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Archive for September, 2012

Classical Chinese gardens and fountains are more than collections of beautiful plants, trees and water. They are representations of nature, providing insight into the philosophical and spiritual mind of past Chinese artisans and high-ranking citizens.

The principles of classical Chinese gardening can be useful and insightful to garden lovers living anywhere in the world. Chinese design objectives can inspire American home gardeners to try something new such as a garden fountain and encourage the expression of culture and philosophy through gardening.

In the 2,000 years since the imperial family first set aside natural areas for hunting, traditional gardens in China have developed into an art form equal in rank to painting, calligraphy and poetry. Several of the finest gardens, built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1912), have survived the ravages of time and politics.

Suzhou, about 50 miles west of Shanghai, is known as “the city of gardens.” For generations, rich officials, merchants, landowners, scholars, garden designers and garden crafters settled in Suzhou to enhance its fame. The principles of classical Chinese gardens were well represented in their gardens. Visitors come to learn their secrets and experience their magic.

These gardens provide insight into the traditional Chinese view of nature, which includes the role human’s play in the natural order. The gardens hold clues to the ancient Chinese mind through the winding paths, the use of symbolism and the selection of plants. In the traditional Chinese view of nature, humans were equals with everything in the natural world. As the philosopher Lao Tsu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “Man follows the earth. Earth follows heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. Tao follows what is natural.” Traditionally, Chinese people assisted in the expression of nature but did not impose their will upon it.

Chinese gardens were originally designed to symbolize a living entity: rocks formed the skeleton, water and fountains functioned as the blood, while plants provided the clothing. To portray the influence of human beings in nature, architectural constructions (bridges, pavilions, halls, courtyards, gateways, windows, doors and pavings) were integrated into a garden’s design. Their purpose was to illustrate the ideal interaction of humans with nature. Together, these elements made up all that is natural on Earth: vegetation, mountains, and bodies of water with gently flowing Chinese fountains as well as human influence. The way they were integrated into the garden expressed the relationships they have in nature.

Gardeners in the West may be unable to mimic the grandeur with which the ancient Chinese gardeners represented nature, but they can include parts of each element. The goal is to create a sense of wholeness within the limitations of the site and to consider all these elements as integral parts of the garden.

Just as a garden’s main elements are symbolic of the parts of a living whole, symbols that make up the culture’s beliefs are scattered throughout Chinese gardens and integrated in their design. For example, bad spirits were believed to travel in straight lines so pathways were seldom designed straight or flat. It was believed that the many changes in levels and directions made it difficult for these spirits to infect the people enjoying the garden. Dragons, symbols of strength, change and goodness, frequently adorn Chinese fountain walls and roofs of garden structures.

Suitability — The most appropriate location for every feature of a garden must be found. Seasonal changes in weather and plants as well as the physical requirements of the garden site are considered. In addition to finding the most suitable site for each garden element (plants, rocks, water fountains and architectural constructions), details such as the size, shape, color and placement of railings, windows and doors in a building, for example, are also considered to ensure complete harmony of the surroundings.

Taking Advantage – The Chinese garden designer attempts to use the garden’s surroundings, whether near or distant, to the best advantage. Sights, sounds, movement and stillness, the subtle and the obvious, are used as part of the scenes created within the garden. Many of the private gardens in China were small in size — no larger than the typical garden sites of single family homes in the United States. It is the challenge, then, of the garden designer to create the illusion of spaciousness by incorporating far-off sights and sounds into the garden’s ambiance.

Refinement – To define what is refined in the garden design is a judgment rooted in culture. In Chinese gardens, this refinement has meant incorporating a tranquility, gracefulness, elegance, neatness and distinctness that is in accordance with nature. The expression of these characteristics is judged in China against culturally accepted historical standards. Outside of China, gardeners can define what is considered refined according to their own standards.

