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Back to the Land Homes (part one)

In the late seventies after a failed attempt to live out of a VW microbus, my Dad had the bright, romantic idea to drop the nomad lifestyle, move to the country, and live off the land. So he did the only sensible thing a twenty-something in that time period could think of, he bought a lone chicken coop on a couple of acres and decided to make it his home. So began years of trials and tribulations that are a prominent part of my family's folklore: a lost cow, brush fires, a roof-climbing goat named Jemima and the transformation of that chicken coop into a modest passive solar home worthy of his back to the land dream.

Like many similar utopian visions of that time, the romance inevitably wore off, practicality set in and we became city dwellers once again, but my Dad still shakes his head and says "I'm so glad I did that." I can't help but feel the same nostalgic romantic feeling from time to time myself. Should we drop everything and head for simple country life?? Could we cut it out in rural life? Scratch that. We'd probably go crazy, but it's fun to think about the possibilities.

While I try to dig up the few photos that were taken of my Dad's own chicken coop transformation, I thought I would share three amazing books that inspired him to take that plunge (and has got me thinking rustic myself). All Their Own, The Craftsman Builder, and Woodstock Handmade Houses

Below are some pic excerpts of some of the exteriors. Interiors (my fav) in part deux.

More scans on Flickr.

I'm just blown away by the creativity, thoughtfulness and resourcefulness that went into these homes. They were built over time and evolved organically with limited resources, but ultimate's authentic rustic charm...not the kind you read about in real estate's genuine character. Geodesic dome on top of a cedar-shaked double-wide character!

(abv) Love the gesture of this structure's roof was actually architect designed and built as his personal hippie home.

The above is built partially into the ground for heating/cooling. The slanted roof runs to the ground to head off the north winds another passive solar feature and one my Dad used on the chicken coop to ward off the Michigan winter winds.

Not exactly sure what's happening here, but I think this is his artist studio/workshop. I could definitely work there!

Sweet treehouse! Me want! The triangular window collage is such a cool feature. Not sure if that staircase is code...

Ok check out Flickr and stay tuned for Part Two.

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Remembering Andy's

Once upon a time in Seattle, there was a cozy little place called Andy's Diner. It was a magical place located in the Sodo area (south of downtown/dome that isn't there anymore...) made up of train cars, wood paneling, and old people's souls. It was a place of yester-year's glory, a place to enjoy the finer things in life like a Top Sirloin with a heap of mashed pototoes topped with 1/4 stick of butter. It was grandly decorated to exact specifications circa 1960's when it adopted a 1930's railcar theme. One of the cars (the presidential car) was actually used by FDR on the campaign trail! We dined where FDR dined! Andy's was also rumored to be haunted by revelers of the past...and I believe it. You would walk down one of the empty cars and feel cold spots...I see dead people!

We were so sad when they shut their doors some time last year. We thought the rail cars were doomed, so we went down south one Sunday, hopped the fence and started shooting (photos) before they tore the relic down. Here are the highlights on Flickr.

The silver lining is that they actually did not tear Andy's down. The Andy's complex is still there. Unfortunately, they painted over the beautiful cars, bastardized the brilliant sign and turned it into a bad Chinese food place called "Oriental Express". The interior is still very much intact, which we feel thankful for. Hopefully these cars will remain a part of Seattle for many more years to'll never be Andy's again though...thanks for the memories Andy...



The Future of Texas?: Tiny homes, still big toast

These tiny houses are so up L&G's alley it's ridiculous. What's better than taking the "waste" from cool old demolished buildings and building new places out it that emphasize all the charisma and charm of the originals with a great modern twist?

I want to have one airlifted here and put smack dab in the middle of the new L&G homestead. Too bad our backyard is about as big as one of these guys and that our pockets are drained :(

Great work Texas! (don't find myself saying that too often). Click here for Tiny Texas's site and more info/pic


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God Save Detroit!

Jean and I just got back from vacation in exotic Michigan. My home state! It was the first time I had been back in 15 years and the first ever for Jean (lucky her!). It was actually a great time...I forgot how beautiful it is there this time of year (spare the mosquitoes).
This should be the first of a series of blogs about our visit. Our first stop was Detroit and what a grandly bleak stop it was! First of all big big thanks to Design Sponge's city guides. It was our saving grace after we chose to stay in an extremely sub-par hotel and were ill-prepared to find suitable eats, drinks, and sites. To sum it up we arrived late and was too scared to go back out, so we had couple of chocolate bars as our dinner (only edible thing we had). We put out some sheets we brought and went straight to bed.

In the eery abandoned ghost-town category, the city lived up to all our expectations and more. It's just incredible to walk on the empty streets knowing that this was the center of the industrial universe not long ago. There are literally ruins in the making every where you look - gorgeous art deco relics and fancy Victorian mansions now completely abandoned. Granted there are still people living there and doing some cool stuff, but I have to say...they're few and far between from a visitor's perspective (even though we had d-sponge to guide us). If numbers help put things in perspective, the city's population has gone from 1.8 million in 1950 to around 900,000 today. Very few modern cities can claim the loss of half their population in 60 years!

We were totally jazzed to be there though because we love good ruins and urban decay. Here are some our favorite spots:Grand Central Station: An amazing defunct train station that must have been incredible in its day. Also see the site for photos of the inside (ultra creepy).

Victorian Mansions: There are entire neighborhoods of these elaborate homes left to decay. One of the most complete is Brush Park. A select few of these are slowly starting to be renovated, but most are being left to meet their doom.

