Monday, November 21, 2011

Back on Bloomfield!

I can't believe it's been a year since my last post...and what a year it has been!  Last September we were knee deep in our own renovation, living in my sister-in-laws house... all 4 of us bunked in one room.  It was quite the bonding experience and we owe Karen the world!

Sister-in-law's spare bedroom

And we said what everyone says...     
"Let's shoot to be in by the school year."  

"We better be in before we need those coats that are in storage!"  

"Wouldn't it be nice to settle in before Thanksgiving?" 

Then (as our daughter said from the beginning).... 
"As long as we are in by Christmas, that's all that matters!"   

Well, she ended up being smarter than the rest of us and that worked out just fine.   Now that we are living in our new space, it was totally worth it.  It's kind of like giving birth... you eventually forget what it's like and maybe you'll renovate again someday ;)

Front Facade

So we moved back in after Thanksgiving and we began the new year with a fresh start.  With the extra space we gained from taking over the rental at the first floor we created a good sized office.  This allowed our next big development... my husband and I have joined forces!  Welcome Mowery Marsh Architects LLC.

So my tiny drafting table under the stairs just wasn't going to cut it any more. As soon as we moved in Brian built us a long work counter in about 3 hours. We each get precisely 64"... which is more than I can say for our situation back in 1991 when we first shared a desk at PSU.   Brian's parallel rule took up exactly 42" of our 60" do the math.  All I can say is we've come a long way!

Our new space is great with tons of light and a view through the mature trees in our backyard. I just read an article in Architectural Record that said looking at vegetation through large windows produces improved work performance!

That's me working in the office

I've always believed that one's environment can have a huge impact on how we live and feel but now I'm experiencing it first hand and it's even more profound than I imagined.  I'm not talking about fancy bells and whistles that you can get wrapped up in when building a house... it's the basics.  Spaces that work for you...  that are sized just right... but allow you to put everything in it's place... with lots of to breathe...  and it feels like you.   Kind of like the best pair of jeans you've ever had.

I'll just touch on some of the 'moments' of the house that I appreciate the most. Each of these categories could become a post down the road once things are completed.   We still have final painting to do and lots of projects planned to bring it all together.  But it's been fun living in the space and developing areas as we go...

1.  Let's start outside with the... BACKYARD!  

Who needs putt-putt?

Still some planting to do...

The outside space in now like another room of our house.  Its not very big but installing artificial turf has made it such a usable surface that it feels spacious.  So roomy you might see me out there doing my calisthenics on occasion! 

2. The long and skinny Kitchen Island

That's only the half of it 

It's 14' and it's amazing.  We worried that it was too long but it houses everything we need since our kitchen is one sided.  The sheer length is great for keeping the kids on their side and out of my work space! 

3. Windows... these babies are thermally, acoustically, and economically a great choice.  I will go in much greater detail on a later post. 

Rear Facade- trim needs to be  

But it's not just the windows, it's the LIGHT!  I can't say it enough... get it how ever you can.  It will make your life better.  Living in a row house has its day lighting limitations.  Our house isn't very deep so we still get a good bit of natural light into the center of the house.  Some would have put on an addition in the back for more square footage, we prefer the sunshine :)

Morning light 

4.  Separate Kid's rooms...

Lilly's partially closed rolling door

The kids are now on their own floor. Wonderful. We did full height doors to the ceiling that are usually open so it feels like they share the whole floor.  

Levi's Room

Don't you love that I didn't pick up my son's room for the photo?!   Keepin' it real.  Just like the plastic that's still on the window sashes... hope to remove that soon once we paint. Can't wait to see the black windows! Then we'll take some tidier 'staged' shots :) 

5.  Connections...and I'm not talking about our broadband.

View to backyard from 3rd Floor stair

Even though we live on three floors. I feel connected to all the spaces in the house no matter where I am.  It makes it feel bigger, which is important when you only have 14' of width to work with. The opening in the floor that you see in this photo allowed us to maximize the windows at the west wall. Yes, we lost a few square feet of floor space but the connection to the yard (that other room) makes it well worth it.  

Well that's it for now. I could go on for quite a while!   I hope to start posting more often now that Brian can free up some of my time.  We look forward to sharing one of the most meaningful moves we made in the renovation of our house. I've mentioned this's Passive.  That word doesn't sound very exciting but it really is quite remarkable.  I may have been skeptical at first, of the significance of this type of construction, but now I'm a believer.  I will leave you with this... it is the most thermally comfortable environment I have ever experienced in both the summer and winter with the cleanest air quality and virtually non-existent utility bills.  

Have I piqued your interest?  Hope so.  More on that to come...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Architect's Choice

Residential Architect is a magazine publication distributed within the architecture trade and each year they do the 'Architect's Choice' which highlights a few architects and the products they like to use in their projects.  

