Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Homes "Nerve" Center

Why is it that parties always end up in the K-I-T-C-H-E-N! Why is that life seems to always end up in the Kitchen? For me it's simple - that's where the food and the family (not necessarily in that order!) seems to end up! 

For years I have marveled at how, during a party, the women seem to start in the Kitchen, and the men move quickly (don't want to get stuck serving you know!) to the Family Room! Yet at the end of the night, when the crowd has dwindled, everyone ends up in the Kitchen!  No wonder so many Kitchens are appointed so well. 

But it's more than that - the Kitchen really is the "nerve" center for the entire house. Not only is it where you store the food, and we all like food, it's where the meals are prepared, and a lot of life takes place. Breakfast before the kids run off to school; dinner when they come home; homework in the evening; and the calendar that keeps it all going. Let's face it, IT'S A PUBLIC SPACE! Most homes reflect that notion.

Even when we remodel, everyone wants to update the Kitchen. There is no generic blueprint for producing an award winning space. Each one is individualized to the needs and whims of the family. Maybe that's why when we buy a pre-owned home the first thing that has to be re-done is the Kitchen. 

These facts are not lost on manufacturers of the "goodies" that go in your Kitchen! When I came into the business avocado green appliances were the rage. Then it was harvest gold. Now, you couldn't give away either of those colors - it has to be stainless steel. Trends change, but the functionality of the space doesn't. The family, and the parties always end up in the Kitchen!

The debate has raged for years about which is better - gas or electric? The gourmets insist gas ranges control the heat more accurately. The efficiency minded would never put up with either the potential smell of gas, or it's potentially hazardous nature - they must have electric. Sometimes it the prestige of having the big Viking or Wolf range. Sometimes the client doesn't care. One of my clients busted the appliance budget he initially outlined because when it came time to order, he just couldn't stomach having GE labels throughout his Kitchen!

So much of our work is very intentional, and extremely well thought out! All of it ends up being a pleasurable space in which to just hang-out!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Powder Your Nose!

Loo ("lu:"); Salle de Bains; Cuarto de Bano; Stanza da Bagno; Badezmmer; WaterCloset - Bathroom! Perhaps the most important place in your home! Easily a place where you spend inordinate amounts of time. Regardless of the language, it is that destination where we take care of personal matters. Sometimes with a grand entry similar to the one above, sometimes very simple - toilet, wash basin, tub or shower. I have found that people either throw themselves into the design of their bathrooms, or it becomes almost an afterthought.
Some people get so caught up in the design of their primary bathrooms they carry on their planning to the Guest Bath. This particular design was created by Robbie Fusch of Fusch Architects, and "dressed" by Christine Phillips out of Ft. Worth. Not only very functional, but extraordinarily detailed as well - right down to the rojo alacanta mosaic which alternates with tumbled limestone to surround each floor and backsplash tile!
Sometimes opulent! Designed and adorned by two firms out of Florida, we spent days searching for the Rainforest Green slabs of marble for the countertops and tub cap. The stained glass window ended up being a collaboration between the interior designers and the client - drawings passed back and forth many times before actual production of the window took place by a local Dallas source.
Always fulfilling a need! The old bathroom ended about the right edge of this picture. Under the careful planning and direction of Dallas Architect Wilson Fuqua, we ripped off the back end of the house, added a Veranda below this bathroom, and pushed the new bathroom wall out to the edge of the Veranda! Interior Designer Betty Glaspy decorated the space only after Wilson magnificently detailed the paneling. Our clients love the new addition!
Yes, it's personal! But it's your space... For an area of your home where you spend so much time, shouldn't it be marvelous? With a little thought and planning - it can be!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Closet Matters....

