Archives for category: Design

One of the cool things about the Metro Magazine shoot, at least from my perspective, is that we ended up with some beautiful family photos. Looking through the blog the other day I realized I’ve never posted a picture of myself. In fact I have very few of me and L and K from any time. I’m generally the one taking pictures, and as a result, I’m not in them.

It’s very cool that Jesse was able to join us for some of these. The picture below with all of us is one of my favorites from the day. Of course you have to notice the missing window trim. I’ll get to this…any day now…

I also love the shot of me and Lyra. Really beautiful exposure.

Thanks again to Angela Parris.

This past August I received an email from a friend that’s the editor of Spokane Metro, a regional fashion/home/food and wine magazine. Metro has especially clean design, fills an important media niche in Spokane, and I appreciate their effort to launch a media vehicle at a time when it’s hard for print publications to get traction. Cheryl Anne wanted to feature our house in the November issue.

I mostly thought this was an idea bordering on insanity. It’s one thing to post pictures on an anonymous blog. It’s another to invite 100 or so people to check out your house on an architecture tour. But to be photographed for a magazine while still under construction? I’ll use the word once more. Insanity.

Alas, I’m a sucker for helping a friend, plus Cheryl Anne agreed that the story of how we worked hand in hand with Matt and Jesse made for an interesting angle. (Well, figuratively hand in hand. I didn’t really walk around holding hands with Jesse and Matt.) K and I agreed long ago that we would look for ways to help our builder and architect, and publication certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Flash forward to the end of September. We spent a three-day weekend finishing cabinets, touching up paint and generally getting organized to find something a photographer could shoot with a straight face. Don’t get me wrong, the house was beautiful. It wasn’t complete though. Trim was missing, there were big piles of topsoil scattered around the landscape…you get the idea.

Angela Parris met us to take photographs, full of enthusiasm and (great) attitude. She spent a couple of hours at the house, taking an approach of shooting what was there, vs. trying to stage something that wasn’t. Not a small thing in my mind.

Last week Metro hit the newsstand and the article looks fantastic. You should buy a copy. Really, support Metro. You can buy a copy at Auntie’s in downtown Spokane, or Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday Angela emailed. She put together a gallery of her favorite shots that didn’t make it into the magazine. This was very, very cool of her, and last night our family had a great time checking them out. We thought you might too, so I’ll post some over the next few days.

Angela was a lot of fun. She was game for heading out on the hiking trail to get a shot from a far. She laid down in the meadow to take pictures of me and L. And she put up with Sacha the dog, who given half a chance would have licked/slobbered on/stolen  Angela’s speedy (and I’m sure expensive) lenses. If you need a photographer, I’d give her a call.

Today…shots of the entry and one of the board-formed concrete walls. Check out the sweet depth of field and sparkly bokeh. These make me want to run out to Huppin’s and plunk down on a digital SLR and a fast lens. Sadly (for me) though it’s the photographer, not the camera, that makes a great picture.

I’d love to know what you think of Angela’s work.

“Why are you moving that crappy wood?”

This was a logical question asked by a friend when we packed up our old house. Among the boxes and furniture to be moved was a pile of ancient, filthy 2 x 4s, complete with nails and tacks dangerously protruding from the surface. Picking up a piece without gloves was a sure path towards a nasty splinter or case of tetanus. When you ask friends to help you move, things like this probably shouldn’t be in the job description.

About a year before we moved out of our last house we did a major remodel in our bedroom. Major as in we pulled down plaster to the studs, moved two walls, added a bathroom and built two new closets. In a turn-of-the-century house, this was no small task.

When I knocked the plaster off the walls though I found treasure. The framing lumber, as my friend noticed, looked crappy. But after closer inspection I realized it wasn’t. Rather, it was old growth, quarter-sawn (mostly) Douglas fir.

This might not mean anything to you, but once planed and finished that junky looking wood is absolutely beautiful, and almost impossible to find. Dense, heavy and tight-grained, this is the kind of lumber many an old-growth forest was cut down to produce. One of the studs is easily triple the weight of what you’d find at the lumber yard today. And back in the day—as in 1912—it’s what houses were framed from.

Two moves and roughly two years after I salvaged the crappy wood I found a use for it. This weekend I built an office desk.

