The 3 Art Books on My Coffee Table

artbookI don’t know about you, but it’s not as fulfilling to view art on a computer screen.

I very much enjoy appreciating art in paper form, specifically, in those large hardcover photo books. They are perfect for casual viewing on your coffee table with breakfast or for guests to browse.

On my coffee table right now, I have 3 specific books that just never get old. Even if I have read them 100 times, they still fascinate me with every gander. Additionally, they are printed beautifully and are almost a decoration for my living room. In this post I’m going to show you what I have for my coffee table. Continue Reading →

Movie Posters Redesigned

movieI love movies. There is SO much work they put in one shot to get it just right that is really isn’t anything besides art.

A great example is Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie Django (the “D” is silent), which uses fantastic cinematography, soundtrack, and script that creates a masterful movie piece with such a unique style that anyone can guess it’s his work. I love that.

I have a lot of favorite movies though and each one has many fans, as they should. Continue Reading →

All About Camo Furniture

Today I am going to talk to you about camo furniture, and why you need to start considering purchasing some if you haven’t already. Seriously, we all know how hard it can be to get that cozy, comfortable look in your house. Especially If you are trying to stick with bright colors as the base color of your room, or if you’ve painted your walls white. They just pop out too much, and it’s a major headache because it showcases the room, and not what is in it. That isn’t what we want, at least for a living room or den. If your looking to add a bit of camo decor for your bathroom though, you will definitely want those bright colors, and you’ll want the camo itself to be bright..

If you are like me, you don’t have a lot of room in your home, and every square inch is sacred. Heck, if you are going to hold up a picture frame, that picture better not be of some distant relative, we just don’t have the room. What bright or neutral colors do, is they draw focus towards the walls, towards the lack of space, and make the room look empty. Furniture such as camo recliners however, are made up of dark colors. What this does, is it helps to “fill” out the room, and you can get away with the brighter colors a bit more. It works kind of like an optical illusion on your head.

Having said that, you still need to make sure that you mix and match appropriately. Don’t try to make a military camo couch work with red walls, it just looks tacky. Instead, consider matching your walls colors, with red camo furniture. Yeah, this kind be quite difficult to find, luckily furniture coverings aren’t, and you won’t have to look hard to find ones which look great and match the style that you are going for.
The second reason why you will want to purchase camo furniture, is because it helps cover up any blemishes that you might have in the room. What is the first thing that you notice when you walk into a room for the first time? Probably the lighting, the amount of space that you have, and then you start noticing those blemishes. These are all natural impulses that we have and deals with our internal instinct to make sure that we are in a secure location. Bright lights means that we can see if something “comes at us”, and lots of space means that we have room to run. Why do we notice blemishes however? Well, we are looking to see if anything is out of place, and if it is, that is a sign of danger. The absence of these dangers is what gives a room its cozy features. We are just really comfortable in an environment with natural lighting(such as fireplace lighting), and with natural colors such as camo.

Ok, so now you have purchased your camo furniture, and you’ve made sure that the color scheme matches your walls, now what? Well, you can leave it at that, but what I like to do is add a bit more flavor to the room. You’ve already gone through the trouble of purchasing the expensive pieces which draw the most attention, why not sprinkle in the little items which help to spice things up a bit? For instance, mounts are a must in my den, they are great for telling stories, and they make the room look a lot more genuine. Wooden items and furniture is also a must, even if you’ve picked non-foresty colors, you’ll want wooden furniture with the color scheme that you’ve elected.

That’s it! Don’t worry too much about making everything perfect at the start. Once you’ve developed a feel for this, you’ll start to notice little things that you might want to add to the room to increase the comfort level, just stick to it and you’ll have a very comfortable room.

Electric Toothbrushes: Little Things That Make Your Bathroom Look Great

It might seem crazy but we spend at least one hour everyday in our bathroom.
We all want a perfectly designed bathroom- Needless to say it’s not an easy thing to do.
In fact, we often think too big and get discouraged straight away.

We should start small. Every little detail makes your bathroom look great.
This article is about toothbrushes. We all have one in our bathroom, but just few of us know it can be used to improve the overall look and feel of this specific part of your home.

