Home Sweet Home

Hi there, I’m back from my quick trip to Shanghai. I’d gone up to see an orthopedic surgeon about the torn ligaments in my shoulder. I went because, call me crazy, I am more than hesitant to have any major surgery done here in Liuzhou. Unfortunately the doctors in Shanghai unanimously confirmed the need for reconstructive surgery and I’m scheduled to go back in a couple of weeks to get it done. For now, I guess the plan is to mostly just kick back and relax. That whole not working/not making any money thing aside, I’ve been really bored the last few months. Now that the arm and shoulder feel pretty good I am finally able to type and process photos and I was able to get a lot done during the trip. That’s one of the benefits of  a 27 hour train ride… a lot of time to work on the computer. I managed to finish the paperwork for Nick’s finical aid package, edited and proofed the annual report for Liugong Machinery and processed a ton of personal photos. I’ve been promising Lily I’d get these photos of the house done for maybe six months (I know) and she was happy to finally see them last night. So happy she beat me to the punch and posted a few of these on her Facebook page before I could get them up here. Anyway, here are the long-ago promised photos of the house… starting with the living room, dining room and kitchen.

The goal was to use a lot of color and design something very contemporary while still maintaining some semblance of traditional Chinese style. When we first took a look at the drawings Lily was afraid we’d gone overboard with the color, in fact she was so adamant about not using green in the office I almost caved. It didn’t help when one of the builders kept saying (like 20 times in a week) that the house was going to look like a kindergarten. In the end I stood my ground.

We are still putting the finishing touches on a lot of the house. The two guest bedrooms in particular are kind of a mess. There is still a little furniture to be bought and some art to be framed and yet a few more pieces of art to be bought. We are debating about what to do with that big red wall and so far we can’t agree on anything. Lily’s father is a painter of some renown in Anhui Province and I keep waiting for him to throw something our way. Nothing so far. What is up with that? I’d also like to get over to my friend Craig Mattoli’s brilliant Leona Craig Art Gallery in Guangzhou to see if he has anything we can actually afford! The gallery features an eclectic collection of all kinds of beautiful art. Of course every time I look at his site I find myself gravitating toward the most expensive pieces he has. I am hoping that in some way means I have good taste. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the art isn’t worth the price. I just lament not having enough to pay the price!

Chinese kitchens are notoriously small and while this kitchen is admittedly still fairly small, it’s double the size of our last place. We had all the counters and cabinets customized, raising them up to a height where I could actually wash the dishes without throwing my back out. Yes I wash dishes. Lily convinced me this smaller fridge would work but almost immediately I regretted not going with something larger. Of course after not working for three months I can’t afford anything larger anyway. I didn’t realize Elvis was hanging out in so many these shots. Like most dogs he follows me wherever I go, even if its only  to walk across the room. He’s obviously afraid he might miss something… like food.

The master bedroom and bath also raised eyebrows with the Chinese builders. I wanted a lot of glass to take advantage of the light coming in from both sides and to give a smallish room a sense of space. We went round and round with the glass people. They kept saying it would look like a hotel. I kept saying good. There is a lot of rich color in these rooms too but it is a very comfortable place to end the day. We didn’t pull cable into the bedroom but we do sometimes watch DVD’s in here. I’m afraid that if there was an actual TV signal I might never leave the room. The best thing about the bedroom may be the black-out curtains.

The shot above is my favorite of the house so far. There and below you can see details of some of the fabrics and textures. We have chosen a painting for above the bed but it hasn’t arrived. Well, technically we haven’t paid for it  yet, which of course is directly related to it not arriving. The hardwood floor is Brazilian Cherry. This being China I guess it could quite possibly be anything, but it’s supposed to be Brazilian Cherry. I am fairly certain it is real wood.

I have a real love/hate relationship with this bathroom. We kept butting heads with the builder. He didn’t like the glass, was unfamiliar with the idea of a dry bathroom and hated the really cool red mosaic tile we had chosen for the wall. It felt to me like everyone involved was really unreasonably worried about something but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Every time we talked about the bathroom the guy would adopt an expression of someone being forced to eat a poop sandwich. Flash forward three months. I returned home from a week on the road and naturally went to check on the house (which by then was already more than month behind schedule). I walked into this room to discover an admittedly beautiful but very bland white tile already installed on about half the upper wall. Noting my bewildered expression, said builder cheerfully explained that he had decided (on his own) to change the tile because a red wall would make me angry. My unrestrained and now edited for publication here response went something like, “You mean, like angrier than I am right now?!!!”. They removed the tile and in the end we settled on this multi-colored glass mosaic with the larger brown tile on the bottom. The sinks are kind of cool. Each one is hand made and painted, not stamped out. The brass fixtures are designed to look like bamboo. In the “it’s always something category” the toilet leaks… a little. Three times they’ve come to take a look at the toilet. I’m learning to live with a small leak.

Unless I am traveling or out of the house working locally, this office is where I spend the majority of my time. I see I really need to do some cord management. The ceiling fans here and in the bedroom have already more than paid a return on the investment. We are in the first week of May and even though the temps have already been well into the 90’s I’ve only had to turn on the AC for parts of a few days. The location of our building in relation to the other buildings in the hi-rise complex has created a bit of a wind tunnel, affording an almost constant breeze through the house. Unfortunately, it also affords a constant build-up of dust from all the nearby construction. There is no end in sight either, as a 45 story building is being erected across the street. I think they have ten floors in so far, which means a couple more of years of construction (noise and dust) to look forward to.

