Monthly Archives: April 2008

EYE ON DESIGN: Green is Good Design

Green In The Air

You can always tell you’re in a crowd of architects and designers because everyone’s wearing black. But now another color is competing for attention, not in clothes but in concept: the green of eco-oriented design. Check the Energy-Efficient Plans Collection at to see current definitions of green and other green help. Good design should always make the most of limited resources, be as energy-efficient as possible, and enhance the setting. In other words, good design has always been green. I was reminded of this definition when I attended a wonderful Earth Day party given by Michelle Kaufmann, the innovative modern green architect. It was held on the roof of the Airport Control Tower at the decommissioned Alameda Naval Air Station near Oakland, California, shown below.

tower exterior

It’s now the office of Makani Power, which develops wind energy with sophisticated kites. Clearly, recycling a building is one of the greenest design things you can do. And this wind energy company seems a marvelous fit for the old control tower. Talk about a concept that’s really taking off! …”Air Gore, Flight 001, Departing from Gate 7, All Aboard Please!”…


I had the pleasure of working with Michelle Kaufmann on the Sunset Breezehouse when I was Senior Home Editor at Sunset magazine. Her firm redefined the modern, green, prefabricated home.


MKD’s most recent prefab is the two-story mkSolaire™, shown above. You’ll be able to tour it at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry starting in May.


EYE ON DESIGN: No Dead End Rooms

Put A Loop In Your Layout

I always look for the exit when I enter an enclosed public space. My wife will tell you it’s a little irritating. But more than one way in and out isn’t just important for safety, it also balances light, promotes air circulation, and helps avoid claustrophobia. The same principle applies at home. My mantra is “No dead-end-rooms!”


Here’s one of our newest designs, Plan 48-250,  that I think does the job very well, promoting an easy graceful flow between the foyer, great room, kitchen, dining room, and office. In other words, the main layout is a loop.


Guests can move from room to room without being trapped. Kids can chase and be chased by the family dog (a favorite game in our house, anyway) without hitting a wall. Here the exercise room is a dead-end but it would be easy to fix that by opening a door to the porch. A looping layout is even more important in smaller houses to promote a feeling of spaciousness. Tell me what you think.

EYE ON DESIGN: House Numbers Count

Fire departments want house numbers to be easy to read from the street. I think they should also give your address a little zip. After all they’re the finishing touch for your new house. A little research reveals that many  typefaces found in word processing programs are available as address numbers. Here’s a sampling from WestOn Letters:


Times New Roman in white baked enamel.

Roman in green baked enamel.


Bodoni Condensed in oxidized bronze.
WestOn Letters offers easy instructions for attaching. Prices, which start at around  $30 per number, vary according to style, height, and finish.