Why I Like the Old Houses

I was asked to write why I like documenting the old, abandoned houses. I had different ideas in mind right away but none really fit. Since then other elements have come along and I’ve tried to build the full picture. Part of it the loneliness of the old place and yet their strength in standing, enduring.

Today, while watching a documentary about the geography under the Great Lakes I had another idea:

I like the old houses because they show our own history, the impact we have had on the land and at the same time the old places erode and become part of the physical geography, just another bump on the land of rocks, earth and water.

Storybook Home Style

Taking whimsy seriously
SF Gate:Builder Carr Jones put Arts and Crafts style into the storybooks

Dave Weinstein, Saturday, September 13, 2003

The style is called Storybook, Fairy Tale, Disneyland or Hansel & Gretel, and the adjective most often applied to it is “whimsical.” In Hollywood, where the style developed, its earliest exponents were often motion picture set designers – experts in faux everything.

But Carr Jones, one of the great Storybook builders of the Bay Area, took his work very seriously. Both his architecture, and people who know him, suggest that Jones (1885-1965) was faux nothing.

“He was his houses,” says Lana Kacsmaryk, Jones’ daughter-in-law.

“He was just pragmatic and practical,” says Ruth Scott, who lives in Mill Valley in the last home Jones designed. Jones was no stage designer, she says, but was rooted in the 19th century Arts and Crafts tradition with its emphasis on honest craftsmanship and natural materials.

“I call my house a peasant house,” she says.

Jones homes may have turrets and spiral staircases, arched doorways and swooping rooflines. But they are also fire resistant and livable, she says, and filled with modern touches like radiant floor heating and walls of windows.

Unlike some Storybook builders, whose fairy-tale features were add-ons to standard plans, Jones crafted his homes the way a medieval craftsman would have, often living on site along with his craftsmen and working alongside them.

Jones studied engineering, not architecture. He did his own designs and contracting and much of the handiwork. His work indicates how much personality and seriousness a builder could bring to a style, even one as seemingly hokey as “Storybook.”

Storybook homes differ from their more sedate “period revival” cousins by striving even further to evoke medieval or rural Europe. Instead of relatively restrained Cotswold cottages or Mediterranean villas, we have homes that evoke Ruritania or the Brothers Grimm.

On a typical Jones house you’ll see brick outside and in, curves and random patterns. Roofs sway as though weighed down by thatch, and shingles splash across like waves. Homes are often L-shaped or U-shaped, and the ends of the wings often curve. One wing of the house often faces the courtyard with a California Mission-type arcade.

Inside you will find a two-story living room with an immense fireplace and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony, floors of randomly arranged terra cotta and tile, and built-in, hand-carved cabinetry. Walls are thick – 16 inches or more – and often curved.

Jones never left California, friends say. He got his ideas from National Geographic and Architectural Digest.

Many of his materials were scrounged. Used bricks were plentiful and cheap after the 1906 quake and he used recycled timbers and phone poles, refrigerator tubing for radiant heat, and disassembled old stoves to create built-in kitchen islands.

One sure Jones touch is a pyramid-shaped gable end filled with glass and decorated with curved beams – like half timbering with glass between the timbers, instead of mud mixed with thatch. The effect is medieval, modern and startling, and brings in a lot of light.

Montgomery, who has filled his Piedmont home with antique American furniture, art and an HO train set, enjoys the view he gets from the Chippendale armchair near the fireplace – through a curving corridor and several arched doorways to the dining room beyond. He loves the rhythms provided by the curves, the light and the home’s emotional warmth.

He also loves surprising Jones fans – they often ring the bell and ask to look – by taking them around back to an 800-square-foot mother-in-law cottage Jones added to the property in 1954. It’s got bracketed doors, a medieval chandelier – and a wall of glass facing a canyon and a low-pitched shed roof. It’s vintage mid-century modern.

“He wasn’t as traditional as you think,” Montgomery says.

Another surprisingly modern Jones house was built in Pleasant Hill in 1948, a rambling ranch with curved brick walls and a sod roof. It was demolished in 1996.

No one knows how many structures Jones built. Some publications say about a dozen, others 50.

Twenty-seven buildings built or substantially remodeled by Jones can be readily documented. There are undoubtedly more. At least 24 are extant. Almost all are houses.

At least five are in Berkeley, six in Oakland, three in Piedmont (counting the mother-in-law cottage), six in Contra Costa County (at least one demolished), three in Marin, one in Palo Alto, and one in Cucamonga in the Southern California desert.

