January 11, 2008


New Client

Dear Dustheads,

The good news is that I am sitting here, well, before I began writing, designing a kitchen for Carol and Janice. They are building a sweet small structure just opposite Coupeville on Penn Cove. There is, of course a story that goes with this venture, well, several really.

As usual I have been procrastinating. Five days ago the clients appeared in my shop asking when the design would be complete. They had first contacted me several months ago. There was lots to do in the interim, vacations and holidays, and yes, a bit of work too. The design work had been on the back burner, plus I could just not get into the mood to stand at my drawing board and, well, draw. So, yesterday I was sure the I would get to "it", but alas, it was not to be. Our current addiction of Lost from Netflix was on the agenda for the evening andI watched several episodes. It got late, and then I was too tired to do any drawing,. At 4:30 AM I got up, made coffee, read the paper and then proceeded to the drawing board. Egads, that is a really early time to try to ponder someone elses cooking space. Five hours later I finally have a first draft of their kitchen.

One of the interesting things about this place is that some of the interior and exterior detailing was done by Len Brackett of East Wind, Inc. and author of Building the Japanese House Today. I arranged to meet him and his crew with Richard Epstein who is a fan of Len's. Len proved to be a fascinating guy, as did his partner Doug and helper Cedar. The day we visited the site, they were working on some of the sugar pine beams and port orford posts. They build using traditional japanese hand tools and joinery. Len even uses a tape measure calibrated in the sun system. I suggested he and his crew come for dinner and he replied that would be a fine idea.

We grilled some salmon, invited some friends and family. They brought the wine and we shared a lovely meal. Len regaled us with tales of living in his tradtional japanese style house in northern California, un heated, in the mountains. He talked about his shop with fixed knife surfacers, as all material has only a planed finish. Nothing between you and the wood. He also told us about his hawk, that he was flying daily after work. He had hooked up with the Lehmans, also local hawkers.

So, japanese style builders have really set the tone for this project. Their level of quality, especially on that scale is very impressive. Remember John Jacob's tea house?

I got to this job through a rather convoluted series of events. An Oak Harbor contractor started the project, taking scads of cash but not building much. He finished a roof to get a draw, but failed to include two sky lights. They must take a long time to install. They ended firing him (may this guy rot in contractor hell) and ended with Forrest Hughes as their contractor. He was lamenting yesterday that he was going to have to hang the sheet rock himself, because they were not allowed to use masking tape on the soft wood beams and post. Do you know any careful dry wallers? That qualifies as an oxymoron. The clients had first met Epstein and he recommended me and after Len had strongly suggested custom cabinets for the project, they had dropped by the shop and invited me in.

Time to meet the clients. More later.

May yous chisels be sharp and your shavings long,
Rob Hetler

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