Sea House Warming Hut: Living Roof

Wanting to ensure even plant color distribution with a random appearance, I changed up how I’ve been “planting” the living roof. I’m going through vast quantities of moss because I prefer the fine rounded tops more than the stemmy lower growth, and colors are not consistent bag to bag. This way is more fun, too.

Poppy propagation continues, with a new flavor. This punch is about 1/4-inch (6mm) — compare it to the 3/16-inch (5mm) round — and reminiscent of a pompom variation red field poppy.

Sort of. I like the way they look, and think they’ll complement the CA poppies :)


Wanted some bins for under the shelves to hold stuff, and opted for a slatted crate style. I used 1 x 1/16-inch basswood for the ends and base, 3/16-inch for the slats, and 1/8-inch square for the feet. Here you can see my paper- and wood-dedicated pair of curved embroidery scissors. Very handy for trimming any whiskers from the cut ends before sanding.

I glue the ends to the base, and then use the upper and lower slats to square it up.

The rest of the slats are spaced in between.

I check to make sure they fit the space, with room to pull them out easily. Tiny casters would be preferable, but hey, budget. On the upper shelves are some metal canisters with lids I got from HBS/ It’s nice to find simple, well-proportioned things not all gobbed up with flowers and out-of-scale bad lettering.

And here they are with two coats of paint — the same California poppy color as the outdoor furniture — and waiting to dry before finish sanding, a light coat of satin varnish and soft buffing.

Cladding, Painting, Sanding, Waiting

Here’s a mess of things in progress at once:

First coat of paint on version 4 of Kris Compas’s cone fireplace, from her wonderful tutorial this month. My initial color thought was classic minimalist matte black, but then I noticed it looks like a giant tiny Darth Vader’s helmet, and once you see that, there’s no unseeing it. Current thought is the same green as the rafters, but based on my experience with the Chrysnbon stove, who knows what the final outcome will be?

Also installed the front wall cladding. I bundle up the quarter-inch stock with tape, measure and cut with a chop saw. Lots of not-quite-long-enough offcuts for the scraps box. I’m using the blue-gray Derwent watercolor pencil after the stain dries to add variation and depth to the warm gray color. Subtle, but effective. I’ll show some examples when there’s better light. Plus it’s fun to intentionally scribble all over your project :)


Biggest decision was the color for the outdoor furniture. Last night I was thinking a deep, rich yellow, but then arrived at this orange, somewhere between California poppies and the Golden Gate Bridge. This is just the first coat, and I might temper it a bit more towards poppies, but I have to wait until light of day. I also want to finish painting the rocks and adding some of the greenery. The living roof with growing poppies will tie it all together.

I want the deck furniture to really stand out from the weathered gray wood and rocks of the cliffs, to welcome walkers to sit and enjoy the vista.

The inside seating will be upholstered arm chairs circling the stove, for those days when inside is best. I found an engaging peacock blue linen that I plan on using for those. With the sweeping views of the ocean and the sky, they’ll be less of a contrast in the otherwise light room.

Warming Hut Decking

For the low wall around the deck extension, I used 3/16-inch foam board and cut kerfs to enable a smooth curve.

Very bendy!

I attached it to the edge of the base, flush with the side wall. The exterior siding will extend along and around the deck wall.

For the deck proper I used the same 3/4-inch rustic planking as the interior floor, though the deck is to be stained gray. (The glass of wine — a nice 2013 Husch Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc — is to show scale :)

The inside of the deck extension is clad in vertical 1/4-inch basswood, which is narrow enough to go ‘round the inside curve nicely.

Decking done! Almost. I’ll stain it tomorrow.

Lastly, I brushed wood glue into the kerfs to fortify the curve and make the foam board more sturdy. When that’s dry, the deck will be able to withstand the gusty winds of the coast.

Warming Hut: Watching logs dry

Recently, HBS/ wondered

So, again, we ask … How many of y’all use sketches to “concept” your mini projects? We’re wondering if this is the exception or the norm?

Here are some sketchbook notes from January, when I started the build:

It’s a pretty clear — and typical — reveal of both my initial ideas and process: sketches, doodles and notes. Working with approximate dimensions helps keep things feasible. I have to sketch out furniture and cabinets and make cut lists.

I keep a paper folder of ideas, swatches and snippets of possible “things” as well as digital files for research and reference.

What’s unusual about these sketches and this build is how little I’ve diverged from my original concept thus far.

I made the front shelves and the wood storage under the back windows from inch wide x 1/16-inch basswood, and painted them the same Simply White as the rest of the trim.

