Night Viewing

As a devotee of architecture and building design, I feel that I can see things about a structure that others don’t. It takes a trained eye and a lot of time put into the field. I can assure you that every little detail adds up to a complete whole, so it must all attract your attention when you are creating a functional space and nothing must be left out. I love comparing different time periods, particularly the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. There hasn’t been a revolution so to speak, but a lot of innovation has gone on to brand the newer structures as more modern. I reject a lot of old design that I feel tried too hard to make a statement and now just looks weird. Let’s keep the past where it belongs and work toward more appealing visual architecture that works better in a new context.

I am studying the local library right now since it is a focal point in the town and an example of the type of architecture I like. It was so outdated and has been recently remodeled to become a prototype of public buildings that work. Because it is center city, and because it is open at night, a lot of attention was paid to the lighting. As you walk around in a complete panoramic circle, you see different architectural elements like piers and posts that make a pattern due to the lighting effects. With my large police flashlight, I can make my way in the dark in order to be able to take in the finer points of the library.

I did run into a bit of a problem, however, because of the flashlight. It drew too much attention to my presence. I probably looked like a not-so—subtle thief casing the joint as I shone my bright light on the windows and doors. The security guard seem to come out of nowhere with a grand flashlight of his own. He shone it on my face and uttered a brisk “halt!” How was I going to explain what I was doing? I didn’t have any kind of official architect’s identification on me that would justify my close scrutiny of the library. I began to tell him my story. I think I came off as authentic as I recited the names of all the various building parts: posts and lintels, pediments, etc. He seemed to believe me as what thief would have a grasp of such a vocabulary. He proceeded to say that he would not call the police and interrupt my night viewing. It made perfect sense to him by this time. In fact, he asked me to take him on a tour to point out the glorious usage of innovative light. I explained that it was for safety purposes as well as a rich visual appearance. I suspected that the library would be a nice place for a night walk for people wanting to kill a little time after dinner. He thought it was genius.

Modern Architecture Versus Old-Fashioned Architecture

One of the first things that anyone is going to notice about modern architecture is that it is really minimalist. Well, you may not notice that if you’ve never compared it to the more old-fashioned architecture of the nineteenth century and earlier, but it is the sort of thing that you’ll notice if you study a lot of the architectural styles of the past.

Houses constructed during the nineteenth century are tall and ornate with lots of different details, from bay windows to detailed shutters. Lots of modern houses look like boxes. They’re livable boxes, but they’re still boxes. Modern urban apartment buildings look like giant blocks. When you look around the city, you’ll be able to find the big church immediately, because it’s one of the only buildings that hasn’t been constructed according to the most minimalist and time-saving guidelines possible. Although, some modern churches still fit those guidelines anyway, so even then, you’ll really have to look for the older stuff.

There’s a reason for that. It isn’t because everyone’s tastes suddenly changed in the twentieth century and everyone suddenly developed a love for boxes. The nineteenth century homes that are turned into apartments today were houses constructed for the rich, at least for the most part. Maybe a few middle class people had them, but overall these houses functionally weren’t for most people. If you were a poor person and you weren’t living in a tenement residence, you were living in something that you wished was as good as a modern box.

The suburban homes of today were by and large constructed in the 1950s as part of these huge development projects that were taking place at the time. These were constructed in large numbers all across the country, so they had to have a very uniform design and they had to be easy and efficient to construct. It’s hard to construct beautiful architectural works of art in massive numbers like that, so it isn’t surprising that all of these houses had a functional but not especially picturesque appearance. In some cases, the older homes were torn down to make room for these ones anyway, since it was ultimately more cost-effective for everyone to go in that direction.

When it came to the expansion of the urban environments all around the world, the same principles applied. You can effectively store large numbers of people in big, tall, stacked boxes, so it makes sense that large urban environments were going to have these kinds of apartment buildings.

I’m definitely not complaining one way or another. I live in one of these giant boxes inside of other giant boxes myself. I’m perfectly fine with appreciating the really impressive architecture from a distance and acknowledging that it isn’t cost-effective or efficient to fill cities with these sorts of buildings. I don’t blame the developers in the 1950s for anything major. I know why they did what they did. Still, I do want to be able to appreciate the beauty of Old World architecture from afar, knowing that these are the buildings that people still want to see after all these years.

The Complicated Career of Architect Frank Gehry


How do I feel about Frank Gehry? My opinions on him both seem more relevant and less relevant than my opinions on other architects. They’re more relevant than my opinions on the obscure architects that no one outside of architectural circles has ever heard of, since Frank Gehry has been described as one of the most important architects of our time. On the other hand, the simple fact that he is considered so important more or less manages to make my opinions seem unimportant. He’s going to continue to make all of these buildings, and they are going to continue to receive critical acclaim. However, my two cents is at least worth that much.