Electric Toothbrushes: Useful and Good Looking

If you’re not well informed about electric toothbrushes, here are the key points of these modern dental care products:

  • They’re extremely useful. You can literally improve you oral health just by brushing everyday using powered toothbrushes. In fact, they come packed with great features, such as timers, pressure sensors, personalized brushing settings and many other things. (these features differ from one product to the other)
  • Easier than ever. It’s never been easier to brush for the right amount of time, using just the needed pressure. Some of these models also come with external timers, which make the brushing experience even more enjoyable. Generally, these brushes are less sensitive to the technique used, hence improving the way you brush your teeth.
  • They look awesome!. That’s why I wrote this article. Being an architect, design is of the utmost importance for me. And some electric brushes are just great. More about this later.

Overall, you can clearly see why these models are taking over manual toothbrushes. Many are the benefits they have, definitely more compared to manual models.
In case you are interested in buying an electric model, you can read this guide on the best electric toothbrushes. (here’s where I found the toothbrush I’m using right now)

A Closer Look On Their Design

This article isn’t about the benefits powered brushes have (do a quick search and will find tons of articles), but it’s about their design.

First of all, here is why these products can literally take your bathroom’s design to the next level.

  • Many Options. There are so many models around, you can easily find the right product to match you bathroom’s current look (in terms of color).
  • Sleek designs. Models priced over $150 look better compared to cheaper models. These are the models I recommend.

Now let’s take a look at some real life examples.

White Or Black Toothbrush?

As I said above, expensive models look better. But what models Precisely?
We’ll now take a closer look at two different products, one by Sonicare and the other one by Oral-B.

The DiamondClean

Are you looking for a great, white toothbrush? Well, the DiamondClean is what you’re looking for.
This model is my favorite (and it is the one I use). It comes with a glass which functions as a charger.
You won’t have to hide your toothbrush anymore. You can leave it out, it looks great.
If you want, there’s also a black version which comes with the exact same features. You can also see other similar sonic toothbrushes here.

The 7000

Conversely, the Oral-B 7000 is black. It comes with a good looking external timer (black too).
Just like the DiamondClean, it comes with several great features (such as many cleaning modes and a pressure sensor).
I decided not to get this one, as my bathroom is white and I wanted my toothbrush to be white too.
It’s been designed and made in Germany, which is sign of quality and durability.

Conclusion

Whether you get a white or black electric toothbrush, bear in mind to choose wisely: try to match your bathroom’s design with the toothbrush (or any other product) you’re looking forward to buying.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you need further help.

How To Design Yourself A Wonderful Social Enviroment

As regular readers will know I spend most of my time on this blog musing about architecture and design in general. I also love the tv show friends and if I see a rerun on the tv I can’t fail to sit down and watch it. The “Friends” have such a perfect little gang, it’s so perfect it must have be designed. Oh wait it’s a sitcom of course it was designed! Anyway it got me thinking about applying design principles to our relationships and this blog post is the result.

So today’s post is about the architecture of social structures. I’m referring of course to the ties that bind between individuals and organizations to create our social networks – the structure of our relationships with other humans.

If buildings shelter us from the weather and protect us from tigers, our social relations shelter us from other dangers in life like depression and loneliness and inhabiting the right crowd can lead to health and happiness.

But where is the designer in all this? You don’t design your friends…

Well to a certain extent the birth lottery determines where in the world we are born and your starting point. But it is entirely possible to apply the principles of architecture and design to your friendships and relationships.

Of course your design your friends! We are each the architect of our own social shelters. Let’s look at how to apply some basic Architecture fundamentals to your relationships.

Materials

In architecture we deal with the materials used to build and construct sound, solid dwellings and the design principles to create attractive user friendly environments.

When you are building your social structure your materials are the people you choose to surround yourself with and you do have a choice in this matter.

There is an oft quoted phrase “You are the sum total of the 5 closest people you surround yourself with”. This is a philosophy that I truly believe in and as my career has developed I have also sought to surround myself with people who are going places and I believe this has helped me enormously to develop my career in Architecture.

Design

If materials are the “who you hang out with” the design part of the equation is “what you do when you hang out”. It’s the quality of the relationships. A basic house will keep the rain out and keep you warm. A basic conversation will give you someone to talk with but a well-designed relationship will bring great pleasure to your life. But it’s important to move beyond the basic version of relationships if you want to inhabit a warm and cosy social environment.

