California take-aways

I used to think it strange how many people just jumped in and out of Buffy’s bedroom window on the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and yes I know it’s a fictional show.  But the show is set in California, and at least in the part of California in which I was visiting – they don’t have bugs!  Which means there are no screens on windows and there are no screen doors!  (Not having screens on your windows would make them much easier to jump in to and out of.)  Shops leave their doors open during business hours, house doors are left open for dogs, kids, and adults to wander in and out of as they please, and windows are just open – with out screens!  I actually stuck my hand through a few of them just because I could.

If you don’t live with flies, gnats, sweat bees, mosquitoes, ladybugs, stinkbugs, beetles, and all the other many sorts of flying, swarming, and buzzing types of bugs that exist and like to swarm around your home, then you have no idea how novel it is to NOT have screens on windows and to simply leave doors and windows open.

Along these same lines, I would look at the beautiful homes with plate glass windows in California and wonder how they keep those rooms/homes warm in winter.  Their secret? They don’t.  It doesn’t get cold like it does here, so they don’t need to worry about heat loss through those windows like we do.  They might be marginally concerned about it, and I’m sure good insulation goes a long way in a temperate climate because it maintains a comfortable living temperature with dramatically less energy expenditure.  But when you need to worry about the R value because of the weather extremes, window quantity and size can be crucial to the insulation and energy usage of your home.

While I’m having a hard time adapting these concepts to life here in Western PA, can I use this information?  We do have bugs, and I can’t really leave windows and doors open when it’s -20F outside, but is there a way to incorporate this sense of openness some other way?  And all those windows!  Is there a way to let in more light during the winter months?

With the improvements in window manufacturing and insulation, is it possible to increase the size of a window or two and not loose any insulation value?  Would the wee bit of extra surface area make a quantifiable difference in the light entering our home in the Winter?  What about strategically placed mirrors or a more open floor plan?  Would an open floor plan give the illusion of more airiness and create a more open feeling?  Would this help in the Winter?  What about lighting?  The Goat already follows behind me and turns off any light I’m not using.  But would leaving a few extra lights on in the evenings during Winter months help alleviate some of the Winter darkness?  It seems logical, but would it work mentally?  Maybe that’s why Christmas lights are so popular and why so many Scandinavian and Northern regions feature candles in so many of their decorating and interior pictures.  Would a few candles help create a unique sense of light that would help chase away the Winter darkness?

Another thing I noticed while in California were the color schemes in the public spaces, coffee shops, specialty shops, and homes.  They were sometimes cheerful and bright, but often they were calm, and serene.   I can’t use the mellow greys and calming dark colors that they utilized, because we simply don’t get enough sunlight to keep them from becoming drab.  But I already incorporate some basic color theory into our home’s color scheme – I doubt anyone would ever call our home dreary.  That was intentional.  I knew it was gloomy and grey in this region when I moved here, so I painted the interior of our house bright and cheerful colors – mostly yellows, blues and greens.  It may look dated as color trends come and go, but it’s always sunny and bright inside.  I can’t prove that this has helped our moods, but I can’t disprove it either; and The Goat said he’s thankful it’s so cheery, so we like it, and that’s all that matters to me.

It’s been just over a week or so since I’ve been home from my vacation, and already, I’m back into things full swing.   It’s amazing how fast that sense of well being that vacation creates can wear off, and amazing how fast we are aware of it slipping away.  With Spring just days away, at least based on the solar cycle, it’s hard for me to continue thinking about how to improve the Winter atmosphere in our home.  Quite honestly, as the sun starts shinning again, yard work needs done, birds are singing, and the dog is hunting,  figuring out how to keep our home environment sunny and uplifting for the grey days of January and February can be difficult.  But I’ve got an entire year to see what I can do about it, if anything.

I’m just glad the weather seems to have finally released it’s Winter hold on us and I hope the sun is shinning on you today too.