Apr 30, 2014

Returning underground #3

Mission accomplished.

We have reached our target. And now, after a few days of rest, we finally have enough energy to write about it.

Most of the heavy digging and wheelbarrowing was completed on Saturday. On Sunday we continued on our own and eventually managed to fill up the pallet. The rocks and organic matter were ready to be transferred away.

Full load 

Inside the bunker, the desired depth had been reached. The space was finally ready for the next step.

About 50 cm below the line

One of the greatest efforts on Sunday was the transfer of a huge block of concrete. By utilising perhaps the same approach than the ancient Egyptians used when moving stones needed to build the great pyramids, we managed to haul the monster onboard.

Nearly there

The pile of old casting wood is waiting to be chopped to be used to warm up sauna. The sight is far from pretty, so we try to take sauna baths as frequently as possible in order to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Firewood to be

In addition to the junk mentioned before, the bunker also generated five monstrous bags of waste which does not fall to any of the above mentioned categories. Lovely.

Various type of waste

The weekend was nice and warm, so there was some inevitable evidence generated by the preventative measures to avoid dehydration. 

"Lonkero" - the drink of choice

Lastly, before cleaning up the tools the walls and remaining rocks were vacuumed to get rid of the dust generated during the process. After about 12 hours of work also on Sunday the job was finally completed. 


Pekka preparing the walls for painting

One should not be too hasty. As always, we encountered a "but", and this time it was a major one. There are some gigantic pieces of rock laying detached on the main rock bed. Due to their size (the largest one measuring 150 x 120 x 60 cm) and somewhat unstable positioning, the formation is dangerous, and thus needs to be removed before we can continue any further. So the whole next week we will have a professional team drilling holes to this monster and its smaller counterparts in order to fill them up with our dear friend - expansive mortar.

Loose pieces

Very unstable formation

Undoubtedly and unfortunately we did cause some distraction to both of our neighbours in form of noise and dust, but curiously enough we did not manage to scare off a fox living nearby. Very bravely, it sneaked to its stash to get some food for its family. Needless to mention both Sofi and Urho were quite excited observing the event from the living room window.

Sneaky fox

Apr 26, 2014

Returning underground #2

The power of teamwork was proven once again today. We made fantastic progress, a lot of junk was hauled out from the bunker. A light year ahead from where we started. Therefore, this post is really dedicated to all our fantastic friends - Juha, Janne, May, Teemu, Tiina, Matti & Rasa - who help us to make things happen. Again, we can't thank you enough.

Cleaning the cleaner

Digging deeper and deeper

As we are in Finland, of course in these kind of events the day ends in sauna. Instead of using the normal firewood to warm the sauna, Pekka cut up some of the old casting wood we had drag out from the bunker earlier. Talk about recycling.

Man and a chain saw

All team members got to experience the weight of granite. Sometimes it took one, sometimes two or even three people to move the stones. And even then there were a few which remained in place waiting for some professional help.

Power girl

Doubling up

Three men and a very heavy piece of stone

And while some stayed in the bunker digging, others were running up and down the hill with a wheel barrow. The third essential function was the quality team, whose task was to ensure the discarded materials ended up on the right pallet, and if necessary, make the proper adjustments by moving material from one pallet to another.

And the dwarves dig deeper and deeper...

Up, up, up the hill we go!

Quality checker

And this is how the far end of the bunker looks at the moment. All the junk has been removed and the desired depth to start laying the foundations for a cement floor has been reached. We are extremely happy, but also extremely tired. So off to bed we are to gather our strength for one more day, quietly thanking Sofi's grandmother for taking the little human alarm clock for an overnight trip during this weekend. Aaah, the bliss of a good night sleep!

Bunker panorama

Returning underground #1

It is time again to shake the ground. The Underground Weekend sequel has officially been launched. Wised up from the last time, we got two separate pallets, one for rock and other organic matter and another one for cement and brick. Rock and organic matter is good for land fill for free, but there is a charge on every brick and piece of cement. So the incentive for detail exists.