Some people would say that Frank Gehry has invented the quintessential modern buildings. A lot of his buildings more or less look like giant modern art sculptures, which is a good thing if you actually like modern art sculptures. I never liked them, and I never understood why a sculpture that didn’t look like anything and didn’t take any real technical skill to make was considered to be on par with something like Michelangelo’s David. These sculptures don’t get any more impressive to me just because they’re really large.

In fact, the large and ugly outdoor modern art sculptures that we’ve had to endure thanks to Frank Gehry are so much worse than the modern art sculptures in modern art museums that it isn’t even funny. The modern art sculptures in museums have the advantage of actually being contained. You don’t have to go and look at them if you don’t want to, and you can move onto something else in the museum if you’re still here for the art. Frank Gehry buildings are outdoors, and they occupy a good portion of the landscape in a given city block. You’d have to walk around blindfolded in order to avoid them. A lot of them can be seen from very far away, so it feels like they own a good portion of the horizon. It amazes me that his buildings are considered some of the best in the world, and yet a lot of people still refuse to have windmills in their cities because the sight of windmills somehow offends them.

It is true that taste is subjective. A lot of people obviously love Frank Gehry’s buildings, and I can’t objectively say that there’s anything wrong with them. I acknowledge that. However, there are at least some objective standards in architecture, which isn’t the same as other sorts of art. A sculpture doesn’t do anything, and it isn’t supposed to do anything. You can waste a lot of materials making a sculpture, and at least all you did was create a really unsightly sculpture.

When Frank Gehry wastes building materials for the sake of constructing a building that looks like a lot of folded up and unrolled napkins, he’s wasting materials on a much bigger scale. He’s also wasting them in a way that can be legitimately harmful. His Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA looks like a paper hat wrapped in ribbons, which makes it easy to recognize. It also creates so much glare when the sun hits it from a certain direction that it’s like looking into a magnifying glass that’s being operated by an evil god. I don’t know how many car accidents it has caused, but I do think that everyone who gets into an accident in the area should consider suing Frank Gehry. The building was an eyesore anyway, but now it is an eyesore in a much more literal sense.

To be fair, not all of Frank Gehry’s work is as bad as the Walt Disney Concert Hall. However, he really seems to have a thing for completely useless building forms and buildings that look more like paper airplanes than houses. When people think of bizarre modern architecture, he’s usually one of the first people who comes to mind, and that’s not always a good thing even for them. That means he’s more or less helped set the standard for the way modern buildings can look.

I’ve actually seen residences that appear to be designed according to his principles. He’s created academic buildings and, appropriately enough, art galleries. I do not want to see architecture get remade in his image. I can only hope that his work will be dismissed as a kitschy twentieth century art fad in the future, and that his buildings will be replaced by whatever future styles become popular.

Green Building Design and Architecture

You might not think that architects have that much control over how green a building is. It sounds like it’s the sort of thing that the electricians and the engineers have to take care of, while architects hunch over their T-squares and tilted desks. However, there are plenty of things that architects can do in order to make sure that the buildings are going to be much greener than they would have been otherwise.

For one thing, a lot of green building design involves making use of natural light. Natural light has the advantage of being both free and energy-efficient. A lot of buildings are designed with small windows, or windows that aren’t set up so they’ll get a lot of sun. You have to know which side of the building to take advantage of when it comes to natural light, given the direction of the sunlight in different areas.

You also have to make sure that the windows are energy-efficient themselves and that they are going to retain the heat effectively enough. However, from there, you can make good use of the light that’s already all around us. If you look at a lot of modern green buildings, they will seem to have a futuristic design that favors a lot of windows, as if you’re looking at a giant spaceship. That isn’t just a fashion statement. The architect received orders to make use of the natural light as well as possible.

A lot of green building design isn’t about the shape of the buildings themselves, of course, or any of those other factors. Often times, it all comes down to the building materials. Some building materials retain heat better than others, which means that you don’t have to use as much energy when it comes to heating them. Buildings that are good at maintaining internal temperatures also won’t use as much energy when it comes to air conditioning.

Some of green building design comes down to interior decorating. You need to choose lighting fixtures that don’t use too much energy, and you need to choose sinks that have low water flows. Your lights need to be on timers so you can make sure that you’re not using electricity when no one’s even in the room to see it. Having electricity that flickers on an off based on motion sensors can also work wonders in that regard. However, some of green building design is inherent to the framework of the building itself.

Making a conventional building anywhere near this green would involve extensive remodeling, and even then you’d never quite get it right. You’re generally better off just starting over again and trying to create a building that was green right from the start. Architects and their engineer and energy manager colleagues are managing to do that all over the world, and it is possible that this sort of building design will become standard in the future.

How Much does your Building Weigh?

When thinking about the topic of weights and measures, I automatically asked myself how to apply it to my trade. I am in the business of designing and constructing buildings that have import, that is, “weight.” They matter to the owner or the person doing the development, or the individual who has the original conception. They fulfill a purpose, meet a given taste, satisfy a budget, and more.

