we'll be on the 2020 austin catio tour!

In 2018, whenever I asked the bride what she wanted for Christmas, she carefully (and almost robotically) repeated the words "a safe, outdoor space for our cats." In other words, a catio! I can't say that I was entirely excited with the prospect for aesthetic reasons, but sometimes, folks, you have to choose function over form.

We initially agreed to put the catio along the thin sideyard where no one could see it, but there were issues with this, including access to recalcitrant or stuck-for-some-reason cats and the AC condenser. The Cat Carpenter talked us into putting one in off the master bedroom door to the patio.

We went on the 2019 Austin Catio Tour and liked the work of David Murphy, aka The Cat Carpenter. David's work is solid, is unintentionally neoplastic, and matches the wood on our house. He's also a cat-lover, so he's legit about his work and is something of a cat whisperer in understanding what cats want.

Cats are stone-cold killers, terminating between 1.2 and 3.7 billion birds a year in the United States alone, which is one reason we keep our cats indoors (health and longevity are others). The Travis Audubon Society organizes and promotes the catio tour to promote keeping cats indoors. We mentioned to David that we would be interested in being on the tour, and, last month, the tourmeisters reached out to invite us to participate!

Aesthetically I wish we didn't have it or had it somewhere we didn't see it, but, cattily, our little purr-muffins love it, spending countless hours enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors from a safe perch. We put in a new door between the bedroom and the patio/catio so we could install a cat-door to allow the kitties freedom to access the catio whenever they want.

See us if you can! The tour is free (but there is a $10 donation request) and will be held on February 29, 2020, from 10 am to 3 pm. More info on the 2020 Austin Catio Tour is available here. We plan to have cat and bird themed music. If anyone acoustic wants to play on our backyard stage during the event, please let us know!


santiago calatrava in ny

Santiago Calatrava is one of my fave contemporary architects. He has a unique style that is both futuristic and organic like bleached whale bones sunning on the sand. He first became famous for his graceful and acrobatic bridges (Dallas has one!) but has also designed buildlings, including the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York, which we visited last year.

Outside, the WTC Hub looks like a winged caterpillar with symmetric asymmetry on the ends. Also a sculptor, Calatrava described the Center as "a bird flying from the hands of a child." Detractors have called it "a self indulgent monstrosity," "a kitsch stegosaurus," and a "giant gray-white space insect." Inside, the rhythm and height of the space speaks as a cathedral, both uplifting and somber, a fitting emotional response its location to the horrific 9-11 terrorist attack. Part of its controversy is that the project came in at $4 billion, twice the expected cost, making it the most expensive train station in the world. Regardless, it's inspiring architecture. If you walk inside and don't feel anything, check your pulse: you may not be alive.



all I got for xmas was a toilet seat

When we were first working with an architect to design our home, we (I, really) requested a bidet. Not exactly sure why I wanted a butt squirter--I had never used one--but it just seemed civilized and an excellent thing to have after reading a few articles about them.

The architect talked us out of it, which was fine: It wasn't a fall-on-my-throne request. But I've often wondered: What if? Cue articles on Japanese washlets. Washlets are bidets built into toilet seats where miniature robotic arms extend to give your tush a tingle. Given that washlets come from Japan, they are crap-full of technology including seat warmers, water warmers, air filters, blow dryers, and (ahem) automatic seat raiserers and lowerers. Again, I had never used one, but everyone who has been squirted in the chili chute raves about 'em. So The Bride got me one for Christmas!

Based on reviews at Wirecutter, we went with a Toto-branded washlet but one at a higher price point (the K300) to get a lower profile since the Wirecutter-recommended seat (the C200) looked like a ski slope. The higher price also got us air filtration and a remote (rather than a fixed side-seat) control. Sadly, at our price point, we have to raise and lower the damn seat on our own. Oh well: You can't have everything. Our builder had fortunately installed an electric plug in our "toilet stall" (the mini room the master toilet is in), so plugging in was easy-peasy (but definitely something to think about if you are designing a home).


