Spy Habitat: Getting Rid of Things by Pamela Heyne

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Breaking up can be hard to do, even if it is just with things. But…it can be oh so worth it!

Here are various ways of breaking the grip of valuable and not so valuable things.

A quick break: Facebook is a great way to get rid of not so valuable things, especially for free. A nice lady with a van took away my Trombe wall… twenty 8’ high by 1’ diameter clear plastic tubes.

They were a part of our modern house that we bought 15 years ago. Originally filled with water, and lining a balcony, they absorbed solar heat from a bank of southern windows. I loved those glistening, Jetson-like tubes at first; but love turned to hate when one burst and flooded the ground floor. Now that they are gone, I feel liberated. We have an open balcony lined with plants, and sun cascades down into the main rooms.

Goodwill, ReStore in Easton, Treasure Cove Thrift Shop in Saint Michaels and church rummage sales will take varied donations. Staples will take those old printers, cables, and attachments. Books can be another problem. The library won’t take them anymore. However, Goodwill and The Saint Michaels Christ Church rummage sales will.

Money: Money can definitely ease the pain of a breakup. Also, if you sell your item through Tharpe Antiques and Decorative Arts in Easton, you will be pleased that part of the proceeds benefits Talbot Historical Society. As the name implies, they sell more than just high-end antiques. Appointments must be made, and initially emailing images of the items helps ascertain interest and value. According to store manager Dede Wood, Victorian furniture is not popular now.

However, decorative painted furniture is. Sterling silver will always sell. Silver plate in good condition and polished is popular, going for about $20 a piece. It is seasonal, selling better this time of year. Even younger customers in this area enjoy buying silver. The store shares the proceeds with the seller 50/50. If you are not up to polishing your silver (they recommend Wright’s), you can just donate to the store, and they will do it.

Many sites online can help you ascertain the value of that painting that is not to your taste. Presumably, a donor was unaware of the value of a painting donated to the Goodwill Store in Easton in 2008. Some sharp employees noticed “Flower Market” was signed Edouard-Leon Cortes. Goodwill sold the painting for $40,600 at Sotheby’s, a benefit to the mission of Goodwill.

by Kitti von Kann

We recently sold a painting in London because I had scoped out the gallery that handled the Scottish artist Anne Redpath, a distant relation of my husband, Carl Widell. For a couple of weeks, we were in limbo, because the painting was picked up, packed, and shipped from Baltimore to London so that the gallery could ascertain the work’s authenticity and condition. The painting needed some restoration which the gallery handled efficiently and reasonably.

Fortunately a buyer was waiting for it. Though we initially had mixed emotions about selling the item, in the long run, it was good we did. It was painted on board. Though protected by glass, it was in the process of deteriorating microscopically without our realizing it.

Joan Wetmore, a realtor with Meredith Fine Homes, is on the board of the historical society and is also knowledgeable about antiques. For pricing of items, she suggests www.kovels.com. For estate sales, she suggests caronnacollections@gmail.com and estatesales.net.

If your clothes are stylish enough, Frugalicious, a glamorous clothing consignment shop in the center of Easton, is there to help out. Their new sun-filled store on Washington
Street is full of tempting, well-priced treats. After all, a break up requires replacements, no?

Emotion: I inherited numerous paintings from my mother, Kitti von Kann, a noted portrait painter in Washington, DC. She painted people such as Clare Boothe Luce, and Alexander Butterfield (who revealed the existence of the taping system at the White House under Nixon). My daughters said they don’t want “all those portraits of strangers.” However, Mother also painted other subjects. I am looking into donating some to her college and finding the appropriate gallery venue. In the meantime, I enjoy seeing them populating our walls.

Pamela Heyne is an Eastern Shore architect, pam@heynedesign.com. She is author of the recent book, “In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child.”

