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Mr. and Dr. Buckaroo Banzai Meet

By Jennifer

pretty wife with short blonde hairWe met online.  Which amazes my coworkers for two reasons.

First, my hatred of all things digital is legendary.  I print documents out to read them, and edit them by hand.  My favorite way to transport data is what software engineers call “sneakerware” — that is, walking over a hard copy.  My “mood” on the internal instant message system reads “I find instant messages intrusive.”

Once they’ve gotten used to the idea of me dating online — editing and posting my dating profile photographs voluntarily — my coworkers gasp, “Weren’t you afraid?”

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The Joy of Moldings Disclosure Policy

All blogs that accept paid advertising have to have a disclosure policy.  Here’s ours.

  • is a self-hosted WordPress blog that went live in January, 2012, but we started out on Blogger as in April 2011.
  • Most of it is written by me, Ken O’Brien, with occasional guest posts by Jennifer. 
  • All spelling and grammatical mistakes belong to me, and will be corrected when Jennifer has time to proof my copy.  But she works on a computer all day long as so is quite loathe to look at one again when she gets home.
  • I designed all patterns appearing in the Pattern Book.  The few projects that were created or painted by someone other than me are noted as such.
  • Photos without a photo credit were taken by and are rights protected.  We do not allow our photos or text to be used on any other website.  Period.  Using it constitutes a copyright violation.
  • All photos that aren’t taken by us are credited and linked to their outside sources and used with permission by the copyright holder.
  • By submitting your photos to you are granting us permission to use them in any way we choose.  But that just means we may show off your moldings in a post.
  • reserves the right to remove, replace, or move any images or content without prior announcement.
  • We do not receive compensation for reviewing products or services that appear in the posts on this site.
  • Google Adsense ads appear on this site for which we receive a small payment when someone clicks on an ad.
  • We are developing a direct advertising program.
  • Our pages are 100% unique content — photos and text.  Many more design posts and diy installation sequences are in-work.
  • Home improvement projects are inherently dangerous. is in no way liable for your results if you follow any of the DIY tips.  Slow down. Think. Work safe.

A Man Named Vandal Guides You Through "Period Classical Moldings"

“Period Classical Moldings: A Primer on These Touchstones of Neo-Classical Architecture”

Author: Norman L. Vandal
Published in Fine Homebuilding Magazine April/May 1984 No. 20

A detailed glossary of Neo-Classical moldings.

When I first studied historic architecture back in the mid-nineties, I was confused about overlap between architectural styles in some historic homes and public buildings. I had the notion that a building was either pure Colonial, pure Federal or pure Greek Revival.

When I found this article by Norman Vandal in an old copy of Fine Homebuilding magazine, I learned that period styles often overlap. This gave me the freedom to mix and match moldings from the three Neo-Classical periods in the same home without the fear of being historically inaccurate.  It allowed me to group the Pattern Book’s Neo-Classical styles under “Traditional,” making it much easier for those unfamiliar with the subtle differences between period styles to choose molding patterns.

The American Neo-Classical period lasted 150 years. This period can be further subdivided into three design trends, the earliest being the Georgian Period (also known as Colonial), the Federal Period and the latest, the Greek Revival Period. 

Here is what Vandal, a master craftsman of the Neo-Classical styles, tells us to look for in homes of each period:


The Great Baseboard-Grouted-Into-Tile Conspiracy

How to Make a Simple, Big Baseboard With Materials From Lowes Home Improvement


Lee From Green Valley, Arizona Asks:

Q Dear Ken: I have removed the ho-hum deteriorated baseboards in my great room and ran into an issue with the tile.  The tile installer grouted the border tiles to the existing baseboard and it took considerable time removing it.  The baseboard is now gone and there is a space where the old baseboard was set down into the tile.Can you tell me where I can get baseboard in Tucson  that will rest on the existing tile with a 1 inch gap between the wall and the tile?  I am trying to avoid having to re-grout the tile in the space.  I am interested in something more substantial than what they have at Lowes or Home Depot, and will have to match my southwestern decor.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
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Choosing Your Wall Colors II: Editing Your Good and Bad Ideas

how to paint a room greenBy Jennifer

If you’re at all given to speculative thought, you’ve probably mused on the sad fact that many — perhaps most — brilliant notions wither in the blighting light of reality.  I’ve whiled away many a commuting hour reflecting upon why Stalin gave Marx a bad name,  Microsoft turned computing from a delight into drudgery, and the spare elegance of Modernism ended in an architectural wasteland devoid of proportion and ornament.  Philosophies, technologies and aesthetic movements that promise liberation all too often end in bitterness and destruction.

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About Jennifer’s Nest

Update to Jennifer’s Nest:  Jennifer decided she’d rather nest with someone else, so there won’t be anymore posts in this series.  But her articles are still worth reading. — Ken

jennifer thompson tucson

Don’t mess with The Nest.

