Essay / The House that Could

Essay / The House that Could

This was our home for six years. There aren't many places that can stir a soul like this one does mine. The lessons it taught me are many. Living here demonstrated everyday the value of simplicity, living with nature, of authentic materials and quality construction, and the power of details in design. It also was a lesson in geometry and proportion and the organic. And so many other things that have continued on to live in Modernplum. The house was built in 1967 by two professors at the University of Illinois in Urbana and no doubt they loved it. But it was in terrible shape when we arrived. Mold covered the exterior and there were big holes in the hardwood floors, and the glass walls were dirty and all fogged up. The home had changed owners many times that produced a slew of bandaid patches, fast fix-its, and lazy neglect that this 1967 beauty couldn't really fake anymore. But we knew it would be ours anyway. The restoration was a slow process like anything worth doing usually is. My husband began by power washing the entire exterior, patching and repainting almost every surface inside. Instead of replacing the original cherry wood cabinetry, we cleaned and cleaned until it shined again. Same for the glass walls and wood flooring. In full restoration mode, we thought that the painting brick, drywall, glass and cherry wood materials made up the soul of the place and they could never be replaced. We imagined getting a newer version of these things, but where deterred by the very real possibility of cheaply made, chemical-laden, veneers, and suspect craftsmanship which just would not fit here. The glasshouse was made from a simple and recognizable group of materials that created honest interior spaces. That's why the place was so authentic and real. Authenticity is sincere and as living beings, we respond to and thrive in this kind of environment, I think.
The glass walls were the defining feature of the house. The house was shaped like a rectangle with an interior courtyard and three inhabitable sides and looking south onto a golf course. A series of floor to ceiling glass walls made the home transparent from back to front. Nature and light defined our daily experience. It was an experience of changing colors, forms, and light during the year. We were one with nature, like indoor campers protected from the elements but very much integrated with the outdoors. I felt at peace here, connected to something greater than the folly of technology, politics, and commerce.
I felt at peace here, connected to something greater than the folly of technology, politics, and commerce.
As the work on the house progressed into its third year (yes, there was a lot to do!), we debated on the textiles. What kind of bedding, pillows, curtains, and table linens should we get? What do they need to be in order to respect and blend in with the environment? As a textile artist, I am fascinated with the Bauhaus philosophy, in particular, how textiles were integrated within midcentury homes during the 50's and 60's. During this time, architects and artists worked together to seamlessly integrate textiles into the spaces. Textiles were responsive to the architecture in their forms, colors, and materials. There is a degree of intentionality in this way of working that I find refreshing.
So the task of making those textiles began. I selected linen as this fabric is simple, natural, hardworking, honest, and beautiful, just like the glasshouse. Some would also say that linen is high maintenance. That's a matter of opinion since linen can be completely wash and ware but let's say it is true -- linen is high maintenance. Truly beautiful and extraordinary things often are. My first pieces for Plum came from this place both literally and in these thoughts. The Anna Collection and Lucia Collection bedding came first and then the Jean Table Collection. Follow this link to view these products. All of these designs are simple but focus on the quality and richness of the materials as well as the craft in sewing. Then the line expanded but the focus has remained: to create authenticity in daily life through thoughtfully designed and made textiles has sustained my creative self ever since. We moved away from the glasshouse in 2016 due to some new opportunities out of town. We now reside in Chicago and could not be happier with our new community, but I miss it.  It was our home and much, much more.  
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The Danish Way / Coverlets

The Danish Way / Coverlets

When July rolls around, my husband and I are tossing and turning and kicking off the covers in all sorts of directions in an effort to stay cool and stay asleep during warmer nights. This has become all to important as neither he or I are sleeping as deeply lately. A big reason for this is that our bedding needs to be lighter and cooler. Every year when this happens, I secretly do a happy dance since this presents a solid reason to redo my bedding.

For this, thank the Danish for providing a perfect model. A few years ago, I was in Denmark during the summer and got the best sleep of my life. I attribute some of it to jet lag, and a lot of it to how the bed was made. There was a sheet, a very light blanket, and a coverlet on the bed. In Scandinavia, coverlets are the preferred choice for bed making all year round. Danes are wonderfully practical folk who make design choices based on ease, practicality and functionality. Coverlets fit so well within these conditions. 

Just like the Danish, I prefer to use a coverlet either over sheeting or over a light weight blanket. This is such a freeing and flexible option as coverlets (being only one piece of fabric) are easy to arrange, fold, wash, and keep. They are easy to change. How fun to change the bed top either due to weather changes, time of year, or just because? Coverlets are a modern approach to making the bed in that they offer flexibility and ease. I swear that our bed can be made in about 30 seconds these days with our coverlet on the bed. Lifting and arranging a single piece of fabric over sheeting and a blanket is quick and pretty much a no brainer.

"Using coverlets is a modern approach to making the bed in that they offer flexibility and ease."

If you have a duvet, then they also can work like a coverlet. The duvet insert can be removed entirely and what you are left with is a bed covering akin to a coverlet or bedspread. For climates that require a little more warmth, a blanket can be added. You will have a flexible bedding arrangement that is both cool and in keeping with your existing bedding decor. No great style change is needed. 

I don't know when my next trip to Scandinavia will be but in the meantime I can recreate the Danish bed for summer with a coverlet. For this story we used the Oline Coverlet in Slate, the Larson Coverlet with Pumpkin Edging and Anna Oatmeal Pillowcases.

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Let's Eat / Berries and Ice Cream

Let's Eat / Berries and Ice Cream

We eat a lot of ice cream and berries in the summer time. When the sun is out somehow this combination makes the day. There is a five minute dessert that I often make for almost every reason. Like last week when my kids where out of school for the summer and we just had to mark the event with an earmark of the hot season. Or when my daughter gets her braces adjusted and its soft foods for two days. Or its a Tuesday and its hot, so let's eat.

The short version is vanilla ice cream gets drenched with a hot berry sauce which instantly melts the ice cream to a coldish-hot soup of total sugary and tangy pleasure. And all in about five minutes of effort. It's that good and that easy. 

To make it, we put about half a cup of frozen berries (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry) in a saucepan covered on low heat. Then let it cook for 10 -15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar or to taste. The sauce is done at this point and can be taken off heat to cool. Spoon over slightly softened vanilla ice cream. One trick to make this ever easier is to put the berries on the stove when we are eating. It's done perfectly when we are finished.

We served this bowl of delicious in little blue decorative bowls along with our Quince table clothe and napkins. Design wise, Quince was the obvious choice to pair with this dish. Red, white and blue in the table linens and in the dessert mix so well together. I like the mixing of pattern and how the white of the ice cream off sets the whole design. Quince manages to be both casual and formal at the same time. Loving this combo for the Fourth - it's a happy dessert that just makes me smile.

To see our Quince Collection, follow this link

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