art + architecture + design

an abundance of tufting

My favorite design contest, Restaurant and Bar Design Awards is gearing up with entries due before April 19. Out of only 37 entries to date here are the 5 from the US. I’m seeing a lot of tufting and nailheads this year. And an abundance of wood finishes. Check these out and get your entry in if you’ve got one this year…let’s show the world how brilliant we US designers are!

Hootan & Associates Design Studio (Southern CA) created Bosscat Kitchen and Libations featuring whiskey and southern style cooking in Newport Beach, CA.

Heitler Houstoun Architects (NYC) created Gypsy Kitchen featuring Spanish cuisine with a dose of Moroccan influence in Atlanta, GA.

AvroKO (NYC) created Momotaro featuring a collision of Japanese cuisine and mid century American style in Chicago, IL.

CCS Architecture (SF and NYC) created TAP (415), an upscale burger bar with a wall of, you guessed it, taps for beer wine and cocktails in San Francisco’s Westfield Mall.

And finally, another entry from Heitler Houstoun Architects (NYC). The Southern Gentleman is a gastropub that features a modern take on southern hospitality in Atlanta, GA.

Keep in touch,

toddlers and architects


So right off the bat I need to say that many of my friends are architects, I’ve worked with many amazing architects who are much smarter than I am, and I have absolute respect for the profession and most of the people that put AIA behind their name. As an interior designer, collaboration is my middle name. It is the rare project that I work without the involvement of an architect. Like many professions where different specialties work closely together (front of house and back of house comes to mind), some casual ribbing is de rigeur. And after working with a starchitect (or at least a wannabe starchitect) on a project early in my career, this little ditty rang true for me. It was pinned to my wall for many years as a reminder to me to take it all very lightly.

Of course most architects are not starchitects. But there is a historic difference between how an architect approaches a project and how an interior designer approaches a project. Aside from basic knowledge, architects have tended to approach the building from the outside while interior designers always approach the building from the user perspective. That is at the core of our training: how will the person using the building interact with the building? So when I read an article on FastCo today about the future of architecture, I smiled a little smile and there might have been a face palm involved. According to the architects interviewed, one of the emerging attitudes in architecture looks less at the physical building and places greater emphasis on the opportunity represented when people gather…..hmmm. Focusing on the user isn’t really all that new now, is it? Are architects finally realizing that what goes on inside the building is the reason for the building? And are they now taking credit for what interior designers have always known and often had to fight for? In all honesty this is great for the profession because it is right for the user. And if architects want to take credit then so be it. At least we finally agree.

If you’ve seen the latest renderings and write-ups for a new Google campus, you are seeing this idea in action. The buildings (and it’s hard to call them that) are designed around needs of the employees and the community and are created to be changeable as those needs change. It’s a brilliant concept and exciting to see architects looking at their buildings from the inside out.

I know….sounding a little snarky.  And yes, I do expect a lot of flak for this so let me have it!

Keep in touch,

no kids in restaurants….really?


once upon a time

Several years ago, in my pre parenting age, I was visiting a friend in Germany who was already sporting a toddler. We spent many an hour in the local cafes and bars in her Berlin neighborhood enjoying a quaff or two and it never occurred to me that her son, and the service personnel who attended to us, were anything but pleased with our adventures. He ran around the spots we visited, enjoyed the jungle gyms out back, and deftly dodged the waiters legs and they his adorable little noggin. He drew on the old menus they provided and discussed his various needs with very patient staff members. Eating out with him was such a non-issue that it never occurred to me, when I returned home and began pro-creating a few years later, that it would be different on this side of the pond.

us vs. them

Or maybe the difference is just in my perspective. Back here at home a few years later, once our little angels were up and about, our dining out lives crashed into a painful reality: there are restaurants for adults and there are restaurants for children. The restaurants for children are bright, loud and scary if you are over the age of about twelve. And if you deign to take your super minors out to the adult establishments, be prepared to desert your date and take your toddlers outside to burn off energy in the parking lot while waiting for the food to arrive. Then dash back in, gobble down your meal, pay your $100 tab and make a run for the door all within the space of a single episode of your favorite sitcom. And even with all of this dashing about, expect more than a couple of glares from staff and table neighbors. Then there are the restaurants that won’t even allow kids….at least not if they make noise or want to sit somewhere. Fun, right? I quickly learned that doing the dishes at home after dinner was a much more pleasurable experience.

can’t we all just get along?

