shedworking – the new home office

One of the blogs that I follow showcases shedworkers as well as companies that fabricate and sell small office sheds. Originally I stumbled on to blogs like this while researching how to accommodate multiple functions into smaller spaces as it applies to container homes. But I wondered, even then, if this was going to be a growing phenomenon in the entrepreneurial world and, if so, how could I help?

photo courtesy of garden2goffice.com

So first let’s talk about what “shedworking” really is. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with your dad always telling you he was going to “take you out to the woodshed”…that’s a whole different tale to tell. “Shedworking” is simply a situation where you want to are forced to work from home but you’re tired of working at your dining table with the kids running around, the dog under your feet and your wife constantly asking you to “help me for just one second”…it never really takes just one second, does it?

Shop 160 - Garden Shed by r | one studio architecture

So while you’re cleaning the Cheerios off your keyboard for the third time in an hour, you think to yourself “there has to be a better way”. And of course there is! Shedworking! “But where do I find one of these magical places of wonder and freedom?” I’m so glad you asked. They are EVERY WHERE! There are companies high and low that offer solutions for every budget, every style and every one.

Here are some of the companies that I’ve found that make some damn archisexy products for shedworking:

Roomworks
The Home Office Company
Smart Garden Offices
Atelier Garden Studios

While these companies are all based overseas, most, if not all,  offer shipping options to the US. Also, simple searches will turn up a variety of companies right here in the good ole US of A (like ME! – see the Studio Pod).

So the bottom line is, if you’re an entrepreneur and need dedicated space but don’t feel comfortable going the coworking or office suite route, shedworking just might be for you and at a reasonable price.

modern walls and my distaste for trim

I hate trim – let’s just be clear right off the bat.  If I had my way (which obviously I don’t otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) ALL of the trim in my house would be used for firewood and target practice.  Trim, in my opinion, has little place in the modern or contemporary home.  I even, on occasion, put it in the same category with glass block – a heinous and disgusting material that should be abolished by law according to Bob Borson.

Trim, in historical terms, was occasionally used for a purpose, like to hide the counterweight cavity to either side of a hung window frame.  But mostly it was used to hide stuff that you didn’t feel like taking care of, like plaster returns at openings or the termination at a ceiling/floor. These details were foregone in favor of a “cover-up”, a piece of wood moulding that has no function other than to hide something unsightly or unfinished.  That bugs me.

Today however we have all sorts of wonderful little pieces and doo-dads that can be used to create wonderful details out of these transitions. Something as simple as a casing bead at the top and bottom of a gypsum board wall, set off the adjacent surface 1/4″ with backer rod and sealant can give a very clean and refined detail that just makes me smile. 🙂

Take a look at these details published by Build, LLC (these guys are my friggin heroes).

image rights belong to Build, LLC @ http://www.buildllc.com

image rights belong to Build, LLC @ http://www.buildllc.com

image rights belong to Build, LLC @ http://www.buildllc.com

image rights belong to Build, LLC @ http://www.buildllc.com

Now, honestly, aren’t these simple details a much better alternative than the hardware store trim that is clogging up your home like the image below? I know which way I’m going from now on. How about you?

image posted under creative commons license - owner's name left out to protect the innocent 😉

 

 

Yo, Homey!? #LetsBlogOff

“What is HOME?”

A thoughtful and intriguing question posed by the LetsBlogOff Team and one architects, designers and interiors peeps have been talking about for….well, let’s not go there.

In answering this question you could stick to hanging out at the mall and reading all those colorful pillows and embroidered doilies that say poignant things like “home is where the heart is”, or “home is where the *insert random domesticated animal species here* is”, or “home is where I park my Hummer”….whatever.

But, if you want to get a little deeper, to delve into the human psyche and begin talking about the origins of “home” and “place” and “being” then buy your friendly neighborhood architect a martini, sit back and enjoy the ride. Just make sure you’re in a comfortable seat, cause you’ll be there a while. :-\

HOME is many things to many people. Going back to historical terms, “home”, or “shelter”, meant little more than protection from the elements and any natural predators that happened to be skulking around at night. It was a purely utilitarian invention. But as time trekked on and Nomadic people’s turned to Homesteading a permanent location, the idea of “shelter” and “dwelling” took on more meaning.