To do this I am a great fan two things real listening and gift giving, and I don’t only mean giving the obligatory birthday gift because the calendar has reached a predetermined date. I believe in gift giving as a means to develop better relationships.

You see giving gifts is no more giving something away than choosing to furnish your own dwelling with luxury materials and furnishings. When you remember a colleague has just became a father and think to get something suitable to mark the occasion you are enriching your own social environment. Each encounter you have with that father in the future will be deepened because of.

Notice and appreciate when others give you gifts. This may be a physical gift or a gift of time, companionship or understanding. Notice these gifts and be a good boy and say thanks.
These simple steps will go a long way!

Oh and before I forget thanks so much for reading this blog, it really means a lot to me!

Is Building Your Own Home the Right Option?

Lots of people want to relocate and then come across the idea of building their own home because whatever they see isn’t quite right for them. But there are some big points to consider when undertaking such a project which may mean it is not the right option for everyone.

Considerations

People think it is cheaper to build your own home, but this is not necessarily a cut and dried issue. It is sometimes a fact that building your own home could mean you have a house that has cost you less to build than buying a comparative property.

But it is sometimes worth considering other options first. For example look at the market for below market value properties which may need some work doing to them before they can be lived in.

So learning to become a property investor or a developer could be one option.

Alternatively if you are happy to wait for a house to be built then the time to renovate one may not be too big an issue.

The other thing to look out for is repossessed properties that are being sold at lower prices than normal due to circumstances. Auctions and property management companies often have lists of such properties available which, again, may need a little work, but are worth considering.

Self-build

Once you have decided that building the property is a way to go, you need to find your location. Obviously depending on where you work, if you drive and if you have kids are the relevant decisions in any move, so this applies to a new build. Bear in mind if you are choosing a plot of land away from the main populated areas, public transport links may be poor.

The next stage is to enquire about planning permission. Without this, there is no point thinking about building a property as the council can come along and make you take the construction down at your own expense.

You will have to submit a detailed plan before construction but once this is approved, it is valid for three years.

The mortgage arrangement is slightly different with self-build properties. Normally, they release funds in stages to pay for land and labour or materials as you go. They require a deposit higher than a normal mortgage and are sometimes offered at 75% of the cost of the land and 85% of the cost of the building.

Getting the right people

When you have everything in place, you need a good architect to help you get everything right. Not only in the designing of the home but also to keep compliant with building regulations and making sure the house will last a lifetime. They will also advise you within your budget what work can be done and what extras you can add.

Most can even advise on building materials and help with the planning permission if this is still outstanding.
Don’t forget insurance as well, you will need to have cover for anyone working on the site. There are specialist policies for self-build properties so make sure you cover yourself in this area to avoid costly accidents and problems.

The Eiffel Tower

Technological advancements in the last century saw the erection of a number of structures that gracefully rose and graced our landscapes like everlasting flowers that attest to the accomplishments of past architects and their impact on the world’s architecture and beauty. One such structure is the great Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

This magnificent piece of giant artwork was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer whose company designed and constructed it, in 1889. The Eiffel tower was initially built to serve a temporary purpose. It was designed to be the entrance arc to the World’s Fair held in Paris in 1889. Incidentally, the 1880′s saw the introduction of so many inventions including the electric clothes iron in 1882 and Coca-Cola in 1886.

Despite the Eiffel Tower’s imposing structure, all the wrought iron pieces used in its construction only, have a combined weight of 7,300 tonnes. The engineers and designers managed to pull off such a feat partly due to pressure from key protestors in the country.

When the tower was completed, the first level contained a French restaurant, a Russian one and a Flemish one. The Flemish one was closed after the World’s Fair and converted into a theatre.

The Public’s Reception of the Eiffel Tower

For the most part the tower received a lot of criticism during and after its construction, from renowned artists, writers, painters and sculptors in France for its boldly extravagant design and its “inappropriate” timing. Despite this, the tower went on to become a cultural symbol and an icon for Paris and France as a nation hundreds of years after the conclusion of the fair.

Induction
At its inauguration on the 31st of March 1889, Gustave Eiffel hoisted a French flag at the top of the tower; this was then accompanied by a 25 gun salute at the base.

