Introducing Patrick!

Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to join the team at Board & Vellum! What an amazing group of people to work with. I am only in my second week at B&V and I already feel at home. Ever since I was a young dude growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma I had a passion for drawing and designing things. I really had a lot of fun designing my own cars. I would get pretty detailed with some of them. I would even take into account what the stitching in the interior would look like and whether or not the steering wheel was wood or wrapped in leather. I also was a huge Lego fan…and still am!

Standing out in red!
Standing out in red!

I continued to have that drive for designing things. The summer after my Junior year of High School, I took a 5 week pre-college architecture program at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. I learned so much about architecture and art at Parsons. It really exposed me to the life of an architecture student, and I loved it. I also knew I wanted to be in a larger city that had great architecture. After graduating from high school, I continued my path to become an Architect and moved to Chicago for college. Chicago was the perfect city to learn about architecture. It is beautiful! 

In May of 2013, I graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology with a 5 year professional degree in Architecture. During my time at IIT, I learned even more about architecture and about myself. IIT taught me how to build and design a building from passion and skills. It was important for me to not just learn how to design a building, but to understand how the building was constructed.

IIT College of Architecture 2nd year final studio presentation.
IIT College of Architecture 2nd year final studio presentation.

Chicago Skyline
Chicago Skyline

I did learn a great deal at IIT, but where I really started to fully understand the architecture process was at my first job, Myefski Architects. I worked at Myefski for two years and then decided I needed a change and to get a new perspective on life and architecture. That change ended up being a move to Seattle!

Chicago CANstruction food drive. Myefski team built a gorilla all out of cans! 
Chicago CANstruction food drive. Myefski team built a gorilla all out of cans!

People ask me how’s life living in Seattle so far and I reply “it’s like taking a breath of fresh air.” Seattle has a very good energy. It is very exciting. There’s so much opportunity here and it’s thriving. I have SO much to explore and I look forward to continuing my new adventure in Seattle and at Board & Vellum.

Machinery Park + Kayaking = Super fun
Machinery Park + Kayaking = Super fun

How long should my remodel process take?

All of you here in Seattle have seen the towering cranes and the seemingly endless construction sites around this beautiful city. It is boomtown right now and consequently, things are busy! That means that scheduling out your project takes careful preparation to properly plan your life and ensure that things happen in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve written before about how long it takes to truly plan a remodel, but I wanted to go into more detail to illustrate what you should expect when thinking about remodeling your home.

I’ve built a generic project schedule for a typical remodel we see here; a second story addition to a house in Seattle. Assume that the lot is normal (no steep slopes or crazy wetlands…seriously watch for frogs – they can trip you up), that there is no General Contractor selected, and that it will require a full permit review. I’ve shown a contract signing date of September 1, 2015 so you can understand roughly when things happen after that. This assumes a pretty normal and not overly-aggressive schedule and should help you understand the different items in play.

The overall schedule moves from phase to phase with some minor overlap as needed to keep things moving
The overall schedule moves from phase to phase with some minor overlap as needed to keep things moving

First we’ll measure the house, then run through a general analysis (pre-design) of the site, and then dive into Schematic Design. If you want to know more about that process you can check out my recap here.

The early parts of the project involve lots of meetings
The early parts of the project involve lots of meetings

Once we complete Schematic we’ll use our Schematic Pricing set to get an update on where we are in terms of cost. We’ll tweak the scope, define the scope, and then move ahead selecting a General Contractor and clarifying the scope of work. Note that sometimes the “value engineering” portion can take much longer than the one week allotted here as it involves a long process of weighing the pros and cons of what you include in your remodel to meet your budget. Here’s some additional thoughts on finding that contractor.