A building has weight in the community. It stands for something whether it be an office that employs residence or a home that houses a family. If it is new, it will be judged and deemed successful or not. It adds to its weight if it lasts the test of time. Maybe weight is importance. It implies functional meaning and human purpose. It also denotes the vision of the creator and the ability to make something within prescribed limits that meets practical and aesthetic needs.

Does your building have weight? Most people think that only very special ones do, those constructions that are particularly public and become known as this or that hospital, school, mansion, or civic center. It doesn’t have to be so. Any work that comes from the hands of an architect, planner, engineer, or contractor is worthy of note. Then its existence will be noted as the property is otherwise lived in, used for commerce, or sold.

On the other side of the coin, buildings have literal as opposed to metaphoric weight. They must thus be structurally sound and distribute this weight accordingly down to the very foundation. It must be solid and intact to handle the poundage. It is an engineering feat to make it all work. Weight reduction matters if there are cost associated with certain kinds of structures: metal as opposed to wood, for example, and giant beams that sit on high in oversized great rooms. All of these needs to be calculated – you can’t just throw a building on an oversized set of bathroom scales to work out what it’s weighs in order to determine what the foundations are going to need to support

Anyone who has done remodeling, knows the problem if the removal of a beam or pillar will bring the house down. You may have to keep it in place or create a substitute that is even stronger. With new buildings, the contractor will follow the path begun by architects and engineers. If cost is a factor, they will eliminate unnecessary supports that mar the openness of a room, or add to overall expenses.

What are typical ways to reduce weight and therefore cost? For one, the builder who executes a pre-existing concept must stick to the plan and not cut corners to meet a given budget, no matter how much this pleases the client. Safety comes first. Lack of knowledge is an inherent vice during construction, requiring project managers to hire only licensed and experienced people. The contractor must remain on premises at all times to avoid unforeseen problems. Even the best workers have been known to make mistakes.

Support elements like beams, columns, pillars, and the like must be placed exactly as prescribed. They must be of the stated dimensions. It has all been figured out in advance. If a room needs additional support because it is particularly high, for example, this cannot be ignored. There are ways to disguise this support if it is unsightly or spoils the view across a space.

If you are building a new home and are concerned about earthquakes, for example, you will want to know that every precaution has been put into place. You can read up on construction engineering to get up to speed. This will enable you to make some preliminary judgments when you see your blueprints. It is not always an issue after the fact. During building, especially something large like an office, there can be accidents if load is not taken into careful consideration. There are times when bracing is required while final support is being devised. Safety means conformance to industry standards, so find out what they are and ask the foreman and contractors selected for the job. A life you save may be your own.

In your discussion, you will use terms life like lifting lugs, rigging design, lift beam and frame design, erection aids, crane capacity (if they are in fact used), stability analysis, and more. It may all seem a bit formidable at first. While it is a matter of cost and safety, it is also interesting for onlookers and helps them evaluate and understand the project at hand.

All in all, weight is an issue of import looked at from a variety of perspectives. Know its value, how to anticipate needs, and review final results.

Housing Your Hobbies

A custom home doesn’t just mean it was designed by an architect. It doesn’t mean that it is one of a kind or unique as a distinguishing factor. It does mean that it serves your needs as the resident first and foremost and that rooms are tailored to specific purposes. That’s what custom means to me.

Take the kitchen. The kitchen is the repository of pots and pans; it houses appliances, utensils, china, and glasses. It is the practical room that meets your culinary and nutritional needs. When it is custom, it takes on a status that only granite and stainless steel can provide. We must have the most modern of tastes, even if our kitchens are all alike. There is nothing special or unique about the ubiquitous subway tile and farm sink that are so popular these days. But custom it is if it fulfills our needs.

Then there are the bathrooms, and we do hope you have more than one. They are also functional and basic, although they have taken on spa and luxury connotations. We must bathe in handsome surroundings with state-of-the-art fixtures. Nothing else will do. The floor must be the very best ceramic tile and the coordinating countertop marble. It is custom if it fulfills our need to be pampered; it must make us anxiety free.

Bedrooms house us at night and as such, they must be relaxing abodes that let us wander into slumberland with ease. Our beds are plush, laden with fine cotton sheets and European pillow shams. A duvet will be down and a throw will be cashmere. If the room is custom, it is our favorite color and has the most elegant window shades that keep light in or out as the case the need may be. In addition, perhaps there is a small fireplace in the corner to warm us mentally and physically.

Now we really get into customization. You have an extra room to make into a den, a sewing corner that does double duty for other hobbies like painting or beadwork, or perhaps a small private gym. This will be something that no one else has in just the same way. You design the space, place the furnishings, decorate it, and store your belongings, whatever they are. It could be a collection of dolls, sports equipment, old photos, or baby clothes. The custom room could be a converted garage, patio, former guestroom or nursery. Now it is yours. It is functional, purposeful, and inviting. Maybe you will post a sign that warns, “keep out.”