Simplicity – To Ji Cheng, being simple means not being extravagant. Resources that are on site or nearby are considered the best materials to use in designing the garden. Rare or unusual objects and plants are considered extravagant.

Changeability – This objective is prominent in traditional Chinese gardens because it expresses the natural law of constant change. A garden design can create a sense of change and unexpectedness with scene changes in every turn of a path, an unexpected or different view from each window and aesthetic changes with each season. Designs can include changes caused by clouds, sun, wind, rain, snow, insects, birds, plants and water.
A garden’s plants provide a link among all its elements, symbolizing harmony in nature. Plants are the garden’s dynamic, living component.

In accordance with the Chinese view of gardens as representations of nature, the trees, shrubs and flowers of a garden are chosen to reflect the unique features of the garden’s region. Most traditional Chinese gardeners select native plants, or plants with special meaning in Chinese culture. Bamboo, for example, is common in Chinese gardens because of the many lessons it teaches. Bamboo is strong and resilient. Staying green throughout the winter, it teaches that one can flourish despite harsh conditions. Bamboo grows in clumps, modeling life in the family. Its fast growth illustrates self-development.

The plants are situated in ways that show off an individual plant’s unique features. Their arrangements in the design demonstrate their interrelationships with other species as they occur in their natural habitats. The purpose of plants in Chinese gardens is to reflect the inherent order of nature. More than a collection of plants or even an expression of beauty in the purely visual sense, the classical Chinese garden is a physical representation of Chinese philosophy and culture. These gardens embody the best of traditional Chinese thought and culture, which sees humanity functioning as part of a greater natural order.

Today, home gardeners can apply their plant growing talents in the spirit of these old Chinese gardens by expressing their own culture and philosophy toward nature in their garden designs and by applying Ji Cheng’s design objectives. The result will be a garden that unites aesthetics, plant cultivation, philosophy and culture.

As you transform from a raw hand to an experienced cook, chances are that your kitchen would have accumulated various types of kitchen utensils. You might have added on most of the utensils for their functionality; however some of these cooking tools could be just novelties that you would have bought for their looks and fanciful theme or color. Kitchen utensils could make your kitchen look cluttered and messy; however by organizing these kitchen utensils tastefully you would be saving a lot of space that too without discarding any of your favorite cookware sets.

Having a well arranged kitchen would also make your cooking chores simple and faster. You can organize your kitchen utensils in specific drawers. It would make accessing the utensils easy. You can use one drawer for all your flatware while another drawer could be earmarked for spoon and fork and yet another drawer for the larger cooking utensils and so on. Make sure that you do not keep kitchen knives with these cooking tools as it could result in cuts and bruises as you rush through your cooking chores. There are magnetic knife holders that can be mounted on walls which can be used for keeping sharp objects like bottle openers, knives etc. These objects should be kept in such a way that children are not able to gain access to it.

Baskets are handy options to store cooking tools that do not fit in drawers. Large spoons, spatulas, long utensils etc can be put in the basket on the countertop or near the cooking area for easy access. These can also be hung inside the cabinets using hooks. There are attractive flatware holders and knife caddies that would not only help you in organizing the utensils but also would add up to the décor of your kitchen. These are available in various materials including ceramics and steel among others and choosing the theme that suits your kitchen is never a problem.

Cooking utensils that are frequently used should be placed in such a way that these could be easily accessed and the ones that are used only for special occasions can be placed in the hinder part of the drawers. Keeping the kitchen tidy and well organized is the first step in making your cooking chores simple.

Bathroom tile ideas for bathroom floor tile can help you know what options to consider for your bathroom. Bathroom tile comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, patterns and textures and they are the basis for any bathroom design. Bathroom tile ideas can help you have the very best bathroom possible.

Ceramic bathroom floor tile is often used because of its durability, resistance to dampness, its safety to walk on when wet and its ease of cleaning. If you select ceramic tiles for your bathroom, consider using a tile that has a slip-resistant surface for bathroom safety, which is one of the best bathroom tile ideas. If you buy and install unglazed tiles, they will need to be washed frequently because they absorb stains quite easily. Bathroom floor tile shapes can be squares, rectangles, hexagons and octagons while accent pieces can be narrow and small diamond-shaped.

