Archive

Inside my Home

IMG_1380At our cottage, there was a hope and a dream to honour a canoe birch (paper white birch) by installing it within the interior. The tree was miraculously found by our contractors after a major wind storm up north and installed with branches and leaves intact. Which we loved, of course. even if it meant crawling through the branches as if we were living in a forest.

IMG_1379

The tree functions as a structural column, strong enough to handle a spontaneous climber.

IMG_2208

For any custom built-ins or shelving we’re using Baltic birch ply. It’s light and creamy next to the golden cedar interior of the original 1960s cottage.  Our coffee bar, pictured here, just getting set up now with Danish teak chest from Kensington Market, yellow Italian espresso maker from my friend, Ginetta, and pastel-coloured melamine dishes.

Quality-Hotel-Expo-Norway-by-Haptic-Architects-Yellowtrace-02

It seems that trees are coming inside more often these days. For a main lobby space at Quality Hotel Expo, Norway, by Haptic Architects, planted trees are set among long communal tables and iconic modern chairs – a dramatic set piece that looks as fantastic inside as it could in a forested park. (Photo Trine Thorsen)

Garden-Tree-House-by-Hironaka-Ogawa-Associates-Yellowtrace-02Garden Tree House by Hironaka Ogawa & Associates.  For this project the Azelkova tree and a Camphor tree from the site were carefully cut then smoked and dried for two weeks to reduce the water content.  They were then reinstalled within the house to serve as main structural elements and central memory totems. (Photo Daici Ano)

Trees-in-Interiors-Yellowtrace

The great Norwegian modernist Sverre Fehn (1924 – 2009) might have been among the first to honour living trees within architecture with this unforgettable gesture at the Venice Biennale’s Nordic Pavillion.  There’s no way to dispute the power of nature here.

Advertisements

IMG_0984For the addition to our cottage in one of Canada’s provincial parks, we decided to follow the Japanese tradition of cladding the exterior with charred cedar. The technique, known as Shou-Sugi-Ban or Yakisugi, is said to raise the natural resins in wood and naturally protect against rot and fire.  (Try igniting a charred log and you’ll see what I mean.) Besides the long-lasting benefits,  the moody-black aesthetic of the burned wood convinced us to try out Yakisugi.

IMG_0973Call us crazy (we were) to burn wood on purpose.  Luckily, our excellent contractor (Brinkman Construction) was game.  He supplied us with a massive propane torch typically used to melt ice on roads, and we char-tested Western Red Cedar and Eastern.  The Eastern, primarily because it’s local and readily available, won out. We laid out about 12 boards at a time and went to work. It’s very intense and best done in pairs: one person working the torch, the other ready with a wet brush and pail of water to control wandering licks of fire.

IMG_0965The depth of the charring in Japan varies wildly, from wood burned deeply over fire pits to light charring.  Swiss architect Peter Zumthor charred the interior of the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel in Germany to create a mystical experience.  We decided to go for the sateen finish of the lighter char to gain some rot resistance and heighten the wood’s natural grain.  It took nearly three days to produce about 400 boards.

IMG_1506We’re thrilled with the result.  In full sunshine, the wood takes on a silver patina.

IMG_1516

Our Yakisugi cedar with newly installed black frame windows.

IMG_1522

Now we’re counting down the days ’til construction inside and out is complete.  More on that – and the Birch tree installed inside the cottage – to come.  Happy creative summer!

E'Terra Samara Tree House Villa_image 2I’m flying across Canada this week to speak at the Wood Design Awards at the new green-roofed Convention Centre in Vancouver. My theme? It’s time to embrace wood as the building material of the 21st century. Too many of the world’s carbon emissions come from the manufacture of concrete and steel. (The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that for every 10 kilos of cement created, six to nine kilos of CO2 are produced.)  Wood speaks to our minds and our hearts, like this tree house  delicately suspended by cables without any tree-damaging nails.  Lyrically designed by Farrow Partnership Architects for the 5-star E’Terra eco-resort located in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, near Tobermory, Ontario.
E'Terra Samara Tree House Villa_image 1Wood satisfies our deep, ancestral connection to nature’s beauty, which has been traced back to the magnificent acacia tree with its complex fractal geometry in the African Savannah.
IMG_9992
Wood is the most ancient building material.  But construction methods have stayed relatively primitive.  This is the log home built by my great grandparents, Barney and Sarah Griffith when they left Minnesotta and travelled on the C.P.R. to homestead in Saskatchewan.  That was back in the late 1800s.   That idea of basic wood construction (2 X 4 wood frame construction) still dominates the housing sector.
IMG_9931
Standing underneath the vaulted ceiling in our upstairs living room feels a lot like being suspended below a canoe.  Actually, oak flooring was applied piece by piece (by a patient and talented architect turned craftsman) to the ceiling – one member at a time – much like the construction method used by my great grandparents.
CESM PERS_int
It’s time to modernize the  wood building industry.   Cross-laminated timber can give plenty of structural muscle to civic and commercial architecture.  Designed by Montreal’s Saucier + Perrotte architectes this soccer field celebrates the power of wood architecture – and points to the future of spirit-warming, eco-friendly wood.
Stories_aaltoileva_sisakatto_11847Expect wood architecture – even all-wood towers – to start splashing out around the world.  This free-wheeling atrium is part of Wood City, an all-wood development sited on a former cargo harbour in Helsinki, Finland.  The client is the forest company Stora Enso;  Anttinen Oiva Architects are the competition-winning designers.  Looks like being inside the belly of a whale.  Or a canoe.

