This, That and Another

HBS 2020 contest base kit dry fit

Late one night I decided to dry fit the HBS contest base because I needed to look at something new. I like the kit, but am undecided if I can responsibly build it. Ideas abound, and it’s currently on a turntable next to the studio thinking couch. It also makes a grand morning coffee cup platform.

UPDATE: Next morning. See?
Sea House Conservatory under-pier detail

Here’s a glimpse of the under-pier, under-stair Sea House Conservatory setting. Barnacles by Keli, air-dry clay boulders, and flotsam from the natural and manufactured worlds.

Sea House Conservatory bioluminescence

When I saw just how much of the low tide water is in the shadow of the Conservatory structure, I thought some bioluminescence might add charm. This is four flickering LEDs set in the back corner, under the pier.

More Sea House Conservatory bioluminescence

The effect is subtle, but smile-worthy, especially in the dark.

Sea House Conservatory light trickery

Here’s a shot of preliminary bulb placement. You can see some of just how much is unseen.

Thar be monsters

A night view of the mystery.

I indulged the rare decorative impulse to design pier piling hardware that echoes the Conservatory finials.

Oh wait, another what-lies-beneath shot.

Looking west from Point Montara Lighthouse, 07 March 2020

This was one of my birthday views, taken from Point Montara Lighthouse in early March, on a day-long field trip with my Greater Farallones Naturalist class. There was a large pod of dolphins cavorting not far offshore, visible through the very many pairs of binoculars and spotting scopes.

The pandemic was already getting real, but that was the last time I sat by the ocean, side by side with my classmates, eating our bag lunches together in the intermittent sun and light rain.

Here’s an image from a series Keli and I have been punting about. It started when Keli found a scale model canoe builder in Maine who makes these beautiful 1:8 paddles. We each bought one and the challenge is on Instagram #littlepaddletales and #paddlehomage. It’s been fun.

Now and Then: Chairs, Leadlights, Conservatory, Rocks

The first of two estate chairs for Sea House Leadlights. Probably.

I bought two of Kris Comapas’s Estate Chair kits because I wanted to use more of this thrift store dress fabric, which I love.

From a Pescadero thrift store strapless, bubble-hemmed dress
Happy little estate chair, work in progress

It’s a rather large scale print for miniature upholstery, as well as being a very fine and lightweight fabric, but did I mention how happy it makes me feel?

Though legless and unpiped, still a very welcoming estate chair

Kris includes good instructions and cord to make fabric-covered piping in her kits, but I generally prefer a twisted cord made from 3 strands of embroidery floss.

Yes, K-2’s eyes light up (when he sees me)

Here you can see my associate K-2SO inspecting the floss piping with his massively articulated fingers. (I love him, too.)

I find attaching tiny piping gracefully onto miniature upholstery to be a tedious task, so I’m putting it off until I feel more… um, articulated dextrous. And patient.

Sea House Leadlights design studio

The Leadlights design studio also has a new chair. Makes it look way more office-y, don’t you think? I’m really pleased with the level of quality and detail in this chair. (Ack! This photo also reminds me I want to finish tricking out the desk accessories, and to trim that orange bookmark on the last-minute-made sketchbook!)

That brick rubble is glued down Scarlett. (Yes, she checked.)

Work continues on the Sea House Conservatory build, with a sea level rise remediation support pier in place.

Model Magic air-dry clay rocks and boulders

Geologic rock and boulder construction is underway. My preferred material — think I’ve tried just about all of them — is Model Magic air dry clay, made by Crayola. It is lightweight, inexpensive, readily available, pleasant and responsive to sculpt, accepts all kinds of pigments well, and dries with virtually no shrinking.

Spatters and washes and sprays, oh my
Lots and lots of boulders and rocks
Granite-veined black rocks

With this last batch of rocks, I experimented with adding black acrylic paint or India ink to the white clay before sculpting. One batch had fine black gravel mixed in. The paint or ink initially made the compound stickier to work with, but it was nice to start with a pre-tinted base. These have green and gray washes spritzed on. When dry (takes a day or two depending on size and relative humidity) with a fine brush I painted the surf erosion holes and granite veins with white acrylic, diluted 1:1 with water.

As I was ordering new clay, I learned Model Magic also comes in black, gray, and “Earthtone, Bisque and Terra Cotta”. So stoked to use these colors on the next exploratory rock and boulder sets.

