Monthly Archives: June 2009


Who Is Building Our Plans?

It’s a question we’re always asking, so from time to time, as we develop an online community to share ideas, tips, and stories about the building process, I’ll be looking for answers.

Affordable Modern Living

Let’s start with Plan 64-167, below, a popular 2,269 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bath contemporary that was purchased last summer by Tim Young, a freelance web designer. The house is nearing completion.

64-167alt1-2269 aerial view over pool

Tim’s story is compelling. He already had the lot and assumed a custom design would be next. “I wanted my new house to have a loft-like feel,” he said, “And I even made a model out of foam core.” (It helped that Tim was a former art school student).) Next he went to an architectural designer friend who told him it would cost about $22,000 to create the plans from scratch, so they started looking online for plans he could buy and adapt with his friend’s help. That’s when Tim found this plan. “My site is on a slope so a few modifications were needed, like forming the rear wall of the first floor out of concrete and digging it into the hill,” he said. (He flipped it so the living room is on the left rather than on the right.) “But the plan is essentially the same.” Tim figures design costs – including the price of the plan, surveys, adjustments to fit the site, and engineering – came to about $8,500, a savings of $13,500.

Here’s an early construction photo:

1st floor

Note how the lower floor digs into into the slope. And here’s one showing the full


two-story design. Below is a detail of the living room wing.


Bravo Tim! He’s now selecting the siding. Stay tuned; we’ll bring you more photos when Tim has moved in. See similar designs in our Modern Plans Collection.

Pacific Coast Builders Conference Report

Unlocking What’s New At PCBC

more keys, hearst castle collection

The  Pacific Coast Builders Conference, now concluding in San Francisco, is where builders, developers, manufacturers, architects, and designers gather to exhibit new products, listen to speeches, learn, and network. So I couldn’t resist using this image as a metaphor: PCBC as a collection of keys to the culture of home building. Here’s a quick review of what I saw.

Keys To The Castle. The decorative hooks and handles shown above are part of  Soko’s Hearst Castle Collection, which debuted at PCBC. They’re based on keys and other ornamental ironwork at the famous Spanish cathedral-style edifice designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan for mining heir and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon, on California’s central coast. Soko president and creative director Cari Jaye Sokoloff told me these particular items were inspired by the original keys to the Castle’s front and back doors –talk about security with style! The collection commemorates  the 50th anniversary of Hearst Castle State Park; part of the price of each piece supports the park.

seahorse pull, hearst castle collection

Cari spent a week at the Castle, scanned a wide variety of fixtures into her computer and then manipulated them in CAD to create her collection of handles, pulls, and decorative accessories, like the seahorse pulls, above.


Some of the originals were designed by Julia and some were collected by the obsessively acquisitive W. R. himself, who, after first saying he wanted to build a simple bungalow with a view to the sea, ultimately asked his architect to work vast warehouses full of architectural fragments — from Renaissance ceilings to classical temple fronts and the odd marble sarcophagus — into his own personal hill town. (The image above is by jacksonpe through Flickr’s Creative Commons.) More than one hundred rooms and thousands of objects: not to mention the outdoor and indoor pools. It’s not a McMansion, it’s a McCountry — and should be on every home builder’s itinerary.

The Solar Roof Is Evolving. The latest twist, from Custom-Bilt Metals, is called Fusion Solar.


Photovoltaic thin-film laminate is integrated with standing seam metal roof panels for a sleek appearance. It’s bonded directly to the standing seam roof panels in the factory. This diagram shows how it works as a solar panel:

BIPV_Schematic fusion solar

Sinks Are For Sculpting. The latest to capture my attention are part of Toto’s “Waza Noir” collection, which was launched at KBIS last month and was also on display here.

FLT142_main Waza Noir

They’re powder-coated cast iron in black and are inspired by the “Sumi” black ink used in traditional Japanese calligraphy. To me, the one above resembles a three-dimensional brush stroke.

FLT141_main waza noir vessel

And here’s one that’s a simple round vessel.

Contemporary Fireplace As Flat Screen TV. You can place it almost anywhere on a wall for a flickering focal point. Here are two examples from Regency’s Sunrise series.

p33b_100 regency red fireplacep33c_100 regency blue fireplace

These shallow (12  3/4 inches deep) direct-vent gas  fireplaces are very flexible.

Garage Clean-Up. The garage is attracting more attention from manufacturers as everyone looks for ways to use this space more efficiently.

POR_3531 versatile building products garage

Versatile Building Products, Inc. showed off streamlined cabinetry along with their garage floor coating systems. The video on their website showing the one-day transformation of an old garage — including resurfacing the floor and installing new cabinets — is well worth watching.

Ties That Bind. Maybe it’s my Western upbringing, but I’m partial to rope moulding. If used sparingly it can lend character to a room, to a fireplace, or to cabinets. I found a good range of rope molding sizes and styles at the Outwater Plastics Industries booth.

cover_1_mv rope moulding

Despite the company’s name these examples come in poplar, cherry, red oak, and hard maple half rounds.