Is there not a way to create an experience that is pleasing to the short set, the tall set, and the staff who serve them? Fast casual is always an option, but what if you’d like to enjoy a full meal and a glass of wine? In the US the trend seems to be to create themed restaurants or restaurants for children that parents are welcome to visit. I appreciate the effort, but can’t we designers come up with a solution that serves the needs of all concerned? Do we adults really need to dine in a playroom if we don’t want to cook and we want to spend some time with our children? In my search for answers, I found Fiii Funhouse in Buenos Aires, Argentina (h/t Design Milk) and Kukumuku in Vilnius, Lithuania that were tasked with creating a dining experience for all. Both seem to be making the effort, but adult comfort is still the sacrificial lamb.

all photos courtesy iris cantata arquetica

all photos courtesy Kukumuku/Leonas Garbačauskas/ArchDaily

here’s the problem

With many young adults waiting longer to have children, and if our school district’s growth is any indication, there is a large segment of our population with both money and children. These parents work long hours and would love to have someone cook for them. This market seems pretty valuable to the savvy restaurateur IMHO. So how do we please this very large demographic? Of course part of the issue is addressed by management and staff’s attitude toward children. And design can step in to offer some solutions……because that is what design is about. Defining problems then solving them. The problem here is parents want to dine out with their children without being in a fifty footcandle playroom full of hard surfaces that bounce the babble to a deafening pitch. It’s time for some design thinking, and I’m starting with a brain dump. You can take it from here. Call me if you want my help.

let’s solve it people

Engage the children.

  1. aquariums
  2. videos/tv (silent would be nice)
  3. a playroom with supervision….over there!
  4. roll around space, wiggle room
  5. pleasing colors that don’t hurt adult eyes
  6. climbing structures (again….over there!)
  7. a view into the kitchen

Quiet the roar.

  1. sound absorbing materials on ceilings and walls
  2. cork or other sound absorbing flooring
  3. carpet (cleanable)
  4. upholstery (cleanable)

Entertain the children.

  1. books on tape
  2. music
  3. crayons and paper
  4. nice, patient servers

Create a safe environment.

  1. higher lighting level in play areas (not in dining areas!)
  2. supervision (in addition to parents)
  3. safe toys
  4. multiple seating options to accommodate various ages

Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets are not the answer.

  1. create an interesting children’s menu (duh)

And to keep servers happy…

  1. slightly higher prices and tip-free dining (so servers aren’t paying their bills on a wish and a prayer)
  2. children’s discounts on nights that would otherwise be slow
  3. supportive management

We can do this….and it seems to me it would benefit everyone. The key words here are dine and children. The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. What do you think?

Keep in touch,

scandalous ads and alzheimers

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a difference in ‘scandalous’ ad content over the course of my lifetime. Where the big scandal of my teenage years were those ads about  tampons (remember when all you had to do to ride a horse was use a tampon…), the scandal of a few years ago required me to explain a four hour erection to my toddler son. And now those little blue pill ads are being outnumbered by the ads for vaginal dryness. I think the message is that we are getting older. And if my recently passed 102 year old uncle is any indication, living longer. En masse.

So what about the really serious issues of old age? My family traveled the Alzheimer’s road with my mom. When we could no longer care for her we found an amazing facility to help us with her care. But for her it was frightening and unfamiliar as a result of her diminishing understanding of the world and her surroundings. As the numbers of dementia patients grows with our aging population, this is a problem of heroic proportions that needs a solution. The kernel of a solution was planted in The Netherlands a few years ago: Hogewey. And I’m seeing some press noise that says a facility is in the works right here on our California central coast.

Hogewey is a brilliant architectural design solution to a very serious cultural and social issue. Rather than building a nice big hospital building with better finishes, Hogewey is a closed community of buildings including housing, shopping and recreation all connected by outdoor public spaces that allow residents freedom of movement and access to a variety of environments. Just like in real life…the life that their diminishing faculties don’t allow them to participate in fully or safely.

Possibly the most brilliant part of this overall wonderful design solution is the availability of varying ‘styles’ of housing. Hogewey is comprised of 23 housing units that include 7 different ‘lifestyle groups’. Each lifestyle group is designed to accommodate several residents whose backgrounds share similar traits: christian, wealthy, homey, cultured, etc. Each home is designed to look and act like the environment from which the residents come and provides familiarity and comfort that goes far beyond the ‘one size fits all’ environments of most elder care facilities. Each lifestyle group includes furnishings, accessories and colors that mimic what might be found in the residents’ own homes.

In my own experience with my mother, the most difficult part of her journey was change. As she grew less and less able to comprehend her surroundings, the familiar became her solace. Hogewey is the greatest step in the right direction that I’ve seen in elder care. And yes, I do take this very personally.