Some, like the restaurant Postino in Lafayette, have become local landmarks.

But many are hard to see, hidden by walls or foliage.

Jones himself never made much of a mark as a Bay Area personage, though his homes attracted attention and followers. He never craved fame, Scott says. “He was a content man within himself.”

Nor did he crave or gain wealth. “He was a working man and he was not in it for financial reasons,” she says. He never sought jobs. Clients came to him after seeing one of his houses.

Friends describe him as mild, soft-spoken, a man who listened more than talked. When he talked, Scott says, “it was about architecture – and how you did things.”

Jones was a strong man of average build, but very short – as are his doors.

Jones loved to invent – he developed a form of adobe that could withstand rain without being plastered, Scott says – and loved building. But he wasn’t ambitious, she says.

“Somebody said to me, ÔCarr Jones would never have worked a day in his life if he didn’t have to eat,’ ” she says.

But he was an elegant man with fine manners, Kacsmaryk says, and attentive to the details of daily living. “You wouldn’t set a milk carton on his table,” she says.

Jones, who was born in Watsonville and raised in Monterey, moved with his family to Berkeley and received a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1911. Some accounts say he studied with Maybeck but Scott says it isn’t so.

But he undoubtedly knew the great Arts and Crafts style architect. Two of Jones’ earliest buildings are in the Berkeley hills north of campus where Maybeck lived and did much of his building.

The homes, built in 1914 and 1916, before the Storybook style took hold, are Craftsman in tone along the lines of Maybeck, mixing wooden board-and- batten siding with brown shingles and complete with Swiss chalet balconies. By the mid-1920s Jones was building in his mature style.

One Carr Jones owner in the Berkeley hills describes how his home was built,

with information gleaned from neighbors who watched: Jones and his wife and a crew of six or seven workers moved onto the site, built a brick wall, then started on the house. Five years later it was done.

Jones also turned a flatbed truck into a mobile home for himself, complete with a ladder leading to a sleeping porch on its roof, Scott says.

Jones, who was twice married and raised a stepson, built a sod-roofed home for himself and family in Orinda in 1948. In 1954, Scott says, he was “discovered” by Mrs. Fulton of Fulton Shipyards in Antioch.

Jones found himself remodeling many buildings at the shipyard and at her home, and living in a home she owned not far away – and remodeling that. He worked for Fulton until he died.

By the 1960s Jones was suffering from severe arthritis. He was ill when Ruth Scott and her husband, Alan, sought his services in 1964. They knew his work because Alan Scott’s aunt lived in a Jones house in Walnut Grove.

“He liked us because we wanted to do the work ourselves,” Ruth says. Jones visited the site, a hillside in Mill Valley, and drew up a plan. The work was done by the Scotts and their children, a small crew, and by Doug Allinger, Jones’ stepson.

Though Allinger, a mason, had absorbed Jones’ style and ethos, he had never worked with him. The Scotts’ home was his first Carr Jones-style building. He has since built several, including some that are well known in Contra Costa County.

Jones died of cancer in October 1965, the day they started work, Scott says.

Living in a Carr Jones home has challenges as well as charms – though Montgomery, a tall man, says, “In the years I’ve lived here I’ve only knocked my head once.”

“You need a repair, you have to call in a craftsman,” another owner says. Her husband adds: “It’s like living in a museum – which I suppose wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste.”

In Belvedere, the locally landmarked Audrey Jones Beck Cottage from 1930 is coming onto the market and preservationists worry that the buyer may tear it down. The hidden, hillside site offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The city’s preservation ordinance could delay demolition for only 90 days, and Roger Felton, a member of the Belvedere Historic Preservation Committee and a neighbor of the house, hopes a buyer comes forward who loves Carr Jones.

Most people who live in his homes stay there awhile and care for them, Scott says. “People do get possessed with Carr Jones houses.”

Carr Jones

Style: Storybook, Fairy Tale, Hansel & Gretel. Jones developed an idiosyncratic version of this already idiosyncratic style based in the Arts and Crafts tradition. He used brick and other natural and recycled materials to craft homes that recall peasant farmhouses blended with California missions.

Active: Jones built from 1914 to the early ’60s primarily throughout the East Bay.

Known for: fine brickwork, swooping roofs, turrets and arched doorways, balconies and glass-filled gable windows.

