Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Hallowe'en! Bitchin'!

This isn't actually a Hallowe'en picture of me.  It's from a Whitecaps game a couple years back when we all decided to dress up in our best "retro" gear.  But it illustrates a motto that I try to follow, and one that gets brought out around Hallowe'en:  "Life's more fun in costume." (Thanks to Boo La La for putting it into words for me).

I'm not suggesting we all go around dressed like ghosts and goblins (or a really bitchin' Whitecaps fan).  But the fact is life is a little more fun when we stretch our boundaries ... when we get outside of our comfort zone and do something just because it's fun.  Sometimes it takes a bit of disguise to give ourselves the courage to take the plunge.  And once you realize that the plunge didn't kill you or cause you any irreparable harm, it becomes easier to do it again ... just because it felt good.

So this evening as you wait for trick-or-treaters to come to your door, or you take out your own, don't forget to have a little fun yourself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Food Fridays: A Spanish Feast for the Eyes - Part 2

We had decided to go to Zaragoza based almost completely on their Fiestas del Pilar. Fiestas del Pilar are a week of celebrations in honour of the Virgin Mary of the Pilar, their patron saint. The highlight of the celebration is the Offering of the Flowers, during which hundreds of thousands of people flood the main plaza.  And while we were in Zaragoza we were able to partake in one of Spain's great traditions; the tapas bar.

This is not to say that Barcelona does not have a great tradition of tapas ... it's just that it seemed so buried in the cacophony of tourist traps that it was tough to tell which were good, and which were just popular.  Zaragoza's smaller size made finding tapas bars much simpler ... you quite literally take any side street off of the major squares, and listen for the bustle of happy diners.  Deciding which one's were good was even simpler.  If it was full, it was good ... and that applied to almost all of them.

The concept of tapas is very simple.  They're small bite sized dishes designed to fill the gap between lunch and the late dinners (10pm!) enjoyed by Spaniards.  You can easily make a meal out of tapas, and many do.  But the fun thing about the tapas bar experience is dropping in on one,  having a quick bite and then heading off to another.  It's not for you if you like table linens, but if you want to get a wide sampling of the flavours of Spain, this is the best way.

L-R: Croquetas, Montadito of Crab, Olives with Anchovies
Pan con Tomate.  (Bread with Tomatoes.)
This stuff is EVERYWHERE!  
Of course, after an evening of tapas and cervesas our thoughts would turn to something sweeter.  We had been told to look out for churros in Barcelona, but they were hardly on "every street corner" as we had been promised.  In fact, the only churros we had in Barcelona were from their equivalent of Tim Horton's.  It was cold and sad.

Fortunately for us, we stumbled across la Famma in Zaragoza.  La Famma has become the Holy Grail of churros for me, it's as simple as that.  It's a very simple, cafe style restaurant just off the Calle de Alfonso on the way into the Plaza del Pilar ... so it was very convenient during the Fiestas!  The churros were warm and tender and tasted heavenly when dipped into their thick xoccolata (hot chocolate).  

Churro con xoccolata
A Churro Relleno!  Yes, a stuffed churro!

No trip to Spain would be complete without trying some of their famous ham.  Jamón ibérico or pata negra (for the black foot pig the hame is made frome) is similar to Italian prosciutto, but is nowhere near as salty and is much richer in flavour.  We've been lucky and have been able to enjoy pata negra at home, so the taste wasn't a real revelation.  What was a revelation was how you could find it everywhere!  Every tapas bar, every market, every restaurant will have it.  Even McDonald's was selling something called a McIbérica that featured Serano ham.

On our last night in Zaragoza we took a break from the revelry of the Fiestas and found a small café just off the plaza called Jamon Jamon.  On the menu?  Ham sandwiches.  Small, medium or large.  That was it.  Simple crusty bread that had been baked that day was drizzled with olive oil, and filled with a thin layer of their flavourful ham.  It was simple and achingly delicious.  We sat and enjoyed the sandwich, and a beer, and soaked in the joyous sounds from the plaza.  This combination, for me, was the highlight of Spain.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stand Back, I'm A Professional

Photo Credit
I lost a job today. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. Sometimes my quote exceeds the clients' budget, sometimes the client decides to sell their house rather than live through a remodel, and sometimes the client just decides that they don’t want to work with me. Difficult to believe I know, but it has happened.

