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Posts Tagged ‘suburbia’

Perhaps this is an unlikely post coming from someone who considers themselves lucky to be living in a late 19th c. Toronto Bay-and-Gable Victorian home. It is hard not to get excited, however, about a house that is perfect for the time. The “Woodland Home” is a rare exemplar in a bad dream of surburban McMansion expansion…

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The Woodland Home

Structures that dominate their site and would be as hospitable to live in as a freight container if it weren’t for the massive BTUs needed to be burnt in or pumped out depending on the season…

Simon and Jasmine Saville of Wales have, perhaps, built a house that is as iconic as Le Corbusier’s Savoy House was at the height of the modern movement. Of course, we are now all too familiar with the multiple failures of early modern architecture (every city’s skyline overwhelmed by poor knockoffs of Mies’ Seagram’s Building) and of course, the horrid urban planning of Corbu’s “Radiant City”  (residential monoblocks in sequestered parklike settings bereft of any of the interest and community that was taking place in the pockets of the old city that weren’t bulldozed).

Text Box:    Le Corbusier  Savoy House, Poissy sur Seine, France.

le Corbusier's Savoy House - A Machine for Living

Corbu thought of his Savoy House in very modern terms as a machine for living. The overused machine analogy of modern architecture and planning has been stretched to the point of collective yawn and shared contempt for its disappointments. Structures that dominate their site and would be as hospitable to live in as a freight container if it weren’t for the massive BTUs needed to be burnt in or pumped out depending on the season…

The suburban dream might still exist, but this purgatory between urban sophistication and pastoral rural living is a harder sell.

The Saville family Woodland home is needed as an ideal type that demonstrates everything that has gone so wrong with car dependent, energy dependent, socially homogenous, sterile suburban living.  If we are to believe the “doomers” then suburban living will be as short lived as Corbu’s success in getting people to think of their houses as machines. The “End of Suburbia” thesis aside, suburbia has lost some of its shine, its attraction and certainly its cultural capital. The suburban dream might still exist, but this purgatory between urban sophistication and pastoral rural living is a harder sell. I am reminded of Gertrude Stein’s words referencing Oakland CA, after returning from France, “There is no There There“.

The Woodland home is a home you respond to in a very cerebral way. A home that you want to be in and explore on first sight. There may even be something Jungian about its appeal. Some yearning to be closer to a relationship to nature that was lost with advances in building technology. An inversion of modern thinking and the ubiquitous dissatisfaction brought on by rationalizing every detail daily life. A hand built home and the appeal of autonomy and self efficacy. A house that does not dominate its natural site, but is part of it. A house that does not require any more resources  to build than what many people of the world have available. And shy of $5000.00, a house that does not demand life-long mortgaged servitude and the accompanying joy killing time in cubicle to keep ahead of the interest…

Check out the Saville’s great website for more photos, architectural drawings and construction techniques.

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Popcorn ceilings give me creepy memories of living in a treeless suburban track of ticky-tacky houses. Having lived within expanses of characterless drywall and wall-to-wall carpeting is one reason I really appreciate old city houses. I can still recall the constant pleading for the family car as my only means of escape…

3X Mag for drama

Be forewarned that what follows is a bit of rant. These can be ignored, but after spending my Sunday night covered in plaster dust, I thought I would indulge myself…

Why anyone wants a ceiling that looks like cottage cheese is beyond the limits of my imagination. There is good reason to be wary of faddish building materials… In ten years, I imagine hoards of people rushing to erect pine and cedar fences after their PVC plastic fence has turned yellow from sun damage or simply looks as bad then as the day it was installed.

The only reason someone puts up a popcorn ceiling in a plaster and lath century home is because they are covering up cracks in the plaster and trying to save a hit to their wallet. Removing it is either very easy, or, if it has been painted, really a pain as you may need to use a safe stripper to soften the paint.

The messy part

You will have a serious need to avenge the previous owner that painted their popcorn with an oil-based paint… good luck with that mess. 1950s and 60s era popcorn sprayed ceilings may have asbestos in them, apparently, and should be investigated prior to removal. I was fortunate (I guess) in that the ceiling was sprayed on within the last 8 years, or so, and was not painted.

All you need is (1) a spray bottle, (2) a five inch flexible scraper, (3) a good size drip cloth, and, (4) an unhealthy need to repress your suburban adolescence.

One benefit of removing the popcorn ceiling is that the room now looks bigger and the ceiling looks higher.

Depending on the height of your ceiling, grab a step ladder or chair. If you have a large amount of ceiling space, you may want to invest in a pressurized water sprayer (the garden variety) since I eventually got hand cramps from using the spray bottle. Spray a section at a time, wait a few moments, and use your scraper at a 30 degree angle to scape off the ugliness. After scraping, take a sponge and wipe the ceiling down. Aside from cleaning dust, this also removes remaining popcorn ceiling material from any uneven sections of the ceiling.

Almost done

This is easy work, but takes some strength and be prepared for the cricked neck and sore shoulders the next day. One benefit of removing the popcorn ceiling is that the room now looks bigger and the ceiling looks higher.

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