2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

It’s my pleasure to introduce Author Rebecca Heflin as my guest today. Rebecca captured my heart with her dedication to help others, to help organize the blogs for Soul Mate Publishing, and read on for the other million things about this amazing working woman.

Author Rebecca Heflin

This time last year I was making my holiday preparations, which included the honor of presiding over the marriage of my nephew and his fiancée on Christmas Day—a truly joyous way to spend the holiday. This time last year, I was looking forward to a new year, fresh with the promise of a new start. Which meant, this time last year, I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. Instead, I was naively planning two international trips, a local canoe and camping trip, several charity events, two weddings, countless family and social gatherings, and the celebration of my 25th wedding anniversary.

Who could have imagined it wouldn’t be long before the world would be living the plot of some sci-fi thriller?

January and February bumped along as normal, with work, exercise classes, dinners with friends, and preparations for the release of my 10th novel. By the end of February, the dark edges of the coming storm were visible.

The first weekend in March was my birthday. I celebrated it that Friday with dinner out and a show at our local performing arts center. There was also an out of town wedding that Saturday, which my husband and I attended. Looking back, being in those very public venues probably wasn’t the smartest decision on our part, but the tidal wave had not yet hit our area. March 17th was my last day in the office, as the university I work for shut down and sent its employees home to work remotely. It would be only a day or two later when the entire state would go under lockdown.  Again, in my naiveté, I thought things would be back to normal in a month or so. Silly me.

Zoom meetings would become a regular occurrence in my daily life, and the next few months were a blur of fear and adjustments, as my husband and I created new routines for ourselves. We limited our grocery shopping to once a week. If we didn’t pick up an item during that weekly visit, we just lived without until the following week. Toilet paper (when the store had it) was priced at roughly the equivalent of a gram of gold. Preparing for grocery shopping felt a little like preparing to enter a contaminated laboratory: masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes at the ready. After returning home, it felt like entering a decontamination unit: washing hands, wiping down groceries, and disinfecting everything we touched.

We watched in horror as the numbers rose and people died—many of them frontline workers. I obsessed over the daily case counts, horrified when we hit 1 million cases in the U.S., not even considering that we would reach double-digit case counts in a few short months.

It wasn’t all bad, however. We also watched the world come together in a common experience. Music and voices rose from city terraces. Drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation ceremonies became a thing with horns beeping, lights flashing, and signs waiving. Humanity found a way to celebrate life’s milestones even amid a pandemic.

For me, working from home meant no commute. This freed up time for other things. And the lack of social engagements and other commitments meant time for jigsaw puzzles, minor home improvements, and gardening. Not to mention more quality time with my husband. We had a beautiful spring—cooler than average temperatures, and beautiful low-humidity days—which gave us the opportunity for more outdoor activities like corn-hole games, bike rides, and long walks. Life slowed down, and I couldn’t complain about that.

2020

As we learned more about how the virus was spread, and businesses opened up again, we developed a routine that gave us a little more flexibility. Masked and otherwise following the public health guidelines, we gradually began to leave our sterile cocoon. We had friends over for outdoor socially-distanced dinners (BYOF). We began supporting our local restaurants with take-out or delivery, eventually feeling comfortable dining outside at our favorites.

In May, my husband and I celebrated a quiet, but romantic 25th wedding anniversary—not exactly how we had imagined, but nice just the same.

We took three short driving vacations, 2 to the mountains of North Carolina, and 1 to the beach in the Florida panhandle. The change of scenery provided a welcome respite to the sameness of the daily routines.

After working remotely for 6 months, I returned to my office, but still isolated from my co-workers. I only see them masked and walking in the hallway or on Zoom. It was surreal when I entered my office in September to see the calendar still on March.

Here we are again with Christmas past and New Year’s fast-approaching. There is a light, in the form of vaccines, at the end of this long dark tunnel that is 2020. It will take some time, and more patience is necessary, but we will get there. We will overcome this. The world did it in 1918-1919, and we will do it in 2020-2021.

But will the world ever be the same again? I, for one, won’t be. I am forever changed by this experience. I will never again be blissfully ignorant. I have lost my innocence.

Even so, not all the changes are bad. I have come to appreciate so many things I took for granted: my health, my family, freedom of movement, hugs and kisses shared among family and friends, big gatherings and shared social experiences. And my good fortune. Throughout it all, I have wanted for none of life’s necessities. I can’t ask for more than that from the crappy year that was 2020.

Rebecca Heflin is a best-selling, award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a large state university.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Rebecca can be reached at rebeccaheflin@hotmail.com. Feel free to touch base with her.

All of her books are available on Amazon
as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Eden Books.
The third book in Rebecca Heflin’s Seasons of Northridge Series, A Season to Dream, will be released mid-2021.

Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung

It’s that time of year – Spring Cleaning. Tom and I have been busy re-organizing our home. Our focus this year is my library, a room that I adore. We have about 2,002 books (2 are tom’s) in my professional library. WOW is right. This year we made the decision to scale it back.

So far we’ve packed up 5 boxes of books (about 100 books in total) and donated them to a local charity, Silvermine School of Art. These are all art books – of course. Even though it’s hard getting rid of things we love, it’s important for our peace of mind. Why? Because we need “white space” in our lives. That extra space where we can reflect and relax. Clutter can lead to anxiety and after the heaviness of winter, it’s time to let go.

So if you’re pondering the clutter in your own home, think about how liberating it will be when you let go, and give yourself the gift of “space”.

Love, Gail.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in spring 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

A work of art

 

 

MICHAEL GRAVES ARCHITECT

MICHAEL GRAVES ARCHITECT

Michael Graves

Michael Grave

  • Michael Graves, FAIA,* honored by Contract Magazine, with the Legend Award at their 2013 Interiors Awards, said in the article, Reflecting on the Legacy of a Legend of Design,** the April 2015 issue, “I’m very anxious in my own work to build up a life of experiences that are positive and get rid of the negative ones. And so, that idea of the practice of architecture for me is the fine-tuning of one’s aesthetic.” Graves died at his Princeton, New Jersey home on March 12, at age 80, after spending more than a decade in a wheelchair. Although he was paralyzed from the chest down and wheelchair-bound following a spinal cord infection in 2003, he continued leading his design firm and lecturing in a long career fine-tuning his approach to design. I remember as a student of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, attending his lectures and panel discussions about his work. To me, Graves, a brilliant architect, was infallible. Reading about his passing was shocking.
Michael with one of his teapots

Michael with one of his teapots (I gifted this one to my cousin Yael, for her wedding)

Based on my client poll, almost all agree that the kitchen is the core of the home, a gathering place. Architect and designer Michael Grave’s philosophy rated the kitchen a workplace that is symbolic of the family. Graves changed how we see artifacts designed for domestic use, as his tea kettles and fabrics for Target and artifacts for JC Penny depict. He said in a 2003 article for the Miele Resource Group Design Forum, “In my residential projects, I emphasize the quality of “domesticity,” which for me combines my interest in culture with the design of physical artifacts. Nowhere is this more important than in the kitchen. The kitchen is a source of sustenance, warmth and camaraderie. We, and the artifacts we use, should be equally comfortable in the home.

Graves other teapot for Target (same as in the photo with MG)

Graves other teapot for Target. Same as in the photo with MG above.

 

For example, in our own designs for kitchen tools, we keep both the hand and the machine in mind.” In plain language that means use tools that work well and look great.

MG teapot (he designed both here) I gave the other one a wedding gift to my cousin Yael.

MG teapot, this one is on my stove, looking elegant. When it whistles, it comes out that little brown bird in the spout  on the right. Do you see me at the bottom?

Graves said in the 2003 article that he sees increasing value being placed on the ability to customize residences around lifestyle choices. He expects the future to bring new and exciting selections of well-designed systems and individual designs for houses in their entirety as well as for rooms, furnishings and artifacts based on how one wants to live.” Since the kitchen is the functional and symbolic heart of the house, it has become the forefront of this movement.

Kitchens connect the pieces of the home, as well as the people using the home. Le Corbusier said, “A home is a machine to live in.” Can you see the similarity between the kitchen, as a machine to run the home, to Le Corbusier’s, a home is a machine to live in? Have you kept up with technology? Is your home designed well and does it function for your comfort? Have you brought the outside in, and have you brought the inside out? Do you use LED lamping (bulbs), have you installed solar roof panels? In 2003, some of this power saving technology was only a dream.

Michael Graves, you were here long enough to see those things happen. For one of my architectural genius’s, he has accomplished much, influenced many, changed lives for all. Long ago, I stayed at the then brand new Swan Hotel and did a report about it for my criticism program at Parsons. I am thinking about reporting on the Swan next week. No promises though.

Thoughts?

*Fellow of the American Institute of Architects

**By John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA
Editor in Chief

To read more about the article and Michael Graves, click here: Contract Magazine

McMANSION FINALE

McMANSION FINALE

Location: Norwalk, Connecticut
National Landmark

Lockwood exterior 1867

Over the top, Lockwood Mathews mansion is over the top, bigger, better, more complex and complete than other later similar homes. It was first, before the Newport Cottages, before Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, before any of the homes in this blog. Mr Lockwood was a genius. He heated his house with radiant (floor) heating with the most amazing furnace in the basement. (Looks Steampunk.) Indoor plumbing . . . with sinks in every room. And a bowling alley in the basement. In the tradition of the Second Empire, this home was built in 1867 by Legrand Lockwood.

