Lighting – Mr. Builder, how hard is it to give them some decent lighting?


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Once again I was called in to help a homeowner with their lighting problems. I can’t tell you how many single family homes and condos I have been to that have basically no architectural (built-in) lighting to speak of.

This particular condo (located in a very good part of town) was fairly new (10 years old or so) and seemed to be well-built in other respects. The exterior architecture was interesting enough, and the community was laid out nicely and was landscaped well.

As you can see from the photo, the ceilings in this open floor plan space were high (approximately 13 ft high) and vaulted. The builder’s idea of appropriate lighting for the dining room was a 2 head track light placed way too close to the wall that simply illuminated the wall space and provided no real light for the dining experience. The kitchen was given an amazingly ugly fluorescent light that certainly wouldn’t inspire anyone to want to get creative in the kitchen.

We will be replacing these fixtures with flexible track lighting in both spaces – giving it a modern feeling and offering plenty of illumination.

Original lighting


Architectural Details Intrigue Me. Mall Shopping, Not So Much.


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So the exciting news in Sarasota is that our new regional mall opened recently- University Town Center (UTC). It provides the usual mall-shopping experience with the normal stores you might expect as well as some very upscale shopping and dining experiences – Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Tesla Motors, and Capital Grille.

I am not much of a mall-shopper myself. In fact the first time I ventured to the new mall a few weeks ago to meet friends for Happy Hour, I didn’t even feel compelled to go in and take a peek. But last night, after meeting the same said-group of friends, I realized that even though I had no desire to go window shopping, let alone actually purchase anything, I DID want to see the architecture.

I was not overwhelmed by the architectural prowess of whoever designed this space, but I did appreciate it’s spacious, contemporary feel. Since it was evening, the skylights were lit up and added significantly to the ambiance. I’m sure during the day, the natural light they bring into the space is equally appreciated.

UTC-Skylight 2

UTC-Skylight 1UTC- Reception area

Rustic or Glamorous? Love them both!


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Saw these two completely different style furniture pieces yesterday while shopping for a client. Which do I like best, rustic or glamorous? I could not even begin to choose; I loved both of them for their respective design qualities. What do you think? Can you find a home for either (or both) of them in your home?

Rustic Metal and Wood Buffet Glamorous Mirrored Dressers

Bathroom Lighting – When will the Builders get it right?


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I am still amazed at how many “Premier” builders utilize poor lighting design in their models (and, of course, in the homes they build for their customers). One of the basic rules (and I do mean BASIC) of lighting design is: In order to avoid creating shadows, place light fixtures to the side or above the mirror. Never put the light in the ceiling above the vanity. It’s a simple concept.

Here are 2 photos of a luxury model home I visited recently. This “custom builder” went all-out to design these guest bath rooms – quality cabinetry, nicely decorated. Terrible lighting design! How hard would it have been to put an interesting fixture above the mirror instead of the cheap recessed light they used? Don’t settle for this from your builder. Demand good design.

Poor Bathroom Lighting Design #2 Poor lighting design at model home

Process-Oriented Design


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101 Things I Learned In Architecture SchoolThere’s a wonderful little book by Architect Matthew Frederick called “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School” that is chock-full of great design advice, not just for Architects, but for anyone designing space.

Here is #29:
Being process-oriented, not product-driven, is the most important and difficult skill for a designer to develop.

Being process-oriented means:
1. seeking to understand a design problem before chasing after solutions;
2. not force-fitting solutions to old problems onto new problems;
3. removing yourself from prideful investment in your projects and being slow to fall in love with your ideas;
4. making design investigations and decisions holistically (that address several aspects of a design problem at once) rather than sequentially (that finalize one aspect of a solution before investigating the next);
5. making design decisions conditionally – that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution;
6. knowing when to change and when to stick with previous decisions;
7. accepting as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do;
8. working fluidly between concept-scale and detail-scale to see how each informs the other;
9. always asking “What if…?” regardless of how satisfied you are with your solution.

Mr. Builder, We Want REAL CHOICES!


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Building a new home or remodeling your existing one should be an exciting time. You will probably spend lots of time putting together great inspiration photos of ideas you would like to incorporate into your new space: how the exterior looks (the elevation), how the house is laid out (the floor plan), how the kitchen looks (nice cabinets, cool back splash, funky hardware)…all that fun stuff! You’ve got it all figured out. And you have the money to pay for it (or at least you have a bank that is willing to loan it to you).
But, low and behold, you start working with the “Custom” home builder or contractor and they show you “your choices” of elevations, floor plans, flooring, cabinets, hardware, lighting, etc. These are their “standard selections” that THEY have decided will look “just fine” in your home. They’ve already figured out where to purchase these items, how much to charge you for them and how much money they can make on them. They don’t want to be bothered pricing out and acquiring all the great elements you want to use.

And watch out for what tract (oops, I meant Custom) builders call “options”. These are over-priced items that should be “standard”, but they call them “options” so they can charge you entirely too much for them. You know, like recessed lighting, floor outlets, a granite selection that not everyone in the neighborhood already has.

So, what do you wind up with? A house that looks remarkably similar to your neighbor’s house. Is that what you had in mind? Is that why you are taking out a 30 year mortgage? I doubt it.

Too bad home buyers have to be in the truly custom market (which is usually at the $1 Million++ price point) to actually get what they want in their new homes.

Remodeling contractors often do the same thing to their clients. They seem to only have accounts with certain vendors (flooring stores, granite yards, cabinet companies, etc.), and they insist you pick your new finishes from these places. There’s 20 tile stores in this city, but you have to make your selection from ACME TILE because the contractor doesn’t want to be bothered with accommodating YOUR vision.

Hey Builders! Step up your game! Stop only offering cookie-cutter homes! It’s our money, give us REAL CHOICES!

If you aren’t letting your clients have what they REALLY want in their new homes, YOU AREN’T A CUSTOM BUILDER.

Fun Lighting for Your Space


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We all know that lighting is essential to the proper functioning of a space. Careful consideration must be give to the placement of architectural lighting. Recessed lighting, for instance, should be located in such a way to provide adequate general lighting. But, just as important (well, maybe not AS IMPORTANT), anyway…adding FUN lighting to a space allows us to express our individuality and a sense of whimsy, funkiness, or whatever mood you happen to be in.

This awesome display of fun lighting really caught my eye today as I shopped at one of my very favorite lighting stores, Franklin Lighting.

This awesome display of fun lighting really caught my eye today as I shopped at one of my very favorite lighting stores, Franklin Lighting.

Serve Those Cocktails in Style!


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What’s up with me and the beverage carts lately? First there was the vintage one a few weeks back, and now these two contemporary beauties! Maybe this girl has martinis on the brain! Oh well…at least I want my cocktails served in style!

Don't you love this uniquely shaped beverage cart? Compact and stylish! It was a keeper!

Don’t you love this uniquely shaped beverage cart? Compact and stylish! It was a keeper!

Here's a more traditionally shaped cart, but it, too, has a contemporary look. Love the dog standing by to greet me! This is the sort of dog I need, the kind that doesn't shed.

Here’s a more traditionally shaped cart, but it, too, has a contemporary look. Love the dog standing by to greet me! This is the sort of dog I need, the kind that doesn’t shed.