Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wood Flooring I

All too often, we over-utilize the phrase "hardwood flooring" without really knowing whether or not we have actual hardwoods. Too simplify this, here are some simple rules to clarify these designations. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, softwoods come from conifers. Within each of these two categories, there are of course varying degrees of hardness. We know that maple is harder than poplar even though both are considered to be hardwoods.

You also hear people boasting that they have "quarter sawn white oak", but what does this mean? Does this person with this fancy floor even know how that wood was produced? Most often they do not. There are three main methods for getting planks out of a log; flat or plain, quarter and rift sawn. The image below details the way in which flat or plain sawn, quarter sawn, and rift sawn boards are obtained.

We all know the image of a tree's cross section with the rings visible. We learned that by counting the rings, we can tell a tree's age. The rings towards the center of the circle are the oldest and sometimes appear darker than the younger rings towards the outside. The wood from the older rings is referred to as the heartwood, while the wood that is taken from the outer regions is called the sapwood.

Notice how the rings affect how the end grain looks. In flat sawn boards, if we look at the ends, we see the radiating crescents. This is the most common board that we see because it is the most economical way of producing planks. As you can see from the diagram, it yields the least amount of waste. The common problem with wood that is flat sawn is that it tends to "cup" which is when the boards edges curve upward. The wider the board, the more severe the potential cup can be. The reason for this is in the widest of flat sawn boards, you have the youngest wood on the two outside edges pulling against the oldest wood toward the center of the board.

In both rift and quarter sawn boards, the end grain is close to vertical in its relation to the surfaces. This increases the boards stability as well as alters the way the grain is seen on the surface. The boards can be far more beautiful like in the case of the oak mentioned above.

The two examples are both white oak. The upper-most example is quarter sawn. Notice the enhancement of the striations within the grain.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Living Room make over

We almost completed the living room paint this weekend and I am uploading some before and after pics. One thing that I was particularly impressed with is the quality of the plaster work in the house. First of all, the plaster is original. It has very few cracks and is mostly in perfect condition. The joint where the walls meets the ceiling is also perfect and cutting in the deep eggplant ceiling to meet the lavender walls was not difficult at all.

The intimacy factor of a room is increased immensely when the right color choices are used. I so often hear people criticize that it will be too dark, or the dark ceiling will make it seem low. While I feel that these people all seem to love the aesthetics of hospital waiting rooms, I can understand their fear. When I was a teenager I painted my bedroom dark grey with a black ceiling. I think I was trying to simulate a late gothic isolation chamber deep in the catacombs of some massive cathedral.

One of the key color issues that I was thinking about when painting the room is that the house is situated in the woods. When spring comes, the views out the windows will be mostly green. Green and purple have a high hugh contrast and I was very much liking the idea of seeing the greenery framed by the crisp white window trim in this purple room.

I am totally against off-whites, beiges, and "safe" colors for several reasons. First of all because they de-saturate the color in everything that they are surrounding. Second being the fact that they release the owner/painter from making design decisions about what will work in a room. When the room is totally neutral, anything will go in it and usually does. Third reason is if you are going to use white, use the brightest most crisp white that you can. You don't see color photos being printed on beige paper do you?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Living Room - Color Choices

The living room is the space first entered in the house. It opens onto the front porch, and has a great view of the deck and patio. I hope we'll be using this space to entertain a lot - so the color choice is really important!

I love the color contrast used here:

but want something with two shades of violet - a lavender for the walls, and an aubergine for the ceiling (photo from TheNest.com).

I just found a great color palette program on Behr Paint's website, which allowed me to choose a few colors and then made recommendations for additional colors.
I think I really like these!