January 18th, 2016

Home Making: Programming

The first step in designing our new home started before Hurly and I had even sent over a purchase agreement to the lot’s listing agent. Our architect Kristine e-mailed over her firm’s Programming Guide, which was a fourteen page questionnaire Mark and I had to each fill out separately, describing how we wanted our home to feel, and how we needed our home to work.

Filling out my Programming Guide was perhaps the most Shannon Beador experience of my life so far – having to indicate whether I’d be requiring any bedrooms in my home for live-in help or a second kitchen devoted to caterers. (No, and nope.)


To call the house we’re building “Our Dream Home” is feeling increasingly uncomfortable, or maybe incorrect. I think because the term “Dream Home” suggests some gaudy, Theresa Guidice-like trap, with wine cellars on every floor and bluetooth-enabled waterfalls out every window. Where opulence and overkill are the things of which Dream(home)s are made of.

But, having been thinking about designing our own home for four years now, and using that time to carefully study how Hurly and I live and how we could live better, for us the Dream isn’t about shock value or size, and its as much about what we won’t have as it is about what we will have. For us the Dream is simply to have the exact amount of rooms and space we need to do the things we love doing often. No more, no less. And to imbue enough wisdom and warmth into every space so that they invite and urge you to enter and use them regularly.

Our intentions of humble economy, however, are sometimes challenged by the nature-blessed grandeur of our lot. It’s at the end of such a cinematic road, nestled in such a friendly neighborhood, set on such a woodsy little plot between two such sparkling lakes; so I often feel this lot of ours deserves a certain level/style of home that we might not have needed to reach and rise up to had we ended up building our home on a more ordinary, flat, suburban-style street.


There’s a pressure and a challenge to create a home humble enough for just Hurly and I and our budget, and yet earthy and abuse-proof enough to accommodate guests looking to roam our golden woods and dip into our silvery lake. The lot needs the home to be rustic, and yet there is also the desire for it to look refined – and I think that was the main revelation of completing our Programming Guide.


In less-esoteric terms the guide revealed were aiming to construct a 3 or 4 bedroom/3-ish bathroom home with a good kitchen, a walk-in pantry, a fireplace or two, a bright room to live in, and a dark room to kill Mario & Luigi in. A place where we could play boardgames and a closet to store them all in. A space for Mark to make miniature models, maybe some human-sized furniture, and a bunch of dusty messes. A patio/deck or two was on the wish list as well, and at the last minute we contemplated adding an outdoor soaking/hot tub to our wish list since I’m half mer-male.

Those were the basic building blocks of our home (plus an informal dining room) that we’ve been using the past month or so to assemble our home’s initial floorplans. Only a few things look like they won’t be making the cut, so far.

So – so far, so good!

    January 7th, 2016

    Home Making

    There’s many things Hurly and I have loved about living in “Tudor Mansion” the past decade. But within the first year of having settled in we started looking for our next home. Every few years we’d connect with a realtor and visit properties in batches of thirty – but nothing ever lived up to the warm, cozy glow of Tudor Mansion.

    In 2012 ago we started to wonder if the only way we were going to find another home we loved was if we built it ourselves. Which was an exciting prospect at first, but then terrifying.

    Having spoken with architects numerous times the past couple years, and continuing to peek at pre-existing properties, we became more and more certain of our desire to design our own home, and carefully collected the funds to be able to cost-consciously do so. (Instead of going on a proper honeymoon or seeing Madonna in concert for a third time, etc.)

    All we needed to move forward was a good lot of land. So then we didn’t and couldn’t move forward for forever, because a good lot of land in the central Twin Cities isn’t a cheap or easy prize to find. We walked well over a hundred lots. From Edina to Hopkins, from Bloomington to Chanhassen. Lots of lots are a bane or banal, and almost all lots are expensive. We wanted something a little woodsy, with a little wiggle room, that wasn’t way far away from Minneapolis, and which we could afford. Which is to say, we wanted the completely impossible.


