Posted in Architects, Green Design, Sustainable Design

Prefab? FABULOUS

When architect Michelle Kaufmann and her husband set out to purchase an affordable green home, to no avail, they decided to build there own. Thus a new company was born out of a need for clean, affordable green living.

Prefab has never looked so good. Michelle Kaufmann’s prefabricated homes are a far cry from what we are used to seeing. Her designs are unbelievably cool and modern and affordable. If you are a fan of Frank Gehry and Michael Graves, the influence may be present as Kaufmann previous architectural experience included working for both architects.

Kaufmann’s designs bring modern, affordable sustainable living to a new generation of home buyers. The beauty of the design is in the eco-friendly materials used. What’s more, Kaufmann makes a reasonable argument for prefab designs. She is quoted as saying, “In countries like Japan, many homes are factory made, resulting in 50 to 75 percent less waste than is generated by building the typical American House. When you think about custom homes built on site, it doesn’t make any sense, it’s like asking to have a car built in your driveway.”

There are six exclusive models from which to choose from. Home sizes range from a mere 725 square feet to 2,400 square feet.

Home costs typically start at $250 to $300 per square foot. Custom built homes start at $400 per square foot. Costs include all construction costs aside from the cost of the land. Typical construction time: 12-14 months.

What’s more, you can try before you buy. The Reid House, located at Lake Chelan as a vacation rental, and featured in “Sunset & Dwell” magazines, offers an opportunity to experience green living in a tranquil environment and modern prefab structure with luxurious amenities. Rates vary seasonally, from $175 per night to $300 per night.

Photos below from Reid House.



Posted in Architects, Balboa Highlands, Eichler Homes, Mid Century Modern, Small Kitchens

New Year ~ New Vibe

A door knocker from Atlas Homewares.

Hello 2009!

What do you have to say for yourself?

2008 was in short, a sticky wicket of a year leaving most of us uncertain of a lot of things.

2009 is starting off lean but hopeful. I predict that more people will turn to cottage industries brought to life through the internet to bring in new forms of income. There are stories all around us of people who are reinventing themselves. I love that!

Here is one story that is close to my heart. The LA Times has a story that peaked my curiosity: An Eichler house in Granada Hills gets restored on a budget. I grew up near the Eichler’s in Granada Hills and I remember the first time I fell in love with modern architecture and Eichler Living.

My 3rd grade friend Michelle S. lived in a Eichler Home on Jimeno Avenue in Granada Hills. Here is the thing: When you are a kid, everything seems so much bigger. I am sure now, if I go back the rooms would seem smaller and I probably would want to rip out all of the horrible remodeled kitchens and restore them to the purist form of the Eichler. But it was an impact on me nonetheless. It was then, stepping through for the first time to the inner courtyard, viewing with awe, from a third graders vantage point, the glistening floor to ceiling glass walled courtyard, that I knew I loved modern architecture. Putting together our homework projects in her Eichler home were good times. Her house was much different than my 1960’s long and rambling ranch style home I lived in. It was then I developed a love of architecture and identifying period styles. It was the early 70’s, still a fairly new neighborhood at the time, in the era of the Brady Bunch before they went into re-runs. Speaking of the Brady’s, the Eichler’s used a lot of Walnut paneling. I kind of felt like I was in Mike Brady’s den.

Van Gogh elementary school was the brand new elementary school, also post modern in it’s design, where all the neighborhood kids attended. As a kid, I had many great memories of the Eichler neighborhood: the slumber parties; the girl scout crafts we made at another school friend’s Eichler house on Nanette Street; on Lisette Street where the very nice retired school teacher who’s name I can’t remember, but I will never forget that she taught us, the neighborhood kids, how to make s’mores on a bar-b-que from her Eichler backyard deck overlooking the Van Gogh playground. Halloween nights winding our way through the steep hills thoughout the whole neighborhood; This was a care-free time, when kids ran free in neighborhoods, played outside until the street lights went on at dusk. I lived around the corner from the elementary school and the Eichler neighborhood was above us in the hills, referered to as the Balboa Highlands, I remember looking up from my backyard, where I could see the Eichler Homes on the hill and looking at the lights coming on inside from these modern glass walled homes and wishing I lived there. I am sure today that the trees have grown tall, obscuring the views but my fondness for the Eichler has never left me.

Fast forward to today, it’s great to see an Eichler home restored. Thanks to the LA Times, we get to see a story of an Eichler tastefully restored on a budget and even greater story of watching one person transform her love for modern design into a viable business. Click on the link to Cindy Epping’s web based mid century modern furniture store, and see how she has parlayed her hunting and gathering into a phenomenal website for period furnishings, www.onestopmodern.com.
Bravo Cindy! Ingenuity is the mother of invention.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the LA Times Story.
All photos by (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times).

A detail of the casework: a fresh new look that preserves the period vibe.

Epping updated her kitchen, trying to preserve the original ambiance while adding modern touches such as the new faucet for the original avocado-green sink. The cabinets were sanded and restained.

Carpet tiles from www.flor.com form a rug in the kitchen.

A pair of Bertoia wire chairs from the 1960s take their place in Epping’s atrium.

A little color in the living room: an orange-stiched ottoman from
Urban Outfitters and a blanket from Anthropologie.

