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Friday, July 29, 2016

How to spot an authentic Bertoia wire chair

The Bertoia wire chair is a mid-century icon. As such, it has been widely imitated. If having an authentic Bertoia chair is important to you...for its quality, its comfort, its retention of value, or simply for bragging rights...the Harry Bertoia Foundation has offered a guide for recognizing the real thing.

Details like wire diameter, the angle the wire is cut, the bend radius of the top corners and the base, and double wire rims on new chairs (although a few double rims were produced in 1953) are ways to spot a knock-off.

The tips in the article are quite specific, also providing information about glides, upholstery, line additions, and the Knoll stamp.

If you love the work of this mid-century designer, you'll want to check out the entire site for more information about the man himself, as well as his oeuvre. His daughter Celia Bertoia is director of the foundation, the mission of which is to spread the legacy of Harry Bertoia. On the website, you can become a volunteer, donate, or simply sign up for the mailing list.

Bertoia chair lineup

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Former glory

We thought we had beige/brown terrazzo. Of course, we knew it needed to be cleaned, because it has obvious grimey build-up around the walls that mopping won't remove, but we were shocked when we found out that it was originally white...and could be again.

The representative of a local stone restoration company came out to do an estimate, and he gave me a demonstration of what to expect from their services. He asked me to show him the spot in the house where the floor is in the worst condition, so I pointed him in the direction of a group of 9 tiles near the back door that I thought were damaged and covered with 66 years' worth of wax (and who knows what else). He sprayed some Mar-Tek Pro-Strip on one tile, scrubbed it with a brush, and toweled the area dry. Here's what resulted.

Stripped terrazzo tile

He was almost as surprised at the dramatic difference as I was. This tile was put down 66 years ago. Who knows how long it's been since this floor was stripped and honed? Maybe never.

His estimate: $2422. Naturally, we'll be getting other bids, but this is definitely on our Must Do list.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Charles Eames once said, "The details are not the details. They make the design." Accordingly, we have changed quite a few things about the front of our house.

First, a cage of burglar bars originally covered a large portion of the front porch. Not only was it unsightly, it screamed paranoia and had to go. In fact, the inspection report listed it as a hazard, so we stipulated that it be removed before we took possession of the house.

Burglar bars...gone before we got here

Also, our mailbox originally was positioned in the flowerbed beside the driveway and looked like this:

Old mailbox

Besides needing a paint job, it was inconveniently located, so we offered it free on Craigslist. Someone came out almost immediately and removed it, which involved a good bit of digging and ultimately pulling out of the ground with a large pickup truck. (Giving things away on Craigslist is the fastest, cheapest method of getting things cleaned out or torn down. People will take absolutely anything if it's free, no matter how much work they have to do to get it.)

The new mailbox is on the front porch, which is more attractive and makes much more sense.

New mailbox
Kingso Locking Stainless Steel Letterbox -

The old porch lights were brass carriage house style, which were completely wrong for the house. Here they are in ignominy, sitting in the free CL pile.

Old porch lights

We happily replaced them with something far more in keeping with a 1950s ranch style house. They look great with our door hardware and coordinate nicely with the mailbox.

New porch lights
George Kovacs Outdoor Sconce -

The previous hardwired doorbell had been pulled out of the wall and left on the front windowsill months or perhaps even years before. We replaced it with a Ring Video Doorbell. It works with your smartphone, allowing you see and talk to anyone at your door, even if you're not at home. It also has a motion detector, which alerts you of any movement on your front porch or in your yard.

New doorbell
Ring video doorbell -

Finally, we bought a 5-foot doormat to put in front of the double doors. Of all the purchases we made, it is probably my least favorite. I thought it was a plain rubber mat, but it turned out to be the felted type and has to be hosed off more often than a rubber mat would. That aside, I like the pattern, so I'll still chalk it up as a win.

New doormat
Aqua-Shield Elipse Doormat -

All in all, we're making good progress. Next on the list...the terrazzo floors.

Friday, July 15, 2016

I got the lowdown missing painterman blues

In case you didn't see the "before" posts, here are the doors that were on our house when we bought it.

Old long gone

We knew that they would have to be replaced almost immediately, so one of the first calls we made was to a door company. New slab doors were installed a week ago, and they were scheduled to be painted on Tuesday. (For you longtime readers: Yes, I chose the same Sherwin Williams Copper Mountain that I used on the door of the "modernist nest." I love that color!)

Door at "modernist nest"

We had purchased two narrow star escutcheons from Rejuvenation, and I had shown them to the owner of the door company when he came to give me an estimate, but when the doors arrived, the dead bolt hole was drilled too close to the hole for the doorknob set for them to fit. After a little initial disappointment, I realized that I wasn't really married to the idea of escutcheons anyway, especially when the porch lights were installed and I saw them with the plain knobs, and I definitely didn't want to live with the old doors another two or three weeks while new doors were fabricated. To be honest, the orange paint may be enough of a statement without any extra adornment. If I eventually decide that the doors look too plain, I can always find other escutcheons or add some sort of decorative wood ornamentation.

All that said, the doors are still unpainted. They're sitting in all their white primer glory, waiting on the painter who never showed up.

He was at the house last Saturday installing fans and light fixtures. A painter by trade, he found that he could make good money doing handyman jobs in addition to painting. He was quite personable, very professional, and extremely capable. He said it would take him about an hour to paint the front doors, and he said he would do the job $100, so we agreed on Tuesday at 10 a.m. On Monday I texted him to see if I needed to buy anything besides paint, and he texted back immediately to say I didn't.

On Tuesday, the appointed time came and went, but I wasn't too concerned. Punctuality doesn't seem to be a trait many workmen have these days. Almost everyone who has come to the house to give us an estimate or to do work has blamed traffic for a late arrival.

Sometime after noon, I texted him again to say that I had expected him at 10 o'clock and to ask if we had miscommunicated, which my iPhone auto-corrected to "Did we miscommunication?" (Don't you just love being made to look moronic by a machine?)

I never received a response from him. Did he get a better job offer? Was he involved in a terrible car accident on the way to my house? Was he the victim of an alien abduction?

After getting estimates of $850 and $450 from two major local paint companies...completely absurd for two doors, when painting every room of the house was less than $2000...I will wait to hear from him. I'm disappointed that the doors are still white, and I'm impatient to get the work done, but wait I will. At least for a week or so.

If you run into a painter named Steve, have him text me.
I have a can of orange paint with his name on it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Work, work, and more work

Life these days reminds me of an old song: Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends...

For the past few weeks, it seems we haven't had the house to ourselves except to sleep. A steady stream of estimators coming to give us bids has been followed by painters, plumbers, door installers, and handymen. As I was starting this post, an electrician was working in the next room, dropping wiring and installing a switch for a new ceiling fan in the living room. After that, he moved to the kitchen to install a switch for the garbage disposal that the plumber put in a few days ago and then removed an old ceiling fan and light fixture in the family room and relocated new ones. The new front doors will be painted on Tuesday, and that ought to be it for a while.

Since I'm pretty chatty, one upside to all the traffic is that I've met a lot of nice people lately. The far more important upside is that the house is almost back to normal modern. Within an hour or so, all the curlicues of past "updates" made to our 1950 home will be gone.

And thanks to the magic of Craigslist, old light fixtures and ceiling fans were hauled off from the curb less than an hour after I posted them as give-aways. The last two that will come down today should be gone soon too.

As hard as it's been, I've waited to hang pictures until all this work was finished, so it looks as if I have a busy week ahead of me, but at least I'll be working in relative solitude (meaning no workmen, only a 5- and 6-year-old for company).

Starting to come together