Sunday, July 24, 2011

MINI Cooper - the newest member of our family

I promised myself that one day I would own another car just for me less dog hair and with all features working. Yesterday I bought a silver 2006 MINI Cooper convertible similar to the one below.  I pick it up domani (tomorrow).

Much like La Vespa, the MINI Cooper has lots of interesting history.  In 1959, the classic Mini was launched.  Small yet affordable, it soon became a favorite of The British Postal Service, police, and the military. By 1961, improvements are made by John Cooper and the Mini becomes the name in performance racing winning Monti Carlo three years in a row.  In 1968, the Mini could not pass emission inspections in the United States so sales here are halted and not seen again on American shores until 2002. When production of the classic Mini ceased in 2000, BMW (the new owner of the brand since 1994) announced the successor to the Mini. The brand name for the new car is MINI (written in capital letters), and it is commonly called the "BMW MINI" or the "New MINI".

50th anniversary Mini stamp
  In 2009, the British Royal Mail released a limited edition of stamps entitled ‘British Design Classics' that featured an original, Egg-Shell Blue Mini Cooper.

Vintage Mini, Italy.
Iconic photos to follow celebrating classic design.

Lovely drive in the country...

Convertible design.

Sporty elegance and style.

Mini classic.

Molto Italia (very Italy).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

La Bella Vespa

There are few things more traditionally and stunningly Italian than La Vespa (translation: The Wasp)... 

Here is the history...

In Nebraska, it was the Cushman motor company, founded in 1903, who began diversifying from the production of engines for just farm equipment.  So in 1936, this same company also produced the first motor scooter, even selling them as a product line in Sears.  Cushman were so successful and their manufactured product so sturdy and reliable, that during the Second World War, not only were thousands of Cushman scooters furnished for the U.S. Army in general but many were produced solely for use by the airborne regiments. These robust airborne scooters were then dropped by parachute along with those flying soldiers, those screaming eagles, right into enemy territory, right into the heart of Europe.

Toward the end of the war, the fall of Italy and the destruction of its road and rail infrastructure, meant that the need for adequate post war transport was a severely pressing one for the nation. Renaldo Piaggio, his once booming fighter aircraft factory now destroyed, crippled by the severity of a post war economy and the severe restrictions placed on a defeated nation, had to take his manufacturing skills elsewhere. Piaggio then, turned his eyes on the obvious transportation needs of his post war country. He looked around and asked himself, “Just what was it that he could produce cheaply and in vast quantities, that would meet the needs of the day?"

At that time, the olive green machines of the Nebraskan, Cushman scooter company, were buzzing around post war Europe and no doubt, became the obvious stimulus for the design style of the new, and cheap, stylish Italian vehicle for the masses. It was Enrico Piaggio, who beholding the brand new mass produced Italian scooter design with both his eyes and ears for the first time said with delightful surprise, 
“Sembra una vespa!” or, “It reminds me of a wasp!” 

1946 Vespa used by the US Marine WWII. Designed by Enrico Piaggio.

Post World War II Italy, in light of its agreement to cessation of war activities with the Allies, Italy had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity.
Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera fighter plane plant demolished by bombing. Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.

Original proto-type
Inspirazione (inspiration)
These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by Washington as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines. The US military had used them to get around Nazi defense tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites (a section of the Alps) and the Austrian border areas.

Una Vespa foto rustica. Bellissima. 

Vespa azzura 

Vespa rossa 

The ever-elegant Audrey Hepburn

Gina Lolabrigeda - una bella donna italiana

Louis "Satchmo"Armstrong - a Roma 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cucina Rustica

This was the original galley kitchen in a home not lived in for eight years.  My design was based around a "J" design.  I had to remove the wall to the right to open the kitchen to the living room to just over 7 feet to allow for my 7 foot farm table.  In order to accommodate the refrigerator, 30 inch farm sink, dishwasher, the range, one (36) inch cabinet and two lazy susan cabinets the back door wall had to be extended.

Here is the just over 7 foot opening I mentioned.  I opted to have the upper portion of the wall arched for accent.

I was on a budget for this home so I ended up choosing cabinets from a display model at U-Save Cabinets. I would never have chosen the original style - Mission - but knew I was going to paint and shabby them up.  It's amazing what paint can do. I paid less for these all-wood cabinets than I would have for the particle board unpainted cabinets available at Lowes or Home Depot. I primed them with a gray primer and then added layers of two brown-grey paints mixing them with glaze to extend the time I had to move the paint around until I found the perfect combination.  For contrast, the original wood color in seen on the sides of the cabinets. In between, I sanded edges and created "worm holes" and then hand wiped burnt sienna acrylic oil paint onto and into the raw wood.  I finished with layers of orange oil. I love the finished product.   

I had already decided on Live Oak solid wood countertops so off to Saint Simons Mill I went.

The logs are milled thirty feet from where they lay and then moved into the warehouse.

If you have never had an appreciation for wood, you would have coming here. 

I choose the thickest width of wood the cabinets would hold and then asked that the edge of the counter remain natural in form and that when the back pieces where cut straight to accommodate the walls, that natural edge be used for the backsplash.  

I hoped that when the original false-ceiling in the kitchen was removed, the open beams used in the living and dining room were also originally used, and they were.  Because they were covered right away with the ceiling they were never painted like the rest of the house. I chose to allow the kitchen ceiling to remain natural and would have wanted to sand-blast the other rooms to match but it was cost prohibitive. Because the kitchen was extended, there was not enough original flooring so instead of matching it I decided to lay rough hewn travertine marble. 

In order to accommodate the copper farm sink the door to the cabinet had to be removed.  Rather than having them cut down the doors and re-attach them, I opted to skirt that area in burlap.  The copper farm sink was an eBay purchase steal at $300.00.  I would normally not have chosen the embossed sea shells but that was where the savings came in and since I am less than a mile to the ocean, why not?

Apparently, the house was made of stucco over brick so when the kitchen wall and ceiling were removed the exposed brick was peeking through so I immediately knew I wanted to open the back wall up.  This was the only area this could be done so it ended up making more of a statement. 

I had the ever-talented Tamerie Shriver made my roman shade out of, what else, burlap.

I splurged here and saved there. The lighting over the sink is a galvanized barn lamp available at Loews for $20.00.  You just have to have exposed galvanized metal over old brick so that made it easy for the electricians.

The alcove behind the range idea I swiped from a magazine and recreated it here.  The street address sign I had made the last time I was in Italy and it depicts the address of my genitori italiani (parents), Alfonso e Carla Tomasi, 24 Via Monti, Sesto Fiorentino, Italia.

More photos to come...