd like to see a study done in dust abatement. This comes to mind as I draw my finger across the desk at which I'm typing this post. From the Times: Noise circa 1929

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From whence the view in San Francisco

Soon our daily view will be of some aspect of San Francisco. Google maps has, to a limited extent, allowed us to peek at what we might expect in the neighborhood. Friends have warned of fog, but an inspection of USWS and NOAA weather forecast leads us to believe that there will be ample sunshine for city gazing. At any rate, there appears to be a sufficient sweep of windows to allow us, and our observant dogs, an adequate surveillance of urban life. Below, the plan of our unit at 255 King Street [apartment 1103], San Francisco, California 94107.

Click to enlarge the plan

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Flaneur de la Ville

Country mouse, city mouse - we want to be in both worlds and to that end have finally found the place that will satisfy our more urban impulses. It's called a penthouse, but even being on the top floor it's still just an eight-story building. Instead we'll call it by its numerical name: #803.

Currently the interior colors are dismal, but that is superficial. That the furniture is oversized and unattractive isn't flattering to the spaces either, but the amount of space is perfect for our needs and wishes. A working fireplace will be appreciated when the chilling winds off the Sound are howling. The kitchen is superb with all-Viking appliances including a wine cooler - perfect for chilling San Pellegrino sparkling water. There are two terraces, and the expansive additional space that these outdoor areas imply is not apparent in these pictures. So... here are the before photographs (taken from the sale materials):

One wall in the entry wall will be Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

The master bedroom will be Farrow & Ball Manor House Gray

Thursday, May 16, 2013


This has nothing whatsoever to do with life in Hawley, or with our house there. I post it simply because I just came into our apartment after a walk with Lucca along Columbus Avenue and Central Park West and daydreamed about how much New York City has changed with the advent of the automobile. Note that it is San Francisco shown, and that there appear to be no dachshunds. Hey - it was a daydream!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas Eve with Charles H. Bertsch

There is something gloriously old-fashioned and wonderfully appropriate for Christmas Eve, to have a father-in-law who can, after dinner, sit down and perform. While Mr. Bertsch mainly performed Chirstmas carols that evening, he also included "Jesus Loves Me" in memory of the schoolchildren killed in Newtown, Connecticut. Here's the consummate rehearsal (and this was definitely a rehearsal) by a consummate artist:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot dogs and dachshunds

Construction is over, and even the closing on the house in Grand Rapids has taken place. Things are settling down and now we should begin to enjoy our lives in a more unhurried way. That said, to what should we look forward? On this Fourth of July, I'd say this video pretty much sums up our capacity for energetic challenge: 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why not?

Okay. I'm biased - and half Danish. So I wonder and marvel that this [video below] can happen in Denmark and is unimaginable at the moment in Hawley. And it's not because Hawley lacks public mass transit... 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Le chat francais

Okay, it's not a French dog... but it is French. And very funny. Au moins c'est mon histoire et j'y reste fidèle. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dachshund Derby

French photographer Robert Doisneau's 100th anniversary was on Saturday; he was born on April 14, 1912. His many quotidian images of Paris are delightful but one especially resonates with us, certainly his "Dachshund with Wheels," left, from 1977. Below, another photographer's less well-known "Marco with Wheels" from 2012. For the record, Marco no longer uses his wheels and yesterday trotted with Lucca through Central Park on his on steam.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still crazy

Still crazy, after all these years, about Mies' Farnsworth house. While I've realized that many iconic houses are hellishly difficult to live in, I still find the clarity and serenity of Mies' pastoral pavilion soothing. For me, this house remains the ideal. Quite possibly some of Le Corbusier's rustic cabins, or his much more aristocratic villas would be more felicitous, but I'd still be respond to the Farnsworth house. Yesterday was Mies van der Rohe's birthday, graphically noted by Google with a logo nod to Mies' Crown Hall at ITT.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trina's exhibition

The new house was inaugurated if not consecrated on November 19, 2011, with an exhibition of selected paintings by friend and neighbor Trina Sears Sternstein. people arrived... and stayed, which made for more of a gala than a gallery environment. We are pleased. Here are some photos as the afternoon began (photo credit: Christin Couture, possibly for Le Monde, Elle and French Vogue):

Saturday, November 26, 2011

At last

Yes, it's true that no house is ever really completed, but we've come close enough that we spent the last several days delighting in daily life in the new house. There's still much to do. We've yet to sort through and move things stored in Greenfield, Norwalk and San Antonio. And there's the exterior landscaping to address. But already the house offers us a place to stay, a home. Here are some images, photos taken just prior to the mid-afternoon reception marking the exhibition of Trina Sears Sternstein's wonderful paintings. On the first day of our new life there we welcomed fifty or sixty friends and neighbors to see her paintings. Apparently the house works: our guests all seemed to congregate in the kitchen and and stayed until the early evening, eating, drinking and chatting away.

Click to enlarge each photograph.

Toward the kitchen from the living room

Naturally a harpsichord

The living room, toward the study

The kitchen "pantry"

The loggia at dusk

From the loggia, to the front door
Not a dirty dish in sight

The kitchen, then spotless

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lest we forget

Ken has been in Grand Rapids this weekend, and in our conversations we wondered if we could keep the new house as clutter free as we do in Michigan. And since nearly everyone seems to wonder why we have a place in Grand Rapids... well here's glimpse of what we endure.

from the entrance

living/dining area

toward the kitchen

really, there's a balcony there

one of the bedrooms

one of the bathrooms

view from the balcony

Far Above the Chickley's waters...

As astounding and comprehensive as the various Google abilities may be, we're sometimes unnerved by the potential intrusiveness of it all. But despite the invasion of privacy, we were pleased to have the chance to see our new house from a satellite's point of view. It reveals to us the relationship of the house to nearby geographical features that we might not immediately grasp. And it offers proof that the thing exists! Well, possible proof anyway.

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Square house

Soon we will be living in a square house, with an interior square court. So we need to brush up on our Pythagoras. This is a lovely way to prove something that seemed clear enough in grade school, but was never demonstrated so elegantly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inch by inch

Finish trim awaits
This is the phase of construction that is sheer agony. So near... and yet so far. And so far there's still a lot to be done. But today's visit coincided with the arrival of the Kentucky bluegrass sod, due to be laid this afternoon. Tomorrow the appliances arrive. But interior trim is only beginning and cannot be finished until the interior doors arrive. Both the plumbers and the electricians need to return at least once more to complete their respective work, the bluestone has yet to arrive for the walkway and the countertops need to be ordered, fabricated and installed. At the moment one wishes to summon a squadron, a platoon, a brigade or a small nation's army and start issuing orders. Alas, that is not how it works. One's best ammunition is patience. But this is what I saw today:

The mirrors arrive tomorrow

Grading is done and sodding is underway

Awaiting appliances and countertops

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rick Perry

Recall the advice handed down 10 years ago by the late, wisecracking Cassandra of Texas politics, Molly Ivins: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs

Ever since switching to Apple products– we must have six or seven permutations of Apple's computers, iPads, Nanos and phones  our household’s experience of the Internet and of computing has broadened and deepened and been a source, frequently, of amazement, delight and pleasure at the richness the world has to offer. For that, and for delivering the promise of computing in so beautiful a manner, I thank Steve Jobs. His death is not only sad and too soon, but underscores how rarely such architects of the imagination happen along – yet his work increases the chances that other such architects of ideas will flourish.

“And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus, every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I
found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”

-Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech to Stanford University graduates in 2005