Keith's Personal Page

New House:  by Laurene Lamar Shannon, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright

In December 2000, we bought a new house, and moved in at the beginning of March 2001.  We couldn't really afford it, and it needs lots of work, but we fell in love with it. We've spending most of our spare time and effort, and more than most of our money, trying to get it fixed up.  It had been neglected for several years, and as this was Ms. Shannon's own house rather than something for a wealthy client, she took a number of shortcuts and we are having to pay the price (new floors, new outside drains and French drains, new electrical panel, . . . )

In February 2002, we had a couple of warm, cloudless days, so I was able to get three good pictures of the house.  Note that this is before we've done any exterior restoration on the house, although there is a new stone wall in back replacing the rotted wood one, and the back is now landscaped.

From the street, even despite the definitely dilapidated exterior the house is fairly unprepossessing. But then you notice the massive grey sandy limestone chimney, and the angle of its "Stonehenge" capstone and the sweep of the roof and angle of the capstone catch the eye.

10_New_House_Front.jpg (139290 bytes) 

And indeed, once you walk across the "drawbridge" and into the house, you forget about the front. As with many of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses, the emphasis is on the natural view out the back. 

10 New House Great Room.jpg (93403 bytes) 

10 New House Winter Sunset 2.jpg (138092 bytes)

As you can see, as in the picture looking west across the Great Room above, the back of the house is basically a wall of windows. Thus the Great Room, the master bedroom, and the dining room have an essentially unobstructed view out across the ravine to the west.

10 New House Back Straight On.jpg (144715 bytes)

10 New House Back Angle.jpg (161590 bytes)

They overlook the tiny yardlet, across the wooded ravine, the Carnegie borough park, and in the distance, the town of Carnegie to the last line of Appalachian foothills and beyond to the rolling hills and plains of Ohio and the Great Plains. From almost anywhere in the house, even the back basement workbench, you have a nearly unobstructed view to the west over the ravine, and the hills, and the western plains. Gramed by the ancient oaktrees in the yard and ravine, the view to the west at sunset is enough to forgive Ms. Shannon all of the repairs we have had to make. And that's the reason we bought the house: even here, in the city, in a tiny end lot that lay undeveloped for many years, she managed to squeeze in a house, and design it so as to make this view the center point of the house, even more so than the Great Room or the Stonehenge-ish fireplace.

Here is one of the pictures from the house just before we bought it:.

House Fireplace.jpg (135312 bytes) Click for a larger image.

And here is a picture from December 2001:

5 House Christmas Tree.jpg (68923 bytes)

it's in Carnegie, PA about a mile from where we lived in Green Tree. It's above the big Carnegie park on Forsythe Road between Green Tree Road and the ParkwayWest (I-279) -- right next to the park, actually.  It was built 20 years ago by Lorene Lamar Shannon, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's, as her home and architect's studio. Contemporary, but with lots of stone and wood, sort of a modern/Frank Lloyd Wright + National Park Rustic/Mary Coulter hybrid.  Essential facts:

The view from the master bedroom window, over the ravine, is particularly nice in winter.

New House Winter 1.jpg (72772 bytes) Click for a larger image.

Across the ravine is another Wright-ish house by another of his students.  The winter view is particularly nice when you're sitting in the bedroom in front of the fireplace (woodburning and gas both).  The Tiffany "Prarie" lamps on the Stickley Furniture Harvey Ellis writing desk (the one truly, truly beautiful piece of furniture we own) give a particularly warm glow that contrasts nicely with the winter scene.  Unfortunately, the backyard had been cleared by simply cutting trees and throwing them down into the ravine -- we've gotten that all cleaned out now and it's a nicely open wooded area now, contiguous with the park.

New House Winter 2.jpg (60517 bytes) Click for a larger image.

The house has been neglected for several years, and the architect was doing this for herself -- not for an independently wealthy client.  So some things were done cheaply or poorly.  And, as with Frank Lloyd Wright, aesthetics sometimes overruled common sense.  ("The roof is leaking on your dinner guest?  Tell him to move his chair."). The doors were all of wood, but exposed to wind and rain and are in poor condition.  We understand her desire for uniform wood exteriors -- but we'll be replacing them with steel or fiberglass doors.

House-New-Front-1.jpg (53925 bytes)View of the driveway from the Great Room, across the "moat" with the "drawbridge" on the left.

The driveway needs to be completely redone, and there are some incomplete renovations to the front "drawbridge" (the front door is reached by a bridge across sort of a "moat" in front). 

The cedar siding on the outside is badly weathered and cracked, there is some question of continued settlement of the foundation, window frames rotted and have to be replaced, furnaces and A/C at the end of their lives, etc. Though cedar siding on the outside, there is also simple exterior plywood between the windows (we'll be fixing the outside and replacing the plywood). 

The retaining walls along the driveway and in back are of poorly-treated wood and are rotten and have collapsed.  Therefore, we're replacing the one in the back with a natural stone wall.  One of Betty's best friends' brother is a landscape architect (David Wilson if you want him to do some work for you!) and redoing the patio in back, building the new stone wall, and landscaping the back.

New House Wall 1.jpg (77390 bytes) Click for a larger image.

New House Wall 2.jpg (58092 bytes) Click for a larger image.

Despite all the badness above, the house is still extremely pleasant.  The Great Room in particular is outstanding.  At night you can just have the lights on by the furniture grouped around the fireplace, for an intimate setting

New House Great Room 1.jpg (42638 bytes)

or you can turn on the lights on the cathedral ceiling for great drama.

