office construction insanity

We’ve mentioned that we’re expanding our office space here (if you hadn’t gathered that yet from all of the “Introducing…. posts).  I came back from vacation today to see that the flooring was getting installed in the new area and that all of our furniture was consequently piled up into our work space.  Things are a little nuts here as you can see. If things take a bit longer for the next few days we apologize ahead of time.  We are VERY eager to get some more square footage around here!

say hello to insanity at the Board & Vellum office

say hello to insanity at the Board & Vellum office

Everyday Heroes of the Built Environment

Seattle is changing rapidly. Even if you don’t have a strong opinion about our growth, you fall somewhere on the spectrum ranging from calling for maximum density to a “BANANA” (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything – a step up from the now ubiquitous “NIMBY”). I often lament that I did not take photos around Capitol Hill when we moved to the neighborhood seven years ago, capturing the spot where we used to get our oil changed that is now apartments, the quirky building that housed The Men’s Room C.C. Attle’s which is now the Bullitt Center, and the beautiful old Espresso Vivace location which was torn down to construct the future light rail station on Broadway.

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Photo: The Bullitt Center website 

As someone in the industry, I fall somewhere in the middle. We are thankful for the bustling economy. I am thankful that new multifamily housing is built so that a mere mortal like myself can afford to own in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill. But a little part of my soul dies when an historic building, or even just a building I’m attached to because it’s part of my everyday experience, is torn down to make room for yet another apartment building. Or, am I just upset because I worry that the wait for brunch anywhere will be too long now? I didn’t say my point of view was entirely rational, but I think that a longing for connection to our history is deeply rooted in our psyche and needed even more in this day of unprecedented rapid change.

That said, there’s a lot of negative talk about developers, microhousing, monster ADU’s, small lot buildings, demolition, apartments, etc, etc. Sometimes I forget that I don’t hate life and will tumble down the rabbit hole of reading the comments on an article about one of these subjects in an online publication, of which no good can come. But we like to focus on the positive here, and I want to give some encouragement to anyone who feels like Seattle is just becoming one huge Hardie Panel. This is where the Everyday Heroes come in.

These are regular folks who are lovingly remodeling or adapting historic homes and commercial spaces. You might not read about them in the Seattle Times or neighborhood blogs, just like you don’t hear about the 87,000 flights per day that land safely, just the very rare occasion where something goes wrong. But at Board & Vellum we hear from them and work with them every day… a couple with a 1914 craftsman jewel that needs a thoughtful addition,  a box style home that needs a modern kitchen, or a 1930 Tudor style that needs a floor plan tweak to fit the lifestyle of an active family. We get so much positive feedback about Ada’s Technical Books and Café, and not just because of the awesome design (ahem). Most of the credit goes to the owners, who chose to maintain an historic home as a vibrant commercial space, enhancing the human scale experience of 15th Avenue.

beforeandafter

Ada’s Technical Books and Café before and after

People all over Seattle are putting their time, money, and considerable efforts into adapting older homes. In most cases it would be easier to just tear it down and start over with modern plumbing, or move to a new house in the suburbs. An important motto when remodeling an older home is to make an addition feel as if it’s always been there, on the inside and out. Maintaining historical integrity as much as possible while adapting homes for modern living can be challenging, but a rewarding challenge that we are always up for.

While the homeowners take on the burden, we all benefit and can enjoy the preservation of the finely knit urban fabric that makes Seattle such a livable city. Everyday Heroes of the Built Environment, we salute you!

Introducing David!

Hello, my name is David, and I am extremely excited to be joining the team at Board & Vellum!

David portrait - square

I’m originally from northeastern Oklahoma. I was born and raised in the small town of Bartlesville, which happens to be home to the only built skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: the Price Tower*. I went to the University of Oklahoma where I received a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Upon graduation I headed northwest to the great city of Seattle and have been here ever since! I have accrued over a decade of experience in custom, single-family residential design from a handful of firms in the Seattle area.

David collage 01

Along the way I discovered the amazing Pratt Fine Arts center in Seattle’s Central District. I have enjoyed taking a variety of fabrication classes at Pratt, including among them bronze and aluminum casting, oxy-acetylene and MIG welding, metalsmithing, and warm glass fusing and casting. In my spare time I like to apply those fabrication skills to personal projects in my home studio.

