Start your weekend early with a DIY office cottage

DIY cottage projectDesperate for the weekend? Stuck in an office? Just like the sod houses of early prairie settlers, your best chance for survival is to get creative with what you have on hand. office storage roomAll you need for this DIY cottage project is a well stocked office storage room and a boss who’s open to a bit of out-of-the-box(es) problem solving – at least on Fridays. Because sometimes the only way to escape an impossible situation is to story your way out…

“Well, dear,” says my realtor, “you told me you wanted a cottage property that’s easily accessible from work, and with your budget, I really think this is the best option you’re going to find.”

I’ve always tried to see the best in a situation – although a few exes might disagree – but, although charmingly designed, this sad little shack isn’t exactly screaming sunshine and sailboats.

“But it’s only twenty feet away from my office door,” I complain. “What kind of vacation is that?”

My realtor, a middle-aged firebrand with a forehead as immovable as her shellacked bob, isn’t one to give up easily, on youth, 80s style eyeliner, or a sales pitch.

office cottage“But look at all the features!” She points out relevant bits of recycling as she enumerates. “Bubble wrap window for light and built-in entertainment, foam paving stones – so soothing to the sole after a long workweek. You’ve got an end-of-roll doorknob, decoratively staggered tube fencing, garden area with overhang and canopy, and just look at that darling slanted roof.”

“What happens when the wolf comes and ‘blows it all down?” I can’t resist asking.

She ignores my sarcasm and plunges on, “And talk about environmentally green construction, this cottage and its landscaping are made exclusively of unaltered found materials.” (author’s note: because I had to put everything back exactly as I’d found it… sigh)

“Double vanities?”

“Not quite, but the public washroom is just around the corner, opposite the office utility closet.”


“Seriously, Cymbria, for right now, for today, this is as good as it’s going to get.”

I know she’s right. That’s the worst of it. So I do what so many of us have gotten in the habit of doing when offered only a scrap instead of the whole – I take it.

Humanist Public Restroom Architecture – How to design a toilet for ‘actual human beings’

Humanist novelty toilet designAfter the glacier floored, architectural dreamscape of Blank Canvas Living’s Antarctic inspired public restroom, I have no idea what to expect from the offices’ West corner facilities.

“You’re certainly dressed for it,” says Dr. C, as she leads me through the maze of corridors on the 10th floor.

I know this detour is making me late for my own job rolling paper on the 6th, but the anticipation of adventure is too strong to resist. We stop in front of a solid metal door, painted army green and accented with row upon row of rounded rivets.

“There’s only one toilet in this one,” Dr. C explains, “and no windows. In the midst of the collaborative madness of war and industrialization, we can forget who we are – one human, one moment in time. Our processes are not mechanized, nor should they be. Our bodies are sacred and should be celebrated. Take your time, I’ll be waiting right here.”

The door takes all my strength to open, then slams shut behind me with a BANG that jolts my nerves into combat readiness. The room is small and closed, a tight box of ridged green metal with artificial light coming from bare humming tubes wired (crudely) into the ceiling. To my left, near the back wall, is a strange industrial object – all gearing and quietly rotating circular components – which spins slowly to reveal a hidden sink, like the prize in a Chinese puzzle box.

And to my right… is the most human toilet I’ve ever seen! It’s curves are unexpected, fleshy, and warm, despite the smooth, cool porcelain. I can’t stop myself. My hand involuntarily reaches out to touch the molded torso that extends seamlessly from the tank back. The seat swings open, invitingly, and I take my place beside the lovely bum. Drawn by an urge even more primal than my body’s function here, I draw my fingers down the shallow dip of her spine and follow her curves with the caress of one human exploring another for the first time. Nobody’s watching; I smack her lightly on the cheek.

This is intimacy. This is indulgence. Heck, this is fun! My mind begins to churn. If this is really possible, really happening, what other processes can be transformed? Suddenly, for the very first time, pants down and mind spinning, I know exactly who I want to be.

I heave open the heavy door and relish its BANG behind me. “Dr. C! I want to do it. I want to be part of this! You don’t even know it, but I was born to work here.”

“Of course you were.” She doesn’t seem at all surprised to see me so red cheeked and excited. “I knew it the moment I met you. Well, my dear, welcome to Blank Canvas Living.”