Having this supplementary space in your home is a godsend and often a rarity if you have kids or live-in parents. College students still want a room to come home to. So sometimes you have to wait; but when a room becomes available and you start to make choices, it becomes an exciting proposition. Have you always wanted a game room or a man cave to which you can invite friends? A place to put the most giant plasma TV? A custom room would have a beautiful stained wood bar, a mini fridge, a sink with hot and cold water, and a wine cooler set at the perfect temperature. It would have a sofa to die for in terms of comfort and style and maybe a few chairs here and there for visitors.

Large basements make great game rooms, and they are spacious enough to give mom a little room in the corner for the trusty sewing machine. If you put in a sofa bed, it works perfectly as a makeshift guestroom. Be sure to put in closets that once opened will reveal entertainments of all kinds. People can pick what they like, a kind of free-for-all. That would be a custom game room, tailored to many tastes.

Housing your hobbies is thus an easy proposition once you decide you must have a designated area either for you alone or for friends and family. You can be that one house on the block where everyone wants to go, or you can retreat into a netherworld of your own making. Once you know your options, you can begin to design the space.

Houses are thus more than a compilation of kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms. They have more than pools, yards, stoops, driveways, and flower beds. There are special places that make the place custom and proprietary, done for your needs alone. You can’t buy it the way you want in most cases. It is a remodel or redecorating job that will challenge your ability to adapt and change—and on a budget. It will no doubt be among the best decisions you have ever made.

Architects Need To Understand the Landscape

Some people will look at all of the terrible disasters that have happened in the history of modern architecture, and they may wonder how any of this could have happened in the first place. I think a lot of this simply comes down to the fact that some architects only focus on the building, apparently under the impression that the building is going to be constructed in a vacuum. They don’t always give enough thought to the fact that this building is going to be constructed in a location that may contribute to the stability of the building, or it might detract from it. Too many architects get enamored with their own unique creations that they seem to forget that they’re not sculptors who are designing something in order to put it on a pedestal.

The case of a certain Shanghai complex is a perfect example. This is a building that actually collapsed. There aren’t that many buildings that collapse during an architect’s career, largely because this is the sort of thing that can end an architect’s career. However, the reason the building collapsed is that it was constructed on a riverbank, or at least near one. The land and the terrain that’s near rivers tends to be very unstable, which isn’t good news for the people who build anything there, and is especially bad news for the people who want to live in anything that they built.

At least the building that collapsed didn’t take any other buildings with it, although that was a serious risk and it almost happened. However, the building itself was actually designed pretty well as far as I could tell. It was just in the wrong location. If it had been released in a vacuum, it would have been fine. If it had been released on a steadier terrain, it would have been fine. As such, it was constructed on terrain that would not have been favorable for any building, let alone a building that was housing a lot of different people.


Clean Water for Your Home

In every part of the world, there are places where the water is not clean. You don’t even want to bathe in it, not to mention drink it or cook a good meal. In these cases, water filtration is absolutely and unequivocally required. But its use in buildings from commercial to residential is now commonplace everywhere, even with acceptable (tested) water conditions.

Getting clean water simply means paying up for a filtration system that will give you chemical-free liquid every time. It will mean your ice cubes are pure, your tap water is potable, and your shower spray is soft and conditioned. There are several processes, so let’s have a closer look.

The ads tout salt-free softening, carbon filtration, sediment filtration, and last but not least, bacterial protection. This is want most people want, and get—all for an installation and monthly contract price. It depends on how many kitchens and bathrooms you have. The companies guarantee softer skin and hair and better coffee and tea. But it is much more than that. Your water comes out better than bottled ensuring the health of everyone in your home.

In some places, water has a distinct taste, even if it has been deemed acceptable. This is why people love bottled and will pay the price. This is a big issue for people in addition to the issue of better chemical-free health. We have the idea, and it is not a fantasy, that certain “ingredients” in local water make it tainted. There is some truth to that in many areas. To be safe, a water filtration system can be installed quickly and easily. No more cases of water stacked in your garage!

Hard water is gone as softer treated water enters the premises. You can feel the difference when you wash your hair or face. Hard water is hard on face and hands. And there should never be that slippery feel that many dislike. If you want beneficial elements left in, so be it! Plus your pets will be happier and lap up the fresh contents of their water bowl in no time flat.

By the way, hard water leaves a residue on pipes and in appliances as a kind of scale. It is tough to remove. You have seen glasses laden with minerals. Filtered or treated water will prevent this from happening. Less time cleaning appliances and glassware is a big plus. Hard water also makes toilets, fixtures, showerheads, and sinks show evidence of minerals. Again, add up the time it takes to clean it all and the savings achieved in supplies. No doubt filtered water eliminates wear and tear on appliances and fixtures and makes maintenance a breeze. (A new tankless water heater can cost you from $500 to $1500, whereas a whole house water filtration system will only cost a fraction of that, at $50-$100 for each filter unit including housing.) There will be less replacement and costly repairs. Scale builds up in the water heater, too, giving you further cause for concern.

