On Wednesday October 20, I had the privilege of attending a lecture at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle by the founder of a non-profit organization that is truly making a difference in the design world. John Peterson, AIA, founded Public Architecture after years of running a for-profit architecture firm in San Francisco. Feeling the strong need to give back to his community and profession, he began to investigate the need for design services in the non-profit sector. He found, among other amazing statistics, that:
There are 1,513,183 non-profit organizations in the US.
60% don't have facilities that meet their needs.
With a mission of "mobiilizing designers to change the world", Peterson and his colleagues came up with a 3-part manifesto for meeting the challenge of designing for the public good:
1. Commit - To make a commitment to get design services to those who need them most.
2. Act - to connect non-profits in need with design firms willing to donate their hours Pro Bono.
3. Share - to share information and best practices.
Public Architecture targets the non-profits whose needs fit into the category of "High Public/Low Private Benefit'" category. This means they benefit the most end users and create the least monetary benefit to private investors. One of the ways PA accomplishes this lofty goal is to solicit architecture and design firms to donate 1% of their billable hours to pro bono work for worthy organizations. They have an impressive list of 850 firms now that are committed to The 1%, their Pro Bono Design program. With their vast human resources, the worldwide design firm Gensler alone has 21 employees doing pro bono services full time. But small firms are making their contribution as well; Public Architecture is signing up an average of 20 new firms per month pledging The 1%.
Peterson informed us that 30% of our nation's Raw Materials are consumed by building construction, and that 40% of the solid waste in our nation's landfills are from construction and building demolition. Further, 80-90% of this solid waste could be reused. Some cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, are leaders in encouraging reuse and re-purposing of this construction waste, but the millions of tons of solid waste produced annually in this country by the building industry are still a widespread problem.
In 2005 Public Architecture was contacted by the Chief Building Inspector in San Francisco with a proposal: 2 filmmakers had approached his office about filming a documentary documenting a house being created completely out of scrap and salvaged materials. This house would be built in 6 weeks - a huge challenge, but one PA was willing to jump on, to design and construct a viable dwelling in this short amount of time. ScrapHouse, as the project and the resulting documentary are called, was built just outside San Francisco's City Hall, in the Civic Center Plaza. The house opened on time on World Environment Day in 2005, and the cost estimate of construction was under $100. 10,000 visitors came to tour Scraphouse in 4 days. The project received more international than domestic coverage, but was viewed as a resounding success at demonstrating the successful reuse of tons of waste. To link to the project's website, or to purchase a copy of the documentary, click here.
Some obstacles to reusing scrap and salvaged materials range from limited knowledge, to scheduling and storage problems, to perceived health and safety issues. In the spirit of demystifying the reuse and recycling of materials, PA's new handbook, titled "Design for Reuse Primer", is available free of charge as an e-book, on this website.
As a design professional in this unstable and polarized world, John Peterson has most admirably fulfilled a calling to make a difference within his vocation, and has become a facilitator and designer of a dream to extend a hand to those on the front lines helping the less fortunate. He asks us to join him by pledging 1% of our time to this worthy cause, 20 hours per year per person. Amazingly, if all 240,000 design professionals in the US signed on to donate 1% of their time, it would be the equivalent of a 2500-person firm working full time for the public good - this would be the largest design firm on earth. If you'd like to pledge, click here.
My personal thanks to Teknion for hosting Mr. Peterson in Seattle. Teknion is a leading sponsor of Public Architecture and the 1% program.
"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." ~Georgia O'Keefe
It's that time of year again, when we homeowners start turning our attention to beautifying the exterior of our living space. Although my specialty is interiors, I get a lot of questions about how to pick an exterior color for a home. It can be a daunting decision. The color of your home says a lot about the aesthetic and design sense of the person that lives there. We don't want to be seen as boring, but neither do most of us aim for shock value. What are some of the key considerations when choosing exterior paint colors? There is a wealth of information on the internet, of course, and in brochures you may pick up at the paint store, but to simplify, there are some basic rules of thumb to consider:
1. If you live in a community with a covenant, you may be limited to a palette of colors that will fit into your planned neighborhood. But even if you don't, you will want to consider the colors of neighboring houses when choosing a hue for your own. You don't want to copy others too closely, nor do you want a color that clashes or disturbs the eye. Take a long look down your block and imagine what shades of color fall within the context of other houses within sight.
2. Consider the architecture of your home. If you have an historic home, you can go one of two directions. You can choose Historic colors - many of the paint companies such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore carry a palette of historical colors that will fit the era of your home. For example, this home in St. Augustine looks fresh and beautiful in historic yellow and gray.