But the job I lost today was different. The client and I got a long well. I was able to put together a colour/material scheme that was exactly to their taste, and was even able to show them I had a lot of experience with the line of European appliances they had specified.

 So what happened?

The space we were dealing with was a small 7’ x 7’ L-shaped space to work with. I had changed the original L-shaped design to utilize a more galley style of kitchen … a single wall with a standalone peninsula. All that was fine, but it was how I designed the single wall that caused the problem. Suffice to say, the clients didn't appreciate my design and decided to look elsewhere.

What I found important about this situation was how the role of a kitchen designer is often perceived in the market place. I wrote the exam for, and received my Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) accreditation back in 2001. In that time I have had to maintain that certification by continuing my education on all aspects of kitchen design. In other words, being a CKD is not just something I call myself, it is my profession.

When I go to see a professional, be it an architect, a doctor or even that guy that installs car stereos for a living, I'm not looking for them to agree with my point of view. I want their point of view. I may add some requests to the equation, but if the professional tells me that something shouldn’t be done that way, I believe the have reasons for saying so, because they are professional.

Which brings me back to the job I lost. I knew that my design wasn't what had been asked for. I tried to make the clients’ ideas work, but in the end I thought they were unsafe and aesthetically wrong. As a professional I feel I came up with the best design for the room.  My client disagreed and decided to go elsewhere for their kitchen needs.

Lest anyone think I'm bitter about this situation, I’m not. It’s the clients’ prerogative to chose who they think is best to do the work for them. My concern is simply that they may find another designer who will simply bow to the clients’ wishes and install a kitchen that is poorly designed, or worse, unsafe. When choosing a professional it’s important to remember that we’re not hiring them to tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NIM: Fiesta Barra from Vondom

Maybe it's just the onslaught of cooler fall weather, and the shortening of daylight hours, but doesn't this bar just make you want to cash in everything and move to the tropics?  This is the Fiesta Barra from Vondom, a modular bar system made from a polyethylene resin that is both durable and translucent.  Durable means it's suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.  Translucent means you can light it up!  The Feista Barra comes complete with it's own LED lighting system (and remote control to adjust the colours to match the mood!)

The Fiesta Barra retails for around $3000 US and can be set up in several different configurations to suit the room ... or the beach as the case may be.  Let me know if you need some help setting it up.  I'm pretty good with remote controls.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Food Fridays: A Spanish Feast for the Eyes - Part 1

Sobrassada, Churrizo, Jamon Iberico
Some of the best cured meat I've ever eaten!
Spain was a brand new experience for me.  My wife and I have travelled to France twice and I have travelled to other areas of Europe on my own, but Spain was new.  And what I was most looking forward to during our two weeks in Barcelona and Zaragoza was not the architecture, not the festivals and not the football (although those were all amazing) ... what I couldn't wait to get into was the FOOD.

Spain was been the darling of the foodie culture over the past few years, ever since Feran Adria's el Bulli was adorned with the title of "Best Restuarant in the World".  The small town of Roses became the Mecca for foodies around the world, but that was not what we were in Spain to taste.  We did make it to Adria's newest venture ... I mean you HAVE to try it when you're there, right? ... but we were much more interested in the basic, everyday Spanish, and in particular Catalan cuisine.

In Barcelona, as in other major Eupropean cities, the real belly of the town can be found in the markets.  Barcelona's main market is La Boqueria, located about halfway up the tourist clusterf**k known as Las Ramblas.  If you're into the insanity and tourist rip-offs, by all means visit Las Ramblas.  But if you hop the Metro to the Licieu station you'll come up right beside the Boqueria.  This won't avoid all the crowds, but it will get you to the heart of the matter.