 

Design for You: Thoughts on the New Harriet Tubman Center by Pamela Heyne

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The new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor center, on the edge of Blackwater Park in Dorchester County is a tour de force of drama and design. The heroine of the drama is Harriet Tubman, born into slavery in 1820. When she was 29 she escaped to Pennsylvania, and freedom. Yet, selflessly, she returned to Maryland 19 times and rescued 70 other slaves. These were mostly friends and family on what is termed the “underground railway.” She followed the north star to lead her followers to freedom, through fields, forests, waterways and safe houses.

The Baltimore firm GWWO Architects used the concept of traveling north as a symbol in their design for the Center. A “spine” leading north unifies a series of simplified barn like, LEED certified structures which contain a bookshop, ancillary spaces and most importantly exhibits describing Harriet’s life. Bronze sculptures by Maryland artist Brendan O’Neill Sr. are compelling…lifelike, yet because of the material, these figures have a grandeur. They avoid the kitsch aspect of so many other historical exhibits whose figures sometimes resemble giant dolls.

A particularly compelling statue for me was an image of Harriet as a child, forced to catch muskrats in the winter, wading in the water coatless and barefoot. Quotes of Harriet are interspersed in displays, showing her intense sadness as a child, crying for her mother’s bed, which in reality was not a bed at all but a wooden pallet. Yet, her resilience and bravery shine through the displays. We even see her guiding Union soldiers during the Civil War,

Projections also display poignant images from the time, babies being sold while mothers wept, newspaper ads for runaway slaves, and a slave child tending to a beautifully dressed white child. Harriet was able to rescue all but one sister. She carried a pistol with her, sometimes to inspire other escapees who were getting cold feet. As she said, she never lost a passenger, and the train never got off track. We learn also that she eventually settled in Auburn, New York, yet kept working to help others.

Image of Harriet catching muskrat

In a phone call with Senator Ben Cardin, the Senator expressed just how moving it was for him to see Tubman so gloriously celebrated. He said the center “will help people understand Tubman’s courage, and her relevancy today.” He mentioned that the project actually began with a request by Senator Sarbanes. Legislation passed to make it into a national park. Local problems were worked out, and Maryland provided numerous resources. Other key national players along with Sen. Cardin were Sen. Mikulski, Sen. Gillibrand, Sen. Schumer and President Obama.

I asked Senator Cardin just why the Center was placed at the entrance of Blackwater Preserve. He said, “You can learn about Harriet Tubman, then go see soaring eagles.” In her own way, Harriet, a petite woman, was a soaring eagle. Our area now has an inspiring new tourist attraction, amplified by a scenic driving tour, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railway Scenic Byway.

Pamela Heyne is an architect, head of Heyne Design in Saint Michaels, Md., and author of In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child. For more information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor center please go here

Design for You: Thoughts on Architect David Morton by Pamela Heyne

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It was always a treat going to dinner at Presqu’ile, the 1820 historic home of Anne Morton Kimberly. Proceeding down the long tree lined drive was a dramatic beginning. Then our cheerful, stylish hostess would greet us, often introducing us to new friends. Sometimes her daughter Babes and Babes’ husband Tom would be guests when they were not traveling. Dinner was usually in the formal dining room, or for more intimate occasions, in a cozy nook off the kitchen.

After dinner we would often sit in the library and continue chatting. A full length portrait of Anne’s son, and Babes’ brother, David Morton graced a wall in an anteroom. The picture showed him standing on a hill, smiling, as he gazed in the distance. David was tall and handsome, resembling his dad, 6’7 Congressman and cabinet official Rogers Morton. David had died in 2003.

I had known David much earlier, long before I moved to the shore and met Anne and Babes. David and I were classmates at Yale School of Architecture. David was a talented and brilliant fellow. I recall a handful of us gathered in his apartment as David explained to us some engineering complexities, and exactly how air conditioning worked! He had a patrician confidence, not surprising since he had spent his teen years at Presqu’ile, attended the Country School, and came from a prominent family. Yet he had a zany side too. His New Haven apartment could only be described as quirky. It sported a black hallway with a giant stuffed toy jolly green giant suspended from the ceiling.

