It's All in the Details

I have the daily privilege of overhearing our interior design director, and enthusiastic associates discuss decorating ideas down to the smallest details.  Their team rigorously considers each design element for unity, balance, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, scale and proportion, and details before being considered.    

Yesterday, one conversation focused on a table lamp selection, the final design element concluding their client presentation.  After reviewing dozens of styles for lumen type, photo metrics, and CRI (bulb, beam spread, and color rendering index), the team analyzed each lamp's surface to eye level distance, shade length ratio, and shade diameter.  The remainder were then subjected to the seven principles of interior design to determine appropriateness.  

After much deliberation, the group chose a lamp designed by George Nelson, one of the most inventive minds of the twentieth century.  The inspiration for his Lantern Lamp stemmed from a photo of mothballed ships covered in netting and sprayed with a self-webbing plastic.  After spinning a skeleton of steel wires on a turntable and shooting it with translucent plastic, George wrapped the structure in a smooth, washable film.  After outfitting his creation with a lamp (bulb), he exclaimed: “it glowed.”  

In interior design, details are like jewelry.  From the pillow sham piping to the color and pattern of embroidery, each detail adds its distinctive feature to the overall composition.   As you may have guessed by now, even a lamp deserves much contemplation before making its debut.

Kitchen on the Cheap!

JRML was just commissioned to provide design and construction management for the Lambert’s Point Market renovation, a 100-year building anchoring the corners of Parker Ave and 40th Street in Norfolk, Virginia.  The site is adjacent to Old Dominion University’s campus.   Additional tasks include market analysis, regulatory, permitting, and study of student interaction within the built environment.

Our feasibility and structural analysis revealed 12-inch thick brick exterior walls, timber and steel beams, brick interior walls, high ceilings and windows, and an old safe.  The site also has a large side yard for off-street parking – a coveted asset.

Engaged in off-campus housing rentals to college students, the client requested a unique design but stressed cost efficiency.  We responded with an industrial style focused on durability, privacy, acoustics, energy efficiency, and security to allay parental concerns.

Our kitchen rendering illustrates restaurant grade stainless steel prep, sink table, and shelving for the cabinetry; a plastic laminate bar top; a recycled gym locker for the pantry; and standard appliances.  A focal point of glittering acrylic cast plastic resin completes the bar front.  

Total kitchen cost: $6,838.00!  A big impact at a small cost.

A Designer's Vision

In 1936, Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for SC Johnson Company’s holistic workspace reached a crisis when the Wisconsin Industrial Commission denied Wright a building permit because they didn't believe a mushroom-like column could support the 12 tons of weight he suggested.  

To appease his critics, Wright staged a test, dumping sandbags on top of a column to prove its strength. Once workers reached 12 tons, they paused. Wright instructed them to continue, standing beneath the structure and tapping it with his cane for effect. Construction crews eventually loaded 60 tons of material atop the lone column, stopping not because the column failed, but because they ran out of space to add more weight. Wright was given his building permit.

Recently, we designed a steel hanger system to support girders fastened to each side of a column supporting a roof.  Our solution supported the weight and created a continuous load path, resulting in a clean aesthetic.  The City of Norfolk disagreed.  We replied citing the relevant building code provision and our interpretation.  Again we were denied.

Fortunately, we live in a different age than Wright.  Using modeling software, we proved to the building official that our solution was structurally sound.  After a few days, the city granted us a building permit.  

As an International Code Council member, I informed the official that we would pursue the inclusion of our system in the next code update. 

Kitchens 2017: What's in and What's Out

1.    Contemporary kitchens overtook traditional styles.  Transitional designs still reign.
2.    White and gray painted cabinets and color schemes dominate; blue and black are
       emerging.
3.    Mixed colors and materials are trending, with exaggerated two-toned effects.
4.    White wood cabinets rule current tastes, but metal cabinetry is growing.
5.    Furniture-look pieces, roll-outs, pullouts, and LED lighting are popular, as are bigger
       drawers.
6.    Quartz countertops are king while granite trends downward.
7.    Induction cooktops convection ovens, and microwave drawers proliferate, same for
       steam ovens.
8.    Technology and integration are on the rise.
9.    Barn and pocket doors are growing in popularity.
10.   Clients are also requesting accessible and universal design features.

 

Yet Another Divider Solution

Often, in an open setting, the need arises to separate one space from another.  We have an entire section in our resource library devoted to what we call "dividers."  

From woven wire cloth to translucent or laser cut panels, the choices are many.  Just when we think we have exhausted all options, a new product is introduced, adding another design tool to our toolbox.    

In our constant search to discover the perfect solution, we found this linear pendant fixture.  Formed by transparent alternating glass elements, the assembly allows for infinite designs.  And for larger spaces, the units can be combined.  

The wiring is hidden in the globe's shaded area to conceal the light source.  LED spot lights, embedded in the ceiling canopy, illuminate the assembly from above.