Selecting a Contractor is a key factor in getting accurate pricing and confidence to move ahead
Selecting a Contractor is a key factor in getting accurate pricing and confidence to move ahead

Now we dive into the Permit set. Right now even calling for a permit intake appointment in Seattle can mean that you don’t get an appointment for 2 months (remember all those building cranes….yeah, they’re slowing things down at the City). There’s a lot that happens here, and even after we submit there will be corrections and some time spent processing that. This length of time is a big variable and it is best to leave a lot of slop here to plan for the unexpected.

The first part of the Design Development and Permitting phase involves lots of lining things up to ensure things move smoothly
The first part of the Design Development and Permitting phase involves lots of lining things up to ensure things move smoothly
Once we submit for permit there's still a very normal back and forth with the City for permit corrections
Once we submit for permit there’s still a very normal back and forth with the City for permit corrections

After we submit for Permit we will actually dive into the Construction Documents to wrap up supplemental details needed by the Contractor. It is at this phase that we’ll typically finalize a lot of the interior finishes and details. Once we get the final permit corrections we’ll wrap them into this set and then issue the final set of construction documents.

The later phases of the project take more time and are far more detailed
The later phases of the project take more time and are far more detailed

When construction begins we are almost 9 months from the signing of the contract. Add another 6 months (that is a big variable depending on your scope of work as it could easily be 9 months or more) and you’re looking at least 15 months for your total project duration.

The other factor to consider, of course, is when your design team can start. We are divided into teams here with each team having different availability for their project load. Some teams are almost 6 months out at this point while others still have some availability in a few months. It changes weekly, of course, so being able to lock things in with our clients earlier on helps us plan ahead and feel confident with the schedule.

From my conversations with clients, there’s unfortunately a clear misunderstanding about how long this process takes (things don’t happen as quickly as you see on TV!). I hear easily 75% of the time when talking to someone about their project that they’d like to be done in no more than 12 months (often even 4 or 6 months). As you can see from the diagrams above, that timeline is very challenging or impossible for a project with full permit review. We’re always happy to walk you through options to expedite the schedule, but if you go into it knowing how long things should take if done properly you’ll be able to manage your expectations and come out with a better project. And, of course, when you work with us we’ll give you a tailored schedule to help you move forward.

Night School Recap

Night School attendees
Our first installment of Night School was a success! A dedicated group from B&V, along with a handful of outside guests kicked off the event. We ate, drank, watched a wonderful documentary (Citizen Architect), and enjoyed a critical discussion about the role of architects, pro-bono work, student workforce, and adhering to building code. This all proved to be an exciting beginning to something we plan to continue into the future and share with all of you.

The night was inspiring. The legacy of Sam Mockbee and the Rural Studio is one of commitment to community and the humble role of the architect in society. One of the most exciting points was that this educational model is producing innovations in cost-effective design and construction solutions. For instance, one of the major initiatives at the Rural Studio is the 20K house whereby students conceive of and work with families in the community to create houses which, including labor, cost only $20,000. This initiative is a direct response to the highest mortgage a person can receive on Social Security assistance alone.

20k house-  sylvia's house resized

In our discussion, we both praised and critiqued the model. Architects have a long and dark history of testing ideas on the disadvantaged and our group was careful to acknowledge this in our discussion. The work of the Rural Studio, as we discovered, breaks from this model by growing a relationship with the community and truly becoming a part of Hale County. We saw fit to compare this to other design-build learning initiatives in which some in attendance had participated, that were not as well integrated into the community. It helped the discussion that a number of people at our first evening had done design-build work in Vermont, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and China.

B&V Night School

So will we continue this experiment of Night School? Absolutely! We were pleased with the conversation and open format of the night and look forward to putting on more Night School evenings. The format and topics have intentionally been left somewhat undefined. The hope is that as a result the event will grow and evolve over time and become shaped by the people in attendance and the developing conversation. If you happen to be able to make an evening, you will be helping to shape something that we are very excited about here at B&V. Look for our next evening of Night School in a couple of months. For now, I will leave you with a few links to tide you over until next time.

