I’ve been trying to come up with a mantel design for the front room. Ugh. We have a local cabinetmaker who said he would follow any drawings I came up with…so I’m working on coming up with.
There are several design problems:
1) The opening is huge. In order to fit the stove in with all the necessary non-combustible clearances, the alcove is seriously enormous.
2) The mantel is underneath a good 15+ feet of “stone” “chimney”. Yes, it is all fake and it is floating unsupported very blithely right now, but I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to houses and I want this mantel to look substantial enough to support said “stone” “chimney”.
3) The “legs” of the mantel are long and want to be spindly. I have 6″ of width for sure. I might be able to push it a little wider, but it starts to interfere with the opening of the cabinet door on one side. The mantel needs to appear solid and weighty (see #2). It threatens to look bird-legged.
And then there are the personal shortcomings:
1) I am not an illustrator. I draw well from life–things that are already there–but do poorly rendering things I cannot see.
2) I can look at a drawing that I have done that has very little information and fill in the gaps. This is fine when I am drawing plans for myself, but I think it drives my husband a little nuts when I show him a drawing and he doesn’t know what I am talking about, like this.
3) When I’m building, I adjust the design as I go…to make up for the things I didn’t consider when I was doing the drawings, aesthetic issues that became apparent in 3-d, my ignorance of normal construction techniques… My husband and I were talking about this lately, that perhaps I would have been happier and emerged with significantly less debt and more useful knowledge if I had gone to trade school or apprenticed myself to a cabinetmaker instead of going to art school, but I never considered that back then. Oh well.
Then there are other considerations such as COST, to paint or to stain (though I’m thinking I’m inclining to paint lately), and then the positively dizzying array of corbels, overlays, capitals, pedestals, rosettes, etc, etc any of which or none of which could be included in the design. At times I just think, “I will just choose and do my best to draw something that I think will work ok and just not worry if it’s not perfect”, but then I start to add up the expense of it all again and I am back to agonizing.
I am also agonizing over flatware. My parents bought us a set that was far more than adequate for our family at the time, but now is no longer. We are tired of the squabbling (“I want a big fork!” “There aren’t enough!” “But you gave yourself one!”) and want a set that will allow the entire family a big fork, perhaps even with a couple to spare. Of course, I got online and started reading reviews. Without exception they went like this, in nearly equal numbers:
5 stars: We have had this set for 30 years and it still looks as good as the day we bought it. Highly recommend!
1 star: We just bought this set 2 weeks ago and there are rust spots all over everything! Don’t waste your money!
A little poking around revealed that about 90% of flatware manufacturing has been moved to China since those 5-star reviewers bought their sets. Serious quality issues have followed. Current patterns still manufactured in First World countries are very limited and expensive, so I started looking into vintage sets on ebay. I think I can say without exaggeration that there are a ton of old Made in the First World sets available and I think I have looked at all of them. The trick is that there are no current reviews on these (I really want something with substantial weight–that will stand up to this crew) and the photography is often lacking (does that set really look awful, or does it just look awful photographed while rubber-banded together in semi-darkness on a dirty tablecloth?). The good thing about this decision is that the price point is significantly lower. I think it’s time to stop agonizing over this one and get everyone a big fork. Maybe it would even be a good project for Master Electronics(11) to shine them up when they arrive. Some polishing compound and access to my Dremel tool could make for a happy boy.
I can only stand to work on this type of house stuff for so long before I have to go find something else to do–too many options and I hate committing and spending money.