Thursday, November 1, 2012

How We Use Antique Tools In Our Designs

Antique tools are a great inspiration for our architectural designs.  They are useful in many ways.  First and foremost, many of the molding profiles and shapes can be traced back to Greek or even Egyptian times with surprisingly little change over the centuries.  The most dramatic source for change is the materials we use for moldings and the tools we use to make them.  Instead of just stone or wood, we can now produce moldings from concrete, stone, wood and even plastic.  They all achieve the goal of providing interest and pattern to our designs.  Often accentuating a window or providing more visual interest to a room or space.  So our antique tool collection offers an insight into what wood moldings looked like say 100 years ago. In addition, the limitations of these tools offer lessons for why molding shapes and profiles are shaped the way they are. 

These tools come from a time when a craftsman was judged by the tools he used so they are often very beautiful.  Here is a great example of how to make a simple bull nose plane look rich and interesting.  A great lesson in simple relief ornamentation. 

The wonderful tiger maple handle on this huge jointer plane was the inspiration for a set of bookshelves that we built for one of our projects.  The original finish was probably just simple linseed oil and then burnished by years of use and a sweat from the hand of the craftsman. 

For our bookshelves, we used shellac finish instead of linseed oil.  this finish is a little more durable than the linseed oil but it is susceptible to damage from alcohol so the owners need to be careful that no one leaves their cocktail sitting on the shelve or it will leave a white ring in the finish. 

Moldings for these bookshelves were patterned off profiles from our antique hand planes. They were great resource for the traditional detailing used for this design. 

This matched plane used to produce a tongue and groove joint in the edge of boards is pretty boring to look at.  But the wonderful patina in the wood is another great inspiration for some wood cabinets.  For now, we do not have a client who needs a period correct craftsman cabinet but when we do, the rift grain oak used to make this plane will be a great starting point for a future family heirloom.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Modern Architecture

We are seeing a lot of modern architecture built lately.  It will be interesting to see how it stands the test of time.  With Modern Architecture, the detailing is restrained and usually visually clean.  For this reason, the detailing becomes really critical to the overall look of the home.  We are  beginning to notice homes that are experiencing water intrusion issues as new techniques and finishes are being tried.  In the Northwest, with such a lot of rain and wet weather, it is important to still really think through any building penetrations. 
Ice and water shield has been installed behind the finish panels to provide a waterproof sytetm.
This is not to say that fresh and clean looks are not possible, just that like anything new, there are always going to be a few architects that ignore the laws of nature and have issues with water.  This seems to be a lesson that we have to learn and relearn over the years. 
I personally love the change of pace that modern architecture provides.  This is one of  the things that make the business of architecture so fun as styles and tastes continue to evolve and change. 
This trellis does not actually penetrate the building wall so we do not allow water to enter the wall cavity.
Even with a more restrained modern aesthetic, there is still lots of room for those special places to take time our of your day and enjoy the beauty of the pacific northwest.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How we communicate architectural concepts to our clients

Today, architects have a variety of tools to communicate their design ideas to clients.  Many architects have left the color sketches and renderings and gone the route of computer generated 3D models.  These models are not really Three Dimensional as they are presented on a 2D computer screen.  For many of our clients this is a difficult way to visualize the final product.  More often than not, this is not an effective way for us to communicate our ideas to the client. 

For this reason, our office often produces quick "study models" these are cardboard models built to scale to show our design ideas to our clients. 

Models can be simple or complex just like our projects.  The beauty of this technique is the client instantly can grasp the design concepts.  It is rewarding to see our clients faces light up when they see their model for the first time and watch their smile broaden as they begin to understand what the finished product will look like. 

This technique is especially effective for remodel projects as it is difficult to "erase" the vision of what the existing home looks like. I am convinced that this presentation technique works so well because the model is not complete in every detail, many of the colors and textures have to be imagined as the client needs to "fill in the blanks" with the model. 


This is an important part of the process as we often still need input from the client to fine tune the concept to really tailor the design to suit the tastes of the owners. 

We like to think of the design process like a good book.  We write the first few chapters to introduce the characters, set the story direction but leave room to add the special things that personalize a home for each of our clients.