This place is massive, and to be fair it is a bit of tourist hang-out as well.  My advice?  Head straight to the back of the market and work your way forward from there.  There's lots of everything so you don't need to feel like you're going to miss anything.  Take your time and and try things as you go.

Get the flash player here:

Lots of pictures, I know.  But what words can you use to describe the mind-numbingly wide variety of product available? Truthfully it was overwhelming.  But before you think the only way you can taste the bounty of this market is to buy your own little apartment in El Born (a tempting option I can assure you) be sure to look around for many of the food counters in the market.

The guy with the pony-tail (right) is your hook-up!
We had been told to visit Kiosko Universal by a number of people, and it didn't disappoint.  It's a very simple set-up ... essentially a kitchen surround by a bar.  It's extremely popular so either get there early or be prepared to wait.  If you're waiting, be sure to catch the eye of one of the servers and signal how many seats you're looking for.  They remember who arrived when and will get you seated as quickly as possible.

The menu is primarily grilled fish, prawns, razor clams, cockles ... although your basic papas bravas and the like are available as well.  We decided to go with what they do best ... Barcelona is on the OCEAN after all ... and go with the fish.

Sole and sardines cooked a la plancha, served with the ever present chips (fries).  A couple of glasses of Cava and you have a simple, delicious lunch.  The sole was as tender and moist as any I've had, and the sardines were not "fishy" in the least.

But I think the carnage we left behind spoke for itself.

When I heard that Feran Adria and his brother had opened up TICKET in Barcelona, I thought I'd throw a little caution to the wind and attempt to land a reservation.  This is no easy task.  TICKET only reserves 100 spots a day and you can only make them on their website.  Adding to the fun is the popularity of the restaurant means that reservations are taken 90 days in advance, and they're gone as soon as they're available.

I tried every day for almost 2 weeks to "win" a reservation ... unsuccessfully.  Thankfully TICKET has a smaller, more scaled down lounge attached to it called 41°.  It serves a scaled down version of what you can get at TICKET, and best of all reservations were much simpler to come by.  I still had to book about 6 weeks out, but we had our table and a chance to try some of the food wizardry that the Adria name is know for.

Some really fun dishes, but not what I would even come close to calling the best things I've ever eaten.  The flavours were excellent for the most part, but at the end of the meal I couldn't help but wonder what the big deal was.  Perhaps I needed the full experience, but based on our evening at 41° I won't be seeking it any time soon.

ETA:  This is truer than ever!  Seems that they've decided to change the concept of 41°!  From their website:
The success of the 41º has led us to take two decisions. The first one is to enlarge the offer at 41º, as we know it, in a new location we are still considering, so that more customers can be accommodated. The second decision is to change the current concept and sophisticate the offer at the present location. From 20th October, from 7 to 11 pm, the cocktail lounge will turn into a little restaurant with a seating capacity of 16 people, who will enjoy a festival consisting of 41 surprises made by our cooks and barmen in a very special atmosphere specifically created to go with this gastronomic metamorphosis.

The following night was a much better experience, and one we hadn't even planned on.  We had a number of tapas bars we wanted to visit, but they were either way too full to get into, or seemed too touristy ... sometimes both.  But after a day of wandering around El Born, we found ourselves near Lolita.  From the outside it looked somewhat like a burger joint ... lots of white tile with red and black trim.  But upon closer inspection we found a neighbourhood hang-out filled with locals catching up at the end of the day.  A young couple, just married that afternoon even dropped by in full wedding dress to visit the restaurant staff.  Perfect.

The food, wine and company combined to create one of our dining highlights in Barcelona.  It was in a word, "fun."  Bar staff who joked with their clients, and enjoyed the fact that a couple from out of town was trying things they'd never eaten before.  At the end of our meal I was handed a couple markers and asked to leave out mark on their wall ... look for the maple leaf.