It's probably an illness I am dealing with here, but after the chaos of the building business and the job site everyday, I love to come home to order! But not just any order - I'm talking about 'everything in it's place' order! Yes, I'm a fanatic! In a good way though. Evidently it's not limited to just me because a number of my clients have seen the concept and wanted it for themselves too!
My fascination with organized, aesthetically pleasing closets began back in London in 1989. Molly and I were staying at the famous Grosvenor House Hotel on the edge of Kensington Gardens when I found all of my clothes neatly hung behind mirrored doors in an elegant cabinet. There were no closets, just these beautiful wardrobes which stylishly accommodated all of a weary travelers belongings! Those British really know organization, and I loved it! So much in fact that when we built our home I just had to have a Gentleman's Dressing Room instead of a closet. The picture above was my first attempt at compartmental wardrobe storage. Look carefully and notice that I used stock french doors for the side compartments, and actually old shutters without the top panel for the center doors. Effective...and cheap!

As long as I was going to do it, might as well take the time to catalog all of my normal living habits and incorporate the way I really like to live into the design of the dressing room. Rather than hang my belts on hooks, for years I have rolled them around my hand, coiled to hold their form. My belt drawer comfortably houses twenty belts, nicely concealed and out of the way. Similar calculations went into my underwear and sock drawer. The shoes went on thick glass shelves; sweaters on glass shelves behind divided lite glass doors; workout gear in it's own separate area and, well....you get the idea! I even have a "receipt drawer" just for all of those receipts you want to keep for tax time! Interestingly, when I show off the closet to clients who want something a little nicer for their closets, the receipt drawer has been a tremendous hit and has been incorporated into a number of closet designs.

So, we have been building "variations on a theme." One client wanted a fold down "gate leg" table which extended out from behind closed doors so that he would have a place to put his suitcase while packing. He had thought through the process completely enough that he had us make glass front drawers adjacent from the suitcase table, and big enough to accommodate folded, pressed shirts from the cleaners. In a hurry, he simply grabs those pressed shirts which he easily can see and throws them in the suitcase.
Many of the wardrobe closets have rolling ladders to access the higher parts of the closet.  This client wanted open, easy access to all of her belongings. She also reads quite a bit, so we made provisions for some additional bookcases.
Most of the wardrobe closets have taken on an elegance that I could not have imagined back in 1993 when my dressing room was built! This gentleman's closet is made out of walnut, one of the more expensive woods available today. He loves every square inch of the space, carefully organized to fully accommodate his lifestyle. For further ideas, hit this link and see a collection of some other really great ideas http://baylorsays.blogspot.com/2011/05/this-is-closet-deliciousness.html .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Measure Twice - Cut Once!

It's all in the planning! "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it..." (Luke 14:28) How embarrassing it is to shortcut the planning phase of life and end up exposed because you didn't think it through!

The best  projects have wonderful plans! Someone has taken the time to thoroughly think through the process, coming up with great ideas and recording them to maximize the process. Think of it: the client has recognized the need; an architect captures the idea and adds value to the process producing a blueprint for everyone to follow; the structural engineer carefully calculates the loads and stressing of the structure producing yet another blueprint of how it should be built; even the landscape architect and interior designer plan...plan...plan! What do you suppose happens when someone in the chain shortcuts the planning process?

If you are going to coordinate all of the disciplines of the building process you have to have a good plan. We do! Years ago we saw the wisdom of creating a great plan for administration of our projects, and built it around our clients in document form so that all related parties to the project are on the same page. Our plan focuses on strong communication with the building team. It works marvelously - and our clients love it!

But there is a bigger picture. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:11, 12). It all started with His plan! And He does not shortcut. It too is based on strong communication (where do you think we got the idea?). When followed closely, His "clients" (read: "followers") love it! What about you - do you have a plan that you're following closely?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Slowly Fast Tracking!

This Great Recession has us all by the throat! For years almost every building project was started by"fast tracking" the design with the construction.  That meant that we were well into the actual construction process before the details caught up with the project. People just wouldn't wait on the front end for all of the plans and drawings to be completed - they had to have it NOW! So build we did, sometimes blind to what was coming next. Often this resulted in substantial budget overruns due to the absence of timely information.