The Heidelberg Project: A long ago neglected neighborhood in a not so nice part of town transformed into environmental art/political protest by artist Tyree Guyton and his grandfather. Really an incredible thing to walk through considering how it transformed the neighborhood.

Avalon Bakery: Thank god for them and their delicious coffee, breads, and wi-fi. Not a ruin, just a really good cafe.
422 W Willis St
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 832-0008

More Detroit photos live here. More Michigan stuff to come. Stay tuned!

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Our 4 year anniversary weekend

Dylan and I just had our 4 year anniversary as an unmarried couple. We planned a little getaway last weekend and stayed in an yurt at Cape Disappointment, WA (Formerly known as Fort Canby). The name is deceiving, because it's far from disappointing! It was actually a really beautiful and relaxing state park off the southern west coast of Washington that's close to beaches and couple of small wacky towns. We decided to stay in a cozy and convenient yurt while still got to have our campfire dinner. It was the best of both worlds. It was PERFECT!
Our first stop was at this wacky place called Marsh's Free Museum in Long Beach, WA. Its' a store/museum filled with cheesy beach themed trinkets and novelty toys plus tons of mounted animal heads all over the walls AND some on the ceiling!
After walking around Long Beach, we headed back to our campsite and built a fire while sipping on some wine and cooked ourselves a gourmet dinner. We made garlic dill pork chops with roasted butter asparagus and squash, baked potato, and tossed salad. Food just tastes so much better cooked over the fire....I wonder if it's because of the charcoal....
Then, for was homemade roasted coco marshmallow. We tried one of Martha's recipes for marshmallows, and it was surprisingly easy and fun to make....not to mention that it tasted soooo much better than store bought ones! The recipe is just for making plain ones, but we improvised and added 2 tablespoons of unsweetened coco powder in the mix, and then after it was set, we rolled it in 1/2 powder sugar 1/2 coco powder mix. Sitting by the warm fire, drinking wine, roasting and eating homemade marshmallows....we, were in heaven.
The following day, we woke up with the campsite covered in some snow. It was such an unexpected surprise. I was just totally glad that we stayed in a yurt versus a tent, which we saw some people stayed in them. Not sure if they froze to death or not, but I know we would of!
For breakfast, we then cheated and plugged in our toaster oven and baked ourselves Croque Madames for breakfast. Sorry for all the real hardcore campers out there...I know we put camping to shame, but it was too easy! 5 minutes to prep and 15 minuets to bake type of easy. :P
We then went out to the beach and saw some snow still remained after the sun came out. I've never seen a beach with snow on it, it was quite a sight!
We then headed to the North Head Lighthouse close by the park. It was built in 1896 and it's a working lighthouse. We climbed up 90 some steps and got to see the amazing coast line and it was gorgeous..... Now I have this urge to start collecting lighthouses and decorate my entire house with a beach theme...lighthouses, American flags, shells and dolphins....oh! I forgot, and mermaids, too. Gotta have that.
These beautiful sexy mermaids were at Marsh's Free Museum.... I should go back and get them....They'll be perfect for what I'm thinking of in our apartment.
So, in conclusion, Cape Disappointment was anything but disappointing. Not to mention that we saw a mummified half man half alligator named Jack at the museum, the worlds biggest frying pan, a cafe called Scrappaccino, a stuffed cat, AND this!!
We took too many photos, so the rest of the photos of the store and of everything else can be seen here.




Understated tile building

This is a old 60's apartment building in Capitol Hill, close to Harvard Exit theater. It's an understated building that you can just walk by and not notice it. But once I stopped to take a look at it, I started noticing all these interesting things about this building.
I just love the pattern of the white ceramic tiles. They reminds me of Heath ceramic tiles, which I want use everywhere on my house!! when I own one that is.
There is something graphically striking in the building as whole....the white relief tiles mixed with the rusty tiles, the various sized windows that runs to the edge of each section....It all seem so intricately planned and intentional.
Click on photo to link to our Flickr.



Another Seattle landmark Gone!

As part of the plan to eliminate every building with character, one of Seattle's Georgetown area's landmarks has been slowly meeting its demise over the past month. Formerly the storage facility for Rainier brewery, it more recently has been filled with the studios of a lot Seattle's artists and creative peoples. I'm not going to tell the whole story (because I don't know the whole thing), but you can read more here.

Fortunately, part of the building still remains and is still being used by a variety of artists. Here's a few more pics. Check out flickr for more!




Oh My Pod!

Hi everyone, this is Dylan, Jean's bf. Jean and I really dig abandoned, dilapidated, and generally run-down buildings. Whenever we travel, we make it a point to try to find the areas of our location that may have abandoned sites that nobody really cares about. There's something about being there documenting a forgotten place that fascinates us. I'm going to blog about them from time to time. 


Anyways, here are some photos of one of the most interesting locations we've been to. We visited these two sites when we were in Taiwan fall of last year. They're these very crazy pod-tastic vacation homes built as beach getaways for Taipei's middle-class in the 1960s. They're located at two points along the northern coast. The first in the set is set of individual modular dwellings arranged right on the Northeast coast. The second set is located on the Northwest side of the island in the San Chih area. Each are said to have been abandoned not long after they were built because several mishaps during construction and typhons led inhabitants and locals to deem the sites cursed. It is also rumored that no one can build over or on these sites because spirits lie in limbo there. Building on such a location would be a big no-no for the Taiwanese. That's fine by us because these sites are wearing away beautifully and we got to see them in all their decaying grandeur. It's great because so many things in Taiwan have become tourist attractions, but these are amazingly untouched. We hope they stay that way. Click here for more...-Dylan