Monthly Archives: March 2008


NEWS AND IDEAS ABOUT HOME from Dan Gregory, Editor of, the largest online source of architectural stock plans

Spring makes me look more closely at the interior of my house. From the patches of peeling paint I now see here and there (how did they get there?! ) it’s clear we have work to do. I’ll probably put it off until the last moment but until then it’s easy, and wonderfully inexpensive, just to think about new possibilities in colors and coverings for the walls. Here are some wall-related ideas for new and old houses to help you procrastinate a little before spreading tarps and getting out the ladder.


I’m a big fan of Bradbury & Bradbury art wallpapers. This firm made their name by recreating richly ornamental wallpapers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their Victorian patterns include intricate floral designs (one is shown here) that reproduce work by the English decorative artist and tastemaker William Morris.

lilies_frieze_400 bradbury wallpaper

Especially suited to Craftsman bungalows is Bradbury’s series of mural-style papers dominated by images of nature. Here’s an especially fine pine tree design often used along the plate rail in a dining room or above the fireplace.


Newest in the Bradbury wallpaper line-up is their Modernism series, emphasizing geometric patterns like this one. It’s the sort of design that might work for a small accent wall or as a backdrop for a display area.



Another way to go, especially for kids’ rooms, is to create a photo mural. A popular approach to wall decoration in the 1960s and 1970s, especially for corporate offices, it’s experiencing a comeback in homes thanks to the wide range of designs possible with today’s digital imaging systems. Here’s one from Target that might suit a family room.

51G7tZG1VcL._AA400_Target wall mural

Other digital mural resources include BlueRiver Digital, and Murals for Kids. Or google “Digital Murals.”

EYE ON DESIGN #4: Snow Houses

Geoff LeGallais lives and breathes home design even when he’s out snow camping in California’s High Sierra. Here’s what he and a group of able-bodied men built above Lake Tahoe. They do it every March. This is the 15th anniversary of  the event  founded by Geoff’s buddy Mike Queirolo.  Geoff says: “Call it an exercise in structural design if you like. We just call it Snow Cave 2008.” He describes the process:  “We dig a 10-person snow cave and live like kings in our winter oasis for four days. Twelve hours of picking, shoveling and hauling ended with the largest cave on record for this event and memories that will last a lifetime.”

cave entrances

Are there lessons here that can be applied to building a new house? Sure: teamwork, not to mention team-building, is essential. So are the right tools, proper insulation, and good food to keep the energy and interest up and of course something to toast each other’s accomplishment at the end of the day. And in this house the well-stocked refrigerator-freezer is very convenient. If caves are not your thing, consider these snow- ready designs from

Plan 64-178


Plan 23-2047



EYE ON DESIGN #3: Links and Lots

NEWS AND IDEAS ABOUT HOME from Dan Gregory, Editor of, the largest online source of architectural stock plans


Zahid Sardar, Design Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, reports on’s intention to develop a collection of plans inspired by mid-century modern designs like the one shown below, by Cliff May, which is included in my book Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House:


The article also describes our interest in providing more plans that explore the relationship between house and lot, like this one, for a sloping site. It’s Plan 64-166.


Other articles about the book have appeared in the following publications:

Architectural Digest

California Home & Design

C magazine

Men’s Vogue

I’ll keep you posted on future developments.

EYE ON DESIGN #2: Mid-Century Mod

NEWS AND IDEAS ABOUT HOME from Dan Gregory, Editor of, the largest online source of architectural stock plans

This Just Out!

My book Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, published by Rizzoli with photography by Joe Fletcher, who does a lot of work for Wallpaper, and foreword by film producer Joel Silver, is now available in bookstores.

Cliff May Ranch House Cover

Cliff May was the father of the suburban ranch house, a rambling, modern, romantic, outdoor-oriented house form that took the country by storm after World War II. He was not the only ranch house designer but he was the most influential, thanks to his gift for innovation, canny salesmanship, and flawless timing. He popularized a seductive and yet very practical concept of California living. Among the features he perfected were the slab foundation, the window wall, the vanity, the ridge skylight, and the whole-house intercom.

He personally designed more than 1,000 homes and commercial buildings, including the offices of Sunset magazine, built in 1951, where I was privileged to work for many years. Sunset‘s glass-walled lobby is shown below. You can see it and tour the extensive gardens designed by landscape architect Thomas Church (80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, California) from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. Or subscribe to the magazine and learn about Living in the West. The corporate headquarters and the magazine remain vital extensions of each other. There’s even a “Test Garden” where stories are developed.

43 Sunset buliding garden plan

46 Sunset bldg garden side

47 Sunset Joe Fletcher patio view

Cliff also designed the famous Robert Mondavi Winery of 1966
in California’s Napa Valley, illustrated here with a wine label showing the iconic arch and tower.

