The Sea House Leadlights Fireplace

I wanted an outdoor fireplace for the deck because few things are better than being outside than being outside with fire, especially at night. I knew some of the old Sea House building bricks would be involved, but did not have a clear vision of the overall design.

from the October 2019 catalog

Until I got a catalog from, and saw this. And I knew.

Attempting to translate one reality into another

It took more than a few sketches and extended staring into inner space to work out how I could extract the essence of the CB2 fireplace for the approximately 8.5 inches of width I had on the Leadlights side deck. As is typical, I figured out far more once I had the actual materials at hand.

Dimensions determined and mat boards cut. This is the top, outer semicircle.

I used “corner” bricks to edge the semicircles, slightly sanded to fit the curve. Regular brick make up the middle layer.

Inner and middle layers in process
Test fitting the the topmost layer
Gluing the layers and structural reinforcements together
Grouted and the first of many coats of eggshell white acrylic paint
The back wall of the firebox, to be painted lamp black
Not highly visible, but the arched firebox is glued in, ready to sandwich with the back wall layer.
In-progress fireplace roughed in

Here is the final fireplace in situ with split birch logs laid, the spark arrester chimney, comfy chairs and a good red wine ready to pour. The exquisite carved wood sandpiper sculpture is a gift from Keli, keeper of Charlene’s Estate.

Of course the firelight flickers and glows.
Sea House Leadlights front exterior, for context

I intend to start writing more here, again. I miss you. I dove deep on this project, and found I could either devote myself to the process of building or to writing, but not both. (I chronicled photo highlights on Instagram; if you’re on there I’m @nancy_k_enge. There’s also lots of pics of Scarlett :)

Scarlett is a helper cat

Basket Kit Listed


The first woven paper basket kit is up on Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries! Starting with a pre-cut kit takes all the tedium out of miniature basket weaving.

(Vocabulary enrichment moment: When looking for a nicer word than ‘tedium’, I encountered longueur, and this reflection by Francine Prose:
I find myself using this word more often than I probably should, to describe those boring stretches of a novel or play during which your attention drifts … I would probably use it even more frequently were it not so difficult to spell. What I like is how the sound of it suggests a combination of languor and length — the languor produced by something that is unduly long — though I have learned that its derivation has to do with length rather than lassitude.”)

I stuck with tedium. Anyway, some outtakes from the instructions:


Just color, weave and glue :)



Basket Kit Progress, Bobo Fun


This was my desk, late last night, working away on the paper basket kits. After many pattern iterations, file conversion aberrations and test cuts, I had the basket itself fairly well worked out. I was thinking about basket lids — if, how and why — when I had an idea. I was too tired to implement it, but scrawled some notes.


This morning I drew the pattern and did a test cut.



And yay! It works swell! (Also, chilly in the studio this morning! My poor fingers.)


It’s a simple construction, very open to customization.


I’m thinking about handles now. But enough! I want to get these kits out.


For those who saw the item in the January newsletter referencing my delight with the typeface Bobo — designed by Jean-Baptiste Morizot in 2016 and published by Indian Type Foundry — I put together this logo. Each character in the all-caps font has at least three variations. So fun, even as an example of expanding your notions of what makes a thing a thing. (And it’s available from Fontshop right now for half price.) Check it out!



I am not going to meet the HBS bloggers build deadline for September 26, 2016, and I am using cute kitten photos to distract from my mingled sense of failure, regret and self loathing.


I *have* met all my work and all most of my volunteer deadlines.


Feel free to judge me, but look at my belly first :)


Though I will continue — and finish —  the build, I’m more than a bit scattered and distracted with other projects.


Sweet dreams, best beloveds.


Hide one’s light under a bushel


I wound up making six bushel baskets from Kris Compas’s tutorial. I used one-inch wood circles that I had on hand for the base, and after the second basket, redrew the pattern so all the uprights were like fringe, instead of individual slats. (The pattern is up on 1inchminis. There’s also a version to print multiples. Yay no measuring.) By the fifth or sixth basket I was getting a nice bulbous curve by shaping it over the top of a two-ounce acrylic paint bottle. Coopering the top rim was also much easier on the paint bottle form.

I’m working mostly on the new project now, but the in-progress Argo Wool Works Showroom is a nice bright place to sit and think and plan, with a cup of tea. (The ladders are by Sir Thomas Thumb, to be used to display hanging goods. I also splurged with the 2015 contest award and bought a scythe o_O)

Now I have to go make a 12:1 cup of tea :)


Interior Floor, Brickwork, Lighting!


I’m using Kiwi Scuff Cover in white to stain the interior wood floors. This is one coat. I wish this kind of applicator was available for all stains! The planks are my beloved Rustic Clapboard Siding Strips from HBS/

Here it is trimmed.


And again the next morning, with a third application of Scuff Cover, before final weighting to dry flat.


I love the light this morning, with a break in the clouds between storms. (Pacifica just declared an official state of emergency from all the big wave damage to our sea walls and cliffs :(


I’m using my gruzzy pot of gesso as mortar and plaster for the brick walls. This is the first coat. I expect I’ll finish with very light sanding and a wash of mildly warmer white.

And, yay for me!

lighting_plan_012316My first ever lighting wiring plan. Big learns ahead.

Inner Walls


The interior walls of the 2016 build are exposed brickwork, which will be whitewashed, with star-shaped tie irons from Old Mountain Miniatures. The bricks are all salvage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. More than this is not known.

Happiness writes white

white thumbtacks on white card, 2.375 x 4.625 inches (60 x 70 mm)

Because white reflects all colors of the visible light spectrum, and also because there is a lot of snow on everything, white is January’s color of the month. I’m ignoring the questions “Are white (and black) even actually colors?” and how color — pigment-based or light-generated — actually exists. I am just enjoying white, all month long.

Goody’s Headache Powder (extra strength)

white cotton bath towel over white cotton shower curtain

white painted wood trim, snow

cow milk, one percent butterfat