Residential Life

Back from Delaware, 8 Thoughts

So much has happened in the last couple of weeks. I want to write about it all, but it’s difficult to pull it all together into a tight narrative. So instead, I’ll just write a big list:

  1. I just got back from a two-night trip to Dover, Delaware. Although I was painfully unprepared for the cold weather, it was a great trip. One of the priests I met, Fr. Gabage, is a serious art collector. He gave me an hour-and-a-half tour of his collection. I felt like I stepped into the final scene of National Treasure. The collection made most of the stuff I saw last week at the Phoenix Art Museum look like garbage. I could write forever about my concern over modern art, but I’ll try to keep this quick… It is a grave problem when the finest art from a generation doesn’t show any talent. When you strip away the intellectual bullsh!t that artists and their collectors say about the work, you are left with something that is entirely unimpressive.
  2. My new favorite thing to eat at the airport is oatmeal. It’s simple, wholesome, and comforting. Starbucks and Cereality serve it up just right.
  3. I don’t know how much more news I can handle about the “Financial Crisis.” I’m an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal, especially over the last six months when every day held a new story. But it’s getting me discouraged and I think it’s time to find something else to do with my time…
  4. …like saving money. Candyce and I worked together to cut costs–including a different cell phone plan, car insurance, canceling subscriptions–and came up with $96 a month.  That’s adds up to more than $1160 in savings over twelve months.
  5. It’s worth noting that when the economy is red hot, it’s cool to be seen living “the good life.” You know, vacations, car accessories, home upgrades, piling up investments. But when the economy is ice cold, everyone decides it’s cool to be seen saving money. Most of the people I know like to keep one foot in poverty and another in wealth. They lean in either direction when they need to, but in the end we’re all in pretty good shape, doing our best to responsibly manage our money as the years of our life pass by.
  6. Rumor has it that one of my favorite restaurants is now a victim of a sluggish economy. What will downtown be without Palatte? I am grieving.
  7. My six month old daughter has two bottom teeth now. This brings the grand total of teeth up to two. But make no mistake–when she bites you, you are in for some pain.
  8. Trends are trends–if you ignore them, you’ll look like you’re just a leftover scrub from a decade past. I’m too old and sensible to wear the super-tight jeans like the trendy boys do, but my jeans are more snug now than they’ve ever been. I’ve been on a lot of business trips in 2009, and I’ve counted myself as one of the more stylish dudes in the airplane. But I’m also one of the least comfortable. I got a flicker of hope at 20,000 feet when I read the January issue of Esquire Magazine. Richard Dorment hinted that 2009 is ready for relaxed clothes:
  9. For the past few years, a man could be forgiven for thinking that some fashion designers really had to be joking. The rib-crushing fit of certain suits, the tourniquetlike taper of so many skinny jeans, all those wacky school-boy proportions: While many in the fashion world were embracing these extreme views of silhouette and fit — the shorter and tighter, the better — those of us who wore their clothes were left sucking in our guts and praying to God that our pants didn’t split. Fashion being fashion, though, the collective mood seems to be shifting — think of it as a market correction — as designers from Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey to the duo at Dolce & Gabbana are embracing more sensible, relaxed fits in their spring collections. Not baggy or saggy or overly loose-fitting. No: relaxed, with clothes maintaining a close, easy, and, above all, comfortable relationship to the body.

Own a Livable Mid-Century Modern Home in Arcadia/PV

This morning Candyce and I drove past a beautiful Mid-Century Modern home on 44th Street north of Camelback Road in the Arcadia / Paradise Valley area.

I looked online to find some more information, and I was happy to find stunning photography of the home. What I like about the house is the freshened interior with thoughtful details that make the home both modern and livable. Don’t get me wrong, a glass and steel structure with minimal furniture looks great in a magazine, but it’s torture to live in. That’s why mod homes like this one are so desirable.

By the way, if you’re interested in buying the house, it can be yours for $849,000.

Inspiration and Tips for Remodeling Your Attic

Inspiration

I don’t have an attic to remodel, but if I did, I’d take some design cues from two projects that I’ve discovered from Desert Living Magazine and This Old House Magazine. Click on the thumbnails below…and don’t miss the comments at the bottom.

Tips

If you are eager to get started on your own attic project, take some time to consider how to make the space functional. It’s easy to clean boxes of Christmas ornaments out of the attic and then hang some drywall to make the space look like a room. But to re-purpose your attic as a comfortable living space requires smart planning.

