Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kitchen Fongzjway

As you know from our previous post, I've started to work a bit on the kitchen. Andrea and I find ourselves spending a lot of time together in there (there's always food to prepare or dishes to wash). In the beginning, I dreamt big ideas for a total kitchen makeover once we hit the lottery. Well, the lottery may or may not happen but I just finally had to do something about it because it was just irritating to look around and see ugliness, clumsiness and craziness at ever turn.

Something had to be done NOW. But with only a few bucks to work with, I had to come up with ideas based on what already had been done over the past 6 months and possibly throw in one new challenge.

I thought I'd start with the set of cabinets on the wall that seemed to scream, "tear me down now." Demolition and tearing down anything ALWAYS equals $$, I've learned, so I thought I'd take a look at how sound the cabinets were and if they could be salvaged. Turns out they are made of all wood and very, very sturdy. Why not strip the old layers of paint? Why is one cabinet jutting into the hallway defying the word "Feng Shui" with extreme prejudice? What is the sink doing directly under a cabinet and not next to the window?? This is usually how my train of thought goes when I start a project but I have to stay focused and take it one step at a time. I decided that the previous owners of the house practiced "Fongzjway", a nonsensical word that doesn't even exist on Google. (click on images to enlarge)

After stripping the paint and gently cutting around the weird cabinet, I repaired the new cabinet openings and removed the doors to get a more open feeling. I tried to understand why people put doors on cabinets anyway, except maybe to keep dishes from falling in the event of an earthquake. Well these doors were not going to help in that department anyway. So we'll try the 'open cabinet' look until we find the exact size cabinet doors.

We had plenty of sample paints leftover from our bathroom redo and we both really like the whole glazing/marble/distressed approach to painting for a Victorian. So I re-glazed the cabinets and added a new crown. I installed individually, unique handle pulls from Urban Ore for about .20 cents a piece. There was that dang tilebord stuff used as a backsplash that you would hardly notice so I glazed it with red wine paint leftover from my office painting. Add in a few other decorative touches and thus begins a slow process of transforming the ugly kitchen into something a bit more interesting. The whole job took about a week and less than $100.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One Man, One Buck, One House

I suppose if I were to be the star of my own home renovation reality show it would be called "One Man,One Buck,One House' that captures my approach to fixing up this Victorian.

It's been over 6 months now and I've learned quite a bit and feel more realistic each day about what we are doing. I feel pretty confident that I can do practically anything in the house without creating further problems and keep it well under budget. In addition, the grand plans I had for the house have now changed to reflect our present and short-term future needs.

This being our first home together, it's realistic to assume that we may not live in it for longer than 5 years. Although, we are loving the area and house with each passing day, neither one of us feels that this will be the last place we will live. So, why put in a ton of new remodeling when we won't enjoy it forever and the next owner may just tear everything out anyway? We also know that unexpected costs, such as a backed up drain under the house, will crop up now and then and we just can't be in the position of being tapped-out remodeling something and then forced to deal with an emergency.

(This Old Kitchen)
All this means is that I need to stretch our dollar even further and think harder about the changes and fixes we do in the house. Now, I'm going to work on a set of the kitchen cabinets which traditionally tend to be very expensive to replace. I had grand plans for the kitchen remodel (including tearing down the cabinets) but now we would both be happy to have a French-style looking kitchen without changing the layout radically and by surgically removing things, cleaning them up and reusing them in some fashion. Mostly I'll be refacing these cabinets and adding new doors and basically making it look good all without pulling down the cabinets.

So this "Schmuck and One Buck" approach is primarily how we will approach our projects which leaves much of the original work and leaving it up to some luck to get hold of good, strong materials to replace worn out dated items. Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Clunky Cabinet phase 1

This clunky cabinet is getting a makeover. George sawed off part of it to make a microwave shelf. This is phase 1. With the cleared counter space, we set up a little wine station. (Now the wine rack is no longer on the top of the refrigerator.)

Phase 2 which is in progress now, consists of sawing off even more of the 'strange shape 1940's kitchen cabinet'. It will be more flush with the rest of the cabinets and no longer an obstacle to bang into.

I think phase 3 might be scraping off all the paint and resurfacing all the cabinets. We'll see.

Ironing Board in the Kitchen Trick Solved!

Remember George's post from January 1? The old 'Ironing Board in the Kitchen Trick'

One night last week we were cooking dinner together and he needed to get in the spice cabinet above my 'work space'.

