Monday, March 7, 2011

Gathering strange and wonderful things...

This summer, after years of idle talk and scheming, it looks like we may finally pull off a re-make on the very modest house I've had since 1996. We're working out design details now with some good assistance from a designer and some architect and builder friends.

One of the fun parts of this effort has been trolling for local materials we hope will add life and interest to our space. We've found some fun and some truly amazing things.

In the latter category we were recently given a largish Oregon White Oak log that had been down in a pasture for a couple of years. After hiring a crane truck to bring it into town, we milled it up into huge slabs which are now air drying in some friends' barn.

Last summer we happened onto a similar trove of local black oak, a windfall tree rumored to have been the largest in the county before a storm took it down. Those pieces will become a once-in-a-lifetime harvest table.

We're also finding old gym lockers, discarded drinking fountains, ancient janitorial mop sinks, interesting door hardware, surplus commercial windows, and whatnot. As our build date approaches, our foraging frequency increases. God help us if plans fall through: we'd have to open a salvage yard.

The abundance of re-usables in most US cities is truly astounding. And, in a striking and utterly predictable way, much of what's out there is actually interesting as opposed to being simply uniform and perfect. Not only that, but there's a lot of great old-school quality out there as well...stuff that'll never wear out and that actually has serviceable parts in case it did.

As these things find their way to us, I'm finding myself increasingly and fruitfully challenged to engage actual design problems and to be creative rather than just build square corners and plumb walls.

I've put up plenty of buildings before, some prettier than others. This time as we gather things to make our nest, some of them odd and some natural, we're also gathering up the habits of care and thoughtfulness and character. I'm hopeful that it will yield deep and lasting comforts for us and our friends who visit.