Local Lectures and Events:

space.city
Seattle Architecture Foundation
University of Washington Department of Architecture Lecture Series
Arcade Magazine
AIA Seattle

Thought Provoking Blogs:

BLDG BLOG
99% Invisible
Archinect
But Does it Float?
But Does it Float?

Jeff’s (current) top 10 design elements to watch for

A few posts ago, I described a bit about how our design process works and how we collaborate as a team to ensure that we get the best design for our clients. The funny part about design, of course, is that we designers start to see trends and patterns and are able to “read” floor plans quite quickly to determine what will work or not work. It is a skill that takes time but once mastered, you’ll find that you can quickly review a floor plan and come up with some viable options or identify which options will be dead-ends. Bathrooms take up certain dimensions, so do hallways, and it ends up being like a virtual Tetris game.

As much as I love playing Tetris with your home, it is inevitable that I’ve developed a few design or space-planning approaches which I keep coming back to. I’ve heard a few times around the office “Jeff will want the bathroom this way,” so I thought it would be fun to discuss a few of my current “hot-button issues”. Basically things that I feel passionate about or often, things that I’ve learned after the fact that maybe weren’t the best design solutions (usually experiments I did on my own house). I can be talked out of them sometimes, but these are issues I think that everyone should be thinking about (and they’re absolutely in no order).

1) An 8’ x 12’ Master Bathroom is extremely efficient, luxurious, and about the best footprint for fitting in a generous shower, soaking tub, dual sinks, and a separate toilet area.

Here is a quick sketch of how all of the typical Master bathroom elements fit in this footprint.  There are numerous options for door placement as well.
Here is a quick sketch of how all of the typical Master bathroom elements fit in this footprint. There are numerous options for door placement as well.

2) Speaking of toilet rooms, put the lights on a dimmer (you don’t want to wake yourself up at 2am) and try to get a surfaced mounted fixture which aims the light up. Downlights provide lots of glare while sitting and reading. And although the combo light-and-fan fixture is certainly tempting, you can’t dim it so stay away.

3) Switch the lights next to your TV or pull-down theater screen separately from the lights in the main space. You’ll regret it if you don’t (I know I do, it was a big WHOOPS on my own house).

See those two lights next to the wall (you can see the slot for the movie screen in the ceiling), yeah, those should have been on a separate switch
See those two lights next to the wall (you can see the slot for the movie screen in the ceiling), yeah, those should have been on a separate switch

4) Squeeze in a separate washer/dryer closet on your second floor near the bedrooms. Get the smaller 24” footprint washers and use it as a supplement to a larger laundry room elsewhere (if you can’t fit a full one on the second floor). It may seem like an extravagance but once you have both you’ll never know how you lived without it. There’s almost never not enough room for it.

5) Is this a forever house? Plan for an elevator now with stacked closets.

In this new house, we found room for an elevator which will connect all the floors of the house
In this new house, we found room for an elevator which will connect all the floors of the house

6) At all costs, avoid having two materials on the same plane. Materials should always die at an inside corner, not adjacent to another material. How materials transition is paramount to a design feeling complete and harmonious. I’ve written about this before and it is still true.

This transition is just so painfully bad
This transition is just so painfully bad

7) If I can avoid it (it isn’t always possible), I prefer a switchback stair with a landing. This is a relatively illogical request as straight run stairs are far more efficient and perfectly fine….except that I have an illogical fear of falling down those stairs. Stairs can make or break a house.

In this project we carefully considered the stair location and it helped tie all the floors together
In this project we carefully considered where the stair went and helped it tie all the floors together

8) Avoid overhead lights above mirrors. Get big sconces on either side of the mirror instead. I know they don’t look as uniformly nice and that it is harder to find good examples, but try! Zombie lighting makes me nuts.

Avoid this at all costs
Avoid this at all costs

9) You don’t need as much space between an island and a kitchen counter as most people say you need. Most space planning guides will tell you that you need 4’ clear and maybe, if you absolutely have to, 3’-6” at a minimum. They’re full of lies. Living in the city we have to deal with tighter spaces. If you have enough circulation area and the space between the island and the counter is “protected space,” meant to be used by one person, go with 3’. I have around 2’-9” at my own house and I have never once thought it was too tight.