  1. Plan for Climate Control. Consult an HVAC technician to see if your existing heating and cool system can properly handle the extra space. You’ll need a strong system to keep the attic from getting too hot in the summers and too cold in the winters. Next, make a strategy for insulating the space. Are you on a tight budget? Consider rolls of fiberglass insulation. But if you want to do it right, it’s hard to beat sprayed-in foam. In the summer months, good insulation will keep the heat absorbed into your shingles from the sun from passing into your living space. And don’t forget to use inexpensive can of spray foam to insulate around the windows or an exterior door. If properly insulated, your upstairs room will stay comfortable year round.
  2. Lighting. Attics are often dark spaces, so you will want big windows. (If you are using the attic space as a bedroom, you may be required to install a special window to allow for an easy exit in case of a fire.) If it’s in your budget, consider adding dormers to pull in plenty of sunshine all the while adding curb appeal to your home. A less expensive option is to install a skylight, but just make sure you know what you’re doing. A poorly installed skylight will leak in heavy rains. If adding natural light is not an option, then plan to have plenty of recessed lights or a track lighting. Don’t think that a couple table lamps will make an attic room feel right.
  3. Plumbing. Do you plan on adding a bathroom upstairs? Consult a plumber to create a smart strategy for configuring your piping. I’ve heard horror stories of people who built too far into the project and lost time and money to rework the attic for proper piping.

Summary: Do you homework! An attic remodel might seem less intimidating than building an addition to your home, but that doesn’t mean a homeowner should hurry into the project. With smart decisions and good planning, you can save time and money. Plus you’ll gain usable space that will be fun for your whole family.

Phoenix Rising

Candyce, Norah, and I spent Sunday in Downtown Phoenix and Central Phoenix. We started the morning at Palatte for breakfast. If you live in the Valley and you haven’t been there–then you are missing out. Great atmosphere, live music, and tasty food. And for what it’s worth, it’s the best place to people watch on a lazy weekend morning.

When I first moved to Phoenix in 2001, I was disappointed that Central Avenue was so boring and undeveloped. What good is a city if it doesn’t have a lively central corridor? Apparently city planners knew this was a problem too, and they cooked up the idea to build a Light Rail to connect Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix. After four years of construction, the Rail is ready for passengers.

In the big picture, the Light Rail will do more for Phoenix than any of the three cities because it imports a young population of college students to an area of town desperate for residents. This solves the big problem every city faces when trying to revitalize it’s forgotten inner core–convincing people to move there when there’s nothing to do. Nobody wants to live in a place if there are no places to go out to eat or go shopping. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs won’t open up those cool spots if there are not enough residents.  How do you solve the stand-off? Pipe in the pretty, young, and smart from ASU’s Tempe campus. Brilliant!

You don’t have to look far to know that the Light Rail has is making a big difference, even a month before it’s first run. There are countless restaurants, bars, and boutiques that have cropped up along its path, especially along Central Avenue. We had to drive slow just to take it all in.

I never knew Central Phoenix had so many beautiful neighborhoods. You find a lot of the same charm and style of Arcadia. That is, the Arcadia of five years ago. Investors should take note. Not convinced? Postino is opening a second wine bar in the area.

The Roof is On Fire

I love it when a building I hate burns to the ground. Take for instance, 105. E. Roosevelt St. at the corner of 2nd Street in Downtown Phoenix. Before I explain my distaste for the building, take a look at an image from Google street view before the blaze…

A moronic structure that deserved to burn

Why do I despise this building? For one, it’s sitting on a prime corner lot on Roosevelt Row, a fun part of town where you can enjoy concerts, art galleries, and coffee with friends. The building has absolutely no connection to people who stroll through the neighborhood. There is no welcoming landscape, no door, no shade from the desert sun. It’s anti-human.

On the practical side, it is really stupid to have a roof/wall facing south. Those dark brown asphalt shingle tiles absorb every minute of the sun’s heat. My guess is that they have to run the Air Conditioning 10 months out of the year.

The good news is that the building has a habit of catching on fire this year.  Either a vigilante is determined to burn it down, or a disgruntled owner has been dropping matches on his way out of the office with hopes of cashing in on insurance. That’s up to the police to decide. I’m just happy it’s gone.

I’d be even more happy if Macayo’s restaurant on Central burned as well. I know the designer wanted to make it look like a Mayan temple or something, but what we got was a bizarre stairnstep concrete structure that looks like bleachers for a football field. Believe it or not, this image from Google maps actually makes it look better than it does in real life.

Even with dorky buildings from past generations here and there along Central Avenue, Phoenix is still looking good. It’s more livable and lively than its ever been.

Modernist Graduates to Transitional, Postino Opens Uptown

Jonathan from RED Modern Furniture came by my house and picked up my swanky Danish lounge chair last week, unofficially marking the end of my decade-long obsession with mid-century modern furniture. Without apology, I can now describe the style of my living spaces between Transitional and Restoration Hardware. I almost want to take time to expound, but I don’t have the time and I’m almost positive I’ve lost interest in this paragraph.

Instead, let’s talk about *the new hotness* that is the intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road. I haven’t been to that part of town months, but it seems like anything new and cool that I read about is within a stone’s throw of those cross streets. There are several clothing boutiques, Lola Tapas & Coffee Bar, Red Hot Robot, Stinkweeds Record Exchange, and the aformentioned RED Modern Furniture. Each of those spots are interesting for scrappy scenesters, but there’s not enough gloss to encourage the Y.U.P.s to come out after dark.

But that could soon change. The old Katz Deli (never heard of it till yesterday) was purchased by LGO and will open as Postino Central in January. That’s good news for uptown Phoenicians who tired of migrating to the Biltmore for a classy night out.