Keep in touch,

netflix does design(er movies)


In the past I have done my fair share of entertainment listing. Foodie film lists, obsessive indulgence in the cinematographically superior Breaking Bad (here and here and here), what’s available at this or that film festival. But for this list I take zero credit…and I’m honestly sharing this as much as a bookmark for myself as for the good of my ever so loyal readers (you). Mark Wilson over at Fast Company put together this list of twenty-two movies for designers and lovers of the visual….and they are all available streaming on Netflix! If you are that one person on this planet that is not a Netflix user, bless you. Some of these are available, in toto, on YouTube as well.

And yes, a couple of them I’ve mentioned before. For good reason.

1&2: Objectified/Urbanized

3: Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli

4: Gucci: The Director

5: Once Upon a Time in the West

6: Leviathan

7: Indie Game: The Movie

8: Bill Cunningham New York

9: Cutie and the Boxer

10: Detropia

11: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

12: The Grandmaster

13: Exit Through the Gift Shop

14: The Waiting Room

15: Metropolis

16: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

17: The City Dark

18: Melancholia

19: Pina

20: Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

21: Life in a Day

22: Snowpiercer

So get on it…add these to your queue and stop watching those silly reality shows.

Keep in touch,

sing your budget out LOUD!


before the beginning

The first step in any interior design project is what we in the field of architecture call ‘Programming‘. That’s where we ask you about your operation, your aesthetic inclinations, how many people will do what and where, etc. But actually, there is a step before Programming. It’s kind of like the prologue to the book you just started reading (of course you read the prologue, right?) The prologue to Programming is the budget discussion. Unfortunately, many clients are hesitant to divulge this information, thinking that if they keep it a secret we will do a better job of designing on the cheap. It doesn’t work that way folks. Construction is big, expensive business and good design does not make it more expensive. Good design makes an expensive construction job worth the money you just spent on it. Keeping your designer in the dark about your budget will end up costing you more in fees and a lot more in frustration and relationships. If you don’t know what your budget is, or should be, your designer/architect can help.

reality check

Construction is booming in most areas and most sectors right now. That’s great news on a lot of fronts. What it means to you the client, however, is that prices are probably moving in an upward direction. So managing your budget is more critical now than ever. And the first step in managing your budget is determining a realistic budget. If your budget is not realistic you will end up spending money on fees to no avail.

I had a client a few years ago who was convinced he could open a frozen yogurt shop for $150k. He priced equipment at something over $50k (remember, it was a few years ago), his inheritance was $100k over that, so peachy. Let’s quit being an IT guy and open a yogurt shop. The good news was that he had a budget in mind. The bad news was that it was not enough for what he wanted to do, and I gently told him as much. He spent a lot of time researching properties until he found one that he felt he could afford. We had already discussed his budget and that it would not cover his needs, but he was pretty determined. So we laid out the space, included minimal cost finishes, and got it priced. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $250k. Due to building, fire and health codes, some of the things that cost the most could not be left out (a restroom for example). Needless to say, he’s still an IT guy with a broken dream and a little less money in his pocket.

research, baby!

Before you pay for design services, pay for some really good advice. Talk to a designer/architect/contractor, lay out your ideas and let them help you determine if you can afford the project you are dreaming up. Do your research. And believe what you learn. That old saying ‘don’t confuse me with the facts’ is a very expensive way to go about business. Rider Levett Bucknall is a giant in the construction management business and they put out a quarterly report that includes cost per square foot in several sectors and several areas in the US. According to their Q3 2014 report, construction costs are increasing, in some markets as much as 3% (ouch Honolulu) in one quarter. Use their numbers to estimate what your construction costs might be. And remember, construction is only part of the picture (more on that below).

share the knowledge

However you come to your budget, share it. Sing it to the heavens and make sure that everyone involved is clear on the budget you have in mind. Work with your design team to understand how your budget will be spent. There are several big pieces that need to be considered.

