cursing architects, flored, cats, fans, scarfs, hooks, viewscapes, carpentry, solar

cursing the architects...

The architects sent a note asking (tongue in cheek [I hope...]) if we were cursing them yet. Not at all! The house has been easy living, literally instantly comfortable (I'm sure because of their good design). The clerestory windows are great, art unto themselves framing the trees and skies beyond in addition to letting in light. Everything seems right-sized. We had a dinner party last night, and all (usage of the space) went according to plan, the wide dining room allowing us plenty of room to bus the table and take care of our guests. And the peninsula did what the bride hoped it would do: Keep the hordes at bay with folks only congregating at the lee side.

biggest surprise (so far)?

How quiet the house is. I'm talking crazy, way-out-in-the-country-married-to-your-first-cousin quiet. Yes, we are experiencing a bit of the bookends of residential noise having just moved from downtown and, before that, living in an 1800s house with single pane windows (and no insulation), but it's so quiet here I can hear my blood flow at night. All that insulation (and sealing) and double-pane windowing seems to have really sealed the house off, and this is a good thing. Been sleeping like a baby (without the whole pooping-in-your-pants bit). It's truly amazing.


The folks at flor really really liked our Eileen Gray rug, so they asked for a nice photo that they can use in their lookbook. After waiting for the proper intersection of light, cat placement, and cat positioning (i.e., not grooming his crotch), we hit sun-cat-flor gold last Friday morning:


does the cat approve?

Speaking of the cat, you might be wondering: How is he enjoying the place? Since it was before we had read the book that warned architects about clients that include cats in their program, we included the furry beast in the program, asking for windows he could look longingly out of, places to sun, and a place to poop.

An except from our "prospectus" from way back when we were courting architects the second time around. The cat's favorite architect, Shigeru Ban, is famous for using cardboard (aka glorified scratching posts).

When we were designing the house (and then seeing it built), I wondered about the thermal loading from the morning sun spilling inside the ample living room windows, but seeing how happy that old cat is makes it all worth it.

(yes, his peepee is white...)

Sun-drunk and catatonic.

Oh for Gawd's sake, have you no shame!!!

As Schindler himself said: "Modern architecture lies down flat on the ground like a kitten who suns itself."

We often find the cat looking (longingly) out the windows, watching the world go by. And sometimes he's where he really shouldn't be...

Looks like you have more room for Schindler books up here...

our biggest fans

Speaking of bookshelves, we have them in better decorating shape. I went up to storage last weekend with the mission of finding (1) my antique fan collection and (2) the mixer. I found the fans after looking through half the boxes and found the mixer in literally the last box I looked in, the box in the far bottom corner. Free tip: If you are putting stuff in storage, keep the things you are likely to want sooner rather than later in your new house toward the front (and mark those boxes!).

There are so many fans that I had to go into panorama mode on the phone to capture them all:

I know, I know: Not exactly minimal. I'm calling it "controlled maximalism" where stuff is "centralized" in restricted areas and presented as either multiples of the same thing with variation (for example: fans, books) or a number of items from the same color family. We're doing this in the kitchen as well:

Multiples with variation.

Stuff from the same(ish) color family.

The experiments are continuing. Progress reports forthcoming...

found the scarves

There they are!

on the hook

We waited until we moved in before we decided where various hooks and fixtures (toilet paper holders, towel hooks, etc.) would go. This procrastination gave us the ability to see how we use the space and explore options before installing hardware (the bride, being an engineer, wants stuff installed where it makes the most utilitarian sense whereas I'm also concerned about aesthetics. It's a delicate negotiation).

We decided we needed hooks in several places. Then the question became: What kind of hooks? We went with sticks by Umbra. Umbra makes a lot of cool modernish/inspired stuff this side of affordable.

Below is a hook for a hand towel in the master bath that matches the toilet paper holder. Neoplastic, baybee! You can also see what we are going to upgrade the switches and plugs to...


Have had several good dowsings the past week or so, so we've had a front row seat to drainage off the roof and site. So far, it all looks good with the gravel over yonder doing exactly what I hoped it would do: Capture runoff and direct it toward the front of the lot. Worked like a charm.

Added bonus: The rains have caused cute little mushrooms (that tastefully match the house...) to momentarily sprout out of the mulch.

Along those lines, the Aggie Zoysia (drought tolerant) is doing quite well in the back yard. I'm sure the rainfall has helped immensely. My plan is to not mow it and see how high it gets. If it doesn't get too high, the plan is to never mow it. 

