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Posts tagged ‘Nancy Ranchel’

A Repair Cafe for PDX


I love Portland! Just when I think we’ve reached our maximum quotient of hip, cool, nerdy individuals, great restaurants and diverse events, this thriving metropolis adds something new to the mix.

Sit down for this proclamation: Portland is not perfect.

I know. Crazy, right?

But Portland has been missing something. A place that everyone needs and needs to love – a Repair Café. These cafés exist in Europe, where people stop by the venue on designated nights to have a coffee and get their toasters repaired. Or the hole in their sweater darned, or perhaps a ripped piece of drapery fixed. Like-minded citizens volunteer their services and skills in an effort to keep goods in good working order and out of the landfill. People stay busy, connected, and perhaps well-hydrated (or, at least well-caffeinated). Pretty cool.


Sounds like such a simple concept – and one that simply must exist in Portland, the greenest, grooviest city around. Palo Alto has a Repair Café. But when I started snooping around, I found out Portland didn’t. The world was clearly out of balance! And then a group of like-minded individuals started contacting people around town who had expressed interest in Repair Cafés. They got the ball rolling. Meetings ensued, and damn, they got this crazy-smart idea started up right here. With the help of people from Metro, anti-plastic crusaders, the Reuse Alliance, people who know how to repair (you name it), the Tool Library (do you have a tool inventory like my dad or Ace Hardware in the pics above? I do not!) and many others, the first Repair Node event (a Café is still in the works) will take place at Alberta’s Last Thursday event on May 30th. The repair experts – a sturdy team of volunteers – will be at work from 5:30 to 8:00pm on NE 17th Avenue and Alberta Street strategically perched between the Community Cycling Center and the Umoja Center.

Years and years ago, I saw Sex, Lies, and Videotape at the theater. (Yes, I’m that old.) In one scene, Andie MacDowell is discussing the many reasons she cannot sleep, and one item on her list (per my imperfect memory) was I think about everything in the landfills. How long can we keep putting stuff in landfills? Well, I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit. I’m one of those dorks who looks in my garbage can and says, How do I cut this in half? I hate the mountains of garbage we are creating. When and why did it become OK to toss everything at the first sign of wear and tear? Let’s reverse that trend. And to that end I will be taking holey sweaters to Last Thursday, baby. I’m going to take the right thread, too, just in case there’s a darner there with time on his or her hands. Which brings us to the actual repairing.

For this first outing the group will likely be providing:

  • shoe polishing (shoe repair to follow)
  • sewing (bring those draperies!)
  • and computer repair.

The group is working on adding small electronics repair to the mix (don’t throw out your broken toaster just yet), as well as toy and jewelry repair, plus much more.

The second Repair Café event is planned for June 20th at Ford Food and Drink from 630 to 900PM. More information to follow.

If you are curious about the logistics of a Repair Café, please check out the website for the Repair Café in Palo Alto. See the list of items that can commonly be repaired, plus the caveats they have delineated.

And then sit back and think about landfills and our disposable culture. How can you help avoid wasting? How you can fix something that ain’t (that) broke? Repair rather than tossing! Perhaps you would like to repair goods in an altruistic, nerdy, authentically PDX way, but have no fix-it skills to speak of. Perhaps you have a skill that would help operations run smoothly?

Well, volunteers are also needed to check people in, keep things moving, set up, take down, you name it. Perhaps you actually do have other marketable skills. Do you solder, sew, tinker, fix bikes? If you do, check out the Repair Node Facebook page and consider volunteering (the website will be up soon at Or stop by NE Alberta Street on May 30th or Ford Food and Drink on June 20th to talk to the team. We would love to see you. And, you’ll get a kick out of all the stuff that can be fixed and learn more from the people who fix all that stuff.

About Nancy Ranchel

Nancy is an accountant who offsets the practicality of her day job with extravagant and outrageous remodeling projects, often involving massive amounts of scrap metal.  In her free time she can be found dreaming up new ways to turn her house into an art installation, digging through scrap heaps, and contemplating a world without plastic. Check out Nancy’s blog here:

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The Guys!

by Nancy Ranchel

I often speak about the guys – the guys who work on my house – those wonderful guys responsible for bringing my ideas to life. As I have no hand-eye coordination and no useful abilities of my own, I rely on these guys. And Arciform guys do not disappoint.