Not one, but two

Last time the team was very effective, but there were also a lot of learnings. One of the key learnings was to equip properly. For example, being able to breath is a key thing. So we were prepared with some heavy-duty breathing gear and a pretty neat vacuum system to suck out the dust from the underground space.

Serious breathing systems

Vacuum creating a negative pressure

The "dust worm" 

There must be something really primitive in these kind of heavy-duty, dirty projects that appeals to our friends, as again we were fortunate to attract a great team to help us. As the night went on, the pieces of granite for bigger and bigger. The scent of testosterone was quite evident in the dusty bunker.

Team effort

Quite soon we started to see some results, in other words revealing the granite under the junk. The plan is to clean it, wash it, and the build some storage shelves on it.

Brushing the rock

As Pekka has noticed earlier, granite is heavy. The largest pieces required the effort of two people to escort them out safely.

One of the biggest pieces of the day

The progress made already during the first night was amazing. The top of the granite bed is already clean, and now we can start focusing emptying the floor. In order to be able to build the foundation for the cement floor, we need to dig quite deep.

The very final shot of day one

But based on the energy and drive of the first day, we know we can work wonders during the remaining two days, and clean the bunker. Before rushing back underground, we want to take our hats off and express our sincerest gratitude for the Friday night team, Timo, Jouni, Olli and Janne.

You already know we owe you big time.

And - let's start a little competition. Take a guess how many tons of junk we'll be carrying out this time? The closest guess gets a small price. You can participate by commenting your guess under this post.

Stay tuned! We'll be here the whole weekend!

Apr 20, 2014

Easter puzzle

It was a bit challenging, but Minna managed to drag Pekka out from the bunker for a few days. To prevent him sneaking back immediately, we took a little road trip to central Finland to visit Pekka's parents. The three hour car ride went surprisingly well.

Sleeping traveller

Every family has their Easter traditions. Some like to hide chocolate eggs, and others perhaps enjoy some mämmi (a traditional Finnish Easter dessert). To Pekka's delight, her mother had arranged him a special Easter surprise. Who cares about Kinder eggs when you can have a restored, unassembled Eames Lounge Chair instead?

Eames pieces

So, needless to say Pekka was more than happy to help his mother with the assembly. She had already treated all the wooden parts and had some of the ripped leather replaced. Once assembled, the chair will look amazing.

Happy Easter to all of you! Stay tuned for some underground action next weekend!

Apr 17, 2014

Hard & Heavy

Remember a while back when we spent a weekend carrying 16 tons of junk out of the underground bunker? Well, that was only the first part. The second part and a few more tons will follow in a few weeks.  

Before that, there was just one problem waiting to be solved. Namely, a large piece of rock sticking out from gravel and blocking the wheel barrel passageway to the deepest part of the bunker.

Tip of an iceberg

Of course, the magnitude of the problem had remained a mystery until Pekka started removing some gravel around the rock only to reveal the extent of our challenge: approximately two meters in length and one meter in depth. And subject to demolition as quickly as possible. 

The problem

Naturally, it was again a case for our old friend, expansive mortar. Last time, about 3.5 kg was enough and very effective. This time, 15 kg would be needed to cause enough damage.

The solution

There are just a few minor "buts" in this matter. First, to do the work, the entire 15 kg of mortar needs to be inserted into the rock. In theory this is very simple: you drill a hole and pour the mortar in. However, applying theory into practise leads to the second critical "but". Everyone knows how hard rock is. Yet there is a huge difference between knowing something and actually experiencing it first hand yourself. Also, all rock is not the same. Limestone would be a walk in a park but our home happens to lie on a bed of granite. Lovely.

The driller

So from plans to action. Pekka took of a few (vacation) days off work. The neighbors were given flowers and an upfront apology. A new tool for the job was purchased. Last time we rented, but this time we thought to be smarter. Why to rent if you can buy a piece with nearly the same cost?

