I am thrilled to announce that our split foyer remodel will be featured in the Spring 2014 edition of “Atomic Ranch” magazine! This quarterly publication caters to enthusiasts of mid-century ranch homes (1940′s to 1960′s), mid-century furnishings, and period ideas. The magazine highlights interesting remodels and cost-effective remodeling ideas for ranch homes. I wrote the story that will accompany our featured remodel, drawing in part on my prior posts on this blog (see especially “Split” Voting and previous posts).
To see the ‘before” home, click here. In addition to small bump-out to the living room (which allowed us to achieve a sleeker facade), we replaced most of the windows, re-sided the home with T&G cedar (stained black), and completely gutted the kitchen, installing American black walnut “modular” cabinetry and new appliances. The article should hit the newsstands (including Barnes & Noble) sometime in late February. As always, I welcome feedback!
Before moving to the “burbs” of Long Island about 16 years ago, we were life-long residents of Queens, NY. While we still have a soft spot for that Borough and NYC in general, it became increasingly distressing to witness the rampant overcrowding of neighborhoods and the destruction of fine housing stock. Simple yet charming one-family colonials, Tudors, and bungalows transformed into multifamily apartments, businesses, and even houses of worship. This sad state of affairs was facilitated by poor, non-existent and/or unenforced zoning laws in many of city’s communities. Overcrowding aside, the lack of planning and architectural oversight led to unsightly home additions and remodels. Don’t get me wrong. Suburbia is well stocked with it own examples of poorly conceived housing and design missteps. What makes it worse is that suburbanites tend to think their own home “upgrades” and their own “design sense” is somehow superior to their city neighbors. I’m not so sure. Whether you drive through town or down a country lane, you stand an excellent chance of encountering a shockingly misguided remodel, or at least an odd exterior design element or two that leaves you wondering: what were they thinking?
So what exterior design elements bug me? I’ll start the discussion off with what might appear as a minor infraction, a petty design misdemeanor if you will. But petty it is not. I like to call this phenomenon “Shutter Madness.” But what is this remodeling crime, and why does it bother me so much?
In a nutshell, Shutter Madness is when a homeowner or his or her contractor installs (or at least tolerates) window shutters that are: (1) painfully disproportionate to the scale or size of the window(s) they flank; (2) are a completely different shape or scale than the windows (e.g., rectangular shutters next to an octagonal window — really — see photo below); and/or (3) completely inappropriate to the window type or style (e.g., shutters flanking a modern slider, awning or casement window). But is it really fair to call this “madness”? All I can say is that it drives me insane, and here’s why. Grossly mis-sizing or mis-matching a shutter just isn’t comparable to being color-challenged, which even good designers can sometimes be. Nor is it on par with poor furniture arrangement or bad lighting choices. Shutter Madness is not a matter of design talent or experience. It is something that is so contrary to common sense it can make one scream. Let’s be honest. Selecting the appropriate shutter size, shape or style should be as easy as putting square peg into a square hole. It’s just not that hard.
Ask yourself a few simple questions. What is the historic and practical purpose of a shutter? Obviously, its original purpose was to fully cover a window during stormy weather, or from prying eyes. When I see a rectangular shutter flanking an octagonal or palladian style window, or small (or any) shutters flanking a large bay window, I wonder aloud: Did the homeowner really believe that shutter could cover that window? Or worse, did he/she think others would?
Of course, most shutters installed these days are just decorative and neither will nor could ever be “closed.” But the point of a decorative shutter is to at least create the appearance of a real shutter. One that looks like it “fits” and appears to be, at least from a distance, operable and functional. Shutter Madness.
For a good, rant-free discussion of the “dos and don’ts” when using shutters as architectural elements, take a look at this article.
Here are some “crime scene” displays of Shutter Madness:
I finally got around to doing some research on this $20 “yard sale” find, which I came across a couple of years ago in vintage condition. The cool “boomerang” vinyl upholstery on the chair is undoubtably not original (unless someone can show me otherwise), but I still like it. This tilt-back walnut (or teak?) chair is likely a “Model 132” by Sigvard Bernadotte, produced in Denmark by France and Daverkosen, and well-known maker of pieces during the 1950′s and 1960′s. It now sits in our living room, and sort of defines it. Any additional information on the chair is appreciated.
Last month an ideologically divided Supreme Court all but shut down a potential avenue into U.S. courts for those seeking redress for crimes against humanity, including torture, extrajudicial killings and other violence perpetrated abroad by foreign governmental entities and aided and abetted by private corporations with U.S. ties. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (click here to read the decision, and my discussion in an earlier post on this blog), certain Nigerians invoked the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a 1789 law which allows foreign nationals to sue in the U.S. courts to redress violations of international law, even where those violations occur outside the U.S.
