Color Theory : Painting Plan

One of the most important jobs of a designer is translating our ideas into drawings that clearly show how to build out and finish a space. Even the most simple projects can benefit from an instruction sheet. I put together this little diagram for the Westborough House to show the painter the scope of the project and color selections for each room. A drawing like this is especially beneficial for an open plan home where there may be questions about where to start and stop different paint colors, or in identifying the location of accent walls. I’ve used a drawing like this a couple of times now and it’s been a great resource for both the painter and the client!

Color Theory : Westborough House

A few months ago, I helped my sister with some paint selections for her new house. The idea was to keep it light and clean with gray tones throughout the entire space. I arrived armed with a pile of samples and some sketch paper and we got to work. In my opinion, it is imperative that you look at paint samples in the actual room you’re choosing them for. The color you see on the wall is affected by many variables including the amount of light in the space and the orientation of the surface. I like to leave the biggest samples I can find in the rooms and encourage my clients to live with it for a week or so before making a decision.

 

Our strategy here was to use a cool, gray toned white upon entering the house through the kitchen and draw your eye toward the back with a slightly darker shade. We selected a hint of green for the bathroom and a hint of blue for the master bedroom. Very subtle. All of the trim was refreshed with a bright semi-gloss white and the hardwood floors refinished with a natural stain. Pictures of the finished product below, all credit for decor goes to my sister, she has great style! 

Tech Office Retreat

Voila! I’m happy to share our final proposal for the tech office retreat. In this scheme, we combined the best ideas of our previous efforts. The warm wood panels create a sense of enclosure within the room, while still allowing circulation between the two stairwells. The panels open up at the center to expose a large window with a view to the trees outside. Sculptural sofas with high backs face the view, and are paired with organically shaped, powered tables. A single chair floats in the middle of the space, acting as a micro waiting area or an additional seat if needed. The alcoves at the back can be used as a private area for one, or for small group meetings. They are lined on the back plane with a dimensional felt panel. This along with a soft wool carpet floor and large circular ceiling clouds help to damper sound within the library like environment. The space is currently under construction, and should be finished by summertime!

DESIGNED IN COLLABORATION WITH SYLVIA RICHARDS AND CHRISTOPHER SMITH

DESIGNED IN COLLABORATION WITH SYLVIA RICHARDS AND CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Tech Office Retreat : In Progress

The goal of this project is to provide a quiet work space for the employees of the tech office. The following is a series of images to show our design process. We started by thinking of the entire floor as open, save the existing stairwells. The first plan has a wide variety of different seating options; semi-private alcoves, a big comfy couch, a low conference-like table with ottomans, etc. Although this was a fun exercise, we knew that this kind of space would probably end up being too busy to provide the subdued atmosphere we were aiming for. 

The next couple of options show simplified versions of the first idea. By removing the floating seating in the middle of the plan and creating more defined alcove seating, we hoped to encourage more solitary engagement with the space. We explored the idea of only renovating part of the space, and leaving the existing perimeter offices as is. 

This process led us to the idea of creating a pop-up space. Leaving the existing space relatively untouched, we proposed to build a room within a room using a warm wood panel perimeter. By only refinishing a small area, we could justify spending more on high quality furniture and a nice new window opening to provide views to the adjacent trees. Stay tuned for the final design and renderings!

designed in collaboration with sylvia richards

designed in collaboration with sylvia richards

Tech Office Retreat : Mood Board

I’ve been working on something very exciting lately over at the tech office. The company continues to expand, and it has become increasingly difficult to avoid distractions throughout the day. For those times when an employee needs to sit down and laser focus their way through a project, we set out to design a library like space. Located in an unused warehouse/office building adjacent to the main site, we thought of the design as a semi-temporary “pop-up” space. Picture cozy furniture, super private alcoves and lots of natural light flooding a bare bones open space. More to come in the next few weeks about the design process, but for now, a mood board and some lovely existing site pics.

Monthly Musings : November

It’s been a little over one whole year since I started working from home. It wasn’t a change that I expected to happen so quickly, but it was something that I hoped would happen eventually. The transition from 9-5 at an office to complete freedom was surprisingly difficult. Staying focused is the biggest challenge, but I finally seem to have settled into a real routine and framework for my week. Knowing a handful of places with good coffee and reliable wifi helps. That and getting comfortable with the fact that some days will be productive and others disappear into thin air with not much to show for them. It’s safe to say that it’s a work in progress…and that’s ok with me. 

 

Case Study : Airbnb CX Hub

In a previous life, I worked in an office. As the days of sitting in the same chair, at the same desk, staring at the same computer wore on, I often thought about how great it would be to have a change of scenery once in a while. If I could just be more mobile and do these red lines at a cafe instead. Make a phone call without worrying that everyone sitting around me would be unintentionally eavesdropping. Or have a place to work collaboratively with my coworkers that didn't require setting up a formal meeting. The space was open and industrial with lots of natural light and no private offices. It worked well, but I was often longing for more variety.

