art + architecture + design

dear favorite client

dictionary

You hired an interior designer for a reason. Your local building department said you needed one. The health department suggested that a designer could get your restaurant open more efficiently than you could. Maybe you wanted to streamline your office space. Or you’re one of those really wise people who knows your own limitations and architecture falls outside of your skill set.

You’re a left-brainer who thinks in spreadsheets and actuarial tables. What can you expect from a creative? What do they do exactly? And how?

there isn’t just one design process

Well dear left-brained client, we’re all different. We all do things differently. We approach projects differently and access solutions differently. We each have a creative process that is, at least in some way, unique to only us.

words

My process always begins with words. Lots of questions which always lead to more questions. Then I sit down and begin looking up definitions of the words that were answers to the questions. The dictionary is my first resource when I begin a project. And words guide my creative process until the project is complete.

movies

Marcio Kogan, a Brazilian architect, sees his projects as movies. He walks through a scene in his head, creating his building as he does. Clearly he has a sense of humor…once the project is built he often creates a film starring the now real project.

camping

David Darling and Joshua Aidlin camp out on the site of their future project. They feel living and sleeping at the site allows them to ‘extract a building’ from the location rather than adding a building.

playing with clay

Anna Heringer calls part of her process ‘claystorming’….conceiving her ideas by shaping hunks of clay. Like grown-up play doh.

cartoons

Niroko Kusunoki of the Paris based architecture firm Moreau Kusunoki creates intricate pen and ink cartoon style drawings, complete with thought bubbles, to place buildings in their surroundings and refine how they work.

photo courtesy moreau kusunoki/architectural record

photo courtesy moreau kusunoki/architectural record

Some designers begin with sketches, some with 3D renderings, some with photos, some with movies or music or art. Many with a combination of inspiring sources. We use whatever creative avenue works for us, then almost magically –and often in the shower, or upon waking in the morning, or while walking the dog—we are able to peel back the layers of the problem and reveal the solution.

embrace the process…and your designer

So get to know your designer before you hire your designer. This is a personal relationship as much as it is a business relationship. You may not understand how your designer thinks, but you need to appreciate how he or she gets from where you are to where you want to be. And you must trust your designer to know and follow their own process.

The perfect client, from our perspective, is the one who not only respects our creative process but embraces it. With every project we begin it is our hope that you will be our new favorite client.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

dear design school grad, redux

 

la quinta plan

Congratulations graduate!

You designed your way out of college with all of those sleepless nights and huge pots of coffee. I bet you know every show on television after midnight. Now that you’re ready to create the next greatest building interior, here are a few tips from the trenches (well at least the trench that I work from).

If design doesn’t feed your soul, don’t do it.

I was a senior in business marketing when I switched to design. Business school did not inspire me and someone suggested interior design. First I laughed (right, pick pillow and curtain colors for a living?) Then I started talking to professionals in the field. What I heard sparked a fire in me that I couldn’t articulate and hadn’t felt before. So based on my gut reaction, I added another two years to my college career and made the switch. I still can’t articulate the feeling, but I do know that if I am not creating, drawing and solving problems that create better lives for my clients, I don’t breathe as well.

If design itself doesn’t feed your soul you still have options: sales, facilities, move coordination. Find your niche.

There are no shortcuts.

When you graduate you won’t be designing the next cover project for Interior Design Magazine. You will be creating presentation boards, putting documents together that show other people’s designs to their best effect, putting together finish schedules, specifying furnishings that someone else chose, cleaning up the conference room. Your job is basically to make other people’s jobs easier. This is the path.

  • Study hard
  • Learn the amazing computer programs that are available to you and offer these skills every chance you get
  • When you finish a task ask for another
  • Expect to work long hours when a deadline is approaching and don’t make plans the evening before a presentation….you will have to cancel

I began my career in small design firms so that I was exposed to the full breadth of design projects. My projects weren’t spectacular (small office spaces, very basic tenant improvement work), but I learned how to run a project from start to finish. If you choose to begin your career for one of the larger firms, you may work on more prestigious projects, but you will do a smaller piece of them. You know your personality, so move in the direction that best fits who you are. And whatever you do, do it well. The devil truly is in the details…mess up the details and the senior designers in your firm won’t want you on their projects.

You are a problem solver first….never forget that.

Pretty isn’t the highest priority. Your first job is to solve your client’s problem, and before you can do that you must understand what the problem is. Research your client’s business, ask questions about your client’s lifestyle. Understand your client’s family, customers, employee needs…whatever is appropriate to this project. Determine the best way to make this project function so that your client’s life is better as a result. This is how you solve their problem. Then make it pretty or hip or cool or dark…aesthetics are important, just not the first order of business. A project that looks good but doesn’t work well is a failure and you won’t get hired again.

Learn all you can before you begin and then learn some more.

There are certificate programs and short degree courses. Take the long course. Design is not just color theory and lighting science, it is a way of looking at the world. The only way to get there is to take the long course…and understand that there is no end. In order to create successful design you will need to understand the world as it grows and changes. Keep reading, talk to experts in other fields, pick the brains of the contractors and fabricators you work with, travel, take pictures. The world is an exciting place and everything you learn will make you a better designer. Get accredited and certified in whatever areas you have interest. That alphabet soup behind your name helps to tell your story.

Pretty pictures aren’t built projects.

Part of every design job includes an understanding of the local jurisdiction’s rules, operating procedures and building codes. You learned some of this in school….learn more. Anyone can draw pretty pictures (well almost anyone), but can these pretty pictures be built? Learn how to research this information and the senior designers in your firm will be begging to have you on their teams. Even if this never becomes your area of expertise, know enough to ask appropriate questions as a design begins to gel. It seems to get more difficult all the time to navigate the myriad rules and regulations that sometimes feel like roadblocks, so get used to finding ways around. I learned early on (thanks to my friend Ed), that the best way to complete a project successfully is to meet with building officials before design has even begun. Explain the project goals and ask for guidance to avoid potential bumps in the road.

Welcome to the world of design! I hope it fills your soul and makes you as happy as it makes me.

Keep in touch,
Leslie
NCIDQ (this means I’ve studied and passed the national interior design certification exam)
LEED AP ID+C (this means I’ve studied and passed the LEED exam for interior design and construction, a green building certification)
CID (this means I’m a certified interior designer in the state of California and can sign my own drawings)

dear realtor…

need help with that retro permit?dear realtor….

You just got a dream listing. The house is gorgeous and you go about doing what you do to get it ready to market. Minor repairs, painting, staging. And yes, it’s in the city limits so you order the resale inspection. Dang, there is no record of a permit for that obvious bathroom remodel. Or the hot tub out back. Or those retaining walls holding back the hillside. Or that fabulous new kitchen. And by the way, the hot water heater isn’t elevated and there are no smoke detectors. Your seller really wants to move on, so what to do?

resale inspections

the dreaded resale inspection

this is what you don’t want your resale inspection to look like!

When you put a house on the market, a resale inspection will be performed by your local building department. The realtor or the homeowner can initiate this process. An inspector will come out and look at the house and compare the state of the house with the permits that have been pulled on the house. The report will be broken up into several sections. It will contain:

  1. a list of issued permits
  2. information about the type of property and accessory structures
  3. a checklist of items that are in violation and may or may not require correction
  4. a list of items that require correction and re-inspection
  5. a list of items that require submission of plans for a complete permit review

This last item is what causes fear and hand wringing. One through four you can take care of on your own. Number five might be a whole other can of fish.

they just needed a new refrigerator

Often your client doesn’t know when a permit is required. Or they were just going to replace the fridge and it turned into all new appliances, light fixtures, flooring, and a sink in the island. Or maybe they just decided to replace those old aluminum windows with something that didn’t scream 1952. And that hot tub in the back yard….no one said a permit was required! Yup….a permit was required. But what’s done is done. And now you’ve got buyers chomping at the bit and you need to draw the un-permitted work and get it approved. You need a retro permit. You’ve got this. First, take a breath.

make friends

Call your local building department. Ask them to direct you to their submission requirements….they probably have a web page. If you have the ability to draw to scale and follow the rest of their instructions, then get out your straight edge and start drawing. Do some research into codes that are applicable to your client’s situation (building, fire, electrical and plumbing) and include this information on your drawings. Hopefully the work was done to code…. Once you have all of the information on the drawings, create as many sets as the building department requires (usually 3 or 4) and check their website to find out when they have ‘counter hours’. Every building department has certain hours, ‘counter hours’, during which they will approve plans on the spot. Reserve a few hours to go down and talk with your building official. With luck your plans will be approved and a permit will be issued. Often, however, there will be questions. Especially if you are new at this. If there are questions you will need to go back to the drawing board.

deep breath

This is where calm and finesse come in. And a great deal of patience. You will need to follow one of two paths:

  1. but wait there’s more: Perhaps your building official just needed more information (you forgot to show the electrical outlets?) You will need to gather information and revise your drawings. If you received written comments from the building department then in addition to your revised drawings create a narrative to respond to each item. Again you’ll need to create as many sets as the building department requires. When you’re ready, try to set a meeting with your building official to review your revised drawings. Go through each question or comment, respond to it on your drawing as well as in a narrative, and very nicely respond to whatever questions remain. Hopefully this will be the end of this part of the process and your permit will be issued. At this point you will make a final payment for your permit.
  2. it may require a hammer: Is there something at the house that is not built to code and was flagged by the building official? That will need to be fixed. If work needs to be done, revise your plans and show the work completed. Add any other information that the building department requested and create a narrative if you received written comments. Create as many sets as the building department requires. Now take your drawings back to the building department and with all the sugar you can muster have another go. Once the building department is satisfied, you will make a final payment and the permit will be issued. Now hire the necessary professionals to complete the work you showed on your plans.