Here are bathroom tile ideas for bathroom floor tile:

1 – If you use solid color ceramic bathroom floor tile in your bathroom, you can add tile borders of a different color to the tile floor, or you can create a border by alternating different colors. This kind of visual treatment can create a more interesting bathroom floor.

2 – When using the same color ceramic tile for the floors and walls, choose a different tile size for the walls or lay the wall tiles diagonally to create a more interesting visual effect.

3 – Another of the bathroom tile ideas is to choose a grout color that contrasts with the ceramic tile color. For example, if you are using white tiles, you could use blue, red or yellow grout for contrast. Be sure and apply sealers to grout lines in areas of heavy wear since sealers will protect and preserve grout colors.

4 – If your favorite color for a bathroom is pink, for example, add a few pink decorative tiles for the walls or use shapes, textures and borders to give it some visual interest. Select some rows of the walls where you can also use some of the pink tiles placed diagonally.

5 – To give your bathroom a contemporary style and look, consider using bright and bold colors with shapes or graphics against plain backgrounds. Contemporary style accessories and fixtures will further provide a modern-looking bathroom.

6 – If you are trying to have a romantic or Victorian look in your bathroom, use floral tiles in soft colors like pink, light green or light blue plus handpainted ceramic sinks and perhaps a wooden floor.

7 – For a Mediterranean bathroom look, mix terra-cotta tiles with Mexican or other hand-painted tiles for the floors. For the countertop perhaps mix the hand-painted tiles with another plain color tile.

Bathroom tile ideas and tile color are important since color can greatly affect your mood — making you feel calm or energizing you. Warm colors like peach and yellow are fun, they make the bathroom feel cozier and they go well with a more country looking bathroom decor. If you use neutral colors like beiges or whites, they will make the room look larger, they will reflect light and they are always in style. Colors like blue, green and violet are viewed as serene or cool colors. Brighter colors like black or red add drama to the decor, absorb light and will make the room appear smaller. In rooms with plenty of windows and natural lighting, consider using darker tiles to offset the ambient lighting. You can also work in colors you want through the use of accent tiles and accessories.

Have fun as you select the styles, colors, patterns and sizes of bathroom floor tile and related details for your bathroom. You’ll want your bathroom to be a fun, cozy room to spend time in and the bathroom floor tile used can help create that kind of atmosphere. Use bathroom tile ideas to help you have that special bathroom that you can enjoy every day.

Upholstery is the term used to describe the work of providing furniture, mainly seats, with springs, padding, webbing and fabric or a leather covering. The word comes from the English word fort upholder which refers to a trademan who held up his goods. The term upholstery can be used in many industries including marine, airplane, car or domestic furniture and all use traditional upholstery techniques like straw and hay, hessians, coir, animal hair, coil springs and wadding which is crafted by hand, building each individual layers up. Modern upholstery techniques are also applied using synthetic materials like vinyl, serpentine springs and dacron.

Most furniture that require upholstering are constructed using wood as a frame, the best furniture is built using oak or alder as these woods are generally stronger than softwoods and allow for joints to remain strong over time. Upholstery aids used throughout the upholstery process such as staples, tacks and screws also hold better in hardwood in comparison to soft wood. The joints of the furniture are usually reinforced durning the upholstery process using a number of techniques, like screwing and/or glueing the joints together or doweling (drilling matched holes in joining surfaces and pushing dowels through) or blocking (using blocks of wood to provide additional support) Though much of the frame of the furniture item is often hidden in the finished product, some wood remains on show in certain furniture designs and this is called ‘show-wood’ which can be polished and restored during the upholstery process. Modern upholstered furniture frames maybe made up of metal or plastic.