A few years later after graduating from Yale I took a trip to New York with another classmate from New Haven, Tom Welch. We stayed at David’s home in Brooklyn. Its previous incarnation was a toilet seat factory but David was transforming it into a chic series of loft apartments. He had a grand piano in one of the rooms. Leaning next to the piano was a cane. I made conversation about the cane. Turns out it was a gift from Leonard Bernstein.

 8 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn New York

8 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn New York

The building was next to the Brooklyn bridge. As we had dinner we gazed out the wide windows as car headlights slipped across the bridge, and the lights of Manhattan glistened on the water. One felt suspended in a kinetic, magical world.

David had a lifelong partner, Tom Cordell, an architect turned artist, of whom Anne was most fond. After David’s death Tom would accompany Anne on trips and was frequent a dinner guest at Presqu’ile. Tom is still alive, and his work is handled by Fischbach Gallery in New York.Anne, who grew up in privilege in Kentucky, had a remarkable openness of mind. Though her husband was a prominent Republican, she hosted a fundraiser at Presqu’ile for Democrat Frank Kratovil and said she “enjoyed her new Democratic friends.”

David grew up in beautiful surroundings and himself created beautiful surroundings. He saw the potential in Brooklyn factory buildings before it was fashionable. Eventually settling in California, he designed homes throughout the US. One of his designs is a spectacular sliver of a house perched on a ridge in Hilo, Hawaii. Now a vacation rental, called “The Falls at Reed’s Island” it is listed in the Frommer guide as one of the “top 15 rooms with a view”.

A few years after David’s death I saw that one of his home designs appeared in Architectural Digest. I took the magazine to Anne and left it with her. She was pleased to see it, but also, really unable to speak. We both realized that a talented person left the earth way too soon.

A while back, on a speaking trip to Chicago, I visited again with old friend Tom Welch. I learned with great sadness that he, a gay man, had been beaten up on the street. In David Morton’s 2003 NYT obituary Tom Cordell was listed as a partner. Now, in Babes’ 2017 obituary, Tom Cordell is listed as a surviving brother-in-law. That little detail said a great deal and pleased me.

Pamela Heyne is head of Heyne Design in Saint Michaels and author of In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child.

Design For You: The Home Elevator by Pamela Heyne

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Have you ever considered installing an elevator in your home? Now that more of us are living longer and staying in our homes as long as possible, this technology does add value to the home, despite the total price tag of between $30,000 and $35,000. According to realtor Elizabeth Foulds, “This helps for re-sale when otherwise the buyer may only be looking at single level homes.” There are two basic approaches: the more traditional elevator with a shaft, and the cylindrical futuristic looking pneumatic elevator.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 7.42.06 AMI recently spoke to an expert in the field, Merl Beil, currently with Delaware elevator. He agreed that people should not go for a minimum size elevator, but one that can accommodate a wheelchair. That cab size would have an inside dimension of 3’ wide and 4’ deep. 5’x5’ is the basic inside dimension required for a shaft. This requires a reinforced concrete floor under it, 1’ below the main floor level in the house. In the shaft are pullies and a piston that move the car. Additionally a machine room is needed; it can be as small as 4’ x 4’ and is best if it is as close to the main elevator shaft as possible.

I also spoke to Brent Garner, manager, Talbot County office of Permits and Inspections to get his take on home elevators. He said that in the year since he has been working for the county he has not issued any permits for one. However, he used to work as a builder and installed “a beautiful one” he said. He had installed a window both in the elevator cab and in the shaft, so that when the cab reached the second floor, a lovely view appeared. A mural was installed of the same view on the ground floor, in the shaft itself, so that when the cab was on that level, the window did not look out onto a blank wall. There are many aesthetic options for these elevators. Want different door arrangements or an all glass shaft? No problem. Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 7.42.41 AM

I specified a home elevator for a traditional townhouse in Georgetown, DC. It featured an exterior elegantly paneled door. These elevators will have two doors, an outside door and then in the moving cab itself, some sort of folding door. The solid sliding doors we see in commercial elevators are rarely specified for residential elevators, because a much wider shaft would be required.

