In praise of the rectangle

It’s a beautiful Sunday here at Biohazard Manor.*  “Sundays with Sinatra” is on the hi-fi, filling the house with music… coffee is brewed, and Jack is cooking up a whole bunch o’ bacon.  So it’s time for a long-overdue update, with a feature of the house we’ve been meaning to highlight for a while.

When this house was rebuilt in 1957, the owners were really purposeful in every design element they chose for the renovation.  Being the design geek of the relationship, I love how certain colors, fixtures, textures, etc are pulled through from room to room.  It really pulls the house together and makes everything a cohesive whole.  And one of my favorite design elements they used is, for lack of a better term, rectangles with lines coming out of each side.

You can see it best in the rumpus room built-ins:



Is there a name for this pattern?  I’ve seen it every once on a while in mid-century design, and I have no idea if it’s actually called something other than “rectangles with lines coming out of the sides”.

Anyway, it’s in several other places in the house, too.  Like the back door:


And it was even used in the structure of a privacy screen in the powder room:


So much fun!  Which brings me to a little sneak peek we’ll give of one of the design choices that we made ourselves.  I’ll back up for a sec.  As we were choosing wallpaper for the different rooms in the house, one thing that was completely stressing me out was the dining room.  I felt like I was getting pulled in a bunch of directions — I really wanted something in a medium gray, to tie in with the stone wall that’s caddy-corner across the open living room…IMG_0808

But then, when we were replacing the thermostat on the dining room wall, we uncovered a sliver of the original wallpaper underneath the unit:


OMG, gold foil and velvet flocked wallpaper!  Just as crazy as the wallpaper in the bathrooms.  I didn’t think I could bring myself to put something that wacky on the dining room walls, but it would be great to choose a design that was a nod to the original.  Thus began a weeks-long search for the perfect dining room wallpaper, and it’s amazing that 2 walls’ worth of material could drive me so crazy.  Jack and I tore apart every wallpaper book in Sherwin-Williams, with no luck — everything we found was too wacky, or too boring, or too dark (it’s amazing how much dark charcoal wallpaper is out there)…  and I Googled like there was no tomorrow, using every possible search combination I could think of: “mid-century gray wallpaper”, “gray foil modern wallpaper”, you get the idea.  When I had just about given up, I did a Google search (and I wish I could remember the word combo I used) that pulled up an image that stopped me in my tracks.

Hey, wait a minute…


It’s the rectangle pattern in our house, just going in the other direction!!!!!  It was perfect — a not-too-dark gray to complement the stone wall in the living room, with a little bit of shine to give a nod to the original gold foil and velvet wallpaper.  The paper arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been dying waiting for our painter/paperer friend to get around to the dining room and put it up so I could see.  Finally, he finished it this weekend, and I’m so excited!  I asked him to hang it horizontally so it would exactly match the recurring pattern in the house:



I know this is totally jumping the gun, that when most people blog about their renovations they do a big before-and-after reveal, but I have no patience so I’ll post a peek now.  Here it is from far away, which makes the pattern seem more subtle:


I’m so happy with how it’s turning out.  Now granted, we have no furniture or decor for the dining room, so the paper is all that will be in there for a while.  But I’m so glad we were able to pull those rectangles in, in a fun way.  And again — if anyone knows if there’s an actual name for that pattern, let us know!

*Yes, we’re still calling it Biohazard Manor, because it seems like every hour we’re discovering yet another surface that needs to be scrubbed.  We figure we’ll finally finish it all once we’re ready to move in 30 years.

And the baby birds are starting to nest.

Howdy to our new readers!  We know a number of you found us through our interview this weekend on No Pattern Required…  thank you to Eartha Kitsch for the fun interview about the progress of our renovations.  We are so happy that so many people appreciate this crazy house and the work we’re putting into it.  And we’re loving your comments and questions!  Yay!

What a whirlwind of a weekend!  We are officially moved into the house, but only in the sense of “most of our stuff is now in this physical location”.  There’s not a whole lot of unpacking we can do, because every room is in a different state of completion, with none of those states being “Done”.  Each room needs paint or wallpaper on some surface, so we can’t put our clothes away (because the closets need paint) and we can’t push any furniture against the walls or hang pictures (because the wallpaper isn’t up).  We can’t eat anywhere except the kitchen counter, because the middle of the kitchen is filled with a ladder and paint cans and all sorts of other painterly stuff.  My home office is the closest to being completed, and even that will be a couple of weeks before it’s 100%…  it was the first room we got up and running so I could work, but the decor is still in progress.  So we’ll have office pictures up as soon as we can!

But you guys, it is so wonderful to walk into this house and smell paint and carpet!  Finally, “stale ashtray” is not the dominant scent.  The place smells, dare I say it, clean for the first time.  It’s glorious.  There is still a ton of nicotine to tackle *weep*, but we’re getting there.

Jack had his hands full this weekend.  Everywhere we turned, there was another “little” need that he had to tackle, that ended up taking up a huge amount of time.  Our first night in the house, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to plug in our coffee maker in the morning because all the kitchen outlets were still 2-prong…  rather than plug in an adapter, Jack wanted to do it right and make the outlet a grounded 3-prong.  Which took him down a 2-hour rabbit hole of wrestling with old wiring.  Then he had the mammoth task of getting the house ready for our cable installation.  Oof.  Obviously, since this house was done in the 1950s, it wasn’t built with cable TV as a consideration.  Somewhere along the way with the previous owners, whoever installed their cable thought it would be best to drape the wiring all over the roof.  I wish we had taken a picture of it before Jack made it right…  but the roof was basically a spider web of white cable, with splitters all over the place.  I have no idea how Jack made it right, all I know is he spent a good chunk of Sunday in the attic and when all was said and done, the wiring was inside and we were ready for our modern connectivity.  🙂

While Jack was making sure we were caffeinated and connected, I spent a chunk of time unpacking what I could and, I know you’ll be shocked, cleaning a bit more.  One of the cleaning tasks I tackled was one of my favorite little features of this house — the Tap-Lites!


I had never seen these things before, but man are they fun.  With regular light switches, if you want them to coordinate with your walls you have to paint them (which means drying time) or wallpaper them (again, drying time).  With Tap-Lites, their cover plates pop right off and you can put some wallpaper or other colored paper right inside and pop it back on the wall.



So, so easy!  So I spent a few hours scrubbing the nicotine-d and smudged Tap-Lite covers, and on some of them, replaced the decorative insides with wallpaper.

But not the bathroom ones.  Love that foil wallpaper!  🙂


These suckers are hard to come by, so Jack has been buying them up wherever he can find them.  If any of you have an “in” on a Tap-Lite source, we’d love to know about it so we can keep extras on hand.  If any of them break over the years, we’d love to replace them with another Tap-Lite instead of a normal boring switch!