New House Great Room 2.jpg (49460 bytes)

More pictures and information (eventually plans) when I get the time.

Baby Pictures

On July 6, 1999, our daughter, Laurel, was born.  It was a bit unexpected -- Betty got preeclampsia unexpectedly and suddenly, and after a routine visit to her OB suddencly ended up having an emergency C-section.  Betty is from Georgia and Texas originally so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when the next day a friend brough in a pulled-pork barbecue sandwhich which she devoured with gusto.  I guess that's a sign she was recovering quickly.  Laurel was quite small, 3 lbs. 4 oz., and at age about 6 months started having fairly severe pulmonary problems after a RSV (Respiratory Syncitial Virus) pneumonia, but nonetheless is developing quite well.  She graduated from the "premie development" evaluations with good grades.  She's still about 2 months behind in development but otherwise developing normally, and in summer of 2001 she had a growth spurt (i.e., she can now reach a LOT more) and discovered she could say "no" to food.  So all the baby fat is gone and replaced with lots of bruises on the knees and such.  Several pages of pictures is available here.

Wedding Pictures

In June 1999, my sister got married.  It was a beautiful wedding, held at "George Washington's River Farm" which is right down the road from Mount Vernon -- George used to rent this out to others.  It's now the national headquarters of the American Horticultural Society, and as a result has beautiful gardens.  There was a formal photographer there, of course, and he was obviously doing some good work -- but I had a new digital camera. I had ought a Kodak DC210+ based on John Dvorak's rave review in PC Magazine -- he's right, it's a wonderful little camera.  My only requests would be a lens cap and the ability to have it boot in "flash off" mode as I'm a fan of existing-light photography and carry a small tripod with my camera all the time.

Anyway, I'm a fan of trying to capture informal, artistic shots, and wanted to see what this new camera could do.  Took a bit of getting used to, and it's a bit grainy and not great color depth, and you can't take pictures in quick sequence, and I keep leaving noseprints on the little LCD screen -- but really quite nice other than that.   You can see the results here.

wpe5.jpg (19457 bytes)Touch Not the Cat Bot a Glove

I'm of mostly Scottish and some Irish extraction (not a "BloodySaxon" or "sassenach" as the Scottish say). Which means that I'm NOT a white Anglo-Saxon. I hate answering those ethnic questions on Federal questionnaires which talk about Anglo-Saxon as if all caucasians are Anglo-Saxon. As far as I can tell, I'm mostly Celtic with only a bit (if that) of Angle or Saxon in me. And besides, I'm not white. As Billy Connolly, the noted Scottish comedian, says: Scots aren't white, we're all really pale blue. And though we may go out and lay in the sun, we just turn a different shade of blue (and maybe freckle a bit). My wife and I are members of Clan Mackintosh, and attend the various Highland Games around this part of the U.S. when we have a chance. The dark brown tartan in the background is the Chief of Mackintosh's personal tartan; there are several variants on the Mackintosh tartan itself, and the version I like best is this, which is a scan of my tartan scarf:


 wpe4.jpg (12050 bytes)

(No I don't play the bagpipes, I play the French Horn.) And much to the surprise of many who know me superficially, though I'm a doctor and I'm of mostly Scottish extraction, I have never played golf in my life. I do wear a kilt to all formal occasions (I didn't want to take chances with that Internet decency statute, the "repugnant" part you know, but OK, since you insist, here it is. Betty and I are at our Emergency Department Christmas party a couple of years ago and I'm wearing my kilt.)

Pet Peeves

My life, and Betty's, seem to be run by our two cats, Aahz (no relation) and Skeeve. People (some of them) say cats are aloof but these guys certainly aren't. When you come home they generally run up to you and sometimes give you a big hug. (Can be dangerous with those claws if we haven't trimmed them recently.) And they both sleep in bed with us; Aahz generally sleeps on one of our heads. It's sometimes frightening to wake up, open your eyes, and realize the entire universe has turned to nothing but orange cat fur. But who needs one of those white-noise generators? Just get Aahz to sleep on your head, his purring will drown out about anything. Stick a front paw in one ear, and a hind paw in the other, and you're set!

5 Betty-Aahz 1.jpg (18843 bytes)We gave them their names after the characters in the Myth series of fantasy-satire novels of Robert Asprin. If you're familiar with the series, their personalities are just exactly what you'd expect from the books. If you're not familiar, maybe looking at this (206K) JPEG image of one of the best of Phil Foglio's trade-edition book covers will incite to you go out and look for them. Take a close look at this image, especially the back of the book (read the marquee on the movie theater, for instance).

Only problem is that Aahz likes to hop up on the bed, find the correct position on the pillows (involves some wandering around, "making bread," stepping on hair and ignoring the "ouch! stop that," etc.) and then suddenly falling over. Usually onto one of our heads. When he was a little kitten it was cute, but now that he weighs 18 lbs. it's a little different; nobody ever told me that an occupational hazard with cats is getting a recurrent neck strain.

5 Betty-Aahz 2.jpg (20930 bytes)

Kitten picture (don't tell them I put it up here, they'll start digging for my baby pictures):

wpe6.jpg (10961 bytes)

To find out more about my tastes in style, particularly as relates to architecture and furniture,

(lots of pictures, loads slowly . . .)

Back to Keith's Home Page