Closing the interior door is mandatory, or else the elevator will not move. Obviously this is a safety feature. However, Merl said many times he would get calls from people complaining the elevator would not work. He would ask, “Did you close the gate?” Invariably the answer was, “Well, uh…no.”

The cylindrical pneumatic elevator is appealing to me, and I have considered it for my own home. This type of elevator operates without cables, but because of variations in air pressure, and has a secondary braking system. A Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator, PVE, unit from Miami Florida has three sizes, 2’6”, 3’1” and 4’4” outside diameter. The largest unit is appropriate for wheelchairs. One must deduct about 7.5” from the outside diameter to get the inside clearance. These don’t require pulleys and a machine room.

There is also a small, shaftless elevator recently introduced to the market, that can be installed in the corner of a living room. It is too small for wheelchair use, and, to my mind, has little appeal aesthetically. However, it is another option to the stair lift.

Pamela Heyne, AIA is head of Heyne Design and author of In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child. She will give a slide talk about her book Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3:30 at the Book Plate, 112 s. Cross Street, Chestertown. Light refreshments. pam@heynedesign.com

Design For You: A Boston Kitchen by Pamela Heyne

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I was recently in Boston on a book launch. My book shows how Julia Child’s ideas can be relevant today in modern kitchens, with an emphasis on cooking and sit down dining and a de-emphasis on lounging, snacking and TV watching.

I was lucky to be hosted by a couple who had a beautiful kitchen that could easily have been in the book. The lady of the house, who did most of the cooking, said she hated barstools, so none encircled the space. She favored sit down dining, so a dining room was reached from one door, a breakfast room from another. The TV was in the cozy library, remote from the kitchen.

unnamed-3Her appliances were cunningly concealed. The microwave oven was under the counter. The refrigerator is a new “refrigerator column” or “integrated refrigerator”. It basically looks like a cupboard. She also had two “drawer freezers.” They are convenient 2’ deep drawers, and avoid a lot of that rummaging we hate. Her designer was Paul Reidt from Kochman, Reidt and Haig in Stoughton, Mass.unnamed-2

Designers have always had a problem with the bulky refrigerator. The refrigerator in Julia’s French Chef TV show was recessed in an arched niche, making it much more presentable. We architects and designers were happy when “counter depth” refrigerators arrived on the scene a generation ago. Actually 27” deep, the door sticks out past the counter. Now, the “new kids on the block” are the integrated refrigerators. They are designed to sit flush in a 24” cabinet. They also have varying widths, from 18” to 36”. Thermador and Subzero are the leading manufacturers. Some of these models qualify as “energy star”. This means that they exceed federal energy standards.

Interestingly, Julia Child and Paul Child had tried to make the old fashioned refrigerator in their Cambridge kitchen less visible. Designer Paul painted it black and nestled it in bookcases. During my original interview with Julia she had asked me, “It’s more chic, don’t you think?” She also had small freezers under the counter. All these elements are now preserved at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. That Cambridge kitchen has been enshrined behind glass walls, viewed by millions every year.

In Julia’s day, climate change was not as critical an issue as it is now. Beyond looks, we want kitchen appliances and equipment that help us reduce our carbon footprint. If one decides to purchase a new refrigerator, the government recommends against putting the old one in the garage. It becomes an “energy hog”, can cost the homeowner hundreds of dollars a year to use, and certainly does not help the environment.

Pamela Heyne, AIA has a design studio in Saint Michaels, Md. pam@heynedesign.com. She will give a slide presentation on the relevance of Julia Child’s design and lifestyle ideas at the Saint Michaels Library Dec. 1 at 5:30 pm. The book, In Julia’s Kitchen, practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child will be available for purchase.