Or you can choose colors that are whimsical and wild to play up the charm of the house as this homeowner in Hood River, Oregon did when painting this 1890's Victorian.
3. Consider your surrounding landscape and physical environment. Do you have a love of blue and purple blooms as I do? You may want to choose a color that complements or carries this theme on. Do you live near the beach or the desert? You may be inspired by the color of the earth or the flora surrounding you. Stately trees may be enhanced by browns, greens and other earth tones.
4. Consider elements of your house that you won't be changing, namely the large roof surface, and stone or brick walls, porches or structural elements. Dont forget the eaves. Certain colors may not work with these elements.
5. Use the color wheel when choosing a color! For example, the complementary color (directly across the color wheel) of yellow is purple, of green is red, of blue is orange. Use these complements, or split complements, or triads when choosing accent or door colors.
Can't imagine any of these colors on your own house? Some of the major paint manufacturers have created tools to help you try on their colors for size. Simply upload a photo of your house and follow the instructions for using their extensive color palettes:
Good luck with your house color, and Happy Spring!
Taken from Tara Bradford's post on her blog from the city of Light, Paris Parfait, my "If I Were..." list. She invites us to play along, as I invite you!
If I were a month, I'd be July.
If I were a day, I’d be Saturday.
If I were a time of day, I’d be sunrise.
If I were a font, I’d be wingdings.
If I were a sea animal, I’d be a dolphin.
If I were a direction, I’d be west.
If I were a piece of furniture, I'd be a PK-11 chair.
If I were a liquid, I’d be Barolo.
If I were a gemstone, I'd be labradorite.
If I were a tree, I’d be a Ponderosa pine.
If I were a tool, I’d be an Xacto knife.
If I were a flower, I’d be a black-eyed Susan.
If I were an element of weather, I'd be wind.
If I were a musical instrument, I’d be a piano.
If I were a color, I’d be Sherwin Williams SW6903, Cheerful!
If i were an emotion, I’d be passion.
If I were a fruit, I’d be a grapefruit.
If I were a sound, I’d be soft.
If I were an element, I’d be water.
If I were a car, I’d be a Fiat Cinquacento (500).
If I were a food, I’d be cioppino.
If I were a place, I’d be by the sea.
If I were material, I’d be wenge.
If i were a taste, I’d be curry.
If I were a scent, I’d be ocean breeze.
If I were a body part, I’d be a hand.
If I were a song, I'd be The Nearness of You.
If I were a bird, I’d be a red-winged blackbird.
If I were a gift, I’d be useful.
If I were a city, I’d be Barcelona.
If I were a door, I’d be painted red.
If I were a pair of shoes, I’d be Tabitha Simmons' "Babs" oxfords.
If I were a poem, I’d be Neruda's muse.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Spring has officially and most definitely returned to Seattle. Love is in the air, blossoms and bulbs have exploded into full color everywhere, and I am preparing and planting a new garden plot at my local p-patch with vegetables and colorful flowers. My apologies for being MIA for the past month, but I am back with thoughts of color and blooms, and design that is influenced by Nature's season of awakening.
I've never been drawn to traditional floral prints, either in my wardrobe or on my walls or furnishings. I always imagine something like this when I think of floral upholstery:
But a quick perusal of a few of the leading textile websites have shown me how misguided my aversion has been. They are full of hip, current, beautifully designed floral prints that appeal to even the most reluctant floralistas among us.
Take a look at what I found:
What happy graphics and colors to wake us up from our winter blahs! No gaudy cabbage roses or boring acanthus leaves here.
Do you have a favorite non-traditional graphic floral textile that you love or have used on a project recently? I hope you will share it with me and make me a total convert to florals.
Red is said to be the first color human beings recognize as infants. Most of us not only have a favorite shade of red, but associate strong emotions with this most vivid of colors. High energy, excitement, hunger, good luck and warmth are just a few of the evocative terms associated with RED. Since it's Valentine's Day weekend, and red is known as the color of love and passion, I thought I would demonstrate some of the best ways red can be used in interior spaces.
Historically, reds were hardly used as a dominant paint color before the mid-18th century, even though the pigments existed for mixing these shades. The book Paint and Color in Decoration says that it was only during the 1750's that pale reds or pinks became widespread in the decoration of English interiors, and that deeper, brighter reds did not gain general acceptance until the early 19th century, "when a fashion developed for these colors discovered amid the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum."