    And then, on an electric October Saturday, as I squinted, half-blind into the sunshine (having just survived eye surgery the week before) Hurly drove me off an ordinary suburban street onto a wondrous little road. Golden maple trees towered around our car as we weaved higher and higher into a hill-topped hamlet. The homes, nestled down into the slopes below the road, were cozy and classy. There were white, wooden fences, and the un-wide road narrowed even further.

    “I feel like we’re in Vermont or something,” I told Hurly. And then I was about to say, “Like we’re gonna show up at the inn in White Christmas!” Except before I could spit that out we neared a For Sale sign that read “Deeded Access to Christmas Lake.”

    “We could live next to Christmas Lake, Hurly!” I happily cried, since a lake named for Christmas seemed like the most magical, Bing Crosby + Hans Christian Andersen-y place I’d ever heard of. But that For Sale sign was for a different, tear-down property, and so we continued further along the golden-wooded road toward an empty lot that, I think, was number one or two on a list of probably eleven lots we’d chosen to look at that day.

    “I think this is the lot,” Hurly eventually said as he parked our Prius across from an acre-deep hill overlooking some distant, blurry-to-me water. Our initial feelings on walking the lot weren’t giddy or of the “We’re Finally Home!” variety. Having visited so many snooze-worthy or secretly-cursed properties, we had both become skeptical and jaded about even the loveliest of lots.


    But there we were, on a hill-topped Vermont-y road just across from Christmas Lake, on an acre’s worth of golden forest looking down onto another, smaller lake, on a lot we could actually afford.

    We were more or less in paradise but, as the hardened lot-hunters we had become, after walking the grounds, half-smiling, for ten minutes, the most glowing review we allowed ourselves to muster was, “Well, this seems promising.”

    A few more plot points went stressfully down after that for fifteen days or so, but fast-forwarding without any sort of spoiler alert: We’re buying our Vermont-y lot and have been working with our architects Kristine and Bob since December to design a home as happy and magical as the land ‘n lake on which it will stand!


    The aim is to make this home our most treasured of Treasures, and so the story of its creation certainly belongs here on my off-n-on blog. I’ll share with you all I learn about bluff setbacks, and spiral staircases, and whether we save sacks of cents by successfully stripping chrome faucets to reveal un-lacquered brass finishes underneath. And you can guide or chide my choices along the way.

    Here we go!

    And here’s where the process all began. My four-years-in-the-making  Dream Home Inspiration Pinterest Board.

      October 9th, 2015


      Woolpower’s been spinning out its cold weather layering garments since 1972. I never heard of the brand, and then in one week I suddenly started seeing it on multiple webshops/sites.


      Each Woolpower garment is produced in the company’s Ostersund, Sweden factory where they know plenty about dressing for frigid conditions. As must Minnesotan me. Obviously not as warm as a long sleeve crew or their zip-up turtleneck, I opted to induct myself into the Woolpower world through their Base Layer Tee 200 since the length of its demi-sleeves seemed the most 1960s and Scandinavian.

      Woven with polyester, polyamide, and elastane these base layer woolens feel almost like a thin, open-weaved terry; and so softer than they are scratchy.


      Every Woolpower piece is sewn by a single seamstress who stitches a tag bearing her name into the finished piece.

      Woolpower NavyTee

      My nifty little navy number was fully sewn by Eleonor Lubell and knowing that makes me feel like I’m wearing a wink or a friendly handshake whenever I have it on.


        October 1st, 2015

        Pleasure Print-siple

        While waiting for our server to bring us our food at restaurants, sometimes Hurly and I play this game where we pretend GQ is demanding we each provide our own 10 Essentials list. The products/items/edibles we think are incredible and couldn’t live without.

        A slowly realized update to my 10 Essentials list would be the coincidentally named Essential T-Shirts from The Gap (always/only) in Heather Grey. They’re not too thick or thin, or short or long, or tight or baggy. They just read as classic, university athletics department-issued tops, and they look good ‘n guy-ish with whatever. Like the You Don’t Even Care At All type of whatever.

