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Friday, November 5, 2010

end of season

I was out taking some snapshots last week of some of the houses getting finished, so I thought I would post them. The Turner's house in Saucon Valley has been landscaped, and on the other side of the golf course, the Maloney residence is starting to come together. I can't wait to see this property after the landscaping gets finished, after seeing the plans for it. I just drew up a little garden shed that the landscaper sketched out to fit into his composition. It will be outstanding! The third house underway is a recent sale at Epernay just around the corner. If you look back in some earlier posts you can see the model house at Epernay, and some other layouts which were done for that project. This home is sized a bit more modestly, but will retain the same authentic French characteristics. I'll show more as it gets finished.

Currently on the boards are 3 new homes to be built in a community nearby where some lots have been sold or auctioned off at a substantial discount to current market conditions. One is to be contracted by the owner, one of the buyers is a builder doing his own home, and the third is to be built by one of my regular builder clients for a young couple. Each of them will be working every angle to make the project affordable, and that seems to be the nature of the beast these days.

Other projects include 3 additions adding bedrooms and family room space, a new home which includes full living amenities for parents ( living room, dining, and kitchen) plus 4 bedrooms 3 baths for the owners (all in 3500 s.f.).

I'm also working with a builder and an architect on a funeral home plan with a "celebration of life" building adjacent. This is being set up so if a customer who was a car enthusiast, for example, has an event in his honor, the car can be displayed prominently just outside the reception area. The funeral home business is no different than the building business in that they have to continually look for new ways to serve their clients in order to compete in the new economy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

couple of recent plans

The people have been taking me all over the map recently. But the most interesting project was a 2300 s.f. house with clerestory windows that for the life of me feels like the ones I used to do back in the 80's. The photo is of a house I built in 1984. I happen to be doing a screen porch on the house across the street from it this week, so snapped a shot.

The new customer envisioned a plan not with the vertical cedar siding we might have used back then, but rather with steel corrugated panels and a horizontal steel panel. But many similarities in any event. What the client was seeking was an authentic sort of house. A sort of purity of form where the walls and roof planes are expressed honestly, without a lot of capitulation to the conventions imposed by any particular style. The lot is steeply sloped to the North, and entry is to be taken from the upper West side. The plan is designed to afford a variety of living spaces in its relatively small size. An effort was made to let the living and dining room inhabit an autonomous space from the kitchen and sunroom, so separate activities could easily occur. In the future, a basement rec room will add another option, and the second floor library contributes a fourth choice. The client works as an engineer doing subcontract work for Harley Davidson, for whom he had worked previously. A serious gearhead, he has a collection of many Moto Guzzi cycles from across the decades, and conceives of a race track going through the port cochere as it circles around the property. Isle of Chad. A fun project for a great client. Construction should start in the fall.

A bit larger in s.f., but about the same construction cost is a plan for another young couple with small children. Again, the program was all about not being constrained by any conventional expectations of room arrangements or functions. Three are needed on the first floor- living, eating and food prep, and work space. These should all be open to one another, just inhabit different parts of the plan. I added in a little mud area to sequester the powder room and provide an air lock from the garage. There was no particular style the clients wanted to follow, but the tendencies were traditional in what they liked. The result is a traditional cape cod with a slight arts and crafts bungalow flavor. These two plans, as different as they are, show the kind of thought the most recent buyers seem to share. They are not interested in duplicating their parent's house. They want to eliminate unneeded and unused rooms. Their budgets are reasonable and allow for few if any frills, and they expect their house to reflect their individuality, not their conformity to some easily quantifiable ideal.

The last plan is a home done 10 years ago. As I look at it, there was a nostalgia for some of the 80's forms, but also a desire to maintain a little bit of a traditional vocabulary. The reverse gable at the entry was an effort to blend in with the bucks county vernacular, but the basic thrust of the plan was contemporary. A transitional. I just checked this property out on zillow (74 stagecoach road, pipersville pa. if you are interested) They have put a pool in the back and added a large sunken shed off on the office side. The client did environmental design and has his office above the bedroom. There was a floating beam grid in the volume ceiling of the living room to give the space some scale and to help make sense out of the strange geometry of the room. Step downs, a dumb waiter, a built in aquarium, there was a lot going on in this one, but it held on to a rationalist's premise.

As I look back on it, it seems I may have been all over the place so far this year, but it's really not much different than it ever has been, just forgetting about the 1st years in the new millennium.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

whats going on

I'll make a couple of entries on my 2009 blog to bring it up to mid 2010 speed. We've been stumbling through the past couple of months. Surprisingly, I've actually been fairly busy, though my usual builder clients have been grinding to a halt. I've been working on a couple of mother-in-law additions, a deck or two, a pavilion, a carriage house, some 4000 s.f. mcmansions, as well as some 1500 s.f. starter homes. Throw in some 2400-2500 s.f. stuff, and you can see I've been all over the map. Pretty much anything and everything just to keep busy. What I really want to show on this post, however, is one of last year's projects coming closer to completion. This is the typical example ( in my world) where a project starts to take on a life of its own after my involvement ceases. Decorator's come in, family members, builders, friends, subcontractors. The buyers see new things, want them added in, and while they would like my input, after a while, they get tired of paying for it. This is a plan which was designed in 07 and 08. It was fully framed in mid 09. Usually after its framed, they stop calling me, and that's the case here.