See that space between the stove and the island?  it is less than 3' and we love it.
See that space between the stove and the island? it is less than 3′ and we love it.

10) No 45 degree angles inside your house. Every now and then they do present a dignified solution to a problem but 99% of the time they don’t. They present the easy solution, not a graceful one. I’ve written about this before.

I snapped this picture of a rental house while on vacation.  There was a better solution and this just screams "cheap builder design answer".  It is bad.
I snapped this picture of a rental house while on vacation. There was a better solution and this just screams “cheap builder design answer”. It is bad.

Those are my hot issues at the moment. You can be assured that our Project Associates are very conscious of the above list, and most of the design options I review in the office steer clear. Luckily too, they also know when to push me on these ideas and if they decide to stray from the above, they come to the table with a great argument. Being able to defend our ideas and concepts is what makes us able to better communicate with our clients.

Except, of course, if the solution is a 45 degree angle at a jog in the corridor. That is just not allowed.

B&V’s First Built Green Certified Project

Ballard Locks Residence

It’s been a long process, but we just received confirmation that our Ballard Locks Residence has qualified for a 4-Star Rating in the Built Green program!

Built Green Logo RGB

By way of background, Built Green is an environmentally-friendly, non-profit, residential building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, developed in partnership with King County, Snohomish County, and other agencies in Washington state to set standards of excellence that can make a significant impact on housing, health and the environment.

Built Green practices are designed to provide homeowners with comfortable, durable, environmentally friendly homes that are cost-effective to own and operate. These resource-efficient homes are crafted to exceed building codes and provide homeowners with years of healthy, quality living, while protecting families and the precious Northwest environment.

For our clients, the small wood-framed home originally constructed in 1937, with later additions in 1985 and 1991, was badly in need of a face lift. We tore it back to the bones and started over to meet the clients’ program and sustainability goals. The new entry is welcoming and the bright yellow door contrasts nicely with the warm wood. Technology is integrated throughout the home as well as a green ventilation system, rain water harvesting, solar panels, and a tight air barrier.

Open 2nd floor Kitchen

The highlight of the project is the large second floor open space with a relocated kitchen, plenty of built-in storage and two outside decks to enjoy the view. Skylights and glass doors flood the space with light and allow panoramic views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. This was a major renovation and a built green effort. The custom designed residence is both beautiful and functional addressing all the client’s requirements.

This project was built by Hammer & Hand.

Finding a Contractor

Here at Board & Vellum we are fortunate to work with a great mix of General Contractors to whom we can happily refer clients. We are often asked for a list of recommendations, and this is one of the services we provide. We are always happy to do so but finding the right fit is far more complicated than just rolling through our digital rolodex and finding the next contractor. There are all types of builders and matching them with our clients is one of the key things we do to create a successful team.

Our team will work with the client and the Contractor for many months through construction.  Ensuring we have a successful match is step 1 to a great project.
Our team will work with the client and the Contractor for many months through construction. Ensuring we have a successful match is step 1 to a great project.

So where do we begin figuring out who would be a good match?

There are several factors that we consider when determining which contractor will work on your project. Determining the priority of each one of these factors helps us narrow the list down. Here’s what we (and you!) consider:

Personality Match. This is probably the most critical factor as the builder will be in your home for quite a long time. Finding someone you get along with will be key. Every client and builder is different so what we do is a bit of a match-making service.

Familiarity with Project Type. Some builders don’t love second story additions. Some like to pass on projects with complicated foundations. Ensuring that we match up the builder’s strength with your project needs is key to ensuring that we have an expert team player.

Contract Type. Every builder has their own preference for contract type. Fixed fee, time and materials, and guaranteed max are some of the terms we’ll explain to you to help gauge your comfort level. There are pros and cons to each and understanding how you react to them helps us narrow our list down as well.

