Sunday, January 22, 2012

Easy Ways to Update Your Home

As an Architect, I am often asked what are some easy ways to architecturally update the interior of my home.  Here are some of the simplest ideas that I share with my friends and clients:

1.  PAINT COLOR:  Although typically an Interior Designer's trick, the fastest and easiest way to update or modernize your home is by the use of paint color.  Inside or outside.  You can go down to your local paint store and pick up samples, pamphlets or preview the freshest new colors of the season.  You can also look through magazines or search websites like  Nowadays, many featured experts and professionals will share the paint colors that they use in their spaces.

2.  FLOORING:  The very next thing that can 'date' your home is the flooring materials.  Many beautiful hardwood floors were covered by carpets during the 1970's, 80's, and 90's.  Wall-to-wall carpet was extremely popular during this period and also added warmth under foot.  Most main floors are insulated today so many homeowners are removing their carpeting and refinishing their hardwood floors.  This is a great look!  If you still like carpet then purchase some area rugs to finish off the space.

Also, changing out your linoleum or tile can quickly update a space.  Many old tiles (unless you are specifically looking for a 'Retro' look) were small and the grout aged and dirty.  If you want to replace your tile the look for larger more modern tiles and colors.  There are so many wonderful choices out there, but I would recommend strongly that you try to create a theme.  What does that mean?  Maybe you are inspired by a particular tile or color--then let that be your starting point.  Try not to deviate too much from room to room.  Try to fit within the overall theme of your home as well.

3.  KITCHEN & BATHS:  You have probably heard over and over that the first way to modernize your home is to update your kitchen and baths, but what does that entail?  Do I need to completely remodel the space to update it?  The answer is no.

I would recommend starting with the least expensive and easiest changes, such as plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware and lighting.  Also, by starting with the simplest change then you will not feel overwhelmed by the process.  Once again, you can start by looking at showrooms, magazines or on the web.  Remember that you should first decide on the finish you like, such as chrome, satin nickel or bronze.  Once you decide then that should be your theme for the space.  This will create a cohesive design.  Once in a while, a designer may want to highlight or feature a particular item by using a different finish but, in general, it is best to stick to a single finish.

Once you have changed your paint color, plumbing fixtures, hardware and lighting then you can move on to the more expensive and larger items like appliances, cabinetry, countertops and backsplash.  It is best if you think through a plan at this point.  Collect your ideas in a binder first then go collect samples of the materials or pictures of the appliances.  This process will allow you to think through your ideas before you begin any major purchases.

Of course, as a designer myself, I would recommend you consult a designer if you feel that you need assistance.  However, so many of my clients have a wonderful eye and good design sense that all they need is a bit of coaching and direction.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SIP Construction

Many people ask "What is SIP Construction?"

SIP means Structural Insulated Panel. It is a wall panel composed of an inner and outer layer of strand board that looks like plywood with an insulated foam core. Many home styles can utilize SIP construction. But unlike a standard stick-frame home where the insulation is added almost like an after-thought, the insulation is an integral part of a SIP Panel home. Air and moisture penetrations are greatly reduced because there are few thermal breaks in the home. In a SIP Panel home the framer "installs" the panel sections rather than "builds" them. This saves time and ensures that the walls are straight and plumb.

SIP Panel construction creates a more energy efficient home, panels are 100% recyclable and create less job site waste.

Arch Studio, Inc. has a new SIP Panel home under construction in Campbell, CA. The foundation is a typical new residence foundation with engineered floor joists. The SIP Panels are currently in fabrication at SIP Home Systems in Grass Valley, Ca. When the panels are ready they will be shipped to the job site for installation.

We will keep you posted on the progress of the construction of this home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Residence in Campbell, Ca

My clients who are a family of five have outgrown their existing 1,100 square foot home located on a corner lot in Campbell, California. When they hired Arch Studio, Inc. to design their new home they were looking to maximize the potential of the existing corner lot for their new 2 story home. Their desire was to create a neighborhood friendly home that took advantage of eco-friendly products and materials and maximized energy efficiency.