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Outside of design I enjoy spending time with my wife, Liz, eating good food, attending shows at the Paramount and Fifth Avenue Theatre, and checking out art exhibitions at the local museums and galleries. I absolutely love autumn in Seattle. I look forward to the cool crisp temperatures, the incredible natural color palette, and harvesting pumpkins from our backyard pumpkin patch.

I looking forward to settling in with my new coworkers, working on some great projects, and exploring the neighborhood of Capital Hill!

*Editor’s Note: (This is Ben, here) While David gets extra points for mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright in his opening paragraph, the B&V resident office FLLW expert disagrees with the assertion that the Price Tower is FLLW’s lone built skyscraper. The Johnson Research Tower in Racine, WI (while not taller than the Price Tower in Bartlesville) exists! And, you can tour it for the first time in decades.

Docomomo-WEWA Night at the Museum

You don’t have to be a member of the “DOcumentation and COnservation of the MOdern MOvement – WEstern WAshington” (Docomomo-WEWA for short) in order to see a great exhibit at the Nordic Heritage Museum, going on now. It’s entitled Danish Modern – Design For Living, and it features many designers and their specimens (mostly the sitting kind) on display until August 31st.

Although a small sampling of unique furnishings and tableware, it is part of a larger exhibition from the Museum Of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. Docomomo-WEWA had a hand in sponsoring the event, with a no-host bar and co-mingling of museum members, preservationists, interior designers, architects, and mid-century enthusiasts.

Check out me and Matt Hagen sampling the wares, doing some business card exchanges, and meeting some great people! (Sorry, no planking, Ryan.)

Welcome to the museum!

Welcome to the museum!
Not planking. Lounging.

Not planking. Lounging.

 

The Round Chair by Hans Wegner was featured in the Kennedy/Nixon debates in 1961.

The “Round Chair” by Hans Wegner was featured in the Kennedy/Nixon debate in 1960.

The Bertschi School Field Trip

 

Bertschi Sign

                                                                 Photo Courtesy of the Bertschi School and The Collins Group

Last week we were fortunate to be invited to tour Capitol Hill’s Bertschi School. Specifically the Living Science Wing of the Bertschi School. What an amazing experience this was! We were able to see firsthand the beauty  and innovation of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council’s Living Building Challenge. According to the International Living Building Institute, the Living Building Challenge “defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. This certification program covers all buildings at all scales and is a unified tool for transformative design, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich, and Ecologically Benign.”

Fotor

It’s truly remarkable what this school has done to enrich the lives of its students, the community and the world at large. Stacy Smedley, one of the KMD Architects that initially organized the Restorative Design Collective that built and designed The Living Science Classroom pro bono, was gracious enough to give us a tour of the space. This was great, because we were able to hear firsthand the unforeseen difficulties that came with this project, as well as the unexpected insights. For instance, we learned that sourcing materials was the wild card of the project, eventually requiring a full time staff of six people to manage it. Conversely, we learned that after speaking with the students of the school, the Restorative Design Collective found that many of the students ideas were not only in line with the International Living Building Standards, but also quite innovative. For instance, one of the students suggested that it’d be great to have a river running through the building. The building now has a beautiful channel running through it that collects rain water and flows though the space. Giving the students a chance  to observe firsthand the building’s rainwater harvesting.

Although, I am no longer a student, not in the traditional sense anyway, I must say that I was inspired by my experience at the Bertschi School. I was reminded of why I love learning and academics, simply because learning can and should be FUN!

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Happy Summer Solstice!

Once in a blue moon, the Fremont Solstice Parade actually occurs on June 21st - such  this year! Considering this is a once every 7ish-year phenomenon Atlas and I couldn’t help ourselves but to join the party.

Fremont is a short stroll down the hill from our house, so we got there early to check out the arts & crafts stands. People had already brought down their sofas to secure a spot along 35th Street, the parade route.

Partying with a 4-year-old means no beer gardens for us, but there was plenty of other fun things to do and see. People watching is hands down the best part of the Fremont Fair anyway; everyone let’s their “creativity” come-out to play!

As usual, the parade did not disappoint. I will let the pictures do the talking:

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“Pellepeering” is Sweeping the Nation

jeff

First, there was “Tebowing” named after Tim Tebow who was most famously on the greatest football team the NFL has ever seen! The DENVER BRONCOS!!! (Sorry Seattle! I am in fact – a 51% Broncos fan and 49% Seahawks fan). Anyway, “Tebowing” is when you put one knee down and an arm on a knee and your fist on your forehead. Rather than try and explain it here is an entire Blog full of people “Tebowing.” Here’s me:

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Then, there was “Planking”. I really have no idea where this came from. All I know is it is funny when people “plank”. I first saw it on an episode of The Office. Coincidentally, there is also an entire Blog of people “planking“.