The feather grasses are doing well as well. We've only lost one so far. Still thanking the brilliance of the builder for using PVC instead of the cardboard I suggested (I feared getting the PVC level with the concrete, but the builder and sub did it perfectly). The PVC keeps the moisture from wicking into the bordering concrete and thus keeps it with the plant.

The grass in the driveway is starting to come in. At the moment, it looks like me trying to grow a beard (i.e., a post nuclear war radioactive patch party). We'll have to be patient here, but at least there's some green.

hot tub

Got the hot tub out of storage and placed behind the master. The grey wood panels just about match the grey on the house. Love how the tub is not visible from inside the house.

I generally find hot tubs ugly, but I think this actually doesn't look too bad here. Simple geomteric design (that is, the darn thing's round) in a complimentary color. I think it works.


While decorating, I'm taking into consideration how stuff looks from afar. You can use stuff from afar to guide people around the house. You peak their interest, and they will go investigate. I also like having some unexpected things in the house, things you wouldn't expect to see in a modern house. Surprise (and hopefully delight) is good.

An old German telephone.

Peeking in the powder.

Looking toward the master suite. With (nearly) everything being white, the art really pops.

Test placement in the first landing of the stairwell. I love to walk alleys and found this painted piece of plywood a number of years ago in an alley set out for bulk trash pickup. Whoever painted it is talented, but not talented enough to draw/paint hands (something that's really hard to do). Nevertheless, I love it for its simultaneous success and failure. A parable of life...

future carpentry

Had our carpenter, Dan (who's also a friend; he built the Eileen Gray table for us), stop by to discuss doing a bit of work, namely the shelves in the bathrooms (ate through that entire budget with the cabinets...) and the built-in desk in the guest room. We're going to do what the architects suggest as far as placement but will go with hickory rather than MDF painted white [muffled gasps from the architectural galley...]. We needed to monkey with shelf heights in the guest bathroom since a shelf as designed would go right through a switch plate. Simple planks with no visible support.

We're also going with a simple hickory plank for the desk pulled about two inches off the back wall to allow wires to drop to the plugs below. In other words, there will be a two-inch gap along the entire back of the desktop. I suppose there are a number of reasons why this is unwise, but screw it: It's our house. "Neoplasticism over logic!" I often yell from our back door (fortunately the neighbors' haven't called the police yet...). Dan and I talked about the strength of the desktop and its ability to withstand some yahoo standing on it, a kid jumping off it, and (perhaps...) rambunctious lovemaking. We'll leave the desktop thin to serve as a visual pause button; Dan says it will bend, not break, if perpetrators are clueless(ly drunk).

Dan is also going to make some modifications to the bookcases downstairs to hide the LEDs and accent horizontality.


Had a solar dude come out and scope the garage roof for panels. He had a cool little reflective device that told him the solarability (my word) for the full year. We can get 2.5 kilowatts on the roof with no tree trimming, and (pleasant surprise, surprise) 5 kilowatts if a branch gets trimmed back on a nearby tree. The issue with that branch is that although it is over our property (and therefore we can legally chop it down), it is attached to the neighbor's tree. The solar dude, to his credit, suggested we talk to the neighbor before hacking on the tree and weigh neighbor relations heavily in any decision to extend solar service. I think the neighbor will be fine (he already gave us the unsolicited green light to trim a lower branch), but we'll give him veto power over trimming that more prominent branch.

Waiting on the cost before talking to the neighbor. No sense in bringing it up if we don't need to.


That's it for this week. There's a lot of other things going on, but that's all we have photos and energy to write about this week. Until next time!


  1. Chickens and bees are mammals? I had no idea.

    1. We're not sure about milking bees every morning for honey. We hear they bite.

  2. Congratulations guys!! Have enjoyed the ride and can share in that special feeling that "we designed this!"

    We have been in our place 3+ years now and I still love turning the corner into our clerestory-lit living/dining space.

    As to solar we installed a 5.4KW system and then went all-electric with appliances, even an electric tankless water heater. Our annual bill is around $200 but here we don't need AC.

    Here is SoCal, most solar companies now offer leasing, so no cash outlay and instant payback. This was not an option when we built, but given this is our "last house" the payback computation was not an issue.

    1. Thanks, Peter! We've appreciated your comments and help and your blog as well, one of the key ones we looked at for inspiration to build as well as design inspiration.