The proposed new design is an open floor plan on the first and second floors. The first floor kitchen boasts a large island with large windows to the backyard patio. The kitchen is also open to the family room and other living areas. There is a bedroom and bath on the first floor and a three-car parking garage with ample storage. One of the key features of this new design is the wrap-around exterior front porch.

The new second floor design is also open to the first floor and the rooms connect via a series of bridges. We are utilizing "sissor roof trusses" as the roof structural system to assist with maximizing the volume of our spaces.

Arch Studio, Inc. is incorporating energy efficient features, such as radiant heated floors, 2 tankless water heaters, dual-glazed & low "E" windows and patio doors, and structural-insulated panel (SIP) construction. In addition, we are utilizing "green building" products, such as cement board exterior siding and trims.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

West Coast Green Conference

I recently attended the West Coast Green Conference 2008 in San Jose, Ca. It was quite the "buzz" this year with such compelling speakers as former Vice President Al Gore, Attorney General Jerry Brown, and best-selling Author and Architect Sarah Susanka. Green Building has been a 'sizzling' hot topic this year. This show demonstrated that preserving the environment and sustainable design are no longer synonymous with ‘ridiculously expensive’ and ‘unlivable conditions’. The tradeshow was filled with great exhibits, such as the "Harbinger Showhouse" an impressive eco-friendly idea house, round table discussion groups with well-known experts on sustainability and valuable "how to" workshops. There was also a multitude of booths filled with "green" building products by well known manufacturers.

The "Harbinger Showhouse" was the star of the tradeshow. The innovative 1700 square foot two-story residence was created out of re-used cargo containers. The exterior walls were clad with sustainable wood siding and the interiors were impeccably designed with a multitude of earth-friendly building products. The list included bamboo and cork flooring, energy efficient appliances, recycled glass surface countertops, and rainwater collectors. Many of these materials are readily available and moderately priced. Visitors to the showhouse were impressed with the livability of the home that presented all of the comforts and style of a high-end home.

Years ago, "going green" meant building a wierd house, living off-the-grid or living on the outer fringe of our culture. Today "going green" has become a household word. Today's "green" building products are not only an acceptable part of our culture, but products like bamboo hardwood flooring and recycled glass and tile countertops create a beautiful look for your home in addition to a healthier architectural environment.

Please visit for more information, and look for future posts on my Blog about Green Building Products.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cool Modern

Robert and Alice were looking to update their 1980's four bedroom home in Cupertino, CA. They had a fixed budget for their remodel but had some definite design goals for their home improvement project. This photo illustrates the "before" view into their family room from the kitchen & breakfast nook. The first item on our agenda was to remove the old brick fireplace and hanging fan light that might have looked cool and modern in the 1980's, but now was cramping their style.
In order to give this home a fresh updated look, Arch Studio, Inc. began this project by replacing their outdated tile floors with new brazillian cherry hardwood flooring. We added a pop of color to the walls and, right away, this home already appeared spacious and inviting.

The existing kitchen had beautfiul rift-sawn oak cabinets but the cabinet door style and color were outdated. We saved our clients money, time and energy by staining their cabinets with a richly colored, dark finish. This updated the look of the old cabinets.

The new kitchen design included replacing old tile countertops and backsplash with more modern stone materials like granite and limestone. The backsplash behind the cooktop is a custom limestone and glass pattern that provides a focal point to the room. Appliances were replaced with gourmet ovens and cooktop in a stainless steel finish.

The existing Master Bath sink vanity was originally open to the Master Bedroom. This design did not work with my client's lifestyle. They were looking for a design concept that created privacy to the bath area and a soothing spa retreat that they could enjoy.

Robert & Alice's new Master Bath retreat now reflects their lifestyle. We completely renovated their existing bathroom and added a whirlpool tub, large glass enclosed shower with an overhead rainshower head and bench. We selected materials such as limestone and mosaics to reflect their design tastes.

Project Complete 2008
Architect: Robin McCarthy, AIA
General Contractor: Becir Molabecirovic