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Here at Board &Vellum, we have encountered a new form of posing when the camera happens upon you. We call it: Pellepeering! It is named after our fearless leader Jeff Pelletier. We recently had a short documentary about our firm by “Small Business Proud” filmed in our office. Ben posted about it a few weeks ago.  The crew that put it together did an incredible job. But, they needed to have Jeff, you know, do something while he was talking about the design of Ada’s Technical Bookstore & Cafe, standing in the space. So, they made a voiceover of him speaking while haplessly gazing up at the chandelier we designed. It looked hilariously awkward and unnatural, which we’re not used to seeing of our boss. Thus, Pellepeering was born!

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Now, we can’t stop doing it! Here is the Board and Vellum team ”Pellepeering” – at a recent field trip to the Bertschi School:

Capture

Here is a picture of my girlfriend Steph and myself Pellepeering on the ferry to Orcas Island.

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I encourage you all to send us your “Pellepeering” pictures. All we need is your name and where you are “Pellepeering” and we will do a follow up blog post with all the images or better yet, post them to our facebook page.

Send your photos to ryan@boardandvellum.com, subject: Pellepeering!

Or! Post the photos yourself with #Pellepeering on Instagram.

Happy Hour with Curran

Curran

Seattle is becoming more and more an incubator and an international hub for great design. At Board and Vellum, we value finding and working with the local people who contribute to the diversity of this “happening” city.

Last week we had happy hour with Curran. They brought some delicious cookies from Hello Robin (a must try) and we served a variety of local wine and hard cider.

Barbara and Jeff Curran are the owners of Curran an online site for furniture, floor coverings, and accessories. We asked Curran how it all began:

The story behind the company is simple. Jeff Curran was a manufacturer’s rep in the Pacific Northwest and friends and family were always asking whether they could buy from his home furnishing lines. To make things easier for everyone, he put a little flier together and mailed it out to 20 people. That was 1996, and the catalog grew by word of mouth. In 2008, Curran went totally online. In 2012, Curran opened a small showroom in downtown Seattle.

Jeff and Barbara go to many design shows around the world to select unique product lines to add to their online collection. In fact, as a native-Swiss, Barbara takes the kids along and turns the business trip into a two–month family vacation in the Alps.

Back at B&V, we were drooling over the outdoor furniture catalogs they brought along. It was very exciting to play with many colorful flooring samples of Sisal carpets (natural and synthetic), Bolon floor and car mats, and various wools… They even carry a line of 100% compostable carpets – now that’s green!

The highlight of their presentation was when they introduced their U.S manufactured furniture line. The manufacturer uses native species, and practices sustainable manufacturing methods (Curran’s Sustainability Statement). Each furniture piece is made individually and is entirely customizable. Since the furniture is U.S made, even with customization, the lead times are very reasonable – you lose no time going through the customs etc, which may become an issue with international furniture orders… We were very impressed with their ability to customize orders. They have put a lot of thought into how to streamline this process. Have a look at this example:

Take a traditional dresser from their catalog – draw a sketch – find new knobs – pick a new color: curran custom

And the result can have a very different, modern visual appeal:curran

 

Barbara told us that their price range hits the sweet spot between the very high-end designer furniture and mid-level mass producers. They are a family business, and they are aiming to make Curran a one-stop-shop for designers who work with families that care about good design, and want high quality, durable, and timeless furniture.

Inspired, we left the Happy Hour with a lot of ideas on how we can use Curran as a resource in our projects, and maybe one of their carpets for our office expansion.

You may visit curranonline.com to find more information about the company, or stop by their Seattle Showroom near Pike Place Market.

 Photos courtesy of Curranonline.com

Moderne Art Deco Modern Atomic

Moderne Art Deco Modern Atomic

What the heck does that mean? Well, obviously it’s a jumble of words. They’re all potential anachronisms when used excitedly (and inappropriately) for various design aesthetics, styles, and periods of time in their relation to art, architecture, and history.

