Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The drawing above is from my own sketchbook and was drawn in Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth. Besides improving one's skill at drawing, what benefit is gained from drawing from observation? Why do architects and designers develop the practice of maintaining a sketchbook?

I can answer for myself - it helps me see more thoroughly and at a different level. By drawing, I am forced to study, not merely observe, the relationships between objects in space. The thought process required to draw is very different from what is required to take a snapshot. Drawing is an active way of thinking - and I now find it difficult sometimes to communicate an idea to someone without a pencil in my hand. I often take notes on my drawings as well. Things that I notice about other senses such as sound, smell, the feel of the wind, the warmth of the sun, etc. I once participated in a sketching exercise in which I made marks on my sketchbook page about anything except what I experienced with my eyes - a shorthand for sounds as I walked through nature. It was "eye-opening." There were so many sounds that otherwise would have escaped my attention.


Sketchbooks are a designer's way of thinking visually - with a pencil, marker, collage with scraps of paper ... on and on. It's an important 1st step in the design procees - getting ideas out of your head on their way to becoming reality. And, isn't it amazing how different ideas look once their on paper - sometimes better and sometimes they just don't live up to the image we have in our heads.

Looking at a designer's sketchbook is seeing into the creative mind. In my next few blog posts, I plan to explore the sketchbook as part of the design process.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A great kitchen design starts with the gooey stuff - right? Absolutely if you are talking in terms of GUI - pronounced gooey! The graphic user interface (GUI) is the method we humans use to command our computers - the visual connection between what's in our head and what task we want our computer to do. But we also interface with interiors everyday. For example, when we put the kettle on to make a cup of tea we must figure out which knob to turn to make the correct burner engage.

The knob is the user interface between the user and the flame. Why do I always choose the wrong knob? I have had the same cooktop for 15 years - and I still have to examine the knob graphic carefully each time. Is it me? In this case it isn't - it's poor design. The knobs aren't arranged in same pattern as the burners - it's not obvious - and it should be!

Good design impacts not just convenience, but safety as well. It is critically important in factories, for productivity and safety, but it should be just as important in our homes. Good design can mean the difference between a soothing cup of tea or a burning tea cozy! Universal design - design for everyone of every ability level is key. Our homes shouldn't trap us but free us, by ensuring that usability is considered for individuals with varying mobility. Check out this article for more ideas.

If you are interested in more ideas about GUI - check out Will Farrell and graphic illustration of the workings of his character's mind in the introduction to the movie Stranger than Fiction. It's only 3 minutes long.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aging in Place and Universal Design

Is it possible to make a space that is "universally" designed look like this? I think it is! The project at right was completed way back in about 2000, and it wasn't specifically designed for someone with disabilities. I've learned a lot since then!

We have a current client in her late 60s who wants both the contemporary look and universal design. I'm thrilled! We have consistently encouraged our clients to think about the long term. It isn't very expensive to plan a home with accessability for limited ambulation in mind. What can be expensive is remodeling a home to accommodate a walker, scooter, or wheelchair! And something like a skiing accident can limit the mobility of even the most active adult.

Our client has come to us to remodel a home that she just purchased to make it possible for her to age in place - this will be the last home she plans to purchase. She will be able to live in this home, surrounded by familiar and personal posessions in the event she can no longer care for herself. Her house won't force her to live in an "institution." We are addressing universal design - design for everyone - in her remodelling project.

  1. Her spare bedrooms are being planned as a suite for a future live-in caregiver
  2. Her master bedroom and bath are being refitted with accessible shower, exercise machine, accessible toilet, closet, lavatories - the works - and it will be beautiful, too!
  3. Her kitchen will accommodate a scooter and planned for maximum efficiency for the work flow
  4. Flooring: we are considering how to plan for the tripping hazard that area rugs can cause

Watch for more posts about this project as we progress!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rid of Cookbook Clutter

I'd love to get rid of all my cookbooks and replace them with this. I have 2 exceptions however.
I have my maternal grandmother's Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s with her hand written notes. My grandmother, Eva Lewis, was a wonderful cook. She managed kitchens for a nursing home and an elementary school before she retired. Even after she retired, my family would have dinner at her house every Wednesday evening. She wasn't a fancy cook, but an old fashioned southern cook - she gardened and we would have home grown fried squash, home grown creamed corn, scalloped potatoes - this list goes on. I cherish that cookbook - it contains so many family memories around the dinner table - and I hope my son carries on memories of his own. I really miss both of my grandmothers. They were both incredibly strong and wonderfully loving. I strive to be so much like each of them - and I catch a glimpse of them from time to time.

The other exception is the 3-ring binder that was my mother's. It's actually quite a mess - but that's why I love it. Mother scrounged sheet protectors from my interior design students' project binders that they never picked up after grading. Mom was the queen of reuse before it was fashionable. The recipes it contains were cut from the newspaper and are hand-written scraps that she saved and some that were my grandmother's.