Reviewing contracts is one of the primary duties of an Architect in helping select the project team.
Reviewing contracts is one of the primary duties of an Architect in helping select the project team.

Budgeting Skills. Remodels and new construction projects are complicated endeavors with a lot of numbers in the budget. Some clients absolutely love diving into the numbers while others feel overwhelmed and just want to know that they are getting a fair price. Some builders will give us reams of paper while others will summarize their costs and bills in a much shorter format. Matching client expectations with the General Contractor’s approach ensures that surprises are limited.

Level of Service. This is probably the least appreciated factor until it is too late. Quite frankly, a higher level of “white glove” service will cost more money. Ensuring that meeting minutes are clearly kept, schedules are up to date, invoices are clear, and the people on site carefully interact with your neighbors are all things that take time and money. It can be tempting to jump down to a General Contractor with a lower level of service for the promised cost savings. There are many projects and clients for which this is absolutely the right approach while others are tempted by the promise of lower cost but then challenged by the perception that service is less than they expected. Our job is to carefully walk you through the pros and cons of each option and help you understand and align your expectations with reality.

Size of Project. This one has to balance with the expectations of level of service but often times a very small project such as a bathroom will be too small for the builders with high-level service. Smaller projects tend to attract smaller operations that are far more mixed in terms of performance (there are a lot of amazing ones and a lot of not so amazing ones). Additionally, a very small team of builders will often not be the right fit for a very large project. Aligning the size of the project with the appropriate builder helps stabilize expectations.

Availability. This is one that is far more critical than it used to be because of the booming Seattle economy. If schedule is absolutely critical, you should know that your list of available options will be limited. If you are at all open to adjusting your schedule then we recommend it, however, calling around to check on availability of contractors will be one of the things we do for clients with tight schedules.

Preparing to build often takes as much time as building.  We like to meet with the full team to ensure that we approach the project schedule with open eyes.
Preparing to build often takes as much time as building. We like to meet with the full team to ensure that we approach the project schedule with open eyes.

References. This is simple enough but even though our pool of contractors is fairly large we are still interviewing new teams to partner with. We rely upon their references to help cement our understanding of how they work and so should you.

Selecting a General Contractor is something we aim to do very early in the process as our whole team strongly feels that having a builder on board helps complete the three-legged stool of Owner, Architect, and Contractor. They’re going to take our budgeting and provide real-time pricing to help adjust our scope. Getting someone on board early who can help provide value and works well with the whole team throughout pre-construction and construction ensures that we end up with a happy client and project that everyone is proud of.

B&V Night School

Here at B&V we try to stay sharp and informed. We invite product representatives and consultants in to teach us about new and innovative material uses and practices. We also plan regular office outings to tour galleries, exemplary architecture, and production facilities. Tomorrow we begin a new and exciting foray into honing our skills and critical thinking; we call it ‘Night School.’ Organized and inspired by our own, Jeff Sandler.

Once a quarter, or more, we will leave our office setting and spend the evening discussing critical issues in our work around a theme. There will be documentary screenings, presentations, maybe even a live reading. This is an exciting departure from our daily work where we take a step back and provide ourselves the space to consider deeper issues in our work. During the day we work to provide the best service we can and see successful projects through to completion. At night we can wonder about the larger issues of architecture, like our role in society or our responsibility to creating a better future.

A scene from the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society
A scene from the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society

For our first installment of Night School, we will be screening ‘Citizen Architect,’ a film about Sam Mockbee and his legacy at Auburn University’s, Rural Studio. The Rural Studio takes students in their second and fifth years of architecture school and relocates them to three remote counties in central Alabama. There they live in the communities and put their newly learned skills to use designing and building community projects and affordable rural housing solutions for individuals with whom they develop relationships over the course of their time at the Rural studio and with whom they become quite close.