The ATS reads: ”The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” While rarely used in the past, there are several recent cases pending in U.S. courts (“district courts”) that involve human rights claims under the ATS. The Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel puts most of those cases in jeopardy.
Some background to the Kiobel case. The lower court (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) had thrown out the workers’ complaint, finding that the “law of nations” does not allow for corporate liability. However the Supreme Court dispensed with the plaintiffs’ position, not on the ground that corporations are necessarily immune from suit, but based upon a very narrow reading the statute. The court held that there is a legal “presumption” that the ATS does not have extraterritorial reach and, according to the court, the plaintiffs did not show that Congress ever intended the statute to apply to torts committed “outside” the U.S. According to the court, the main concern at the time the law was written was piracy on the high seas and ensuring the right of ambassadors, and Congress wanted to ensure that those who commit piracy or harm foreign diplomats could be tried in U.S. courts. Even more liberal members of the court supported the majority’s holding, mainly on the ground that the U.S. ties of the accused corporations were too far attenuated for the ATS to apply.
The Supreme Court’s decision, however, is unlikely to prevent human rights activists from litigating cases against corporations operating in the U.S. who align themselves and foreign governments and agencies that are abusing workers and denying them fundamental labor rights recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO). While the U.S. has not ratified all the Conventions of the ILO, it acknowledges the terms of the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As a lawyer, I get the technical and procedural reasons why these cases often get thrown out, and I do not necessarily disagree with the Court’s rationale here, if not the result (the truth is the ATS probably wasn’t intended to cover these types of cases). However, the finding in Kiobel that the “law of nations,” which would include international human rights law, somehow does not apply to corporations, ever, is a troubling concept.
If nothing else, Kiobel should return the spotlight to the Citizens United decision, which elevated the rights and powers of corporations well beyond those of natural persons, given their already outsized power to influence the lives of others (in both democratic politics and livelihood). The newly minted “person” status achieved by U.S. corporations in the Citizens United case did not in Kiobel lead to any corresponding, personal liability for companies with U.S. contacts, slim may those contacts be, that aid and abet human rights violations. U.S. corporate officers who make life-altering decisions for the rest of us already enjoy immunity from suit for everyday “corporate” actions taken in the U.S., and in many cases there are important economic reasons for that. But the last thing our democracy needed was a new class of constitutionally protected corporate super “persons.” Citizens United should be repealed.
Election Day. By all accounts, it will be a close one. Like it or not, we only have three choices today (or weeks ago if you voted early). The choices are: (1) Left; (2) Right, or (3) “I’m going to make a point by not voting, or by voting for someone who can’t possibly win.” In our political system, someone has to win. As a practical matter, we must choose sides — one or the other. Left or Right. Upstairs or Downstairs. ”Two men enter, one man leaves . . .” Okay, so the post-Sandy hurricane gas shortage here on the East Coast has me in a “Road Warrior” state of mind. An epic battle for control of what remains of the planet, etc.
I sort of like the Upstairs/Downstairs analogy, if for no other reason than it provides a segue into this Post! Owners of split foyers know that living your life doesn’t require picking a level. You can live fully on whatever level you choose. When you elect to live in a split foyer, you accept that one level could be as important as the other. In fact, you have a foot in each world. It’s more work, moving repeatedly between two planes, but the exercise will do you good. It could also give you a more balanced perspective, from top to bottom, and from bottom to top.
Our Split Foyer remodel is virtually complete, except for some tile work above the kitchen sink counter and some window treatments (if we do any at all). I thought Election Day would be a good time to share the results, and let you vote. Yeah or Nay. Or split your vote. You won’t have that opportunity at the polls today!
As we cross the finish line with the main construction on our Split Foyer remodel, we have turned to priming and staining the exterior. As planned we are going with a solid color stain, and the color will be black. The front and side doors, and “V” post supporting the front door overhang, will be painted lime green (Benjamin Moore). I will post more images of the house, inside and out, once we are completely done. Here are a couple of images of other homes with green/black color schemes that inspired us. The second image particularly captures our vision:
Because the exterior will be black, our painter heavily tinted the primer (although not so much so as to diminish its sealing and preservation qualities), which imparted a dark, blueish-gray to the cedar. Our cedar is fairly knotty, so a good oil based primer is essential to control tannin bleed. In some ways, the primer color is quite appealing! Some have suggested we try to match a stain to the primer shade, and just go with that. While we think lime green and dark gray siding are very complementary, in the end we will still chose bold and different over safe. Here are some images of our house after receiving its primer coat. The images do not quite capture the color, but give you some sense of it: