Sunday, January 31, 2010


Seating for 8 (+1)

This was actually a very productive weekend. It feels great to start off with those words. Weather-wise, this time of year is a bit of a crapshoot. After being waterlogged for a week straight, it was great to have a rain-free week. I really wanted to use this opportunity to get a lot done. I was able to finish assembling (and staining) the second matching bench. Additionally, I cleared an area by the pool for the new bamboo, leveled / tilled the courtyard planting areas, and finally installed a new toilet which has been sitting in a box in my living room for the past year and a half.

Below are the completed benches. I've very pleased with how they came out. As it stands (or sits), I've got seating for 8. With the lounge chairs completed (coming up!) I'll have room for 10.

Seating for +1

I've had a Toto Carlyle toilet sitting in a box for the past 18 months in my living room -- mainly because I've been a bit intimidated by its non-standard installation process. This toilet is about as nice and you can get without spending obscene money and treading into the territory of rapidly diminishing returns. It's not just pretty, it actually has a number technological improvements over lesser toilets. Among those, is a special installation system that allows the same toilet to be used with 10", 12", and 14" rough-in locations. This is important as my two bathrooms don't share the same rough-in size. And so with great optimism my new toilet journey began.

The optimism quickly faded after removing my old toilet. With the view below spread before me I began to rethink whether I really needed a new toilet at all:
The Toto "UniFit" rough-in system is really quite ingenious. However, it's also very non-standard and requires drilling into the concrete slab. Drilling into concrete is easy and I've done it many times before. Drilling ceramic tile is not, as I discovered. One might think a masonry bit (which works great in concrete) would also with ceramic tile. Nope. And I spent an hour making very little progress, other than turning my drill bit red-hot, until a ventured out out to Home Depot and discovering there was a special bit for drilling through glass and ceramic tile.

Oh, here's some more funness with installing a non-standard toilet. According to Toto, the water supply valve should be at least 8" off from the center line of the toilet. This is not typical and many houses have 5" offset supply valves. I measured mine and got 6.5". Measuring on the toilet, it looked like it should just work for me. On top of that, remember how I mentioned the toilet has interchangeable attachment plates that let it work on 10", 12", and 14" rough-ins? My rough-in measured 11.5". Per the installation diagram, there was a 3/4" gap to the back of the wall. So, I basically figured I have 1/4" to spare. Between that and the supply line I wasn't comfortable drilling into the slab without having certainty it would actually fit.
It ended up fitting. Now that's it in and flushing, I have to see I'm very impressed. It's the best flushing 1.6gallon toilet I've ever seen. It looks great as well. I think the straight sides not only look great, but will be much easier to clean versus the typical toilet.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Fun with SketchUp

I thought that by now just about everyone had heard of Google SketchUp. However, a friend of mine mentioned that he didn't know what it was. In short, it's a free piece of software that let's you design and visually represent your ideas. Unlike normal CAD software, it works far more intuitively, doesn't take very long to learn, and is free.

Anyhow, this is the design I've settled on:
I really like the side profile:
The "Photo Match" feature is one of the greatest things about SketchUp. It lets you mix reality and rendering. In this case, it's great to see the new chair design will integrate really well with the bench.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Sta-in Out of the Rain

We have a really funny relationship with rain in Southern California. We need it, but we don't really like it. Subsequently, we get news of a mostly wet week and people talk about like it's time to start loading the Ark. Anyhow, even I caught the rain fever and begin to think it might be weeks before I get work outside again. Subsequently, I wanted to finish the staining.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. Now I just need to build another one. Some people have asked for details on the legs:

Next is a modern reinterpretation of the Adirondack chair in the same design language. With the rain this week I might have time to draw something up in Google SketchUp. The hardest thing about a lounge chair is getting the ergonomics and proportions right. I've already started researching seat to back angles and the like.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Progress...sort of.

I'm making some progress. One thing interesting is how you evolve your process when building things. So far I've built 3 of these legs. The most recent leg is by far the best. Below is a picture of the jig I made to help line up the pieces and make my marks for the cuts.
I also gave them a quick sanding and applied two coats of weatherproofing stain. I did do a test piece but I think I forgot to shake the can because these came out a lot more orangey than I expected. I think I might get a quart of "naturaltone" to go over the "cedartone" (aka: oompaloompatone) to try and tone it down a notch. Below is a mockup of the positioning. Obviously, I need to build a second one. With the lounge chairs I should have seating for 10.

Sunday, January 10, 2010



People need places to sit. It's a fact of life. Too often in landscapes you see the ubiquitous "seating wall." I've never been a fan. Does anyone ever look comfortable when you see them on a seating wall?

I resisted the urge and decided that I wanted something more defined and permanent. I've always envisioned the courtyard as an alternative living room rather than a landscaped garden. To that end, I needed some couches.

Outdoor furniture has become quite popular...even Walmart sells it. If you want
contemporary and reasonably-priced, however, your choices are pretty limited. I looked at things like what you see below....over $2000 (at WalMart!) and I wasn't even particularly fond of the style.

So I decided to try building something myself. It would be considerably less-expensive, unique, and hopefully closer to what I want. It's easy to say that out loud. But around 10AM this morning I was staring at some lumber with the dark realization that I needed to turn it into something I could it on:

I found a basic design online, here, and went about modifying. The angularity definitely plays off elements of the house. I'll be using a wood-tone translucent stain to tone down bare douglas fir.

Here's how I ended the day. Tomorrow I need to make another leg, add the seating surfaces, and stain / seal them. Then make a second one.

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