This plan was involved matching a traditional shingle style look with a plan that was strongly organized on an oblique axis passing from the foyer-livingroom-stairhall-dining room-kitchen-familyroom-and out a door to a covered outdoor space terminating on an outdoor fireplace. Along the way there was to be a 3 story stone wall in the staircase with a glass car elevator, a stone fireplace back with random display recesses, and a variety of interesting views. I went in last week and took some shots of the progress. Some stuff was deleted (the glass car elevator and 3 story open stairwell), some added ( a muraled wall scene in the basement pool area). All in all, it's coming along nicely. In a way, all I do is provide a canvas on which a gigantic cast of characters collaborate on a painting. Maybe I also sketch out the scene, but the reality of the way I work is that I never control the end result. Brush technique, texture, even coloring and shading is up to other participants in the process. In the end, its a collaborative effort whose goal is to please the clients. I've added the plans to this house. It's pretty complicated, with multiple circulation and view axes. The two main living levels are 5907 s.f. The basement adds 3145 s.f. and the apartment over the garage another 807 s.f. There are 1137 s.f. of covered porch. Total about 12000 s.f. under roof.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Art Glass themed in home design

This project attempted to use a variety of art glass windows to thematically link some very complicated plan relationships. If you look at the shot of the family room, you can see the locations of each of the windows. In the upper left hand corner you can just make out a 6 foot by 16" arched glass dormer which is floating in a barreled ceiling. The small windows are on each side of the front door, and the 3 foot round window can be seen in the upper right side of the family room. The theme was established in the iron work on the front door, strong swirling organic forms. These were then adapted to the dormer glass, and come to fulfillment in the familyroom, where the pattern had to adapt to the gridding present in the sdls. The glass artist, my neighbor, William Petro, spends a lot of time composing his themes by seeing the context the glass will eventually inhabit. This influences the design and the color scheme. He then installs them on site to be sure everything is secure. A wonderful service a number of my clients have enjoyed and a great way to personalize your home.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

cute as a bug's ear

While others have been flexing their creativity dreaming up state of the art 1800 s.f. homes to compete on the Free Green site, I've been working on some solutions that may work here, a little closer to home. That contest is all about 1800 s.f. plans, most of them in a modern style, to best express the values preferred by those folks. Sustainability, Contemporary, Green, and state of the art. I doubt any of them will be built in our area. The economics just don't allow for an 1800 s.f. single family size. Lots are still too expensive. It's just too hard to get them to appraise. So, I'm working on what I do best, state of the art yesteryear. Appealing plans that speak to the heart as much as the mind. And I have no problem mining the past for solutions that speak to me. So here is James Gamble Rogers II own house, built around 1930 in Winter Park , Florida. It created quite a stir in its day, and was featured in 7 different magazines. I've adapted the elevation ideas of the original, a long low mass with a turret hinging a 45 degree angle in the garage piece. Added an extra gable for a protected entry, some stone, and totally re-did the plan for today's lifestyle. I didn't veer from the original intent however. The plan is just enough, but never too much. It comes in at 2600 s.f. on the main living levels- with another 900 s.f. available in a lower level if desired. The idea is to place it on one of the expensive lots in our area which formerly supported 800-900k product which now nobody can afford. Building a home like this to the proper specification, watching your costs like a hawk, should be able to let you bring this to market closer to 600k. It's cute as a bug's ear, there won't be anything else like it in the marketplace, and you may just grab yourself a sale. At a later point, I've added a couple photos here of the original house which is for sale. Here is the little tower and original one car garage. There is an entry which has been added to the base of the tower not present on the original. The other photo is the asymmetrical window in the gable piece which I use as the master suite, originally a kitchen, now a study.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

rendering of last month's plan

Got the rendering back of last month's plan. These are drawn by Bud Lichtenwalner, my long time collaborator and exceptionally talented illustrator. Who needs lifeless computer developed renderings when the hand work can be so compelling. Each image is meant to tell the story of the house, placed in a setting that draws in the viewer in to the space, and leaves them wanting to see a little more.

I especially like the outdoor shower off on the left side of this house.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

no more formal rooms

My blog title is already outdated, as another year has gone by, but I thought I'd show a couple of the projects which have come my way recently. Very different clients. One a young man whose house burned down. The other a mid-aged family with a couple of teen-age kids and an at home business (hair salon). Remarkably similar floor plan solutions, however. Both clients wanted to maximize their value by only constructing rooms which they would use. Seems like no one wants the burden of paying for those formal living and dining spaces that are only trotted out for special occasions. The public-private zoning of the house is taking a beating with our informal lifestyles. The younger client's plan shows the second floor and elevations. This is mainly a party house. It includes a full finished basement with a bar- theater area, and multiple fixture men's and women's facilities. Also a hobbyists garage with a lift. The office and laundry space is seen as part of the only private section of the house- the master suite. You go up a spiral staircase to do your work and run back down to go to sleep. Sort of a single person's solution, we're not worrying about keeping the spouse up here.

The family plan puts the office on the 1st floor- and the laundry in a mud- drop zone off the garage. The second floor is laid out for a future "man-zone" accessed by the stairs in the garage as well as the second floor hall way. So all the buds can come over for some brews and watch the game without disrupting the rest of the family.

Some surprising similarities for very different programs.