Library as it was when the Mathews family lived there after 1873

The Connecticut estate, about an hour outside of the city, was the summer home of the prominent railroad magnet and shipping mogul. It was later home to the Mathews family for 75 years until 1938 when Florence Mathews, last member of the family died. Now known as Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, the estate originally had 30 acres of land overlooking the Sound. Slowly the land was sold off leaving a small parcel showing a 44,000-square-foot main house, a carriage house, a Victorian-style caretaker’s cottage. Can you imagine? You must see this one. You can get more history and information easily at: www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com.

Library as it was when the Lockwood family lived there 1870


Lockwood Photos Courtesy of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum 

Unlike the other noteworthy homes below that are for sale, Lockwood is not, but is open with tours to the public.

Location: New York City
Listing price: $14.95 million
The last remaining detached single-family house in Manhattan.
Photo: Curbed

The cities too had their fair share of elaborate mansions built in the Gilded Age, but thanks to development in the ensuing hundred odd years since, few survive. In NYC, the Schinasi Mansion, on Riverside Drive not far from Columbia University, is the last remaining detached single-family house in Manhattan. The 12,000-square-foot mansion retains almost all of its historic detail, including amazing coffered ceilings and a Prohibition-era trap door that leads to a tunnel that once extended all the way to the river. The 35-room marble mansion was built for “Turkish tobacco baron” Morris Schinasi.

Location: Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Listing price:
$26.5 million

Devonshire, with its 101 acres, was owned by the Vanderbilts.
Photo: Curbed

In the tradition of the English country house, sprawling homes began to spring up in Westchester, north of New York City, in the mid-1800s. This Mount Kisco, N.Y. estate, about an hour outside of the city, was built in 1901 for J. Borden Harriman, of the prominent American family, and was later owned by the Vanderbilts, and then ended up in the hands of a “prominent European family.” Known as Devonshire, the estate includes 101 acres of land, a 21,000-square-foot main house, a “carriage house, a Victorian-style guest cottage, and a caretaker’s house.” The garage, which fits 10 cars, has a washing station and hydraulic lift. The main house features a grand staircase, eight bedrooms, a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, “gold-leaf moldings, wood and antique mirrored panelling, and marble floors.”

Location: Miami, Fla.
Listing price:
$4.2 million

The Helmsleys’ penthouse was converted to an Arabian palace.
Photo: Sotheby’s

America’s second Gilded Age, the 1980s, produced many lavish residences, but perhaps none are so emblematic of the spirit of the decade as this Miami penthouse, built for notorious real estate magnates Leona and Harry Helmsley. At one point the Helmsleys controlled the Empire State Building, along with a string of NYC hotels, but by 1989, Harry was very ill and Leona was doing time for tax evasion. The couple never moved into the Helmsley Penthouse, completed in 1981, and sold it off to Saudi Shiek Saoud Al-Shaalan. The sheik transformed the modern apartment into an Arabian palace over two years, with the help of 27 Moroccan artisans and craftsmen.
Old-world-style American palaces
by Rob Bear, Yahoo Real Estate, May 1, 2012
Photos above provided by: Curbed

So, what are these places all about? Those years around the industrial revolution raised Robber Barons, using everyone else to make themelves rich and show off their new found money. Those spaces that seem unusable are show-off spaces. Victoriana, an era of more is better, bigger is better, periodically carried over to the 21st century.

The pendulum swings back and forth. Everything comes and goes, especially money. Nothing much seems to have changed, has it?

 

Styles, Shape, Spaces

Styles, Shape, Spaces

Styles, shapes, space. What did folks do to fit into a space, fit into a chair, fit on a throne. Our daily lives are so crowded with news, stories, headlines,  we have become aware of the space around us.  How do we find enough space? What is enough space? Did you know that space is calculated based on job type and position?

Did you read in Yahoo News on Monday September 12, 2011, White Castle is being sued by a stocky stock broker for not being able to fit his 290lb frame into the chain’s stationary booths? According to the customer, White Castle is in violation of the American with Disabilities Act. “I just want to sit down like a normal person,” he says. He compares himself to a pregnant woman and the handicapped.

Look at England’s Henri VIII, a really big guy. He would never fit into a White Castle booth. You can be sure his throne and furniture, of the 16th century Tudor period, was massive. Oak was the wood of the day, hard wood, hard to carve, hard to shape, but strong enough to accommodate a big person like Henri VIII.

Good space is premium. How much do we need to live and work and play? At work you may have a cubicle or a private office. At home you may enjoy a cozy, small, warm room with human scale ceilings (8′) or a large room with cathedral ceilings (13′ or higher). But the seating has to give the comfort you seek in your place of refuge.

