Every Inch Is Alive

It’s a small space, just 1800 square feet, but every inch is as alive as the forest that surrounds it. The living room spills onto the deck, but a deep canvas overhang shades the table and chairs.  We have an air conditioner, but rarely turn it on. That little house was tightly designed.  The kitchen is like an apron with pockets.  Everything is in easy reach, and I could supervise the children from its central location. Because the window is a narrow slot, we can spy on herons and bobcats, foxes and approaching cars.  Guests congregate around the counter that ringed my workspace, and I was never ostracized from the social activity.  Much of the furniture is built in, but when I lived there I changed the layout of the main room frequently depending on the season or the activity. Finally, I designed and Dennis built some wide chairs with large wheels that could shift to face the wood stove, the view of the forest, the Christmas tree, or the TV.

Spring is the best time for entertaining out on the deck.  Honeysuckle blooms and the figs and sycamore are leafing out.  But in the hot Central Valley summer, we set tables under the shady oaks; a canvas awning shades the house from summer sun.  When cool weather drove my daughter’s November birthday inside, I painted the blue genie and Azkaban from Aladin on the the two-story windows with soap-paint. When Greg and I lived there, we squeezed in piano concerts—26 guests if most spry sat on the staircase.  Dinner parties for eight or ten take up the whole living room.

The babies were born there.  With no interior walls upstairs, I could hear them breathe or turn over in their crib.  We could also hear them cry in hi fidelity when they were compelled to do that, but we could also whisper, “it’s okay—go to sleep,” and they eventually did.

I’ve always liked to relocate artifacts in from walks in the forest or along the river.  The angled windows captured light to spotlight my wild bouquets and freestyle ikebana creations featuring the surrounding fauna.  The morning light, especially, dances across the floor and makes you glad you’re alive.

The office is more serious–even rectilinear–and we lined it with bookshelves and a long desk stretched the length of one wall, but the window at the end of the desk is shaded, recessed and screened, so we can open it even in summer.  The office also has a door, so someone bent on concentrating on bills or taxes can shut out distraction.  Greg used that room as a composing studio as well, although he had to use headphones when I was home.

The upstairs loft that was to be my studio for painting and other projects became a nursery before I ever set an easel up.  The kids’ room has no front wall, but they didn’t have many “no’s” in their lives, so they never challenged the one serious indoor “no!” not to climb the balcony.  Gates protected the top and bottom of the stairs.  They grew up with rooms full of light and fluid space.  The rest of the loft became their playroom and their make-believe “worlds” with names like Apatary and Tarnish.  On a Wrightian Society tour, Al Struckus of Bruce Goff’s Struckus Residence, asked if our children were more creative as a result of growing up in such a unique home.  We acknowledged that were creative children, but I think all children are.  Maybe a home like this doesn’t drain the creativity from them.

When the children took their “worlds” outside or had adventures in the forest or the swamp, we were glad to have a mudroom and a downstairs shower.  Dennis’ job was a dirty one, so he also shed his outer layers when he came in the house.  It is an easy house to keep clean.

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