Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 1

My birthday's actually in two weeks, but since I got my present early, I thought I'd start sharing my wonderful, wonderful haul.

My whole family chipped in for an Etsy gift card, so I contacted Patie at minisx2 with several requests. She did an amazing job with every single piece and was wonderful to work with. I will definitely be back when I need midcentury-ish furniture again.

First, there was the matter of my half-furnished living room. I had to have a midcentury record cabinet with angled legs - and here it is, displayed on my real-life turntable to show the scale.

I'm aware of the poor quality of these photos (I was so excited I snapped them as fast as I could with no concern for the lighting), but I hope my dear readers notice Patie even painted the feet to look like brass.

The cabinet doors slide effortlessly, and there are even dividers inside! Now I just have to fill it with miniature records.

Stay tuned...there's more to come.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fruit Crates

Most people don't realize this, but California is an agrarian powerhouse. If you live in the States and have canned tomatoes in your pantry, there's a good chance they're from Sacramento. If you have a jar of applesauce in the refrigerator, it probably came from Sebastopol. California is the only US state that commercially grows almonds, and one of the few that produces rice and olive oil.

In the early to mid 20th century, more and more California produce was shipped to other states, with growers realizing that labeling their crates was an easy way to advertise (those of you who've read Steinbeck may recall Adam Trask's failed attempt to ship Salinas Valley lettuce back East). The labels gradually became fancier and more colorful (the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica had an exhibit on fruit crate labels in 2005). I used a real vintage "Sebastopol Apples" crate as the model for these crates. They'll be scattered in and around the house, serving various practical storage purposes.

Incidentally, my 1:1 crate was used as shelving in Acres of Books, a Long Beach landmark, for decades until the store finally closed in 2008. I'd link to Ray Bradbury's 1989 essay immortalizing Acres of Books ("I Sing the Bookstore Eclectic"), but it sadly seems to have vanished from the internet.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Little Tips for Armchair Research

The next time you're trying to recall exterior details on a building (or in an entire neighborhood) that's not close to you and don't have reference photos handy, try pulling up Google instead.

If you know the address, enter that into Google Maps. If you don't know the exact address but know the street and a nearby cross street, try that. If you aren't sure of the street name but can think of a local landmark, enter that and go from there. Then, open up Street View and use the arrows to "explore" until you find the right building. Turn, re-position, and zoom in or out as needed. (Google Image Search can also come in handy if referencing a historically or architecturally significant building, since interior images are likely to come up as well. That isn't the case with Street View.)

So far, I've used Google Street View to research Greene & Greene houses in Pasadena, midcentury modest houses in Orange County, pre-1930 cottages in Santa Monica/Venice, modest bungalows in Echo Park, and Storybook Ranch details in my family's old neighborhood. It can be a bit time-consuming (especially since I'm looking up neighborhoods that have older, and therefore fairly large, trees blocking some details from Google Street View's cameras - this wouldn't be a problem in a newer neighborhood with younger trees, but then, I wouldn't want to miniaturize a newer house!). That said, it definitely beats spending hours and hours (and lots of money on gas!) driving to all of these places just to look at tapered columns and faux dovecotes.

Incidentally, since my current build is meant to be a 1920s beach bungalow that saw a few additions and minor "improvements" circa 1962, I've also been poring over the archives at Retro Renovation. Many of the houses seen on the blog have been "updated" over the years and are often being restored to match the house's age, so the "before" pictures are a good resource for seeing two different eras mixed in real homes. Retro Renovation is also a goldmine for pictures of original details that newer houses just don't have. Definitely visit the site if you appreciate early-to-mid-20th-century North American houses, but be warned: it's addictive.

P.S. If Google Street View creeps you out for privacy reasons, look up your address and ask Google to blur the image.

P.S. I've gotten a lot done for the Spring Fling...but I can't show you, of course ;)