Experts say it is useful for parts of your garden, indoor and out. It is done without salt which appears to be a benefit as it saves money on costly supplies. On top of all of this, you save even more money on laundry soap—yes, that is a fact. Hard water is a deterrent to suds, necessitating more and more soap to do the job.

Water filtration is thus just about required these days in new construction. It is tops on many lists. In addition to chemical treatment, ultraviolet light can be used, a bit more environmentally friendly. Industry standards are getting better all the time as they safeguard water from microbial and chemical contamination. You can be sure that waterborne pathogens that cause illness are not in play.

In, water systems serve to filter bad taste and smell from drinking water along with bathing and showering benefits. Anyone with dry hair should care. Carbon filters that are virtually maintenance-free are used to screen sediment. Cooking with treated water also means less odor in food. People swear by the difference. Chlorine is adsorbed and can taint flavor. You know how it is in your pool (hence the popularly of salt water systems). It abuses your skin and hair badly, making the body itch and feel uncomfortable.

The choice is yours, but any good contractor with some foresight ought to ask about installing a good cost-effective water filtration system. He will give you a quote, and you can go from there. It will be a wise decision I can guarantee. You won’t have to have a giant delivery truck come roaring down the street to your door with heavy, impossible-to-lift bottles. It is all internal, hooked up to the house’s main line.

A Fine Fireplace for a Fine Home

e02fdfb3b1f277c9db9ebbbece226924How many home and garden shows have I seen on TV where a young couple buying a “fixer upper” wants to change the fireplace right out of the box. It is “dated,” an eyesore, and “it has to go.” It is usually made of brick from floor to ceiling with a modest tile hearth that has seen better days. When did that become a horrendous detriment to the décor? Stone is just as bad. People find it cumbersome, heavy-looking, and too rural in tone. What looks good in a ski lodge looks unsightly on a living room wall.

The designer accompanying the prospective buyers on these TV shows tells them how great it will look when redone and does some computer graphics to show just how. Wham! In a second, the atrocious monster is a sleek modern warming pit ready for real wood or gas logs. It seems that fireplaces have always been the focal point of a great room, and everyone wants one, even in Arizona. After all, the temperature could drop to 70 degrees!

Fireplaces add charm, grandeur, modern style, and utilitarian function depending on how they are build. Outside on the patio, they are the perfect accompaniments to the ubiquitous grill and lounge chairs. Wherever you want them, a full-scale version is best, but you can buy freestanding and portable models as well. Some more modern, minimalistic room designs, like the one in the photograph, are swapping the traditional fireplace for a modern wood stove unit instead. It all depends on the size of your room and the final effect you desire. They all have their assets.

An elegant home that deserves the name must have a fine fireplace. The smallest apartment needs one of those built-in TV size units that operates at the flick of a switch (the worst case scenario is an actual screen with a film of fire). A mansion demands a commanding presence more than a few feet wide. Marble can be magnificent when it fills the eye with its swirling, reflective grandeur. Imported tiles are also nice and various kinds of stone that are a far cry from the old crudely cut boulders that use to be so common. Who ever thought that equated with luxury? It was décor for the sake of décor, but not of taste!

Mantles add the final fillip to any concept and they come in every possible style and size. A fireplace begs for a good one upon which you can place special objects like photos, vases, and artwork. TVs often are mounted above any sort of personal paraphernalia. What you have to decide is your overall look: country, urban modern, retro, log cabin comfy, ranch, English Tudor, or French Provencal. If you look up these styles, you will see the differences, clearly expressed through certain furnishings, colors, textures, and accessories.

A simple plank of hewn wood with a light stain gives a far different impression than finely-carved wood (hard to find any more so be ready to make the rounds of the antique stores). You can buy an entire fireplace frame including the mantle if you are open to spending a few bucks. These are recycled from older homes, especially mansions, from a time when craftsmanship was valued. The wood and finish can be glorious. There are also replicas that can be painted or stained in any color you like.

Modern mantles are simpler. An expanse of wood or marble is all it takes to become a long pedestal for your favorite objets d’art. This is not usually carved and has a sleeker finished than a ranch mantle. Sometimes you want the thing to just disappear and not make much of a statement. There are plenty of fireplaces that have no mantle, especially those pre-fab that you just slot into place in a recessed area of your wall. Many people who build custom bookshelves like to keep an area open at the bottom for a faux fireplace for looks.

A fireplace in the bedroom is a luxury indeed. It is usually smaller and less of a focal point, but it does add warmth and visual appeal. If you house comes with it, consider yourself lucky as they are hard to add after the fact. Portable models that sit on the floor are a bit too rustic for a sleeping area.

All in all, you can see that a fireplace can be a major style and décor issue for most any home. It will spark up your space and add pizzazz. Having them in any numbers surely adds to the resale value of a home, especially when they have been cleaned up and redone.

Backing up the Home

The state-of-the-art modern 21st century home isn’t what we envisioned decades ago when we started fantasizing about it, but it has come pretty close. The spaceship-like abode of the future never appeared, although many of the internal gadgets have. You can virtually run your home from your phone if you want to. What a boon to busy people who are often away.

