#Reserve Your Right to Beautify

The main thing I have learned about designing and building is that there are always choices—many, many of them—and that each of us needs to make choices that fit their own sense of color and proportion.

But people are all too often afraid of making the wrong choice. They think that, if they paint a wall and the color doesn’t come out exactly as planned, they’re stuck with it for life. Well, first of all, without going off on a tangent, it’s always a good idea to test paint the colors in a room first, and live with them for a few days before doing the entire space.

Say you do that, and you’re still not happy with the results. Are you trapped then? This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Designing is learning, and any learning follows a curve. If you don’t like the color in a room, repaint it till you do. It’s only paint. You are allowed to make a mistake—and besides, no one will ever know.

One tool that has become popular with designers and DIYers alike is the inspiration board. It offers a way to create and environment and see what the elements that make it up look like together—without spending a dime. You can, for example, see what colors look best together on the board before you execute the actual work. Some of the best designs I have done were products of what we call a “happy accident.” This often happens when a paint color is the wrong shade, or you picked up a different material by mistake. But once they’re together, you realize they look better and more natural than your original choice.

Play with your ideas. Sketch and feel the materials together. One of my favorite things to do is seeing how many fabrics I can lay on top of one another and still have cohesion and unity. People can tell why something is out of place right away, but if it’s right it simply fills them with ease and appreciation for the design. This is what I strive for. Whatever I’m building or designing, I want it to make someone feel it when they see it, touch it, sit on it, or use it. Beautifying is a privilege in life that I take seriously. . .only because it makes me feel good to do it right.

 

#Industrial Modern Coffee Table

Industrial Modern Table

This table is one of my favorite projects because of its simplicity of look and construction. I enjoy using reclaimed lumber, as it’s more readily available now and not as costly as new lumber. This table-top measures 4ft x 4ft. Most of the materials you use can be pre-cut for you at the lumber yard or big box store, but a saw of some kind comes in handy.  Here’s the list of materials:

Materials

  • 8 1”x6″x4′ reclaimed lumber boards
  • 4 16″x16″ pieces of ¾” plywood stained dark
  • 1 4’x4′ piece of ½ plywood
  • 2 8′ galvanized roofing flange 1½ x 2
  • 24 ¼” self-tapping #8 screws
  • 1 Glaze Coat Clear Epoxy Kit or a product of your choosing that is similar
  • 1 wood glue
  • plastic drop cloth
  • paint stick
  • 1 box ½” wood screws
  • 1 half-angle iron with holes

Tools

  • Finish nailer such as the RIDGID 16ga HYPERDRIVE
  • Tin snips
  • 1″ nails
  • tape measure
  • 3/8 in Drill like the RIDGID GEN5X
  1. Place 1×6 boards on plywood, lining up with edge. Apply glue and nail down. Repeat. Once all the boards are attached, lightly sand to remove possible splinters but not so much that you lose the natural roughness and patina.
  1. Until I build a base, a milk crate works great to raise the piece up enough to work on it over the drop cloth.
  1. Mix the epoxy coat as per instructions, and roll a thin coat over entire area. This helps prevent bubbling when pouring finish coat. Starting in the middle, pour material and spread outward with squeegee or roller until it reaches edge. As it pours, scrape it with a paint stick until the product has settled and begin to dry. This will prevent drips from forming and making it easier to apply the metal.
  1. With the 2″ section of metal lying on top, measure 4′ to the next corner and cut the metal on top to create a fold.  On the corner, where the piece folds, place a self-tapping screw in the middle.  Working outward, attach a screw every 6 inches in a pattern but stopping short of each other corner.
  1. Starting on the opposite corner repeat process with the metal  Cutting at the 4′ mark, create a fold again, slipping the metal under the original piece laid. Attach a screw on the corner to secure, then, working your way out, attach a self-tapping screw every 6 inches. When you get to the corner, secure both pieces of metal under 1 screw.
  1. Using the nail gun, create a box out of the 16″ pieces of plywood by butt-joining them together. Because it’s low as it is, the base isn’t noticed, so this is an easier way to construct. If your skills allow you to miter the base together, do that.
  1. Turn the top over, place the base in the center, and, using the angle iron, attach the base to the top securing with screws.