We were able to build this house in large part due to a local government program designed for teachers. Over the years Lily and I had visited the homes of many of her colleagues and I was often amazed at the houses they somehow managed to live in on what I knew was a comparatively low salary. Lily eventually explained that the local government allowed teachers to contribute to some sort of personal housing fund that would then pay out annually a certain amount toward buying/building a house. I’m not exactly sure how it all works out but it’s a bit like a matching fund. In 24 years as a teacher she had never tapped into her fund. We immediately started tapping.

We love the house. As cool as it may look in these pictures, it is actually among the lowest tier in our complex. Due to our proximity to the Liuzhou Government offices, we are surrounded by hi-ranking government officials and titans of local industry. They have either built homes for themselves or for their parents and in a few obvious instances for their mistresses. Opulent is the word that comes to mind. I am hoping that one day I can take interior photos of some of the other houses so you can see what I mean. One resulting benefit, extremely fast internet. It is literally beyond comprehension as to how much disposable income some Chinese have, even here in a third tier industrial city like Liuzhou. In our garage there is a nasty bright red Maserati, a Porsche Panamera, two Land Rovers and too many Mercedes’, BMW’s and Audi’s to count. China’s rich/poor gap continues to widen and you have to wonder just how long folks are gonna’ stand for it. I did read recently that last year Liuzhou invested 4.2 billion RMB for construction of low-income apartments and so far this year they say construction has begun on nearly 30 thousand indemnificatory apartments. As long as they truly trickle down to the low income, I’m all for it.

Photography-wise I’ve been working a lot lately with Adobe Lightroom 4 and the beta of Photoshop CS 6. Here is my unsolicited initial reaction. Wow. Both feature Adobe Camera RAW 7 for processing RAW images and it is a huge step above past releases. ACR 7 is an extremely powerful raw editor that makes it easy to recover a lot of lost detail and maximize contrast with just a few simple changes to the default settings. I was on the fence about upgrading from CS 5 but after just a few days using CS 6 I  am fully on board and enthusiastically recommending making ACR 7 and either Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6 (or both) a part of your regular workflow.

So, yeah I’ll be having surgery on the shoulder May 21st. A few months of rehab after that and I should be good to go. My friend Robert Lio is back in China. We haven’t seen Bob in a couple of years and we’ve loosely planned to make a short trip over to Bama here in Guangxi Province. If we make it there I’m sure you’ll see the photographic evidence here.

I still plan on filling everyone in on the incident with the hole, how it all unfolded. I may be able to get that done today.

Until next time, Peace!

26 Responses to “Home Sweet Home”

  1. Jeff Ross says:

    Absolutely beautiful home and photos. Congratulations to you both. I know you are and will be very happy there.

  2. Andrea says:

    House is stunning! Was this my invitation to come see it in person…ya know…just to verify this is really your house?! Just kidding. You did a great job on the house though. -ak

  3. Dana says:

    Mike Your house is a work of ART! I love the bath and the colors are beautiful. The Terracotta and Green are my favorites. Every piece in everyroom is perfect to bring together a wonderful home for you and Lilly. Congratulations on your Home SWEET Home!

  4. Bernard says:

    5 stars Michael! Best place I’ve seen in China so far…

  5. Dana says:

    I was just wondering if in your wildest dreams back in High School in the 70’s did you ever think that one day you would be living in China, with a BEAUTIFUL wife and taking the WONDERFUL pictures of life there and it’s people. Just wondering.;)

  6. jesse says:

    Your place is beauuuuutiful. I wouldn’t compare it to your high-ranking official neighbors. I’m sure your’s has more class and taste. Almost looks like a hotel! Nice workstation…

  7. Dianne says:

    Beautiful!! You both have a great flair for design. Stunning! Makes me want to come to China :-)

  8. Evan says:

    Wow, what a slick looking house. Really like how you´ve captured a lot of little details in the photos to compliment the larger room photos. Hope the surgery goes well. One day before my birthday!! As long as you have one arm mobile to edit all your photos on those cool looking MAC monitors. All the best, Evan

  9. Kim Rodriguez says:

    Michael, I am absolutely in love with your new home. You and Lily have designed a masterpiece! The floorplan, the rich textures and colors. WOW! Your place belongs in a design magazine! I doubt that I will get back to China, although I miss it so much- far beyond words can convey, but I am so grateful to have a glimpse into your life, my friend. You and Lily are so blessed to have each other. Keep living the dream! I’ll be praying for you that your surgery goes well. Much love to the both of you!

  10. Wow Michael! The home looks absolutely wonderful! I’m happy to hear your arm and shoulder are feeling better.

  11. Edna says:

    Holy cow your home looks gorgeous!! Love the color and the details. Definitely using your photos as inspiration when I eventually (…eventually) settle down and have a place of my own!

  12. Nancie says:

    What a gorgeous home Michael. I absolutely love those hand painted bathroom sinks!

  13. Steve says:

    Damn, Michael, that makes my place look like a hovel. I should get Lily to come in as design consultant when I buy a new place.

  14. Peter says:

    I’m speechless. This is possibly the most beautiful Chinese home I have ever seen. And I rarely praise anything – ask my wife :-)

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