As cool as this multi-media home tablet PC is - it could never compare to my hand-me-down recipes!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ripple Effect

What an amazing concept - movement creates a ripple on the surface of this tea table. It speaks to the effect that each of us may have on the world around us.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Raindrops Falling on my Head

Can you guess where this photo was taken? Raindrops were falling overhead! It is near the stairs that lead down to Bear Run at Fallingwater! No better place to be on a rainy day!.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gold Leaf or Rhododendron?

If you have had the opportunity to visit Fallingwater, you might recognize the image from my sketchbook as Rhododendron leaves. Did you know that FLW originally proposed to surface the concrete walls and cantilevers in gold leaf? Well, the Kaufmann family didn't entertain that idea for long. The color of the paint coating the concrete was chosen using the underside of a fallen, dying Rhododendron leaf for inspiration. The hue is a slightly orange light tan. If you want a close match, use Pitsburgh Paints Covered Wagon #319- 5.
Cherokee Red is considered FLW's personal favorite. It is perhaps the most famous color used at Fallingwater, and Pittsburgh has issued a match with Cherokee Red #6432-7. Wright applied this red to the steel mullions and window frames it is said because it recalls the forging process. It is my understanding, from my research and time listening to others at Fallingwater, that Cherokee Red actually varied from project to project. Pittsburgh's version is accurate for the red used at Fallingwater. But, all of Wright's reds were deep, and rich hues mixed with sienna hues. You wouldn't have seen Frank use a "happy" cherry or raspberry red - it just wouldn't seem "Wright" now would it?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Return from Fallingwater

This marks the third summer that Mike and I have been teachers at Fallingwater's High School Residency programs. We just returned from 3 weeks in Pennsylvania. We are tired, but inspired. Over the next several weeks, I will post images and ideas gleaned from our experiences there!

Check out this article about the residency in the mean time:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


What is an Archetype? How is it related to design?

A good place to start is always the dictionary:

ar·che·type  –noun
1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

Here is an interesting product that can illustrate the concept and it carries over into design and architecture. 'wekker' which is the dutch word for alarm clock, is an iconic form triggering concepts: of loudness, bells ringing and getting up. likewise, the common round, dome shape of a loudspeaker evokes a similar type of idea: of volume. by combining these two archetypes, a new form was created while still sustaining a level of familiarity for users about its function.
I also like their Giraffe lamp!

I can think of a modern archetype which represents our fascination with technology and community connection - the iPhone or iPod. I conjur an image of one even when I am looking at a generic MP3 player.


Helvetic was my typeface of choice when I was in design school and if you are interested in knowing more about it - follow this link!
It's a sturdy type with a European pedigree. It is also not that readily available - Arial is close, but doesn't quite match it for elegance. Look for it in architectural and interior design periodicals and graphic presentations!! There is even a feature film about the typeface!

Hey - just for fun, take the typeface quiz:
I was Times New Roman - I hate that face, though - won't use it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fallingwater Visiting Scholar Residence

I am looking forward to visiting Fallingwater again this summer as a teaching assistant for the High School Residency Program. The best, though, is the announcement of the competition winner for cottages on the nearby grounds. Vancouver-based firm Patkau Associates won the competition to build a series of one and two-bedroom cottages. They will house visiting scholars and students.
Follow this link for more information!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Schematic Design

Check out our recent presentation sketch created for a client presentation we had yesterday. We proposed a pair of giant sliding doors on stainless steel barn door hardware tracks to partially conceal a satelite kitchen, an A/V area, and a storage section along one large wall. I did the rendering in SketchUp software. We will soon begin fine tuning the details as we enter the design development stage of the project. We are utilizing the client's existing sectional sofa, and will supplement the design with some new furnishings and finishes. I am so glad that the clients liked our ideas yesterday!

Smart Environments

Jennifer Magnolfi is a designer with Herman Miller and attended Auburn for her architectural training. The Rural Studio had a profound impact on her personal design philosophy. Check out this video about her projects with Herman Miller and smart environments.
Citizen Architect the movie about Samuel Mockbee, the founder of Rural Studio, is showing tonight at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. What great timing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's About Time - DBA

98% Biodegradable Pen and other nifty products!! Watch the video here:
This makes you think when you're in the office supply aisle - but don't go out and buy these just because they look great - wait until you really need a replacement. Waste not; want not - AND reduce, reuse & recycle!.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Metropolis is just about my favorite magazine. It covers many aspects of design and architecture. If you, like me, crave to see the latest and greatest new furniture designs, ICFF is the place to be. If you are also, like me, short of funds, then you can live vicariously through Metropolis' list of events.

  • Follow this link to check out the upcoming events:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

AIA Sexiest Houses

The American Institute of Architects recently released their list of the sexiest houses. Check out this teaser from FastCompany magazine.