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Blank Canvas Thinkers: Architect Barry Berkus quote about the importance of sketching to the creative process

Barry Berkus, a world renowned architect based in Santa Barbara, has created a portfolio of inspirational structures that have evolved from exploratory sketching – the sensory rich dialogue between body, mind, and medium. Click Here to watch his excellent youtube series – How to think like an architect. From his innovative bubble diagrams to a brilliant plan for the rebuilding of New Orleans, this Blank Canvas thinker has the courage to practice what he preaches: Dream Big – Dare to Fail.

Public Restroom Architecture – Antarctic inspired restroom design

antarctic public toilet architectural sketch 2“Let’s start your tour of Blank Canvas Living with one of our restrooms…”

I’m getting used to expecting the unexpected from my new friend, who met me at the door wearing a maxi shirtwaist dress of an almost clinical mint green. With her white braid wrapped loosely around her head, she could pass for a late 1800s factory worker, except for the flash of neon pink lipstick.

I push through the restroom’s double swing-hinge doors and nearly fall flat on my face! My foot stalls in mid-air over a deep glacier fissure full of strange looking machinery.

I hear her laughing behind me. “There’s a glass floor! It only ‘looks’ like you’re stepping onto – or I guess into – an Antarctic glacier. Our filtration fissure gets ’em every time.”

The trompe l’oeil effect is astonishing. Below the glass is a pitted porcelain replica of slowly melting glacier ice. Running down the middle is a molded crevasse containing a series of filters that appear to be treating the water flowing down from the equally astonishing glacial fountain/sink in the far corner of the mirror walled room. The reflections extend the space infinitely on either side, while the floor to ceiling windows behind the fountain look out over the river and into the lower cityscape beyond.

“You gave your bathroom a corner office?” I ask, once my footing is secure.

“Why slot ourselves into stables like livestock in a barn? We celebrate our humanity at Blank Canvas Living. Our clients love peeing in their own private Antarctic tents! And we’re on the edge of downtown so line of sight isn’t an issue.”

“Tents? Where are the toilets?”

She slides back a section of mirrored wall. Each stall is open glass on its longest side and hung with orange tenting to effect a cocoon-like privacy around the back. The toilet itself is bizarre, a smooth bowl mounted within a seemingly haphazard stack of red and yellow scientific equipment crates. Bizarre, but incredibly inviting, and quite practical – the paper having its own little crate off to one side.

“Is the rest of the office as crazy as this?” I ask, immediately regretting my choice of words.

“This is only the beginning, my dear.” She winks at me, then closes the mirror and begins demonstrating the temperature settings of the automatic faucet function of the fountain’s organically asymmetric fissure sinks. A voice over the PA interrupts the demo: “Would Doctor C please come to reception”.

“Looks like we’ll have to reschedule,” says my friend, evidently Doctor C. She reads my questioning expression. “Doctor of Philosophy,” she explains, prompting my next question.

“What exactly do you do here?”

“Do? To put it quite simply…we bring people into their stories. We create touchstone artifacts, practice Blank Canvas exercises in engagement, sense scrolling, and other techniques designed to loosen the brain associations that can trap us in our current cultural thought paradigms. People come to us when the conflict between what they’ve been taught they should do and how they were born coded to live becomes unmanageable. But the only way to know Blank Canvas Living beyond the abstraction of words is to start living it. Are you ready for your first assignment?”

I think back to last week’s personal waveform and the seismic skirt that started it all. “It all sounds cool, sure, maybe a teensy bit namby pamby, sorry. But it must be expensive to get involved in something like this.” The public toilet alone must have cost more than my annual salary rolling paper down on the 6th floor.

“Namby pamby my ass! Anyways, I don’t want you as a client… I want you as a counselor. Like I said, I’ve been keeping an eye out for someone like you. I have a client who wants to start keeping a sketchbook, but doesn’t think she can integrate it into her life, too busy… forgotten how to draw… yada yada, excuses galore. I want you to come up with a way to remind her that this is her secret freedom, a sensory path to her deepest passions. All you need to know is that she wears very strappy high heels, very strappy.” She cuts off any questions with a wave of her mint green cuff. “Now, let’s set up a time for you to come back…”

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(glacier pic source)