        The Gap isn’t exactly anyone’s chic little secret – but I’ve tried a lot of T’s in my years of me-ing along through my materialistic life, and these Gap shirts are the ones I ain’t got no complaints with.

        I order them with pockets, and I like them without (although, I’m panicking that as I go to post this they don’t have the seemingly permanent pocket-less version online in Heather Grey. Uh ohhhhh….)


        Last weekend I had Hurly help me punch up a few fresh Essential T’s with some screen-printed text that might look military or macho to most, but subversively has a dance-diva source of inspiration. (what about me doesn’t?)

        “We turned right and I said wrong which brings us to a stop” is the final clue before I usher you elsewhere to confirm my shirt’s music video muse.

          September 25th, 2015

          CAA Hotel: The Rest & The Restaurants

          The night we checked into the CAA Hotel, we spent but two minutes in our suite before sprinting back down to the lobby level to make our 9:30 dinner reservation at The Cherry Circle Room.


          There was squid-ink-tinted pasta and fish that felt like chicken. (Which was a definitive treat for pescetarians like us.)


          And mood lighting radiating from every direction.


          The antique heradlry banners added to the secret lair flare of the establishment – the symbols and motifs recurring in the embossing of the menu covers and stitching on the table napkins.


          Scanning the shelves around the S-shaped bar was basically like window-shopping a perfectly curated antique store.


          The built-in clock from the Association’s original restaurant was still ticking, if not a bit tarnished. Someone be a sport and buy me a book about built-in clocks in last-century public spaces, or at least start a Tumblr about ‘em. They’re everything!


          Since we were in Chicago to celebrate the ultra-successful launch of Hurly’s new computer coding school, and reward ourselves for the ceaseless weekends we’d all spent Allen-wrenching the campus into existence the past year, we asked for the Cherry Circle Room dessert menu up front. (And then, shocker – rushed down for malts at Shack Shack instead.)


          For breakfast, both days (cause Hurly and Kaya were so hooked) we took the elevator all the way up to Cindy’s Rooftop Bar and ordered family-size portions of pancakes and bagels with lox. In the club’s original days Cindy’s was…notably…um, nothing. Just a roof. But who needs history and decorative relics when you have a swath of skylights as your ceiling, and the maple syrup comes spiked with rum?


          Face-stuffing aside, the beds up in our suite had Faribault Mills blankets folded atop them and pommel horses stationed beneath them.


          The hallway art was often of fleets and always on fleek.


          Without a doubt, it was a truly winning visit to the windy city.


          I don’t or won’t leave a space/place I love without taking its energy home with me as ongoing inspiration. Since we returned home I’ve already picked up a set of old Indian clubs that look like they were sculpted from the planks at the fancy Shake Shack, and this weekend I’m coaching Hurly on how to recreate my favorite of the abstract paintings from the hotel’s drawing room.

          Souvenirs in spirit only are souvenirs even so.

            September 21st, 2015

            Chicago Athletic Association Hotel: Game On

            If slumping around, staring at chesterfield sofas isn’t enough action for you, there’s peppier fun to be had in the CAA Hotel’s Game Room.


            With pool and foosball and shuffleboard tables to take on…


            And an indoor bocce court that always seemed already occupied.


            I quite enjoyed the opportunity for some friendly competition, but still spent most of my time gawking at the green leathers, high-glossed tables, and built-in trophy cases the space had been spruced up with.


            Friday night the Game Room roared with the flirting of Tindr-trained hipsters and yuppies, but during the day there was plenty of peace and elbow-room to be found.


            The bar menu offered Cream Soda Floats and Raspberry Beignets(!) that our daily Shake Shack-snacking sadly prevented us from ever ordering.


            Just outside the Game Room is the Milk Room – which was given its name during Prohibition when whisky and rum weren’t wetting anyone’s whistles.


            Today, The Milk Room serves coffee and tea and donuts and such. I only ever got around to the tea, but I’ve learned from my mistake, and will go harder next time.