  1. Construction costs: these are the checks you will write to your general contractor and will most likely be the largest part of your budget
  2. FFE: furniture, fixtures and equipment will include all of your furnishings, also decorative lighting and most anything movable
  3. KE: if this is a food service project you will also have kitchen equipment to purchase
  4. Fees: permitting, engineering, architect/design, taxes, local fees of all sorts, project management fees
  5. Owner costs: computers, signage, accessories, POS systems, that beautiful Ducati motorcycle that you want cut in half and mounted on the wall (I really had to do this once….sigh)

keep your eye on the prize

Your design team and your general contractor will work together to keep an eye on budget.  All information except owner costs will be accessible to them, so you will need to share that piece. And remember that there should be contingencies in every section of your budget. Especially in a remodel. You never know for sure what’s behind that wall….can we all say asbestos? So make sure that as you move through the project and check and re-check the budget, that you haven’t sped through your contingencies and are now seeing your budget in the rearview mirror.

budget busters

Indecisiveness, decisions by committee, scope creep and changing your mind are all okay, but they all have a price. So if budget is more important than adding another fireplace, keep that in mind when you discuss changes. And when decisions are needed, make them promptly. Then stick with them. Unless a poor decision will create an operational nightmare, weight the cost of changing your mind against the cost of living with it, whatever that means. Check with your design team and general contractor about the cost of every decision if you are unsure….they can help you weigh the options.

There, now we have had the least romantic discussion we will have on your project. Let’s get on with the fun stuff!

Keep in touch,

about restaurant lighting

You’ve been out to eat, right? So you know the difference between eating at the local fast food joint and that fancy white tablecloth place downtown. Aside from the food, the furnishings are different, the colors, the art and probably most significantly the lighting. Restaurant is theater. As a designer, I am tasked with creating a space that meets the aesthetic and operational needs of the owner/operator whether this is a fast food place, fast casual, casual or formal. Based on these needs I recommend where the POS stations will be, how the floor staff will interact with the kitchen staff to communicate and pick up food, where tablecloths will be stored so that they are accessible to staff, where the host will be located to greet guests and guide them to a table, choose furnishings and finishes that set the stage, help with art, etc. The single most important part of restaurant design just might be lighting, because if that is not done well and effectively, everything else will be diminished at best and a massive failure at worst. Lighting a service area is accomplished very differently from lighting at table tops, and this is not just about light levels: it’s also about the type of lighting, the color of the light, the orientation and location of the light, the quality and quantity of light and even the special effects of the lighting.

Great designers are all about the lighting no matter what type of restaurant they are working on. Based on the design, they create and coordinate a lighting scheme that enhances both the design and the operation. And just as they don’t build the furniture that they specify, they will hire and coordinate a consultant to craft the lighting design. When this partnership is done well, you won’t even notice. When it’s not done well, you can’t miss it.

all photos courtesy Yabu Pushelberg/Evan Dion

At Yabu Pushelberg they get lighting. They created The Clement at The Peninsula Hotel in New York and the lighting is gorgeous. (Restaurant & Bar Design has a nice writeup). Check it and remember how important lighting is when you do your next project. Your guests will thank you.

Keep in touch,

art, banksy and tolstoy

all banksy photos courtesy, presumably banksy's own website

all banksy photos courtesy, presumably banksy’s own website

Banksy has been in the news quite a lot lately. Don’t know Banksy? I’m betting you actually do…at least as much as any of the rest of us know Banksy. S/he is the artist (The Atlantic postulates that Banksy is a woman) that travels the world painting societal commentary on walls that don’t belong to her/him. Some call this graffiti illegal and find it offensive. Some call it art. I belong to the latter group (duh). Banksy is a different kind of graffiti artist. Banksy speaks truths and asks questions that bring us together and tear us apart and that, if you ask me, is what art is.

Picasso said art is a lie that makes us see truth, Klee said art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible. There are others who say that art is imitation, or beauty or vanity. While Picasso and Klee both get close to the truth, it is Tolstoy who defines art best in his 1896 book ‘What is Art’. He addresses the soul of art.


Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.

~Leo Tolstoy, ‘What is Art’, 1896

Banksy has painted all over the world, including our very own San Francisco, and most recently spent a month painting New York. S/he made a short film about the experience, then HBO made a film about Banksy. The mystery of Banksy continues as Banksy manages somehow to maintain anonymity. The anonymity that likely began as self-preservation and protection from authority has become not only a costume but a trademark. If we find out who Banksy really is I wonder if we will be disappointed.

Banksy, if you’re out there, I have a question. Why is your name pronounced ban-skee in the film? Have we been duped?

Regardless, Banksy speaks to us, and not always politely. Banksy addresses us where we are, asks us the hard questions and forces us to see. I guess it’s up to us to decide if we will embrace one another and progress toward that better place of well-being that Tolstoy talks about. Will we work together to find answers?

