Monday, November 30, 2015

Giving Thanks


 As I enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday, it occurs to me just how much I have to be thankful for this year. 

This Thanksgiving marks the completion of our Casa Gertruda.  While we have been living in it for the past 5 months during the construction, it now truly feels like our home is complete.  The photos below really show its architectural highlights….
Panoramic of living room and entry
Entryway with custom designed front door and wall of succulents
View from kitchen island with our concrete pendants
Daytime shot towards porch
Evening shot with Nina
Cooktop with windows toward rear yard

 "Floating" walnut treads on steel stringer with glass rail 

View under staircase
Master Bedroom ceiling
Taken from stairs
Master Bathroom ceiling
Living Room ceiling
Office with corner window

 For Thanksgiving dinner, we sat down to such a delightful feast with family…..
And our home, gave us a feast for the eyes as well….

Dining Room Thanksgiving 2015

There are moments when you stop and realize that…it just doesn’t get much better than this.  This Thanksgiving holiday in our finished labor of love, surrounded by family and friends, and basking in the sense of gathering that this home promotes, I felt a sense of completeness that I just may have never felt before.  It is remarkable to me how much a home can instill a sense of place, protection, and peace. Far more than shelter, a home’s warmth wraps us in comfort, evokes security, and embraces our soul.

And so, from Mi Casa to Su Casa…

I wish you a season of Gratitude and the Joy that always follows.

Enjoy the moments,







Monday, June 22, 2015


June 5, 2015
Things have been moving along at Casa Gertruda, and we are quickly approaching the finish line. The craziness begins now with a combination of packing, finishing, preparing…

June 20, 2015
So when I began writing this blog Jeff and I were still living in the one bedroom apartment near Redondo Beach Pier…then the craziness of packing and moving happened (I have moved more in the last year than in my life as a whole), and sadly with so much going on, the blog had to be put aside…
But now I’m back to it…and the circumstances have completely changed….
What an amazing feeling! Even though we are not finished by any means, we are able to live in the guest room, with a fully functioning bathroom, a kitchen that is almost complete, no flooring yet….no paint or staining of cabinets…..
BUT regardless….we are LOVING IT!!!

Nina a little uncertain about this at first....

On weekends, Jeff has been hard at work. He dug the trench for the new gas line at the side of the house.  I think he enjoys the manly work.  And if not, well I at least love that side of him!
Diggin' it!
Since I tend to obsess over the details, it has been great for me to be living in the space as we finalize them.  So I have been sketching away for all the finishing touches.  While I work on that, Jeff works on making this "construction site" livable and cozy for us.  On weekends, he pulls out our living room rug, sets up a dining room of sorts, and sets up the tv in the living room/woodshop.  Perfect team effort!
 This was last weekend when Marlea came over for dinner. We call it "glamping."

So now each morning, we wake up at Casa Gertruda, and before I leave for work, I meet with the Artisan team.  We go over some details, questions they have or that I might have, Nina gets a bite of Kent's peanut butter toast, as does a squirrel in the yard that the Artisan team has clearly adopted, and off to work I go.  Then when I come is like Christmas or Hannukah! New exciting "gifts" each day! This is the present that I came home to the other day....
The tub was in! That made for a wonderfully relaxing night!
Oh...and here is the Artisan adopted squirrel.
As we get ready to finish up here , we are thinking about the furnishings.  I have this aversion to bringing anything old and dreary into the sunny newness that vibrates within this creative home. It’s like the vibe that exists in the space shouldn’t be diminished with anything sad, worn out, or dismal. I always feel a sincerity about bringing that which emphasizes or adds to the vibrancy, nothing that depletes it.  So we gave away a lot of things.

In some sense I would rather do without if we do not have it now, rather than pull in mediocrity.  It's like the beauty of this home deserves care. I know it is a crazy mindset, especially as funds reach depletion…but it’s the artistic spirit that can't be helped.

So in preparation, we have selected some furniture.  We have purchased, but not yet scheduled delivery of:
A charcoal grey leather couch; black leather chaise that sprawls luxuriously and even further reclines,  and a stunning dining room table that speaks to the clean lines with its precision hardware that allows it to extend for those big dinner parties we plan to have.

As in most of my projects, I love clearly establishing a color palette that has warm materials with a smooth (rather than overtly bold) contrast.  The bold contrast is great for the workplace because it promotes activity and energy, but at home, I enjoy the serenity.  Not to draw upon the wrong imagery, but we are certainly within “many shades of grey,”
with the natural walnut, white lacquer accents, caesarstone, shades of grey stone (some rough, some smooth like suede).   And I enjoy bringing a pop of color in accessories such as vases, pillows, etc. Our accent color is teal, peacock blue, and the color of ocean waves.
The walls are white to allow the materials to be showcased rather than the paint. We have clear walnut wood, grey architectural stone, stainless steel, white oak flooring with beautiful hints of tan and grey, natural plants, rock, and bamboo.