Other practitioners: William R. Yelland created Normandy Village on Spruce Street near the UC Berkeley campus and other Storybook monuments. Storybook building can be found in any town that had much construction in the 1920s. Normandy Gardens on Picardy Drive in Oakland is a superb example of a Storybook subdivision by architect Walter Dixon.

Storybook Houses of Los Angeles

Once upon a time (in the early 1900s) hobbit holes and witches dens dotted the Los Angeles landscape. A few are left standing.

Photos and story quoted from the Los Angeles Times.

Pictured here is the Hobbit House in Culver City.

The Spadena House, Beverly Hills.

The Spadena House, also known as Witches House, was bought by its real estate broker to save it from being torn down by a new owner.

The outside gate at Witches House in Beverly Hills.

The late Paul Henning’s estate.

Once upon a time. . . .

“Storybook houses are an outgrowth of the blurred line of fantasy and reality that is particular to Los Angeles,” says Trudi Sandmeier, a preservationist at the Los Angeles Conservancy. The style pops up across the country, she notes, but nowhere did it attain the popularity it enjoyed in L.A.

A house with tiny windows, dark and cozy little rooms and an inherent sense of humor may seem like the opposite of cool, but the storybook style continues to charm fans and inspire new generations.

Storybook structures include places that appear to be hobbit houses, witch’s dens, fairy-tale castles and village courts. Though many fine examples have been destroyed — and just three are designated landmarks in Los Angeles — others are still sprinkled around town.

But the trend was short-lived. Construction of storybook-style houses all but stopped by the late 1930s.

At a time when midcentury modern is the pinnacle of hip living, when Neutra and Schindler are considered gods by architecture buffs, and when light and space are in high demand, the storybook style has never seemed more out of fashion.

The ‘Witches’ Cottage’: A Realized Fairy-Tale Fantasy in Beverly Hills from the Los Angeles Times December 24, 1992

I’ve been told that Beverly Hills is filled with domestic fantasies, but most of them hide behind security gates and bland facades. Just about the only house in all the “flats” of this tony city that wears its dreams on its stucco and shingle sleeves is the so-called “Witches’ Cottage” at Walden Drive and Carmelita Avenue.

I presume that this little house is supposed to look frightening because it was designed to resemble the home of the witch who tried to eat Hansel and Gretel, but these days it just comes off as something charming.

The main reason for its current sunny disposition is not only that it is–like almost all properties in the area–relentlessly well-maintained, but also that it is just about the only house around that faces the street. While its neighbors hide behind walls, concrete driveways, garage doors and other utilitarian repellents of urban life, the Spadena House (as it is known today) gives you the full treatment of lawn, picket fence and expressive face that might show up in a child’s rendering of a house.

It is a delight to just walk or drive by this particular lot. True, the picket fence is made out of rough-cut, unpainted wood that seems slapped together, the lawn is bisected by a moat and the gable has been drawn out into a three-story peak that seems to be struggling out of a sea of cedar shakes. But this activity comes off as a visual delight, even if there are undertones of fairy-tale evil.

The way the Spadena House turns its face to you for inspection and then catches your eye with a host of little details makes it an exciting addition to the city. The simple composition of gable and cross gable is placed on a diagonal on the lot so you can see it from all sides. Its exaggerated lines make the form all the more expressive. A curved addition to the rear sweeps away from the street so that the usual long line of utilitarian spaces that you’ll find at the back of such mansions has a certain panache.

The seemingly loose (and functionless) shutters, the covered porch, the expressed timbers, the boulders strewn around the lawn, the chimneys peeking up behind the front and the rough texture of the stucco underscore and define the overall composition.

The Spadena House was created by set designer Henry Oliver in 1921 as the office for a film production company in Culver City. It represents the skills of an experienced form-giver to fantasy more than the scrupulous translation of concerns about function and site into built form that an architect might offer. Later additions (including a skylight that fortunately mars only the alley view of the house) have made it more livable, but ultimately this is not so much a house as a carefully composed image of a house.

You might even think of Oliver (who went on to design some “themed” apartment buildings) as a proto-“imagineer,” which is the name Disney gives to the designers who create the fantasy environments that transform our collective dreams and fears into built form. The Spadena House has all the skill and all the literal-mindedness of Disneyland.

What makes the Witches’ Cottage better than Disneyland, though, is that it is just another house in the middle of Beverly Hills. You don’t have to pay admission to see it, and it isn’t hidden behind gates. It jumps out from the horizontal and forgettable houses all around it. What makes it work is that it does so by using the same gables, stucco, lawn ornaments and their pretensions and then exaggerating them, thus drawing you with it from the world of the everyday into a realized fantasy.

