Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Design Dilemmas

Last fall, I started two simple projects: 

1) Using cast-leaves from my own dearly loved succulents, I undertook a science experiment in propagating new plants.

2) Having outgrown our longstanding family dining table, I dove into a woodworking task to build a new one.

Strong starts spun both ventures into play. 


Until this past week - nine months later - both tasks were still dissatisfyingly incomplete.

The problem, as often happens in creative enterprises, revolved around making difficult decisions. 

When faced with too many options, my mind got muddled, my momentum ground to a halt, and nothing got accomplished for a long, long time. 

Let me explain.

My succulent seedlings were going great guns but desperately in need of more permanent homes. 

So I bought a handful of clay pots. That was the easy part.

But how to spunk them up?

Certainly these precious newborns deserved a worthy nursery. My plan was to paint or otherwise embellish the pots. But the more I poked around on Instagram and Pinterest, looking at countless ideas, the deeper my design paralysis grew. 

Finally, after an obscene amount of hemming, hawing, and weighing my options, I gave myself a stern lecture about seizing the day, chose a project for which I already had all the supplies on hand, and pulled the trigger on a simple color blocking scheme

At the moment, the pots are a bit roomy. But the darling green infants will grow quickly, just like their human counterparts, and soon enough burst beyond the limits of even these spacious digs. 

Then I'll have a new problem on my hands.

But for now, a few more of my propagated offspring are properly launched. And as I wiped the last of the potting soil from my hands (and counter and floor,) and surveyed the happy row of pots, I knew I had made a good choice.

Now. About that table.

Constructed from planks of solid oak, my as-yet unfinished table was sorely in need of stain and polyurethane.

Somewhere along the past few decades, I've picked up an odd sense of guilt about oak. I mean, come on, who doesn't love to hate on that scourge of the eighties? Relentlessly awful oak cabinets, coffee tables and shelving units still haunt my decor dreams and even though I intentionally chose to make this table from oak, my post-millennial inner design snob was now trying to convince to hide that shameful fact.

Light walnut.
Golden pecan.
Colonial maple.

Maybe with the right stain, this oak table wouldn't look so...oaky. My mind puzzled over this question for months, and I bought and tested a half dozen different finishes.

But there on the workbench, my can of golden oak stain mocked me, amused at my ridiculous attempts to run from reality.

"It's an oak table," my nemesis chuckled. "Why would you pretentiously try to hide that fact by staining it a different color?"

Seems so silly now, but it wasn't until I found myself literally holding a paintbrush dabbed in light walnut stain over my pristine, perfectly sanded tabletop, one swift swipe away from casting my destiny, that I finally came to my senses. 

Before the haunting echoes of the design hipsters' disdain could ring in my ears, I pried the top off the can of golden oak stain and brushed it boldly across the bare wood.

Glorious grain popped into definition and detail.
A deep golden glow sprang up from the timber.
The oak angels burst into song.

And I knew in an instant that I had definitely made the right choice.

Maybe I needed three-fourths of a year to resolve these simple design issues.
Maybe I got distracted by surgeries and trips to Asia.

Maybe I just procrastinated like a champ.

But whatever the reasons for my painstakingly slow decision-making process, I embrace them. Because both of my design dilemmas turned out just fine.

* * * * *

In my opinion, you can never have too many succulents, and you can never have too many stories about succulents. Here are a few to choose from:

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