Category Archives: remodeling

Walking in the World

White Point sign


There are people in our lives who have an influence they’d never know. My parents instilled a love for Cape Cod that we find in many ways living here on San Juan Island in Washington. The friend in California who suggested a year or so ago that I rein in this blog to a remodeling theme: remodeling a house, remodeling a life—the same thing, in my book. Our daughter, now living in Argentina, who upon visiting before her departure grew my daily walk by a beautiful mile or two. And in sending me a video of the works of sculptor Anthony Howe on neighboring Orcas Island, my cousin in Atlanta reminding me to stay with art every day. And to try not to stray.

They are all part and parcel of who I am, why I’m here, and how I see it.

“Walking the loop” began as a tradition while living on upper Queen Anne in Seattle and continues out here today. That first loop took me around the perimeter of the hill, overlooking the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, Lake Union, and Puget Sound. Today’s loop takes me alongside Westcott Bay, and through the red, white and blue nostalgic quality of Roche Harbor Resort where everyone looks good in the light. Finally, the road meanders through an old growth forest of cedar, fir, and pine where everything grows dark and green, and back to my home on the bay.

Where the road dips down to the shoreline I experience what I call a Cape Cod moment, framed by flatlands, grasses, marshes, and horizon. In the course of this walk I may pass only one or two cars on the road, a few more in summer, on an island where every driver waves.

This is the walk my daughter grew, taking it out on a point to new terrain, the posh end of White Point Road. Here I pass tennis courts where nobody’s playing, a pond with a dock establishing someone’s swimming hole, and a private golf course back in there somewhere, for I’ve seen it from the water. Horse fencing and regally high pampas grasses standing like sentry guide the way. Crushed white shells underfoot line the one-lane road at sea level. It’s as private as private can be, except for me, out on this point.

Here I gape at houses, something that seems to be my lot in life: the desire to see myself in other spaces, other places. On walks I finish unfinished houses in my mind, or tear them down and start again. As anyone in the field knows, design is never done. When the bones are good, I may mentally repaint it, or envision it clad in cedar shingles, dark, red, natural or a weathered gray.

At home, the short video on the kinetic sculpture of Anthony Howe awaits me. It’s mesmerizing. How did my cousin know to send this now? I needed it. Isn’t art what ultimately pulls us through? All the arts, always. And art as balm, particularly in troubling times. Which is where we are today.

“After reading the newspaper on Sunday, I sit quietly and simply look at art books.” Michael Graves


Filed under art, design, remodeling, walking

Going Gray

Jackie's apartment

The San Francisco residence of J. Mayer and B. Blum


My girlfriends in Seattle told me it would happen when I moved to the islands.

“You’ll come back gray-haired wearing Birkenstock sandals,” they warned.

Well they were half right.

We were all coloring our hair back there. The San Juan Islands are more organic in every sense. Women give each other permission to go gray here.

It’s not as easy as it looks. Going gray took a number of months. My hairdresser had to remove my hair of the brown coloring, and gray what was stripped. Matching up the color with what was growing in.

“I don’t like it. I’m not ready for this,” my husband commented when the job was completed.

The next day I was flying east. I had promised to care for my father at his retirement home while my mother enjoyed a stay with friends in the English countryside. Residents of the retirement home raved about my hair. What they saw were the waves–the color was a given. I felt good enough to come home again.

Here on the island gray is the color of silver fox, oyster and clam shells, shimmering fish, Gray whales, harbor seals, dolphin, Gray heron, and fog.

I will get around to remodeling. All roads lead to remodeling lately.

Deck after rain

This weekend we painted 800 sq. ft. of decking around our island home. What had been a dark brown-red paint over cedar became a lighter gray, and the house went from being “of the woods” to being “of the water.” Gray is a nautical color, the color of sun bleached piers and teak decking on boats.

There is a gray wash to our hardwood floors. A gray stain to new pieces of furniture (Restoration Hardware outlet). A gray quartz countertop in our kitchen. A gray veining through Carrera marble tiles on the backsplash. Stainless steel floating shelves for glassware and dishes. Stainless steel appliances. Grays in slate tile floors in mudroom and bath. And now, gray decks running everywhere: down the hillside staircase, across the house, and out to the writing hut. Where I write.

I say this after having lived with earth tones all my life, on my walls and in my hair. There is a calmness and sophistication to the color gray. It is restful and it is where I am right now.


Filed under hair coloring, remodeling, the color gray

Good Housekeeping

good housekeeping

We’ve been out on the island for about four weeks working on the house. Well the contractor has been working on the house, and we’ve been doing whatever we can to help move things along. After all, we are expecting houseguests end of the month.

After ferrying over from the mainland 2000 sq ft hardwood flooring, 300 sq ft tile, and 70 gallons of paint, Paul painted the eves and trim so the men could start shingling. Then together we whitewashed boards for the vaulted ceiling in the living room, and assembled some kitchen cabinetry—who knew it would arrive unassembled? And no, we didn’t buy at IKEA. Having fallen in love with the kitchen in the HGTV Dream Home 2014, Lake Tahoe, we drew inspiration and ideas from that. As its cabinetry was from Cabinets to Go!, that’s where we went. The salesman worked with us on customizing it to our space and our needs, but never mentioned it would all come in pieces. Lucky for him, my husband enjoys building.

Me, not so much. Lucky for me, our nephew flew out this week to assist. Now I might write. Remember writing? It had been getting away from me with all the remodeling.

So now we are three people living on a boat. Three people and a dog. It’s cozy. Both men are slim but tall. The dog, fortunately, is small.

Last weekend we had our first visitors at “the job site,” my name for the house. Bare to the bone, colorless and dusty, nothing but subfloors, scaffolding, sheetrock walls taped and mudded, electrical wires and boxes. Nevertheless, some friends from Seattle came to see what we’ve gotten ourselves into here.

What I would have given to be a fly on the wall of their Saab as they drove away!

The gardener in Lynn would be wondering why anyone would turn in a lovely patio and garden in Queen Anne for a rugged piece of old growth forest, and lose everything I will plant one day to deer.

The writer in Malcolm envies me the writer’s hut—a shed on the property that will be cedar shingled as well, and refurbished with windows, French doors, heat and electricity. While I didn’t care for the house at all, I was mad for the shed! (More about this dear little building later. Much more).

Teri, I think, would be doing the same thing as me in a heartbeat.

And Dan, the psychologist, thinks we are crazy to uproot ourselves at will and start all over again. I knew it by the eloquent way he kept commending us for our “bold vision,” and for striking out on “such an adventure”, i.e. better you than me.


Filed under remodeling