First series of small holes

Very smart and dear friend once said: "If you have to drill a hole in solid rock and need to rent a drill make sure to turn down the first one they offer and ask to size up a step instead." Well, this piece of wisdom seemed to have slipped out of our minds temporarily. Instead of sizing up, we bought a new yellow toy, broke the socket and burned three drill bits. Only then we eventually gave up and rented the right tool. Quoting Benjamin Franklin: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn", this is a lesson including serious involvement. Consider the lesson internalised.

The correct tool to drill big

And why is it that every time something gets stuck? Something to do with Murphy's Law? Or just a regular coin toss probability? Or can we perhaps find an inverse correlation between the jammed drill bits and hours of experience in drilling?

The mandatory jammed drill bit

To make a long, painful and frustrating story short and straightforward, during the last few days altogether 32 holes were drilled. This took about 15 hours of continuous drilling. And granite is hard. Painfully hard. Fingers crossed there is no need to drill any more holes, that we would be done with destroying granite. But before emptying the space a bit more, there is no way to know for sure.

So, fingers crossed.

Snap, crackle and pop

Apr 14, 2014

Coupé by Joe Colombo

As we currently have "all in" for renovation, the process of acquiring vintage pieces for our home is temporarily on hold. That being said, postponing purchases is one thing, but letting such a mid century jewel as the Coupé light pass when bumping into a very reasonably priced specimen in an auction would be unforgivable. Simply put, this is the rationale why last weekend, a Coupé was allowed to move in.

The Coupé was designed by Joe Colombo, one of the brightest stars among the Italian mid century modernists, for Oluce in 1967. The light is part of the permanent collection at the MoMA in New York and in 1968, it won the "International Design Award" from the American Institute of Interior Designers in Chicago. The floor lamp (3321), just like its little sister, the table lamp (2202) provides direct light downwards and they both have adjustable, semi-cylindrical reflector in stove-enamelled aluminium. Similar to the reflector, the base also has identical finish whereas the stem is made of chromium-plated steel.

Coupé next to a rosewood credenza by Arne Vodder

Cesare "Joe" Colombo (1930-1971) devoted his short life for painting, sculpture and design. In the 1950's and 1960's, he belonged in an exclusive group of talented Italian designers who demonstrated to manufacturers how effective design could help them to better market products internationally. Achille Castiglioni, Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass, Mario Bellini and Joe Colombo were the central figures who with their work created a phenomena today known as "Italian design". The tragedy, of course, is the sad fact that Joe Colombo passed away as a result of a heart failure on his 41st birthday. One can not help but wonder what the world of design has missed due to this unfortunate loss.

Tilting reflector 

But back to the floor lamp. The general condition of the light is quite good. Given it is old it of course has some normal wear and tear typically found in vintage items. The base has some minor issues on the enameled finish and the reflector has a small bump. Considering, however, the action described in Kids, Dogs & Design it won't be the last hit this light is likely to receive.

Signs of life

Lets wrap the Coupé intro up with a very particular "behind-the-scenes" shot which would make Ivan Pavlov proud. Urho's behaviour during the photo shoots has been discussed before, but as it now seems to be approaching a standard-operational-procedures rather than being just an occasional anomaly, it is worth mentioning once more.

So, take a look at a typical photo session set up here behind the Olive Green Window. Laying on the floor is an auxiliary light, this time the AJ Floor lamp, providing highlights and reflections to the item being photographed. Next to the light lies the assistant - our beloved dachshund. Without an exception, the moment Urho hears the camera shutter sound he immediately approaches the scene and positions his lengthy figure in the centre of all action, knowing that afterwards there will be a commission. And let's be specific here regarding the format of the commission. It is indeed a treat, not a bone. We all know the risk with bones and trying to hide them under carpets and between pillows...