Closeup before the tide comes in

The finished rocks are slicked with a satin multi-purpose sealer, as they’re meant to look wet. The final Conservatory project base will have about an inch of water in tidal flow. (I’m excited about that, too, as I’ve never worked with a “water feature” before :)

Sea House Conservatory, in progress, February 2020

Deck planks are installed, and I’ve finally arrived at a stair design that makes sense and blends into the overall structure.

Yesterday I was at Chrissy Field in the Presidio, and took a bunch of pier photos for genuine detail ideas. It was a perfect winter’s day, cool, clear and sunny, with very little breeze.

Looking north to the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin
Chrissy Field, Presidio. See the fog horse galloping over the City?

Glorious.

Retrospective: Sea House Leadlights

Albie oversees receipt of Serendipity Shed base kits, 16 August 2019

I thought it might be interesting to review building highlights of the Sea House Leadlights studio office, from start through submission. (Can’t really say “completion” because things never stay done ‘round here.) There are links back to original posts — if any were made — with more details. I wasn’t very bloggy :)

First ideas

I spend a lot of pages thinking, sketching, dreaming, considering and working out dimensions and story.

The starry floor in process

The first floor idea, though fun to design, paint and assemble, did not work well in the space. So it goes.

Two base kits mashed together

Height was added to the starter kit with parts from a second. I like to retain recognizable elements of the kit, so the roof angle and footprint, as well as door and lower window placement remained unchanged.

Loft wall detail

I glued cold press 140 lb. watercolor paper to the walls for texture before painting, and added a whitewashed aged brick back wall in the loft.

Adding siding to the new front
Half-loft installed, supported by faux beams

I opted to make the front façade removable as well as the roof… this makes it so much easier to photograph the interior.

Bench tops and bottoms

I cut the built-in benches from 1/16-inch basswood on the Cricut Maker. These were glued together and supported with 1/8-inch dividers.

Interior space begins to come together
Tree Frog green was the only possible finish color, with black leather cushions

I thought and sketched about the window designs for some time. The Pavilion is bubble-themed; the Conservatory celestial… for the Leadlights design studio I went Egyptian Deco. Mostly sort of.

Sea House Leadlights front doors and front/side windows
Sea House Leadlights upper window

The upper window is a stylized scarab. Very.

The “leading” designs for the windows are cut from lead black cardstock, glued front and back to the plexi, then framed in black on the exterior (and tree frog on the interior). I like to see wood grain, so I use a 1:1 ratio of acrylic paint and staining medium.

The scarab window at night

If one looks straight on, the window frames the bricked loft wall and the old Sea House logo. With sacred scarab wings.

Side building signage

I — or rather the Cricut Maker — cut the signage from matte black vinyl. The stars in the design are meant to resemble anchor plates used to reinforce old buildings. I love them.

In this backlit photo, the vinyl letters appear to float off the side of the building. It’s not quite so unnatural-looking in person, but knocking back the synthetic smoothness is on my eternal learn-to-do list, to find ways to tone down the material. (Transferring wee letters and figures is a fiddly, fussy business, especially onto an uneven surface, and I am not eager.)

Side sign
View from above

Here’s a roof’s-eye look at the progressing build. The holes are drilled for the LED light fixtures that will illuminate the work space below. (The wiring to be concealed beneath a custom rug and other stuff stored in the loft.) A narrow shelf beneath the scarab window on the removable front might support batteries if I ever add lighting to the front. Floor tiles gleam softly with scuff-resistant utility. Leather window seats beckon.

To be continued…

Sea House Leadlights Interior, Roof; Scarlett

Hello Sea House Leadlights office

The entrance to the Sea House Leadlights office is up a few stairs and across the deck to the left of the fireplace. A set of leaded glass doors opens into a snug but functional design studio.

Details: Terra cotta pot by Braxton Payne. Basswood deck and siding stained with Minwax Classic Gray. Pumpkins made from tissue paper and thread. Boulders sculpted from air dry clay painted with acrylic washes and sealed with ultra matte varnish. All succulents, yucca and other plants hand colored with W&N Promarkers. Many are prototypes; some available as kits at Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries.) 

Desk and bulletin board

Beneath the half-loft a large tabletop desk has plenty of room to roll out plans and inspiration. Low built-in cabinets with black leather cushions provide more seating, storage and level surfaces for tea trays.

Details: The ceiling lights are 12V modified for warm white LEDs. Bulletin board is made from cork sheet framed with basswood stained to match. Sketchbooks made from my kits at MMS+S. Various meaningful artifacts including original leaded glass designs for other Sea House buildings, and a drawing of a cat by my then 4-year old daughter. Fèves, prized vintage Monopoly shoe, and an anodized earring from the 1980s.