We had recently put the ironing board down to use as pseudo counter space. As we realized the spice rack should be in a more convenient location, an "A-HA moment" occurred and we figured out where it should go!

George built new shelves (re-using old wood of course) in the ironing board wall cabinet space. Love it! I think it still preserves the charm, yet in a more utilitarian way for us.

p.s. Thanks for the great suggestions Kansas Kate! It does make a good work space.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Update on Paul Geissler Print

Treasures come in many forms.

In the previous post I mention buying an etching for $10 at a Berkeley yard sale. An appraiser found it to be an original engraving by the artist Paul Geissler in 1920.

After a few more days of research I learned that it is an etching of the Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany. All the more astonishing since when I first looked upon the etching a voice in my head said, "that looks like Germany", even though I had never been to Germany nor knew anything about the Odeonsplatz. (View 360 panorama)

On the right is the Roman Catholic Theatine Church St. Cajetan (Theatinerkirche St. Kajetan) in Munich built from 1663 to 1690. It was founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, as a gesture of thanks for the birth of the long-awaited heir to the Bavarian crown, Prince Max Emanuel, in 1662.

The church was built in Italian high-baroque style after San Andrea del Valle in Rome and designed by the Italian architect Agostino Barelli. Inside are tombs of a few Bavarian Kings and Queens and a couple of Holy Roman Emperors.

St Cajetan was born at Vicenza, then part of the Republic of Venice. Cajetan's parents were Gaspar, Count of Thiene, and Maria Porto. He is the patron saint of
gamblers; job seekers and unemployed people. If there ever was a saint to pray to during the 'Great Recession', it's St. Cajetan.

To the left is the famous Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal's hall) monument adorned with 2 lions and was designed in 1841 to honour the Bayern generals. One curious fact – on these steps (only 3 years after this etching was made) Hitler clashed with the police and was then sent to prison where he wrote Mein Kampf – (My Fight).

Munich and all of Germany at that time was experiencing a very difficult time due to the harsh penalties imposed by the Treaty of Versailles following the end of WWI. Hitler lived in Munich the same time this etching was made and could have been possibly yelling it up within earshot at one of the nearby beer halls. This all had me look a little bit harder at the artist Geissler.

Paul Geissler was born in 1881 and died in 1965. According to the web "he was one of the foremost german etchers. His plates, chiefly of the architectural beauties of old Europe, have been highly praised by many of the most discriminating critics and collectors. Yet his work appeals as strongly to the public as it does to connoisseurs."

Searching online I find that Geissler was later considered, by a few, a "Third-Reich artist". Although he apparently did not create any overt Nazi imagery, he did etch Hitler's birthplace and school in 1943 and his work was included in Hitler's EXPOSITIONS OF
. "In 1937 the Nazis inaugurated the House of German Art and organized the first exposition of Great German Art." These exhibitions were Hitler's way of telling the German people what art he thought was appropriate for them. From the web: "Adolf Hitler was a genuine patron of the arts, with a love for painting and architecture, but only a patron of those arts of which he approved. Having been a painter in his youth, Hitler considered himself the supreme critic of what was, and was not, proper art. Modern "degenerate" art was definitely out. To promote "proper" art Hitler had the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) built in Munich, to be the scene of special yearly exhibits." Geissler's fine detail sketchings of architectural German buildings apparently fit that mode. It is very possible that Hitler and Geissler, at least, knew each other.

So now this etching has a history to it albeit a bit murky and possibly unsettling if the artist was indeed a nazi sympathizer. Some time ago I worked on a documentary on W. Furtwangler, the head conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during WWII and sometimes referred to as "Hitler's Composer". But I learned that Furtwangler was very indifferent to the political climate and disliked Hitler and was mostly obsessed with the music. I suppose many artists can be so enthralled with creating beauty that they turn a blind eye to the ugly realities around them. I would like to think this is the case with our Geissler. As to how this exquisite etching wound up in a yard sale in Berkeley? Your guess is as good as mine.

Andrea and I are planning to visit the site when we are in Germany later this year and I can't help but feel that I am connected to this place for some reason but don't know why. I'll chalk it up to Victorian paranormal residue sprinkled on my brain from living in this old house.

Be on the look out for your own 'transporting' treasures. It may lead you on a fascinating, historical journey.

Any other thoughts on Geissler and his life and work would be very welcome.