Design for You: Really Comfortable Dining by Pamela Heyne

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I advocate sit down dining in my book, In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child. Recently in my own family room I made two changes to enhance that activity.

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-14-05-amThe first change was the chairs. I took away the dining chairs and added traditionally styled easy chairs to the glass topped table in the family room. These chairs are comfortable; blissfully soft, they say, “stay”. So….you lean back in them rather than sitting ramrod straight. Your head is supported. You relax. Maybe you scrunch your legs up. The effect is remarkable…my husband and I linger at the table far longer than we did in the past.

The second change was the TV. Oh we still have one, in an armoire. But, as the phrase goes, we “cut the cable.” Now we are not paying a fortune a month for shows we don’t watch and a few of those news shows we watched too much. We get all the news, commentary and specialized shows we really need, all delivered through the internet. But now, much of the time the armoire doors are closed.

In my book I mention that Julia Child enjoyed watching Tom Brokaw’s news show every evening, but never while dining. As I often say, the meals we enjoy and remember are the ones we share with others rather than with the TV. It takes twenty minutes for our brains to get the message that we have eaten enough. Distracted dining in front of the television often results in our eating more food than we need, and enjoying it less.

So maybe one solution to our national obesity epidemic is to make sit-down dining really, really comfortable. And, take a cue from Julia, no seconds! But, conversation has no calories…it is just food for thought.

 

Pamela Heyne, AIA is head of Heyne Design. pam@heynedesign.com 410-714-9040 her book is available through her, at local stores and online.

A Home Observatory of Your Own by Pamela Heyne

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If you have an interest in a home observatory, you are not alone. Hobbyists and retirees are looking at the sky in increasingly sophisticated ways. And the home observatory can take many different forms. But first, from a practical standpoint, is this a reasonable hobby to pursue on the Eastern Shore? While we have relatively dark skies, we are not as pristine as say a mountain site in Colorado.

observatory

I posed that question to John Jardine Goss, president of the Astronomical League. He said that it really depends on what type of experience you want. “If the person is primarily interested in visually observing and imaging the planets using expensive equipment, an observatory makes sense. Planetary work doesn’t necessarily require dark skies, though it helps. However, visually observing galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters really requires a dark site to get the most out of the experience.” He made several other important points. “While the MD eastern shore does not have pristine, dark skies, many people would be surprised at the number of stars that can be seen. One test is whether or not the Milky Way can be discerned in the sky glow.”(Answer, yes. ) He also mentioned that skies tend to be darker when businesses close and residents go to bed…so 2 am is a better viewing time. John also said that the best telescope is “the one you will use.” Same with an observatory…it will not be worthwhile if you won’t use it.

OK, you are still interested in that observatory. Let’s say you want to build it on your existing house. First off, you will need to make sure the telescope is stable. The usual way of insuring that is to construct a dedicated pier for the telescope itself….the slightest movement from people walking on the floor will compromise the settings. Additionally, the floor cannot touch the pier. Of course, how the pier extends down through the house requires careful planning.

The form of the observatory can range from slide off or fold down roof hatch, to metal or fiberglas cylindrical dome. The dome, with an open slit or “clamshell” opening, rotates to allow for the earth’s rotation. The telescope, on a mount bolted to the pier is motorized so that it also rotates.

Domes are typically 6’ to 30’ in diameter. The smaller domes might be accessed from a terrace. Larger domes might have room for a stair, possibly with a hatch. Many stargazers want to share the experience with one or two guests. Importantly the observatory cannot be heated or cooled….It must the same temperature as the outside air. One reason you see so many white domes is they reflect heat better, though some manufacturers fabricate them in earth tones to blend in more with surrounding residences.

Computers are usually placed near the telescope but in a more comfortable setting, like a small office which might be just downstairs from the telescope.

Though this might be considered a hobby, you will need to check your local codes and get appropriate building permits. The highest you can build for a private residence in Talbot County is 40’. Insurance is also a consideration.