Aaron Betsky teaches and writes about architecture.

Spadena House: Walden Drive and Carmelita Avenue,Beverly Hills
Architect: Henry Oliver, a Hollywood set designer

Life within a fairy tale L.A.’s fanciful Storybook style makes a last stand against convention — and the wrecking ball.
By Christy Hobart
From the Los Angeles Times – January 13, 2005

Soon after Michelle and Jack Conrad bought a little cottage in Beachwood Canyon, a friend came over for a visit. Before leaving, he delicately comforted Michelle: “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “One day you’ll be able to afford a new one.” Thirty years later, Michelle still chuckles at his compassion. The point of the house — even when it was just-built in the early 1930s — has always been to look very old and, well, a little different.

The Conrads’ Hansel-and-Gretel home (now also known among devotees as a “hobbit house”), with its mock thatched roof and heavy rolled eaves, half-timbering and leaded glass windows, is a classic example of Storybook style, a whimsical type of architecture that emerged in Los Angeles with the burgeoning movie industry in the 1920s.

“Storybook houses are an outgrowth of the blurred line of fantasy and reality that is particular to Los Angeles,” says Trudi Sandmeier, a preservationist at the Los Angeles Conservancy. The style pops up across the country, she notes, but it never attained the popularity it enjoyed in L.A. (and to some degree in Northern California). But the trend was short-lived; construction of Storybook-style houses all but stopped by the late 1930s.

Though many fine Storybook structures, which include places that appear to be hobbit houses, witch’s dens, fairy-tale castles and village courts, have been destroyed (just three are designated landmarks in Los Angeles), others still sprinkle the town.

At a time when midcentury Modern is the pinnacle of hip living, when Neutra and Schindler are considered gods by architecture buffs, and when light and space are in high demand, the Storybook style has never seemed more out of fashion. A house with tiny windows, dark and cozy little rooms, and an inherent sense of humor is the opposite of cool. But it’s close to heaven to some.

The Conrads drove by their distinctive cottage for five years, looking at it longingly and always telling each other, “Now, I could live there.” When the house eventually came on the market, a tour of the inside — with its heavy exposed beams, charming nooks and crannies and stone fireplace — convinced them to make an offer. “We were bowled over,” says Jack, a laid-back, rosy-cheeked songwriter and musician who also has a company that creates music applications for computers. They bought the house in 1974 and plan on leaving, Jack says, “feet first.”

Before buying this modest 1,500-square-foot cottage, the Conrads lived in a huge two-story house without a lot of charm. “Big places remind us of hotel lobbies,” Jack says. “It’s just the two of us, and we don’t need anything bigger than this,” says Michelle. Since giving away their large-scale furniture, the couple has filled the tiny rooms of their cozy space with a haphazard assortment of comfortable pieces and antiques collected along the way. The couple didn’t set out to furnish their house “hobbit style” (whatever that might have entailed), but they ended up with a décor that anyone would find inviting.

The house posed another decorating challenge apart from its quaint scale. “There are seven doors, a bank of windows and a fireplace in the living room,” Michelle notes. “The traffic patterns here can be challenging.”

Whoever built the house in 1934 (and its twin just up the street) used quality materials and solid techniques. “We’ve replaced all the electrical and the plumbing since we’ve been here, but after 30 years, that’s just regular maintenance,” Michelle says. The kitchen was dark when they bought it, so the Conrads tore out a bank of cabinets and had a friend replace it with leaded windows to match the existing windows. As he worked, he taught Jack how to do it. “After about 60 years, leaded windows get worn out,” Jack explains. “The lead oxidizes and becomes thin, and the glass gets funky as well.” Room by room, he has since replaced every window in the house.

The roof required more expertise. On a friend’s recommendation, the Conrads hired carpenter Bob Coleman to replace the original bent-and-burned cedar-shake roof with the requisite composite shingles. Working closely with the Conrads, he re-created the wavelike pattern of the original by using three or four times the number of shingles needed for a regular roof. “We kept going down to get more and more shingles,” Jack remembers. “We’re lucky they didn’t run out.”

Since they’ve been there, the couple have maintained the lush garden — a terraced fairy-tale landscape complete with a waterfall, a pond and a misshapen brick pathway that curves up and away to imagined hinterlands. Friends, who have dubbed the place “Conrad Springs,” say coming to the house is like going on vacation. “It’s a comfortable hang,” Jack agrees.

