I hadn't heard of Dark Rye until I found myself in it this month.  It's an online magazine produced by Whole Foods.  I like it!  It has informative and progressive topics while remaining light and entertaining with recipes and quirky personal profiles.  The videos are worth their time and the general layout and design is very clean and informed.  

While they re-post an article called '10 Tiny Houses We Love' by Dwell Magazine, they took the time to contact my photographer, Uwe Schneider, for photo permission.  Responsible journalism, Dark Rye!  Nice Job, Caitlin Riley!
Once upon a time I thought that the tile guy also had tile design aptitude.  I also thought the plumber knew symmetry and the landscaper knew a little about landscape architecture.  I can't believe I ever assumed that people in these roles have an understanding and concern for the end result.  While many who do the labor are skilled and creative in design, there are many who are doing one interchangeable labor job after the other.  

It took a while, but I finally learned that it takes explicit direction to get the desired final product.  Using both verbal and visual communication is an excellent way to ensure you obtain the desired look.  This is a recent example of a tile installation.  I explained the pattern, and then also posted (literally taped a print to the wall in the bathroom) a sketch-up visual.  The result is exactly as desired - centered in all directions.  A visual is also an added tool to cope with any potential language barrier.
Below is an example of an installation that I described years ago.  As you can see, they started with the tile on the left and then just repeated the pattern until they ran out of space.  There was only about an inch of wall space remaining on the right, so they cut tiny pieces of tile to fill to the end.  The pattern is not centered at all; whole tile on the left, tiny pieces on the right.  
While this error isn't the end of the world, it's annoying.  I bet that the design minded perfectionists out there, and I know you're there, see the flaw.  These mistakes can be avoided when you relay your desire for the pattern to be centered.   Tile is spendy and so is the installation.  You want to get it right the first time.

Lastly, if you want to go with a really thoughtful design, either build the wall to match the exact needed dimension of tile pattern so that no tiles need to be cut..  Alternatively, pick a tile dimension that fits within the existing wall perfectly (don't forget grout calculation!) so that once again, no tiles need to be cut.  
Whether you're doing the work yourself, or contracting it out, taking the time to run these calculations is very worthwhile.  
A complete and centered pattern of whole tiles is a great aesthetic goal!
Casa Brutus is a leading architecture and design magazine in Japan.  They wrote a feature on my friend Bruce Wadleigh from Barnwood Naturals.  While writing their piece, they asked to include RiseOverRun work.  After doing a little research on them I discovered they had recently interviewed Martha Stewart.  I decided that if they're good enough for Martha, they're good for me too - at least this time.

I corresponded with Tamaka Takefushi, Writer at Casa Brutus, who was incredibly polite and prompt.  The article included many other Barnwood Naturals projects too.  It was a portfolio sampling of projects who used Barnwood Naturals wood.  A good media spread for them.  Nice Job Bruce!

Casa Brutus was also kind enough to send a hard copy of the magazine from Tokyo because it's not online nor possible to special order in the US for at least a month past release date.  It was exciting to see the magazine, which I thought was nicely photo heavy with an impressive layout.  It's a visually appealing magazine - Just wish I could translate written Japanese!  

Casa Brutus, Vol. 153, December 2012




We're all dreaming of getting our hands on event tickets...the next big thing, whatever that is. Some are hoping to make it to an upcoming Major League Baseball World Series game.  Others are trying to find tickets to the Glastonbury Festival (just sold out in 1 hr, 40 min).  It's fascinating to see what people go for.  
Well, it's not baseball or a concert for me right now.  I've got my wheels spinning with the idea of attending this upcoming C2C event.  Who is William McDonough you ask?  

William McDonough, along with Michael Braungart, co-authored Cradle to Cradle among other amazing accomplishments.  Their 'waste = food' and 'cradle to cradle' philosophies are brilliant.  They tackle our concept of the life cycles of products.  The book is technical but not mind-numbingly so.  

One of the especially interesting things about this book, is that it's not made of 'paper from a tree'.  It's a different material of plastic resins and inorganic fillers that can follow the cradle to cradle lifecycle of products that it promotes.  The book feels heavy and dense and the pages are glossy and smooth.  The tactile experience of this book, along with the content, has made a lasting impression on me.  

So, William McDonough along with Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep in San Francisco - Are you kidding me?!  Does it get any better than that?  I took my fantasy of attending this event as far as the ticket purchase page.  It seems that individual tickets are either $500 (limited number) or $1000 or $2000.  While I understand the fundraising aspect of this, it's a toughy for an indie like myself to justify.  

If you have the opportunity to attend this event, I recommend it.  If for some reason you find yourself flush with extra tickets, then this is a Grateful Dead concert and I'm outside with my finger high in the air.

Oh, I'm cringing for a couple living in West Linn, Oregon.  I just heard the story on the news.  They have caused themselves significant financial impact, not to mention years of their time and public humiliation.  

They were found guilty by a Judge for violating the city's community development code.  They built a pool without the proper permits.  Fines will apply and could add up to $366,000.  So, for the cost it took to construct a pool, pay excessive fines, and the likely outcome of pool removal, they get... No pool.  I'm going to estimate that's about a $500,000 NO pool.

Building code is a hassle sometimes, no doubt about it.  It's a subjective set of extensive rules to be applied to property.  The purpose is life safety, urban planning, and environmental concern.  As many times as I've been annoyed with the city, I've learned to see the bigger picture.  It's hard to make generic rules that apply to every building scenario, but I'm grateful for rules that protect us all.  