The image above is a guest-house and office that fold into the landscape around them.
Dry Creek Outbuildings, in Woodside, CA, by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson: A

Monday, May 10, 2010


I really love color - it is the most powerful design element, hands down!! Pantone has created a universal language of color - for print, paint, web design, etc.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Great "Architecture"

This is such a creative object - I love it. Check out the link above. This is the kind of design project I would enjoy assigning to my students - designing a better mousetrap. And, Puma actually succeeded. "Sounds of hands clapping."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Galvanized Pegboard

My senior interior design students unloaded a stack of galvanized pegboard into my garage Friday. This is going to be interesting. They are preparing for their Senior Exhibition which will be on display in TCU's Moudy Art Gallery May 3-6. I am really proud of the job they are doing getting ready for their exhibition. They have all grown so much in the past year, as designers and young adults. I can't wait to see how they incorporate this material into their show. Their portfolios are due this Tuesday (April 6). Several of them are truly outstanding. They have been working to learn Adobe InDesign this semester as well.
Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Tenderness of Wolves

I was in Atlanta this week attending a design conference, and I actually had the chance to do some reading. I finished a book by Stef Penny that was striking. Today, I looked on line for some insights into the book and found a short video. Ms. Penny explained that the wolves symbolized our fears. While I really hate to admit that I am afraid of anything - there are so many areas in my life that are colored by fears, big and small. These places that I/we avoid can become comfortable after we inhabit them for a time. How easy it is to let these fears direct the course of our lives, and, how different our lives might be if we marched boldy into them - in spite of the fright. I read an article years and years ago, perhaps as long as 20 or 25 years, in Guideposts magazine that has stayed with me ever since. The short story portrayed a woman trying to escape a burning building down the fire stairs. Her fear paralized her to the point that she froze and couldn't move. A man behind her screamed at her to move forward and she replied "I can't. I'm scared." And his response has moved me through life over and over ever since. "Do it scared!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break

Lots of things to be excited about. It seems that the A&D (architecture & design) economic prospects are looking up. Several of the showrooms I have visited lately say they have seen increased traffic since the first of the year - what good news! We have several new clients and the telephone has been ringing with inquiries. We have one project under construction that broke ground in January and a brand new remodeling project. I enjoy both kinds! I especially enjoy the transformation process - seeing the "before" condition anticipating new finishes, materials and color and then the unveiling - when everthing is installed, down to the art and accessories; even candy in the candy dishes and fresh flowers. It sparkles!

And for another unveiling - I finally found our project featured online. follow this link and you can see one of our projects in its finished condition. It is a more traditional style. See if you can find the antique coffer panel - from the ceiling of a 16th century Italian monastery - a fabulous and unusual find that we proposed to our savvy client. I just love gazing at it ....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

LUXE Magazine Feature

Now is the time to pick up the latest issue of LUXE magazine. You'll see our project within its pages. I continue to look on LUXE's website for the web edition of the magazine - no luck yet. This photo appears in the current issue along with many others. It was taken by the photographer I typically use for documenting our projects (when I don't take the photos myself) Ira Montogomery. He does such great work!!

This kitchen took an immense amount of attention to detail. My firm designed the cabinetry, tile and cast stone details, the lighting layout and fixture selection, the plumbing, hardware, the placement of accessories, and of course the color palette. It is also a much more traditional interior that is usual. I enjoyed the project a great deal!!

Pantone 19-4053 TPX

I got the coolest bag at SAIC (Art Institute Chicago) a couple of months ago. And, anyone who knows me, knows how much I love the nuances of color. My Masters Thesis was about color and architecture. This bag had my name written all over it. A little over 20 years ago, Mike went along with me on a research grant to France and Switzerland to study the use of color by the iconic architect Le Corbusier. On that trip, we hauled as many color samples as we could carry to document the architectural sites. Pantone was one of the sets I carried. Pantone is probably more well known in graphic design circles - it is the standard for print. Recently, though, Pantone has expanded their color system to include paint for architecture.
What is really interesting, is that this bag is very nearly the color I chose for my business cards and letterhead graphics over 10 years ago. I probably should have bought two of them for when this one wears out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Light and Shadow

The design at left is by sophomore interior design student Christina Noah of TCU. The design is based upon the abstraction of elements in the structure of an apple.
The design is successful on several levels. To begin, the student created geometric subtractions in order to discover the essence of form within a very ubiquitous fruit, the apple. The assignment involved creating a relatively shallow, but 3-dimensional screen that was derived from a natural object and would perform specific operations that would filter, block, and transmit light. The composition is visually exciting and entertaining, is balanced in an asymmetrical equilibrium, and establishes harmony of syncopated visual rhythms. This wasn't the only excellent project by our beginning level design students.
This assignment also proved to be an excellent learning opportunity in the exploration of effects possible with solid and void, and light and the casting of shadows. In this design, the student chose to use both opaque and translucent materials which resulting in a bit of a surprize for the student. Once the 3-dimensional construct was created, students were then asked to create "compass-point" drawings that illustrated the shadows cast from various compass orientations. It became evident at that point, that while the translucent portions of the design glowed within the construct, the shadows cast on the surface below appeared the same as if they had been made by opaque materials.
Good job TCU students and Christina Noah!!