              September 17th, 2015

              Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

              It was a men’s athletic/social club built in 1893, now newly resurrected as a grand hotel, with interior design courtesy of the team behind the ACE New York. I mean, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t drag Hurly to The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel for an investigative getaway.


              The first floor of the building is somewhat of a gateway to the true hotel above, but retains the club’s original Euro-style tile and impressive marble stairways.


              Also at ground level, for public over-indulgence, is the most glorious and glossiest Shake Shack in America.


              Shakes and/or super malty malts were ordered all of our three days in Chicago. On the handout for the self-guided architour I later gave myself I learned that “What is now Shake Shack used to house the club’s Turkish bathes.” Definitely the best and most swoon-worthy sentence I’ve read in quite some time.


              To rise above the black + white shakes and get to the hotel proper guests take one of four elevators paneled with original court flooring featuring the old Fencers Club insignia. How’m I supposed to truly live now, knowing that old club is dead?



              Then the elevator doors open and you walk into a tartan and turkish-rugged wonderland.


              Lots of leaf-colored leathers, and electric Edison bulbs. The hotel’s a working time machine with just enough mid-century and modern tweaks to lead the eye back toward present day.


              I spent a lot of time just purring at all the swanky grandeur while Hurly and my sixteen year old niece traded amused glances at my decor-oriented rapture.



              But when a space’s fireplace is huge enough to incorporate two conversation seats within it…


              …and features wooden relief sculptures of century-old footballing brutes, how can you not freak for the majestic chic of it all?


              The morning after we arrived my niece’s allergies hit like bricks, so she and Hurly lazed up in our suite all afternoon. I didn’t mind having to entertain myself though. I hunkered down in the library-like room one step up from the hotel lobby and studied my favorite of the club’s decorative arrangements: large leather daybed, kilim pillow piles, and odd-coupled oil paintings arranged gallery wall style.

              Whole hours of my life passed, exactly like that.

              There’s lots more club to show, and I’m a gonna show it all!


                September 10th, 2015

                Fiele For Fall

                The bottles come tied up in earthy little satchels.


                And the labels are made of linen-y fabric, lending your dresser top tray an extra dose of luxe.


                I usually pick out a new fragrance for fall and this year I went with Fiele’s Pogostemon. It looks so rich, and with its Indonesian patchouli base it smolders with a spiced, camp-fiery scent perfectly mood-enhancing for the season ahead.

                Fiele offers four other wildcrafted and organic scents including Cedrus (cedar) and Myrrha (myrrh), but Pogostemon definitely had my name spritzed all over it.

                  September 3rd, 2015

                  I Shouldn’t Have

                  I almost didn’t buy it. It was a last-season, last-minute, add-on purchase that my wardrobe definitely didn’t need, and therefore I felt gun-shy and guilty about going for it.


                  But in person, on this person, it looks brag-ily cool and actually will probably get much more wear this fall than the initial item in my Uniqlo cart that I’d ordered with way greater gumption. The v-necked cardigan shape of it is neatly Japanese-y while everything else about the jacket is Maine-y and military and familiar. It’s lean and light and layer-able, to boot – lending it tons of versatility.

                  So, phew!

                  More and more I make fashion purchases with such a strategic, slow stringency. It’s a rush to remind myself that careless impulse buys can occasionally pay off as well.

                    July 30th, 2015

                    Dot Dot Dot…


                    The sun is setting on Unionmade’s spring/summer sale – but in the early dawn of its launch I took a gamble on a dice-like button-up collab with Gitman Bros. Vintage.


                    I made a conscious decision to buy way less clothes this year. I pre-permitted myself just four pieces for spring, four pieces for fall. (And a new coat and pair of shoes for each season.) I’ve more or less stuck to my limits so far, I’m shocked to report – and these limitations have helped me narrow in on pieces I’ll really need, will definitely wear, or are truly distinct.


                    So though I’m stricter and more sober about my sartorial spending these days, I don’t want my wardrobe to simply stumble into snooze-ville.