To go off on another semi-related tangent, the office in our house isn’t a stand-alone room. Rather, it’s an area creatively sandwiched between our living room and laundry closets. We wanted to keep square footage down, and Matt Melcher encouraged us to think about how we needed the office to function.

Did we need a door? No.

How much space did we need beyond a large work surface and lots of storage? Not much. It’s not like we’re meeting clients at home, and even if we were I don’t think I’d traipse one through the entire house to get to a 10 x 10 office, or whatever.

When I think of all of the offices I’ve worked in one of my favorites was quite literally an IT closet. It was this tight little afterthought of a room that had a giant window, tiny desk and filing cabinet. Period. I loved it though. No room for clutter, lots of privacy and a great view.

Anyway, back to the desk. In thinking of its design there were a list of things that struck us.

  • First,  to show off the wood. Old fir has a beautiful, almost orange hue to it, but with occasional creamy streaks of sapwood.
  • Second, we dig design that shows off structure. For example, check out the Rietveld “Red and Blue” and “Berlin” chairs from the 1920s. One of these days I’ll get around to building one. It would make a great patio chair. Or maybe we’ll just make one out of Legos.
  • Nothing too heavy-feeling. A massive, permanent-feeling piece wouldn’t work well in what’s a generally tight space. The rub with a lighter design though is strength and stability. Sometimes things that look light are as stable as a noodle.
  • Finally, nothing too finicky to construct. The reality is I’m getting a bit fried on the cabinet-making front.

I jointed, cut and milled some of the old wood down into 2 x 2s, looking for sections mostly free of knots. Watching the pock-marked, dirty wood run through the planer was a crazy sight as the cutters  peeled off the brown crud. A lot of the wood had nail and tack holes, but we kind of like this. K says it’s part of the story and a nod to a house that gave us fantastic memories.

The desktop is a leftover piece of fir plywood edge-banded with 1/4″ solid wood.

The top sits on four of the 2 x 2s, which rest on a longer 2 x 2 anchored to the wall. The supports sandwich vertical legs. It’s simple and strong, but quite elegant in person.

I thought about a couple of different ways to join everything together, eventually landing on exposed screws and washers. Originally I wanted to use dowels, in a darker wood like walnut. While not terribly difficult this is a bit fussier, plus I kind of like the exposed screws. They show how everything works and tells the story of  the structure of the desk. It’s a solution that works for me visually, and it’s pretty easy to assemble, especially using what’s called a finishing washer, which hugs the screw head. Still, I was a bit stressed drilling the holes for fear of royally messing up all the prep work.

We’re really pleased with how this came together. While not quite as easy as an Ikea project, which one could  argue it looks like, it wasn’t terrible. It was a weekend project, but milling and finishing this wood was time consuming. There’s a reason why furniture built from reclaimed wood is expensive. It can be tricky to work with, requires pulling nails, etc. Fir also splinters easily, so it took time to cut. I went as far as running masking tape around areas that were especially important ahead of cutting. And I banked some good tweezer time each evening.

More pictures to come. Our camera’s charger has been missing since the move, but there’s a $40 fix for that. Until then …

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Yowsa. It’s been busy around here lately. I’ve been flying (literally and figuratively) at work, L is of course back to school, gymnastics and lots of playing, and K is cranking on a bunch of fronts too. We’ve been keeping our feet to the pedals at home in an attempt to finish some big projects. So consider this an interim project report. It’ll be light on the details, but I’ll at least post a few pictures.

And speaking of pictures our trusty camera has been a bit funky lately. For some reason the images aren’t quite up to snuff and are all a bit fuzzy. Chances are the lens is coated in sawdust, like so many of our things, but put it on the list of stuff to figure out.

Patio-building. 

OK, I’ve referenced this one a bunch lately, but Jesse is just about through with his part of this project. He and Scott poured a small retaining wall on Friday which will add a really nice detail to the big courtyard. We’ll now have two levels, about 7 inches apart, separated by a step/garden bed. Awesome.

Scott at work. This is taken from our bedroom. The retaining wall will be a nice step to a lower part of the court, and breaks up the pattern a bit.

Cabinetmaking.

I’ve been cranking away on a stack of storage-related items. The shelves in the kitchen storage posts are built, finished and installed. Big exhale on this one, and we love how much this helps make the room feel finished. I still have a free-standing unit to build that replaces the wire racks we have in place temporarily, but am short a big piece of butcher block. Bummer. Soon enough though…

More shelves to the right of the refrigerator. These hold cups and glasses and most importantly, coffee making equipment.

