Frequently I find myself designing elements that I directly have to implement… which almost always involves the helping hands (and brain) of my sister, Lisa Johnston of Residential Resource Remedies. And she always says yes, regardless of the level of complexity or the eminent physical danger she may find herself in. The ceiling panel installation at AllState was a combination of the two. If you don’t already know the following things about me, you’re about to get an in depth look.
- My dad is a retired engineer, so while that has me at a technical advantage most of the time, it also means that I might over-complicate things… no, I’m sure I will at one point or another.
- I am unable to finalize a design without knowing exactly how it will be executed… and when I don’t know, I end up doing a lot of thing myself, because I can’t see the solution until I’m actually doing it.
- I do everything to the Nth degree and obsess over completing a project exactly they way I envisioned it in my head. Until I’m convinced it’s flawed and then will come up with an even better idea.
I find that these traits give me a competitive advantage most of the time, but other times they are amusing and sometimes annoying. 😉 The kitchen that I designed for Kendallwood Designs to be a working Viking kitchen at the AllState Appliance Showroom in Scottsdale, AZ is a shining example of all of these points, so I thought I’d share.
As previously stated in my design inspiration blog about this kitchen, I knew I needed to do something to the ugly grid ceiling. Only one other kitchen in the showroom addressed the space above it, so it was a huge opportunity to do something really cool. Once I decided on the element I was going to use (Ornamentation’s Squares), I had to figure out how to finish it and how to physically hang it one story off the floor.
The intention was for the color to be visible against the white ceiling and bring all of the colors of the materials used. The accent colors took four hours, which was twice as much time as we planned as each color needed three coats over the dark gray. Irritating. The finish proved to be much easier than the actual installation…
I knew that I wanted the panels to look like they were floating over the island and that I wanted them to take the shape of the island and point to the star of the kitchen, the slide in range. The only thing that is invisible (mostly) and can hold varying weights, that I know of is fishing line. I also knew that I didn’t want us to try to tie knots perched up on a ladder, so I dug into my memory banks and recalled a bit of tackle I thought would work. After a quick call to my dad (to find out what the hooky things were called) and a trip to WalMart, we were ready for construction. So the morning of the installation, while we were waiting for the accent colors to dry, my sister and I tied 48 fisherman’s knots securing 48 barrel swivel hooks (that’s what they’re called). Seemed simple enough.
And it was, until I had to over complicate it… You see the ceiling grid didn’t line up with the island, so I was convinced that we needed to make varying lengths to accommodate the panels may end up somewhat square or level or whatever their desired angle would be. I always knew they would overlap and I didn’t want them to necessarily be parallel to the floor, so we made three different lengths of lines. This decision was a big part of the epic fail that our first attempt at installation proved to be, but it provides for a very entertaining story!
The Epic Fail
The ceiling panels have been embellished, the suspension mechanism has been pre-tied and we have secured the 12′ ladder needed for install. By the way, Lisa fell off a ladder once, so convincing her to brave the trek up the ceiling was a tall bill of sale, for sure! We had to pretend it was just a step ladder. So-12′ ladder: check. 8′ ladder: check. Panel layout established discussed, reestablished: check. Lies told to selves about actual height of work about to be done: check. Now to fasten the hooks to the panels and start to hang. It was 1pm and they closed at 4pm… no problem.
Earlier that day, while we were tying the 48 fisherman’s knots, we reflected fondly back to long summer days of our youth salmon fishing on Lake Huron with our father. That 18lb chinook with the eel attached to it (eew) that I posed for a proud picture with. That memory quickly turned sour as we discovered that our carefully tied lines with barrel swivels had turned into a horrendous nest of mayhem in the 5 minute car ride from my house to the showroom. Bitter, party of two: check.
As we spent the next 45 minutes untangling 24 four to five foot lengths of fishing line, skads of other untangling memories came flooding back in. This Déjà vu ran strong in both of us, as we had spent many hours attempting to salvage heaps of knotted fishing line while out trolling with our dad. The task was always presented as mission critical and there were implications that the line was spun from gold, until it was deemed too far gone. This was always determined by exactly one minute past the amount of time he could be patient and then he would cut it with his knife and launch it into the water. It was always more fun when we were successful! And lets not talk about the environmental impact of all of that. It was the early 80’s, who knew.