Go enjoy some art and keep in touch,

to thank a vet: feed a vet, hear a vet, pay a vet, house a vet

Let me just take you on a tour of how my mind works. Tomorrow is Veterans Day. So I decided to reprise a couple of earlier posts, find some new info and offer a chance to thank (and help) our veterans. First stop was Cup of Joe for a Joe. This is an organization that provides a cup of coffee, purchased by you and me, to veterans. But I hear that they don’t offer a discount to veterans in all of their shops so for an hour I got sidetracked into researching whether to recommend this group (I do). In the meantime I’m looking at pictures of veterans and remembering that The Civil Wars were talking about repairing their rift. So I searched out their website (I swear Google is the source of ADHD) and found out that no, they haven’t repaired their rift and the break up is for real. But they have offered us a song by way of gratitude (and maybe apology). So enjoy the song…it’s an awesome rendition of ‘You Are My Sunshine’. And now I’m getting back to where I started. Thanking our veterans by helping out.


This is my favorite….if you’re in line for coffee or at a restaurant having a meal and you see a vet in fatigues, pay their bill. Even if it means you have to order less. Cup of Joe for a Joe is another option…I’ve donated and gotten a couple of sweet notes back. And I’ll do it again.


Yesterday in New York City, Veteran Artist Program (VAP) presented their latest show ‘Telling’ featuring the stories of 7 returned veterans in their own words and by their own voices. In addition VAP offers opportunity for veterans to express themselves through the visual arts, performing arts, writing/literature, film/video, and new/interactive media. Go see a VAP show, donate to the organization, partner with them by becoming an ambassador.


The employees at EcoVet are veterans trained to build furniture. They create rugged and beautiful furnishings from the salvaged material pulled from decommissioned tractor trailers. LEED points people.



Build a house for an injured veteran. Homes For Our Troops builds accessible homes for returning injured veterans. You can help by donating money, offering supplies, giving your sweat equity, buying their merchandise. Check their website and find a veteran neighbor that could use your help.

To our vets, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for the service that you do and the sacrifice that you make.

Keep in touch,

architecture as fairy tale: a competition

Last year, Blank Space introduced a competition that harkens back to my senior thesis course.  We were to create a home for Wally and Andre,  the characters/actors from ‘My Dinner With Andre’, a film directed by Louis Malle about two men who hadn’t seen each other in years. They spend 110 minutes catching up over dinner. Andre, the romantic, shares his experiential stories of traveling the world and Wally, the pragmatist, questions his choices. I don’t remember much about the project I completed, but I do remember how much I enjoyed the process of conceptual design based on story.

fairy tales 2014

2014 winners Kevin Wang (writer/architect) and Nicholas O’Leary (artist)

The Blank Space competition gives us an opportunity to create both the story and the environment. Last year’s winners (they worked as a team) wrote and illustrated the 13th chapter of Alice in Wonderland. Dezeen published their entry in whole. Registration is $50 until December 12, 2014. Late registration is $75 until the submission deadline January 16, 2015. Winners will be announced (and published) in March and a book will follow. There are even cash prizes for 3 winners. But the real prize will be the opportunity to write and design a story and its world….isn’t that why we do what we do?

Enjoy the process and keep in touch,

design and life


I’ve read several articles lately about designing happiness in life. I’m not a believer in the abject pursuit of happiness, feeling rather that happiness is a byproduct of a life lived well and right and within the definition of one’s own integrity. So it was all just a lot of fluff until last weekend when I attended the wedding of my two very close friends E and D, the god fathers of my children. D is an art director, so design is at the core of his work life. And like every designer I know, including myself, design does define him. He lives and breathes design, which is not to say he lives and breathes his work. But the way designers approach work is not a whole lot different from how we approach life: deliberately, with creativity and always with an eye to a bigger picture. E, on the other hand, is not a designer and lives his life by and for the relationships he creates. He travels extensively, meeting people everywhere and doing the unimaginable in this day and age…he keeps in touch by talking to them. On the phone. All of them. E has more adopted families than anyone I’ve ever known and a circle of loving friends that is a tribute to his goodness.

D designed the weekend around E’s love of relationship, and we all learned something and I daresay we all left Los Angeles better and happier for the experience. They threw all of the cards up in the air, de-constructed the typical wedding, and re-constructed it to fit who they are. Much like Ayse Birsel advocates in her classes at The School of Visual Arts in New York.