Once you’ve completed either path one or path two, schedule a final inspection. If the planets are aligned, the inspector will sign your permit and this will be the end of the process. Now pop that champagne!

if this all sounds like just too much…

Contact me. I’ve pulled permits….lots of permits. While this part of my job may not be very creative on the one hand, it does require a certain finesse and definitely a great deal of calm. And the ability to create drawings that satisfy the building department. I get them and I’ve got this. You are busy….you have hands to hold and marketing to do.

I have skills to get you a retro permit. Let me help. Click To Tweet

Keep in touch,
Leslie

who wants tacos?

taco-bell1

once upon a time taco bell and i were born…

Have you noticed all the Taco Bell chatter lately? Makes me a bit nostalgic. There was a Taco Bell next to my dorm at San Diego State all those years ago. In the light of day you’d never catch me there, but after midnight all bets were off. Sometime around 1am, when I was done (ahem) studying, those greasy little tacos called my name.

tacos in college

It seems the same is true of today’s college students. My daughter, who avoids dairy and gluten due to digestive issues, succumbed to a Taco Bell burrito late one night recently. I’m sure it was after a long bout of (ahem) studying. Not a good move for her, but she was swept up in the college taco tide along with a group of friends.

And this seems to be the tide that Taco Bell continues to rely on for some pretty sustained recent growth. After graduation I lost track of Taco Bell, aside from noticing they teamed up with KFC in a few locations (an odd match I thought). And that was probably fine with them. Somehow, even with all of the cultural moves toward healthy eating, SLOW food and the like, Taco Bell has managed to maintain the interest of the ever hungry 18-22 year old set.

old taco style: al fresco

When Taco Bell popped up in my feed 3 times in the last month I sat up and took notice. While they have made some effort to offer some healthier options (um, Dorito taco anyone?), what Taco Bell seems to really be focusing on is image. Taco Bell’s original style (if you’re a child of the 70s you’ll recognize that photo at the top of the page) was unique. The brick facade, arches, tile roof and the ever present bell didn’t veer off theme for a couple of decades. If you wanted to sit you did so outside, usually next to a fire pit. Sometime in the 80s the iconic style changed to suburban strip mall and lost most of its charm.

new taco style: beer and wifi

Then last year there was the shipping container store introduced at SXSW. And now Taco Bell is introducing 4 new store styles with an end game, it seems, of getting customers to stay rather than go (slow food rather than SLOW food I presume). Their new concepts include wifi, lounge seating, some have fireplaces, there is natural wood, gray (the color du jour it seems), modern art, mid-century seating, Victorian light fixtures and they’re even testing alcohol in a few locations. According to FastCo, it’s a mashup of every current design trend.

Taco Bell seems to be holding on to just a tiny bit of their own visual history. There’s the occasional pop of fireclay orange. Some of the themes use the textured brick of decades past. But overall, this is a complete overthrow. It will be interesting to see how this generation of Taco Bell fares with the current generation of technology toting college student.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

libraries are more than houses for books

library

the homeless problem

In downtown San Rafael we have a couple of problems. Seemingly un-related problems. Depending on how you look at it, the first problem is homelessness (with a side of NIMBYism). You might not think that poverty and homelessness would be an issue in Marin County. You’d be wrong. Unfortunately for those that do fall into the economic cracks, there are few services that offer help. One of the organizations that exists to support the homeless and those in danger of becoming homeless, Ritter Center, lives in a swirl of controversy. Those that fall into the NIMBY court want to see it closed down or at the very least moved from downtown San Rafael (where it is conveniently located near transit, shops, etc). The rest of us wonder exactly how poverty and homelessness will be resolved by eliminating services or making them impossible to access.

the library problem

Meanwhile, a mile or so away, our public library is sadly outdated, under-sized and not representative of today’s needs. There is conversation underway to build a new larger library that will reflect the needs of the community. At one point there was conversation about building the new library near our existing community center. But our existing community center has an ongoing problem with the homeless spending their days nearby.

a twofer solution

So, what to do? There is talk about building a big new library that is ‘green’, beautiful, an architectural marvel, full of technological wonders, classrooms and the like. All goals that should be incorporated into our new public library. But I’d like to suggest that we think bigger and include services and accommodations that will benefit the entire public, not just part of the public. This could be a win-win for the homeless as well as the homed.

pub·lic /ˈpəblik/
adjective
of or concerning the people as a whole. “public concern”
noun
ordinary people in general; the community. ‘the library is open to the public’

San Francisco has done just this by hiring a social worker to work with the homeless who use the library for shelter. The SF program includes hiring and training the homeless to be part of the solution by working at the library. And San Francisco is not alone. Denver, Dallas, DC, Tucson, San Jose, Portland and Philadelphia all have programs in place to work with their homeless populations.

