Friday, September 25, 2009



Our 1955 Cliff May mid-century modern house is a delight to live in. But with Jerry's impending retirement, we need to convert that middle bedroom from a paint-splattered, fume-ridden mess of a painting studio into a sleek, modern office for two. That's not so hard – empty the room, scrub the floors, paint the walls and move in a bookshelf unit and two side-by-side desks with chairs. The perfect place for me to write and live in the cyber world and the perfect place for him to, well, do whatever he wants. My PC and his MAC, living in peace and harmony and the excitement of DSL, with a comfy reading chair (that Plycraft Eames-style lounger and ottoman!)

But where would I paint?

Well, I explored the idea of an offsite studio in the Arts Colony, and Terry and Rolo Castillo of the da Center for the Arts made a couple of very generous offers. Susie Eaton of Bunny Gunner Gallery even called a property owner to check on studio rentals and Vincent Blue sky of Blue sky Gallery and Steve Ruiz of Blue Core Gallery both steered me to a possibility, too.

After a short 3-week hiatus, I was painting again yesterday and realized that I don't want to leave here to paint. I like painting in these beautiful surroundings with the plants and pets around me. I like hearing the cacophony of the birds. I like painting in my nightie, the bathroom only steps away. I like it that my kitchen, with its little drinks refrigerator, is right here, offering cold water and a whole lot more.

We have been collecting the Cliff May window and glass door sets that people who don't know better throw away when they exchange their beautiful original construction for the abomination of vinyl windows, cheap curved-light doors and stucco over the beautiful redwood board-and-batten siding of these lovely homes. I can't stop anyone from turning their Cliff May into a stupid-looking stucco box imitation of a bastardized Tuscan villa, but I can collect the priceless pieces of their discarded architecture.

So we have decided to construct a studio in the back patio out of these items. It will keep the beautiful Golden Mean proportions of the house, with a facing area ten feet wide and a depth of eight feet. We will utilize a beautiful original glass door set and a window set on the 10 foot north facing-the-pool wall, allowing maximum north light into the small space. (Well, it will be roughly twice the size of the area I paint in now) With another of the 5ft. window sets in the east facing-the-patio wall, there will be lots of natural light. A slanting roof with – hopefully – clerestory windows, will allow more light. And I am looking at the possibility of a translucent corrugated Lexan roof for even more diffused natural light.

Add to this a wrap-around little deck on two sides and electricity for lamps, nightlight, small energy-saving Japanese air conditioning/heating unit and maybe a CD/MP3 player, and I think it will be perfect.

I could buy one, of course, if I want to spend $8,000 - $45,000. And they are very beautiful. Companies like Modern Cabana, Metro Shed, Studio Shed and Modern Shed offer gorgeous prefabricated modern studios which they construct on your site.

But I like the idea of matching my house, re-using materials from original Cliff May homes and building exactly what I want. Not to mention cost. I think we can build this – with some expert help – for less than $3000. It might take a while, but I think the result will be wonderful. I will post pics of the progress as we go.

Here's the site as it is now. The main patio is to the right, and there is a perfect concrete slab for the studio here (not to mention good light)

And here is what will be the view from the front – see how the view is an echo of a door set and window set? That's the Master Bedroom, with a bamboo obstructing the right hand window set. Doors & windows are each 5 ft wide.

And here are a couple of pictures of similar structures, but you have to imagine the door-and-window combo that we will use.That one on the left is closest in design, I think.

They are all very pretty, and I will take inspiration from them

Lovely fence on this one...


The new mystery short story is coming along – I have the set-up and the characters, and there is a delicious little twist. But I'm struggling with the plausibility factor – sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but that just makes it unbelievable, so it can't be used. Sometimes you gotta make stuff up to make it sound real.

The Short Story class will become a reality in Pomona – Terry Castillo and I will get together soon and nail down dates, format, etc. Maybe we need an introductory talk and a workshop. Maybe a couple of workshops…hmmm…this could be a lot of fun!

In the mean time, for great programs with other published mystery authors, including several hot short story writers, check out the free programs offered throughout the Southland by the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. They are the best at getting readers, writers and interested (and interesting!) parties together for a time so good it should be criminal.


Rescued architectural elements. It might look like old junk cluttering up my drive, but it's pure beauty.

Jerry getting his 30-year pin at Cal Poly Pomona. I listened in awe to his biography – I had no idea he had done so much.

Friend Leslie Cole came over for lunch and brought grilled salmon and salads from Dr. Grubb's in Claremont. Wow. It was terrific. We had a great afternoon talking about everything, but especially about this beautiful Millard Sheets designed house in Claremont that is for sale.

Be careful out there.


Joan said...

Brilliant! Or maybe I should say glowing with north light. Of course you don't want to leave that special property. When you need to paint, you don't want to shower, dress and drive. Making a paint shed from Clif May components is inspired. I can't wait to visit you there. I hope there will be a soft rain falling when I do.

Kate Thornton said...

Joan, thank you for your poetic words - you are welcome always1