For Part 2, we'll leave Barcelona, and head inland to Zaragoza for more tapas, flowers and churros!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sketchup: Follow Me to Easy Crowns

One of the great things about Sketchup is the way it simplifies adding detail to a kitchen model. Many details I would avoid in a hand drawing are very simple to create using some very basic Sketchup tools. Here's a very simple technique I use for adding crown moulding to my models:

This is a close-up of a run of upper cabinets as they terminate into a wall.  I've drawn my crown profile on the wall and positioned it how I want it installed on the cabinets; with the front edge of the crown lined up with the face of the cabinets.  The actual profile of the crown in this instance is is very simple ... the curve on the face has been reduced to 3 segments.  This reduces the number of faces that will be created on the finished crown and help us keep the file size down.

The next step involves drawing the path that we want the crown to follow.  You can see it indicated in blue, but essentially we're just following the front edge of the cabinets.  This drawing is very simple, but this technique works really well for more complicate designs that involve columns, pilasters etc.
Now it's time to introduce the Follow Me tool, one of my favourite tools in Sketchup.  It works by taking a shape and allowing you to drag that shape along a predetermined path.  Think of it as the Play-Doh Fun Factory for Sketchup.

To make our crown moulding, select the Follow Me tool and hover it over the crown profile shape you've made.  When the shape is selected it will shade blue.  Click inside the shaded area and then drag the Follow Me tool along the path you made.  In the picture above you can see how the shape we created is following the line along the face of the cabinets.

Here's the finished crown.  In addition to crown moulding you can use this technique for under cabinet valances, furniture-style kicks and even door casings. Play around with it and see what other uses you can come up with, and let us know about them in the comments section.

Monday, October 17, 2011

NIM: Emergency Battery Power

As we become increasingly dependent on electronic devices like cell phone, iPads and MP3 players, we are also becoming slaves to the battery.  Having just returned from vacation, I am all too aware of the need for back-up power.  Sometimes there's just not an outlet handy to quickly recharge your iPhone.  There are some options already on the market but they tend to be on the bulky side.

Designer Qian Jiang has come up with a concept for a power backup device that addresses the bulky issue and does so in a clever way. Rather than creating a different device to recharge batteries, why not have the batteries and the charger as one item?

There are a few issues this device would need to address before I added it to my carry-on bag.  First, how many devices use AA batteries anymore?  Outside of my antiquated  Canon A560 camera I'm hard pressed to come up with one.

And 20 minutes of cranking to achieve full power?  And remember, that's just for one battery.  Couldn't they just put a windmill on it and let me hold it out of the window on the train?

But the biggest challenge this device has is durability.  Considering the size of a AA battery, that crank is going to be pretty tiny in order to fit within  the devices exterior.  If I'm going to be cranking for 20 minutes I'm not to sure it will hold up.

Regrettably I think I'm stuck with searching for free outlets in the airport for the time being.  Once we get the power issue sorted out, perhaps they'll have figured out how to deliver free WiFi where and when I want it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Over-the-Range Micro: Out to Pasture - Guest Post


Useful Spaces readers, please meet Sang. He’s a People Component in Google Sketchup. Sang has a problem, and I’m using him and his effervescence to illustrate the problem to you. You see, Sang is an average five-foot ten-inch male and he would like to turn on an element on his range, but he can’t see the head of the range (that’s the technical part of an electric range where the dials and clock are.) So what Sang does is he stoops down to reach the controls, sometimes over hot boiling pasta, or a frying pan of bacon, to turn down from high to medium-high in order not to burn his food, but in the process Sang suffered from second-degree burns from the steam or the splatter. In the process of the skin burn, Sang burnt his food too because he was pre-occupied running cold water over his new blistering skin, and now the smoke detector is going off, despite the ventilation running at 600 cubic-feet-per-minute. Disaster ensues and Sang remains hungry.

I use this analogy to illustrate to you that over-the-range microwaves (OTR) are riddled with safety, planning, universal access, cabinet finishing and installation problems. Now, I’ve recommended my share of OTR’s in my day, and they have always been the absolute last resort, and only three times, I swear. In each and every situation the kitchen was smaller than 150 square feet, and in each and every situation there was no other placement option or realistic resolution.