Graphic imagery from the 20th Anniversary of the Rural Studio
Graphic imagery from the 20th Anniversary of the Rural Studio

Discussing the Rural Studio brings about questions of our responsibility to create an equitable built environment for all. The Rural Studio works in some of the poorest areas of the country and brings together students and community members from many different backgrounds and circumstances. The result of the efforts of the Rural Studio has been more informed young architects going into the workforce, a greater understanding of the role of architects by the public, and many cost-effective innovations in simple and beautiful construction. This first meeting of Night School proves to be a thought provoking and inspirational evening indeed.

Akron Boys & Girls Club
Akron Boys & Girls Club

To buy or not to buy those LED bulbs

You might have noticed that Seattle (indeed, the whole northwest) has been experiencing the hottest summer weather in years, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. Most of us in the Emerald City don’t have air conditioners at home – it rarely gets hot enough to use them. We’re stuck inside with blowing fans desperately wishing for a reprieve.

But did you know that it could also be the light bulbs in your house that are contributing to the unbearable temperatures indoors? Yes, your appliances and TV and computer and – basically anything with a motor – gives off heat. Let’s talk about that ubiquitous incandescent light bulb for a minute. Chances are you still have some, even though the EPA has phased them out.

I get it. I had a stockpile of spares until recently and I don’t consider myself a wasteful person, so of course I’m going to use up what I have first, right? Isn’t that the responsible and environmental thing to do?

Nope. I recently gave a presentation on this topic at Board & Vellum, together with a certified lighting consultant and loads of backup data from all sorts of agencies. If you’re interested in saving money on your energy bill while also keeping your home cooler during these summer months, read on.

It starts with technology that is over 125 years old. A standard incandescent bulb is only 10% efficient. That means 90% of the electricity it uses makes heat, not light. Where does that heat go? Your house.

Bulb-comparison2

Let’s back up a minute. We’re accustomed to thinking about light in terms of watts; 60-watt bulbs for overhead lights, 40-watt bulbs for a table lamp, etc. A 60-watt light bulb (incandescent, mind you) provides such-and-such amount of light. That “such-and-such” is called “lumens”, and is what you need to start thinking about when it comes to brightness. The reason is because different technologies use more or less watts to produce the same amount of light. The chart below shows you the relationship between different kinds of light bulbs, their wattage, and their lumen output.

Lightbulb_comparison

A typical 60-watt incandescent bulb produces around 800 lumens, as does a 13-watt compact fluorescent bulb, as does an 8-watt LED bulb. Think about that for a minute. The lumens are the same for all three, but the LED bulb is 7.5 times more efficient (uses less electricity) than that hot incandescent! Why aren’t people running to the store RIGHT NOW and buying them up? Don’t you want to save money on your electric bill? Or do you not think one bulb makes a big difference?

The cost of an LED bulb is one reason people aren’t overly thrilled about replacing all of their old light bulbs. It’s an average of about $10 per bulb versus 50 cents for a comparable incandescent. Is it worth it to spend that much more? YES! Based on using your bulb 3 hours per day until it dies, your incandescent bulb will last about 1.4 years. Great, right? NO WAY! Based on the same usage, an LED bulb (and remember, it gives off the same number of lumens as an incandescent) will last an average of 20 years. That’s over FOURTEEN TIMES longer! If you do the math you will make up the cost of buying that LED bulb in under two years, just from what money you’re saving on your electric bill. Bottom line: if you can afford the upfront cost and plan on living in your house for at least two years longer – buy those LED bulbs. They’ll make a difference in your wallet, and help to keep your house cooler.

Alright, enough of the cold, hard facts. What about those light fixtures where you can see the bulb? “I don’t want one of those screwy CFL bulbs or a wacky shaped LED bulb sticking out of my beautiful vintage light fixture. What are my options?” you ask.

Believe it or not, they also have started to make “filament LED” bulbs, which have clear glass and look a lot like those original incandescent bulbs. And they still give you the same energy savings! This topic will be covered in a future blog post, don’t worry. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting!