Strategic Thinking. PCBC stimulates the imagination as well as new product-envy. Various speeches sparked discussion.  Fareed Zakaria — CNN host, Newsweek’s International Editor, and  best-selling author —  gave a dynamic, supremely articulate, and contrarian assessment of the global economy, expanding on themes from his book The Post American World: The Rise of the Rest (which I found a compelling read and highly recommend).  And Adam Zwerbach, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, an international advertising agency, spoke about how McDonalds and Wal-Mart are making sustainability part of their corporate goals. Despite economic realities, and the fact that this was a more intimate conference than the organizers might have wished, the general sentiment seemed to be one of  guarded optimism — and that might be the key to everything.

Kitchen & Bath Show Splashdown

Picture 3.png clagett kitchen

The annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show — held recently in Atlanta — is the premier launch pad for new appliances, fixtures, and other products designed to enhance the two key rooms in the house. I asked kitchen and bath expert and veteran KBIS attendee Leslie Clagett to list her favorites (some of which will hit the market later in the year).

Picture 3

Leslie got her start in design journalism at Arts + Architecture magazine in Los Angeles (where she worked in the sleeping loft of the Schindler House), then as an editor for various home publications in New York.  The author of The New City Home (Taunton Press), she recently started a very cool and totally addictive daily blog focusing on everything kitchen and bath— KB Culture—where you can see pictures of her own kitchen, designed by her architect husband, John, among scores of other seductive and inspiring images. A shot of the Clagett’s imaginative overhead storage wheel for glassware, paper towels, and utensils — with built-in uplights (I would call it a very high-IQ chandelier) — is shown at the top of this posting. Here’s her review.

Leslie Clagett’s KBIS: Nine New Products to Watch

Some frugal, some fancy: Products at KBIS were a mix, as manufacturers cope with the changing economic landscape. Let’s start with an item whose very name puts me in a good mood…

1. Uplift Mirrored Cabinet by Robern
A seamless mirror glides upwards—and stays where you position it!—


in this elegant medicine cabinet that’s a great complement to Modernist interiors.

2. Precision 16 Sink by Blanco
Measuring 16 inches front-to-back, the refined dimensions of this sink allow ample area to install deck-mounted faucets,

Precision 1.5 Bowl_018

and shows off chic, slab counters, too.

3. Gourmet Work Shelf Sink by Elkay
What’s the point of a sink whose basin is closed off when an integral work surface is in place?


In this design, a sturdy, drop-in wire grid rests four inches below the rim of the bowl, maximizing its utility.

4. Lighted Grill Controls by Lynx
Unless you do all your grilling by daylight, you’ll appreciate this thoughtful detail:


softly illuminated control knobs will help prevent accidental incineration—or undercooking—of your next al fresco entreé.

5. Servo-Drive Waste/Recycle Drawer Mechanism by Blum
Bump the front of the kitchen trash pull-out with your knee or give it a light hip-check,


and it opens automatically, thanks to this handy—or perhaps better said, hands-free—device.

6. Bassino Floating Tub by Kaldewei
No water jets, no music, no lights: This back-to-basics enameled-steel tub is made for quiet relaxation.

Kaldewei Bassino detail

Its unusual dimensions (at 78x39x14 inches, it’s longer and shallower than the typical tub) are designed to facilitate therapeutic floating. (I love the showroom shot: Bathtub-As-Island!–DG)

7. Smithsonian Collection by Linkasink
Not only is the rim of this porcelain sink decorated with delicate cutwork,


but the drain detail receives the same treatment, giving ornament a functional spin.

8. Legato Vanity by Toto
I’m taken with the way the top, legs and part of the sides of this console are one,

Legato Vanity & Mirror

wrapping almost origami-like around the drawers. Very fresh.

9. Mini Om Range Hood by Elica
A blast of blue that will zip up any color scheme, the pure geometry of this hood is quite easy on the eye.


It will work particularly well in clean-lined spaces, introducing a curvilinear accent to them.

Eco-Friendly Living

GREEN EGGS AND PLAN (With Apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Sunset Magazine’s annual Celebration Weekend event is held at the company’s extraordinary Cliff May (building) and Thomas Church (garden) designed campus and brings the pages of the magazine to life with gardening, cooking, and design  demonstrations. I got a preview of the latest Sunset Idea Cottage made from two of Modern Cabana by Blu Homes’s prefabricated units. All the wood is FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council). Here’s a shot of it with Modern Cabana co-owner Nick Damner on the ladder making some final adjustments.

Sunset CW and Modern Cabana 123

Two Modern Cabana structures — a 12 by 25-foot kitchen/living unit and a 10 by 16-foot sleeping unit — are joined by a deck designed by Sunset building guru Peter Whiteley. The cottage is a variation on the “Getaway That Grows” mentioned in the last posting.

Sunset CW and Modern Cabana 116

It’s cool, contemporary, and crisp, even in this premature view! The furniture is by CB2.

Take-away ideas include what I would call “wall planter trays” from Flora Grubb Gardens, shown below,

Sunset CW and Modern Cabana 122

(note the wire hangers at the top) and a shade-and-outdoor lighting-structure made by Peter out of woven willow branches (from The Willow Farm) and light strings, below:

Sunset CW and Modern Cabana 098

Many thousands of visitors will throng the event so get there early, and be sure to meet Honey and Ophelia, Sunset‘s celebrity chickens who were part of a story called “The One Block Diet” developed by Food Editor Margo True and her team. The story recently won a prestigious James Beard Journalism Award.

sunset chickens with James Beard medals

Everyone’s clucking about it and some are still wearing their medals.

There, now you see why the title of this posting included eggs. And because I’m just a ham.