It’s a Dog’s Life

Back in 2009, a couple who were frustrated with cutting and managing photo clippings for their home remodeling project came up with the idea of an on-line photo database for homeowners. They created the website www.Houzz.com. In just four years, the site has taken off and grown to the point that it now houses over two million photographs that have been downloaded into peoples’ ideabooks over 280 million times! There are over 2 million professionals from the home construction and remodeling trades who have their portfolios on Houzz. Since early 2012, I have been one of those design professionals. I have roughly 175 photos from my portfolio showing my work in 51 homes over the years.

I find it both informative and interesting to go through my on-line photos from time to time to see which ones get frequently downloaded and, based on peoples’ comments, see why they were downloaded. In this way, I learn and continue to grow as a designer. Reading comments in English, French, Dutch, Russian and more, I also find it fascinating how good design ideas translate. A good design idea is a good design idea the world over.

BrookhavenRecently I took a gander through my on-line photos and found it interesting that my number-one all-time most-downloaded photo is from a laundry room that I designed back in 2010. While there are lots of folks who like the folding area with open space below or the functionality of the room as a laundry and mud room space, a huge number of people have shared that photo because of what I did to incorporate the dog’s cage into the space. Comments show me that people have taken this idea and shared it to create special places not only for their own dog but also for their kitties and their litter boxes and even for their children with a secret play cubbie.

This makes me smile. While I know I have designed thousands of spaces that have made families happy over the years, I find it pretty rewarding to know that I have also brought comfort and happiness to their four-legged family members. Let’s keep those tails a-waggin’. 😉

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Beauty is Only Skin Deep

How many times have you heard that old adage? While I rarely use these exact words in day-to-day conversation, I often find myself explaining to clients that my goal in any kitchen or bath design project is to not only make it look good in the short term but to have it last a lifetime. I don’t want the beauty in my designs to only be skin-deep; I want it to be built by people who do quality work on a foundation of fine craftsmanship that will last until they are ready for something different.

Recently, I completed remodeling a powder room in my own home. While we were at it, we made sure everything was up to code. So, it came as a great surprise when we started having a sewer issue a few weeks ago. It wasn’t pretty. What went down in the toilet came up in the garage stationary tub. How could that be? I called the plumber out to rod the line and when he tried he couldn’t do it. The snake went in but just hit a muddy dead end about 40 feet out. Hmmm.

Now a neighbor had told me that the previous owner had the sewer lines all replaced a few years before we bought the place so there really shouldn’t be any reason why they would be clogged. We put the camera down the line figuring we would identify where the powder room line joined up and see if we could see any problem. We all watched that camera go through the main line and I was pleased to see that the pipe was spotless…no sludge, no cracks, no roots. Exactly what you want to see in your sewer main EXCEPT we didn’t see any pipe that connected in from the powder room. Hmmm.

This meant it was time to do a little digging. We dug down at the point where the joint should have been only to find this…

Improperly Replaced Sewer Lines

Improperly Replaced Sewer Lines

Whoever had done the work for the previous owner only did half the job! They pulled new pipe through the main line but completely missed the secondary line. Whether this was accidental or intentional, I will never know. I don’t even know who did the work in order to make sure I avoid this contractor in the future.

All I can say is I have yet another demonstration of why you want to hire quality contractors and use quality materials. My powder room still has it’s beautiful new skin but, as you can see, it was only skin deep!

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Two Lloyd Wrights

Frank Lloyd Wright has always been one of my all-time favorite architects. Having lived in the Chicago area, I certainly saw my fair share of Frank Lloyd Wright homes and have even toured a few over the years.  Last night though, while reading the November issue of Sunset magazine, I learned that I was influenced by another Lloyd Wright in my design career and didn’t even know it!

Frank’s second son,  John Lloyd Wright, lived much of his life in the shadow of his father yet he was a reputed architect and inventor in his own right. He built quite a portfolio of homes for himself over the years although I don’t believe I have ever seen one. There are a few of his designs in Illinois and another project at the dunes in Indiana but, for the most part, John’s work can be found in Southern California where he had relocated in his teens to be near his older brother, Lloyd, who had turned to landscaping as a career.

So how is it that this second Lloyd Wright came to influence my design view? Back in 1920, John Lloyd Wright was the inventor of the now-classic toy – Lincoln Logs. Now, I was (am) more of a Lego’s gal myself. I even went so far as to construct Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Falling Water’ home out of the plastic blocks. [Yet another instance where Frank’s architectural influence over-shadowed John’s, I guess.] But I do remember pulling out the box of Lincoln Logs in Grandma’s basement closet.