Now, I could bore you up the wall with Kitchen Planning Guideline #17, #21, #22, #23 and #24, but let me make this simple: Over-the-Range Microwaves are a poor investment and are not safe. Here’s why:
  1. INSTALLATION - As illustrated by Image 1, the specifications for a correct OTR installation puts the appliance at 13 ⅛” above the cooking surface. Most OTR’s are incorrectly installed at 18” above the cooking surface. 
  2. VENTILATION - OTR’s have a small capture area at the very back (toward the wall) of the appliance. OTR’s max out their use-fullness at 600 C.F.M. (cubic feet for minute) which means they are designed for light cooking. Combine that with the very rear location of the ventilation, they can not adequately capture indoor air contaminants such as grease, steam, and smoke for normal use. 
  3. ACCESS - The centre of the OTR is just over 56” above finished floor, which is safe to access for some people over 5’ - 10”, but with the average female height at 5’ - 4” it puts half of our species at an infinite disadvantage. I certainly do not want to see my 85 year old darling Grandmother lifting out anything heavier than 3 lbs., let alone anyone else who has an accessibility concern. The 13 ⅛” installation above the cooking surface is less than a bookshelf height, and because the appliances are 18” deep (or more) it proves a tremendous challenge to access controls on your cooking appliance. 
  4. NOT SUITABLE FOR ALTERNATE FUELS - The OTR does not come wider than 30-inches, which also means that your cooking appliances can not be larger than 30-inches. Because OTR’s have a maximum of 600 C.F.M., they are not safe for fuel sources other than a standard electric range. 
  5. LIGHTING - Because an OTR is a two-in-one appliances, the lighting provided to illuminate your work surface (the hot top of your cooking appliance) is pushed to the back, just in front of the ventilation. This will not light your cook surface. This is in-adequate. 
  6. STYLE - The OTR hangs below the cabinet and this is ugly. Way to ruin the kitchen. Most OTR’s are installed at the incorrect height because the designer or the consumer do not want to see the 10-inch drop below the cabinet line. Not only is this ineffective, but the appliances is almost useless - except for that microwave function. 
Planning guidelines aside, the primary issue with the OTR is that they just do not function well enough, perform on a consistent basis for all models, to properly ventilate indoor air-borne contaminants. Blending a microwave and a hood-vent does nothing but weaken the effectiveness of both by cramming two motors into one thereby creating inefficiency. The OTR sucks. There, I said it.

Corey S. Klassen, AKBD BFA is a Vancouver based interior designer specialising in kitchens and bathrooms. He is design writer, instructor, and wild yogi. You can view his design blog at and his personal site at

Images are courtesy Corey S. Klassen,  AKBD BFA

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sketchup: Re-Using the Eclectic Rooster - Guest Post

I "met" Eric Schimelpfenig a few years back when I started learning Sketchup and had a chance to spend some time with him at KBIS this year.  His terrific blog SketchTHIS! was one of my go to sources for learning this terrific design tool.  I encourage you to visit yourself ... it's still one of the best.

I'm thrilled to have Eric as a guest blogger on Useful Spaces.  Today he provides some helpful tips for making your Sketchup modelling simpler.

Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD. Eric is a Kitchen & Bath Designer, SketchUp Trainer, SketchUp Modeler, and a Public Speaker. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Design Differences: California vs. B.C. - Guest Post

My name is Kelly Morisseau, and I’m a designer working in Northern California. I also moved from B.C. 12 years ago. For my stint as Arne's guest, it might be fun to discuss some differences as I see them between B.C. and California design -- and you might be surprised!

#1 - B.C. is ahead in terms of kitchen design.

Surprised? Don't be. The entire Bay Area, which includes San Francisco to Cupertino to Walnut Creek, is an interesting mix of extremes.

When I first moved in 1999, I discovered that the trend of maple cabinets and dark granite that was finally winding down in B.C. was just winding up in Silicon Valley.  Californians can be avant-garde yet also surprisingly conservative. U-shaped kitchens were (and still are) a large part of kitchen design here. When I tried a few times to redesign kitchens by kicking out the "u" and adding a multi-level table at the end, I was informed that the clients wanted something new, but not "that new". 

