Monday, June 17, 2013


I just love long involved stories with a clever ending or a punch line that takes you a minute to get it.
I am so very sorry that I cannot remember the entire story I heard years ago about bears.  I was married at the time, and I have spent a long time trying to forget that period.  Marcia was a good person even if we did have troubles.  Fortunately I remember the gist of this one.
It was about bears.  By all appearances it was a very serious discussion of the subject. 
There are Black bears and Grizzly bears in the woods.  Black bears are a little retiring, and Grizzlies are pretty fierce no matter what.
The story teller, in all seriousness, suggested that in order to ward off bears in the woods, you should wear strong scent.  This will not exactly scare the bears away, but it will alert them of your presence, and they will likely avoid you.  Also, if you have some bells, say, attached to your belt or something. they will likely hear you and go elsewhere. 
The treatise went on to describe how you could tell if there are Black bears or Grizzlies in the area.  The Black bears' droppings have plenty of seeds and berry skins in their droppings.  The question was then raised..."How can you tell if there are Grizzly bears in the woods?"
That is rather simple. The droppings will be much the same, except they will smell of cheap cologne and have little bells in them.....
Of course this has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but I was dying to write that down so I will remember it in my old age.  I have another, but I will save that for another time.  I have to think of a reason to include it in a post, even if it is a bit feeble.
My dog, Harry, likes to find places to hide.  He will disappear under a couch, or into a dark corner to do his private licking or to chew on a hot spot on his rear end, where he will not be disturbed.  Of course he may just slip into a dark corner to have a nap.  He, like his cousins the bears, is a denning animal.  The bears and dogs like to dig in for the winter, have cubs or puppies, or just sleep between the rather meager meals.
My sister is like that in a way.  Sorry for the awful comparison Sis...she loves to wrap herself up in a room, in flannel if possible.  My Mother and grandmother were the same, and I feel that way sometimes as well.  It is strange then, that my sister chose to build her cord wood house in a form somewhat resembling an airplane hangar.  I hate big open rooms with two story entries or rooms that soar to the beamed ceilings.  Intellectually, I hate the wasted space, the loss of heat at the floor etc.  But on a gut level, I feel lost in the space.  I am uncomfortable with the lack of enclosure.  I suppose I feel that a house should enclose and protect you, and the soaring spaces leave me feeling uncomfortable and unprotected. 
I rarely look up when I am there in her house.  She has a second floor, but there is a large open space over the main living area.  I have heard stories about some enclosure occurring, but have yet to see what they have done.
That being said, the feeling is somewhat minimized there in her house, because the entire interior is pretty natural in its color and finish.  Lots of wood on ceilings(which tend to be the floor boards above) the rounds of cord wood on the wall that look a bit like stones, few windows to lose heat in the winter.....
Though the space is vast, color makes the house seem intimate...I just cannot look up!
Wood is basically Orange!  It may be amber, brown, golden, coffee, blond...whatever, but for the most part, it has an orange or yellow cast, and in formal color systems, it is usually classed as that shade in order to pick compatible colors in the room.
To me, all those ambers make the room intimate, but at the same time, a little oppressive and enclosed.  I most often paint my wood white or a light color.  That is less likely to make the wood push forward and bring the walls in with it. 
Pickling the wood helps a lot.  All you do is stain or paint the wood with a thinned out white, and wipe it off before it dries.  This dramatically lightens the wood, and still allows you to have the wood grain in the room.
On the other hand, I think that a very dark wood floor resembles a deep pool, and can make the room seem bigger somehow.
The general rule of thumb in decorating or in painting is:  add blue and white to a color, and the surface will seem to recede a bit.  Add red, and it will seem to advance.
This is how you make paintings have depth despite their two dimensional character.  Look out the window at any time of the year.  The green trees outside the window will be GREEN...Their own particular green of course, but definitely green.  Now look off into the distance, say across a valley or on the other side of a field.  Squint your eyes if the distance is not great, but look carefully.  the same type of tree will be lighter in color and slightly bluer...sometimes even purple.
I have never done this color, mainly because I have to live with other people, but I love all the ads for Martha Stewart products in a room.  So often she uses a pale celadon green or a watery blue-ish green.  The effect is light and airy, especially with white woodwork.
Greens also tend to be very neutral.  They are not, of course, in reality, but we tend to see so much green in our lives, that we just accept it as a part of the landscape.  If you are careful about it, you can usually mix almost any color with it in a room, and the result will be successful.
The trick is to use a similar value of the other color.
Now, on the other hand, a dark amber...all varnished wood...knotty pine(either in a rustic camp like atmosphere or in a sophisticated, raised panel English library) can be very cozy and welcoming.  There is that "Denning" action.  The room wraps itself around you.  Warm fires, Amber Scotch Whiskey or a fine Brandy or...mmmmm Calvados or Grand Marnier...the colors of leather book bindings surrounding you.  You are wrapped in a chenille afghan and a sleeping cat or dog is on your lap as you reread "Wuthering Heights".   This is absolutely a Masterpiece Theater Moment for me.  
The upshot of this whole post is....think long and hard about how you decorate a small space.  You are walking a fine line in a small house.  You may love the warmth of dark colors and all those ambers in February, but what about in August during a 104 degree day in high humidity.
The problem is that you simply cannot escape to another room...There isn't one.
The answer may be to use neutrals, tending toward the lighter end, and avoiding Amber undertones.  Add dark, rich drapes, hangings, and pillows on rich colored upholstery.
Then in the summer, get the upholstery covered in white duck or canvas slipcovers, and put up white sheers or linen drapes in cool colors that relate to the undertones of the neutral on the walls.  Beige can be based on all sorts of colors.  Place another color next to it and see if it becomes apparent to you.  There may be pink, green, yellow or all sorts of shades hidden in the beige or taupe.
Get rid of the dark oil paintings in the Summer, unless they are snow scenes or sparkling beach scenes, and put up line drawings and watercolors in pale shades.  Have them matted in a nice leaf green or something else that feels cool.
Plan the colors just as carefully as you plan the space.
Isn't it strange after all this discussion of my aversion to ambers etc., that I am inexorably drawn to the bronzes and dark, muddy, silk damask oranges and garnet reds of Italian Palazzos...
Remember too, that assertive pattern can advance and make a space seem smaller...if you crave space, use sprig like pattern or tiny stripes.  Use larger patterns if you crave the cozy feel.
Stripes can also make a room feel taller, or wider if put up horizontally.
Murals are also nice.  Again, dark and oil painting like, no matter the subject can advance significantly, but pale watery colors can add space.  They can also limit the feel of a room to spring or winter depending on your choice.
Solid colors tend to be a bit more spacious than a pattern even if the shade is dark.   

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