The C200 on the left and the K300 on the right.

Installation was pure Kardashian drama. Because our toilets are 'skirted' (the plumbing and connections for the Kohler Persuade Curv are hidden behind a skirt for, you know, the clean, modern aesthetic), installation required a fill valve extension hose, which required four visits to Lowe's (and a frantic Googling session) to figure out. No-one in town had one (or knew what I was talking about), so I had to special order an extender from bidetking.com and overnight it ('cause I had to go!).

 Skirted on the left; unskirted on the right.

Installing the washlet was a challenge since it used smaller bolts than the existing seat. This required drilling out the molyboltish female sides of the connectors from the old seat because there was no other way to get them out. After reinstalling everything, I had the panicked thought "Did I tighten the freakin' fittings on the dang toilet extender?" Off everything came to check (I had). After reinstalling everything (again), it was finally time to get my squirt on!

All I can say is: "Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh......" It took a little adjustment and assessment of what exactly the robotic squirt gun was hitting before mastering the cleanstream, but once the Toto Deathstar was lasering into my brownstar, all was good. You still need a little dibby-dabby with some paper at the end for a final dry (and quality control), but OMG: freshfreshfresh. For women, there's a special setting for the ladybits.

The seat activates when you sit on it, providing a pre-mist of the bowl (to decrease the retention of Taco-Bell-induced shrapnel) as well as air filtration (which works amazingly well). After you warsh your log chopper and stand, the washlet continues to filtrate the air for a minute or so. The engineered slow-close lids keep things quiet and civilized.

At first blush, the washlet doesn't look good for water conservation. But, according to bidet.org, a bidet uses about an eighth of a gallon of water per use, a roll of toilet paper requires 12 to 37 gallons per roll to make, an average American uses one to two rolls of toilet paper a week, and an average American uses the pot five times day. That works out to 0.34 to 1.83 gallons of water per potty visit (gwppv) using toilet paper versus 0.13 gwppv for a bidet. Nevertheless, a bidet will slightly increase overall household use of water. I have to imagine a washlet uses less water than a traditional bidet since the water is heated on-demand and the spray is optimized for the task. We will also use more electricity since the seat doesn't know when the need will strike: it is heated all the time. Again, I don't think it will use much (and we won't need the hot-butt treatment during the summer). Perhaps someday we'll all be pre-installed with a butt-chip that will alert your toilet seat via Bluetooth that the time is nigh to pre-heat the seat to minimize energy consumption.

All in all, I highly recommend getting a washlet: Your John Duane will thank you!


2020 design trends to ditch (according to realtor.com)

Modernism and minimalism needs to be ditched.

I always get a cackling cackle (with a deeply furrowed brow) from reading new year's design trends, and these top ten design trends to ditch from realtor.com are no different. Is short, they've bought into the maximalist trend displayed by the moneyed elite whose homes defile the pages of the Architectural Digest.

1. Lone accent wall

I though lone accent walls were out in the 90s? Here Realtor proposes painting the entire room a single bold color. That's bold, and I've seen it done well in older homes to flatten decoaration into a more Modern aesthetic. I'm down with that.

2. Minimalist designs

Have to disagree with this one (for [ahem] obvious reasons). The world is far too busy, cluttered, and frightening. Our homes need to be relaxing.

3. Faux natural materials

Have to agree with this one (been out of fashion in Modern since the beginning, really). Applies to the basement as well, you nitwits.

4. Rose gold and millennial pink

Anything outside of consistently-used chrome and brushed nickel is doomed for death.

5. Farmhouse style

This style will not die without a lot of chicken necks being wrangled.

6. Cool and light materials

Their example doesn't do it right. Cool and light and then add the pop!