The book Modern Color: New Palettes for Painted Rooms, gives these facts about red:
- Physiologically, red increases heart rate and metabolism-so try it out in a dining area or a room used for entertaining.
- Pair red with white to temper the heat and provide a lively contrast that's a proven attention-getter.
- In Feng Shui, red is associated with the element of Fire, so use it wherever you want more energy and fuel for the imagination, such as a home office or kitchen.
- Red is the oldest color; in every language after discovering words for black and white, the color red was given a name.
Practically speaking, red can be a difficult color to apply to walls. To achieve a depth of color, you may need many coats of red paint. Modern Color advises readers to " pick a hue, and use it to its fullest capacity. Some of the most frequent design mistakes are made when people get scared at the last minute and choose a shade lighter or duller than the color they are actually wanting. As a rule, choose a red paint sample that is, in fact, one shade mellower than you are looking for; after it is applied to the walls, the resulting color will seem a little bit brighter and more intense."
A bold red can powerfully convey style and opulence, and nothing warms up a room like a dramatic shot of red, whether it is on one accent wall, or all four walls.
Since red is such a stimulating color, and actually raises the heart rate, the bedroom conventionally has not been seen as the place for red. But if you are a true red-lover, there are some great ways to use even the boldest shades in your boudoir:
1. Use white or neutrals as a background to offset the heat of red accents. Cream, white and black are all excellent foils for the powerful punch of red, as well as red's pastel counterpart, pink!
2. Use red's opposite on the color wheel, green, to neutralize the intensity.
3. Use red as an accent color on the wall behind your bed. That way you'll get the sizzle without the visual stimulus while in sweet repose.
Red is the color of passion and appetite, which makes it a natural choice for dining areas. Take a look at these delicious red dining rooms, and see if you don't agree:
Whatever your favorite shade of red, I hope this gives you some guidance for using it in your interior space with confidence and panache. Wishing you a happy Valentine's Day!
A study of design has been both a blessing and a curse, in that everywhere I go and in everything I see, I am analyzing the aesthetic and the execution from a design standpoint. Sitting in the doctor's office, for example, I critique the fabric choices on the furniture, and where they put the seams in the wallcovering. (Why would they put it there in the middle of the reception desk?) In restaurants, I take note of the path the servers need to take to and from the kitchen, and does it interfere with the flow of patron traffic? Do those waiting for a table have a comfortable place to stand or sit? Even at the airport, I'll marvel at small things like how the outlets for vacuums and floor polishers have been hidden from view. (But don't worry, I can turn this off when I visit your house! I never crtitique my friends' design choices unless they specifically ask).
This sensibility has also extended to one of the other artistic disciplines that I am crazy about, film. I find myself struggling to keep up with the story line if the setting is in an interesting and well-done interior. Little details just jump out at me and beg to be noticed. I see a lot of films in the theater, but at home, well, thank goodness for the pause button.
For example, I just pulled out the 2001 French film, Amelie again, and was charmed by the particularly Parisian flea market interior of her flat, especially her bedroom, where her dreaming is done. The colors, the furnishings, and the light are perfect to draw the viewer into Amelie's world. We suddenly and completely find ourselves in Montmartre.
I discovered some time ago that I seem to be drawn to filmmakers who pay more than the usual attention to the interiors in their films. One that comes to mind immediately is Jeremy Podeswa, the Canadian director. I saw his film, The Five Senses, when it was in theaters 11 years ago, and was struck by how the cool blue-green of the interiors was stitched throughout the film in a very fine thread. It also contributed to the overall theme of the film, that of the human senses. 5 characters represent one of each 5 senses, and in separate vignettes they are each tied together by a central tragedy at the heart of the plot. Every time I see this movie I catch another stroke of brilliance. The interiors are timeless, cool, waiting for resolution.
In 2008 Podeswa did a film adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. It was not a mainstream release, I just stumbled upon it at my local Blockbuster. Again, his interpretation of the interiors in the film was stellar. In the book, the study of a character named Athos was detailed lovingly by the poet Michaels. Podeswa was not only faithful to her description, he even filled in some of the blanks exactly as my mind had done in reading the book, adding little details and a quality of light that was pure genius.
Another filmmaker well-known for his manic attention to the quirky and wonderful interior sets in his movies is Wes Anderson. His 2001 film The Royal Tennenbaums is a prime example. The interiors of the Tennenbaum house are faded, vintage 1980’s New York, wonderfully staged and detailed, and standing alone would tell the tale of a past glory:
Then there is The Darjeeling Limited, released in 2008. I loved so much about this film, especially the interaction of the 3 siblings, the stunning Indian scenery, and of course, Anderson’s amazing sets. If you saw the movie, did you take note of the different train cars, and their color themes? This is pure Anderson at his best.
