Wednesday, December 2, 2015

View From Inside

For six months of the year the garden is seen from inside the house. The view out the window is the main way to enjoy it. Even in summer, being in the house but connected to the outdoors is important.

Our house has big windows across the back (north) side of the house that look out onto the patio and back yard. Those large windows give us a great view to the outside.

The middle set of windows is the breakfast area off the kitchen. The table has always been centered in front of those windows. The problem is that the space is only 6 feet 8 inches wide -- windows on the one side, kitchen counters not even 7 feet from the windows.  We could get a standard kitchen table in the space, but with chairs, you could not walk by it.

On top of that, the porch door opens to the breakfast area and it's the only way to the back yard, so all traffic into the kitchen has to negotiate around the table, sidling by it in the few inches to spare. We pushed the round table all the way against the windows and only used two chairs of the set, and it was workable, at least for two people, but for the 11 years we have been here it has been annoyingly cramped.

After Thanksgiving, when tables had been moved around to accommodate a crowd and the house was in general disruption, we decided to do away with an eating area in this tight space and started moving furniture around.

We brought the desk out from the den, put it in front of the breakfast area window, and suddenly this narrow space is manageable. There is room to walk by as we go to and fro to the back porch and outside.

The biggest advantage, though, is that I suddenly feel connected to the garden. I spend a lot of time at my desk. Facing a view, I am pulled out into it even as winter arrives and everything looks bare now. In summer I'll sit here and work while I supervise the hummingbirds. In spring I'll watch the daffodils come up while I pay the bills.

In fall I won't be a be able to do any work at the desk at all, since this is the view from the window.

It isn't just that I am sitting facing a view now; somehow having the desk against the big window brings the view in even when I'm not at the desk. I think it's because the desk with items in the foreground frames the scene.

It's the same effect I have in the other big window at the back of the house -- that's the bedroom, and having a dresser and some items on it in front of the garden scene outside frames the view. This picture from last winter (no, we haven't had snow here yet) shows what I mean.

The desk in the kitchen now creates that same visual stage for the garden outside. I'll need to keep the stray mail and paper clutter down, as that's not going to enhance any view out the window if it piles up.

I like it. There's enough room to walk by now, and a pool of sunshine to sit in while I read my e-mails in the morning and watch the birds.

A bonus feature is that the small den is much less cramped with the desk out of there; now it's a TV room.

And where did the kitchen table go? We put it in the reading area in front of the bookcases. For the first time we can use all four chairs, and there is enough space to walk around the table. It looks like it is supposed to look. We need a rug.

This area is right off the kitchen to the other side, so it's still convenient for breakfast and lunch, but it's essentially an extension of the living room. The main living area is all one big open space, and the kitchen set is a little casual, even though I don't have a very formal living room. There is a separate, large dining room that we use for dinners.

The kitchen set in the main part of the house gives me a cafe vibe, which I'm not sure about.

The problem for the displaced table is lighting. Without a pendant light over the table it is dim on all except the sunniest mornings. It's the interior of the whole house, away from the windows. When it was the reading area I had two chairs and a reading lamp in front of the bookcase. Now the table, out in the middle of this area, is completely unlit and the whole corner is dark at night.

I put the bedroom table lamp on the bookcase (for some reason there is an outlet inside the shelves). But it's not enough. With high ceilings and an open floorplan, it's hard to light this house. The builders tried to push a system of can lights installed in the ceilings, but we thought it was too expensive. Now I know why they recommended it -- lamps don't illuminate much in a 10 foot tall space.

I added a floor lamp with a pretty butterfly shade, and mostly it lights the corner but not the table, and heats the thermostat, which it is right in front of. Lighting needs a lot of work in this area.

I'll figure out the lighting somehow. For now, I am sitting at the desk, watching the birds outside who are carrying on right in front of me as I try to type this post. It's cold, it's sunny out, and I have a great view from inside.

Awfully distracting, though.

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