Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Architect (1958, Licensed in 7 states), General Contractor ( Since 1964), Amateur winemaker (25 years), Author (Hillside Homes, The Education of an Architect, The Little Book of Big Trucks, Atelier One). First apprentice of Paolo Solari, Co-founder of Concept Environment, manufacturer of structural modular housing units (Sold to Ford Motor Co.).
20 years of large Multi-Family projects, primarily for Lincoln Property Co., at that time, the largest builder in the US.  Innovative hillside homes have been my main interest.

My approach to design although pragmatic, is that  a structure should be a work of art , emanating from the form of the spaces it contains.  Exterior materials and landscaping, are chosen for low maintenance and efficient use of materials. Always considered is a close relationship visual and actual, with the exterior spaces. Architects are renowned for their unrealistic approach to budgets, therefore I provide a detailed construction cost when the preliminary design is completed. Due to my building experiences these usually are within 10% of actual costs.
The Green Panic - I perceive the Green thing is more of a psuedo marketing gimmick than a design solution. Recently, a potential client asked if I was a “Green Architect”. I told him it didn’t apply to my practice and he went away. Curious, I looked up the Florida Council of Green Building. In reviewing the 40 major items that constitutes Green, I have been using all items except 4 in my general design for all these years. Also, most codes now require most of the items that builder tout as green. The new code will also require the Owner to pay $3,000 for a Green consultant.
Living area - Based on the concept that an interactive distance is around 12' for comfortable conversation, such spaces need to be small or broken up into such area. The more public the space is, the greater the ceiling heights should be.
Kitchens - This is a work area, why do so many glossy architectural magazines show these sleek, uncluttered kitchens without a pan or dish in sight? A real functional work area does not look like that. Does anyone use paper towels? Where does trash & recycle go? I like to use the lower shelf for dishes & glasses used frequently, with other behind patterned glass doors. Most lower cabinets use large drawers, not doors. Use lazy Susans for dead corners for easily assessible storage.
Dining areas - I like round or expandable tables that will conform to the number of people using it. Forget table cloths and place mats, the finish should be able to accept hot or cold dishes. There should be storage for linen, extra dishes & candles nearby.
Bathrooms - What’s the best way to hang a towel? I like to use quick & aesthetic hooks for these. The tub should be deep enough to get water up to your neck, and it doesn’t have to be a Jacuzzi. In order to fill up the tub faster, use  3/4" water supplies. Use single lever faucets for ease uf use. Shower, use large tile or walls for ease of cleaning, use patterned glass that does not have to be cleaned after every shower. Don’t fall for the expensive shower heads that look great in the adds, but can’t be directed, clog up, etc.
Bedrooms - Allow room for small side tables with drawers and a reading lamp. Most closet should be double hanging.


Jack London Saloon - Glenn Ellen, CA
Probably a historic building because Jack London spent so much time boozing there. When they had to retrofit the facade with a steel moment frame, we had the opportunity to restore the front of the building to it’s more historic facade.


Underwood Bistro & Grill - Graton, CA
It was a long way from Skip’s Bar to the upscale Bistro.  We added a large dining room, outdoor patio and double the size of the all new kitchen as wall as new HVAC systems. The bartop is stainless steel, floors are cherry, painted trim and wainscoting.

 Atelier One Art Studios
My partner and I purchased an old apple dryer of 27,000 that had been condemned by the county. Originally conceived as Live-Work spaces, we were thwarted by the county Planners who were not aware of such needs, The renovations consisted of total seismic retrofitting, new Plumbing & electrical systems. Currently there are 25 Studios, mostly artists and related businesses. One unit was converted to a caretakers live/work space.


                                 Built to accomodate three contractors' offices and work area.
                                COOPER-TOWERY OFFICE BUILDING - SANTA ROSA, CA
                             Three story offices with roof decks. Energy efficient HVAC systems.


Designed for a bachelor doctor, this three bedroom, 3.5 baths of 2400 SF sits comfortably on a gentle West sloping 12 acres overlooking vineyards and apple orchards. Despite using high quality materials the construction cost was $256/SF in 2010. EIFS exterior finish, single ply roof membrane, redwood trellising and trim. Interiors are slate and cherry wood flooring, cedar ceilings, cherry cabinets, honed black granite counters and shower.