 

Thankfully, I'm not alone in this sentiment. Our environmental needs and values at work have changed dramatically over the past two decades. Many jobs can be completed and archived using only a laptop, reducing the need for dedicated workspaces and large scale storage in the office. Workers have demanded flexibility, amenities and a democratization of the workplace. Gone are the days of perimeter offices surrounding a sea of cubicles awash with fluorescent lighting.

This Airbnb office in Portland, OR takes the idea of a modern workplace to a whole new level. There isn’t a single assigned desk! Instead, employees are given a range of environments to choose from throughout the day. Some are tailored to active engagement and teamwork, others to quiet and focused activities. Personal items can be stored in lockable drawers which are integrated into custom standing height workstations. In my opinion, everything about this project is on point. I love how it not only reimagines what it means to go to work in a broad sense, but also incorporates Airbnb’s brand and values. 

Social Spaces : Atrium Design

Recently, we put together a few space plans for a dramatic atrium. These ideas are a small part of a more complete design for the office, but the client wanted to populate the space with furniture immediately. The atrium will ultimately support a range of uses, including guest receiving area, alternative workspace, casual dining and event space. It is expansive and beautifully lit by skylights. The following are plans and mini mood boards showing some ideas for configurations and materials. 

Before and After : Mother’s Room

Phase one of the mother’s room project is complete! Here are a couple of photos to show the major difference at the back wall. Opening up that space by removing the shower and cabinetry unit allowed us to fit two comfortable lounge chairs separated by felt privacy panels. The paint is called Comfort Gray and is a chameleon color, reading as blue, gray or green depending on the lighting. We updated the ceiling fixtures and added a futuristic task light which also doubles as a cell phone charger! I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and glad that the new mothers in the office have a private, calm and comfortable space. 

Monthly Musings : September

On this day four years ago, I was preparing to marry my best friend. It was a hot, late summer afternoon and we took our vows surrounded by a big group of family and friends. At the reception, the best man made everyone laugh and my father made everyone cry. I felt like I was in a daze of happiness for a whole week following that day. Although the excitement of the wedding eventually passes, you’re left with something even more special; a marriage. The following is a passage by Kahlil Gibran that was read by Noel’s sister during our ceremony. I love the idea of approaching marriage as a partnership; growing together but also allowing each other to grow individually. 


Kahlil Gibran on Marriage - The Prophet (1923) 

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. 
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow. 

 
photos by tracey buyce, 2012

photos by tracey buyce, 2012

Tech Office : Mother’s Room

While exploring the office space in preparation for the kitchen renovation, I came across a mother’s room in dire need of a little TLC. Cramped, poorly lit and uncomfortable, I decided to make the case for it’s improvement. It turns out, there would be four women returning from mat leave by the end of the summer! It was the perfect time to invest in the space. 

 

Needed was a solution where two women could use the space at the same time, and have privacy from each other as well as the outside corridor when the door was opened to let someone in or out. A sink and mini fridge were essential, as well as some kind of storage cabinet for an informal children's clothes swap that the employees have created. 

 

 

the existing plan

 

 

Phase one opens up the space by removing the shower enclosure and cabinetry unit. This makes room for two lounge chairs and side tables, divided by felt covered panels. The lightweight panels provide needed privacy and noise control, and are attached to each other by zippers, making it easy to rearrange as needed. An inexpensive, freestanding storage unit fits in beside the sink, replacing that which was removed. 

 

 

Phase two will be completed at the time of the kitchen renovation. Here, we remove the remaining cabinetry and build a new unit along the back wall to match the kitchen area. This will include a storage cabinet, sink and changing station with mini fridge below. The flooring and ceiling material will be upgraded and the furniture can be relocated along the side wall. 

Monthly Musings : August

Wedding season is in full swing this year. I found this passage from the book To the Wedding by John Berger a while ago and have found myself revisiting it again and again as I celebrate the marriages of my closest friends. I think it’s written beautifully and describes the kind of romantic and transcendent atmosphere that the best parties are made of. 

 

"Everyone at the table in the orchard sits down to eat. With the meat they will drink dark wine. The guests start to touch each other more often, jokes pass quicker. When somebody forgets, somebody remembers for him or her. They hold hands when they laugh. Some take off things they were wearing before - a tie, a scarf, a pair of sandals which have become too tight. The cutlets on the board demand to be picked up and stripped clean with teeth. Everybody shares.

 

The wedding guests are becoming a single animal who has been fed well. A creature half mythical [...] Probably as old as man's discovery of fire, this creature never lives more than a day or two and is only reborn when there is something more to celebrate. Which is why feasts are rare. For those who become the creature, it is important to find a name to which it answers whilst alive, for only then can they recall, in their memory afterwards, how for a while, they lost themselves in its happiness."