So, when you want permission to build and you call the city hotline and the twenty year old intern says, "Ah, yeah, I think that sounds okay.", this is NOT permission!  You have to do more than that.  You have to load the code documents, read them thoroughly, make a meeting with the city which will be recorded, and pay the approved permits.   Be an involved, polite, and informed permit seeker and they will help you get what you want.  Even if you want to do something that goes against the rules, there are methods by which you may petition and possibly attain approval to proceed.  

This pool case is a great example of how bad it can get when you build without permission.  Don't mess around with trying to work around the city building department.  Make sure you're not the one to buy a $500K No pool.
I finally figured out a mystery.  I'm probably the last one to do it.  

I have wondered for so long about how people find great reclaimed furniture and architectural details.  Ones that are cost effect and inspired design.  When one claims in a magazine that they found an amazing couch at Goodwill for $30 and just had it re-upholstered, I think ...hmmm, right.  

Well, I think I found the answer:  Estate Sales

I went to two estate sales this weekend.  One was at an incredible residence in a particularly wealthy part of Portland.  I found some amazing and inexpensive things, including this fabulous brass ceiling lamp.  My weekends discovery has led me to believe that estate sales, not 'garage' sales, in affluent areas are the way to go.  

There are a few places that I ruled out along the way, given my goals of cost-effective and beautiful.  I did try Goodwill, due to other people's claims.  If anyone found good furniture at Goodwill, it was probably on the East Coast, not here.  I also went to several architectural salvage shops in the design area.  They had some good things, but they are so expensive.  One of my most loved and hated places is Rejuvenation.  They have the most fabulous showroom and array of reclaimed furniture perfection, but the cost matches or exceeds 'new' furniture stores like Restoration HardwareRoom and Board, and Design Within Reach.  It just doesn't feel right to pay more for reclaimed than high quality new, does it?   Maybe once in a while, but not on a regular basis.

I love you Rejuvenation, but I have to get closer to the source to fulfill my designing needs.  Estate sales, here I come. 

I just watched the Eames documentary.  Fascinating!  Their influence on business, architecture, design, and American history is staggering.  Eames designs are still leaders in the market.  A recent Dwell magazine Editor-in-Chief states that each Dwell issue still has at least one example of Eames work.  

Sustainable Design has a particular modern aesthetic that originates with Eames designs and the era of their experimentation.  

Do you think that Charles and Ray Eames are brothers?  Or a gay couple?  Common assumptions!  Do yourself a favor and enjoy this film.

Let's say you're in the market to buy a home.  All of the real estate listings state the 'price per square foot'.  You want to get a good deal so you look for the lower price per square foot.... right?  What does that equation really tell you?

There are certain costs involved in construction that are not directly proportionate with square footage.  For example, it may cost $15K for the foundation of a 1000 sq footprint, but only $20k for a 2000 sq footprint.  See how the cost does not double when square footage doubles?  Foundation along with many other significant cost items follow this same rule of thumb.  Excavation, foundation, framing, and roofing are some of there areas where the initial expense is mobilization, and the expense averages out to be less per square foot as square footage increases.  

The new smaller house will often lose to the mcmansion in terms of price per square foot.  But while the mcmansion wins that equation, the ongoing energy costs are often severe for the life of the structure.  Mcmansions are energy hogs due to their inefficiency, poor design, and excessive size.  While their cost per square foot looks appealing, their monthly bills do not.  

The above describes new or recent construction, but there are other factors that go into price per square foot such as age of home, location, and current market.  Regardless, you should be looking for highly designed smaller space that is so energy and resource efficient that ongoing energy cost is minimized.  As such, you should expect to pay more per square foot for a smaller house initially and enjoy the reward of saving the environment and monthly expenditures for the long life of the structure.

Bottom line is this: If you buy based on the lowest price per square foot, you and the environment will be paying for it endlessly.  Consider looking for a well designed smaller home, with a higher price per square foot that includes great energy and resource efficiency.  And when I say 'higher price' it shouldn't be exorbitant and should keep the triple bottom line in balance.  Believe me, I know that gems like this are hard to find, but they are out there.  You can find it, remodel it, or you can build it.  Good luck discovering your new home.  





Lauren Zerbey nailed one of my design philisophies in her post yesterday.  She says '...clever reuse that doesn't look...well, junky'.  Or as I like to say, 'scrap that doesn't look scrappy'.  It takes so much time and effort to design with used materials.  You have to go the extra mile to create success.

I was once on a home tour that featured tin can siding.  They literally removed the ends of cans, flattened the cylinder, and installed like shingles.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this, but it had a very particular aesthetic.  I often think of that example when I am using salvaged materials.  Do I want this to look like tin can siding, or not?  

Thanks for the shout, re-nest.
Yesterday was the first time I had a property on the 'BIG' tour.  I could not have imagined it any better than it was.  We had a constant stream of interested, gracious and motivated people.  There were architects, builders, designers and artists.  Many of the people were homeowners, families, and couples.  Neighbors came over as well as many people from BPS.  We had a politician stop by with his entourage looking for a photo opportunity that conveys his concern for sustainability.  There was also an author that used the Backyard House as the background for her biography shot.  A few people were more interested in the garden and the chickens than the construction project.  It was constant fun, education, and entertainment and the six hours were over in a flash.  The sunny warm weather pulled it all together.  Thank you for the amazingly successful day.  I love you Portland!