San Rafael has an ideal opportunity to join the ranks of these forward thinkers. Remember my old rant….design is about solving problems, it is not just about being pretty. Let’s not try to just be pretty here.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

 

 

tap tap tap

typewriter2

The psychologists say that we learn more taking notes by hand than we do taking notes on a laptop. Writing by hand allows us to not only store information, but more importantly to internalize the information. I know that when I need to learn something I write it down. Typically I never need to look at that note again as the act of writing itself has imprinted the information somewhere accessible in my brain. So there is some sort of problem solving that occurs between the pen, the hand and the brain.

Same with any other type of journaling, whether with words or pictures or both. Taking pen to paper (or pencil if that’s your thing like it is my friend Jane’s) is a great way to clear cobwebs, to answer questions and to ask the questions, to doodle a new idea with no pressure, and sometimes to just daydream while some other part of your brain is solving a life changing problem. Sketchbooks and notebooks and journals take us places that computers can’t. And it’s not necessarily about being able to draw…it’s about being able to think without thinking.

Notebooks are a place to think without thinking. Click To Tweet

Here are a few places to check out other people’s notebooks and maybe inspire you to get back to your own.

Austin Kleon: This isn’t his actual journal, it’s a journal he created to be his favorite journal. It’s pretty cool…I bought one when I heard him speak a couple of months ago. Click here to see how people use this journal.

Co.Design: Here’s a great story with pictures of the sketchbooks of 16 current designers.

Lynda Barry: Ms Barry is a cartoonist, so her Syllabus is full of drawings. And a whole lot of words.

Brain Pickings: Maria Popova put together a compilation of sketchbooks of all kinds of creators from architects to street artists.

Now I’m off to my own journal….have a great weekend and keep in touch,
Leslie

multipotentialite…it’s a thing and I am one

 

full grown

Let’s say you’re at a cocktail party and the guy in last year’s suit marches over, sticks his hand out and says “Hi, I’m David. I’m an attorney. What do you do?” If you’re like me you stand there looking baffled. David the Attorney probably is not terribly impressed and he walks away looking for someone with a single noun descriptor that he can relate to.

Meanwhile, if you’re like me, you are still trying to figure out what exactly you do. I don’t have a noun. I don’t even have a paragraph. Forget the elevator speech, I have a full on rival to 24 hours of happy. With less dancing (except when I’m making dinner). And according to Emilie Wapnick this is just fine.

She calls me a multipotentialite. And I’m thinking that most people who live and breathe the creative are very much the same. At various times of a day, week, life…I am a mother, an interior designer, a garden designer, a therapist, a permit puller, a graphic artist, a jewelry designer, a writer, a cook. And I’m sure I’m not done yet. So when I find someone extraordinary who mixes and morphs and doesn’t live by a single noun, I feel validated.

You and me, who can’t pick a single noun/profession/dream, we are more interesting for the lack of a narrow definition and dare I say more valuable.

Gavin Munro may not know the word multipotentialite, but I think he probably is one. He grows chairs. He started a company called Full Grown. But his chairs aren’t art, or trees, or furniture they are art and trees and furniture. So he is a horticulturalist, an artist, a manufacturer, a furniture designer, a carpenter, a world saving environmentalist. And a really patient man.

full grown

photos courtesy fullgrown.co.uk

It’s people like Gavin who are helping to move our world forward. People who don’t focus so intently on one thing that they lose sight of the bigger picture and what’s happening around them. IDEO knows this….they gather people from several disciplines to solve a single problem. And many creative firms are now following suit. For you and me and Gavin who can’t settle on a single noun to identify ourselves, we should fit right in, don’t you think?

Keep dreaming, keep doing and keep in touch,
Leslie

it’s about the process

image courtesy wikipedia

image courtesy wikipedia

I was on vacation last week and spent a lot of time watching ghost crabs. They work very hard digging holes just above the shoreline. If you sit quietly you’ll see that some of them are very neat about their digging….pushing up big claws full of sand and tossing it clear of the hole they are digging. Some of them are not so efficient and drop the sand just outside the hole until it begins to tumble back in. Apparently this is the difference between youth and elder, and even between male and female. In every case, eventually a wave washes in, the hole is covered, and the whole process begins again. Seems like futility is built into the process.

On the topic of process vs. product, many a quote has been written. The brainiest among us usually lean toward process being more important than product. Journey being more important than destination. Ralph Waldo Emerson is attributed with the saying “Life is a journey, not a destination”. I have a favorite twist…”It’s not the journey or the destination, it’s the seatmate.”

Regardless of your take on journeys, destinations and partners, there is a lot of process involved. Surfers paddle for hours to ride waves for a few seconds. Designers spend 5% of our time on big design concepts and 95% of our time on execution. Dinner takes hours to prepare, and my children are excusing themselves within 10 minutes of arriving at the table.

