Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our house: Living Room where we don't live

We rented our house in Oakland for five years before we bought it from an estate. We knew what we wanted and immediately drew up plans to re-model and broke ground within months.

I had vowed never to have a separate dining room, as many friends said they seldom used theirs.  Or a large garage. Or a guest bedroom. Or any space that wasn't used vigorously and daily.

So it's been a surprise to discover how much pleasure I get out of our living room, which we mostly only use for our twice-weekly yoga. It stays empty perfect all week, all month long.  Every time I pass, which is many times in a day, I look in at the tidy calm and feel (erroneously, obviously) that I have everything under control.

Our re-model took a year. We went back to the studs, but didn't change the footprint. The architects, husband and wife team Russ Dotter and Wencke Soljeld of  Oakland and our contractor, Steve Strand Builders of Lafayette were such attentive, decent and creative people, I actually missed them when the house was finished.

The living room is chartreuse galore. (I know I've used that word before but it is one of my words). I maintain that you can never have enough green, it's like a neutral and every shade is good.

One example is the 1950's lounge chair from Modernica in LA. I had my eye on this for years and bought this shop floor model after they discontinued it. Reminds me of the Jetsons. 

All the paintings in the living room are Nick Coley,  a disarmingly handsome 35-year-old who paints outside "plein air" on the streets of San Francisco.  A "painterly" painter using big confident strokes, he make magical the everyday; cars parked on the street, orange traffic cones, yellow school buses, bulldozers doing roadwork.

My favourite piece is the driftwood chair by Cynthia Kingsbury of foundwoodfurniture.  Her partner delivered it by foot from Berkeley dressed in a Chinese peasant straw hat and pant suit.  It takes months for Cynthia to find all the driftwood pieces and she sent postcards from all the beaches where she discovers them. Using her training in Japanese floral art, she fits the pieces of wood together without using nails.

The rug is made by Savnik in Oakland and I enjoyed working with broker, Haute Flooring, a mother and son team in Mill Valley. Sean Hannigan delivered the rug himself and spent an hour with his assistant moving furniture until we were both happy with its position.

The tapa cloth is from Tonga, my mother bought it at the outdoor  market in Auckland NZ. Kathy Farley of Artdecor, Albany helped me with the wall colour throughout and cushions and she was both reassuring and risk-taking, an unusual combination.

At the side of the living room we opened up the old wine cellar and it's now an adult TV room or den, though we've never watched TV there or even sat in those (Roche Bobois) seats or put our feet up on the still virginal zig zag footrests. The diptique is by Berkeley artist Michael Shemchuck, who also happens to be Kathy Farley's husband.

I continue to enjoy not living in our living room.

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