Yet at the other extreme, there is some West Coast design with Japanese influences that many of you would find familiar. It’s just that what we might consider “standard” Canadian design is considered very contemporary here.

Not that we don’t have some interesting design work – far from it. With California’s population ten times the population of the whole of Canada, it’s impossible to blanket the entire state with one design aesthetic. There are televisions popping up from under counter locations, sliding island tops, suspended cherry canopies, stainless columns, flyover panels, and communication centers.

But they’re not the norm in all areas.

#2 - I'd like to design an angled island again.

Islands are square. Square, square, square. Oh, okay. They can be rectangular, with multi-levels of glass, wood and stone counters...but they're still square. No canting the end of the island, no interesting little bump-outs off the back end. I've tried, but people simply point to their magazines and say, "No go." (Disclaimer: I have, in fact, canted exactly two peninsulas. One was due to a last-minute structural post that need to be added; the second was because...I was lucky?)

This isn't to say the homeowners here aren’t the first to agree we should raise the ceiling and add a 2-tiered edge detail, which leads us to...

#3- Californians are more apt to try something new

Doesn't seem to make sense after the last two, does it? But in spite of not being willing to accept ideas we think of as standard in B.C. design, Californians are very accepting of interesting design ideas -- and willing to pay for it. As many of my clients have said, "I'm only going to do this once, and I want what I want."

That means interesting flooring and ceiling treatments, altering traffic flow and openings, adding innovative home and lighting electronics, and being open to the latest in material innovations.

The best part of designing in California is having access to a staggering amount of materials, trades, manufacturing, and other design professionals that isn't simply available in Canada. The level of catering and attentiveness by the above groups to our madness has helped create it.

When I was in B.C., I remember grinning with other professionals about the "crazy Californian designers" who specified the most custom, out-there designs. Now I'm one of them. Quelle surprise.

While I laugh at myself, I'd still like to design a two-level angled island canted off a 46" high oven tower at least once before I end my career...

Kelly Morisseau, CMKBD, CID, is a Canadian-born California residential designer with confused spelling and a really strange accent. You can find her on her website: Kelly's Kitchen Sync or look for her book of insider kitchen design tips on

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pink Flamingos, Blue Crabs and a Theory aka the Overspilling of Kitsch in Baltimore - Guest Post

So.   The Cookin’ Canuck is on vacation.  And he has asked me and others to contribute something “design-related… to (our) part of the world.”  Get Arne -- he’s off to Spain on some glorious some such and he wants me to write about my little part of . . . here.  Maryland.  OK.  Baltimore to be exact and it does have its own unique sense of, well, Style.

And OK, Style and Design -- not really the same thing, but I am gonna write it; and I have been meaning to do so for awhile.  I mean – the age-old adage -- How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been?  . . . Or something.   It’s rhetorical, and here we go.

. . . Baltimore, Maryland is “home” to the Chesapeake Bay, blue crabs and Natty Boh (that’s National Bohemian . . . beer).  It is known as the Land of Pleasant Living, as Charm City, and now for horrible, horrible, loosing baseball.  

Some of you may know it . . . Hairspray -- director John Waters’ portrayal of “mid-century” Bawlmer . . . Hon!  (That’s short for “honey” and it works best with our regional accent.  For background:   And he, Waters, about nailed it.  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, or the stage adaptation, I’ll put it like this -- Baltimore is Camp . . . to the Extreme.

. . . And stuck in some strange vortex . . . irrevocably hip, yet, as I have read it written, with an inferiority complex.  Like Anytown, USA, but on steroids . . . or a Metropolis on downers.  I really haven’t made up my mind.  (I don’t think many have.)  I do think though that we as Baltimoreans . . . revel in it, no matter what it is – one part redneck at a cocktail party and another part billionaire at a fish fry.  Idk.

. . . pretty text book or travel guide or just way out there.  OK.  But let’s try this – What Baltimore’s Style really comes down to is . . . not the Camp or the Kitsch, but rather -- its own ability to invent and embrace a wholly unique “design” consciousness . . . diy and folky.  Art form(s) created at the exact point where the old south meets an old north.  One part out of necessity and one part just being, well . . . here.

