Archive for the 'Design' Category

5 Rules to a Successful Architecture Project

You dream of a home where everything is as it should be. There’s room enough for each member of your family to have a space of their own and a great social kitchen adjacent to a space where the whole family comes together.

You dream of a house that’s just “big enough”. It’s not too large and not too small. It will have traditional authentic styling with innovative contemporary details. It’s a house for a modern family.

Your savings account has finally met the goal set so many years ago. You have built up your courage and have decided… it is time to make your dreams come true.

Whether your dream is a new house or your home, just better, there are five rules to every successful architecture project.

1. Find a compatible architect. The firm you select to design and guide you through your project can break your bank or make your dreams come true. Spend the time to find the right firm for you.

Meet with several firms and trust your instincts. Is “the vibe” right? Are the personalities of the people you meet compatible with your personality? Does it “feel right”? It matters. You’ll be spending several months with these people and trusting them with your savings. You don’t want to be dealing with someone you don’t like.

Find a firm that provides complete architectural services. They should help you consolidate and coordinate your ideas, develop them into a proper solution, prepare a thorough set of construction documents and assist you in getting the project built. Don’t skimp on services thinking that you’ll have more money to spend on your project. The best projects are fully developed and built with the architect actively involved in its construction.

Don’t shop for price. The old tenet holds true when hiring an architect, “you’ll get what you pay for.”

2. Be Prepared. You’ve been thinking about your project for years. You’ve been planning it and walking through the spaces in your head. It’s already yours. It just needs to be built.

Be prepared though. With a talented architect, the designs presented may be very different than what you expect. A skilled architect will use a process of pre-design discovery to learn what you like, what you don’t like, what you need and what you hope for. The designs developed will be what you want, but surprisingly, very often they’re not what you expect.

3. Budget enough. This is the single most important piece of advice I will pass on to you. Be realistic with your budget.

Buildings are expensive. For most of the additions and alterations projects in our portfolio the construction costs range from $250.00 to $300.00 per square foot for non-kitchen floor area. Our typical kitchens range from $400.00 to $500.00 per square foot. (Use these numbers as a “rule of thumb”. Every project is different and construction costs vary.)

Projects with unrealistic budgets take months longer to develop, rarely meet expectations and often end with disappointed clients. By far, our most successful projects are with those clients who have budgets that are compatible with their projects.

4. Be honest. Don’t be secretive with how much you really want to spend. Incrementally expanding your budget throughout the development, or worse, throughout construction, may result in a clumsy, awkward design lacking the integration and order that results in a well-developed design. Your project will be infinitely better if your architect designs with your complete budget in mind.

5. Trust. Let your architect do what they do best. Trust them. You will not be disappointed. Looking back at our portfolio of projects, our happiest clients granted us their trust.

Our training, experience, talent and skills as licensed architects allow us to design projects that not only meet our clients’ requirements, but very often exceed their expectations.

Handing someone your hopes, dreams and life savings is not easy, but if you follow the rules listed above, granting trust to your architect will result in a successful architecture project and your dreams finally coming true.

Renard Grand Tourer: Pure Art

Motorcycle design is pure art.

I’ve posted on bikes before, but this ride, posted over at TheCoolist blog, tops my list of favorites.


I love the simplicity of this new store.

From canvas:

Welcome to canvas, a new collection of ceramics, wooden objects, textiles, accessories and furniture for the home created by artisans and craftsmen from the US and abroad.

canvas is a journey around the globe that combines natural materials with interesting textures. Unstructured, soft shapes and subtle colours define a look that is understated yet elegant.

With a continued pursuit of products made under fair trade and green principles, we aim for a collection that represents simple, sustainable style.

Living Well Link of the Week: canvas

The American Automobile: A Reflection of Our Time

From “horseless carriage” to hybrid crossover, the American automobile has been a benchmark of U.S. art and design.

Cars of the late 1930’s and early 40’s, with heavy, tank-like bodies, mirrored American war-time strength, security and power.

The late 1950’s declared a renewed American independence with bright colors, glistening chrome trim and flamboyant tail fins.

The 1960’s and early 70’s were all about speed and maximum horsepower… until the gas shortage and government regulations caused a desert of design (IMHO) lasting for more than two decades.

Technology finally caught up with MPG in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Fuel efficient power arrived, and with it came more inspirational automotive design.

The cars and trucks parked in the lots of auto dealers today are a direct reflection of our time as well. What will automotive historians interpret from the designs of our vehicles?

Will the success of the Toyota Prius (the pre-involuntary-acceleration Prius) be seen as a death knell of the mighty four-wheel-drive Hummer? Will the reintroduction of nostalgic designs, such as the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, be seen as a desire to return to years gone by? Might the massive gas guzzling SUV (the most popular vehicle on the American road today) be a reflection of the stress and conflict in our current political environment? Only time will tell.

Automotive memorabilia collectors’ passion for American design, as well as American modern history, is most easily expressed through the acquisition of automotive brochures. My friend Joe sent me a link to a great website featuring these historic documents. Take a look… and enjoy the ride.

Frank Gehry: The Houses

He has created art museums that have put little known cities on the cultural map and penned designs for quarter-billion dollar concert halls. Most famous for his metallic paneled sculptures of flamboyant architecture, Frank Gehry has also designed his fair share of houses. In fact, his own home in Santa Monica, CA is the project that brought him into the now blinding “starchitect” spotlight.