Assistant on duty

Apr 12, 2014

Kids, Dogs & Design

According to Jerry Seinfeld, "a two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it." Indeed, we could not agree more. Add a dog, and the chaos will multiply exponentially.

Since the very dawn of the Olive Green Window, people have asked us the critical question: how does one manage to mix kids, dogs and design? Now after some years of trial and error, we would like to take the opportunity to show you a collection of photos of every day situations (divided in five categories) in which the miniature members of our pack interact with design. Afterwards, everyone can draw their own conclusions regarding this interesting topic.

1. Marks and scratches
In vintage items, marks and scratches are one clear indicator separating vintage from new. Rather than seeing those as unequivocally negative, we'd like to regard such imperfections as inevitable makings of time, as signs of years passed. That being said we do not mean that we would not prefer a vintage piece in good over poor condition, or would not like to take good care of these items. But being fond of vintage, one needs to have a sufficient tolerance for imperfections.

Serious paint work on the 82B table top by Alvar Aalto

Along the same lines, with kids and dogs one needs to have sufficient tolerance for newly appearing marks and scratches, both permanent and temporary by nature. Most of our daily meals (and all of Sofi's painting and drawing) are enjoyed around the 82B table by Alvar Aalto. Simply said, we love the fact that its laminate top has proven to be practically indestructible!

Sometimes, especially when we are entertaining guests, we use the Tulip table by Eero Saarinen. The Tulip was found from an internet auction and therefore we did not have the possibility to evaluate its condition in a live setting. Once it arrived, it was immediately clear that it had belonged to someone with kids - the table top around the edges is covered with little (spoon?) marks. Does it matter? Were we disappointed? No, not really. It is still a stunningly beautiful table - with a story to tell for the diners.

Spoon marked Tulip

Hiding pens, pencils, markers and all other miscellaneous drawing / writing instruments is an active and continuous process. This preventive activity is something that one quite quickly develops first a skill, then an obsession. We all know it too well - the first day you let go and tune down the 24/7 monitoring, things start to happen in a blink of an eye.

Pencil marks on a brick wall

Of course, sometimes the most interesting things seem to happen on the other side of the door. In those occasions, if you are small and can not reach a door knob, alternative approaches might be tried to break the barrier.

Nail marks on the door

2. Invasion of toys, trash and other junk
We rarely buy new toys, and most pieces in Sofi's collection are recycled treasures or gifts from friends and family. This does not mean her collection would be somehow limited. On the contrary, the pieces are numerous enough to populate the apartment quite densely. We try to keep most of them in Sofi's room, but she has very cleverly and conveniently managed to maintain a toy station in the living room around the Cadovius bookshelf. And as most nights she fails to have sufficient interest in organising them in a proper manner, the Lego blocks remain on the floor just waiting to be stepped on.

Endless battle against the invasion of toys

Urho can be also very creative with his interests, especially when spending time at home alone. The sight below is not uncommon, if something as interesting as for example household cardboard is left by the door waiting to be carried out. Urho takes the corrective feedback like a dachshund - with a miserable, apologising face but not really understanding how something so entertaining and fun could just not be common practise!

It used to be my playground

3. Missing essentials
Most vintage furniture collectors know that one of the most important factors determining the value of a given item is the condition. For us, the concept of condition includes for example materials, upholstery, finishing, original labels - basically everything tangible there is to be considered in a given object. Considering the exploring nature of kids, the sustainability of condition should never been taken for granted.

Something wrong?

As an example, there is a short story to be shared. A while back Pekka witnessed a curious moment in the dining room. On one of her explorations, Sofi had been crawling underneath the Cherner chairs around the Saarinen table. In a very systematic manner she had made her way from one chair to the next one and ripped off the original Plycraft labels attached underneath the seats. All Pekka could do was to bite his lip, accept defeat, and collect and store the random pieces those precious labels in a safe place. 