And finally, I just have to throw this in. I saw the old 1957 classic An Affair To Remember last Thanksgiving night. I adore Cary Grant, so of course I was distracted by his suavity, but who could overlook some of the interiors in this movie?!! I couldn’t find an image of the dress shop in the film, but there are some fantastic scenes in Deborah Kerr's apartment, which is furnished in over-the-top Mid-Century Nice-Girl style. Check out the green lamps!
Please write and tell me about memorable movie interiors that have struck you, I’d love to hear about some others!
I am thinking a lot about light these days. I celebrate each day's slight lengthening after the dark days of December and January, anticipating the promise of Spring ahead. Relative to architecture, designers put a lot of thought into not only the artificial light for their projects, but also into maximizing and managing the natural light in the built environment.
I mentioned before that the space I am working on now has a corner (2 sides) with a sweeping view of Puget Sound. How do I best capture and enhance that beautiful luminosity in this living and dining room? One important consideration is the wall color. I have a distinct sense that I need to stick with a color that will flow freely out into the environment, nothing that will jar, disturb or take away from this important asset. Yet during several months of the year, the days are 16 hours long, and the Western exposure can produce a fiery heat in these rooms. So UV shades that deflect most of the hot rays, but still allow the expansive view in are definitely on the program.
Some of my all time favorite architects are best known for their extraordinary work with light in the spaces they design. The magnificent Renzo Piano, who was born in Genoa, Italy into a family of builders, has been perfecting the use of light in museum spaces for several decades. His recent addition to the Art Institute of Chicago has been roundly praised in the press for its sensitivity and near perfection for viewing the works housed in the Modern wing of the Museum. The New York Times architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff expressed it this way:
"...it is the light that most people will notice. Mr. Piano has been slowly refining his lighting systems since the mid-1980s, when he completed his design for the Menil Collection building in Houston. Over the years these efforts have taken on a quasi-religious aura, with curators and museum directors analyzing the light in his galleries like priests dissecting holy texts.
At the Art Institute Mr. Piano has stripped the system down to its essence. The glass roof of the top-floor galleries is supported on delicate steel trusses. Rows of white blades rest on top of the trusses to filter out strong southern light; thin fabric panels soften the view from below.
The idea is to make you aware of the shifts in daylight — over the course of a visit, from one season to another — without distracting you from the artwork, and the effect is magical."
See if you agree. Here are a few photos of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, from the New York Times slideshow:
The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago just opened in May 2009, and I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the addition. However, one of my favorite pieces of architecture in Seattle, the Chapel of St. Ignatius, is called "A Gathering of Different Lights" and was designed by the then relatively unknown architect, Steven Holl. I last visited the Chapel in 2006. I'm not Catholic; otherwise I wouldn't have admitted that.
Holl's guiding organizational principles for this Jesuit house of worship were "Seven bottles of light in a stone box". Each of the seven bottles corresponds to an aspect of Catholic worship, as well as reflects and refracts a defined color by means of sunlight both passing through a colored lens and also bouncing off color fields painted on hidden suspended baffles. In this way, the light both defines space and calls attention to the spiritual function of the building. The discreet manipulation of light evokes different emotions throughout the small (6100sf) deconstructivist structure, from bright and celebratory in some spots, to quiet, calm and reflective in others. The effect is awe-inspiring. Here are some photos I took of the Chapel of St. Ignatius almost exactly 4 years ago, on a short January day much like today. Check out the LIGHT in each photo:
And one last thing, if you're a fan of Renzo Piano's work, you may want to view this 20 minute interview with Charlie Rose:
This week I'm looking for one eccentric, artsy seating piece for a living room. This piece will probably be the smallest in the room, yet the costliest. It may be considered a design classic or icon. Where do I begin?
I have already considered the architecture of the home and the needs of the client in selecting other furnishings for the room. My client has a stylized Tudor that was built in 1949 by a Swedish carpenter. It has a sweeping view of Puget Sound which is the dominant mood-setter in the smallish living room. The homeowner is a single man who is semi-retired, but manages rentals in commercial properties, thus I've chosen furniture with a contemporary edge and in masculine fabrics, for example, a modernized wing chair covered in a small, black and ivory houndstooth print. He has a number of collections of antique objects, so for this quirky seating piece I'm leaning towards something that looks or maybe is vintage. I've decided that it might have some stitched leather to mimic the look of his collection of antique stitched leather boxes and cases.
