Done: Put in Sprinkler System

Part of redoing the entire backyard was making sure our atomic ranch had authentic mid-century landscaping with GRACE and the other, more practical, part is making sure that everything we do stays alive and looking good.

So before we lay down the new grass we put in a sprinkler system. Grass does pretty well in our yard because there's a good amount of shade, but this is Austin so you have to be sure every inch gets water in the summer or spots will die. So this sprinkler system ensures that.

And because there's always one problem on a big job like totally redoing a backyard, so we predictively ran into a bit of an issue. There was an old plumbing permit still active on the house and we had to get that permit inspected and closed before the city would inspect and approve the sprinkler system. That meant tracking down a plumber who worked on the house sometime in the '90s (when the old permit was from) or hiring a new plumber to look over the work, fix anything that might be wrong, open a new permit and then get both permits closed. Luckily, I was able to track down the original plumber and he was nice enough to come out with the city inspector and get the work signed off on and get the permit closed.

All in all, it only cost me a few hours on the phone, but it set the project back about a week – waiting a few days for the inspector to come out, waiting a day for the old permit to clear so the landscapers could their permit, waiting for the second city inspector to come out and approve the sprinkler system.

In the end, it could have been worse, and I suppose it was kind of a good thing. I know for sure that there are no more open/pending permits on the house and I know that the plumbing of the house still passes inspection.

Done: Remove Tree Stump

What once was a giant tree stump became a medium-sized divot in the ground, with flags in it so no one twisted an ankle. That divot was then filled with dirt so grass could soon grow.

Besides grinding down the stump, the crew cleared out the area behind and to the side of the carport, and then put down a weed barrier and river stones. This area was just a mess of mud, random weeds and accidental scrubs (aka weeds that grew to the size of bushes years ago).

Done: Remove Wood Walkway, Ground Lights and Stones

Once the professionals get involved, things really get moving. In a day, the old boardwalk has been completely torn up.

The ground lights that once spotted the yard and all the electrical have been removed.

And the stone that filled the yard has been hauled off. The two remaining plants will be transplanted to a different area so this section can become all grass.

They also smoothed out the bumps in the terrain and graded it for proper drainage. It's a bit odd that a dirt lot looks better than the old yard, but even in this condition, the yard is already improved.

Done: Remove Fence Around Hot Tub

This is what our backyard looked like when we moved in. 

Then the nandina on the left grew like the bamboo that it is, weeds started coming up through the stone, the hot tub in the back broke and the boardwalk started to show it's age. Plus, we wanted a place that our kid could run and play, and a boardwalk, hot tub and stones didn't really fit the bill. So we decided our next big project would be to totally redo the backyard. 

In the first weekend of work, I got this done.

The second weekend, the rest of the fence sections came down and I started to remove the boardwalk. 

That's when I realized that there were about 20 screws per board in the boardwalk and no easy way to pull out chunks at a time. Plus, we still had to figure out what to do with the hot tub. That's where craigslist came in.

I put up an ad for a free broken hot tub and four frat boys and a pickup truck showed up the next day and took it away. I'm sure it's living in the basement of some nearby frat house now. Next I put up an ad for free wood to whoever would remove it themselves. The next day, a guy, a dog and a pickup truck showed up and removed about 75% of it.

Then we called the professionals. We got a few bids and picked the company that best understood the aesthetic we were going for. Their crew was able to do this in a day.

I can't wait to see what they get done in the next week.

Retro Kitchen Wall Clock, Red and Mint Green

I was looking for something totally unrelated and I happily stumbled upon this retro kitchen wall clock. If you measure it out, it's smaller than you think, but it could work perfectly over the sink or fridge. And it comes in both cherry red and mint green, so that's enough to add it to any retro kitchen.

Beeswax Votives in Religious Candles

I love beeswax candles, but I don't love the look of a boring yellow candle sitting on my mantle. On the opposite side, there are few things as graphically interesting as religious candles and the glass jar can be used over and over. And, as a bonus, they'll usually only run you about a dollar or so. 

So, buy a few religious candles, melt the candle down till you can fit one of these these beeswax votives on top and use it as the best beeswax candle holder out there (and probably the cheapest beeswax candle holder too).

I think they look best in a cluster. I need to add a few more to my collection, but the end result is something like this.

And because beeswax candles are pretty expensive, you really only need to burn one votive at a time. You can leave the rest unlit and they'll still look impressive. 

Alexander Girard ABC Blocks

There are already some great Alexander Girard kid's toys, including some very expensive ABC blocks. Now there are some much more reasonable Alexander Girard ABC blocks available. It's 10 blocks, but of course all 26 letters are accounted for, and on the remaining sides, you also get some lovely Girard designs.

Mid-Century Inspired Dresses and Clothing

The fall and winter holidays are coming up quick, which means dressy dinners, fancy parties and giving gifts to significant others.

Lucky for everyone ModCloth has an entire wardrobe full of 1950s fashion and they kindly separated it into its own section for easy shopping.

If you want that perfect Mad Men look for your holiday party, I'd start at ModCloth.

Vintage Maps Turned into Art for Travel Nursery

They haven't been for sale for a while, but over at Elizabeth St. repurposed vintage world maps are turned into rich, original art for a travel-themed nursery.

The elaborate folded flower design would make for a great splash of color on any white nursery wall.

And there's also simpler pinwheel design that really let the map itself shine.

Hopefully Elizabeth St. will bring back their folded map art soon. Travel nurseries around the world are a little less bright without them.

Sculptra by Broyhill Premier China Cabinet for Sale

If you're out furniture hunting this weekend, there's a Broyhill Premier Sculptra china cabinet for sale in Austin. 

You can find the craigslist ad for it here.

I'm mentally moving around furniture at my place to try and find room for a piece like this, so you'd better hurry if you want it.

Bright Mid-Century Paint Colors at Vilas Zoo

I took a trip Madison, WI a while back and stopped by the Henry Vilas Zoo, where I became enthralled with the Jack Lussier Conservation Education Pavilion.

I love the bright mid-century exterior paint colors of the sun rays (or sunrise depending on how you look at it).

For me, this is exactly the type of building and design that should be at zoos, museums and the like. It's so perfectly retro and it shows age and interest. It's the type of thing you remember 20 years after a middle school field trip.

Mid-Century Art: About 1,400 Pieces Found

I love mid-century art and I do my best to promote the love of art in general, in any small way I can. Today, that small way is making sure everyone who reads this mid-century blog knows about the treasure trove of art found in Germany, including previously unknown works, and the unfolding story there. I'm obsessed and you should be too.

If you're not, let me try and sell it to you in one sentence: Authorities found over 1 billion dollars worth of art, possibly including lost master works, in a small apartment in Germany that belonged to a man who was the son of a Jewish man working for the Nazis, who saved these pieces from fire or stole them from other Jews, or both.

You can see a very small gallery of select works here. And read more about the story on BBC, NPR and the Times.

It's a complex, mysterious and interesting situation. I'm sure there's more to come in the next few days, weeks and possibly years. And I'll be obsessed till the end, which is probably when the movie will come out.

Mid-Cenutry Austin Hotel: Villa Capri

Villa Capri Hotel must have been a pretty swank place back in the day. It had a great front enterence, 275 air-conditioned rooms, conference rooms and two swimming pools.

And a restaurant with some pretty sweet Sputnik chandeliers and interesting orange chairs.

Sadly, it closed sometime in the 80s and that great big mod wall behind the grill probably got torn down with the rest of it.