Fast forward to present day and the “home” has such myriad meaning that if you asked 5 people the same question you would get 5 different answers. And for good reason. Above and beyond the functional and structural requirements of a home we have embewed a “personality” into our domestic architecture.

Getting passed all of the aesthetic and “touchy-feely” things that make a house a home, lets answer the posited question in a more modern and intellectual way by looking at the modern family, the modern household, and how urban centers, cities, the burbs and even rural America connect today. Take a moment and think about your own daily life and how you actually “live”.

Now take a look around at your home. I’m thinking if you compare the two, you’ll see that your “home” probably doesn’t jive too much with how you “live”. The reasons for this are vast and I’ve talked about them before, so I won’t bore you with a recap. Suffice it to say our housing stock was not designed for “you”, it was designed for some fictional character that does not resemble you, but you must “fit” into the way this person lives.

If we are to recapture our “homes” then our houses need to change. The way we live has changed dramatically over the last few generations. The homes of the 1950s, while cute and historic and picturesque, do not serve our modern purposes without us first making some concessions. Our needs are different, the way we move in a home is different, the way we gather is different, therefore our homes must be different.

A home can be many things to many different people. What do you want it to be? Let me buy you a martini and we can talk about it.

humans and architecture – scale

If you’ve ever hung out at a bar with me for more than 30 seconds, the conversation will invariably turn to one of two topics…or even both simultaneously – politics and architecture. Being passionate about both my country and my profession I spend a great deal of my day engrossed in these two subjects almost exclusively. And obviously I’m loud, opinionated and like to talk to people.

And one of the themes that has surged in architectural design in the last decade or so is the idea of scale, and more specifically human scale. While this is not a new topic or concept in architecture, it has been overlooked and sometimes outright ignored in some architectural styles over the years. Modernism and Post-Modernism are two good examples of this. Think about every commercial structure built during the 80s. Eck! :-\

Lately however this concept has come back almost in the background, as an unconscious principle of architecture. But what is “scale”? And more importantly what is “human scale” and how does it relate to architecture? We’re all familiar with Le Corbusier’s Modular Man. If not, you better recognize! 😛

Le Corbusier - "Modular Man"

The genius of what Le Corbusier did was to systematically break down the human form as a scalable figure and then apply those measurements to everyday items from buildings to forks to furniture, etc. And now, as the McMansion Mania has ended and we’re moving to quality over quantity, this notion of “scale” has snuck its way back into design, especially in residential architecture. Take a look at the image below. Top and bottom I’ve placed your typical modern suburban monstrosity and a modern modular home. Which do you think was designed with the human scale in mind?

typical modern suburban monstrosity courtesy of google

modern modular home by Hive Modern

And now ask yourself, which would you feel more comfortable living in? The bottom line here is that human scale, human comfort, is an extremely important factor in architectural design – if not the most important. And while this trend has, as I said, snuck back into modern design, it is becoming more and more obviously stated as we move towards the notion of “aging in place” and universal design. How the human body functions at all stages of life is becoming a more central focus in architecture, rather than just how we move and function in our prime.

So the next time you’re sitting around looking at those plan books contemplating your next home or addition, take a second to think about talking with someone that will design a space that will work for you and your family on a human level.

Competitions – a worrisome trend

I’ve talked about Freelancer websites before and how I find a fair few side jobs this way. But lately I’ve noticed a trend picking up steam that is very disturbing. I recently saw this job post on a popular freelancer website (I won’t name them). As someone who may or may not enter a design competition, how does this make you feel? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

“I am entering a Skyscraper contest on the Evolo website and am looking for someone who can take the plans that I have designed on paper and make them into digital format as described in the Evolo Competition requirements. You can log in to the website and view the rules on submitting the design and view other skyscrapers to see there are 2 boards to zoom in on the work. Please read Competition requirements and to see if you are able to do this type of work. Please let me know other work you have done to look at. Thankyou”

Keep in mind, the person posting this project is offering to pay a fee for the modeling and rendering services, essentially hiring an employee. This is not the first post I’ve seen like this in recent weeks either. What are your thoughts? Is this cheating or just prudent planning and delegation?

a ruthlessly unsentimental minimalist

I’m surfing the internet, catching up on daily news, tweeting the occasional archi-story or whatever and I come across an article titled “Smaller Modern Homes Mean Less Storage”. At first I was intrigued. But then I finished reading the very first paragraph in which the author states that unless you are a “ruthlessly unsentimental minimalist” eventually you will need more space for your “stuff”. And I have to say I was more than a little insulted by this assertion, or this assumption that minimalism has anything to do with unsentimentality or a cold determination to abandon all personal possessions.

