Small town longings

A Friday morning, the last in January this year. In the predawn darkness, I drive a variant of my usual traffic-avoiding route along Rock Creek and through quiet, wooded residential side streets in picturesque Chevy Chase. Last week, I noticed a short commercial block with a grocery store, pharmacy, barbershop, realtor, dry cleaners, and a café on the edge of one of those neighborhoods. This chilly morning, I turn back after driving past it, to slow the pace of the day, for a cup of coffee.

Inside the warm café, a counter with old swivel seat vinyl padded barstools on metal columns bolted to the floor, a handful of four top tables, a long chalkboard with breakfast and lunch menus stretching above an open griddle. A few customers waiting for breakfast, the sizzle of bacon and eggs. A small middle aged Korean woman, hair tied back under an indigo dyed cotton kerchief, busily cooking orders while her six foot tall son makes coffee and mans the cash register. No blaring TV. Something tugs at my heartstrings. I’m going to stay for breakfast.

I leave my silenced iPhone in my coat pocket and look around. A big sixth grade class picture outside of Chevy Chase Elementary School, and a poster for an upcoming local event hang on a wall. The woman deftly cracks eggs onto the hot griddle, popping two yolks with the edge of a jagged shell, leaving mine intact. Reaches up on a shelf stacked with melmac plates, quickly but carefully slides eggs, homefries, bacon and buttered toast onto them and sets them on the serving counter. I eat my breakfast and watch her work. Drop a tip in the jar by the register and place my used plate and silverware in a plastic pan next to the door on my way out. Back in my car, I drive the last mile to arrive, still early, at the office on bustling Wisconsin Avenue.

Working in Washington is a big adjustment for me after twenty years of designing in solitude in my airy studio. I enjoy my colleagues and clientele, and the projects are a welcome challenge, but the big city is, for me, cold and foreign. I long for the familiarity of farm country and small town. Today brought back a hint of what I love and miss.


Winter morning

Before sunrise, cold, quiet, and still. A long walk on a winter morning. Looking for signs of life in a frozen landscape. There is always beauty to be found. Life thrives in harsh climates and recovers from the most brutal storms. Weather is temporary. So are we.


Changing focus

For 25 years, I've focused most of my professional career on developing cabinetry and millwork systems for the custom kitchen industry. At the end of a four year series of projects for my most recent manufacturing client, I decided it would be invigorating to turn my efforts to working directly with homeowners and their architects and interior designers, using products that I designed for high end cabinet manufacturers.

Jennifer Gilmer Kitchens & Baths, founded in 1997 in Bethesda, Maryland has earned a reputation for design excellence and client service in the greater Washington DC region and nationwide, winning top awards year after year. Much of her work and a substantial portion of her showroom feature products I designed. Jennifer and I have known each other as colleagues since before she opened her business, and have collaborated on a number of projects.

It is with great pleasure that I have joined her firm, and look forward to collaborating with Jennifer, architects, designers, developers, contractors, and clients who seek to create rooms of distinction. I'm sure it's going to be fun. Best of all, I will continue to develop product, but at a different pace, and more immediately informed by daily experience with the clients who will use them.

Here are a couple of presentation renderings for the first project we're working on together.



Empty chair

Chairs are more than just furniture. They have personalities, through design, the wear and tear of service, and the familiarity we bestow upon them. They grow to be identified with the people whose favorite perches they become over time, especially in a family home. A chair evokes the memory of how it is animated, suffused with life when filled by the one who claims it. When that person departs, his aura persists.

Yesterday morning, I was stunned by the news that longtime friends of mine had lost their son just four days before to the ravages of depression and the terrible storms of mood disorder. It hit very close to home. This heartbreaking excerpt from his obituary, written by his mother:

"Mental illness is an obscure and solitary disease, society’s dark secret. It is a reality for one in five of us. Joshua battled his affliction every day and night of his life. Please help end the stigma. Support the struggle by kindly sending a contribution to the Mental Health Association of Orange County or to the National Alliance of Mental Illness."

The morning sunlight filtering into my quiet house. This empty chair, softly highlighted, floating in shadows. I imagine my friends sitting with their grief, wanting to comfort them, knowing I can't. They cherished their son, encouraged and stood by him in every way they could, but his illness eventually consumed him.

Theo and Joe, you honor Josh by sharing this. I'm moved by your courage. I know that his chair will never be empty.


8-1/4" x 11", 2B graphite pencil


Each day

Moments from two mornings. Mood and outlook leak into images on paper. Evidence of seeing and feeling. The desire and need to connect, musings included or withheld. How much to reveal; what to say, what to keep private. The anxiety of being judged or misunderstood against the loneliness and pain of isolation. Will what I post touch anyone, help someone to feel inspired, encouraged, or worthy? Find joy or wonder in the everyday, strength and determination when all seems dark, or simply the comfort of recognizing a kindred spirit in this bewildering world? I hope so.
morning glories, 6" x 7", 2B graphite and colored pencilsrainy morning, 8" x 11", Derwent Inktense colored pencils