Building the Lego Room

Back in 2005 I emptied out my childhood Lego collection from my parents’ house and brought it back to Seattle in a very heavy (and noisy) series of suitcases (thanks Alaska Airlines!). We had an empty room in our house in Ravenna and it seemed the perfect spot for the Lego to live. Very quickly I realized that this beloved toy that had inspired my love of architecture then got shoved in a closet when I hit the age of 16, was suddenly something that I was passionate about again. I unpacked the bricks and started to take inventory. And then I realized that I had 3 things that I didn’t have when I was a kid playing with Lego: a paycheck, free reign, and an empty room.

My first Lego room was born.

My first creations were pretty basic and limited by my brick collection.  They also seemed to be remnants of creative ideas from when I was a kid.
My first creations were pretty basic and limited by my brick collection. They also seemed to be remnants of creative ideas from when I was a kid.

Recently, a story on my new Lego room went viral. I suppose if my fifteen minutes of fame involves me virtually guiding people through what I call my “Lego Lounge,” there are far worse paths towards notoriety. The crazy part was receiving notes and messages from people all around the world thanking me for “normalizing” adults playing with Lego. Well, I never said I was normal but I’ll take a compliment!

A common question I receive is, “How is it all organized?” When we decided to remodel our current house and go all out with a Lego room, bar, and media room, I had to think long and hard about how I was going to store it all. If I was going to build custom shelves for everything I had to get it right as I really only had one chance. How people divide their collection for any hobby (Lego, sewing, crafts, scrapbooking, your collection of miniature dog sweaters…that’s a thing, right?) is very personal. We all build and use our supplies differently. Here’s what I did but the solution for you might be very different.

These bins are cost-effective and come in other colors and three sizes.
These bins are cost-effective and come in other colors and three sizes.

IKEA Trofast bins in varying sizes. I tend to have a lot of some types of bricks and so the IKEA Trofast bins worked for me as they allow me to switch out 2 small bins for 1 medium bin if one particular piece grows in inventory. I template the rack that you can buy at IKEA for these bins and had our cabinet maker route out channels for the stock bins. As the bins are from IKEA, I did go ahead and buy a LOT of extra ones as one never knows if something will go out of stock there. Still, they’re inexpensive and have a nice uniform translucency to them which I really liked. I can see just enough inside them to know what is there but not enough that the walls are overloaded with color.

These drawers are perfect for letter sized paper or heads of disembodied Lego minifigures.  Your choice.
These drawers are perfect for letter sized paper or heads of disembodied Lego minifigures. Your choice.

Sterilite drawers. I used to sort pieces into very small hobby drawers. It became pretty annoying as my collection grew and I spent hours moving things into bigger drawers. The sterilite might be too big for some of my pieces but I know that it allows for better long term storage. I sized the Lego room storage for more than I needed so there’s room for my collection to grow as well. The shelves down low are fixed and very flexible so if I ever wanted to move these smaller bins elsewhere I could display Lego down here as well.

Work surface. I designed a large built-in desk area that also works with the stools from the nearby bar. As the room isn’t all that large, the sofa slides back easily against the desk area when in Media-room-mode and then out of the way for when I want to build. This is often something that people miss, but you can see that there is a custom table built that sits in the knee-well of the desk area. If I need additional building area I can wheel that out and go back and forth between the desk and the table. It is one of my favorite details.

You can see the recess for the rolling table beyond the bar.  The table slides perfectly into the knee space when not needed or rolls out when you need extra space.
You can see the recess for the rolling table beyond the bar. The table slides perfectly into the knee space when not needed or rolls out when you need extra space.

For large unopened sets I use an adjacent storage room, although I honestly don’t keep much unopened Lego as I buy the sets to use the brick not save them for later. Some people love the boxes, though, so a different solution would make more sense for them. And to the person who wanted to know what I did with the boxes…I recycle them. There’s a limit to even my organizational skills!