Like many Eichler homes, the entrance to Epping’s house is an atrium. She cleaned up the space, keeping the slat roof (not original to the design) but replacing the plants and adding a simple Primelite lamp.
Posted in Architects, Builders, Kitchen Storage, Kitchen Trends, Natural Lighting, Small Kitchens, Style Notes, Sustainable Design, Windows

Throw out what you know about the kitchen window

Feel constrained by your kitchen window? Lack of privacy? Do you have a sun baked kitchen in summer? Have a less than attractive view of your neighbor? Tired of conventional kitchen plans? Challenge yourself to think with a new view. You could pick up better storage, more task lighting, increased energy efficient windows, and a better view.

Start by throwing out what you know about your kitchen window. The sink does not need to be centered at the middle of the window. Once you allow yourself to throw convention “out the window”, a whole new window of possibilities for a better kitchen plan can be yours for the asking.

Here are some fabulous kitchens presented by Remodeling Magazine, one of my favorite trade publications. Follow the hyperlink to the article by Nina Patel, Back Lighting: narrow backsplash windows bring natural light to the kitchen while maintaining privacy.

And by the way, enjoy the view!

John Rogers, Rogers & Labarthe Architects

Both photos above and below: Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Phil Rossington, Rossington Architecture

Alison Rainey, Merz Project

Both pictures: exterior and interior shots.
Iris Harrell, Harrell Remodeling

Click HERE to be directed to the slide show that provides written commentary by either the responsible architect, designer or builder on the project. Once there, click on the slide commentary to be directed to each company web site.

Posted in Architects, Builders, Kitchen Zones, Kitchens Don'ts, Noteworthy Links, Planning, Windows

Learning From Others Mistakes

I must give a nod to The Kitchen Designer, Susan Serra, for her masterful opinion in her blog dated 04/06/08, Lessons Learned from New York Times “Dream House Diaries”. Susan Serra’s 14 points are a primer for anyone planning a home renovation project.

A builder who assumes the cabinets are to be built around a predetermined plumbing and mechanical plan means someone put some thought in planning the kitchen, you would think so. But to read in the “Dream House Diaries” that the builder suggested to leave the kitchen planning till the point where the floors are down is nothing but a** backwards. It indicates the builder is interested in a cabinet order taker to come in later to get it in and get it done. This causes a huge disservice to the homeowner who is intent on a “Dream Kitchen for their Dream Home”.

Whether building from the ground up or renovating an existing home, the mechanical locations for plumbing & gas lines, go hand in hand with planning the kitchen. Also, the placement or relocation of windows and doors is a critical stage in planning the kitchen. The design of the cabinetry, the doors and windows and the appliances must all be factored in at the beginning of the project, not the middle and not after drywall is up. For the do-it yourself crowd, I admire your fortitude to handle the project yourself, but it would not hurt to get a second opinion from a kitchen designer before ordering your cabinets. See the article link by one homeowner, “Did I get it right”.

You can’t leave planning the kitchen foot print to chance, thinking or hoping that the architect or builder is intent on the specifics, making sure the appliances and cabinets will fit. As much as we hope to see standards in the appliance industry, there are no “standards” when it comes to appliances. See an analytical point by point appliance comparison at the Kitchen-Exchange by Peggy Deras, Comment on Arrol Gellner’s Appliance Advice. A builder that allows a variance of (+ or -) 6″ can cheat the space with over sized cabinets and therefore cheat you by not allowing for the trash base or a proper bank of drawers or a lazy susan or a larger refrigerator. Kitchen Designers are not order takers. Planning the flow of space around appliances, cooking and clean up zones requires specialized training. A kitchen or bath designer will factor the dimensions of a space down the to the 1/8″ inch and provide the builder a detailed plan ready for installation.

As Susan Serra stated in her article, the other problem by not planning the kitchen in the beginning creates a problem of cabinet size continuity. Wall cabinets with different door widths creates disharmony. Anybody with a tape measure can fill a wall with stock cabinets and fillers. To me, this is a waste of space and a waste of money when the design is washed down to nothing more than a bunch of boxes on the wall when the home owner’s intent was a dream kitchen. Please refer to Peggy Deras excellent commentary Choosing a Residential Remodeling Architect.

The next factor the client has to be ready for is patience in planning. Don’t rush into signing a contract until you have thoroughly interviewed the candidates. Take time to interview the architect, the builder, and the designer. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Signing a contract with a professional who starts promising he or she will throw in free enticements or prices “good today only” are red flags. See NKBA for more advice on hiring a Kitchen and Bath designer. Go to NARI and AIA to find professional Contractors and Architects in your area. Check the BBB Reports to see if the business is in good standing. As a professional, I am so frustrated when I see a client taken in by the lowest bid, and outright lies about materials. To have a client compare my all plywood cabinet construction backed by a lifetime warranty against a 45# particle board box with a 5 year warranty and be taken in by lies by the “cabinet order taker” who says they are the same quality really frustrates me. My recommendation for homeowners is to be patient in the process of finding selections. As one homeowner said, she hoped she could just breeze right through this. This is not the same as ordering take out food. Patience is required.

No one can discount the value of the Builder, an Architect and Designer; each professional has the task at hand to provide the client a beautiful project. While a builders’ interest is to get the project built on time and on budget, there is no fault in that. But, a quality builder will recommend you start working with a Kitchen and Bath specialist from the beginning so that the client can achieve their Dream Home.