At roughly the same height as an 81 story building, the Eiffel Tower assumed the title of the tallest manmade structure in the world at its completion; a title previously held by the Washington Monument. The tower held this title for forty one years until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.

Commercial Success and Popularity of the Eiffel

The tower was an instant commercial success with over 1.8 million visitors during the World’s Fair alone. To date the Eiffel Tower has received more than 250 million visitors, making it the most visited paid cenotaph in the world. The Eiffel Tower has seen two world wars and the occupation of Paris by Adolf Hitler in 1940.

Regular Maintenance
Maintaining the tower is not as easy as maintaining a much smaller iron structure, your home gym, for example. About 50 to 60 tonnes of paint is applied onto the Eiffel tower in order to protect it from rust. The colour of the paint to be used is usually selected through a public poll held at the bottom of the tower.

In order to give the tower the appearance of a uniform tone to counteract the effects of perspective, the shade of the paint used is gradually changed as it moves upwards; the top is painted darker than the base.

An Architects Perspective of Swimming Pools

I have studied many different styles of buildings, ranging from homes, factories and religious buildings. I have yet to really look at the evolution of swimming pools over the many thousands of years that humans have been constructing them in their various forms. In this post I want to take a closer look at some of the different styles of pools from roman era, the 20th century and the present day.

Roman Baths

Probably one of the most well-known eras for a society that embraced swimming and bathing for health and socializing. Roman baths were widespread throughout the empire and many are still around today. In England I have had the pleasure of visiting the Roman baths in the city of Bath in the south west of the country. The baths there are in fantastic condition and the architecture in them is stunning. In fact the whole city, which is a world heritage site, is a must-see for anyone who is interested in architecture.

The thing that also sets Bath apart from many of the other roman baths still around is that the water is naturally warm from geothermal energy as it flows deep underground from the nearby hills. The baths also had suspended floors to allow warm air from fires to create one of the world’s first under-floor heating systems.
19th – 20th Century Swimming Pools
In England, swimming as a competitive sport became more popular at the end of the 19th century and many swimming pools were constructed, mainly for the wealthier upper-classes. These structures were often lavishly designed in the Victorian style featuring ornate columns, tall arch windows mixed in with cast iron roofs. The pools were much more similar to the pools that you would see today, designed for swimming, so most were rectangular in shape.

Modern Day Swimming Pools

Today swimming pools are widely available and seen in a variety of buildings designed for different uses. These range from large pools for swimming that can normally be found in most towns and cities. These pools are available for public use and are normally funded by the local government. Smaller pool are mostly privately owned residential pools, and more often found in affluent neighbourhoods particularly in warmer climates where cooling off in the summer is important. However there are more alternatives for people on a tight budget to enjoy having a pool with above ground pools with some of the best above ground pools designed to be just like in-ground plastic mesh or concrete pools.

Modern Public Pool Architecture

I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting any private pools of the rich and famous however I have some experiences with public pools throughout my time in England. Publicly funded pools in the last 30 years have changed in appearance and most tend to reflect the popular styles of each period with some public pools from the 70s and 80s situated in large concrete structures, completely devoid of any aesthetic features and a sore sight for the eyes.

Thankfully local governments and those in charge of building design now take a lot of time to ensure that any proposed publicly funded building enhances the appearance of the local area, which is an important part of community enrichment, people need to feel proud of their community.

Future Proofing the Beauty of Your Building Designs

As an architect it is my job “[...] to plan, design and oversee the construction of buildings.” Our jobs can include houses, office buildings, residential high rises, parks, parking lots and shopping malls. No matter the space we are hired to plan, design and build the first aspect is imagining how the people who will be using it will use it. That includes, for the shopping mall example, the shoppers, the shop workers and the mall janitors and security guards. The separate spaces all need to suit the respective people using them. Once a young architect can grasp this they’ll be on their way to being a good architect. As part of the planning and design stages it is also really important to future proof the design. If you make fixing something easy – it will get fixed. If you make it really hard – it will get put off and ignored. A perfect example would be providing access to spots that need regular inspection. Let’s look at some other aspects and examples of future proofing.