You might say that I showed my design roots at an early age because I did enjoy building with them. Perhaps they even influenced an early desire of mine to build a log home. I never did do that and, at this point, I no longer have that burning desire but I did study up quite a bit on log home construction before I let that dream go. I remember finding it fascinating that it is one type of building where the walls aren’t hollow to hide the mechanicals and you have to plan for it to shrink over time. Since the logs dry out and contract a bit as they age, both designer and architect have to plan for that spacial loss. Imagine having to think through how to install a kitchen so that the pipes don’t burst, the electrical wires don’t get pinched to the point that they crack and the cabinets don’t crush the backsplash causing the tiles to pop as the ceiling slowly gets closer to the floor.  It is a fascinating engineering challenge when you think about it!

So I guess now I know that both Frank Lloyd Wright AND John Lloyd Wright were influencers of my design aesthetic. Just like in John’s lifetime though, Frank just took a bit more of the center stage.

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Baseball in the Background

Being the daughter of a baseball groupie, I grew up with baseball in the background. Every Cincinnati Reds game played on Mom’s radio and I could wile away hours flipping through the signed memorabilia from her youth that Mom had tucked away in cabinets in the basement – scorecards, pennants, balls, and even a cracked bat that an usher sanded down for her when she was a teen. [She collected autographs on that bat all season and then that same usher recoated the bat to protect those signatures forever. Pretty cool!]

I never acquired the baseball bug as much as Mom but I do have my own signed memorabilia from the ‘Big Red Machine‘ of the 70s, I do understand the game, and I can still sing most of the beer jingles that played on Mom’s radio so long ago.

AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA

AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA

This being said, it came as a bit of a surprise to me as I walked around San Francisco’s AT&T Park the other day, that I was most impressed by a small sign on the exterior of the building. It wasn’t the plaques on the Wall of Fame showing the many super athletes who played for the Giants over the years. It wasn’t the monument or memorabilia case to the great Willie Mays. It wasn’t the brass markers set into the walkways commemorating the many championship pennants won or the records set by players not yet on the Wall of Fame.

LEED Silver Certification 2010

LEED Silver Certification 2010

Rather, it was a plaque commemorating that AT&T Park was the first major league ball park to earn LEED Silver certification back in 2010. That little plaque caused me to seek out what they did and how they did it. It wasn’t rocket science; it was a bunch of common-sense changes that reduced energy and water consumption and promoted a plethora of public transportation options to get to the park.

Being a designer, I am well aware that earning LEED certification is no simple task, let alone do it with an existing ball park. The whole major league sports experience seems so counter to energy and environmental stewardship when you think about the amount of traffic, electric and water that gets utilized at each contest, as well as all the waste that results from the foods and beverages that we all consume while we take it all in. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy the experience but I do recognize that it comes with a price.

Since 2010, only two other teams have stepped up to the plate and earned certification for their park as well. A standing ovation for the Giants, the Brewers and the Marlins for taking strides to put forth teams that lead on the field as well as fields that ‘LEED’. You’re all champions in my book.

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Details, details, details

Exterior Views

From time to time, I stumble across a little design gem where the more you look, the more you see. Such was the case last week while on a tour showcasing construction and art works throughout San Francisco that were the direct result of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs operating from 1933 to 1942.

We made a stop in Golden Gate Park to visit the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club which was built by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) in 1938.

As we came to the front entry, I could tell this structure was something special. We were greeted by a beautiful stone entryway around a substantial wooden door hung on handcrafted iron hinges and a superb stained glass window in the door of nothing other than a fly fishing lure!

Stained Glass Fly Fishing Lure

Stained Glass Fly Fishing Lure

Inside, the lodge was crafted of hand-hewn beams and corbels supporting knotty pine beaded boards throughout. The kitchen was clearly built a long time ago but with good materials in a functional layout such that, with a little TLC, it is still serving the needs of the club even today.

Old Kitchen Still Going Strong

Old Kitchen Still Going Strong

As we walked through the building to go out and see world-class fly fishing folk practicing in the casting pools, I noticed that they even have custom lockers designed to be extra tall (about 12′) to hold each angler’s fly fishing rod. They thought of everything!

Fly Fishing Rod Lockers

Fly Fishing Rod Lockers

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Jazzy Tiles at SFJazz

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of three of San Francisco’s performing arts venues – the War Memorial Opera house, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall and SFJazz Center. All three are venues where you can go to see and hear spectacular performances but they are also spectacular examples of great design of their time and well worth a visit even when there isn’t something happening on stage..

The opera house, completed in 1932, is one of the last examples of the magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture built in the US. The structure was seismic-retrofitted after the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. At that time, the building was raised 6″ to sit on rubber rollers so the building can ‘rock and roll’ with the next tremor yet there is no visible change made to the 1932 interior or exterior. Quite an amazing design feat!