Then turn the table over and enjoy.

#centerpiece

#centerpiece

When the holidays come around, we decorate. It is one of the oldest traditions in the book, and I wanted to make a centerpiece using the parts and bits I had around the house.

I have a son who’s about two. He loves trucks. I was at a yard sale a few weeks back and saw some old antique trucks that I wanted to get for him. They were inexpensive, and I figured maybe not for right now, but in the future he would enjoy them. A few days ago, I saw them sitting in the corner of my closet, sitting there looking very pedestrian. It gave me an idea of how I could have the trucks out and let my son, and whoever comes over, enjoy them as well.

I work a farmer’s market on the weekend so I always have leftover herbs. I love the smell of rosemary and sage. It reminds me that the holidays involve cooking. I started setting the trucks up using some branches from a arrangement I had been given. We even set up a mini Christmas tree. Using the parts I already had, I was able to make something beautiful out of nothing. Look around your house and see what kind of centerpiece you come up with.

#designonadime

Design on a Dime

I was set-building in my shop in Silverlake with my friends, enjoying the woodworking and the projects that came out of it. I was an actor for a long time (I’ll get into that in another posting). I was still auditioning for projects, but I was booking myself out more and more on design projects because there were deadlines to be met and people counting on me to lead and work alongside them.

I had a friend who designed kitchens and knew I had these skills and was an actor as well. She told me that her assistant had been asked to try out for a show. She was an excellent draftsperson and designer in her own right. She did beautiful drawings for my friend and had been asked to audition for a new show about re-doing rooms in peoples houses on a budget. My friend had found out they were looking for people with building skills, and had I ever hosted before?

I’d been an actor for a long time; to me that was the same thing as hosting. Being honest, memorizing dialogue, and speaking in a natural way—I figured I could do that. So I called her assistant and got the number of a producer at a production company. I found out the show was already on the air for HGTV but was successful enough to warrant hiring a new team to produce twice as many episodes per year. When I called up, they told me to come in and bring a small building project that I could “step out.” I found out this meant explaining how to build and assemble it as I did it.

I found hosting came pretty naturally to me, so, as I smiled and demonstrated how to construct the table, I brought in pieces with me.

I had been told along the way that the show was called Design On a Dime, and that I was being considered along with a number of other people. I was hired that day, though, as one of the new hosts and never looked back. The ten seasons and over 150 shows I completed of DOD were a great experience in helping people with their design dilemmas and creating beautiful projects and design rooms on a budget of $1,000.00.

#Setlife

#setlife

I started out behind the camera when I was twenty. I was an artdog, as it was then called—a person who worked in an art department. I drove five-ton trucks and picked up furniture for shoots. It was a great time, being with friends, carrying a Spyderco knife (the chosen blade of the time), and always wearing a baseball cap. Black clothing was preferable on set as not to be a distraction and blend in with the background.

My fascination for building led me to the set world as a builder; then, after realizing I had a knack for it, designing sets; then art directing. The budgets were huge back then, working for directors like McG and Sam Baer. We built for the Rolling Stones, Everclear, Nelly, and too many commercials to count. We were the first to arrive and the last to leave. No one ever questioned the “Art” beer at the end of a fifteen-hour day or the plumes of smoke that escaped from the “no smoking” buildings. We were special. We got it done on time, usually on budget, and with a smile on our faces.

I worked in a set shop I shared with a bunch of guys like me. We worked together in Silverlake, California, before the neighborhood was gentrified. It was a mere eighteen hundred square feet, but we had a yard that was almost three thousand for setting up while we built. It was an MDF world of dust and glue. We made beauty. We ran propane heaters when it got cold and sweated bullets when it was over a hundred degrees. We made a lot of cash for twenty-year-olds and ate up the work. It wasn’t unusual for a director to swing by the shop at nine o’clock the night before a shoot, have a beer, and check out the set. It also wasn’t unusual to have him ask, “Can we make it a little higher?” He knew very well we could, but after a fourteen-hour day it wasn’t a happy thought. That would mean the boys would be working another five or six hours and have very little turn-around for the shoot. It was all non-union then, so it was okay, and the boys appreciated the overtime. I never liked asking, but it kept the directors coming back.