We just love the fixture's interstice, for a deconstructed view of the adjacent space's furnishings, accessories, and art. 

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Flow

In search of an unusual accent piece for a client, we settled on the Flow Vase designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid.  The Flow, an experiment in coupling advanced 3D modeling techniques and rotational molding technology defined a new typology in product design – an object that is both vase and sculpture – a sinuous item through which Cartesian geometries are blended in a continuous three-dimensional form.  Flow's height and curvy, elegant shapes make it unique and continually changing based on the angle of observation. 

The Most Lucrative Interior Remodeling Projects

Along with making the home look better, refinishing hardwood floors provides the highest money-back value of all the home improvement projects.

NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog listed the five remodeling projects that receive the best overall value for sellers, based on a survey of consumers, real estate agents, and professionals in the industry.

New hardwood floors cost $2,500 but increase the value $2,500 for sellers, meaning an owner can recoup 100 percent of the costs. Upgrading insulation (95 percent of the $2,100 cost), adding new wood flooring (91 percent of the $5,500 cost), replacing the HVAC system (71 percent of the $7,000 cost), and converting the basement into a living area (69 percent of the $36,000 cost) are other ways to get the best bang for the buck.

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Portable Unbreakable Solar Panels

A typical solar panel—more than five feet long and encased in glass—isn't exactly portable. But a new type of solar technology, miniaturized so that each cell is the size of a piece of glitter, could be used anywhere. 

The tiny cells are made from high-efficiency silicon, like standard solar panels. But the new form means that they're not only small but flexible, and can be folded up for transportation, incorporated into clothing, or easily used in electronics.

Conventional solar panels "are brittle because they're crystalline," Murat Okandan, CEO of mPower Technology, the startup making the new technology, tells Co.Exist. "If you bend or flex them, at some point they'll just break and shatter. By making our cells small and then interconnecting them we're able to make them almost unbreakable."

A satellite could carry a tightly-folded solar array into space, and then deploy it when it reaches orbit; a drone could carry a folded array on its wing. Someone on a camping trip could easily fit a large folded array in a backpack.

"You can charge your devices when you're out backpacking, fold it back up, put it in your backpack, and just go," Okandan says.

The technology also has some advantages for solar power on rooftops. The lightweight cells are easier to move around and faster to install, helping reduce the cost of installation.  Because the cells are arranged in a dense mesh network, they're more resilient; if one cell loses power or is temporarily shaded, it doesn't affect the whole system. Since the cells are more durable than traditional panels, they'll last longer, making the cost of power cheaper. The design also requires less material for the same amount of power.

Okandan first developed the technology at Sandia National Laboratories, which has a program that allows scientists to leave to start new tech companies (while still guaranteeing their job for three years, if they choose to come back). Potential customers are currently testing prototypes of the technology, called Dragon SCALES ("SemiConductor Active Layer Embedded solar"), or, informally, "solar glitter." 

The cost of solar power has fallen dramatically over the last decade, and installations broke records in 2016.  But the new technology could help it become even cheaper and scale more easily, particularly in novel applications.

Adele Peters

Solar Technology

Seeing Double

Buildings clad in glass are my favorite.  The sleek material can reflect its surroundings, or when treated, partially obscure the interior.  I prefer the former because glass-clad buildings allow me to see the reflections of adjacent buildings, landscaping, and on some occasions, the sky above.

On a recent visit, I saw a glass building that reflected the entire landscape onto its facade, becoming one with the plants, trees, and skyline.  But is a glass facade practical for a home?  

Remembering an earlier visit to the Glass House – a home in New Canaan, Connecticut designed by Philp Johnson – and novel at the time, I felt it far too open for my taste.

Then last week, at the Chrysler Museum, I viewed a sculpture comprised of mirrored polished steel.  It too reflected the landscape.  I thought: Why not a mirrored facade for a home?  (Obviously, the thermal dynamics of such a cladding would have to be studied but just imagine the possibilities.)

For a moment, envision a streetscape of homes featuring mirrored facades.  Each would absorb its surroundings, and disappear into the beautiful tableau. 

It's Not Always What You Think

Starting with a sketch, and ending two and a half years later, the client’s scope of work evolved into an entire home remodel.  Recently, the client reached out to us with another project.  We set a date and time, and upon arrival, he showed us the latest space and outlined his requirements.  After, we gathered in the kitchen for a beverage, and our design director embarked on showing some new furniture for his living and study areas.  

As we were standing in the entry about to leave, I had the opportunity to view our work, marveling how well the project culminated.  Hastily, I asked:  So after all the effort, what’s your favorite part of the design?  Thinking he’d reply “why the incredible creativity, and how well you executed the project, and oh, the fact you brought it in on time and under budget.”  

His reply:  “My cooling bill was lower than before.  I hope, my heating bill is too.”

Virginia Beach Interior Remodel and Addition

Virginia Beach Interior Remodel and Addition