Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jewelry Boxes

A good friend gave me some special wood to make some Christmas presents.  I made these dovetailed 
jewelry  boxes. 

The figured wood is Spalted Maple and the dark wood is African Mahogany.

Spalted Maple is actually a fungus that forms in the wood often while the tree is still alive.  It creates these wonderful black lines in the grain.  Like a snow flake, every piece of wood is different.  So the end product is truly a one of a kind item.

The box was built with hand cut dovetails.  I cut these with a hand saw and the wood is removed with a coping saw and final shaping is with a simple hand chisel.  The work goes pretty quickly but it is unforgiving.  Any sloppy cut will show in the final joint so everything has to be as perfect as possible.  When finished, the joint is so tight, it hardly needs any glue to hold it together.  Final assembly is with a large hammer.  If you build the joint too tight, the dovetail pins will break when you put it together, if they are too loose, the joint will have gaps and look sloppy. 

The face frame is a mortise and tendon joint, cut with a table saw and finished with a simple hand saw.  The Spalted Maple panel fits loose into the frame. This allows for the panel to expand and contract over the years without warping the door. 

When everything is finished, it all looks so simple, just like it should.  The cabinet has hooks inside to hold lots of necklaces so they are displayed together. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spec Housing Vs Custom Homes

Although our firm designs mostly custom homes, we design homes for builders and developers too.  This type of home is by its very nature less specialized and more generic but our stock home plans are all designed with many of the same design principals as our custom homes.   

We have designed entire sub-divisions as well as individual homes for a special infill lot.  The important difference is the home is not designed for a specific family or couple.  This presents a great design exercise for our office as we design homes in all sizes and price ranges to meet the requirements of each specific market or neighborhood.

Typically when we design a whole sub-division, we will design 4-6 floor plans with two differing elevations for each plan.  So this way, it appears that the development has a variety of 8-12 different homes.  This makes for a wonderful streetscape as the homes each have an individual look to them.    

The cost for our stock plans is also much less as the plans usually simpler and less detailed.  This is a real advantage to a developer or builder as they can purchase plans for their development for less cost than a custom home.  They often use the same finish specifications for millwork and cabinetry and even the fireplace mantels so we often do not take the time to draw these details for production housing. 

Unlike most stock plan services, we do not charge a “use fee” for our plans so many of our clients use our more successful designs in more than one development. If one plan is a huge seller, we often will be asked to develop different elevations or floor plan variations so a developer can get more use out of a runaway best seller. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Outdoor Living Rooms, a great idea for entertaining

Ahh summer!  What a fun time of year.  For us in the Pacific Northwest we spend a lot of time waiting for summer to finally "happen".  While our climate is pretty mild in relation to the rest of the country, we do get a lot of days where the weather just doesn’t cooperate with our plans for getting outdoors.  For some, the solution is a gore-tex coat, for others, the Outdoor Living Room is a smarter option. 

What a wonderful place, just a few steps from the kitchen but it seems to be miles away.  A great respite from the pressures of work or a place to gather and entertain your friends and family. 

We design this type of space for more than 80 % of our custom homes.  But every one is different as there are many important design considerations for this type of space.  The space you see in this picture, doubles as a sound barrier to stop unwanted traffic noise from a nearby freeway.

If the space is going to be attached to a home, then it is important to understand how this space can affect light and view from inside the home.

If capturing an extra special view is really important, we sometimes situate the outdoor living area on the side of a home. 

This gives people who are inside the home as well as those in the outdoor living area an equal opportunity to enjoy the view.  This option does not block any sunlight from the home either.

For our Juneau Alaska home, sunshine and view are so important that we used a glass roof for the outdoor living room.  That way, rain or shine, wind or snow, there is still a sheltered spot outside to go whenever the owners want a bit of fresh air.  From their protected perch, they can enjoy watching the neighboring eagles feasting on their latest catch. 

For our project in Sedona Arizona, we have an outdoor space that opens directly up to the home.  But if the wind comes up, then a series of doors quickly slide closed to provide protection.  When the weather allows, there is no place on earth more beautiful than a moonless night as the stars dance across the sky. 

Sometimes, the view is not out and away to a distant mountain but from the house to the outdoors ... and from the outdoors back into the house.  Just a few quick steps away but Oh so different!  After a brisk swim in the endless pool, why not relax out on the covered deck and let the birds lull you into an afternoon nap. 

What a great addition to any home.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Updating a Craftsman Home

Craftsman style architecture has such a rich architectural vocabulary with great moldings and woodwork but what do you do if the floor plan no longer supports the way we live and entertain on a daily basis?  This home is a perfect example of the issues that architects face when asked to update a vintage craftsman. 

The real issue is today’s homeowners entertain from and around the kitchen.  When these homes were built, guests were not even allowed into the kitchen.

Today, we live, work and entertain from the kitchen.  The real issue is the stairs are right in the middle of the house.  This is the most efficient way to lay out the upper floor bedrooms as it reduces the amount of wasteful hallways but on the main floor, it is right in the way of things. 

This is not an impossible issue, it just requires some creative design to provide for a more modern floor an.  The solution is to move the dining room out to the existing living room area and push the living room into the sun room area.  This helps in two ways.  It allows for the dining room to work as a “buffer” area between the living room and the kitchen.  It also allows for a large spacious dining room that is directly visible from and to the kitchen. 

An added bonus is the living room is now a “dead end” room that no longer has traffic flowing through it so it effectively is now larger and provides for easier furniture layout. 

The rear entry door now has a larger entry vestibule with a convenient coat closet to provide for a place to hang coats and store boots and shoes.  The Kitchen is larger and more open with a gracious island to provide a great place for guests to gather.  The seating is great for a quick meal with family or for a great place to work on schoolwork before dinner.

The Stairs are still in the center of the home but instead of being “in the way” they provide a little buffer area that makes the open plan seem more organized with different spaces for the kitchen, dining area and Living room.  While these spaces are all connected, they have a series of openings give each room the comfortable cozy feeling that is such a wonderful part of  the craftsman style.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Traditional vs Modern Home Designs

Many of our clients are excited with the new modern style homes but are concerned with how they will blend into their established traditional neighborhood.  This is a great question and the answer is as varied as our clients tastes.  For one of our projects, we went to the exercise of developing both a traditional and modern design for comparison.

The great part is we were able to use the same basic floor plan for both.  It only took a few hours to develop and present both a modern and traditional exterior elevation for this site.  This was quite a revelation to us (and our clients) as it was very helpful to be able to quickly and inexpensively see how the different styles would look.  While both of these homes will have a very different character. The changes are really only skin deep.