IMG_1404

The herringbone oak floors in the Musée Rodin, Paris, are just part of the magnificence of the 18th-century Hotel Biron where Rodin once lived.  As The Kiss was unavailable, I took the flooring idea back home with me.

IMG_9646Wise craftsmen from Poland, newly arrived in Canada, laid our floor with white oak sourced from Pennsylvania.  Then we layered in textures, collaging industrial objects against modern-era design. The metal stools originally belonged to a garment factory.  Black leather for the seats and cow hides came from the classic Toronto-based Perfect Leather, one of the last hold outs on King St. West, despite constant offers from condo developers.  The length of the marble counter was dictated by a 10-foot slab of Italian Bianco we found from a local supplier. Photographed on a TGIF late afternoon.

IMG_9651

When it’s -15 degrees Celsius outside it’s essential to have warming zones inside.  The table on  castors is part of the 1960s aluminum series by Charles and Ray Eames.  Chess set hand-crafted by my talented father-in-law, Bill Terry.  And this pair of chairs – found in derelict condition – was collected for their distinct personalities.  The old radiator, found on Craig’s List, weighs about 500 pounds.  Now we can never move.


1018-02_04_sc_v2com

Across the Atlantic, the white minimal aesthetic mixes it up with industrial-stained wooden floors in a herringbone pattern.  Nice juxtaposition.  This kitchen/dining space is part of a seven-unit housing complex designed by Metaforme of Luxembourg. Credit image: Steve Troes fotodesign.
1018-02_01_sc_v2comHere’s the context: A white box accommodating seven housing units with cut-aways for entrances and views…a smart and original densification of a suburban neighbourhood.
1018-02_08_sc_v2comInside, there’s a smart idea about planting air-revitalizing plants directly into the floor and directing sun captured from above into the interior garden.
1018-02_06_sc_v2comBad design idea:  putting a toilet within full viewing next to the bed. Why? But let’s not end on this.
Unknown
The herringbone is so named for the skeletal pattern of the herring fish.  I don’t eat herring, but am sure thankful for its luminous, complex wonder.

BAFmPBCCcAESN5c.jpg-large

The black and white facts of the earth, as seen from space…From Commander Chris Hadfield on his twitter feed: “A crazed stained glass mosaic – the winter black and white of farms in central Asia.” pic.twitter.com/vBdxA2ZW
newsweek-last-print-issue-1
Going, going, KERPLUNK!  After 80 years pumping out its weekly news magazine, Newsweek bites the dust.  Deleted from the magazine racks and mailboxes, the magazine will only be available online.  On its last front: a black and white photographer of the former Newsweek skyscraper (1931)  on Madison Avenue in NYC.
IMG_9173
The orchid in my kitchen that shimmers with light even on the dullest winter-grey mornings.
IMG_9206
Sultry, snow-laden landscape, north of Toronto, en route to Thornbury, Ontario.
IMG_9005
Late-night winter comforts…mandarins in a glass jar, white pitcher for hot chocolate, stainless sugar and creamer on Artek black and white tray.  Kings of Convenience playing in the background. Tiny points of light.

“OH my!  I ditched my paddle when I needed it most! What was I thinking???”

Red Light District

Dancing barefoot on the wrong side of the tracks

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Ok, this horse did not participate.


Lighting a candle on the altar of the pumpkin seed.

These fantasies constructed within the cave of my pumpkin when Hurricane Sandy swept up the Eastern Seaboard and I sat by the fire listening to the wind.  Happy scary Hallowe’en!

I’ve been collecting mid-century modern chairs for about a decade…leather butterfly chairs, Harry Bertoia’s Diamond Chair, Danish teak, Canadian Solair chairs, Le Corbusier’s chaise longue, the Eiffel chair by Charles Eames and plenty of molded plywood chairs found in trashed condition on sidewalks.

  

 For Mother’s Day, the kids and friends hauled some of the chairs outside to get some much deserved sunshine.

And to let loose with a game of musical chairs.

For the music, I was singing a random song, loudly.

The competition was fierce.  The chairs disappeared.

In the end, it was a battle between the Solair chair (1972) and the Diamond (1958).

The Diamond won.  So did the dazzling joy of the day.