So what’s my point? If it’s not about measuring the value of process over product, journey over destination, or even who is along for the ride, what is it about? It’s about being present for and enjoying the process. No matter what you do for fun or for a living, there is process involved. And parts of the process may seem futile or unnecessary or downright painful. But if 95% of everything is process, then we best find a way to enjoy it. Even the parts we don’t really like. If you have children you might remember when they were young and you spent your days wiping noses, quieting tantrums, changing diapers. Now that they’re teens (okay, speaking personally) it’s a whole new set of issues that fill my journey from morning till night. And I know that one day I will look back on this time with the same sweet melancholy that I do on the toddler years.

My point being, enjoy it while it’s happening.

Find patience when the process seems futile and the sand keeps falling back into the hole. Find comfort in the act of chopping onions even though no one will notice that there are onions in the chili. Find joy in the strength gained by paddling out. Find clarity in the conversations with clients who need help understanding.

It's really all about being in the process, being on the journey, not just napping until you arrive. Click To Tweet

Can I help you on your journey to a better website, a smoother permit process, a fabulous restaurant design?

Keep in touch,
Leslie

 

program it again!

construction2

the beginning

Your project began a while ago. Remember? Your architectural team asked you a lot of questions, probably using some version of a questionnaire that was distributed to the many stakeholders involved in your project. There were interviews and meetings. You told them how you would be using the designed space, who would be using the space, when the space would be used and by how many, what time of day the space would be used, what you wanted the space to look, feel, sound like. And probably a whole lot more. This was called programming and it was a bit grueling and probably kind of boring. But your architectural team pushed for answers. You were glad when it was over and you began to see renderings and samples of what your newly designed space would look like and how it would solve the problem you needed solved. You felt the adrenaline rise anticipating the completion of your project.

delays

Then there were delays. Maybe the project would cost more than you had budgeted. Or your local jurisdiction had some issues that took months, or even years, to resolve. Maybe there were stakeholders who weren’t happy with the current design which resulted in a redesign, and maybe another. Perhaps the stakeholders changed and new stakeholders had questions that hadn’t yet been resolved. There are more reasons for delays than there are for projects to begin and complete on time…expect delays.

for example

I might be the most unpopular parent in my local school district right now. Sometime around 2002 our district began planning for a new outdoor stadium at the high school. With a toddler and a 2nd grader, this was way off my radar. One delay apparently led to another, and construction has not yet begun on the stadium project. This year the bond measures needed to finance the project passed and the project is now picking up speed. Designs were created, then re-created and last week there was a meeting. Parents and local residents were invited. I now have a daughter in her third year at university and a high school junior. I attended the meeting.

One of the main goals of the project has always been to build a field that could be used year round. In 2002 artificial turf was deemed the best solution. In 2015, with many turf fields already installed, we are beginning to learn there are some very good reasons to question the use of turf. And in 2015 we have a whole new set of stakeholders, both student athletes and their parents, who have never been part of the turf vs. grass conversation. Some of them do not want a turf field, and some of them (me) spoke up at the meeting. The room got very quiet. Changing the project from a turf field to grass would require a complete re-design, and resulting additional delays, for the project. So who dropped the ball?

begin again

There are many reasons to re-visit the programming stage of a project. The two greatest reasons are the passage of time and a significant change in stakeholders. Both were at play in the example that made me the least liked parent in town. Your architectural team should drive review of programming data, but if they don’t, it is up to you.

passage of time

If your project is delayed for any reason, and the delay extends long enough that data already collected might significantly change, needs might change, or the use of the project might change, then programming should be revisited. Was your project programmed more than a year ago without forward movement in design and construction? Then someone on your project team should review the programming data and verify the data’s current accuracy. If there is the possibility that it has become out-of-date, then re-program the project. If, as in the case above, millions of dollars are at stake, it is worth a few weeks (or even months) to verify that the project is built to fulfill current needs.

change in stakeholders

Has the delay resulted in a significant change in stakeholders? In a high school situation, there is an entirely new generation of stakeholders every four years. And partial turnover every year. This is an important consideration when programming a project in this arena. Even in business, there is turnover of stakeholders over time. At the beginning of the project a list of stakeholders should be created (not necessarily by name, but certainly by position). If delays result in a significant change in these stakeholders, then conduct programming again with the new stakeholders.

do it right

Sometimes doing it right means programming more than once. Construction projects are expensive and to be successful must satisfy the needs of current stakeholders. This means getting that first step, programming, right. No matter how many times that step must be re-visited. A multi million dollar construction project (any project for that matter), that does not fulfill the needs of its stakeholders is a very costly mistake.

A construction project that does not fulfill the needs of its stakeholders is a very costly mistake. Click To Tweet

Keep in touch,
Leslie

If you are interested in the research I’ve done into artificial turf, email me. I didn’t include that information here as it is outside the scope of this article. Just be warned, it probably won’t make you any more popular than it made me!

color and politics

Human Color Wheel by Neil Harbisson, 2009

There are a number of politicians who seek to polarize by color. It’s a sad and odd phenomenom and yet, in the case of at least one politician, it seems to be working. A frightening plight in my opinion. If Lapham’s Quarterly is on the right track, Plato would seem to agree with me (or rather I with him!) And yet, as Neil Harbisson shows in his human color wheel above, don’t we all look beautiful together?