Now, the article seems to be an advertisement for self storage businesses as the rest of the article surmises that you don’t want to move to a larger space, don’t want to get rid of all that “stuff” crammed into boxes in the back of your closet that you haven’t looked at or thought about in a dozen years and CERTAINLY don’t want to take responsibility for all that crap clogging up what little storage you do have, so OBVIOUSLY you need offsite storage that is accessible, secure and well lit….. :-\

image courtesy of cartoonstock.com and used under creative commons license

What a load of crap. First, minimalism is not a cold and heartless way to live your life, but rather a way to clear out that which is unnecessary so that you can focus on things of real value like family, friends and experiences that will enrich your life. But clearing out “stuff” we make room for what is really important. That tchotchke you’ve been hanging on to since high school to remind yourself of that boyfriend who dumped you for the hot chic but you were just so in love with him so you kept that random piece of belly lint in a box in your attic ever since…..yeah, I’m thinking you don’t need it anymore.

image courtesy of cartoonstock.com and used under creative commons license

And talking about housing. The average modern home is STILL about 2,200 square feet for a family of 2-4. Just a generation ago the average house was less than 1,500 square feet for a family of 4-5. Our obsession with “stuff” has led to this need for more room for our “stuff”.

A home with more storage space is not a better home it’s just a more expensive one. All that storage costs money and it detracts from the useful spaces that actually serve a purpose, thus making your home larger but not necessarily more functional or enjoyable. By reducing our need for “stuff” we can reduce the size of our homes, reintroduce value and functionality and even save ourselves some money in the process.

image courtesy of cartoonstock.com and used under creative commons license

When was the last time you took a look in the back of your closets? I’m betting whatever is in there is something you can do without. When you start taking a more critical look at the value of the things we hold on to, you might be surprised by what you can do without and by clearing out you make room for more of life that has real value. More storage is NOT the answer.

architecture and integrity: oil and water

A little while back I finally got around to watching The Fountainhead (1949) with Gary Cooper as Howard Roark and I remember finishing that movie nearly in tears…well, not nearly. I’m a bit of a crier…my wife thinks it’s funny. But that’s not the point.

The point is INTEGRITY in architecture. Not just as a profession, but as an art, as a passion, as that thing that makes your blood pump and your spirit feel alive! Do we have that anymore? Sadly, it seems more and more clear that we do not. Howard Roark was a man, a architect, who refused to give in to the status quo. He refused to sacrifice his art, his craft, his buildings to the whim of pop culture or the mob mentality. He dared to stand up, to stand out. And he suffered greatly for it, but in the end his clients kept coming back and eventually he won the respect of his peers who were too cowardly to do anything not in line with what others felt “should be”. We need more like Howard today.

In an economic climate that can be described as nothing better than “dismal” where we’re experiencing upwards of 30% unemployment in our field and everyone is fighting tooth and nail for their next client…well, things like integrity, pride and self worth are the first things to be thrown overboard to keep the ship afloat. And quite frankly it just pisses me off.

Architecture should not suffer the same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune like the stock market or the rest of corporate america. Our work, our craft, is not and should not be a commodity to trade to the lowest bidder. But it happens more and more, architects trying to undercut other architects’ fees in order to get a client that will only haggle for a lower fee on the next project.

Instead a resurgence of integrity not only for our profession but also integrity and responsibility for our projects, our designs, our creativity, that which we bring to the table is priceless. Instead of the cut-throat, winner take all mentality, what would happen if architects instead pooled their resources and talents in order to best serve the client and best serve architecture? How many more projects would we get based on real quality of design AND construction than simply trying to chase that next magazine cover or developer with “an exciting new project” (i.e. another salt box apartment complex with no character or thought involved)?

I see lots of us out in the blog-sphere decrying the woes of our profession, and that’s all well and good. I hear even more touting that we should “take back” our prestige, etc. But it’s a lot of talk. I’ve made the call several times to any architect reading this to step up, to help, to be the leadership for a new generation of architect that is truly passionate about a profession and an art that DOES have the power to change the world one building at a time.

One of my favorite quotes is by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Will anyone out there answer the call? There are a few, and you know how you are. We need more.