The price for home observatory can vary tremendously. People who are handy can construct a shed (once again…check with codes for this will be an “ancillary structure”) and have a simple slide or fold away roof. For more elaborate designs, well, you know…”the sky’s the limit.”

Pamela Heyne, AIA is head of Heyne Design, in Saint Michaels, Md.
pam@heynedesign.com

Money to Help Many Maryland Homeowners Stay in Their Homes

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The state of Maryland wants you to stay in your home. They have funds available for many state homeowners to make repairs such as installing ramps and widening doors. It is called the Accessible Homes for Senior Homeowners Grant Program.

Grants, not loans, are provided to qualifying homeowners on a first come first serve basis. You must be over 50. The state also wants proof your income is 80% of AMI, which stands for area median income. You will also need a list of three bids from contractors with Maryland Home Improvement licenses.

Previously a loan program, this became a grant program in 2013. The thinking behind it is this: by keeping seniors in their homes , neighborhood stability is maintained. This also provides work for local builders, and helps other local suppliers. During fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016) the program provided $998,000 in 47 grants.

Contractor training and information is upcoming on two separate days from 11:30am – 1pm.

7/27/16 – Richard Henson Center, #2122, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University Blvd. S., Princess Anne, MD 21853 (Somerset County)
8/4/16 – Chester River Yacht & Country Club, 7738 Quaker Neck Road, Chestertown, Md. 21620 (Kent County)
Pamela Heyne is an architect with an office in Saint Michaels. pam@heynedesign.com

Storm Season is Coming; Time to Prepare your House by Pamela Heyne

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2012 Hurricane Sandy gave us two valuable lessons: If people are told to evacuate, they should. And, people need to make their homes as secure as possible, because these storms are more powerful than before. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, Atlantic hurricanes are now 60% more powerful than they were in the 1970’s and their top wind speeds have increased by 25%. Sandy’s diameter was the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record, 1,100 miles.

Here are some key suggestions to make your home more hurricane resistant. Some suggestions entail new materials and techniques.

Windows: these must be secured because during a storm it is very important to keep high-velocity air out of the home. Depending on variables, the house could explode like a balloon if hurricane-force air suddenly whooshes in.(hurricane force wind can be between 74 and 157 mph.) Hurricane proof windows have proven effective here and in other areas. They are double glazed with a laminated layer on the room side. Roll down shutters can be operated at the touch of a button. High tech fabric panels or lightweight polycarbonate panels admit light to the home when installed, and are an improvement in impact tests over plywood.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.33.34 AMRoof: You may want to check our your roof structure to make sure it has appropriate hurricane ties that attach the beams or trusses to the walls of the house. These may need to be upgraded. According to Craig Willis of Chesapeake Builders in Saint Michaels, the straps should be rated for 1000 pounds of uplift or more. He notes there are numerous configurations of straps available. These are more common in new homes. Retrofitting an older home might be done at a time when new insulation is considered, for instance.

Flooding: With hurricanes another worry is possible flooding. If you have a mortgage on your home the lender undoubtedly requires you to have flood insurance, a good thing. Car experts recommend a lift for your automobile in your garage if you have enough headroom, and reinforced slab. Some years ago a neighbor’s new Jaguar was ruined by rising waters in the garage. The mere thought of it made this Jaguar lover wince!

Debris: It is important to keep branches picked up, and to make sure trees are properly trimmed. Even on the interior of the home, individual rugs are easier to move than wall to wall carpet. And speaking from experience, newspapers are easier to recycle when dry than when wet!

Folks in New Jersey and New York had a false sense of security when Sandy hit, because prior to that they had “over-prepared’ for Hurricane Irene. But Sandy, the “Frankenstorm”, killed 233 people total and left an enormous path of devastation. Lucky for us in our area, the storm veered north rather than roaring up the Chesapeake Bay.

Pamela Heyne, AIA is a Saint Michaels architect.