As parking lots started replacing homes on her Culver City street, Martha Joseph scrambled to save her home and her late husband’s legacy from being razed. The eye-catching Storybook complex, one of the best-known examples of Storybook style, was designed and built by Lawrence Joseph starting in 1946. It is remarkable, says the conservancy’s Sandmeier, in that it is “the expression of one man’s creativity come to life.”

Martha Joseph obtained landmark status for the property, then donated an easement on the complex to the Los Angeles Conservancy. She died last year knowing that it would never be torn down.

When people are passionate about the Storybook style, they’ll pay a premium for it, says Beverly Hills Realtor Michael Libow. “Given the paucity of availability, that could be an additional 5% or 10%” on top of market value, he says. But if the person isn’t particularly interested in the style, “they’ll want to pay according to the square footage of the house and of the lot.” It’s these homes that are often razed to make room for more contemporary abodes. Unless, that is, somebody swoops in to save them.

Libow knows this all too well. In 1997, the fabled Spadena House in Beverly Hills, the most famous Storybook house in Los Angeles, came on the market, and Libow started showing it to clients. “All anyone wanted to do was to tear it down,” he laments.

The Witch’s House, as it’s known locally, with its pointy, lopsided roof, tiny windows with shutters that seemed to cling on for dear life, and stucco with a distressed paint job, all surrounded by an overgrown English-style garden and a moat-like pond, wasn’t the home most people dreamed about owning. It didn’t just look old, it looked entirely dilapidated. And since it sat on a prime corner lot in the flats of Beverly Hills, it wasn’t cheap. A tear-down was almost inevitable.

But Libow couldn’t let that happen. “I grew up in Beverly Hills,” he says, “and I always loved the structure.” So, against his better professional judgment, he bought it (at lot value) and is now in the long process of restoring it to its former ramshackle glory. Though nobody wanted to buy — and keep — the house when it was on the market, a lot of people were furious when the black fencing went up around the property. “I got some hate mail from people who thought I was going to tear it down,” Libow says. “The house holds a special place in people’s hearts.”

Like many proud owners, Libow researched the history of his Storybook house. But unlike the others, he was actually able to find a lot of background: It was built in 1921 by Harry Oliver — a studio art director and premier builder of Storybook-style homes — to house the offices and dressing rooms of the Willat movie studio. The house was moved from its original Culver City location to Beverly Hills in 1934. Just two families had lived in it since, first the Spadenas, then the Greens, who gave the interiors a 1960s makeover. It needed revamping inside — and out. By the time Libow bought the house, it didn’t just look as if it was falling apart; it truly was.

He planned on making the place livable by remodeling the kitchen and bathroom, installing heating and repairing some leaks. Then he met Nelson Coates, who, like the original builder, works in the movie industry. Coates, a studio production designer (whose credits include Stephen King’s “The Stand”), talked with Libow about the home’s fantastic possibilities, and the plans changed. Now, almost five years later, the house is nearing the end of a complete peak-to-moat restoration.

“Nothing about the house can be perfect,” Libow says, stressing the difficulty he’s having going against his fastidious ways. “If the house looks too symmetrical, it’s not going to work. We’ve got to create organized chaos.”

Inside, there will be oddly shaped doorways, surfaces that melt into one another, and a bedroom hallway in the shape of a keyhole. Right angles are banned. “We’re going for a Gaudí-esque cottage look,” Libow says, referring to Antonio Gaudí, the iconic Spanish architect whose 1907 Casa Batlló, in Barcelona, is as fantastic as they get. But this will be luxury Gaudí, with Ann Sacks tiles and antique French clay pavers throughout.

Across town in the Los Feliz Hills, a smaller witch’s house, built in 1923, was on the market at about the same time. There wasn’t a feeding frenzy over it either, but Donald Brown and Chris Parson were nervous when they heard who else was interested in the place. “Leonardo was looking at it for his parents,” Brown says under his breath, referring to movie star Leonardo DiCaprio. The couple, both librarians, knew they wouldn’t be able to win that showdown, and were relieved when DiCaprio passed. “It was a miracle for us,” says Brown. “He thought it would be too much work to fix it up.”

Nodding, Parson adds, “I can guarantee that it would have been.”

Not that he’s complaining. He and Brown, who bought the house more than five years ago, have set a long-term goal of restoring it to its glory days when a vibrant socialite named Irene Coursier lived there. “She was the second owner,” Brown says, “and lived here for 65 years until she died.” The men bought the house from her family and are still in touch with the grandchildren. “They were happy to find people who respected the house,” Brown says. So happy, in fact, that a granddaughter sends the men a bouquet of purple roses — Coursier’s favorite — every year on her grandmother’s birthday.