The idea of color as divisive makes me wonder about the multi-cultural origins of color itself. I found that color pigments originate from all over the world (check out this chart). Imagine if we (let’s pretend that we Americans were not all immigrants in the first place) eliminated a large area of the world, with say a wall or a set of restrictions so severe that people could not cross our borders, what colors might we then be missing?

Egyptian Blue….originally created by the ancient Egyptians.

Cochineal Red….orginally created in sub-tropical South America and Mexico in the 1400s.

Malachite green…originally used about 2500BC in Ancient Egypt.

Pretty dismal world without these colors. And if you count all of the many years that war and hatred divided us from other world cultures, say Germany or Japan, we’d also be missing cadmium yellow, lead white and prussian blue. We’re not left with a whole lot of color.

I suggest we take color and politics in another direction and look at simultaneous contrast. When you look at two colors side by side, they will interact with one another and our perception will be changed based on that interaction. Take a minute to watch the video.

A single color, when placed on differing backgrounds, will appear to be two different colors. So environment has an effect on our perceptions. Also, if a color is repeated on a single background, our eye will fill in the empty spaces. Go ahead and apply that to politics and see if you want to think again about the noise you choose to listen to. If all we hear is that people of a certain color or religion or gender act and believe in a certain way, we will eventually see all people of that color/religion/gender through the same lens. What we see, what we believe, can be changed by what is around us.

Choose your background carefully and never let a tyrant tell you what you believe. Click To Tweet

Keep in touch,
Leslie

 

my favorite restaurant design competition winner is….

…not from the US. As a matter of fact, there was only one US winner this year in the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2015. Parq Restaurant, San Diego, won in the ‘colour’ (it’s a competition out of the UK) category. More on our one winner later.

Trends

In the meantime, let’s look at who else short listed. And if you play the bi-coastal best restaurant game, notice that there are 3 entries short-listed from New York and 3 entries short listed from California. And there are 4 entries that are located inside hotels….nice to see this trend continuing. And yes, I know I included a potty shot below. The whole of Mourad is beautiful, but the bathrooms have me swooning. Something else I noticed across the board….a lot of gold. Does this mean we are coming to the end of the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look? Can we (hopefully) continue to use sustainable materials without having them look like we pulled them out of the basement?  Oh lordy, one can only hope.

lordy people we can be sustainable and still see an end to the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look Click To Tweet

Short List

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and the design teams involved: Studio Munge, Meyer Davis Studio, Dawson Design Associates, Lundberg Design, nemaworkshop, Emporium Design, hOmE Studio and Bluarch.

The winner is…

And our one and only US winner is Parq Restaurant and Nightclub in the GasLamp District of San Diego. Congratulations to Davis Ink on their win! It is definitely a colour-ful space!

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and Davis Ink.

Enjoy the pretty pictures. I certainly do!

Keep in touch,
Leslie

living and dying

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It’s been a rough summer in my house. We lost a friend, a father, a fighting soul. We are derailed and left looking for solid footing. And asking the big questions a bit more than usual. There are people who think that death needs to be re-designed. Maybe they’re right, but those aren’t the questions that concern me right now.

I want to know how to best use the time I have left. My friend had plans. He was only a few years older than me. He was brilliant and had done much professionally to make our world what it is. Thank him for the beautiful photos that your iPhone takes. He had plans to retire, to travel, to play music. To sell his too-big-house and live somewhere he loved. And he had plans to watch his daughter graduate college, to walk her down the aisle, to enjoy her adult self.

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As painful as death is to witness and to experience second hand, it is also an opportunity to affirm life itself. That’s how the people at Tikker look at it. They’ve designed a watch (of sorts) that tracks how much time you have left. It’s a brilliant concept and a thoughtful look at time and what it means. Time passes whether you use it joyfully or not. Tikker allows you to witness the passage of your moments on your wrist. A constant reminder to live. As an active verb.

And if you want to know how much time you have left, there are many calculators out there. They are about as predictable as an earthquake, but it is a fun exercise. I used the one put out by University of Pennsylvania. According to them, my life expectancy is 94.82 years. But there’s a 25% chance I’ll live longer than 103.86 years! According to Social Security’s actuarial tables, I only have 27.6 years left. Either way, my plan is to use the precious moments I have left consciously and well.

Rilke wrote : Death is our friend, precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.

So I’d suggest to you, stare death squarely in the face. Get to know death and make friends with death, because death will remind you every moment that you are alive. Live well, do work that is fulfilling, love well and often, touch the people around you, be kind. Maybe, if we live our lives rightly, when death does come we will welcome it with just a bit more peace.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

 

the market is hot, the house is staged, then you got your RBR

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Permit pulling fun…

As a commercial interior designer I am responsible for documentation to pull permits. Lots of permits. While this part of my job may not be very creative on the one hand, it does require a certain finesse and definitely a great deal of calm. And the ability to create drawings that satisfy the building department. So when clients began coming to me to help them get through the permit process that was stalling the sale of their home, and they were wringing their hands and looking very very scared, of course I said yes. I’ve now helped several people pull these retroactive permits.

the market is hot, your house is staged...but you need a retro permit? #partinotes Click To Tweet

What the heck is an RBR?

