Casita Living

Our second project in Mexico resides in Los Barriles, located in the Baja California Sur. The Garage/Casita, situated on a hill, overlooks the beautiful Sea of Cortez and hillside views.

Mitigating the intense sun, heat, dust, unreliable electricity, and lack of sewer and water required much thought and planning. Deep overhangs, louver screens, Earth-block walls, and tinted glass reduce the home’s cooling load, while ductless mini-split systems enable zoned conditioning. Three buried cisterns supply the home’s potable and gray water needs. And for energy production, rooftop-mounted photovoltaic arrays are concealed behind a Corten steel perforated screen.

Aside from expanding outdoor living, the ample balconies also facilitate glass cleaning and shade the ground floor walls and windows. We incorporated the desert site's colorful flora, and multi-colored rocks in our color palette, grounding the home to its location.

As built, the design affords affluent expats the ability to store water toys and off-road vehicles in a spacious garage while providing an open first-floor plan and ample outdoor living. The compact footprint and modern exterior is a paradigm that is quickly catching on.


Home Building, By the Numbers

Planning to build a house? Here is where your money will go.

Finding a house that perfectly fits your needs can be challenging, to say the least. Chances are, you’ll have to compromise. 

A custom-built home, however, eliminates compromise: Not only will you get exactly what you want, the thinking goes, but you’ll have brand-new materials and systems that won’t need repair in the near future. But how much will it cost — and what will you really be paying for?

A recent survey of residential construction companies by the National Association of Home Builders broke down the cost of building every component of a home, including the builders’ markup and other overhead expenses that are ultimately reflected in the final price.

The results are based on the typical home built by those surveyed — a 2,776-square-foot house on a lot of about 0.4 acres — with a total cost to the buyer of $427,892. Of that amount, $190,132 covered the cost of the lot and the contractors’ overhead and profits. 

The remaining $237,760 was spent on building the house. So where did it go?

The cost of land, materials and labor will vary depending on your location, but the distribution of other expenses shown here is likely to be similar no matter where you are.

By Michael Kolomatsky

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Home Depot Awards $50 Million and Helps Vocational Education

The Home Builder Institute was recently the recipient of a $50 million grant, given by the Home Depot Foundation (HDF) to train 20,000 new skilled workers over the next 10 years. The Institute’s president, John Courson, says the home improvement giant’s generosity could further galvanize the “rebirth” of vocational training in secondary schools. 

Already, the Home Builder Institute produces about 5,000 skilled workers every year, Courson says. The Institute focuses on training many trades—carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, painting—to underserved and adjudicated youth, ex-offenders and veterans re-entering civilian life. But that’s not all the curriculum touches. 

“We also license out our programs to high schools,” Courson says. It’s an approach that allows HBI to expand its training without having to build additional training centers. “About 3,000 students a year currently benefit from it.” 

Home Depot's grant will help HBI grow those numbers.


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Frustrations with the Houzz platform existed long before the IVYMARK acquisition last month, but seem to have escalated ever since. On March 1, a group of designers introduced a petition outlining a list of demands of the platform, revolving around what they allege is inappropriate use of designers’ images. Some are suggesting the platform could be in danger of copyright infringement. As of this morning, the petition has garnered 1,920 signatures—its original goal was 1,600, and the designers have since upped their goal to 3,200 signatures.

Designers first took issue with Houzz when the platform started tagging their project photos with links to buy merchandise. The products for sale aren’t necessarily those that the designer originally used, but as the petition points out, “lower priced and inferior.” For many of these designers, it feels as though Houzz is using their own content against them.

The petition makes a number of demands from the platform, including that Houzz stop selling products from designer images; that designers be allowed to remove their photography at any time; and that Houzz disallow third-party partners from using the designers’ photos (such as for ads or articles) without their permission. Other asks include allowing designers who opt out of using Houzz to be removed entirely from Houzz search results; permanently removing designers who don’t purchase advertising on Houzz from the platform’s call list; providing designers who do advertise on Houzz with analytics “proving that what they have paid for—namely higher billing in searches in their marketplace—is actually what they are receiving”; and obtaining permission from designers before using their photos in digital editorial content.