Well, that was THEN and this is NOW. With the stock market crashing, and people losing 40% of their portfolio, we have grown wiser. All of a sudden everyone wants to wait for the plans to be completely finished. And who can blame them? When the urge strikes for a new home or remodel, what incentive do we really have to accelerate the process?
In a market that has been down now for several years, pent up demand for well designed homes and remodeling is very strong. We all are wary, but we are ready! At the first strong positive sign that the economy is rebounding, projects that are designed and ready to be built, but currently sitting on the sidelines, will be released for construction. At that point with demand for goods and services far outstripping supply we can all look for at least two probable things to happen. First, prices will shoot up as demand exceeds our ability to produce; and secondly we will be right back to "fast tracking" the construction process ahead of receiving the completed details.
With the overwhelming attrition in the contracting industry, those of us still around will not be able to keep up with the fire hydrant flow of projects! Sadly, many seeking to have projects built will have to rely on young, inexperienced new builders to get their work done.

Business has always been cyclical. When the elevator goes down, it always comes back up. Our current situation is no exception. Maybe it's time to re-evaluate our needs for the future and set the wheels in motion to take advantage of current conditions. Projects will never be cheaper, or more well attended than they are today!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Our Specialized Society

My Dad turns 85 tomorrow! Along with age comes physical breakdown, and Dad is no exception. We've been traveling around town visiting all sorts of Doctors. I am reminded of the "specialization" each one has that the others do not. It seems that you never see the same Doc twice for similar ailments! 

But finding people who specialize in certain practices or trades is often a very good thing! Our society has become so segmented that in our world the painter no longer does tape and bed work, or hangs wallpaper - they just paint. And if you need a fancy faux finish - they have to bring in a specialist! But this is good. The oncology surgeon only does surgery on cancerous growths - they know that specialty far better than someone who replaces hips.  It occurred to me that my business is really no different.

If you need a nice production house, we wouldn't be your Builder. If it's a "speculative" venture (built for the general market in hopes of someone coming along and buying it), we haven't done that in twenty-five years! But if you are looking for a "one-off" something unlike anyone else's, we're your guy!
For the last twenty-eight years our homebuilding business has catered to the crowd who wants something unlike any of their friends. It's specialized! The guys that actually subcontract the work from us are, well...specialized! So it ends up not being just a cabinet, it becomes a village! Mail is delivered to a large drawer where it can accumulate if the Owner is out of town. Even the sweaters have their own place to dry!
We love specialization! It makes us unique in the marketplace. The client comes up with the need, and we figure out how to satisfy that need. Consider the Gentleman's Closet:
My sister-in-law became so inspired with the uniqueness of specialization, she and her husband took it to new lengths! Everyone needs a locker!
Then my brother-in-law got in the game! He needed a place for all of his baseball memorabilia:
Hindsight being 20/20 I guess I really shouldn't be awed by the segmented specialization we see in the medical profession - we are just as specialized as they are in a completely different field. Is there anything in your life that needs just that certain little spot?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Value and Worth

"An item is only worth what seller is willing to sell the item for, and buyer is willing to pay." Most transactions occur by following these simple tenets. Often the price buyer and seller agree on establishes "market value." If you own a home in a nice area of town and the bank forecloses on the house next door selling it cheap, market value of the homes in your area just took a dive! If you arrive at the end of an estate sale like Molly and I did Sunday, seller is more likely to discount heavily so they can maximize their earnings, and not have to pack an additional item - to them the item is "worth" a lot less. So we bought this wicker mirror stand for $10... Won't my granddaughter love it?

If you stop briefly as I have to analyze the buying/selling phenomenon, you realize quickly that an entire psychology emerges from a simple transaction. Often depending on outside influences which we cannot see or feel, people value goods and services differently when establishing price. Conversely when willing buyers come to market, worth is often interpreted through a completely different lens. Depending on how tough the traders are in any given transaction, sparks may fly!
I ran across an article featuring the work of a very talented German artist. The article mentioned that she only works on canvas 15" x 19", and her work sells routinely for $120,000. Though beautiful, I don't understand the psychology behind seller value, and buyer worth. I thought only dead artists made that kind of money!

Obviously supply and demand comes in to play in this equation. So many art collectors love her work that she simply cannot produce enough of it. Friends who collect art tell me that other factors like prestigious gallery showings, and just good 'ole fame can increase the pricing. Sounds like "demand" to me!
All this got me to thinking about Jesus Christ dying for our sins. You see, God loves and values us soooooo much that it was worth sending His Son to die for our sins so that all who believe might have an eternal relationship with Him. The price was expensive but well worth it to Him. What's it worth to you? Which way will you go?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Wonderful World of Color!