Panel installing.

In the living room we’ve had two big voids to stare at that are filled with crap, I mean boxes of precious possessions. These are designed to have a 3/4″ thick solid panel of vertical grain fir, that I thought would look best with a 1/8″ reveal between the wood and drywall. The first one went in yesterday with one more to come. On the backside of these panels is deep storage that hold books, art supplies and electronic gadgetry, accessed from our office niche. In the soffit above the panel we’ll eventually install a similar fir panel, this one just a 1/4″ thick.

Another fir panel will eventually sit in the recess above.

Art making.

K plans to write a more detailed post at some point, but she deserves a major hat tip for her various art projects. This weekend I hung her most recent, which she’s typically humble about. I’m not though. It’s amazing. K trolled through our scrap wood pile, finding discarded pieces of fir, cedar, plywood and beech. She then arranged and painted them before installing them to a panel, which now hangs in our dining room. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but especially at night it creates a stunning effect.

Check out the shadows. In person this is quite a piece.

Matt came up with it. Jesse and I started it. I continued it. And Jesse will finish it.

What, you may ask, am I talking about? The drip cap that runs around our house. When Matt finalized the window design, he did it in a way that made the top of every window at the same level, and the bottom of every window that sits above the ground also in line.

This design element allowed an opportunity to create a deep drip edge below each window. Here’s my take on what this allows.

First, it creates a window sill, which is super functional, keeping water that might hit the windows away from the siding. And given our windy meadow, water on the windows is a reality.

Second, it adds a beefy horizontal band to an already very horizontal house. Not only does this break up the siding, but it plays to an already strong design theme. In a lot of ways our house is all about the horizontal. The site is wide. The meadow is wide. The hillside behind us is wide.

Finally, it’s a nod to other architectural styles we like. It’s a very Japanese and Craftsman detail. I really love how Matt has pulled in traditional details in a modern way. We have this in a number of other places throughout the house too. Some other time I’ll take a few pictures of these, but realistically need to wait until the finish work is underway.

Installed trim! That's the color the house will be painted too.

As hanging drywall comes to a close the house looks more and more habitable. Well, habitable if you love the smell of gypsum dust. Our dog certainly does. She loves the way it smells and tastes in fact. I think drywall has a bunch of salt in it, so Sacha goes around the house licking the floors which also makes her thirsty. So she drinks water then licks more dust.

As a result, we gave her a new nickname this weekend. Cokehead. Why? Well her nose was coated in white powder and she was frantically running around the house looking for new piles of the powdery white stuff.

I’ve posted a few new pictures below, but they don’t really do the place justice. Taping and mudding start tomorrow. Soon enough we’ll have smooth primed walls ready for us to start finish work in earnest.

I love getting to know the different styles and personalities of the subcontractors working on site. Every now and then I also hear something so funny I almost wet myself. The drywall hangers were rocking out, listening to some relaxing heavy metal blasting loud enough that they could hear it over the scream of their routers and drills.

Jesse and I were talking in the garage, where we could hear, when all of the sudden I hear one of the guys talking/yelling. Here’s the quote: “man, if I quit drinking and lost my gut I’d look like an Ethiopian!”

At the time it seemed especially funny.

On other fronts we’ve also started exterior trim ahead of the siding going up. Jesse and I are collaborating on this part of the project, with K helping out too.

This weekend I got into some compound miter action at the master bedroom. This is always tricky work, but turned out nicely. The integral window sill/drip cap angles down and at the corner also needs a 45 degree miter.

I really love the way it looks. A nice mellow trapezoid shape. Sort of.

A new addition to the wetland.

Before getting to less interesting things, above is a Mother’s Day picture for everyone. We have a seasonal pond at the top of our property that is a temporary home to two Canada Geese. Scratch that, it’s now three geese. A gosling emerged a few days ago. While this has nothing to do with construction, it has a lot to do with the house. It’s going to be pretty amazing to live there.

A lot continues to happen out on our little site. For one, our giant roof and fascia is now clad in zincalume. It’s an amazing thing. We went from a great looking plane of a roof, but sans metal, to something much more extraordinary.