7. Fast furniture

There's irony in attacking IKEA's business model for the sake of climate change in a list of "get rid of your furniture, fixtures, and flooring 'cause it's boooooring." Perhaps irony is dead too? Certainly for buying good furniture at outset if you can afford it.

8. Neon word signs

Yep: those can go.

9. Bedding in a kit

Because it says you aren't trying hard enough.

10. Open floor plans

Millennials don't like open floor plans. Apparently they like to eat their avocado toast in private.

The best design advice I can give? Do what floats your houseboat, even if its fake rose-gold tiles in your open floor-plan farmhouse mod.

Whatever makes you happy, makes you happy. Do it.


10ish architecty resolutions for 2020

So looking back, I see that the last time I came up with resolutions for this blog was 2017. My oh my does time fly! Since then I "retired" from one job and took another far-more-challenging-and-time-sucking position and started a food blog (I've been writing restaurant reviews for neighborhood newsletters for about 30 years; decided to go online with them [and do something with all the food photos I take!]).

Looking back on what I resoluted in 2017, I said I would (1) design the cabin (we're 90 percent done!), (2) restore the schoolhouse modern pendants (identified a local restorer but haven't activated them yet), (3) install cypress shelves in the kitchen (nope), (4) dance with architecture in Palm Springs (not yet), (5) dance with architecture in New York (did it!), (6) cut the cable (yes!), (7) finish upgrading the plugs in the house (nope), (8) build a shed (fail), (9) chair the front yard (did it!), (9) design our gravestone (nope), and (10) write a book on building a modern house (worked on it, but losing resolve...).

Things I did that weren't on any damn list included (1) getting an electric car; (2) dancing with architecture in San Francisco, Aspen, Longmont, Boulder, Houston, Santa Fe, Seattle, Detroit, Reykjavik, Grand Rapids, Washington D.C., and Newfoundland; (3) touring several Schindlers in Los Angeles and San Diego; (4) building a catio; (5) getting our house in an upcoming rotoscoped series; and (6) thinking about how poorly Modern architecture would fare during the zombie apocalypse. Oh! And I formed a band called Uma Theremin. So not too bad given the stumbles on that 2017 list.

So without further ado, here's our list for 2020:

1. finish designing the cabin (and start building it?)

After a wee rollercoaster of who-will-be-the-architect decisions the past few years, I feel good about this resolution since we are 90 to 95 percent there. It's also highly likely we'll start the build this year!

2. restore and hang the schoolhouse modern lights

This. Is. The. Year.

3. cypress shelves in the kitchen

The open shelves in the kitchen are great but have too much height and, therefore, too much unused space. Thinking about installing cypress sub-shelves to break-up the space (and get more storage!). This would also carry the cypress from the dining room/penninsula into the kitchen.

4. dance with architecture in palm springs

One of these years we're going to do this...

5. dance with architecture in berlin

I really want to see the Bauhaus in person.

Image result for bauhaus

6. upgrade the plugs

Before I die...

 7. build a shed (and clean the garage)

It was here three freakin' years ago. Here it is again.

 8. 'finish' the r.m. schindler list

Need to scan and upload the remaining Schindler designs.

 9. finish the austin architecture tab
So close yet so far not done...
 10. wire the carport for an electric car
This 110V charging ain't gonna cut it (even though it has so far...).

 11. write more on this blog
While I haven't neglected this site, I need to give it more love (as evidenced by how far behind I am on posting).

 12. sign up for green energy with the city
Austin allows residents to sign up for windpower. It costs a little more, but it supports a carbon-neutral world.

 13. buy carbon offsets for our air travel

It's time to own our carbon footprint.

14. tour the lovell health house

I just saw that it is now open for monthly tours!

stretch goals:
a. design our gravestone

Seems morbid, but with the recent passing of the bride's mother (and our spot in the New Mexican landscape staked), it seems we need to get this done.

b. write a book on building a modern house

A carry over from last year. If I drink lots of coffee, I feel more motivated!