Many of our clients take their model around to show to their friends. We have even heard of the models traveling to thanksgiving or Christmas dinner so everyone in the family can see the new project as it is built. 
It is pretty fun to watch our client try to explain how a bit of turkey gravy ended up on their  model.  We don't mind as this model is a great way that we engage our clients in their new project. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Finished photos from the spiral stairway project

Any of you who are following our blog have seen the wonderful spiral stairway under construction in our Juneau Alaska project.  We as a final treat, check out the photos of the finished product!  The stairway was built on site around a huge spruce log that was harvested on the building site to make room for the new home.  Timber frame inside and out was provided by New Energy Works.  They fabricated the frame in McMinnville Oregon and packed everything into a container and shipped it up to Juneau.  The timber framers even provided a crew to erect the frame on site.  Everything had to fit just right and the owners could not be more pleased with the result.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What to do With an Aging Tri Level Home

The predominant home designs of the 1970's and early 1980's are split level and tri level homes.  These floor plan layouts have a lot to offer but they can look and feel pretty dated without a bit of rework.  The biggest thing that has changed since this time period is we now almost exclusively live and entertain from the kitchen.  Formal spaces are not used as much for casual entertaining.  In fact, the dining and living rooms are often only used for thanksgiving and Christmas while the rest of the year we all want to be near the kitchen.  This home had a kitchen that was completely separated from the rest of the house so right from the start we knew we needed to open up the floor plan and relocate the kitchen to a more central location.  The result is a wonderfully open plan with a spacious kitchen, a cozy dining nook and a new casual space to read, watch TV and relax near the kitchen. 

To provide some order to the room and to help define the spaces, we added a timber frame truss to the ceiling.  This truss was built by New Energy Works and is another example of their great quality and craftsmanship.   

Flooring is from New Energy Works reclaimed woods company Pioneer Millworks.  The floor is resawn oak fence posts that were originally used for thoroughbred horse stables.  It is neat to be able to use materials that have an interesting history but the color and patina if the flooring is spectacular too. 

Down a few steps is the new Living and Dining areas.  This space is a touch more formal in nature as the owners intend to use it for those special occasions like thanksgiving dinner. 

The fireplace has been updated to fit in with the rest of the remodel and to provide some wonderful ambiance for those cold evenings with family and friends.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Hire an Architect?

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It seems like everyone is working hard to pinch their pennies to try to make the money go as far as possible.  So why not just hire a contractor directly and eliminate the architect from the equation?   Well the first issue is DESIGN. Just take a drive around your own neighborhood and you can easily spot the homes and remodel projects that were not designed by an architect.  If your project is really simple, going directly to a builder may be your best choice.  More often, our experience is the homeowner think they have figured the best way to accomplish a remodel or design their dream home but they simply do not have the expereince to draw from to provide them with a good variety of solutions to the design. 

The doors open up to let the sun shine in!
It amazes me how many times, a client has spent hours and hours on the kitchen table with a pencil or some graph paper or worse yet with an on line home design program trying to figure out the solution prior to our first meeting. 

This can be really frusturating as the client often does not have a varied experience and background to draw from so they often come to our first meeting with a less than successful design solution.
This is a "Nana Wall" in shown closed
Architecture is one of the few professions where the learning never ends, new products, code requirements or changes to style added awareness to energy efficiency all represent an ever changing field of work.  In addition, each project adds more experience to the architects "bag of tricks" as they work with different clients and design goals. 

This blog entry shows several uses for a "Nana Doors" where the entire wall opens up.  Great for parties where there are people moving from the interior to the exterior of the home. 

They vary in size (and price) as each application is different.  Another way to open up a wall for the cost concious is to pair sliding doors or french doors.  this will not allow the entire wall to be "opened up" but then again this solution is almost 1/10th of the cost too.

As you can see, each one of these applications is very different.  Differnt locations, different views and different  price ranges too. 

This illustrates the advantage of working with an experienced architect as they have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from to provide your project with the best possible design.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Building for today’s economy

 Because by building smaller you can make it that much better.

