Life with an Architect: Why Dan is THE Man

Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.                                        Ernest Dimnet

I asked Dan to hang this chandelier in our entry hall for my birthday.  It had been in the garage for two years.  There were other projects that came first, it was not his fault!  But one thing leads to another and now he has refinished and repainted the walls (twice) after having replaced some of the drywall because he found some mold that had been painted over by prior occupants.

The window and door trim has been sanded down and is being refinished and one of the doors is fitted and being finished to match.  The tile is almost ready to grout.  But geeze, he had to break out a lot of heavy, old, poorly installed tile and haul it out, level the floor so that it matches the room next to it for future tiling, and really, it turned out to be quite a lot, but, it is becoming more and more beautiful.    When I bought this chandelier to match the other two and the rest of the lighting I had no idea what would transpire …

Chandelier & New Beam

Like this project, which came first:

Chandelier in the Dining Room

Or this one, where he custom built a deep pantry cabinet with pull out shelves and built in microwave, which meant he had to run wiring and made it possible for us to store more than you can imagine:

Pantry & Microwave cabinet

 Or later when he installed this lighting in the kitchen:

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The kitties like to keep track of what he is doing:

kittyboys supervise

That door is new and will be stained to match the stairs and trim.

The tile is almost all in:

Tile no grout There are just a few to set on the risers and then the grouting will begin.  That is a cat door he built that goes to the kitty boys private latrine.

Cat door Dan never has any projects.  Really.  So while he missed getting the entry hall done for my birthday on November 6th, I have no complaints.  If you hear me complaining, slap me, please.

I nearly always agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson, but in this he is wrong:

“Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.”

Monday 11-16-09 Update:

Risers tiled 111609 This is a really messy process, but all that mortar does clean up with water.

Wood trim The wood trim takes multiple steps of measuring, cutting & mitering,  sanding, staining, finishing, sanding, finishing, sanding, finishing and finally nailing and filling the nail holes so they disappear as much as possible.  I am thinking that this will be done sometime this week.  I hope.

Appetite, with an opinion of attaining, is called hope; the same, without such opinion, despair.                                     Thomas Hobbes


Results FIRST posted 05-24-10

Skylights at dusk


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One of the reasons we wanted to remodel this area was so that we had a place that was worthy of this painting.


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Click on any of these photos below to enlarge your view.

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Life with an Architect: Soul of Beauty and Love of Craft

Our beautiful new Master Bedroom Suite

A great deal of inspiration for what we’ve done came from Sarah Susanka’s series of Not So Big House books.  My husband, retired California architect, Dan Edward McMullen and I don’t think folks need McMansions to prove something about themselves.  Dan’s been inspired, since his days in UC Berkeley’s architecture school, by it’s Dean at that time, William Wurster, whose residential design was noted for its simplicity. We believe people live well and best in homes that fulfill their needs in a variety of ways. Our home has 2186 square feet.  Not a tiny house, but certainly not a behemoth.  We have sufficient room for visitors and for each of our activities, including my home office.  We’ve been doing nearly all the remodeling work ourselves–that is an imperial “we”–over the past seven years. Last Christmas we resolved to get this done, and it is!

In a basic sense, we needed a better way to store our clothing.  We needed new flooring.  We had a wonderful bed already.  We needed better lighting.  On a personal level we wanted a suite that restored our souls, launched our days in peace and which included art works properly treated and displayed, and enough ‘white space’ to allow both the eyes and our minds to rest, whether our eyes were open or closed.

This room preexisted those ideas and our remodel was meant to bring it into line with those ideals without breaking our budget.  Good rooms have thoughtful details and a high level of craftsmanship, and this one certainly does.

You can find out more about Sarah Susanka’s work and philosophy at http://www.notsobig.com/ 