The symphony hall, a modern design completed in 1980, was a bit of an embarrassment at the time because, although it looked beautiful, it was an acoustical miss. Performers couldn’t hear each other while spectators heard distorted sound. It was so bad that, just four years after it opened, they started a remodeling effort to figure out how to acoustically retrofit the interior.  They did an amazing job of the retrofit as you would never know that it wasn’t the original design if you had not seen the original interior. The efforts paid off as today the hall is both beautiful to look at and has the stellar acoustics to match.Jazzy Tiles at SFJazz

SFJazz center is the new kid on the block. It is a modern glass/steel/concrete structure that was completed in 2012 and just finished its first season of performances. It is a spectacular venue that is the first stand-alone structure in the US built specifically for the acoustical particularities of jazz music.  If that weren’t enough, it is also LEED-certified! I am totally impressed with how well thought out the design of the building is and how acoustically fantastic it is whether you are in the auditorium, the labs, the practice rooms, the lobby or even climbing the ‘oh-so-quiet’ metal staircase!

I have to admit, though, that of all the sights and sounds I saw at each center, I just fell in love with the tile murals at SFJazz. They are floor-to-ceiling masterpieces of blue and white tiles just accented with the occasional use of gold that line the interior wall outside the auditorium doors. You won’t be able to see them by just stopping in the lobby. They are an extra-special treat reserved for those who have come to see a show. I think I had best go order up some tickets!

 

 

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California Sink for CA Home + Design Magazine

As I was eating breakfast this morning and flipping through the latest edition of CA Home + Design magazine, I came across this very cool and unusual sink. It was a very non-standard shape and the surface was rippled like a topographical map of the earth. That’s when it hit me…oh my goodness…it’s the shape of the State of California and the basin IS the topographical impression of the Sierra Nevada mountain range! I went searching for more about the sink at Concreteworks (the fabricator) and found their blog post which I just have to share. What a beautiful and amazing piece of functional art!

CONCRETEWORKS

Our California Sink is #3  in CA Home + Design magazine’s  running State of the Art feature, Fall 2013 issue available today.

CA Home&Design Cover

CA Sink Mag

“To create his California basin, Mark Rogero worked with special projects manager Kawther Alsaffar to incorporate the state’s 3-D topography into the vessel itself…” To read more pick up your copy today.

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The CA Home + Design photo shoot of our California sink with a copper faucet at our studio in Oakland.

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Check out CA Home + Design and other Concreteworks Sinks

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Reviewing a Showerhead in a PC Magazine?

I have been working in the field of kitchen and bath design for almost fifteen years now and this is a first. Today I read a review of a Kohler Moxie showerhead by PC Magazine. Not a kitchen and bath magazine, but PC Magazine. The magazine that I typically turn to when I want a review of a computer component or peripheral.

How can this be? Kohler has come out with a novel idea. They have created a shower head with a place to incorporate a portable bluetooth speaker in the spray. As you stand in the shower, the music or podcast or language lessons or whatever you run through a bluetooth device  is right there by your ears. Very clever, Kohler!

Reviews seem to be generally good with most complaints revolving around the lack of an in-shower volume control on the shower head but they should be able to correct that with the next release. Who would have thought that a shower head would come with its own software release?! 😉

 

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Making Good on Victorian Style

One of the basic tenets of good kitchen and bath design is the use of repetition.  For example, if I use an arch over a doorway, I am likely to repeat the same arched shape in a hood surround or a window valance so the design is repeated around the room and makes the design tie together. This is just one of the things I consider every time I am laying out a new design. I have to admit though, that it never really occurred to me that a good city planner does the same thing.

Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies of Alamo Square

Alamo Square Playground

Playground at Alamo Saure

A few days back I was walking around Alamo Square in San Francisco. There were tour buses going by and lots of visitors strolling the park to see the “Painted Ladies” – a string of much-photographed, beautiful examples of Victorian-style homes in the city. As I crossed through the park, I noticed that the kids’ playground tied in with the neighborhood because the play structures were little “Victorian homes”. Very clever, I thought.

New Victorians

New Construction Near Alamo Square

Turning the corner and walking on, I passed a new complex going up with a more contemporary feel. They omitted the  historical gingerbread found on the older Victorians but repeated the same shapes on the facades.  That simple use of repetition  with a more sleek and modern style made all the difference to make the new feel a part of the old.

Kudos to whatever architectural review board, city planner or conscientious builder made that happen!

 

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We’re Composting!

A few months back, I posted a blog asking if people were composting and using a built-in compost bin. After a good bit of feedback from readers and a little bit of research, I went for it when we remodeled our kitchen and installed the Blanco Solon composting bin in our countertop.

We are so glad that we did. It works wonderfully! The compost scraps are easily put in the bin. The rubber seal prevents any odor in the room, even when scraps sit in the bin for a week! The bin takes scraps daily but is large enough to hold several days-worth. All the parts are high-quality stainless steel which looks great and cleans up beautifully in the dishwasher when desired. I think it was one of the smartest design decisions we made in the remodel. Going forward, I am not the least bit concerned about recommending this composting solution for my clients. It is a keeper!

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