An RBR is a Report of Residential Building Record. When you put your house on the market, an RBR must be filed with your local jurisdiction. Your realtor will probably initiate this process. An inspector will come out and look at your house and compare the state of the house with the permits that have been pulled on the house. The report will contain a list of issued permits, information about the type of property and accessory structures, a checklist of items that are in violation and may or may not require correction, a list of items that require correction and re-inspection, and a list of items that require submission of plans for a complete permit review. This last item is what causes hand wringing.

Remember that little kitchen remodel?

You were just going to replace the fridge and it turned into all new appliances, light fixtures, flooring, and a sink in the island. Or maybe you decided to replace those old aluminum windows with something that didn’t scream 1952. And that hot tub in the back yard….no one told you a permit was required! Yup….a permit was required. But what’s done is done. And now you’ve got buyers chomping at the bit and you need to draw the un-permitted work and get it approved. You need a retro permit. You’ve got this. First, take a breath.

Make friends with your building official

Call your local building department. Ask them to direct you to their submission requirements….they probably have a web page. If you have the ability to draw to scale and follow the rest of their instructions, then get out your straight edge and start drawing. Do some research into codes that are applicable to your situation (building, fire, electrical and plumbing) and include this information on your drawings. Hopefully the work was done to code…let’s just presume it was. Once you have all of the information on the drawings, create as many sets as the building department requires and check their website to find out when they have ‘counter hours’. Every building department has certain hours, ‘counter hours’, during which they will approve plans on the spot. Reserve a few hours to go down and talk with your building official. With luck your plans will be approved. Often, however, there will be questions. Especially if you are new at this. If there are questions you will need to go back to the drawing board.

Take another deep breath

This is where calm and finesse come in. And a great deal of patience. You will need to gather information and revise your drawings to reflect the additional information. In addition to your revised drawings, create a narrative to respond to each item. Then try to set a meeting with your building official to review your revised drawings. Go through each question or comment, respond to it on your drawing as well as in a narrative, and very nicely respond to whatever questions remain. Hopefully this will be the end of this part of the process and your permit will be issued. At this point you will make a final payment for your permit and schedule a final inspection. If the planets are aligned, the inspector will sign your permit and this will be the end of the process. If the planets aren’t quite lining up there may be additional work you need to do on your home to satisfy the inspector. Do this work, call for yet another inspection and then get your permit signed by the inspector.

If this all sounds like just too much…

Contact me. I’ve pulled permits….lots of permits. And I can help you. The building department doesn’t scare me. They have a job to do and I’ve worked with them. You have packing to do.

I have skills to get you a retro permit. Let me help. #partinotes Click To Tweet

can you hear me now?

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noise vs sound

NOISE: that would be the down side of sound. Restaurants generate an inordinate amount of it….kitchen pots, dishwashers, bus tubs, clinking silverware, conversation, ringing phones, music, etc. In restaurants some sound is sound and some sound is noise and all of it is part of the acoustics of your restaurant. Acoustics is one of the invisible design elements that many restaurateurs ignore until they start getting complaints. STOP IT! Ignoring the acoustics of your restaurant until after you open is more expensive than addressing acoustics during the design process. In both dollars and lost customers. And as we, your customers, continue to age, we get more and more sensitive to noise.

#2 customer complaint? noise!

This year’s Zagat survey puts noise as the #2 complaint of restaurant goers (service was #1….and we’ve already talked about that). I’ve gotta agree. Hubby and I ate at a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago, one that we really enjoy most of the time, and nearly had to walk out. It was early and the restaurant wasn’t very crowded. So the large table of women at the front of the restaurant, who were apparently having a very good time, were painfully audible. Their shrill laughter bounced off the brick walls, ricocheted off the very high plaster ceiling, and reverberated with deafening clarity in our eardrums. The server kept apologizing, or at least that’s what it looked like she was doing since we couldn’t actually hear her. Once the dining room filled with more diners, the sound level evened out and, while this table of women didn’t quiet, the ambient sound of the room backfilled the sound of their laughter. Those in the world of acoustics call this masking.

don’t wait till noise is a problem

So, would you have known that what was needed was more sound to ease our pain? Guessing probably not. One restaurateur had the good sense to realize that what he knows is food and service, and he hired the experts to deal with noise BEFORE he opened his restaurant. During the design process John Paluska, of Berkeley’s Comal, hired engineers to create a system to dampen, move and adjust the sound of his restaurant. While this is a very sophisticated system and may not be necessary in your restaurant, you do still need to address your room’s acoustics. That is if you want me, or anyone like me, to eat there more than once.