I begin as I always do, looking at room images in current design magazines: Interior Design, Elle Decor, Dwell, Hospitality Design, etc. as well as some of my favorite blogs, for ideas and inspiration. I do an internet search, and proceed to look at some of the chairs I have found in order to get pricing and dimensions. With actual dimensions, I draw the contenders into my floor plan to see which would fit best.
Here are the finalists. Each have been in first place at one point or another in the process, but the TG-15 is at the top of the heap for now. I just love it's confident little stance, and the utter simplicity of line:
The TG-15 by Bill Katavalos, 1952:
The Sculpted Chair, by Evert Sodergren, 1953:
The Spanish Chair, by Borge Mogensen, 1959:
The Folding Chair, by Hans Wegner, 1949:
The Hunting Chair, by Borge Mogensen, 1949:
The PK-22, by Poul Kjaerholm, 1955:
I love lighting!! Adding great lighting to a room enhances and accents all of the other touches you have worked so hard to put together by creating a mood. It also adds the crowning touch as an accessory, like the perfect piece of jewelry or a fantastic belt finishes off your favorite outfit.
I was scanning the internet for a pendant, a ceiling fan and a floor lamp for a gentleman's living and dining room that I am working on right now, and came across some wonderful lighting pieces. Not all necessarily work for the project I am cranking on at the moment, but here is a sampling of fixtures that made me swoon or smile. The name of the fixture and the source are listed in the captions:
I remembered coming across a great source, Plug Lighting, in a trade magazine a few years ago. Plug sells to the trade only, so if you're not a designer, you may want to contact an interior designer to get pricing and/or to purchase from this amazing resource in Los Angeles for sophisticated, contemporary lighting.
Let me know if you have a favorite lighting resource or fixture that "lights your fire".
"Look! Look! Look deep into nature and you will understand everything." ~Albert Einstein
"The very process of the restoring the land to health is the process through which we become attuned to Nature and, through Nature, with ourselves." ~Chris Maser, Forest Primeval
In this third of 3 posts regarding using Nature as a guide, inspiration and master in our designs, we'll take a brief look at how we can mimic the cycle of Nature in our choices of materials, finishes, demolition techniques, and lifecycle considerations. In the same way all living things in Nature are perfectly sustainable, i.e., they bear fruit, reproduce, die, decompose and are "reborn", our goal in all aspects of life, including design work, should be to mimic this cycle so as to have as little negative impact as possible on our home, the earth.
Architecture and design projects can have a huge effect on the environment. For example, commercial buildings use approximately 74% of the nation's energy each year. The EPA estimates that 40% of solid waste annually is construction and demoliton debris. Imagine if you could cut your own energy use 74%, or your own solid waste output 40% - that would be substantial!
In their best-selling 2002 book, William McDonough and Michael Braungart proposed that we rethink our use of construction and home design materials. The title, Cradle to Cradle, is a reference to the idea that a material should be created, used, and then put back into the earth when it is worn out, using the cycles of Nature as a model and eliminating waste. The website Design Boom has a clear synopsis of the Cradle to Cradle theory, as well as short bios of McDonough and Braungart.
Here are a few examples of cradle to cradle materials:
Textiles, such as Momentum’s Reveal Collection - 100% Eco-Intelligent® Polyester
C2C MBDC Gold Certified. From the Momentum website:
“This new yarn-type models its production after nature’s biological metabolism in that every ingredient is fully, indefinitely recyclable for subsequent product generations. Unlike other polyesters, Eco-Intelligent® Polyesters have no heavy metals (such as antimony), chlorine and PBTs so they can be safely and perpetually recycled and re-manufactured in a closed loop system. The three new patterns of the Reveal Collection – X-Factor, Gesture and Matter – are composed of this high-performance reduced environmental impact material and contribute to the elimination of the take-make-waste model of the last century." These upholstery textiles are not only stylish, but affordable.
Carpet can be a huge contributor to waste in a landfill. Wool carpet is beautiful and sustainable, but also quite costly. The carpet industry has been working hard to bring recycled and recyclable synthetic options to designers and consumers. Some new, great looking possibilities from Shaw:
Obviously, it would be impossible to list all of the building materials that qualify as recycled, recyclable, or cradle-to-cradle, but the point is, when you begin your next project, be conscious of where those surface materials, flooring, decking, and wallcoverings are coming from - and where they will go when they’ve outlived their usefulness. Following Nature as a guide, eliminate waste as much as possible.