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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 22.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Emphasis: Fall 2011
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Local flooring

While bamboo has been the catchphrase in sustainable flooring, there's another route to go. Local trees, harvested sustainably and installed in your house by Wisconsin residents, is a buy-local option that makes sense on many levels. You can know your floor the way some people know their farmer and their vegetables.

Jim Birkemeier operates Timber Green Forestry of Spring Green. Birkemeier likes to let his big trees grow as long as they are healthy. He'll also harvest dead trees felled by winds or various diseases. Trees are taken to the sawmill on site, milled, dried in the solar kiln, planed and turned into tongue-and-groove flooring in the barn across the street.

Then you choose the varieties of trees that will go into your floor. Mixed hardwoods create a play of different patterns across the floor. Cherry, red oak and birch; oak, elm, hackberry and locust; red oak, white oak, ash and elm; sugar maple, black cherry and paper birch. Or you can stick with one wood - it's up to you. Birkemeier stores a wide variety of boards in his barn. He and his staff assemble the floors themselves with an eye to creating interesting patterns; it's not too much to say that each floor is a work of art. Matching vent covers, available in a variety of intricate patterns cut with a laser, are a natural finish. The cost is not much different than a wood floor installation through a big-box store, and one you can feel a lot better about.

Timber Green also maintains a shop at 124 West Jefferson St. in Spring Green (608-574-3343, open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) featuring wood products from cutting boards to wooden puzzles. Contact Birkemeier at 608-588-7342 or see

Inspiration move me brightly

Two free public events at Monona Terrace this fall should provide inspiration to anyone decorating a nest.

Romanza: The California Structures Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a new film by Michael Miner, will be shown at 1 p.m. on Oct. 2. The filmmaker will be in attendance to talk about the project and answer questions.

Wright, or "Mr. Wright," as Miner tends to refer to him, designed more than 80 projects, public and private, for California; more than 25 of them were actually built. For the film, Miner wanted to "pick the 10 finest examples," inside and out, but in fact he ended up including all 25. The film focuses not just on the architecture, but "also the interesting back stories, and they all do have really incredible stories," says Miner in a phone interview.

Among those interviewed for the film are families who live in Wright's homes, including children. "It's always different to grow up in a Wright house," says Miner. "Sometimes their friends were envious, sometimes intimidated, because the house was so different." One featured domicile is the Berger House, unique in that while Wright drew up the plans for the home, Robert Berger built it himself while the family "lived in the shell." The home also had a Wright-designed doghouse.

And all those things that are oft-heard about Wright homes are true, Miner asserts. "The roofs leak. The furniture is not functional."

"Romanza" was Wright's word to describe the special nature of California - perhaps a combination of light and landscape and attitude; no one knows how to define it for certain. "It's an enigma," says Miner, "maybe best described as a state of mind Wright felt in California."

The second design-based event at Monona Terrace is PechaKucha Night, a combination of open mike and PowerPoint in which 10 design professionals (architecture, landscape and design) will discuss 20 images of their choosing for 20 seconds each to illustrate what gets them thinking creatively; the topic is "My Favorite Things." The format keeps everything moving ahead at a brisk pace, which may jumpstart creativity, too.

PechaKucha got its start in Japan. According to the PechaKucha website,, the name is supposed to sound like the sound of "chit-chat." "Good PechaKucha presentations," according to the site, "are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas."

All the PechaKucha fun starts at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10.

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