Living Room

Master Bath

Metal tile at cooktop


7000 SF on one stepped level except for a 900 SF wine cellar and four car garage. On 20 acres with 10 acres of Pinot Noir grapes. Exterior is EIFS walls, slate roofing, redwood facias and trim, stone fireplace. Interior has slate and bamboo flooring. Floor plan is on a 30 - 60 grid. Warm floors with separate A/C systems.  About 2.5 million.

From Pool

Flying Fascias
Ariel View

2200 SF two bedroom totally off the grid. Windmill and photo voltaics for electrical generation with a compost toilet system to a small leach field. The owners, a young couple very active in outdoor sports, needed storage for their equipment (Kayaks, etc.) under the main level. They constructed the majority of the house themselves. The cantilever deck is supported by two 40' steel ‘I’ beams. Exteriors are cedar and EIFS, roofing is BUR (built up roofing). Interiors are slate and wood floors over a warm floor system heated by solar and a three fuel boiler. A large mechanical room anchors the house to the land adjacent to the carport.

Currently under construction, the project took 2.5 years to obtain Design Review approval from the city. Situated on a steeply sloping uphill lot, with very restricted building envelope, the house has four levels (Four car garage, studio/office level, bedroom level, living and kitchen level). The top level has a view of downtown Laguna Beach as well as main beach area. The owners, a couple with a teenage daughter are the general contractors. A inclinateor from the garage to the kitchen was originally planned but replaced with two elevators due to too many code restrictions.

This small (900 SF) beach house was basically a studio with a lookout room on 2nd floor. Setback restrictions limited the size of the bedroom addition and the existing kitchen & bath were converted into a ample bath and the kitchen was moved to under the stair area. All floors are black slate, all walls, inside and out are cedar vertical siding. Copper gutters and a new septic system was installed. Black composition roofing.

Not many architects get to build their own home but many have to accept renovating a place that seems to have possibilities for them. Joy and I bought this 25 year old three bedroom, 2.5 bath with 1300 SF and then basically removed everything down to the drywall. We then added all rustic maple flooring throughout, new baths and kitchen (Knotty Alder) and all new finishes, switches, plugs and new HVAC system to replace the aging existing one. We furnished the entire house with furniture from Scandinavian Designs. A deep Kohler “Greek” tub and all new lighting fixtures.

In the renovated Atelier One building (1987) I combined two studios by cutting out the middle third of floor in the upper unit to provide two bedroom or work spaces above. A galley kitchen is backed up to a small bathroom, the fan duct spirals around the kitchen hood fan, which is mounted on the roof to reduce noise. I provided an intermediate level open to living area, that has a 4' storage area under the floor.  The resulting space is a vast 25' ceiling for the small Living/Dining areas. The original concrete walls, rough cast in 1918, were kept in their original condition. Core samples, indicated 2500 psi strength.  The two upper rooms, although they have doors to the catwalk & stair, have no interior walls but are open to the interior two story space and skylight.


Another Spec house for sale. Three story, most on the downhill part. Initially a roof garden, but nobody could see it and cost was too much. Built-in window washing catwalks.


Towel hanging

Handy Hair dryer caddy at bath
Built-in toaster


An existing 1888 house of 500 SF was renovated and absorbed into a 1500 SF addition. Seven months for approvals from a 'Histerical committtee' , but built in seven months. Exterior rough redwood was removed from siding, re-planed and used as interior trim.  Designed and built by Langworthy Builder, the cost was on budget at $175/SF. Original house was moved two feet in two directions, renovated into the living room, also set up for small Folk Music performances. Kitchen had Fir counters, antique sink and restored range.

Audirorium for Institute for the Study of Human Awareness (ISHA, Ishwar Puri)

Audtorium for 400, Bruce, Wisconsin, 2016
A wooden dome of 72' surrounded by support rooms  near the Chipawa river. I call it "Amoeba".