The person who built the house (listed on the title as Rufus Buck) was probably inspired, the men say, by Harry Oliver’s Tam O’Shanter Inn on Los Feliz Boulevard, built the year before in 1922. “The roofline is similar,” Brown points out. The decorative serpentine beams on the exterior of the house are treated in the same way as those on the Tam O’Shanter: They were charred and then sandblasted for an aged look.

During some recent garden work, Parson found a surprise: an engraved silver fork. “It must have fallen off the balcony during one of Mrs. Coursier’s dinner parties,” he mused as he packed it up to send to her granddaughter in San Diego. With each weekend they spend in the dirt, the couple unearth a little more history and get closer to their vision: a garden, with a bubbling waterfall, that would make Coursier proud.

As the remodeling work began on the house (“We’re doing it all ourselves,” Brown says. “It would cost a fortune otherwise”), the men asked Coursier’s descendants to send pictures of the house in its heyday. The men studied the original colors, fixtures and furnishings and referred to them as they decorated.

For added privacy on the street side of the house, they decided to replace the clear windows with stained glass. Working with design elements from the house — pointed gables, the fireplace and the original colors — Brown designed a pattern that looks as if it was there from the start.

When Dodonna Bicknell, a British commercial executive producer, walked for the first time into her miniature 1924 Pierpont Davis-designed Normandy-style castle, she knew that if she bought it, she would need new furniture. The distinctive interiors, including an arched 18-foot living room ceiling, arched doors, stained glass windows and a surprisingly Moorish vibe, got her thinking. She didn’t have a specific era in mind, but rather let her keen eye choose pieces according to their shapes and sizes. “I wanted it to look like an English men’s club,” she says, “but with femininity.”

To get the look, she hung a glittering crystal chandelier above a heavy wood dining set she wrangled from a friend. She re-covered the seats in royal blue, and it looks perfect in the rounded dining room, at the base of the home’s turret. Bicknell’s use of rich jewel tones elsewhere in the house plays off the stained glass windows and helps keep the somewhat rigid décor from looking austere.

Bicknell hadn’t been looking for a castle, but she was looking for charm. When she saw a picture of the house, with its vine-covered turret and bold coat of arms over the front door, in a newspaper’s real estate section, she was intrigued. “It wasn’t in the neighborhood I wanted, and they were asking a lot of money for it,” she says, but she couldn’t resist. “People who like this house love it.”

Like the others with their distinctive homes, Bicknell often finds strangers outside, snapping shots of her place. Unless, that is, Mister Smith, Bicknell’s enormous, terrifying and incredibly solid 120-pound Doberman pinscher — the most appropriate addition to the house — is outside protecting his castle.


Storybook style resources

John Robert Marlow, a science fiction writer with a passion for Storybook style, was so disappointed about the lack of information on the subject that he did something about it. “I started my website out of frustration that there wasn’t anything about them out there,” he says. His site is among several sources — including books and vendors — that offer information on the Storybook look and how to find the materials used to create it. Among the choices:

General information

Book: For a complete history of the style and for extensive photographs of Storybook-style houses, see “Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties” by Arrol Gellner and Douglas Keister (2001, Viking Studio).

Website: In addition to his website, Marlow plans on starting an online group of Storybook enthusiasts. In the meantime, his website is http://johnrobertmarlow.com/sa__storybook.html.

Haunted or Not?

This  was posted on Facebook as a Halloween thing, something meant to be spooky, creepy, etc. I never see the old houses that way. To me they look sad, lost, a little mysterious and a stepping stone to our history, our identity. I feel bad for the houses when people think they are haunted or creepy. It’s like someone seeing your Grandmother and thinking she is ugly. I guess I do give the houses feelings, even though they are not living things, exactly. People name boats, give them a personality why don’t more houses and cars get names too? What would you name this house, in the picture above? What would you name your own home, whether it’s a house or part of a building that you live in?

Grey Hair Must be Made to Obey

Back to construction and renovations today. Graham says it will just be today, I hope he is right. The trend seems to be that it is ongoing, in spurts and only a very few of the projects actually get completely finished. The hardwood floors look nice but at the doorways for kitchen, bathroom and the main entrance they are raw, unfinished.