Now, watch me work -- the housing stock (as we are housy-type people here):   Baltimore’s quintessential architectural form -- rows upon rows of rowhomes.  And as a builder/developer friend once told me, “There is only so much you can do with a railroad car stacked on top a railroad car – you know – a box.”  It’s about usable, (yes, my tongue is in my cheek) useful space.

It’s not uncommon to see full art installations on a small-patch-of-grass, front lawn.  Here in Baltimore, it seems, when our box of a home can not contain its artful stuffings, we/they spill out into the only place they can . . . into the urban outdoors.

And well, Hon . . . check it out:

Ex. A.  Murals
A great Article including Baltimore’s network of murals: -- Anywhere.  Philly.  Oh Yeah!  No camp, classic art form.  OK.

Ex. B.  Stained Glass Transoms
Baltimore’s stained glass transoms . . . (My own 1920s original lifted from our backyard in what I now call “the Stained Glass Incident.”)  This lovely artist Robin has already done a lot of my legwork; she is the source of the image above.  Here -- a multitude of examples of their most common form – with house numbers:

For those that are down, here’s two more links for your fix:  The Google search --  “stained glass transoms Baltimore” and some fab, more contemporary work:  Here >> & here >>

-- Brooklyn, DC, San Francisco. Idk.  Not Impressed. What?!  Not enough camp?  OK.

Ex. C.  “The Miracle on 34th Street”

34th Street Christmas Lights in Hampden from Seinberg on Vimeo.

OK.  Seasonal (though it is true you can find Christmas twinklies anytime of year).  And did you see that Santa Elvis!? OK.

Ex. D.  Painted Screens
Often featuring a utopian country setting or a prominent local landmark, this art form can be found throughout the city.  As a child I remember feeling like you couldn’t pass a house without one.  There are installations still being performed today.

For additional:  The work of screen painter Anna Pasqualucci, here >


To me it’s no surprise the American Visionary Art Museum has found a home here.  Known for its art car events and the annual East Coast Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race, it has been designated by Congress as America's national museum for self-taught art. Current exhibits include:  All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma and the Bling Universe

And OK, I know-- it is may not seem quite as kitschy as I may have suggested earlier, and some of the examples presented may not represent wholly how we-general do style or design.   You can, in fact, find almost any other American house type and also almost every other form of cultural activity here.  But . . . I still don’t know if we are good at putting that, it, into words . . . like some weird internal conversation -- “Yes we do.”  “Oh no, we dind’t!”  “Oh! Yes. Yes! We Did!” << And that is Baltimore.


Thanks for reading.  Thanks to Arne and have a safe, happy and fabulous vacation my friend.

jb is a consultant and one part of the blogging team at  Born and breed Baltimore, MD . . . he has also lived in York, PA; Leicester, England; Winter Park, CO; & Santa Cruz, CA.  He likes using ellipses and has traveled to other places … some.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Indoor-Outdoor Living - Guest Post

Southern California didn’t invent indoor/outdoor living, but we sure have had a hand in perfecting it.  The Mediterranean climate here makes dining al fresco a pleasure, and relaxing by an outside fireplace a favorite evening pastime.

While real estate agents only count air-conditioned space in a home’s square footage, everyone else knows it’s the rooms with coastal breezes that sell So Cal homes at such a premium! 

So, when my Canadian friend and colleague, Arne Salvesen, asked for guest posts while he vacations, (lucky dog), the indoor/outdoor living topic leaped immediately to mind.  Here are some ideas and resources for making the most of it, wherever you happen to live!

Minimize the transition
One of the best ways to maximize your indoor-outdoor flow is to blend the two spaces visually.  I like to continue the floor color and/or material from the kitchen-great room out onto the patio/deck whenever possible.  Stained concrete is an ideal material for this, as it will handle wet or sandy feet without problem, and can look modern or traditional, depending on your taste.

NanaWall systems blend the line between
indoor and outdoor living
I also love glass walls that completely open up.  Nana Window Walls is a great resource for that, as their tracks are so low profile, you won’t stub your bare toes on them coming in or out. 