Thermostats can be regulated and temperatures controlled; the fireplace gas log can go off or on. The coffeemaker is timed just right for the morning ritual and the toaster browns your favorite bread just right. The freezer will never go on the fritz and the lights will never go out, unless it is desired. Your bath water is perfect, heated by solar panels on the roof. It is a marvel of modern living all done electronically. But it does depend on power, whatever the source.

Built into such homes are standby backup generators like these so nothing can miss a beat. In the worst storm, your heating will be intact and in hot summer blazes, your AC will function. Your security system will not go on the blink during any power surge. Gone are the days when you have to activate the thing yourself, not to mention go out to the garage and uncovering it under layers of tarp. You can stay within the comforts of your home during all seasons of the year, knowing that it will take care of any plight.

A generator is a machine that produces electricity that can power appliances to a total home depending upon its size. The old ones were simple motors; the new ones are computerized. Basically it does not so much create energy as convert it from another source. A generator forces the movement of electric charges present in the wire of its winding through an external electric circuit. It is like a water pump which causes water to flow, while it is not actually creating the liquid itself.

A generator’s role is more or less the same: to provide power during outages or as an additional energy source where no other is available. As such they work on fuel such as gas, and batteries (for the start function). People think of them for camping and outdoor activities, for example to provide lights at a concert in the park. They can power your computer, radio, hair dryer, microwave, and more.

When used for a home as a built-in appliance in its own right, a generator is part of your total energy system. It is part of one’s backup system as well to be used in case of emergency. Every homeowner should give this requirement serious thought. You never know when lightening will literally strike and put your electrical power out of commission.

Having a generator in your home for lightening, cooking, air conditioning, and the like is to be prepared. It can be used at a moment’s notice. Lost power need not be a catastrophe requiring a myriad of candles and a few flashlights. There is almost no transition when it is installed correctly.

A caveat is that a professional will have to put this device in place. Don’t try to do it on your own as you can seriously damage your generator, and they are rather expensive as you might know. Treat it right and it will work hard for you and your family. Plus, if you have a contractor do the work, you will no doubt have the device covered under warranty. You will also know that all safety measures have been taken.

A good generator can last the lifetime of a home, or at least a very long stay. If you invest properly in the right unit, you will do everyone a service. Think of a family member stuck at home in the dark or an elderly person without heat. Deaths occur during bad weather, both hot and cold, implying that power is the preserver of life.

Portable generators can cause thousands of dollars and so can a large one that will run your home in a pinch. It pays to learn about different systems to evaluate what your contractor is presenting. You will want an easy-to-use control panel with a clearly marked start and shut down buttons. Buying a known brand at a fair price will put you in good stead if adversity rears its ugly head. Your life will not be disrupted in the event of an outage. Owning a generator is to have the ultimate peace of mind.

Protecting Your Castle from Attack

If you have had an onslaught of termites, or even the more harmless ants, you know what it means to protect your castle from attack. It is so destructive to have pests eat away at the timbers of your home or to feast on window sills and trim. It can be prohibitive to replace all existing wood if the process has gone too far. Hence, the real estate laws that protect would-be buyers by requiring pre-deal inspections to ensure there are no lurkers about.

If they are, buyer beware; and seller, you can cringe. It has to be taken care of. It doesn’t matter if you tent the entire premises or treat it more gently with environmentally-friendly orange oil. It has to pass muster with the powers that be. Pests are thus not only disreputable and disgusting, but they can raid your pocketbook as well.

The rest of the homeowners in the world that have long ago made their purchase are responsible for any treatment they discover is required. Your monthly serviceman may notice droppings, or you may see the telltale signs on your own. There can be dead insects with the customary winged appearance, or you can see wood shavings at times. If a bit of panic besets you, it is because you know the cost of eradication. Thousands of dollars can take its toll on the household budget. Plus there is the embarrassment that a giant ugly tent brings in one’s neighborhood!

Imagine a scenario like this. A realtor is showing a lovely home with a garden. Everything looks so Edenic and pristine. It just feels clean inside and out. The owner has gone to great lengths to fix leaky faucets, exposed wires, and any fire hazards perceived. The furniture has been carefully staged, or arranged in an attractive and comfortable manner. All seems well. Until the prospective clients spies a bit of termite dust. All hell can break loose as a result. Even if the seller agrees to treatment, the place now seems unclean. Buyers fear a chemical residue that they and their pets might have to breather in.

The house can be a new one on the market with remodeling done only a few years ago. It will now have a tarnished reputation! Older buildings are usually the victims, making contractors and builders less savvy about the pests. It depends on where you live and the climate of course. They know little about subterranean or dry wood control.

But any homeowner should. Imagine your chagrin when you have friends visit and they are seated down for a nice meal at the dining table. Imagine further some ants crawling all over the table, coming up the leg of your dining room table and streaming into a hole in the corner of the room. Or worse, the unpleasantness of your guests discovering a cockroach running across the floor. It is not a pretty picture, my friend – after all, it reflects poorly on you as a host and home owner.