Today it’s a woman putting in new tiles at the front entrance and Steve back downstairs this time, putting a hardwood floor into the apartment where Terry Lynn should be moving into this week, I hope. Will be nice to have some things done and settled. Though I have learned at long last that you can’t rely on a Gemini person. Both Terry Lynn and my brother have the same birth date and both make commitments and don’t seem to show up for them, quite often. Maybe it’s just me being a bit hard on them about it cause I’ve been the one sitting around waiting for them to show up.

Still, it’s one thing to be late and yet another bag of cats to not show up at all. Maybe a phone call a day or so later, maybe. Kind of annoyed about my birthday. Both of them made arrangements that we would go out for my birthday and neither followed through on that. I made a pot of macaroni and cheese with tuna for Graham and I instead. Not quite the birthday celebration I had been expecting after all the talk about going out.

I’m not saying anything to anyone. I guess that is my problem and part of the reason it keeps happening. But, I am learning not to sit around and wait. Of course, being stuck taking the bus doesn’t help. At least I’m making enough money that I can take a taxi if I want to and not be left without grocery money. If I’m careful about it. No getting around to look at the old houses for photos and that is getting under my skin. I really did want to see them by snow.

Can’t find my books about web design/ XHTML either. I have looked and looked. I hope they are not thrown out by Graham on one of his “you have too many books” things. Those were expensive books and I really do use them, when I can find them.

I have a lottery ticket to check. I always hope to win so I could finally buy a nice little house of my own and finally live somewhere. Not having to exist somewhere between being a vagabond and a tenant. Graham still has itchy fingers to get into my bedroom here (my only space that is sort of mine) to repaint, finish the wall trim and assorted other things I’d rather not think about. So I still haven’t bothered to really sort things and put them away since I will only have to evacuate all over again when he wants to tear up this room. I’m glad it’s not today, at least. Be glad for small things.

Also, he is dropping me off at work today before he leaves Steve here to construct and renovate. So I’m not waiting for a bus or paying for a taxi at least one time out of many. I really was hoping he would have time for me to take the car to Zellers so I could pick out a hair colouring package of goo. I seem to have decided that the grey has taken over too much of my head and it must be made to pay for it’s crimes against my emotional satisfaction in the appearance of my crowing glory. In short, I’m fed up with looking at the grey littering my chestnut curls.

A mini addendum to the man stalking… Last night at work Sarah said she had been talking to him and asked his age. He is a bit younger than I am but about the range I had figured he would be. He did not tell his age, funny how men really are more worried about their age than women are. I think that’s how all those stereotypes about women and age began. It was men trying to make themselves seem less age obsessed by spreading it over to women as well, trying to at least. Most women I have talked to don’t feel concerned about saying their age, whatever the number may be.

Anyway, I told Sarah I thought the man stalking was over. You can’t hang your heart on your sleeve for a guy who can’t even thank you for a Christmas card. Sarah said maybe he is just really shy. Maybe he is. But, I will likely never know 100% for sure, it doesn’t seem that he is shy. Then again, I don’t appear that way either and yet I can be.

Just sent a nice email to Sherry to see if she would like to come out on January, 2nd. She would know about the hair colouring goo so I could make a good choice about what colour and which brand to try. Really has to be easy to use as I don’t want to make this into a science project. Will be annoying enough to figure out what to do once it begins to grow out. Funny about Sherry how she has a career (a career as opposed to just a job) and makes lovely amounts of money, she is a nice size and well dressed, everything you would think a woman could want. She takes trips, has a house now and her own car. But inside she is not confident and doesn’t feel great about herself. It still surprises me on some level that so many women who seem to “have it all” don’t feel strong and confident all the way through. People can so easily project themselves and appear different from how they really feel. It’s a good thing and yet… I know cause I do it too.

If I didn’t I would have devolved into a shut in/ recluse/ hermit/ bag lady by now. I hope Sherry comes out. I really do like to see her. Knowing who she is versus who she seems to be just makes me like her all the more and I really admire her too for all she has accomplished. Too bad she can’t feel that way about herself. Maybe she does sometimes but not enough that it has soaked through to make her feel confident and strong all the time. I think that is partially why she is still with Graham cause he does get a bit on the abusive side with his demanding ways. He isn’t who he appears to be on the outside either though. Very complicated isn’t it?

Be Your Own Lion Tamer

Some days you have to be your own lion tamer. Be the one who cracks the whip at yourself, even if as you growl menacingly and threaten to scratch your own eyes out. Be brave. Face yourself. Make yourself get to work whether you like it or not.