After a lifetime of sacrificing domestic life on the altar of Labor, I am finally reveling in baking pies from scratch, arranging weekly bouquets of flowers, and treating delicate fabrics with something other than my usual impatient brutality.

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Choosing Your Wall Colors I: Pleasure and Pain

how to paint a small roomBy Jennifer

If you bring a good deal of confidence and experience to the task of choosing colors, it’s the most enjoyable part of decorating.  If you tend to agonize and worry about others’ opinions, you’ll find it painful.  And if you’re like me, and alternate between bold decisiveness and painful self-consciousness, you will alternate accordingly between pleasure and pain.  In fact, if you end with the former rather than the latter, the process of choosing and implementing a color scheme becomes practically erotic.

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Living Room: The Answer is "Sea Serpent"

living room painted blueBy Jennifer

Emboldened by the excellence of our bedroom results, I turned my attention to the entryway and living room, both of which presented design features that my company’s Risk Review Board would name “challenges” or “opportunities,” which mortals like me tend to call “problems.”

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Master Bedroom: Paint for the Proletariat

By Jennifer

Painting wasn’t actually my idea.  True, my condo was proving mysteriously hard to decorate.  I kept the place tidy and uncluttered, bought books on feng shui, and arranged objects in patterns that pleased me, but it still felt like one of those creepy extended-stay suites for business travelers.

The pre-paint Professor.

When Ken and I began dating, he showed me his portfolio, and I marveled at how he had transformed tract homes into jewel boxes.  I also instinctively felt that such grandeur had nothing to do with me.  In gradate school I’d absorbed the Marxist notion that, since I relied on wage labor, I shared more with the proletariat than the bourgeoisie.  I assumed that remodeling and redecorating were the province of the rich, on the order of an Ivy League education, a trust fund, or place settings involving chargers, napkin rings, and shrimp forks.  If you’ve read this site’s basic principles, though, you know how wrong I was.  Homes just like my small modernist condo cry out for vivid paint and bold moldings.

The proletariat contemplating paint chips.


When Ken suggested that we paint the bedroom, I was certain the process would expose the vicious taste and fundamental idleness I’d cleverly concealed with well-cut clothes, cute shoes, and a surface knowledge of such substances as spackle and grout.  More than anything, I felt unqualified.  I was pretty sure I preferred bright colors to muted ones, but then I’d been burned so often!  Why, when I was 12 or so, my parents let me pick paint for my bedroom, and I’d been chastened by the result: horrid flamingo-colored walls and a concrete floor the color of dried blood.  In my 20s I bought innumerable compacts of eye shadow in bright jewel tones — not disposable drugstore trash, but compacts that closed with a sound reminiscent of a Mercedes door — only to discover that bright eye makeup on hooded brown eyes reliably lends me a jaded, haggard look more suitable, as the Victorians would say, in an entirely different class of female.  I nourished a secret fear that I couldn’t be trusted with color.

Ken gently suggested green, and chose paint chips from the neighborhood Sherwin Williams.  He extolled the virtues of a matte finish, and described how color would turn everything from a common switch plate to a brick wall into a distinguished architectural detail.  He propped two paint chips behind my beloved painting, and invited me to live with them, which I dutifully did.  After a few days, I chose one more or less at random, consoled by his promise to repaint the whole thing white if I didn’t like it.

He applied samples to the wall, and I nervously admitted that they were pretty, particularly around the artwork.  We set aside a weekend, and while I read aloud from the first volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Painter transformed our bedroom.

After a weekend well spent.


It’s funny to reflect back on my introduction to paint.  The rules he expounded were absolutely correct: the matte green looked like velvet, particularly with two precisely-applied, lavish coats.  Far from making the room seem poky or cramped, vivid color rendered it intimate and elegant.  The project proved inexpensive, too — about $150 for four different shades plus samples.  By the time the first wall was complete, I was scheming to create the gallery walls downstairs.

I would never be as timid and compliant again.  I bought samples with abandon, explored bizarre color combinations, and made a whole series of silly and instructive mistakes.  As Ken has put together his website, I’ve wanted to tell our own story, since, as promised, paint and moldings changed first our home, and then my life.


Underwater in the Desert

underwater in mortgageBy Jennifer

I thought clever people like me didn’t end up underwater in a mortgage.

It seems downright unjust.  Far from buying at the top of the market, I bought more than a year after the crash.  At the time, I and everyone else marveled at the bargain I snatched from the wreckage of the economy: a totally remodeled two-bedroom, two-bath condo in a pleasant midtown neighborhood for a monthly payment less than the 25% of my take-home pay recommended by conservative lenders.  I’m only moderately bright with money matters, but combined with $8,000 back on my taxes, my decision to buy seemed brilliant.  In my hubris, I pitied the creatures who paid half again as much for it at the top of the market.  Two years later, I look like a chump.

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