Watts Style, Chapter Four: The Laguna Lintel

The Greater Star of Dollar Tree

The first post on the 55 Laguna bedroom mentioned how my style was closest to Simon Rodia. Not so much in what he did but in how he did it. Taking a general idea then figuring out the end result as it was worked on.

One small homage was made to Watts Tower though above the closet door. There I’ve affixed jewel-like bits of glass found on the street. “Jewel-like” if you’re accustomed to buying gems at Dollar Tree or Goodwill.

The Lesser Star of Dollar Tree

I’ve blogged before about despising the Safeway on Market but, like it or not, it’s the cornerstone of the hood. Their corporate philosophy is not to do what’s best for the customer but rather to see what they can get away with. The same can of pumpkin that is $1.49 at Whole Foods is $4.29 at the Way. Shelves are always unstocked, the restrooms are filthy. The City is gentrifying around them and they are stuck in ghetto mode.

Still, I do go there late at night or for staples. You can get money orders for a dollar plus the change machines come in handy.

Once after a successful day of panhandling on 6th street, excuse me, after emptying out my coin jar, I picked up a couple of items and went to use the voucher at checkout. The clerk said they could no longer cash them, only the office could and they were closed. Other than being consistent with Safeway’s desire to constantly inconvenience the customer, this made no sense.

A few days later I went back to cash the voucher and asked the office why they couldn’t be redeemed when checking out. The clerk said it was the way the Manager wanted it.

“The Manager may have made the decision but what’s the reasoning behind it? What do you gain by doing it this way?”

I was met with a blank stare, her brain frozen in lemming mode.

Safeway’s slogan was once “since we’re neighbors let’s be friends.” Today it’s “since we’re neighbors you must be a shoplifter.” Items of even middling value are locked up and the onus is on the customer to find someone with a key. Good luck.

One Sunday evening I waited 20 minutes in the bottled goods aisle. I rang the bell, asked four different clerks, listened to repeated pages, nothing happened. Finally I went to the end of the aisle and shouted “For the fifth time, will someone please help me in Aisle 10?”

The customers standing in the four of 12 lines that were open stared at me both offended and with admiration. On one hand they couldn’t believe I could be so rude. On the other, I gave voice to what they all were feeling. As the neighborhood has quickly learned, the most dangerous place on earth is standing between me and a bottle of vodka.

The Most Insignificant Star of Dollar Tree

It was a walk through the Safeway parking lot one night that inspired the lintel. If there’s one thing you can count on seeing there more than rats it’s broken glass. Glistening in the moonlight I picked up part of a smashed bottle seconds before the stampeding rodents could get it.


One thing I’ve learned in decorating is a new appreciation for clutter. At ground level it’s annoying as you try to maneuver around it. But I only have a small chest, a chair, and a bed on the floor of my room.

In dealing with 12 foot ceilings it seemed foolish to leave half of the wall space bare. Clutter above your head is not physically intrusive. It’s just something to look at.

W Magazine taught me years ago space is the last luxury. To that I add: use it wherever you find it.

The best way to experience my bedroom is on your back, lying squarely on the mattress. You can take it all in that way.

Watts Style, Chapter Three: Velvet Resistance

Cacti by night

The biggest obstacle in doing the room was getting the draperies right. Part of it was the mechanics of securing them into a wall. It was a constant guessing game in this old building of whether I was dealing with steel or wood studs, drywall or concrete. There’s nothing like the sinking feeling of an anchor plopping out of the wall when you try to screw into it. This will hold 30 pounds of fabric?

The other component was placing existing draperies in a room they were not designed for. I wanted to reuse the eight foot long black pair from my bedroom in Mother’s Indiana condo. My ceilings are 12 feet high.


Coachella Cacti two years on. Thrive.

I’ve previously blogged about these velvet warriors but, to briefly recap, they are an art deco swirl fabric that had not been manufactured since the 1930’s. To prevent the Nazis from melting the huge production drums and using them for ammunition, the French Resistance buried the dies in the forest. It was an effective job. They went undiscovered for seven decades. Around the Millenium they were found and used again in production.

Cut velvet for the free world.

The original idea for the new installation was to create the illusion of longer panels with a two foot cornice hiding the space between the rod and the ceiling. That left a two foot gap at the bottom to be hidden by furniture. It was a messy solution.

There’s nothing to be gained by pointing fingers or trying to assess blame in a one-man project, but the quality of the execution was severely lacking. As the year progressed I watched the cornice warp, come off its supports, and sag. It looked like the trailer trash vicious rumors say frequent this room. And it was depressing to live with.

Then it occured to me that the fake-out should all be at the bottom not the top. So I raised the draperies to the ceiling and constructed a shelf that runs the length of the room. The hem of the cut velvet now stops at a faux window sill as god intended.

To hide the rod (a favorite bedroom past-time) I used a single row of Aalvar Aalto black dots. Below the new sill is additional shelving for the unending stash of books. And for the daily ephemera generated by the busy life of an unemployed, social security recipient.

When peafowl cry.

My budget constraints were alleviated by the discovery of an architectual salvage yard in Hunters Point. They seem to make the prices up every day depending on which clerk you ask. I bought three planks of wood, a half dozen four foot glass shelves and 16 brackets all for $18. (For emphasis I reiterate: I live in San Francisco.)

Emboldened as an urban survivalist, I now forage the bowels of the city jonesing for an interior decorating fix. With some success, as will be seen in an upcoming post on the wood slat blinds I spotted on the curb. They are being transformed into crown moulding for the kitchen.

I’m satisfied with the overall effect of the art deco velvet in my bedroom window. However, although I don’t mind accepting limited praise for my gumption, any attempts to closely examine the workmanship will be met with an armed response.