As I got older (in my thirties), I realized I had a knack for running crews. That’s why art directing fit well. I could tell the boys how to build a project, or better yet listen to one of the senior builders’ advice on it. I could be with clients, and work out budgets, and build a vision that was described to me on paper, or even orally, and put it in front of them in a matter of days. That’s what made us special, having fifteen guys—from carpenters, to painters, to welders—all running and gunning like a fine ballet. Throwing up walls and spackling seams. Picking up furniture in trucks and getting it on set in just the right placement. All this for a day of shooting, and then we’d disassemble and store it if there was room, or throw it away with the other insurmountable waste that our industry generates. I was glad, in my later years, to find a company that recycled sets, took them away and sold them or gave them to hungry college students trying to make a name for themselves.

This industry has made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

#DIY Kitchen Floor Cloth!

Kitchen DIY

A friend asked me for suggestions for a kitchen. He didn’t have a lot of money and needed to cover a bad linoleum floor so I gave him this simple idea.

  1. Buy a piece of canvass a little larger than the area you want to cover.
  2. Paint the canvass on the floor with a color you would like to be the background. (the canvas will shrink a bit that why you buy a little bigger!)
  3. Paint a picture or a motif that you want for the space. (fruit or veggie for a kitchen is great!)
  4. After the paint has dried, roll the entire surface with a few coats of Minwax Acrylic Poyurethane.
  5. When it is dry, using a ruler, fold the edges and place glue in the seam all the way around the piece.
  6. Place on floor!

Kitchen DIY

You now have a cleanable hand made rug for any space!

 

#Carvin

My mentor Mikel Carvin.
My mentor Mikel Carvin.

There is one man that was instrumental in making me the builder/designer I am today. His name was Mikel Carvin a war and holocaust survivor from Vienna.

Formally trained at the Art school of Vienna, he was a master at his craft of decorating and design. When I met him he was a youngster in his 60’s and I was a lad of 16. My father and he had a mutual friend, a doctor turned carpenter. Mikel said he needed someone to help on a job uptown. I lived in Greenwich Village growing up so even though it was a hike I knew I could hop the train in the morning to get there. Well, anyone that knows a sixteen year old knows they don’t get up early. My brilliant idea was to stay up all night so I could make the seven am arrival time. Listening to music and the like and watching TV, a bleary eyed me left the house at six am. I arrived on time to help load the tools and some other things from the station wagon that Mikel and his best friend of 50 years Teddy’s drove over in to the apartment.

My first job after that was feeding the meter. In New York City, the meters were fed every hour or 30 min depending on where you were. I took my job very seriously and pumped quarters in. I was startled when I saw a meter guy standing over me. I had fallen asleep on the hood of the car, waiting for the next round of quarters. He cut me some slack and went on his way, but the work with my soon to be mentor was just beginning.

I started accompanying him to client meetings and sitting in and listening. I never spoke. We would discuss what had transpired afterwards on the bus going back to his place. Mikel’s favorite thing was creating. In his days of design, when someone wanted to shop for a new apartment or a house they would hire Mikel and he would go to Europe and shop it out. Bringing all the beautiful things back in a shipping container to avoid customs. Nowadays he relied on secret places buried in the city, special places that had trinkets from the eighteenth century or go to his own storeroom (of which he had many) to find the perfect item.

I remember on meeting in particular we were going to an actors house of which he strongly disliked. He always worked for old money of which there were plenty in New York. Actors fell into the “new” money slot. He went, since they were referred by a good friend of his. On our way to the subway he kept rattling in that beautiful accent he had, ” I didn’t understand a word he was saying!” He had a quick pace but it was quicker when he was upset, “He didn’t listen to a thing I had to say about his apartment, this Panino” Mikel said, holding his hat so the wind that was blowing from the west didn’t rip it off his head. “Its PACINO, AL PACINO!” I said trying to make him understand the royalty we were in the presence of only moments before. But he was set in his ways, he would work for the Issac Sterns of the world, but not the Pacinos.

My father published the book The Magic Pencil, about Mikel Carver’s life story. It’s truly an amazing read if you get the chance!