People have teased Molly and me for years about needing sunglasses just to be in our home! True...we like color - and A LOT of color! In previous blogs I have mentioned that our home has been a virtual "learning lab" for the last eighteen years as we constantly progress in our tastes and moods. Recently we added sort of a tomato bisque to the walls of the Playroom (specifically designed to keep the grand babies happy!), and a blueish steel gray to the Living Room (formally a deep red). Color makes us happy! Why have ho-hum off white or beige when you can express yourself?
Hard as we try, we just can't get the colors we work with to be as spectacular as God's! He is the Master Creator who makes full use of a magnificent palette of colors we cannot even imagine.  Just look at His handiwork:
Even the iridescence are non-reproducible! But that doesn't keep us from trying! One Interior Designer had us mix twelve sample shades of robin's egg blue - for the MAID'S QUARTERS! We've seen and played with reds, celadon greens, and even mottled burnt orange in a venetian plaster. The requests never end. If you have the patience, it can be a lot of fun!
My first real exposure to color was when I was fifteen. Can you imagine a teenager with chocolate brown walls, stark white trim and gold carpet? I'm sure my basketball buddies thought I was nuts! But I loved it - called it the "cave" in fact... This gorgeous room (above) is in one of my client's homes, painted over grasscloth for an additional, subtle texture.

Many people believe that they have to have an Interior Designer to "go colorful." We highly recommend that avenue when trying to coordinate color with an overall look in either a room or a home. The trained professionals have a real eye for the subtle and a sense for what will look right (although even the experts sometimes miss it and have to re-do!). BUT...start with what makes you happy! You don't need an Interior Designer to tell you that! If it makes you happy and you feel you can live with the color - PUT IT ON THE WALL!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Remembering Memorial Day...

(Editors Note: This blog was originally supposed to be posted on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, on another blog service. Continued problems with the other service have caused me to post late - and with this new service. Thanks for your patience!)
Without fail, Prestonwood Baptist Church does it to me every time they host a patriotic themed holiday! Through images and song they tell such a convincing story about the history of our country, and those who fought for our freedoms that I can't help but get emotional! What a sacrifice so many have made with their time and their lives so that I can sit here and blog without the threat of "Big Brother" censuring my thoughts!

Freedom is such a BIG DEAL! in many ways you don't really know what you have until it is taken away. How ironic that the men and women of our armed forces literally leave it all on the battlefield for our right to be free, yet the erosion of those freedoms seems to be occurring every day through our own infighting! Consider just a few examples of the erosion that we see everyday in our media:

  • Our nuclear family is imploding! The Dallas Morning News revealed that the 2010 census shows that only 48% of today's "families" are married. This is down from 52% in 2000. Matter of fact the census bureau actually had to re-define "family" to accommodate this shift!
  • Divorce is way North of 50%. Not only are we having trouble defining family, we seem to be having more trouble keeping them together!

  • Freedom of choice is being wrestled away! All of a sudden we don't get to pick our own health insurance anymore. A national survey recently found that 56% of all Doctors are not accepting new patients due to over regulation. The American Dream of owning your own home has been aggressively regulated by lenders who can't lend, and appraisers fearful of stiff penalties associated with tough new rules of the game. The United States owns car companies, insurance companies, investment banking firms - and on and on it goes!
  • Republicans and Democrats can't agree on anything! Where debate used to be healthy, today is is vicious! I fear the emphasis has become on "winning," instead of doing what's right.
  • Greed has become our centerpiece! Forget what's right - decisions are being made based on what is best for the person making the decision. We have lost sight of "the greater common good."
America was never stronger than that period following the tragedy of 911! We came together, united to fight the unseen enemy of terrorism. Universally what was good for one was good for all. How have we drifted so far in so little time? Are we patronizing our soldiers by thanking them for their service on one hand, and allowing the erosion of freedom on the other?