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Commercial Influence on Residential Architecture

Co-creation is increasingly becoming more common and residential clients are requesting design elements they’ve discovered in commercial environments be incorporated into their home designs. 

We’re not talking just great rooms with cathedral ceilings. It’s everything from the commercial furnishings, fixtures, materials and even the lighting are all chosen to replicate luxe commercial environments.

The result, now the most modern of home offices resemble corporate style office spaces, the master baths are befitting those of five-star resort spas and the home kitchens are reminiscent of upscale restaurants. The trend can even be seen in the home’s landscaping as outdoor areas are mimicking courtyard plazas traditionally experienced in commercial common areas.

The desire for commercial materials in residential settings is so high in fact that the Wynn hotel chain in Las Vegas has a thriving home furnishings store within the hotel.

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Hip, Hip, Hooray to JRML’s Quarter-Century in Business!

Early this week, as we were resuming work after the holiday break, an associate exclaimed:  This year marks the firm’s 25th anniversary, we should celebrate the occasion.  Indeed, being in business for a quarter-century is a significant milestone, but how can one revel without reflecting on the path’s profound challenges.

After spending a decade designing waterfront and inner-city projects from Long Island, New York to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I landed in Virginia Beach, Virginia in February of ’93, tasked to manage the construction of an oceanfront home I designed for a client from Santa Cruz, CA. 

New to the area, I rented a room at the Royal Clipper Inn on Atlantic Avenue.  The client made space in his firm’s copy room for me, ironically at the same time, SNL’s “Copy Guy” skit was popular.  (And yes, everyone called me “copy guy.”)  After finding a home in Shadowlawn, my partner, Monique, relocated from Philadelphia, our former hometown.

We immediately established JRML, an initialism for Jon Rizzo and Monique Libby.  I was responsible for “exterior design,” and she, for “interior design."  Since ’93, Monique and I, along with a talented roster of associates and interns, have designed hundreds of custom homes, communities, kitchens, and baths, additions, residential and commercial interiors, and hospitality projects from Hampton Roads to as far south as Mexico.  

Over the past 25-years, some of the highlights we have enjoyed include winning ten design awards.  Helping shape the interior design curriculum at Tidewater Community College.   Mentoring young designers through employment, summer internships, and TBA/HGTV design competitions.  And having our work featured on network television and numerous shelter publications. 

Was the journey easy? Not always.  As design and construction are symbiotic, we suffered every case of unbridled greed and concomitant economic decline from the 1990s S&L crisis, to the Dot-Com bust of 2000, and the Great Recession of 2007.  Through each crucible, our sought-after creativity, problem-solving skills, and business acumen saved the firm. 

To Monique and I, designing is the “art of the lonely leap.”  As seasoned designers, our success directly correlates with the intrinsic ability to know when, after much thought and research, we arrive at the optimal solution that satisfies a client’s needs.  And how is this confirmed?  Why from the smile-inducing notes we receive, containing prose that commends our effort, and reaffirms that our choice to pursue design was worthwhile and gratifying.    

Cheers to another 25 years, and sincere thanks to every client for allowing us to do what we love!


Miele: Revolutionizing Cooking

Recently, Miele announced not only a new product but also a possible new way of cooking at an unveiling in Berlin, introducing the new Dialog Oven.  The appliance looks like a conventional Miele oven, complete with a touchscreen and a sleek appearance. The Miele team demonstrated how different the Dialog Oven is by cooking a piece of raw codfish inside of a block of ice.

This method of cooking is possible with electromagnetic waves.  Dr. Axel Kniehl, executive director of marketing and sales for Miele, explained that this science had an unusual inspiration.  “We saw an idea in the basic technology used in organ transplant,” said Kniehl. “Regeneration has to be done there in a very cautious, even way, and we thought there might be something in that we could use outside of the medical field.”