 

Monthly Musings : July

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac

 

This is the summer of my first “great American road trip”. The idea for this vacation came about because of a trip that Noel’s family took years ago when he and his sisters were kids. 4 weeks, a rented RV, three teenagers, two adults and a golden retriever. He has such fond memories of this time, even the tedious driving days when moodiness among passengers was at its highest. It’s all part of the experience; the random roadside attractions, the inevitable boredom of driving through the least enchanting states, the shitty motels and KOA’s. Although parts of this trip seem less than appealing, it will certainly be worth it to see this unknown (to me) part of the country. Over the course of two weeks, we will drive from LA to New Orleans through much of the Southwest. We have planned where to stay in those two cities, and everything else is up to chance…the way a road trip should be. 

 

Tech Office : Restroom

Before starting this project, I hadn’t given the design of public restrooms too much thought. Sure, some were better than others but I rarely took note of the qualities that made it so. Throughout this process, I’ve learned that a lot more effort goes into designing a comfortable restroom than one might think! Between code issues, choosing the right fixtures and accessories, thinking about durability and privacy, there was a lot to resolve. The goal was to create a clean and calm design which could become the standard for the company. We stuck with a neutral palette of materials and added warmth with light wood elements. 

 
 

At the vanity, a wood surround aligns with the edge of the countertop and covers both side walls and the ceiling. The wood is offset from the mirrored wall to provide a cove for subtle lighting in this area. Undermount sinks blend in with a solid surface countertop and modern faucets are mounted directly to the mirrored wall. Drawers below the countertop provide an integrated storage space. 

 
 

At the fixture wall, the tile is interrupted by a band of wood. Within this, a recessed wood shelf is located above each fixture. Perfect for a phone, keys or whatever you might carry in with you to the bathroom. 

Research : Wood Flooring

I admit to being a purist when it comes to materials. So naturally, I entered into defense mode when the subject of wood look alternatives came up during a design meeting for the Family Home project. In my opinion, nothing beats the authenticity of a real wood floor. It might not remain spotless and perfect over its lifetime, but I love how the appearance of the floor reflects the story of the space and the events that took place there. Particularly in low traffic residential applications, you can’t go wrong with solid hardwood. Regardless, I set out to do some research to gain a better understanding of what the options are. 

 

Solid Hardwood

What is it?

Solid hardwood flooring is milled from a single piece of lumber; typically maple, oak, birch or beech. Hardness of the species and choice of surface finishing determines the floors resistance to denting and scratching.

 

Where can I use it?

Solid hardwood floors are prone to shrinking and expanding based on humidity levels. It is not recommended to install solid hardwood floors below grade or above a concrete subfloor.

 

How long will it last?

50-100+ years. Solid hardwood can be refinished up to 10 times during its lifetime.

 

Is it sustainable?

Solid hardwood is considered sustainable if the wood comes from a responsibly managed forest. Keep an eye out for products certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Bamboo and palm are fast growing grasses that are earth friendly alternatives to solid hardwood.

 

 

Composite Flooring

What is it?

Laminate. Vinyl. Luxury Vinyl. All of these composite materials can fake a wood floor. Each manufacturer has their own secret recipe but all of these products are made up of layers; typically some sort of backing, a printed design layer and a protective top layer. Sometimes a surface embossing is added to give the product a more realistic texture.

 

Where can I use it?

Composite flooring can be installed either above or below grade.

 

How long will it last?

10-20 years depending on the quality of the product. Unlike real wood, it can not be refinished but is typically more resistant to wear, scratching and staining.

 

Is it sustainable?

Composite flooring is made from non-renewable resources and usually goes straight to the landfill at the end of its lifetime. That said, there are some products on the market which are made from high levels of recycled material.

 

Engineered Hardwood

What is it?

Engineered hardwood is composed of a plywood core topped with a hardwood veneer. The lamination process used to make the product increases the stability of the floor and reduces the amount it shrinks and expands.

 

Where can I use it?

One of the main advantages of engineered hardwood over solid wood is the ability to install it below grade or over a concrete subfloor. Engineered hardwood is typically thinner than solid hardwood, making it a better choice to install over radiant heating systems.

 

How long will it last?

The thickness of this veneer determines how many times the product can be refinished and the lifespan of the floor. A high quality engineered wood floor with a thick veneer may last as long as solid hardwood.

 

Is it sustainable?

Engineered hardwood is a sustainable option if the wood comes from a responsibly managed forest.

 

Wood Look Tile

What is it?

Similar to composite flooring, a wood look design is printed onto ceramic or porcelain tile. The tiles are often embossed to give the product a realistic texture.

 

Where can I use it?

Wood look tile can be installed either above or below grade. Tile is also suitable for wet areas such as kitchens, baths, basements and outdoor spaces.

 

How long will it last?

The lifespan of porcelain tile can be up to 50 years depending on the quality of installation.

 

Is it sustainable?

Places which recycle ceramic tile are few and far between. Oftentimes, used product ends up in a landfill.