Back to our local eatery, as a designer I would recommend the owner hire an acoustical engineer to work with a designer (yes, me) to create something to ease the acoustical pain. If even that is too big an order, then at the very least hire a designer who has done restaurant work (again, me) to at the very least put some bandaids on the pain. We can add acoustical panels and sound absorbing materials to dampen and separate some of the sound. And do it soon….because you have some of the most delicious green chile stew I’ve ever had!

good acoustics is part of good design

When you open your next restaurant, be a hero. Hire whoever you need to get your acoustics right…this may be an invisible design element, but your customers care about their auditory comfort. They may not compliment you on your acoustical brilliance, but they’ll certainly complain if you ignore their ears. And we all hate whiny customers, right?

Keep in touch,
Leslie

ps….you can totally ignore my blatant self promotion, but please don’t ignore my message. You are an amazing restaurateur, hire someone with amazing acoustical chops to deal with the sound of your restaurant.

color: art or science?

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color wheel courtesy Goethe/Wikipedia

Once upon a time in design school I took a class devoted entirely to the study of color. And yet, when a friend who just bought a home asked me what color she should paint her walls, I was helpless for an answer. Color may have science behind it, but color is an art and a passion and a deeply personal thing. Choosing color requires attention to many details and begs much more than a 5 minute phone conversation.

Before we can even think about color, there is the issue of culture. And then of course there is perception…remember this perception test? I’ve had long discussions (some might call them arguments) about the color of a particular piece of clothing. No honey, that shirt is not blue it’s purple and it doesn’t go with that tie. At all. And on top of that there is light which, if you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you understand changes color entirely. I might call color an art. And yet…

in branding

Derrick Daye over at Branding Strategy Insider provides a list of colors and what they mean when used in branding (if you come from American mainstream culture, whatever that is):

  • Red: excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger
  • Blue: trust, reliability, belonging, coolness
  • Yellow: warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness
  • Orange: playfulness, warmth, vibrant
  • Green: nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
  • Purple: royal, spirituality, dignity
  • Pink: soft, sweet, nurture, security
  • White: pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild
  • Black: sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery
  • Gold: prestige, expensive
  • Silver: prestige, cold, scientific

if you happen to be a poet

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (h/t BrainPickings), a German poet, artist and politician published a book in 1810 about the psychology of color. It is very poetically written, but doesn’t seem to be based on hard science (if there really was such a thing at the time, or now for that matter). He describes all color as a degree of darkness.

  • Yellow: ‘in its highest purity it always carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene, gay, softly exciting character’
  • Red/Yellow: ‘the red-yellow gives an impression of warmth and gladness, since it represents the hue of the intenser glow of fire’
  • Yellow/Red: ‘a yellow-red cloth disturbs and enrages animals. I have known men of education to whom its effect was intolerable if they chanced to see a person dressed in a scarlet cloak on a grey, cloudy day’
  • Blue: ‘as a hue it is powerful — but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose’
  • Red/Blue: ‘blue deepens very mildly into red, and thus acquires a somewhat active character, although it is on the passive side. Its exciting power is, however, of a different kind from that of the red-yellow. It may be said to disturb, rather than enliven’
  • Blue/Red: ‘a carpet of a perfectly pure deep blue-red would be intolerable. On this account, when it is used for dress, ribbons, or other ornaments, it is employed in a very attenuated and light state, and thus displays its character as above defined, in a peculiarly attractive manner’
  • Red: ‘the effect of this colour is as peculiar as its nature. It conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness’
  • Green: ‘the eye experiences a distinctly grateful impression from this colour…the beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it. Hence for rooms to live in constantly, the green colour is most generally selected’

in architecture

Frank Mahnke wrote a very interesting article for Archinect about color and its effect on the psyche. In addition to the effects of individual colors, the combination of colors and their intensities must be well balanced so that a space does not over or under stimulate. Also the light reflectance of colors must be addressed to safeguard visual comfort and efficiency. He provides a few examples of emotional responses to specific colors, and I imagine he completes this list in his book ‘Color: Communication in Architectural Space’.

  • Pastel yellow: sunny, friendly, soft with a message of stimulation, brightness, coziness
  • Red: arousing, passionate, provocative, fiery, aggressive with a message of dominance and advancing
  • Green: balancing, natural, calm with the message of simplicity and security
  • White: open, vast, neutral, sterile with a message of purity, emptiness and indecisiveness

So you tell me, is color a science or an art? I believe it is both, and much more complicated than 837 words can unravel. I guess that’s why I keep buying books, attending seminars, and absorbing whatever I can find on color. So no, there is no ‘right’ color to paint your walls. It’s a bigger question than you imagined…

If you’re interested, one book I really love is ‘Colour Source Book’ by Rosalind Ormiston and Michael Robinson. They include definitions, technical info, history/culture and examples of hundreds of colors in addition to lots of background information.

Keep in touch,

Leslie