Most of us were not seated with the people we arrived with*. A little uncomfortable at first, but these are exactly the situations that D and E like to put themselves in, creating opportunity for new experiences and new relationships. And by the end of the weekend we were all sitting down, by choice, with people we’d never met. I sat next to E’s high school biology teacher from South Africa. Really. Do you even remember the name of your high school biology teacher? My husband sat next to three of E’s South African friends from university. By design, E makes space for happiness in his life by shaping it with travel and exposing himself to new people and circumstances. D designed the wedding around the people that both he and E have grown to love, at the same time building the weekend in such a way that we got to experience E’s way of living.

wedding balloon

So, my suggestion if there is an area of your life or work that doesn’t make you smile, throw those cards up in the air and redesign that piece of your world. If you need another set of eyes on your unhappiness, see what Sylvia ‘Pillow’ Neretti might be able to offer. Her idea of cardboard boxes and dividers as design/psych tools might help you move in the right direction. It’s all about disruption….remember that word?

Keep in touch,

  • here’s the text of the note we each found at our table…’You might notice that some of you are not sitting next to the person you arrived with. This is intentional. D and E rarely spend time together when they attend parties. They socialize with others on their own and, on the way home, have a lot to talk about because they’ve had different experiences talking to different people.

‘During dinner, you are seated between two people we think you will find interesting. Strike up a conversation. You may find that you have more in common with them than you think! After dinner, you’re free to move next to your date or move to other tables.’

art and bread


It’s autumn here in Northern California. So I’m desperately trying to get my front hedge trimmed (it’s crazy overgrown) before it gets really chilly out there, soup is on my mind constantly, and everyone is opening a new art show everywhere. As we head into my favorite cocooning season, I’ve got to share something that is completely off topic. But if you know me well, you will understand. Once something gets in my head I have to get it out before I can move on. And what I’ve got to share is this amazing bread recipe. In my house we went (mostly) gluten free a couple of months ago. It all started with a ‘clean food’ eating regimen that we decided to try to see how our bodies reacted to various foods as we added them one at a time back to our diets. One thing we all found was that gluten totally slows the digestion, at least in the massive quantities that we were consuming. And most of the gluten free breads out there are grainy, dry and totally un-palatable. Until I found this one. Here’s a link to the original recipe (thanks to the Gluten-Free Goddess®) and here’s how I made it….super simple. I used a stand mixer and flat beater.

Proof the yeast (that means put the ingredients listed in a small bowl and let them sit until frothy, maybe 5 minutes)
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup (generous) warm water, about 115 degrees (hot from the tap)
  • drop of honey or pinch of sugar
Blend the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl (put them in your mixer and turn it on the lowest speed)
  • 2/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons sea salt
Add the wet ingredients to the aforementioned mixing bowl leaving the speed on low
  • proofed yeast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
Continue to mix for a few minutes (I didn’t time, but I’d say maybe 3 or 4 minutes). Turn it out into a pyrex bread pan, oiled, smooth it flat with wet fingers, sprinkle on seeds of your choice (I used sesame and fennel), cover loosely with plastic wrap and set it somewhere warm for about 20 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cook for 30-40 minutes. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom once out of the pan. If your bread sticks (like mine did), you’ll have to gently push the sides in with a dull knife. (I’m going to try an oiled cast iron bread pan next time.) If it isn’t quite done at first check, put it back in the oven without the pan, drop the temp to about 350, and keep an eye on it. It should be done in a matter of a couple of minutes. Don’t eat it all in one sitting, but do have the butter at the ready. Jam too if you’re in to that.
*update 1/22/15: I’ve now been making this bread for a few months and we still love it. If you’d like, you can replace the buckwheat flour with millet flour for a lighter colored loaf. Also, to avoid the sticking issue, line your pan with a long strip of parchment paper cut the width of the pan. Allow the parchment to extend well beyond the sides of the pan so that you can easily lift the loaf out when done cooking. Let it cool slightly then slice and eat. Yummy with compound butters (my current favorite is brown sugar and toasted pecan).

When you’ve had your fill of bread, check out these art shows in SF. There is no better way to spend a cold and rainy fall day.

Keith Haring at the de Young Museum, opens November 8

one of the world’s favorite populist activists

keith haring

Alien She at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, opened October 24

examines the empowerment of this generation’s women and the impact of Riot Grrrl

riot grrrl

Houghton Hall, Portrait of an English Country House at Legion of Honor, opened October 18

go ahead, get your Downton Abbey on

houghton hall

J. Otto Seibold and Mr. Lunch at the Contemporary Jewish Museum opening November 20

one of our very own famous Bay Area artists


Roads of Arabia, at the Asian Art Museum opened October 24

Art, Ebola, Landscape, Fog, Music, you name it at the Exploratorium every day and Thursday eve

if you haven’t visited the new location at Pier 15, it’s time


Skulls, at the Academy of Science until November 30

and earthquakes and insects and penguins and fish

acad of scienceEnjoy your indoor escapades and make that bread!