I was fortunate to be asked to participate and offer up some of my own valuable product references for high and low budgets.  I was happy that they chose to include something as simple as the minimal robe hooks that I had included in one of my first posts.  But I found it comical that they were enlarged so much that they appear bigger than the sink! ...what are actually dainty modernist pieces, end up looking like dumbbells...  trust me, they're nice.    

Some other products I mention are Marvin triple pane windows, Carlisle Wide Plank floors and Duravit  tubs.   I really appreciated seeing what other products my colleagues like to use... and thought you might find it useful too! 

So be sure to check it out... you can view the entire magazine online here.  Flip through to page 44 for the article.  Let me know what products featured interest you!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hey, what's my style?

Now that the eye of the storm has passed but we're all still trapped inside... let's talk about renovating!  We've started (again) on the design of our own house renovation...    

Backyard Elevation #43.5

We've gone around with so many ideas over the years that I thought maybe I should step back a minute and do what I tell clients... write down a wishlist and compile some design pictures of spaces we love!   Since I'm constantly looking at images for my professional work, sometimes it's difficult to realize my own design style.  So I wanted to find a website online where I could systematically look through thoughtfully designed spaces and get reacquainted with what I  like.  Then I remembered... Houzz!

It's a great resource with tons of inspiring residential images.  You can browse by room, style, and location... this allows you to get to the images that will help you most.  For example, I typed in Modern: Bathroom: New York... and to my surprise the 4th image was a project of mine!

Apparently, the photographer had posted it and I was excited to see that over 2,500 people had added it to their 'ideabook'.  This is a great feature that allows you to keep a virtual binder of all the photos you like.  You can put a tag on it so you can remember what elements you liked about the image.   This comes in handy when the design phase is 5 years like ours!  You can have your selections be private or public which could be nice if you want to share your renovation ideas with family or friends... or better yet, your architect!

You can also search by typing in any kind of item and relevant images will come up.  For instance, our place has exposed brick so I typed it in to see some different ideas at how others integrate it into the rest of their design.  It's such a strong material element that it will have a huge impact on the overall aesthetic.  I particularly liked this one for the color palette...

Another great feature are the tags on many of the photos that give information on products and materials.     Nothing more convenient than finding a light fixture you like, clicking on it, and seeing that it's from Ochre and will run you about $6,000?!  

  Sugar Bowl Residence by  John Maniscalco Architecture

It's addicting though... you could be on there forever.  Especially with the photos on the right that relate to the style and content your currently looking at... they just keep feeding you more stuff to browse!

So I'll leave you now so you have some time go check it out.  Just one final image that will be my design inspiration for our house... at least for today :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pizza Night!

This is my first post about food ...and most likely my last.  Cooking is not my forte, but I have gotten better at it over the years. Well today, as I was sliding our pizza into the oven (this doesn't even count as 'cooking') and said to myself  "Self, that is beautiful!"  So of course, the next thing that pops into mind... I must blog about this!  I guess that's my criteria for making the blog... beautiful design... where ever it may be. 

I've made many a pizza before but never have I done three kinds with the dough fitting ever so perfectly within the pan and the sun shining in our kitchen window offering the perfect light to capture all the colorful ingredients.  Typically I do 2/3 with everything I've got in the fridge (broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, onion, sausage, pepperoni, blah, blah, blah) and the other 1/3 with just olives, sauce and cheese for a certain someone in the family.  But today I happened to have fresh pineapple cut from the core and a leftover slab of ham... so Hawaiian pizza entered the mix.

I use to get those Boboli pizzas, but they aren't that good.  Then I remembered how my Dad used to bring home dough in a bag from the bakery on the weekends. It was fun to watch him throwing it up in the air and we'd get to pick the ingredients.  It was our late afternoon snack on a Saturday.  Dad is still a snacker... walking around the house offering tidbits on small plates to whomever he can find. 

So then I got to thinking... we have great bakeries here in town what am I doing buying this shrink wrapped prepared crust?! So one day I called up Dom's on Grand Street in Hoboken and ordered myself a couple bags of 1 lb dough. Awesome.  So good.  And only 1 buck a pop!  Has to be the cheapest food ever. Thank you Italy! 

What's your favorite 'go to' meal? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Handmade Friends

I can't believe all the talented artistic people I've met over the years.   I have some of them listed on the right side of my blog, but thought I should feature a couple that you might appreciate... but do check them all out!

I remember when a friend of mine in college started making guitars (how cool is that)... and now he's venturing into kids furniture (which now I think is even cooler!).  If I were looking for some toddler chairs, I'd snatch these up quick and paint them in any fun color I could imagine. You can buy them on Stephen's website.  

And if you're in the market for a moose, here's a pretty good looking one.  My daughter wants it to hang her hats on...