84 Mondavi wine label

Rediscovery And Renewal

Builders and developers loved Cliff May’s plans: you can find his houses in suburban neighborhoods across the country. Now a Cliff May renaissance is under way, especially in places like the Long Beach Ranchos in Southern California. Doug and Rochelle Kramer exemplify this trend: they’re realtors who live in a Cliff May and specialize in restoring and selling his designs. See their current offerings at Rancho Style.

For more evidence of May (not March!) Madness visit The Cliff May Registry, a labor of love by Cliff May homeowner Stephen Meade, who has created the largest online national listing of Cliff May designs. Mid-century modern tract house designs are also part of the general discussion groups at a website called Lottaliving. The Architecture & Design Collection at the University of California at Santa Barbara will soon be fanning the Cliff May campfire with a major exhibition on the ranch house tentatively scheduled for 2011.

A Book Stampede

The May revival is part of a larger renaissance of interest in mid-century modern home design of all kinds, prompted by such books as Alan Hess’ The Ranch House and Forgotten Modern, Kathy Samon’s Ranch House Style, Eichler: Modernism Builds the American Dream by Paul Adamson and Marty Arbunich, and Michelle Gringeri-Brown’s Atomic Ranch, which is a sister publication to Atomic Ranch Magazine.

Eichler houses have an important champion in the Eichler Network, which publishes an informative magazine called CA-Modern.

Meanwhile Back At

All this interest in mid-century modern tract ranch houses has made me want to start a Mid-Century Modern Collection at We’re beginning to work on it now, so don’t be a stranger; click on to see our ever expanding inventory of architectural plans.


NEWS AND IDEAS ABOUT HOME from Dan Gregory, Editor of,

NAHB aerial view


With more than 100,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, last month’s International Home Builders Show in Orlando was a good place to see new building innovations (many before they hit the consumer market), identify home trends, and meet designers. Here are some new products that rose above the fray for me at least, and other highlights:

Viking ranges

Color in the Kitchen

Viking Ranges now come in much more than silvery stainless steel and black. These substantial units cook with color: rich red, cobalt blue, and vibrant orange.

MTI  Whirpools, Boutique Collection Sink

Basin and Range (Apologies to author John McPhee)

The rectangular ramp sink is appearing in more and more product lines. Usually the drain is at one end of the sink and the basin is a sloping rectangle, turning it into functional abstract sculpture. One particularly handsome version is the Boutique Collection of solid surface sinks by MTI Whirlpools.

GE SmartDispense Washer

Soap Opera Success Story

GE Profile introduced its remarkable new front load washer with “SmartDispense” technology coming to market in May 2008. A drawer at the base of the washer holds a 6-month supply of detergent and softener that’s automatically dispensed according to the size of the load. No need to lug those big jugs of laundry liquid home more than twice a year. I know a family with 8 children who are eager to have this mighty multi-tasking washer.

Green Day

Eco-friendly and energy-efficient products and ideas are burgeoning. We saw a number of gas and even electric tankless water heaters, which are more energy efficient than conventional gas water heaters because they only heat water when it’s needed. For example, Noritz offers a wide range of capacities.Viridian is a new company developing an electric tankless water heater that’s designed to run nearly 100 degrees cooler than other brands (while still providing the same hot water temperature­) so that the elements extract less mineral content from the water (which causes mineral build-up in the system). The product line is scheduled to debut in the fall.

Green guru architect Bill McDonough was at the show signing copies of his important book Cradle to Cradle written with chemist Michael Braungart, which goes beyond the mantra “Reduce, reuse, recycle” to propose taking nature itself as the model for making things. It’s really a new way of thinking about production. Provocative and fascinating.

laundry sink extension

laundry sink detail

Ideas to steal

The NextGen demonstration house introduced Lifeware a software that integrates a home’s lighting, security, thermostat, appliances, family photos, TV, and music onto one simple interface controlled by touch screens. It’s a version of the digital future. (But can you touch a screen and have the house clean itself and take out the recycling and garbage?? That’s what I want to know…) Balancing the futuristic elements were several good old fashioned space-saving ideas, including a laundry sink counter that folds out of the way when not in use, and a simple shelving system built over the toilet.

What Home Buyers Want

Better Homes & Gardens’ Consumer Preference Survey identified five key elements that people are looking for in a new home. Here they are. Do you agree?

1. An all-new kitchen that looks great, is fun to work in, and that’s more than a kitchen

2. The right amount and type of storage

3. A master suite that feels like a luxurious hotel room

4. Well-designed spaces that consumers can personalize

5. A separate, convenient, and sizeable laundry room

They’re useful criteria to consider as you explore the more than 27,000 plans at . Stay tuned!