Like in the medical version, the Dialog Oven features a modular unit that generates electromagnetic waves in a specific frequency range and distributes these in the oven with two antennas.  As the molecules in different foods are arranged in different ways and even rearrange during cooking, the technology provides the Dialog Oven with feedback on the amount of energy absorbed by food, and the oven targets the right foods and responds.  This is how different foods are detected and cooked accurately.

Another advantage of the oven is that food is cooked volumetrically; a filet of meat is cooked uniformly from the edges right to the center. In a conventional oven, this is much more difficult since heat travels from the outside in.  In the Dialog Oven, electromagnetic waves ensure the food is cooked from the inside out.

Since cooking with electromagnetic waves does not brown the surfaces of food, bread can be baked entirely without a crust. For a classic loaf of bread and the roasted aromas of meat, the oven technology always combines with radiant heat. Also, the oven features Miele’s flagship cooking products, including a user-friendly M Touch display. Elegant and uniform illumination on all levels is guaranteed by high-quality LED lighting.

When the oven first launches in 2018 in Germany and Austria, users will find several other convenient, high-tech features.


Bath Evolution

Textured and patterned tile, rustic industrial elements, vintage vanities, French shower door enclosures, darker colors, vintage-look floor tiles, round mirrors, bold accent walls, brass and gold, under-counter appliances, unique tile shapes, real rain and multi-point shower heads, heated floors, intelligent toilets, spa baths, hydrotherapy baths, touch faucets, digital shower systems, customization, advanced lighting…

The modern bath has evolved beyond mere preening.  To relieve stress, the extraordinarily motivated crave spa showers with body sprays and cascading rain heads, and hydrotherapy experiences offering quiet repose to stimulating invigoration.

From modern minimalism to luxe transitional to whatever you can dream, JRML’s boutique design studio will affect your vision.    


What is Transitional Design?

In recent years, traditional kitchen designs have been surpassed in popularity by transitional design.  Driven by a desire for people to spend more time socializing, kitchens today are expanding into living spaces.  In a world where people are working, socializing, and overall treating the kitchen as the heart of their home, transitional design is the perfect approach to designing a kitchen that will be used for more than meal preparation.

A Clean, Comfortable and Simple Aesthetic

The current trend of transitional design evokes a clean, comfortable and simple aesthetic. In this new world of kitchen design, everything may have a practical purpose, but the end result is a beautiful space where everyone feels at home.

Contemporary Styles with Cues from the Past

A transitional kitchen borrows elements or references styles of the past and combines them with contemporary features to produce something new and fresh. This trend has meant a shift toward a contemporary and very modern-looking kitchen, but with style references that feel familiar.

An Emphasis on “Blending”

Transitional design relies on built-in appliances that serve both a practical and aesthetic purpose—enhancing the usage experience while maximizing available space and creating a visually more pleasing environment. Instead of standing out, the appliances blend in, creating a cohesive, and more beautiful whole. These modern aspects of transitional design may manifest itself in a number of different ways, from stainless steel ranges and undercounter refrigerators to double sinks and stylish new dishwashers.

Source: U-Line

 Transitional design combines elements of old and new.

Transitional design combines elements of old and new.

Wassily Chair

There are a plethora of stories here, but I want to focus on the chair as no other could achieve its appropriateness in this setting.              

Designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer, the Wassily Chair was revolutionary in the use of bent tubular steel.  Breuer, inspired by the lightness of his first bicycle frame began to experiment using the material in furniture design.

With its minimal seamless steel frame and straps of leather forming the seat, back and arms, the chair’s openness allow the colorful book jackets to play a part in the composition.  The frame’s radiuses, curvilinear stair brackets, and railing’s scroll panels create an asymmetrical balance, where different objects have an equal visual attraction; its curves emphasizing the triangle formed by the stair's niche.   

As Picasso's photograph adorns the wall directly above the side table, I’d be remiss for not pointing out the chrome frame's highlights, the final touch a painter employs, giving life to their canvas.

The work exhibits an expert touch through the manipulation of spatial volume, surface treatment, product, and principles of interior design. 

My partner Monique is responsible for the design, and each time I visit this composition, I am reminded of her exceptional talent.