Ever heard any of them? Of course you have. If you’ve read my introductory blog post, you should already remember “Moderne”. I start with it because it’s one of the most confusing terms. Is it a fancy way of saying “modern”? Is it just like that show Mad Men? Does it mean Vintage (as in “old”)? Is it a foreign word adopted by Americans? The orange Orange? (That’s a word that the English language adopted from the French, because they didn’t know what to do with it. Example: does anything rhyme with orange? No.)

“Moderne” is simply a synonym for “Art Deco”, a more expansive and encompassing era of “design in the 1920s and 1930s, characterized especially by bold outlines, geometric and zigzag forms, and the use of new materials.” That’s Merriam-Webster talking, not me. The word “Moderne” is actually a word from Old French, and thence from the Latin modo as in “just now”. Obviously it can’t mean “just now” because “now” is currently 2014, so “Art Deco” is more categorical. Moderne = Art Deco.

Notice how even the mailbox has its own flair? And what about those lights! Ooo-la-la.

Notice how even the mailbox has its own flair? And what about those lights! Ooo-la-la.

I’ll be happy to delve into more linguistics and etymologies in future posts, but assuming I haven’t lost anyone already, I’d like to provide some visual examples of Art Deco as it relates to architecture (and art) on my recent trip to our eastern coastal city: New York. Two of my absolute favorite buildings are the Empire State and the Chrysler. Both epitomize the Art Deco style; in massing, detailing, and metalwork. The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of industry, when science began to dictate the use of nature, or rather, the control of nature. Suddenly we had the assembly line for mass-produced items, sleek new streamliner (c. 1934) trains for travel, Tesla’s pioneering of AC voltage and Edison’s subsequent usurping of it…

Every entrance is important, every facade detailed.

Every entrance is important, every facade detailed. Even the elevator doors.

I digress. But Art Deco is special because it was the last time a design aesthetic permeated even the smallest of items, however insubstantial or ubiquitous. Ever studied an electrical outlet? Of course not. Boring, made in China now, and yes, all the same. (You’re going to see a treat in a future post, where I show you the world of Art Deco in the span of a single electrical receptacle.) For now, it’s all about these two buildings. Take note of the stepping in their massing, the sleekness in their corners, and the electricity in their detailing. Enjoy!

The Chrysler is excellent at both night and day...

The Chrysler is excellent at both night and day…

Even the lobby clock gets its due. And take note that even a simple air duct grille can be beautiful.

Even the lobby clock gets its due. And take note that even a simple air duct grille can be beautiful.

 

The Empire State building lobby has a fantastic self-portrait to view... and the "upside down" image is actually what's on the ceiling of the Chrysler lobby.

The Empire State building lobby has a fantastic self-portrait to view… and the “upside down” image is actually the mural on the ceiling of the Chrysler lobby.

Almost “Passively” Green

We don’t love the green building buzz words around here. It can all sound so false, like you are just trying to fit into the current trends using the correct talking points. When green building became trendy, everyone was using it as a selling point. Just because you put some recycled materials into an otherwise run of the mill house doesn’t make it “green.” Our industry has a lot of catching up to do (and a lot of cleaning up to do), and I don’t think we need to be tooting our own horns for making incremental improvements that are absolutely necessary in the big picture and in some ways just sound design decisions.

That said, we are continually educating ourselves and pushing toward the next level of green building and sustainable design. It’s like how the main goal of a charity or non-profit should be “to not be needed someday.”, The main goal with pushing green building practices is that they just become building practices. This has been happening at a rapid rate, as codes become more and more energy efficient each year.  I became interested in the Passive House  concept because I believe that is where the building industry is headed: super insulated, super efficient buildings that are not overly complex (see a previous blog post on the subject here).

Greenbuildingcollage

Jeff, Ryan, and I recently went through training to become Certified Passive House Consultants (CPHC). We are not official yet, but have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in the process, which included a month of online classes, a full week of an in person class,  a three hour exam, and a take home exam/design exercise which consisted of a schematic design set for a Passive House. It will be a great accomplishment when we can finally put those letters after our names! Even if we never certify a Passive House through the official process (which of course I hope we do), we will immediately be able to implement the concepts to make our designs as energy efficient as possible.

Board & Vellum is also now officially a member of Built Green, a local non-profit certifying green buildings. I have been involved with the organization for a few years on my own, including volunteering at their yearly conference, and look forward to seeing some of Board & Vellum’s designs become Built Green Certified.