So when you see them, immediately send them packing. Hire a reputable service and hear what they have to say. There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say in the woods. You want a healthy and safe environment after treatment, and certainly because of it.

The word fumigation used to cross all lips the moment the dreaded termites were first mentioned. It is a scary word denoting heavy toxic chemicals that invade every nook and cranny of your home, resting there and potentially wreaking havoc on health. Those days are long gone and modernization has reached pest control. It is coordinated to the type of termite found. The subterranean are said to be the most destructive. They can collapse a building if they feel like it. You don’t want them around. They are attracted to moisture and like to congregate around plumbing leaks. They live in huge colonies making treatment a pretty extensive job.

On the other hand, dry termites love firewood and they are wont to dwell happily within. You will see a kind of swarm of black bugs. As a result, scrap wood should be stored well away from a home. They are resilient and can jump easily from one place to another.

There are dampwood termites, too, that are not as hard to eradicate if you clean up moisture. But the Formosan variety are killers, lurking in wet places, concrete slabs and walls. You are going to have a major job on your hands, so start saving now.

It is clear that pest control is part of building ownership and it can happen to the best of us. You can take some precautions in regard to moisture, but it is most often a case of treatment after the fact.

Building for Pools, and Pools for Building

02-marina-bay-sands-singapore-pool_1600Water features are more than a finishing touch on a building project or just something you add on for interest at the end of a job. They may be part of the exterior design in conjunction with landscaping, but they work together with a building, or group of them, to create a total concept or environment. Sometimes it is for the purpose of water recreation, and often it is a matter of artistic “finish” as when pools, ponds, and fountains bring a welcome touch of décor. In any case, the goal is to be innovative and meaningful.

In old world architecture, back to the Italian Renaissance, the look was representative of the time. Major constructions such as palaces and public buildings were done in the Greco-Roman revival style (complete with pediments, posts and lintels, etc. and putti spouting fountains) or Baroque, with lots of swirling, exciting forms bedecking a massive water system. They could go ultra-ornate, as in the Rococo period, or Romantic in the 19th century which water grottos were de rigueur (complete with real moss and stone statues). It is a lot of fun to look at the best designers had to offer in the distant past.

In the 20th century, the Olympic swimming pool was the ubiquitous features in mansions and at resorts that did not have ocean views. After all, the sea is a landmark that captivated attention from afar, drawing people to come and relax, have some fun in the sun. Many people started to take up underwater sports with advances in the 20th century in underwater access, through the development of affordable snorkel marks and of course, scuba gear becoming a lot more accessible than the initial designs of solid helmets and suits filled with air tethered to the boat above. It became so commonplace as to be expected; and early awes turned to cordial compliments. Right from the start, landscaping had to work around its giant presence. Palm trees began to propagate.

In the 20th century, the hallmark of luxury in water features is the infinity pool that creates the magic illusion of extending forever. What new or remodeled Malibu home doesn’t have one? Don’t be confused by infinity and endless pools. They are not the same animal. While the smaller endless pool accommodates a swimmer doing laps, the infinity pool can work in a desert or ocean setting to become one with the distant horizon. With an endless pool, there are no flip-turns thanks to a variable speed current. Some call it a treadmill for swimmers, but it is also quite picturesque when adorned with exquisite tiles and painted a deep color.

The infinite edge pool, as it is also known, or the vanishing edge pool has one or more exposed wall called a weir. This is a pinch shorter than water level, causing water to flow into a catch basin positioned below. The result is a stunning sense of infinity as an optical illusion. It is a wonderful structural and mechanical feat (massive pumps keep the water going constantly. The Olympic pool pales in comparison in spite of its larger size because it is just more of the same traditional concept.

What it all comes down to, apart from some rather pleasant encounters, is form and function in some kind of special synergy. The utilitarian aspects of fountains, ponds, and pools has to meld with a desired appearance. In the best and most innovative work, the purpose is expressed creatively. This means that there is a true aesthetic sense required to conceive of projects that enhance a garden or backyard space, but do not contradict the building style. You would not want a sprawling mess of an English garden, for example, with a French chateau style home complete with manicured lawn, fountains and statuary. They are not even distant relatives.

Knowing the history of art and styles is thus a pre-requisite for designers, contractors, and planners. There is also more than a modicum of engineering involved for the main architect. If a team is at work, a unified concept should be offered that transcends the ideas of each member.

Given raw land, or maybe the bare bones of a structure, is like a blank sheet of paper for a drawing or a raw canvas for a painter. You can make of it what you will. You can transform earth and sky with the addition of your own natural elements. A water feature grabs the eye and takes it to a mythic place inhabited by nature spirits. There are so many associations to make with each and every one. Even the most modern, sleek pool or fountain has its story to tell.