Original Plycraft label - ripped off

Where it was

4. Knocked down in action
On a frequent basis and as no surprise to anyone, things get knocked down. For example, the day it arrived the Toio floor lamp by Achille Castiglioni got knocked down resulting in a broken bulb. Luckily Sofi, the person responsible for the knock down did not get crushed underneath. Day two the Toio moved in Pekka's office.

And as the photo below indicates, the Toio is only one of many knocked down items. 

AJ (on the) Floor lamp

5. Explorations
During the last 1.5 years, we have focused all our energy and funds on the (endlessly) ongoing renovation project. Basically, this also means that we have had to postpone some of the ongoing restoration projects, one of them being the first generation Eames Lounge chair in the upstairs living room. The chair is in desperate need of new leather upholstery as the original has extensive cracks. The ripped leather has not, however, stopped us from using the chair. Quite contrary - the chair is in use every single day, as it has no structural problems. 

But as always, there is a catch. The ripped leather creates an easy access point to see what hides inside. And for one of us, this seems to be an open invitation to explore the inner parts of the chair. And even more miraculously, some filling from the arm pad has been removed and spread on the living room floor. Any guesses?

Entry point into the first generation Eames Lounge chair

Despite of being a very civilized representative of his breed, Urho also has his primitive moments. Often times, when given a new bone, he treats it like his ancestors when they found food and were not instantly hungry. The excess food is to be hidden well to save it for later consumption. In these occasions, Urho will first sneak around the rooms as long as he finds a suitable hiding place for his treasure.

A dog with a bloody snout

Then, he will place the bone in its hide and try to cover it. Unfortunately, unlike dirt outside in the nature, a fabric or carpet is not "transferable" in the same way than dirt is. As poor Urho does not understand this, sometimes his persistent but unsuccessful attempts leave a visible evidence on site. Fortunately, we had just covered the Toot Sofa by Piero Lissoni with a white sheet, when we came across the sight below. And fortunately, just like the sheet on top, the sofa covers are removable and washable.

A well hidden bone

So, how to conclude or thoughts around kids, dogs and design? Based on the selected examples above, and also reflecting to some key principles of functionalism, we would like to summarise as follows:
  1. Remember, it is just furniture. Yes, it might be vintage. Yes, it might be design. But it is still just furniture. Marks and scratches are marks and scratches at the time of purchase. Afterwards,  it is magically transformed to patina. And even in the case of complete disaster, nothing is irreplaceable. The world is full of junk. 
  2. If a piece is too precious, leave it. If something is too valuable, too fragile or too special, you already know NOT to get it. However, if you still can't resist, consider how it would look for example in your office. Alternatively, you might want to postpone your purchase for another 10 years. 
  3. Be smart when choosing materials. Match the material with the intended purpose. Choose durable materials which are easy to clean and maintain. In other words, the key driver has to be the intended function. Anything completely impractical is just waste of time and money. And investing in quality material pays off. Even with significant wear and tear, a quality material grows old with grace.  
  4. Get yourself the right cleaning tools and be prepared to use them often. Nowadays, almost anything can be cleaned. You just need to find the right detergent and choose the right approach. And if we are talking about walls, a new coat of paint won't take too much time. 
  5. Provide sufficient distractions. As long as kids and dogs are busy doing other things, they are not busy damaging your vintage furniture or drawing on the walls. Provide them distractions. Hang a painting board in their room. Build a huge sandbox on the backyard. Include them in your projects. Anything goes. Just keep them busy. 
  6. Enjoy your home. If you like where you live in, not everything needs to be perfect. The eye is a wondrous thing. It gets used to small imperfections really quickly. Every scratch adds to the character of your piece. 
  7. Relax. Don't take it too seriously. With kids and dogs, things happen. Again, it is just furniture. Again, the world is full of junk. 
In the end, it is a home, not a museum. The most important thing is to enjoy the shared moments. Afterwards, the good ones make you smile, but the disastrous ones at the time make the most memorable and entertaining stories!