Soon, we remembered that it wasn’t just fishing line that we were tasked with untangling… it was skeins and skeins of yarn for our mom and the pile of connected mittens that seemed to intermingle over each summer almost as if to tempt us to cut them and set them free. There was surely a conspiracy. And kite strings. Kite strings with other kite strings… there were two of us, so two kites were only appropriate. But we were taught to stick to it and calmly untangle. So that’s what we did as the clock slipped away on this day of installation.
Once our knots were no more, we proceeded to start hanging the first panel, far above this Earth’s surface trying to ignore the regular comments of passers-by. They were having a warehouse sale, so we had an audience who jeered things like, “Oh my! That looks terrifying!” and “Wow, you’re really high up there!” and “Don’t fall!” and my favorite, “Did you bring a copy of your worker’s comp insurance?” C’mon people! We’re pretending these are step ladders! Not helping, people! Not helping.
Remember the different lengths of lines mentioned above? Deciding which length to put on which corner to adjust for the difference in the distance on the grid so we could make it hang level and square was geometry for geniuses and after half an hour of discussing it, we gave up and just guessed.
So I’m holding the panel over my head while my sister clips the barrel swivels (which are small and resistant) to the special grid ceiling hooks that I bought. And I’m thinking the different lengths of string were brilliant because they will let us make up for the grid not being centered over the island. The first one is up and it looks like someone just tossed it in the air and it stuck in a horribly contorted position as if it were in some kind of pain. And it’s so far up that you can’t see the accent colors we spent four hours adding. I start to waiver on this fabulous design element I sold so hard weeks earlier. I hate it. I panic. I breathe. We press on. The first panel gets straightened and we are satisfied with the angle and placement. On to number two.
First hook latched, second one secured… let me pause to draw the picture here, in case you missed it. We have to move the 12′ ladder for each hook- it has a six foot spread and weighs over 50lbs. So here we are, two middle-aged women, high up on ladders (suppressing our fear), holding a 2′ x 3′ panel over our heads, worrying that this brilliant idea will not turn out as I’ve envisioned (and sold). And the regular jeering of the crowd. It’s awesome! Just as we hook the third hook, one of the strings on the first panel breaks free with a thud and swings violently until one of us lurches to grab it. Right hand red – from atop a ladder. (Twister reference for you younger folks.)
Once we catch our breath, we discover that the knot had come untied. Ugh, really? Up and down the ladder a few times and the first panel is fixed. All the while I’m still holding the second panel which only got as far as two lines. Hook three gets attached and as we’re moving the ladder to do #4, the first line breaks free and sends everything swaying and teetering right out of my hands. Another bloody knot had came undone- unbelievable! So it’s almost two hours in and we have two panels only halfway hung and knots coming untied at random, with no prompting. I decide to test some of the other hooks and lines and am able to pull the hooks off easily on several. I call it- time of death, 2:45pm. We take both panels down, put the ladders away, wad up the bundle of lines we spent nearly an hour untying, all in supreme disgust and we leave.
Mind you, this was Saturday. The party was Wed evening. AllState is closed on Sunday and closes at 5pm each day. My calendar is booked to the gills. I have no idea how I’m going to make this happen. It takes a beer and a half to regroup and rally back to hopeful. The good news is… the design was great, the installation concept was sound- it was just our knots that failed. Well, duh! It was the opposite of our extensive training and experience with untangling. Of course, we would suck at tying knots! After watching several YouTube videos and testing extensively, we redid all 24 lines (this time at the same length) and then secured them to cardboard with tape, so they wouldn’t get tangled again.
The second attempt at installation was highly successful and with a third pair of hands (Leann Fernald of Ornamentation), went off without a hitch! Mission accomplished! And my sister and I are now expert fisherman’s knot tiers!