Keep in touch,

proposals are not jobs….chicken counting



Someone contacted me last week regarding a project that is a perfect fit for me. So I visited the job site, met the General Manager, spent hours learning about the project and walking the site, and quite honestly made a new friend. By the end of the day we were talking freely and I think getting on famously. He won’t be the final decision maker about which designer is hired for the project, but I’m certain his opinion will be counted. So do you think it’s time to start counting chickens? Maybe not.

After the meeting I went back to my desk and uploaded photographs, organized notes, and began my proposal. I have a standard format that I use, substituting information as necessary to customize it. I finished take 1 then sat back to read email and lo and behold there was an article about writing proposals and why we don’t win projects with our proposals. Thank you Jeff Archibald! Here are a few of Jeff’s thoughts, some of which might have cost me this project had I sent out my first draft (don’t worry….I didn’t send it).

  • The client isn’t a good match: do you have the skills and experience to provide what the client wants?
    • check
  • You didn’t set expectations: during your face to face did you tell the client how you work? What information would be in your proposal? What steps you would follow and why you are a good fit? Did you let the client get to know you as you were getting to know them?
    • check
  • No chemistry or bad chemistry: one of my favorite sayings is ‘never work with someone you wouldn’t share a meal with’. You need to build rapport from the first meeting.
    • check
  • Talk about the budget: it’s part of the project, and one of the most important components to your potential client. If they don’t have one, help them make one.
    • check
  • Don’t forget value: what will you bring to the project? Don’t just tell them what you cost…tell them how that cost translates to value. Will your design bring more customers? Higher prices therefore a better margin?
    • dang….missed this in the first draft
  • Differentiate yourself from your competition: what can you provide that your competitors won’t/can’t/didn’t think of? Why you and not them?
    • missed this one too
  • See the proposal from the client’s perspective: what will they get? How does this benefit them specifically? Be clear about their gain.
    • uh oh…missed that one too
  • Don’t disappear after the proposal goes out: check in once, twice, maybe more. Offer to talk through sticky items or anything unclear.
    • yes, as soon as I finish the re-write and send it out

The biggest change I made in the first draft was to add a cover letter that was personable and responded to those items that are missing in the nuts and bolts of the proposal. My proposals are long and wordy and full of minutae that describe the project. What they lack is me. So I added a heaping bowl of me, since in actuality it is me that will be doing the work and me that needs to get along with them and me that they are entrusting with their project. Seems like a no-brainer now that it’s done, right?

Keep in touch and I’ll let you know what happens,

your creative ideas are not original

this is my desk, the place where my best thievery occurs

this is my desk, the place where my best thievery occurs

Even if you think your creative ideas are original, you’re wrong. Your creativity is a mash-up of everything, or at least some things, that came before. Except now they are smashed together in a different way that transforms them, you transform them, into something that seems original. What is original is the time and place in which you create this transformation, the ‘you’ of the equation and the bits and pieces you choose to combine, and the hopeful perfection of this arrival. In other words, what is original is the time, the place and the process, not the pieces.

Austin Kleon exposes us to this truth about creativity’s lack of originality. Kleon legitimizes this thievery in his book ‘Steal Like An Artist’ in which he lays out ten principles for properly stealing what came before. Here are his ten principles by which I fully intend to live my future. No more stress while waiting for a truly ‘original’ idea. No more waiting for anything for that matter…..I will take whatever moves me and turn it into something that speaks. Now.

Those are Austin’s words. And these are mine. What are yours?

  1. Collect meaningful stuff: ideas, writing, languages, pictures, thoughts, dreams, songs, places, furniture, facts, people, books, boxes of things. Learn. Google. Ask. These are the bits and pieces that will inspire you. Leonard Cohen inspires me. So do my children, people speaking french, Hawaii, classical piano, autumn, bare feet, words.
  2. There is no there there. You are there now. If you wait you will have missed now. My sister had a plan for her future….but then she didn’t have a future. Don’t wait.
  3. You will do best what you enjoy. Don’t write plays if you don’t like to see plays. Don’t paint if you don’t enjoy painting. Don’t have children if you must be the center of attention. If it doesn’t fill you with joy do something else.
  4. Make things. Music. Art. Stories. Jewelry. Dog houses.
  5. All work and no play makes you dull. All of your bits and pieces unify you into a whole interesting being.
  6. There is no secret. There is doing and sharing. Stop being scared….or be scared and do it anyway.
  7. Go everywhere and see everything. Talk to everyone. Stretch your limits. In real life or virtually get out of your chair. A lot.
  8. You are your reputation. Be a good you.
  9. The devil is in the details….concepts and ideas don’t finish projects or pay bills. Finish your projects and pay your bills. All the little steps count.
  10. Focus focus focus. Some of the time. Don’t let unlimited possibility overwhelm you.