I do, however, file away the instructions, so I’m not completely crazy!

I think that the best thing about witnessing this story go around the world and picked up by so many news outlets is how people are reacting to an adult relaxing and doing something fun. Your house is YOUR house. We all get one life on this planet and I’m a big fan of embracing that and doing what you want to do in your house. Other people may not get it, like it, or even think you’re sane, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. I’m proud that our projects at Board & Vellum embrace the individuality of our clients and I hope this inspires you to embrace your passions just a little bit more.

Each one of these projects works because personality shines through.  Generic is a word that shouldn’t be used to describe your project.
Each one of these projects works because personality shines through. Generic is a word that shouldn’t be used to describe your project.

Back when I brought those suitcases of Lego back with me to Seattle, I stood in an empty room, looked around, and realized that there was one truth to my situation at that very moment.
I was an adult and darn it I could have a Lego room if I wanted one. Truer words have never been spoken by me. Make sure you speak some truths to yourselves in your quest for an awesome home.
lego room back wall

Introducing Renée

The Board & Vellum team is charged with such enthusiasm and talent it’s infectious and inspiring, and I’m so excited to be able to write my first blog post as the newbie in the office. OK here goes…

Growing up outside Philadelphia instilled an interest in historic places. My childhood was filled with painting or creating crafts with my mother, or playing with my father’s drafting equipment from his engineering office. It was probably inevitable architecture would be in my future!

I migrated toward the west coast gradually, first by attending the University of Colorado and receiving a Bachelors of Environmental Design and then the University of Washington for a MARCH degree. I attended the Rome program which was an earth shattering experience. Traveling through Italy and Europe, living in Rome, sketching each day, looking at the best western art & architecture in the world, visiting various gardens, enjoying the food, wine, soaking up the cultures, it was OMG, OMG, OMG each day!

in Sicily
Temple of Selinute, Sicily

Returning to Seattle was a bit of a culture shock but I finished my thesis and my NCARB tests for licensure and worked in two Seattle firms while doing so; GGLO & Leavengood Architects. At GGLO, I worked on a few urban low-income multi-family projects, an assisted living project, and the Ummelina Spa. I was the go-to person for new project types and enjoyed the freshness of it. It’s kind of like hiking a pass; it hard work but boy is that view great when you finish! Anyway, an opportunity popped up to work on rural projects at Leavengood Architects which peaked my interest. Land!? Actual land with plants, wildlife, horses, cattle, remote sites, acreage!? Wow! While at Leavengood Architects I was able to work on a wide variety of projects and clients: ranches in CA, WY, and WA, barns, National Park Service projects in WA & OR, a private art gallery, a conservation lab, and single family homes in Seattle. Voilà I’m a creative problem solver, alias ‘generalist architect’ and absolutely love it! Each ‘hike’ was was often inspiring and there were fantastic teams on every journey. At that time the revelation sank in, the ‘light bulb in the sky’ moment, it takes a great client to create a great project, and to boot, the whole team can really enjoy nearly the entire design and construction process. At Bassetti Architects I was able to work on the schematic designs for two large historic high schools which was also exciting but an opportunity popped up to work on residential projects at Board & Vellum. So here I am at B & V, thrilled, packed up ready to go with the Board & Vellum team!

During my off time, I live on Vashon (think Rastafarian accent here) and enjoy the island life man. I hike, make killer soups, garden (really hacking blackberries), & enjoy other peoples gardens. Seems like there is always a home remodel project to do. I thoroughly enjoy the arts and on occasion even grab sticks of charcoal for life drawing sessions at the Grange Hall. (It’s really fun to draw things other than buildings even if I’m just trying to draw feet?!)

Hiking in Yoho National Park
Hiking in Yoho National Park
A foot :)
A foot :)
A newly framed wood shed
A newly framed wood shed

I’m looking forward to working on some great projects at Board & Vellum and following my passion for great design. I am even looking forward to my next blog post, so please stay tuned …