The white-washed brick loft stores window frames, tools, Sea House memorabilia and miscellaneous treasure — as well as the switch (lift the black basket) and battery pack (hidden in a custom box) for the LED lights.

Details: Oh yeah, the baskets and boxes are also available as kits at MMS+S.

A gazebo-style roof welcomes natural light. (I’ll detail more of that happy construction in another post.) I made the 1:144 scale basswood model of the source kit for the original Sea House Pavilion, built some years ago. The Egyptian cat is a porcelain fève. Best of all is the vibrant painting by Jim Tracey that commands the studio — also another post.

Finally, of course, Scarlett. Here she has somehow managed to fluidly infiltrate an impossibly small entrance to the Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion loft (my ongoing remodel of the original 2013 build.) I swear she does these things just to remind me she can.

Oh, how she makes me laugh.

Sea House Leadlights Back Wall; No

Part of the back wall of the Sea House Leadlights design studio

The back wall of the Sea House Leadlights design studio is about utility and remembrance. There’s a water spigot and old brick patio remnant for transplanting yucca and succulents. A faded advertising poster from nearby attractions survives on the wall, as does a longhorn cow skull from ranch days.

(Details: Brick wall grouted with tinted spackling paste and aged with muddy gray acrylic wash. Garden tools by Sir Thomas Thumb. Terra cotta pot by Braxton Payne. Basswood siding stained with Minwax Classic Gray. Foundation made from styrofoam, detailed here. Cow skull is resin, aged with Winsor & Newton Promarkers. Boulders sculpted from air dry clay painted in several acrylic washes and sealed with ultra matte varnish. All succulents, yucca and other plants hand colored with W&N Promarkers. Many are prototypes; some available as kits at Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries.)

Who is this?

A vintage collection of gnomic being fèves populates the succulent understory. I tried to match their colors with the foliage, as they prefer to blend in. This guy is far more camouflaged in the final build, rest assured.

(Details: I find my fèves here.)

No

And, no. Never say never, and never ever compromise your instincts. This is my younger granddaughter Ruby, when somebody told her NO. She is two years old, approaching three. Know your truth.

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 CB2.com catalog

Until I got a catalog from CB2.com, 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

Sea House Conservatory, Pacifica, Santa Cruz

Sea House Conservatory, in progress, February 2019

The Sea House Conservatory removable plexiglass and faux iron beam roof is assembled. It is supported by iron pillars and wood siding painted N-C16 Midnight Stroll by Clark+Kensington. I made new finials from wooden beads and toothpicks.

Brackets join and support the faux iron roof beams

Where the two corner beams met the center beam and roof ridge there was an inelegant gap, so I cut iron brackets and bolts from two layers of black card stock, to reinforce both the roof structure and the illusion :)

Wheelie at the fireplace end of the Conservatory

The fireplace and hearth underwent yet another color change. I wanted something more working/utilitarian looking, less living-roomy. Picture the chaise draped in reference books and aprons and a seaweed drying rack hanging from the rafters.

Sea House Conservatory leaded window design, 3 of 11

Turning my attention now back to the many windows, cutting the original kit grid mullions out of the frames with a Dremel. Tedious. Then sanding, painting, and fitting the cut leaded designs into the frames, front and back. Oh, and finishing (but not mitering) the outsides with 1/16-inch square trim. Ugh.

Pacifica sunset, between storm fronts, 15 February, 2019

We’ve been getting breaks between rain storms, glimpses of the sun, and some beauty clouds.

Ruby at 20 months, shopping in her sister’s vest for her mama’s birthday present

Spent a long weekend in Santa Cruz with my daughter and younger granddaughter Ruby, while her papa and older sister Maddie were in Lake Tahoe getting Xtremely snowed on. Ruby’s choice of outerwear was her sister’s vest. Ruby on the runway.

I like me. Print this out and hang on your refrigerator, lest you forget

Maddie, who turns six next month, is loving Kindergarten. Her mother shared some pages of the journals the children keep. The first remarkable is that upper and lowercase writing is still being taught — yay! So for Maddie, already proficient in capital letters, this manifesto represents challenge, learning, practice. And then the everything else: the sentiment, and the exuberantly joyful self-portrait. Perfect expression, I’d say.

2019: Yet Another New Year

Sea House Conservatory leaded glass front doors, 2018

2019?! This is beginning to require a lot of mathematics. For this I am very glad, because consider the options?
Above are the new Sea House Conservatory leaded glass front doors. The conservatory has more of a celestial, sun and planets design, whereas the Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion, below, is all about surf froth.