As part of the planning stage I need to take into account how maintenance and cleaning will be done both on the exterior and interior of the building. A bad architect will simply ignore this fact and not provide boom lifts on the roof that allow easy access to the exterior of the building. Yes there may be, for example, telescoping lances for pressure cleaners, but that doesn’t mean I should just assume that someone in the future will have one and use it to clean my building. I make access easy for them in the first place.

If you look at the picture you’ll see that those guys power cleaning the exterior of the building with high pressure hot water are on a platform suspended from the roof. And although they let that building get way too sludgy and gross, it is good design to have this ability. And this access to the exterior isn’t just for cleaning, it’s perfect for inspecting the structural integrity and making repairs. Without it, the building staff would need to hire an expensive portable crane to come in each time.

In the design stage I need to provide a safe, beautiful and functional space that is easy to maintain and suits the people that are going to be using the space. For example: I wouldn’t make 6 foot doorways if I’m designing basketball changerooms. Basketball players are tall so you design for that and make big doorways. In England we get a lot of cloudy weather and it can feel quite dark. So taking that into consideration you would want to maximise natural light, keep interiors and exteriors lighter colors and ensure that buildings have regular plans to keep the exteriors clean.

In the oversee stage I need to ensure the plan and design gets implemented to high quality and standards. I need to ensure the building is going to be there for a long time to come. This includes being on-site for many hours a day inspecting work and solving technical queries.

At the end of the day I enjoy my job and especially enjoy driving past my buildings and seeing that all the hard work and stress paid off and increased the aesthetics of the are.

Solar Panels and their Relationship with Architecture

Just like any other modern invention, solar panels were at first, just functional, with no focus on aspect whatsoever. Those heavy, rectangular boxes with aluminum frames had the precise role of catching the solar rays and transform it into electricity. Yet, with time, increased attention was given to their appearance and the bulky, black panels have been reduced in size and their aspect has been polished so as to have a minimum impact on the overall house design. Furthermore, a new trend, called “building-integrated solar technology ” has set in among architects. This trend involves integrating photovoltaic cells in the house architecture so as to create a modern design and a functional solar power system.

Innovative solutions for new buildings

Solar panels have become a common requirement for new buildings. The latest innovations in the field offer a good conversion rate per solar cell, thus giving owners a real alternative to highly pollutant and extremely expensive fuel power. Therefore, cleverly introducing these solar panels in the architecture was the new challenge for professionals all over the world. The “building-integrated photovoltaic” was the solution for this challenge and spectacular buildings started to appear all over the world. They have solar cells incorporated in walls and on the roofs, masked as shingles. There are no metallic frames, no glass squares to pop on the roof, just a uniform aspect which pleases the eye.

The shape of the new buildings is also adapted so as to perfectly integrate the solar power system . Broad facades staring at the sun and roofs with one way tilting facing the south are the new standards in “green” buildings. Custom-made solar panels which match the texture, finishing or color of the materials used can be ordered to the solar panel producers. With different sizes and shapes, they make a perfect fit for all the innovative ideas of architects. Of course, these variations come with additional costs, so that building owners should be ready to spend extra money for the personalized look.

Solar panels for old buildings

While for the new buildings, solar panel systems are already incorporated in the design, the old buildings are an even greater challenge for architects. If there is no place to put the solar panels on the ground and create a solar plant (like the Vatican did), there is always the option of placing the solar panels (or solar cells) directly on the building. But how can you do that without affecting the esthetics of the building? The options vary in accordance with the building’s style and condition. An interesting approach was used by Netti Architetti in Italy, at Hotel Leon D’Oro, where the existing sunshades from each window where replaced by solar panels with a double function, to provide shade and electricity. When the sunshade option is not available, the solar shingles can successfully replace the traditional roofing and provide enough electricity to power your home/building.

Regardless of the building’s age, architects can choose between standard photovoltaic modules and building-dedicated solar panels. The standard modules come in different sizes and shapes (ranging from square to hexagonal) and are more affordable. However, their crude frames, as well as their rather limited diversity make them hard to incorporate in daring building projects. This is where the building-dedicated solar panels come into discussion. These panels do not have a stiff framing and can be personalized in accordance to clients’ requirements. Furthermore, their performance can be adjusted so as the client can benefit from as much electricity as possible. It is up to the architect to use them wisely!