Another college friend has started an amazing jewelry business, Stubborn.  Melissa studied architecture along with me at Penn State and she went on to do the whole architect thing...   but on the side she was making jewelry...and I think she found her calling.  Always an amazing artist, it's no wonder that her pieces are like wearing works of art.  

And I just discovered that she offers fun ornaments on her website too...


And who couldn't use a versatile felted tote!   Yes, she has those too...

Speaking of bags... I've got a friend here in Hoboken that makes THE most fun bags around... along with dresses, hats,  and other accessories at M Avery Designs.    She uses vintage fabrics for her pieces and again the creations are like works of art...

She even has the supplies on her website to make your own.  Or you can buy her book or read her blog! Who knew it was so hip to sew... well,  Megan offers lots of great classes so you can get in on the fun too. Right now she's offering a class to make this versatile bag found at BurdaStyle...

 And my daughter loves the kids classes... with my favorite project being the most adorable house slippers!

All this arsty talk has gotten my creative juices going. What kind of craft project can I come with for a 6 year old who happens to have no school today?!  Any ideas... anyone... anyone?  


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend Getaway

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend with my three sisters in the charming town of Stonington, CT. Actually, that's how we found it... I googled charming Connecticut towns and there it was!

My sister scoured the coastal CT rental housing market through and and here's where we landed... an adorable house in downtown Stonington (better known as the 'Boro') with a nice view of the harbor...

Here's how I found one sis when I arrived, sitting in front of the french doors soaking up the warm afternoon sun on a chilly March day...

The town is sweet... not much going on this time of year, but I'm sure in the summer months it's a perfectly delightful place for a peaceful getaway.

As we took a walk through town, I had my camera in tow and decided to capture some details and design elements for my reference library.  Thought you might enjoy them too.  

Like these playful brackets between windows to support a generous overhang...

This house bathed in sunlight caught my eye and then I noticed the added shadow line on the beaded edge of the wood clapboard siding...

And the house has a playful rail detail too..

Here's a nice way to edge a short driveway, a birch tree allee...

And this tree found a way to exist in a tiny courtyard. Makes for a sculptural feature...

I like this hayloft door... I can imagine being a kid popping out of that hatch and repelling down the wall! The delicate fan detail is nice too.

Grand pilasters and entablature are beautifully proportioned...

There's something about a gambrel roof... it keeps the scale of a house modest while maximizing the usable square footage in the roof.  And I love these generous overhangs, not only will they provide need shading during the hot summer months, they integrate nicely with the covered porches.  Again, some elegant yet substantial brackets give support... 

Here's another charming gambrel roof.  The cedar shingles really make it work since the steep parts of the roof are so visible in this configuration.  They add extra texture that you just can't get with asphalt...

Nice copper gutters and rich wood door...

I'm not usually a fan of yellow houses but this scheme with its rosy door is so's a winner!  The tall windows to the floor are always a favorite of mine and I like this variation with the large lower sash.

It's hard to miss this very cool building in such a small town... it has quite a presence.  Originally it was a manufacturing building for the Joslyn Fire Arms Company and then for the Atwood Machine Company. Beyer Blinder Belle converted it into a mixed use facility and in my mind, they did it rather well. I found some great history about the building on the The Stonington Historical Society website...

Right next to the historic factory building is a cluster of new homes with views of the harbor.  They are gently set amongst sea grasses along a public waterfront pathway.  I enjoyed checking out the details and composition of all the fun architectural elements...chimneys, dormers, pergolas, overhangs...

Gables, gables, gables...

We weren't too sure about these tower windows that face a chimney that blocks the view of the harbor, but I'm thinking these are clerestory windows that bring light down into the space and are not for views?

I particularly enjoy this whimsical circle dormer, the hefty porch trim and substantial shingled columns...

And then as we ventured back into the heart of the little town, we started our own door knocker tour. Someday I'll get a new front door that would warrant a beautiful knocker like one of these...

Love this fish!

But this simple clam shell I liked the best...

But it wasn't all about the knockers... we had some fun too!  Like having a great dinner at The Dog Watch Cafe... the crowd and staff sang a joyful Happy Birthday to my eldest and our celebration was topped off with some live music.  If you get to Stonington you've got to give it a try.... terrific food, friendly people, and it's right on the water so I'm sure it's a hot spot in the summer!

We also had to check out Foxwoods which was only a 20 minute drive from Stonington.  It wouldn't be a girl's weekend without a little gambling and some cosmos, right? 

So where did we decide to hang out when visiting an enormous gambling complex... why the bowling alley of course!  But this ain't your typical Rock & Bowl establishment, the High Rollers Lounge is swanky.  Great spot to people watch... who knew tube dresses and stilettos were so 2011!

Photos via the Foxwoods website

But our trip really wasn't about stuff to see or places to go... it was about spending some uninterrupted time with my lovely sisters who I rarely get to see.  Yes, those are my sisters...

just taking it all in...