Deciding on which water feature to include, and imagining the right shape, proportions, and size takes a level head with a huge dose of artistry mixed with in. Do you want a gazebo nearby, a greenhouse, or a heated indoor pool? It is an enjoyable aspect of any building project, and you always welcome the opportunity.

About Bathroom Design

7Interior design is a luxury for many who buy tract homes and have to settle for builder’s grade finishes. Cost savings dictates generic looks and run-of-the-mill appearances. This is particularly the case with kitchens and bathrooms since they entail fixtures of all kinds, where style becomes apparent. If you are allowed to make choices, no doubt the word “upgrade” would cross your lips.

There are wonderful ways to construct a bathroom these days, and you just don’t want to miss out. Watch TV and read the magazines. People want spa-like spaces that make them feel relaxed and unstressed. They want a retreat that is up to date and uses the latest devices like low-water flush toilets and knobless sinks. They want to feel pampered when doing the most mundane activities. If you want to please your customer as a bathroom designer, there are now certain requirements advised. The smallest room in the house is hardly the least important.

It is always about form follows function in this most private room of the house, but it is also about a luxurious appearance to be sure. When vast numbers of faceless, nameless homes grew up after World War II, there was a tub or shower, a toilet and a sink with some added white tile. It was all about basics and nothing more-all in a pretty diminutive space. There were no “en suite” master baths, only Jack and Jill. If you had a stylish home with a big more grandeur, you might have some Malibu or Mexican tile, or the ubiquitous combo of pink and black. This was a paean to Art Deco and it was rife.

In the sixties, aqua reigned supreme as popular color number one. Sometimes you saw tubs and matching sinks and johns in pink or burgundy as well. Color was hot. Taste was minimal. It was a time of avocado and turquoise kitchens that held stacks of plastic Melmac dishes. They mirrored the color scheme of the bathroom if you could call it that. But things were still basic. As time wore on, marble was added to sink countertops or tub ledges for real pizzazz. It wasn’t just for powder rooms any more.

People seem to be able to identify when a house was built by the look of the bathroom and kitchen. They can put a date on it right away. We all know about stainless steel replacing just about any other stove and refrigerator option. Too much brass was used in bathrooms for a time as the accent metal and too much grout in the ever-widening tile. The look did not last in popularity and begged for a transformation. The late 20th century saw a change. The mansions of the 80’s were Dynasty personified, and the bathrooms followed suit. They got bigger and better. Floors were heated as were towel bars. Finishes improved. When things calmed down after a decade or two, and a few economic recessions later, the spa look came into being. It worked for any size room.

More and more people were joining gyms during the initial stages of the fitness craze. They are now hooked on exercise. The “me generation” wants to stay fit and young, even as they age. They started to look around when first exposed to the new-look gyms and came to appreciate that less is more. A spa style meant clean lines, granite or marble, not too much metal, and never gold or brass. It meant fixtures that look like sculptures and toilets that rivaled that of a prince in quality and style. No tacky decorations, shower curtains, decals, or window treatments. No area rugs that match your tissue holder and toilet seat.

Plush white folded towels, as dense and thick as sheepskin, are laid elegantly on beautiful chrome bars that cost a pretty penny. You have to have more than a few. They match your cabinet knobs that look hand-made, never mass produced. Tissue holders, toilet paper dispensers, and medicine cabinets are completely reborn. The look is stunning and you have to have it. Those who can afford to update are standing in line to get new bathrooms that rivals the best spas. Showers have pebble stone floors and high end fixtures like rain shower heads for two people or more. There is glass everywhere but no wall to wall mirrors. Music is piped in and soap comes from France. It is the epitome of the modern loo.

It is an exciting time for interior designers who want to create individual looks for the new generic concepts. They are experimenting with more than gray, white, and black. They are seeking alternatives to subway tile and mosaic inlays. We are all waiting to see the results.

Keeping the Use of a Building in Mind

One of the things that you’ll notice about a lot of modern artists is that their pieces of art will only make sense to them. When they try to explain it, the entire piece seems to fall apart. I sometimes feel that way about some modern architects. The fact that they’re designing buildings makes the ‘falling apart’ bit more literal and devastating in some cases. In other cases, they just end up causing problems out of carelessness and a seeming inability to predict how their buildings will interact with the real world.

There was a hotel that seemed to have been constructed entirely out of glass, or at least with enough glass that it would generate some truly spectacular glare. This was the Vdara Hotel & Spa, Las Vegas, NV, so you could say that this level of tackiness was to be expected. However, the sunlight rays managed to bounce off the glass and hit the guests who just wanted to lounge by the pool in peace.

Normally, you would think that they would appreciate that someone decided to augment their tans. However, the rays were so strong that some people actually ended up with singed hair. When you have that much glass, you’re not so different from a kid with a magnifying glass and a bunch of ants.

I’m sure the big glass building looked great on paper. I’m sure the idea that these sunlight rays would actually singe people would seem like an absurd worry on paper. A lot of architects today seem to think according to their papers however, and they need to be able to broaden their perspectives or things like this are just going to keep happening.