In October, architecture and design publishing house, Rizzoli released a new monograph dedicated to the simpler residential side of the world famous architect. It’s on my wish list.

Living Well Link of the Week: Frank Gehry: The Houses

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AIAWMH Design Awards… With Pictures!

A few weeks back my team and I attended the AIA Westchester / Mid-Hudson annual design awards, A Celebration of Architecture. It was held at ArtsWestchester (formerly Westchester Arts Council) in the heart of downtown White Plains. Attendance was excellent. The enthusiasm and “celebration” of our profession was inspiring.

This year, in addition to the awards ceremony and usual cocktail “gala” which follows, the chapter (specifically Ira Grandberg and his team) organized an exhibition of Westchester Mid-Hudson architects’ work. Dozens of firms participated and it was very interesting to see the diverse and varied architecture created by our local talent. The Celebration of Architects exhibition was a great success, but I think the week’s end three day duration was WAY too short for it to have any significant effect on the general public (just my 2 cents).

Unfortunately, the design awards ceremony was less than inspiring. A last minute malfunction of the video projector left an audience of 250+ without a visual presentation to accompany barely audible project descriptions and sometimes lengthy acceptance speeches. What is a design awards presentation without visuals? Although I feel the overall event was a success, the missing presentation was beyond disappointing for the attendees and probably even more so for the honored firms. (As a former chapter Director, I sympathize with the members responsible for the glitch. I appreciate the effort required to stage such an event and the disappointment they must have felt as well.)

Today, the chapter released an online slide show presentation of the honored projects. I send out a much deserved congratulations to the firms that received awards. The architecture and design presented is as inspiring as the enthusiasm felt throughout that ballroom a few weeks back.


Above Photo:

Headquarters for Mackenzie Keck Construction, Inc., Rockaway, NJ
Category: Commercial
Architect: de la Garza Architecture LLC
Photographer: Deck Higgins Photography / Randhir Singh

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Now That’s a Motorcycle

I don’t ride, but I love motorcycle design. has a great article about a U.K. design firm that has developed a series of bikes that will, for sure, influence motorcycle design for many years to come.

Living Well Link of the Week: Now That’s a Motorcycle | Design & Innovation

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Slow Home: Design School For Real Life

Slow Home is packed with interesting articles and videos. Their mission is to educate the general public about architecture and residential design. Visit each day for an exercise and become a student of the Slow Home.


Slow Home provides design focused information and skills that empower individuals to make better, more informed, choices about how and where they live.

It takes its name from Slow Food which arose as a reaction to the processed food industry. The sprawl of cookie cutter housing that surrounds us is like fast food – standardized, homogenous, and wasteful. It leads us into shallow, unsatisfying, and unsustainable consumer based relationships with our home. In the same way that Slow Food’s Taste Education Program raises awareness about the food we eat and how these choices affect our lives, Slow Home provides non-professionals with fundamental architecture design skills and knowledge.

Our Design School takes its inspiration from demonstration cooking television. In the same way that Julia Child and others created broadcast versions of culinary school to demonstrate the basic skills and techniques of being a chef, we have created a web based platform to demonstrate the basic the principles of good residential design and how to apply them in a variety of real world situations. Slow Home empowers you to break the cycle of shallow fast housing and start making smarter choices about your home.

Living Well Link of the Week: Slow Home

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Residential Design and Construction 2009

Last week Annmarie and I hiked up to Boston to attend the Residential Design and Construction conference. The event was organized by the Boston Society of Architects and is the sister-event to the very successful Build Boston (celebrating 25 years in November).

Unfortunately, I felt the seminars I attended were weak. Most of the presenters were unprepared and seemed as though they were asked to present at the event the day before (in fact one presenter even admitted just that).

Works' Brothers Lodge by Dale Mulfinger, FAIA

One exception was the seminar presented by Dale Mulfinger of SALA Architects. (SALA is Sarah Susanka’s former firm. She’s strictly an author these days. Dale said that she learned quickly that liability insurance was much less expensive in the book business:-) Dale spoke about how to grow your architecture firm and explained how his firm is successfully structured among three offices, ten partners, seven associates and dozens of interns. My primary responsibilty at Fivecat Studio is operations, so Dale’s words were very interesting and truly inspirational. His seminar was worth the price of the ticket.

Materials World

This is one of the most useful links a designer will ever find.


Find your colors fast here at Materials-World. Whether your looking up the color of a paint, stain, siding, brick, stucco, shingle or a pantone color, we have thousands. Colors for the home. Quick find your chip color using the Google search bar up top. Thousands of charts and chips of house paints, stains, siding (vinyl, aluminum, fiber-cement), bricks, asphalt and fiberglass (fiber-glass) roofing shingles are here. Color accuracy of the chip-sample is not guarenteed – monitor color accuracy and brightness vary. If a high degree of accuracy is important you should get a sample, fan deck, swatch or palette from a store and view it under the lighting scheme where you will be using it. We have hundreds of product lines from dozens of manufacturers.

They even have a full collection of asphalt roofing swatches (Helen and Paul).

Living Well Link of the Week: Materials World


Thanks Mom.

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Living Well in Westchester is a trademark owned by Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | © 2006 - 2013 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | All Rights Reserved.


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