Pay day is today. Always makes it a bit harder to go in there for the shift. I’d rather be out there spending some of that freshly gathered loot. I want to buy a pair of walking boots for winter wear. I need to return the modem from my old Internet account and call Bell to attempt to get one of those monkeys to fix the account this time (it’s only been since July that I’ve been trying to get the monkeys to fix it). I’d rather take my camera and go out into the wide world, maybe in the general direction of Peterborough this time. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to take photos of old houses and have a road trip today?

Sure it would. That’s why you just have to be your own lion tamer some days. Get yourself doing the things you don’t really want, care or feel like doing.


Stone Daffodils

I was at the cemetery this week trying to get some photos. But, most didn’t turn out well. I had some that would have been nice if it hadn’t been so bright outside and made them all look washed out. Others were a bit out of focus which seems to be something I need to work on. It doesn’t show as much when taking photos of old houses cause they are so big. But, close ups need to be in good focus. Maybe I didn’t get the view finder thing on just the right spot or maybe my arm moved a bit too much when I snapped it. Anyway, I will work on it. I am even slightly considering getting a newer camera. Mine is antique when I look at the new ones out there. Even on a site which sells refurbished electronics, mine is selling for under $100, way under. Sad how electronics are so quickly here and then gone. They have such a short life.

I really liked these stone flowers. It’s late for the big breast cancer push though there seems to be a second one in October too. But, they turned out fairly well and the rest of those photos aren’t likely to survive on my hard drive.

Centsless Grrl

I am back again. Took off to Newmarket for a few days. Some babysitting. Took a bag of books to the Newmarket used bookstore but they couldn’t take the non-fiction until the end of the month when they are able to get the store owner’s approval on them. That seems to happen most of the time I take books there. The paperbacks were all fine. Only a couple they chose not to accept. That was nice cause it gave me enough store credit to pick up 5 paperbacks in the Sherrilyn Kenyon series which I’ve been getting very much into.

People are coming to look at the house, with the idea of buying the whole thing not just renting the upstairs this time. So I should gussy up things and give the floor another wash. I keep putting it off. I just got home an hour ago and I’m really tired from not sleeping much and my hands are kind of shaky from not eating anything so far today. I’m going to cook up a chicken breast once the house lookers have gone through. They are due any time from 5 to 6:00 tonight.

I saw the best place for some photos tomorrow. I was walking into the stairway for the Museum subway stop, I don’t know just which street I was dropped off at though. But, there were two old houses which had all the windows boarded up in order to be heavily renovated or totally knocked down. I don’t know which. I didn’t get a really good look but I’m planning to get there tomorrow with my camera batteries fully charged. Luckily I have the bus pass for the month cause I am really out of funds otherwise.

Short Burst of Running Away

I ran away today, just drove awhile without a real destination (or reliable window wipers should it start to rain). I ended up in a tiny town called Hockley Valley. I only stopped cause there were three things in a row that perked my curiousity. An art gallery just re-opened by Laura Berry (I’m a Laura), a really cute/ country looking grocery store and lastly a huge winding hill dead ahead on the road.

I wanted to drive that hill, knowing the car would have its little protest. But, first I backtracked for the art and groceries. I ended up buying her calendars (2004 was being given away for a few bucks and I needed something for 2005). She turns out to be just a bit older than I am and from Scarborough originally, same as me. Kind of a strange co-incedence. I liked her art, the colours and watercolours of old houses. She really has a knack for drawing anything wooden, brick wasn’t as good.

I read her bio. She has an ideal life which was kind of depressing. Married to a firefighter (usually strong, cheery, easy going kind of guys), living in a cutely renovated old house, 3 kids, making a career out of her art/ passion. I wasn’t feeling a lot better when I left the gallery but it did seem that I was supposed to be there today. Too much of a co-incedence otherwise. It’s not like I get a lot of days to just go driving around and today was her grand opening.

The grocery store was only cute on the outside. Inside it was pricey and one of those places you just know are grabbing tourist bucks and laughing to the bank. I bought a fancy jar of ginger & lime jam for my Mom. I got a coffee but it wasn’t hot enough and seemed to be the end of the pot as my cup wasn’t really full yet the coffee stopped pouring out. Have you ever had the pot do some kind of coffee fart into your cup? I wasn’t amused. But I drank it, with too much cream even.

I drove home, not taking that big hill. Thinking too much. Now, I’m here. Back where I started cause no matter how fast you are, you can never run from yourself.