Which isn’t to say they are normal or regular or something you’d see on a network sitcom about construction guys. No, in real life, these guys are as weird as snot. Since weird is right up my alley, I make good use of having them in and around my house. It’s a chance to learn. Learn about the mind and life of construction workers.


If you are planning another project, I encourage you to do the same. Don’t “keep it professional” with these guys. Chat ‘em up. Here are some pointers.

  1. If they’re working outside, keep the windows open. This is a no-brainer, but don’t overlook it. The guys will soon forget you’re in the house and they’ll speak freely. They will speak about their wives and kids, Anne and Richard, politics, office gossip, everything. It’s a fantastic opportunity to pick up tidbits for use at the next Arciform party. For example, at Builders and Butchers you will meet some of these spouses. You’ll have inside info and can use it how you see fit.
  2. Encourage them to play music as much as possible. I work at home, so sometimes they have to turn it off while I’m on the phone, but otherwise I try to enjoy it. The guys often rotate day-by-day who gets to pick the station. You will hear all kinds of music plus talk radio, and probably sports radio. Your crew will discuss the talk radio and sing along to the regular radio. They will tell stories about what a certain song reminds them of – sometimes quite interesting stories. It’s fun and annoying and something you won’t normally hear. You might miss it when they’re gone, or maybe you won’t. But enjoy it while it lasts.
  3. Listen to them fight. And they will fight! The on-site lead will carefully instruct his team to do something, and will probably repeat the instructions three or four times. (At this point I am thinking to myself – for God’s sake, they’ve got it, already.) The team will agree – three of four times. They will then do the exact opposite, and the yelling will start. This is enjoyable because it’s not your business.
  4. Have a drink with them at the end of the week.  Ask them about their weekend plans. This always gets me reminiscing about the things I did when I was young and had energy.
  5. Give them a hard time about their bad habits (smoking!). This is fun because they really don’t feel they can do the same with you.
  6. If they ask to bring family or friends over to see the project – do it! Encourage it! Then pump the friends and family for information about the guys. Embarrassing tales are the best.


All right, enough for now. What do you think – should we ask the guys what they think about the clients (me and you)? NO – we’re perfect, right? Nothing to tell. And if there is, I don’t want to hear it.

About Nancy Ranchel

Nancy is an accountant who offsets the practicality of her day job with extravagant and outrageous remodeling projects, often involving massive amounts of scrap metal.  In her free time she can be found dreaming up new ways to turn her house into an art installation, digging through scrap heaps, and contemplating a world without plastic. Check out Nancy’s blog here:

Explore the Arciform Photo Galleries | All About Arciform | Schedule a Design Consultation

From Ocean Voyage to Backyard Guest House

You may have read recently about a recent trend towards transforming old shipping containers into backyard sheds and guest rooms. We recently completed just such a project for our good friend and client, Nancy Ranchel.

1859 Magazine covered the story with a great slide show. Check it out an excerpt here:

Anne De Wolf’s Suggestions for Repurposing a Shipping Container


Consider how to install the container on your property and factor that into the overall budget. Ranchel used a crane, which increased costs.


Set insulation in only the deeper cavities of the container to save interior space. Insulated containers are also available to purchase.


To Plumb or Not?

Know how you want to use the space before adding plumbing. In Portland, says De Wolf, no additional permits are needed as long as you don’t plumb the container, and it’s 200-square-feet or less.


Be okay with exposed conduits, as electrical outlets are hard to hide in the container’s shallow walls. Floor-mounted outlets can be a fun option.


De Wolf had a large opening cut into the side of the container, then installed sliding glass doors with metal fabricated screens. This allows Ranchel to control the amount of light, air and privacy.

Have Fun!

With such a small space, Ranchel and De Wolf got even more creative with their salvaged décor. Antique sprinkler heads became clothing hooks and an agricultural water trough is now a shower basin. Ranchel got to see more ideas from her notebook come to life.

View the slideshow here.

Explore the Arciform Photo Galleries | All About Arciform