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With the tight economy, a second home is a luxury that many of us now find difficult to justify.  But with our crazy busy lifestyles, the lure of owning your own private get-away is still a siren song that speaks to our soul. So how does one build the perfect, cozy place to relax when the chance arises? Our approach is to build small and sweat every detail.  Our client named the project early on, this is the “house of inches” so named because it’s diminutive size requires that every inch count.  Nearly every room has to be useful for more than one purpose.  The fireside nook doubles as overflow sleeping quarters when more guests arrive.  But when the guests leave, it is the perfect place to sit by the fire and read a book or have a long talk with a friend over a cup of coffee or a special glass of wine.

The home has wide comfortable decks on both floors to add versatility to the floor plan.  Plus on a clear day, the Mount Baker views are spectacular.  If it rains or the day gets a bit chilly, the main floor deck has radiant heaters to keep everyone warm. 

Since this is such a small home, no furnace is needed, the heat is provided with a gas fireplace.  There is even a gas fueled wood stove in the master bedroom to help on winter nights.  Whether entertaining a crowd or as a quiet respite for one, this little cottage does it all. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spiral Staircase Continued

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If you have been following my blog, you have already seen the huge spruce log that makes up the center of the spiral staircase in our project in Juneau Alaska.  I am posting an update because the progress is so exciting that I really want to share it with everyone.  As can been seen from the photos, the wood treads have now been added but the railings have yet to be fabricated and installed.  Each wood tread is attached into the spruce log and gracefully cantilevers out like a series of tree branches.  The end result is pretty breath taking especially when seen from above. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is Now the Time to Remodel?

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As a large percentage of the country finds their home "under water" many people are taking a fresh look at their existing home.  The neighborhood is still great and the neighborhood still is home to many dear friends so why move?  The obvious problem is the family abode is getting a little dated.  Many of our living and entertaining patterns have changed from more formal to an informal lifestyle.  Entertaining often is centered around the kitchen or outdoor living room space. These spaces flow into the great room area.  It is hard to believe that 50 years ago, guests were not even allowed in the kitchen.
Now most guests expect to be welcomed into the kitchen and we need to craft the floor plan to accommodate this change. As an added benefit of having a space where your guests feel comfortable, your homes will be more enjoyable to you as well. 
Whether you remodel your kitchen, add an outdoor room or finally add a master bath to go with the master bedroom.  With interest rates at an all time low and contractors aggressively trying to fill their schedules,right now is a great time to begin your remodel.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mother In Law Apartments

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A guest suite or “mother in law apartment” is a popular way to add value to your property without drastically over building the primary residence.  This is a great way to provide for visiting guests, or possibly family or even rental income property.  Each local city or county jurisdiction has differing rules with regard to this type of structure so it is critical that you or your architect checks with the local powers that be to be certain that this type of use is allowed.  As many cities have found, a mother in law apart or “ADU” (Accessory Dwelling Unit) is a great way for our to increase density while still retaining the character of our existing neighborhoods.  For a homeowner, this is often a legal way to have    1 ½ homes on a property zoned for a single home so it will increase the value of your property too. 

So how does this look?    As you can probably guess, a well designed mother in law apartment is complementary to the original home and surrounding neighborhood.  So they can be as varied as your architect can imagine. 

Here are a few examples of this type of development that we have designed in our office.    The style is not important, but it is important to design a home or guest suite that is designed from the beginning on a smaller scale than the primary home.

This is a wonderful way to give your favorite guests privacy while still having them close at hand for dinner or an informal get together.  (it just may help you keep your favorite guests, well , your favorite too!)

When the guests are not visiting, you can turn the heat down and save on energy costs.  

If you decide to sell your home, this great addition to your property will provide versatility to the new owner too, so this is a really smart way to add value to your home. 

We also have had clients build the mother in law apartment first and then move in and live on site while their new home is built.  This is a great way to save some money as it allows you to sell your existing home while your home is built without having to lease a temporary place to call home.  It also allows you to watch the construction as it progresses.  But if you are planning to live here while your home is built, remember just how small it is and just how early the framers will begin hammering each morning!