Finally, I like to minimize the transition between indoor and outdoor living spaces by using similar color palettes in both.  This could mean pairing natural, honey or cinnamon stained cherry cabinets inside with teak outside, (or even stained grey maple inside if you want to let your outdoor teak silver). 

I’d also go with the same countertop colors inside and out, and coordinating all-weather upholstery and rugs in both spaces.  That ensures that anyone coming in from the beach, pool or hot tub won’t ruin your indoor fabrics and you won’t ruin your down time worrying about them. 

Accommodate the elements
 Builders have perfected indoor comfort with central heat, air conditioning, radiant floors and other climate control systems.  Why not give your outdoor space the same consideration?  Consider a fireplace, fire pit and/or heat lamps to handle cool nights.  For hot days, ceiling fans and a misting system are delightful. 

Retractable phantom screens, like these
from Alpha Windows and Doors,
offer valuable shade and insect protection.
If bugs are an issue in your area, consider screens for your outdoor living space.  I like the phantom versions that disappear when you don’t want to see them. 

One element that is often overlooked is cooking ventilation.  You probably have it in your indoor kitchen, (though it may be uncomfortably noisy to use).  It’s really helpful above your outdoor grill, as well.  I learned this the hard way at my Florida home when lunch smoke almost destroyed a family barbecue.

Last, but definitely not least, be sure to include outdoor lighting so your guests will see each other after dark!  I like it when the outdoor lights coordinate with their indoor counterparts. 

Entertain in style
I love the outdoor entertainment trend almost as much as I love the outdoor entertaining trend.  Think Beach Boys with your burgers or Stravinsky with your salmon and sauvignon blanc.  Speakers and televisions that handle the elements are welcome additions to your deck or patio.  A knowledgeable audio-visual or outdoor specialist can guide you through product selection and placement.
Outdoor entertainment systems, like this SunBrite TV,
enhance your outdoor living experience.
Gearing up
An LA-based architect friend remarked to me at a builder show that his clients have more appliances in their outdoor kitchens than their indoor versions.  No one wants to bring their grill tools inside, he noted wryly.  Until this year, though, there wasn’t an outdoor-rated dishwasher to handle those rib-greased turners or forks.  Now, thanks to Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, there (finally!) is. 

The first outdoor-rated dishwasher,
from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet,
makes cook-outs easier.
Outdoor-savvy manufacturers have also come up with outdoor-rated wine captains, warming drawers and pizza ovens.  Kalamazoo shared these helpful hints in creating a successful outdoor kitchen on my own Gold Notes blog.  [Arne's Note: I talked about the Kalamazoo dishwasher pre-KBIS as well.  Great product!] 

If my San Diego area town home had more than a postage stamp-sized patio off of my office, you know I’d be creating one of these in a heartbeat!

Final thoughts
 You don’t need massive acreage, mega-views or major moolah to create successful indoor-outdoor spaces.  My tiny patio will have an umbrella for shade, along with a side table, two comfy chairs and ottomans for work breaks.  I already painted my office walls a similar color to the patio walls, and will choose an outdoor rug and furniture that coordinate with their inside counterparts. 
I can see this Palmetto All-Weather Wicker pair from
Pottery Barn on my office-adjacent patio!
Design to your outdoor space’s location vis-à-vis the indoor room next to it.  If it’s off a bedroom, consider a chaise lounge (or two).  If it’s off of a kitchen, set up for outdoor dining and cooking, space allowing.  If it’s off of a great room, extend the indoor fun to outdoors.  Do it all in a way that makes sense for your home, lifestyle and budget. 

Most important of all, enjoy it!  

© Jamie Goldberg, 2011.  All Rights Reserved

Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS is an NKBA-certified, independent kitchen and bath designer in San Diego, Calif.  In addition to writing the Sensible Style blog for and her own Gold Notes blog, Jamie is the kitchen and bath columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune.  Her first book (on indoor kitchens) will be published by Taunton Press in November 2012.
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