You’ll see this in the pictures, but because of how our house sits on the land you see the roof quite a bit–on the approach as well as anytime you’re walking around the back of the property. Standing on the uphill side of the house is kind of crazy. The roof is just two feet (or so) off the ground, so you end up looking up what seems like a humongous runway. It’s kind of trippy.

Standing above the site, from the driveway, K loves the overall shape. It seems like a series of giant puzzle pieces. It’s really quite elegant.

The crew from BJ Roofing have a couple of more days of work. There are still a handful of flashings to install as well as caps for the corners of the fascia. And our plumber will start his vent work tomorrow, so unfortunately we’ll have four vent pipes sticking out of our pretty roof. But that’s OK, it’s better than the alternative, which is a house that smells like, well the kind of things that get deposited in the toilet.

I don’t have many recent pictures of the inside of the house. In fact it’s hard to capture how amazing the framing looks. And by the way, we’re essentially done framing. Did you catch that? Yes, we’re done framing. a HUGE milestone.

So electrical and plumbing start this week, and we should be drywalling within a couple of weeks. Nice.

Click the link below for the big version.

Spokane Preservation Invitation

In 140-characters or less, tell me in 30 seconds, always-on kind of world, it bothers me that forums for thoughtful discussion seem to be on the wane.

Sure, some of us listen to Fresh Air during our commute or have a chat on a bike ride or golf course, but I always appreciate the chance to hear opposing ideas and the reasoning behind a defined point of view.

Given this, I was pretty excited to hear about two linked events happening next week centered on modern architecture.

On Wednesday, the MAC is hosting a free showing of Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture. I haven’t seen it, but the people I know who have were pretty blown away.

Modern Views: A Conversation on Northwest Modern Architecture from studio/216 on Vimeo.

Then on Thursday a round table discussion/Q&A is being held with a pretty awesome panel. Mortiz Kundig, who doesn’t get enough credit for his groundbreaking mid-century work (BTW, his son Tom has done pretty well for himself as an architect), Matt Melcher who designed our house, Steve Clark and Mark Dailey.

Go support the MAC and Spokane Preservation Advocates. See you there.

And a hat-tip to Anderson Mraz Design. Their work for Johnston Printing on its Proof! magazine issue dedicated to Spokane’s mid-century movement planted the seeds for this event.

Just try to get two six-year-olds to stop running. I dare you.

We had a tiring, but productive, weekend. Saturday morning my father and I met Jesse and my neighbor Doug on site for an extravaganza of heavy lifting. Totally macho. Or something.

Here’s the story. Our windows were delivered the same day as our concrete pour, which had been rescheduled from a few days earlier. So as a result there was nowhere to store the windows on site. Our good friends two doors away offered to allow us to store them in our garage. Problem solved!

Sort of.

The windows are massive. All the doors and most of the windows are eight feet tall. This makes for a very heavy window. The heaviest? Close to 500 pounds. Oh yeah, and we also have a pretty extensive window package. So not only are the windows hefty, but there are many of them.

But a few hours of work and the job was done.

So now it’s on to installation. Jesse is taking the lead on that and I hired a friend, Scott McSpadden, to help me with installation of the soffit. See the picture below, but we have 75 sheets of plywood for the soffit, which is the area under the roof. I love our house design, but it’s going to take a while to get this work done. We have a 2,190 s.f. house (plus the garage). And yet we have 2,200 s.f. of roof overhangs. Good times.

Finally, we’re just about through the big stuff with kitchen cabinets. We even mocked up our kitchen in our rental house. Fun stuff!

Here’s to a productive week.

Hey Matt: nice composition!

Driving into the site this morning I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see the house. No I’m not going blind, but we had a pretty thick blanket of fog covering the site.

On the news yesterday the weather-predictor-people predicted freezing fog for this morning. Our six-year-old daughter was very worried about this. “Oh no! How will we be able to drive through a frozen block of fog?” Funny.

I had the chance to meet with Greg Rehn, from HydroSci, this morning to talk about a couple of things related to the radiant heat system he’s beginning to install. While I was there, I also got to see Alexi’s crew lifting the last couple of roof panels into place. Trust me when I write that everyone is happy to reach this milestone.

The past few nights Matt Melcher and I have been out on site, sometimes by chance, together. From a pure entertainment perspective we’ve both  been anxious to see the final panels get installed over what will be the southside courtyard. Well, we’re there now.

Time to get excited about something else! Here are a handful of cellphone shots from a foggy morning.