Space in a chair, how big should it be? Chairs in the home, chairs in the office, chairs in your favorite restaurant. A place like White Castle, MacDonald’s and Burger King are people movers. They want you to eat and leave. Make the diners too comfortable, folks hang to visit with friends. Go where you pay a pretty price for a meal they better give you good seating. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll stay for dessert.

So folks, have a seat. Try them out before you bring them to your home or office. How do you decide? Each have a purpose. With chair types and styles. Even Thoreau, in 1845, in his small cabin on the banks of Walden Pond, where he built a 10′ by 15′ house  furnished with a bed, a table, a small desk and lamp, and three chairs — He wrote about his chairs, “one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.” Today we have special chairs for every activity from  watching games on television to working at the computer.

Office chairs need to be what is called “ergonomic.”  It has to be adjustable, adjustable height, adjustable arms, adjustable pitch. A chair that gives you all those choices will cost a little more, but it is worth the price. Be sure the fabric is cleanable and durable. Leather is always great, but costly. Today, some imitation leathers are close to the real thing, just ask the seller if it is durable. Be sure to buy from a reliable source. Fabrics gather dust, especially black, but there are great fabrics that look good and are practical. Ask the seller to advise you. The image above is a “Herman Millerhard mesh type, a material that does well. You don’t need comfort in the office, you need body support.

At home you need comfort. Your feet need to touch the floor, the seat should be sized to fit your body, the back should have the pitch that allows your feet to touch the floor. A standard chair has a seat height of 17-18 inches.

This chair is called a Fauteuil, French traditional (country) classic upholstered open armchair. It has allthree attributes, roomy seat, good pitch, and for most, your feet should touch the floor.

This is the “Barcelona Chair.” A contemporary classic design by Mies van der Rohe, designed in 1929. For most, because the seat is deep, your feet will not touch the floor. It is a beautiful design, found in most corporate offices to impress.

The image to the right is a 1925 Marcel Breuer contemporary classic. The “Cesca” chair is well-designed, functional, comfortable and practical. Do you recognize this popular chair? Have you owned one?

 

Remember the “Mitt chair” made by Stendig? You tell me,  can we really tell White Castle to build bigger booths? Do you have chairs you love, do they give you comfort, do they give you the space you need to function, do they support your body?

 

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

WHAT DOESN’T VICTORIANA LOOK LIKE?

Phlip Johnson

Philip Johnson Glass House Contemporary Interior, New Canaan, CT

 

 

 

 

Please note the clean, contemporary, organized space in the Philip Johnson Glass House.

All images are from Victoria Lyon Interiors www.victorianlyoninteriors.com.

This week’s blog is about space, order and design and has nothing to do with taste. Taste is ambiguous and personal. You can apply your taste to any of the basic concepts discussed.

The images above are vignettes of traditional design.

Old world elegance mixes with modern colors and textures to create the master bath/dressing area for the lady with very discriminating tastes. Designer Victoria Lyon says her space “evokes the casual elegance of an English country house,” but also brings in modern touches that “let us know that the lady of this manor definitely belongs to the 21st century“.

The dressing area features sweeping curtains, a feminine skirted dressing table and a plush chaise. Old world fixtures, a free standing burnished metal tub and a sparkling marble shower create a bathroom with character and class.

The image below “Traditional Country” is an uncluttered, well-organized, well-designed space. The soft, warm color on the vertical planes (walls) is comforting and pleasing. Warm deep colors have vibrations, move forward into the room and take up visual space.

traditional country

Traditional Country www.victorialyoninteriors.com

Crowding can cause conflict in a life, in a mate, in a child. All this talk about beauty, function, good design, what does it mean? If you like lots of stuff around you, okay. But how is it arranged? Is there order? Is there negative space, meaning quiet space? A place of peace?

Function … what in the world? Clocks have a function, cars have a function, computers have a function. So what has function got to do with space? Space has to provide a place for you to stand up, lie down, sleep, wake.  And all the activities in-between. Where do you write your checks, where do you write your stories, where do you play? If you have any, where are the kids, where do they snack, where do they do homework, where do they play?

Here are a few examples of functional items. Clocks, clocks tell time, what would we do without time? Cars are constructed to take you from point a to point b, computers output and input information. If we take a look at the world around us, everything we need is organized in some way.

You may like contemporary, you may like traditional, you may like the American style (mixture of both), it doesn’t matter. The images above are well-designed, well-organized, functional spaces.

Nineteenth century Victoriana had no specific order. The more stuff squeezed into a space, the more it supposedly displayed great wealth.

Order is important for our well-being.

Thank you to Victoria Lyon interiors for her gracious participation in this blog. www.victorialyoninteriors.com.

Come back next week for more Victoriana surprises. Remember to post your comments. I especially enjoy your inquiries and challenges.

What about you, your home, your office, your play space? You love clutter. OK! But is it organized?

 

Pin It on Pinterest