Today I took a pleasant meander around my yard looking for the right branches to make the logs. I chose a woody bottlebrush shrub (Callistemon) and pruned out several offshoots. These I cut into 1.25-inch logs and stacked into the wood holder with glue to fix them in place.

Then I sat with a glass of sparkling water, the lemony scent of the wood and the invigorating fragrance of eucalyptus mingling on the afternoon breeze.

I See Rocks

The first batch of the Sea House Warming Hut air-dry clay boulders are nice and dry. Mid-week, I saw that a crack had developed in the largest one, and got the idea to fill it with a quartz vein. I have this lovely pearl white acrylic, and if I mix it with some wood glue and load it in a syringe, I think it will behave convincingly. I’ll wait until I model, paint and salt all the boulders, though.

I know I’m not the only one to buy something because of the packaging. In this case, I had wanted to make domed skylights, and this container — of organic gala apples, no less — at the local big box store was ideal. Although the original project was sidelined, the cut-apart plastic is now making excellent bases for individual rocks. My landscape modeling compound of choice is Crayola Model Magic, and making the boulders hollow  saves a lot of cost.

The apples were very good, too.

Here is an action shot of a boulder in the making, and my dual purpose small metal ruler.

This is 8 ounces (226 g) worth of boulders and rocks — enough to populate the left side of the build. (You can also see my second-favorite multipurpose modeling tool: a silicone wine stopper.) I’ll let these guys dry for a day, then paint a first coat with the same taupe wash. I want to do the additional glazing and salt crystal sprinkling to all of the rock foundation at the same time. If all goes well this week, I’ll see time to continue my elemental play.

In other news, Christina, the winner of the Denise’s City Cottage kit provided by HBS/ giveaway, contacted me and it’s on the way to her. Hopefully she’ll post about her build, too. I’m really enjoying seeing so many approaches, and as always, learning tonnes.

PS: I was FaceTiming with my two-year-old granddaughter, showing her the rocks I made from clay and the rest of the build-in-progress. She was listening and studying the screen very intently, then announced, “I want to go there.” Best appreciation ever.

There Can Be Only One

The winner of my extra Denise’s Cottage kit, the limited edition starting point for the 2015 Creatin’ Contest sponsored by HBS/ is Christina. Thank you to all who expressed interest and/or encouragement. I wish I had kits for all of you. (HBS/ still does :)

Christina, please contact me by 07 April with your zip/postal code, and I can provide a shipping cost estimate. Congratulations! The contest deadline is 16 December this year, so there’s still plenty of time to get your build on.

Warming Hut Rockscaping

I’m using air dry clay to sculpt the boulders that populate the Warming Hut foundation. For the largest one I used a small tin and a plastic cup as a base, then coiled unevenly-rolled lengths of clay around it.

I made certain decisions about the type of rock I wanted to see, then used my hands, a small metal ruler and a ball point stylus to make like the earth, wind, water and all the other magics of geology.

This is my model rock for style and color.

Even though the clay’s just one day dry, I’ve put the first coat of acrylic glaze on. There are a lot of rocks to build and paint. Most of them will fit under the foundation, as if the posts have been drilled and set into them, so the painting part will be a wee bit tricksy. (That was part of my conundrum of when best to glue or not to glue the hut in place.)

The gaps between the boulders will be filled with beach gravel and tiny pebbles (from my prized collection), with some driftwood logs wedged in here and there, and small bits of greenery.

Sea House Warming Hut Stairs


I began staining and applying the siding to the front entry. Some of us would rather be gardening.


There is a broad, deep stairway leading up to the Warming Hut. I glued up two lengths of one-inch x 1/16-inch  basswood for each step. For the risers, I only had 1/32-inch x 3/4-inch stock, so I glued those two up.


I fiddled with math on paper, and then in Illustrator, then printed out the pattern for the stringer. (Which made me think of Stringer Bell from The Wire. Always a pleasant, if complicated thought.) I put a fresh blade in my Xacto knife, and cut three support forms from illustration board.


While waiting for the glue to dry on the staircase assembly, I stained the foundation posts. Then I hurt my brain trying to think through the building process. I make so much up as I go along, it’s hard to solve for all potential problems. Finally I determined I should glue the Hut to the project board before proceding with the air dry clay boulders. The deck extension and stair case are too fiddly not to have the main structure set in place.


Here is the stairway glued in place, and the beginnings of the siding applied. As you can see in the photo, I’ve lost the light and it’s past time for dinner.


I’ve cleaned my tools and cutting mat. Here’s my work table with the Warming Hut, on the other side of my studio/office (itself a work in progress.) Finally the glue will get a good chance to dry.