                    Organic cream polka-dots on inky, thick-linen-like material seemed an art-poppy way to plant some Brandon Flowers-style flair into my newly-parched purchasing habits.


                    Strutting around just one bolero-tie away from reading as a full-on Reno casino scenester is a risk I’m in no way afraid to make.


                    I try to navigate End of Season Sales by aiming for pieces that are gonna work as well, if not better, in the season we’re revving toward as opposed to the one entering the rearview mirror. The crispy duck-cotton-like thickness of this Unionmade x Gitman offering is almost too meaty for summer – it’s gonna feel fantastic, though, against the cool thrust of fall!

                      July 27th, 2015


                      Over the past year my Instagram feed has spun into an almost-solid column of images from ceramic artists. There’s so many talented designers pushing the medium of modern ceramics away from the mundane tea bowls peddled in farmer’s market pottery tents toward something broader, bolder, and more brutal(-ist).

                      The past months I’ve invested in quite a few pieces, ranging in price from $45 to upwards of $300. These are the artists whose output I’ve been most excited to bring into my home.


                      Bari Zipperstein’s drippy, un-hippie pieces are architectural, textural, and a little bit 80’s. I became a repeat customer right away.


                      Another L.A. artist like Zipperstein, Eric Roinestad’s work ranges from the graphic and geometric…


                      …to the organic and primitive.


                      The taller version of this red-clay Pinna Jar by Natalie Weinberger is my favorite find of the summer.


                      Jacob Cannon Wilson’s set up two etsy shops, selling two totally different styles of work. (Currently he’s sadly shop-less.) I bought a black banana vase in the same vein as this palm tree number for a hint of Afro-Cuban chic.


                      And arriving in the mail any day now is this asymmetrical bowl by local artist Adam Gruetzmacher. I politely pestered him for four months to make me a piece like the one pictured above. Pestering pays, let me tell you!

                      All the mags tell you to invest in up-and-coming artists whose work you admire and which might be worth millions some day. They usually mean paint and canvas type stuff, but I’m more keen on kiln-y creations.

                        April 2nd, 2015

                        Must Reads

                        It was a long summer drive from one side of Wisconsin to the other side, and so I decided to fill up some of the quiet miles by telling my family about a book I was working my way through and just starting to get the hang of. Life After Life.


                        The story tracks an unusual British girl named Ursula through various lives she could have led, or may have led, or did lead, in the ominous years leading up to World War II. As the story repeatedly resets both itself and when/where/who precisely our heroine is, initially the novel is a challenge to track and to attach emotionally to. But then once you do, you really do.

                        Every couple weeks I’d bring Hurly and my niece up to date on how Ursula had recently been living and dying, and literally every time I retold her unfolding tales to them, I’d have to pause for moments on end in order for my heart and throat to cooperate long enough to turn my stifled sobs into actual words.

                        My ceaseless near-tears weren’t so much centered around sadness in the story but around the humanity and warmth that radiates through the book no matter how grimly war and death continue closing in around Ursula’s world/s.

                        For deja vu and flukes and fate might haunt us all and lead us seemingly far off course at times, but Ursula’s soul has a compass, it becomes clear. Nothing can tamper with it for her (or, I’d like to now think, for any of us).

                        Life After Life is a thick, heart-throbbing mega-treasure and you must spend your April reading it!


                        The author Kate Atkinson, must’ve been as moved and inspired by the characters in the novel as I was because she’s releasing a sequel/companion story to Life After Life titled A God in Ruins which, if you do your assigned April homework, you’ll be ready for upon its release on May 5.

                        Ruins shifts the narrative focus to Ursula’s beloved little brother Teddy. I’m not sure if his life and times will reset, over and over, as Ursula’s did. Either way, he’s now coming to terms with a post-war life he seemingly was destined to never have.

                        I can’t wait to spend time with Ursula and Teddy and their friends and family again. There’s a dog running around their story too. It always gets named Lucky.