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The walls in this room were already textured, and so they remained.  The paint was expertly done after some corrections were made to the wall to make sure that they were straight and plumb.  The closets would never have fit well if that work had not been done.  Retexturing in those areas was a bit tedious, but those changes are invisible to the eye due to painstaking work.  The color is called Oriental Silk and is a cream color that has a hint of warmth.  It’s Behr paint available through Home Depot and we learned that Behr is highly rated by Consumer Reports for durability, and standing up to cleaning.  That research means we won’t have to paint again for a long time.  We’ve used it for ceilings throughout our home because of the way it warmly reflects light.
The paintings in front of the closet are by my dear friend, currently visiting her home in Spain, Maria Gracía Brunsó, who goes by Grace when she is in San Carlos, California with her husband, architect Miquel Aymerich, a friend and colleague of Dan’s.
The chandelier, bed side lamps and sconces are Robert Abbey Beaux Arts designs.  We have smaller models of the chandelier in our dining room and entry hall.  We have pendant lighting over the island in our kitchen.  This kind of consistency gives a smaller home a feeling of peace.  The light from the shades is warm, like candle light.
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The art works are important to us.  The painting just outside this door was done by Pacific Northwest artist, Mary Moore Baileywww.marypaints.com; the pastel of the coastal foothills above Skyline Drive not far from Pacifica, California hangs over the bed,  by JoAnne HorsfallBeasley who died in 2006. We bought it just before moving to Bellingham at the end of 2004 from The Main Gallery in Redwood City.  We also purchased two of the Raku pots in the next photograph at the gallery from potter Jeff Carlick. The small, lidded Raku pot is an early example of work by our brilliant nephew, Tim McMullen.  He is one three partners in Silica Studioswhere they provide both gallery and studio space.  They also teach.  It’s a great place to learn on every level!  The large plate in the center is by Gene Buckley of Stony Clearing Studio here in Bellingham.  We also have pots by his wife, Cheryl Lee, one on the table through the doorway under Mary’s painting.
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 The rocker is an Arts & Crafts antique that was in bad shape when I got it, but Dan refinished and reglued and clamped it and we recovered the seat with a German upholstery leather remnant we bought on ebay.  We got enough to cover 6 dining chairs and a Morris chair & ottoman.  We enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes of being self-sufficient. The floral painting is the first purchase in our art collection and is also by Mary Moore Bailey.
The small carpets are Safavieh Anatolia.  The floor is Kentwood American Cherry Natural Elite, an engineered wood floor with a 25 year guarantee. The baseboards and door frames are clear vertical grain fir, hand finished to match the doors and closets by my husband, Dan the Man McMullen.
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Firecat and Honey Boy test the new floors.
MBR5   The watercolors on the right were painted by Dan in 1959, when he was at UC Berkeley studying Architecture.  On the left is a eucalyptus grove above the Greek Theater, and on the right is a bridge over Strawberry Creek, both on the campus. These paintings represent so much about Dan’s life as a student and later as an architect.  Their peacefulness makes them perfect for our room.

Other Resources:

  • Bedding, comforter, shams & matching shower curtain are a discontinued Arts & Crafts organic print from Pottery Barn.
  • Sheets, wonderful cream Veratex 800 thread count — We splurged on Overstock.com
  • Shaded yellow quilt and shams, a find at TJ Maxx
  • Box spring cover, Matlasse from Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Pillows, 2 sets of Sleep Innovations® Memory Foam Down Pillow online at Kohl’s.  So comfortable!


This is our wedding portrait, December 31, 1990.  You can tell by my dress and flowers that we agreed that we would already be doing things a little differently.  I am the extra mother to these four wonderful additional McMullens.  The handsome devil with his arm draped over my shoulder is the infamous cradle-robber of his class of 1962, Dan the Man, my beloved.
Our Wedding 21 years ago

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Life With an Architect: Our Office is now a Guest Room Too, an Ikea Hacker Chronicle

Testing the common homily my grandmother taught me:

If a task is once begun, 

never leave it till its done. 

Be thy labor great or small, 

do it well or not at all. 

What do you do with a basement room that has retaining walls that interfere with furniture placement?  Hack Ikea’s Expedit shelving to create built in storage, and do a lot of measuring and remeasuring to make sure everything is going to fit!

I don’t have a picture of the room before we lived here, but here is one of the family room before we remodeled it which has the same conditions.

retaining walls

Ugly barely covers how poorly done this space was when be bought it!  About three years ago Dan laid Saltillo tile floors and installed newly hand finished doors in both of these spaces.

Saltillo

First a platform was built over a low retaining wall wide enough to hold the Expedit shelves and mounting strips were installed on the wall and all was painted.  We chose the Expedit size that comes packaged with the desk attached, using one with a desk and two more.  Square Parsons style legs were added to the bottom of the Expedit shelves to create the proper height to add the desk to a lower shelf than usual.

platform

Test fitting the first Expedit unit below.

Test fitting We used the long single five cubby Expedit mounted high enough to leave room for speakers beneath it to create a credenza behind the desk, and added a glass top to the desk. When we have guests, one end of the credenza serves as a nightstand for the Brimnes queen-sized guest bed.

desk completed

On the opposite wall from the office area there is another retaining wall that was about 40″ high.  We used two Lack shelves on either side of a Lack Wall Shelf Unit.  We had to shorten one shelf to make a seamless wall to wall unit.  Because the Lack shelves were mounted on a retaining wall, they were installed up side down to make the mounting brackets work.  A long thin wood shim was also installed along the front bullnosed edge of the retaining wall to keep everything level. We used a small Lack wheeled table as a printer stand and tucked it under the shelf a bit.

Lack Shelves

Now it really is both a lovely office and a comfortable guest room.

Guest room & office

And there is a laptop desk for Dan here too that can double as a dressing table for guests & a secret lair for Honey Boy & Fireboat.

Laptop Desk for Dan

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