Keep in touch,

so you want to build a restaurant…..

photo courtesy ed schipul, creative commons license in place

photo courtesy ed schipul, creative commons license in place

My father in law, a retired engineer, is very involved with his community’s activities and so was asking me questions about the process of building a new clubhouse and restaurant on their golf course. He’s truly one of the brightest people I know, and answering his questions about the process of building, especially where food service is involved, tells me that if he knows this little a lot of people could benefit from a bit more understanding. So I put together a list, then I added to it and expanded a bit, and probably told him way more than he and his cohorts in this project wanted to know.

If you’re embarking on a building project, especially if it involves food service, you may be interested. Here’s what I told Bob….

Dear Bob… For a $5.5 mil/12,000sf project I’m sure you want this done right. That’s not a very fat budget (although it sure sounds like a lot of money!), so you’ll need a team that can work efficiently together. They should all be involved at the very beginning in order to fold the various disciplines’ work product in without having to make major changes due to surprises. Surprises always add to the budget (ie: the lighting designer didn’t realize a duct would be required RIGHT THERE, the mechanical engineer didn’t know you were using THAT very hot piece of equipment, you want to remote the motors WHERE?). The architect can coordinate most of the disciplines. You should have an owner’s representative as well who works with the architect to manage the project (not a committee if it can be avoided….that will add time to every decision which ends up messing up your schedule and usually even affects budget). Also, who will run the facility? Ideally a representative for the food service operator will be involved from the beginning of the project as well. They will be able to shed light on operational needs that the owner may not have in mind.

Here’s a list of the people you will need involved in your project

  • Owner’s representative
  • Operator/operator’s representative
  • Architect who has done food service projects
  • Interior Designer who has done food service projects (may be employed by the architect or work as a consultant to the architect)
  • Lighting Designer (can  be coordinated by Interior Designer)
  • Kitchen Designer
  • Acoustical Engineer if necessary (work with architect and interior designer to determine if this is needed based on your program)
  • AV Designer (this is becoming more and more a specialty)
  • Engineers: electrical, mechanical, plumbing (great if they are LEED accredited as this is where you’ll need super efficiency) and they must be versed in food service projects
  • Structural engineer will be needed and should also be involved early. You don’t want to find out down the road that a structural column is required in a terribly inconvenient location
  • Since this is a ground up project, you may need additional engineering. Your architect can help you to determine additional needs

Your architect/design team can bring consultants. We’ve all worked with many consultants and will have opinions on who is easy to work with, efficient, knows their stuff, can creatively solve complex problems. Food service projects are always complex since there are so many moving parts and so many regulatory agencies to deal with: building department, planning department, health department, sanitation, etc.


Your architect/design team can also help you to create a budget. There are essentially 5 pieces to a food service project budget: FFE (furnishings, decorative light fixtures, etc), KE (kitchen and bar equipment), fees (architect/designer, consultants, permitting, etc), owner (POS system, art, signage, accessories, landscaping, table top, etc), GC. In order to stay on budget everything needs to be taken into account from the beginning.

Hiring a GC

Something that always comes up is how to select a general contractor. There are basically 2 methods: bid or relationship. Many people choose to bid  (in my opinion mistakenly) which means that a very complete set of drawings needs to be put together at the beginning of the process, several contractors bid the project, and one is selected. This leads to contractors trying to outbid one another by guessing and can lead to much higher costs (change orders) and difficult relationships. My recommendation is always to interview several contractors (your architect/design team can make recommendations based on the type of project and will even aid you in interviewing) then choose the contractor that you feel most aligns with your needs and communicates with you well. Then you can use your contractor to price the project at various intervals allowing the clubhouse to be designed and built within budget and hopefully avoiding change orders.

I hope this helps. I know it’s a bit more than you asked for, but figured you’d rather have too much info than too little. Let me know if you have questions or want any more info.

Same to you out there in the blogosphere…if you have questions, send them. Your project may be smaller than Bob’s (most are), and may not require the same list of consultants. But you will require someone to corral the project, not just make it pretty. That can and should be your design/architect team.

And if you have anything you’d like to add I’d like to hear that too. This business has a never ending learning curve.

Keep in touch,