Yesterday was the Fremont Solstice Parade–a wonderful, home spun, DIY celebration. Its upbeat, low fi fun. It just makes you want to relax and make stuff. In addition to all these strange creatures, Fremont also has a troll.
Our old house was very old. It was a classic New England cottage from 1900 or before. The frame was hand hewed post and beam. It was irreplaceable. I knew that trying to build the old house again would not work. Even if it were the same shape, it would be a shiny new mcmansion mocking the weathered imperfect history that stood before.
If we could not have the old house back I wanted something new. Something completely new. Something the was ours, that represented Veronica and I. We are influenced by many things, but we are our own people. I wanted our uniqueness in our new home, worldly influences but not definitions.
My first drawings were made with no regard for gravity, efficiency, physics, or cost. They were just ideas. I knew in time those ideas would merge with practical restrictions. But I began with ideals. Veronica had only four requests, and I included them: A long porch, a hobbit hole door, our own bathroom, and a spire.
I knew Tyrone would tell me somewhere, “This part can’t be done.” But he didn’t.
I have bit off more than I can chew, we dove instead of wading, and I definitely put the cart before the horse. There are easier ways to do things. But I’m not sure easy is my style.
My style is something more like this…
By Late August Tyrone and I had worked out a complete house plan, our building permits were in place, and the garage had filled with salvaged windows and doors, in addition to the way-too-early tub from Film Biz Recycling. We were ready to break ground, and then Irene came to visit.
The hurricane dropped a massive pine tree through the roof of our rental house. Our property was untouched (hard to damage a house that has already burned down) but the damage to our rental was so severe we decided to clear a couple trees which would lean over the planned new house.
Falling a large tree is a very powerful experience. I worked as a wildland firefighter for many years and I’ve dropped a lot of trees, but i was attached to these trees. I consider myself the guardian of everything that grows on our property, so falling these two shade giving giants was a little rough.
A large tree falls very slowly. Its stages are marked by sound. First is the long whine of the chainsaw, you will cut through 90% of a tree before it begins to move at all. The motion is usually lead by a low groaning, the trunk flexing. As the leaves take motion and the whole body begins to swing, there is snapping, splintering deep in the tree’s core. Finally comes the sound of the tree hitting, a great thunderous crash, an explosion of a thousand twigs mixed with a single great boom–10 tons of trunk embedding in the earth. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, the forest still hears it, and shakes.
After dropping the trees we still couldn’t start building. The machinery needed to excavate was trapped across a road that had washed away in the flood. It took almost a month before the ground was dry enough to begin digging. Because of the delay I missed the first stages of building. I had to leave for Around the World in 80 Plates. When I returned the foundation was complete and framing had begun.
The first photo below is of Tyrone our builder, limbing up one of the trees. I’ve never built a house before, he had never fallen a tree–A good opportunity to learn from one another.
Tomorrow I’ll post my most recent photos.
A year ago our house burned to the ground, but a phoenix is rising from the ashes…
the new house is a little darker and more mischievous than a phoenix. If there is a legend of a Raven rising from ashes, that might be more appropriate.
I wrote about the fire here. It was, to keep things simple and understated, heart breaking and unsettling. But it has been a year and a lot has happened since then. A new house is underway.
Within a week of the fire I began sketching. I guess I didn’t want to dwell on the old house. I needed to push ahead, take the absence and fill it with something new.
I sent out letters to friends looking for building materials. I visited Film Biz Recycling and hauled a tub, toilet, tiles, faucet, painting supplies and more up to our unburned garage. Film Biz Recycling collects props and other material from film sets which would otherwise be thrown in the garbage after a shoot. I think most of their visitors are from art departments, set designers looking for props, but their doors are open to everyone. Its amazing what they rescue. The tub and toilet had never been used, they still had their stickers on them. Their shop is full of furniture, art, plates, lamps, and anything else you might have seen in the background of a movie scene. I knew we weren’t ready for furniture yet, but somehow taking a jacuzzi tub seemed reasonable.
I was about a year ahead of myself. I didn’t have a house to put it in… I didn’t even have a building permit. I did have a few crudely drawn doodles though. I was moving full speed ahead with out much idea where I was going.
My first sketches were pretty terrible. I was so bad at drawing I barely passed art class in high school. I felt much more comfortable sculpting, so my first comprehendible idea for the new house was actually made of play-dough.
I began to fill out my play-dough master piece with pencil sketches then. When I kind of felt I knew what I wanted, I asked my friend David Bell to help me flush out my drawings. He is a production designer, an animator and a fine artist and was obscenely over qualified for the job.
The nice drawing below are David’s. The architectural drafts are by Tyrone Featherly, a family friend and master builder from Nantucket. The madcap idea is mine. If you think its a little strange on paper just you wait.
Our quaint traditional little cottage is being replaced by a wonderfully unique art house. Strangers who drive past describe it as many things, a ship, a church, a Tim Burton castle. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it is the kind of house that will need a name.
…Real photos tomorrow.