Sea House Sea Rise Pavilion greenhouse addition and remodel, 2017

I cannae help that I’m the same designer, and that all my structures are connected in long time, in location, history and circumstance. And that they’ve all been built (and rebuilt) using salvaged parts of the now venerated Sea House Pleasure Pier and Estate. Oh, what a time and place to be actually alive and doing something than whenever that was!

Conservatory, Cycladic, Tomato, Cats, Rust

I finished gluing the painted paper tiles to the pattern for the Sea House Conservatory main floor.

Stoic Albie helped keep them flat, as Stoics do.

I then spent a lot of time considering how best to make the floor fit the base and carry over to outside the walls in a way that pleased me. 

If I was a cat, this is how I might look pondering the options. “Why yes, that might actually work …”

As part of the solution, from quarter-inch birch ply I built a two-inch riser for the base and painted it medium grout gray. And — not because I want to relive the 1980s and feature wall faux finishes — I sea-sponged on a lighter warm gray. Mostly because I didn’t want to stare at a flat gray box. (My building process involves a lot of staring.)

Eventually, the weather/temperature/humidity cooperated and I was able to spray two good coats of matte sealer on the floor tile assemblies, prior to their grouting.

Also got a few more coats of satin antique white on the fireplace. (Built from this Houseworks Deco fireplace.) Here it is curing in the late afternoon sun, admiring its reflection in a glazed ceramic vase.

gluing_down

Gluing down the sealed tiles to the base. It will might make more sense in a few days when you see the whole idea. Are you really, really weary of seeing pictures of these tiles?

polkadot_towel

Then here’s a pic of Scarlett sitting next to me on the front deck yesterday, watching the sun go down (and grooming). (Her, not me. I was sipping a glass of delicious Double Brut IPA.)

cycladic_spirals

This is my current design inspiration for conservatory decor. It is a Cycladic terra cotta vessel from 2000 BC — ! — found on Naxos. I’m smitten with everything about it: the spiral waters, fish, the sun, or maybe a full moon? (From Art of Crete, Mycenae and Greece by German Hafner, 1968, public library.) 

floor_dryfit_00

A last peek at the conservatory in the night studio, with the standing walls. For now.

tomato

In real life, I’m working on a landscaping project on the side of our hillside house under the sunroom add-on. The soil is compacted and full of rubble, and I’m putting down flattened cardboard to suppress what weeds do grow, and adding top soil, compost and worm castings. There’s next to no direct sun, so I’m transplanting hardier succulent cuttings to see what will survive. They get a little leggy reaching for the light, but they’re doing all right. In September I noticed what looked like a young tomato plant growing at the back of the area, evidently self-started from the compost. When it put out flowers I was charmed; what hope and vigor this plant has! And then the other day I noticed it had made a tomato! A single, multi-lobed heirloom. In December! It’s like a miracle :)

rust_plancha

And finally, here’s one for your reference files. Look at the beautiful rust pattern and colors on this cast iron plancha, sadly left out in the rain next to the BBQ. (Left behind when our neighbors moved, it was already warped, but was still serviceable for outdoor cooking.) We’ll see if I can bear to scour it clean, or if it joins the Things That Are Rusting collection.

Doesn’t everyone have one of those?

Sea House Conservatory: Tiled Floor

painted_paper

I painted a couple of sheets of 11 by 15-inch 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper with washes and splats of neutral gray, tan and yellow oxide acrylics, then pressed them flat between two drawing boards weighted with books.

pattern_test

The tile pattern and grout lines were refined through several test cuts and pasteups. I added a 3-point corner radius to the tiles to suggest age and wear.

final_tile_cuts

After a few more test cuts, I loaded the painted watercolor paper and began cutting tiles. Because this paper requires three passes of the deep cut blade for each tile, I used masking tape on the edges to hold the thick paper to the cut mat to ensure adhesion. (Lessons learned through bitter informative experience.)

pasteup_01

I’m gluing the individual tiles to prints of the pattern layout showing the grout lines. The process is far less tedious than I anticipated, a pleasant surprise. It *may be* that I won’t have to actually add grout after they’re all assembled and adhered to the subfloor. I plan to add one final light gray wash and some delicate speckling to the whole floor to unite the separate assemblies. And with pressing and a coat or two of matte varnish… we shall see.

in_place_01_

The final tile floor won’t be put in place for some time — so much painting to do! — and the ideas for its total design still floating need not be finalized at this point. Which is good, because I’m still kind of all over the place, design-influence-wise. Right now I’m trending from Art Deco back to Bauhaus, and how that might all fit in with the larger Sea House story, sea level rise, and a crow named Clary.