Want Old Not New – Country Not Contemporary

We’re pushing our architect into the unknown, as our vision is very different than that of other homeowners he’s working with in Chennai. But it’s a fun partnership, and he’s seeing some cool new ideas. We hope our apartment becomes a fantastic showpiece that he can show others. His other clients may want contemporary, but hundreds & hundreds of people are visiting this blog weekly by searching for country.

Here’s the top five posts of the past five months. Several country elements in our plans rank at the top:

#1 Post:  Farmhouse Sink

Our architect is in search of a farmhouse sink in India. Our preference is copper but due to maintenance needs, we may go with white or beige like the famous Shaw sink.

#2 Post: Tuscan Kitchen Hoods

A Tuscan style hood is key to the kitchen’s style. The open floor plan makes the kitchen visible throughout the living area. So the Tuscan hood will be a big driver of the entire apartment’s style.

#3 Post: Framed Scarves

Who knows if a framed scarf will appear in the India pied a terre. But a scarf has been framed and hung in our Chicago home and a blog post with DIY tips is coming soon!

#4 Post: Farmhouse Dining Table

This post showed rectangular tables. My husband wants a round dining table, so there will be a future post with round inspiration photos.

#5 Post: Pink & Orange

I’ve collected bunches more orange + pink photos since this post, so 2011 will bring a repeat of this topic. I could never live with pink and orange, but love looking at it online, very energizing!

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Vastu Shastra

Our India pied a terre is situated to take advantage of key principles of vastu shastra, which is believed to affect the health and fortune of occupants of a home or workplace. It’s an ancient Indian science of architecture.

  • Kitchen is in the southeast corner, because this is the direction of fire.
  • The Tuscan hooded stove will face east so the cook will face east, and gas will be in the southeast.
  • Air mostly enters from the north and east, with two sets of big French doors, windows and two balconies.
  • The two balconies are in the northeast and east.
  • The open space of the apartment is in the northeast.
  • Master bedroom is in the southwest.
  • Although it wasn’t possible to place a main door in the north, our door is in the south.
  • The area north of the building has some open space, so prosperity is not blocked. Prosperity is important — Lakshmi is my favorite goddess!
  • It’s a rectangular space.

Here’s a cheatsheet graph for placement of rooms and important house elements:

Via Vastupath

The purpose is to balance natural energies: the sun’s solar energy, the moon’s lunar energy, wind energy, the earth’s magnetic effects, and the heat energy of fire. When these are balanced, there is harmony for humans. When they’re not balanced, you need remedies to maintain well-being.

There will be a few challenges in our place. According to vastu shastra, one should not sleep with their head pointing north. (This is how our master bedroom is set up in our Chicago home! I haven’t studied vastu shastra in a long time — have we had a pass for not knowing? Must we change that now that we do know?) In the Chennai apartment guest room, not having the head pointing north  while sleeping would place guests’ heads next to the bedroom’s door. That doesn’t seem right either. Hmmm. We’ll have to deal.

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Tile Skirting vs Wood Baseboard Molding

Oh, all the details!! By pure chance during conversation this week, I discovered the plan in our Chennai apartment was to install tile skirting where the walls meet the tiled floors. I had been envisioning a thick, wide wood baseboard molding there.


Or this:

Wood Baseboard Molding Examples

All the tile will be installed very soon, so a quick note to the architect put the brakes on the tile skirting plan. Whew. That could have happened without even knowing it was going to happen.

Although visually I think wood is better, now I embark on research to double-check that idea. There are nagging doubts. Because just like I was told to eat yogurt with spicy food, at first I resisted the idea before realizing how it makes perfect sense. Perhaps there is good reason for tile skirting instead of wood molding? I realize tile skirting is common, but to me it invokes “hospital room.”

EDITED TO ADD: Here is a post about styles of wood baseboard molding.

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Millimeters Count

1 millimeter, 2 millimeter, 3 millimeter, 4 …

What millimeter will look best, all across the floor …

Tile is piled high in our India pied a terre. It’s time to think tile and grout now that the main door, windows and balcony French doors are getting installed.

We ran all over our Chicago home yesterday, measuring grout lines in tiled rooms. If you think 3 millimeters versus 5 millimeters is insignificant, take a closer look.

The crew in Chennai was talking about 5 millimeter grout lines between the 2-foot square tiles which will run diagonally throughout the apartment. Our ground floor powder room in Chicago has 5 millimeter grout lines between 1-foot square tiles with grout darker than the tile. It was here before we moved in and I’ve never liked it. It looks like these tiles in an Austrian castle:

This would fit in a rustic home, but our decor and style of this house is not rustic. Despite that, it’s OK in a tiny powder room that holds a sink and toilet. But spread across 1,200+ very visible square feet of floor, such obvious lines would drive eyes crazy-insane:


So 3 millimeters it is, with grout color matched to the tile, like the photos below. We’d rather have our eyes drawn elsewhere.

I researched grout line conventions, and beyond needing to accommodate sanded or unsanded grout, much is personal preference. In online discussion boards, I see many people talking of 1/16″ lines which is near invisible especially with large tiles. But that close installation must be very careful and precise and we do want to see some grout line. Some are recommending 1/4″ for tiles that are 20″ or 24″ square. Another factor is, are the tiles high-quality natural marble or travertine where they’re flat and perfectly square? Do the tiles have distressed edges or are they perfectly straight? If there’s any variation, wider grout lines are better. Because this is a second home and we’re holding costs down, our tiles are manufactured instead of natural, and consistent in size. For our installation, 3 millimeters is a hair under 1/8″.

The thing is, I get impatient with details. I prefer the bigger picture. But today I learned the importance of due diligence of each detail, no matter how much you’d prefer to not be bothered with them. How did I get beyond impatience? I imagined the bothersome grout line detail blown up across the floor — that’s how it affects the big picture.

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