What a dynamic collaboration this has been.  Immersed in it as both architect and client, I have seen the collaborative energy even more closely. The Artisan team (George, Kent, and Scott) have gone above and beyond to create a beautifully crafted home.  It is clear how much pride they take in their work by their attention to detail.  The result is truly art. It is a remarkable feeling to be living in that.  Being surrounded by beauty transforms your outlook, encourages you to slow down and truly see, lifts the spirit, and brings appreciation to every day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Architect 4 Life: D e t a i l s

Architect 4 Life: D e t a i l s: Charles Eames, an influential architect and furniture designer said it best... Work continues along on Casa Gertruda as we move from ...

D e t a i l s

Charles Eames, an influential architect and furniture designer said it best...

Work continues along on Casa Gertruda as we move from the overall design scheme to the finish details.  And without a doubt, the beauty and success of any given project lies in the details.  The details are not insignificant parts of the whole. Without them the whole is unfinished, a mere gesture lacking thought and attention. It is in the thoughtful intricacies of the design that beauty happens.

That is what Mies van der Rohe meant by "God is in the details." While you can have a brilliant design with a flowing floor plan, seamless transitions, and vaulted airy spaces, the attention to details or lack thereof seals its fate.

Here are some pictures of our progress. The house is fully wrapped on the exterior with mesh and building paper.  Stucco and finish materials will soon follow.  The house is fully insulated, the drywall is going up today, fire sprinklers are in, decks are waterproofed, roofing has begun, and cabinets are in the works!
Wrapping the house a few weeks ago

Beginning of kitchen cabinets


We are using beautiful walnut wood for cabinetry and other details.
I never knew the sheets come numbered so the grain can be book matched.

Artisan Builders runs a tight ship with such a skilled, knowledgeable team, but if there is one thing of which they are unmatched is cabinetry and woodworking. 
This part of the construction phase is always an exciting one, since we can glimpse into the final look and character of the space.

Take a look a the beautiful detailing of walnut wood at the opening into the wine cellar. 

Today, the fabrication of the stairs begins.  It will be made of a steel stringer from which the wood treads float. We are planning to use tempered glass at the edge to allow the open feel of the stairs to speak for themselves.  The stainless hardware and finished wood will be the details that make the design.

George and Kent of Artisan Builders
Wish we had Scott in the photo too! 

This past weekend, Jeff and I gave my folks the job site tour. Without the stairs in place, Mom and Dad were good sports and climbed the ladder and all!
Thanks Jeff for the LONG reach....we sure could have used a selfie stick...
So as we keep working on our Casa, the design will continue to take form.  For me, that is truly the beauty of architecture.  Once a design is born, it continues to evolve and develop, taking cues from itself.  The juxtaposition of forms or finishes, and the layering of design elements can often create a complexity that alters the design somehow, giving it new meaning or perception as the composition unfolds.  From the initial schematic design, to the construction documents, and then to the built work....the creativity evolves from large expression to finite detail.  Each part of the process bringing depth, complexity, and substance.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Synchronized Team

selfie at the jobsite
 I can’t even begin to explain how exciting this process of building our house has been! There is an incredible vibe at the jobsite.  The crew is energetic, enthusiastic about the job, fully engaged in the process of both construction and creativity, and seriously hard at work! Every single time that I stop by the jobsite, whether just to swing by and check it out, or if we have our weekly meeting, that vibe is present in full force. 
 There are electricians, plumbers, roofers, climbing all over that house, wonderfully synchronized. And each is doing a stellar job, always putting out their very best work.  The pride they have in their work is impressive, and as both the architect and client, I am extremely grateful! 
Our weekly meetings with George Fullerton, our contractor, have been so productive. We have reviewed the window orders, the Nanawall order, electrical outlets, lighting locations, exhaust vent locations,  sink locations, hvac equipment location and access, and on and on…  It feels like this job is running incredibly smoothly...completely in sync.  All the jobs that I have worked on with Artisan Builders seem to run smoothly, but this one even more so. It could be because I have literally obsessed over the details, knowing full well that if there is something that strays from the vision I have of this house…it could literally make me cuckoo for a very long time! No…I don’t have an obsessive personality or perfectionist disorder at all!!! Ha!
During this last month, windows and skylights have been ordered…so the countdown is on! I have been crazily selecting and purchasing all sorts of things for the house! It’s been a whirlwind!  Here is the multitude of things that I’ve been working on:

Tile for all the bathrooms....Checkmark!
Stone for the exterior wall at entry and the wall at the master bedroom... Check!
Sinks for bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry....Check!
Ethanol fireplace boxes for the master bedroom /bathroom fireplace.....Check!

Ceiling fans....Almost Check! I just need to finalize with my rep, Katie.
Lighting (pendants and sconces and cable lighting).....Almost Check! More for my Lumens rep.
Appliances......Almost Check! I need to finalize the order with Jon Brown, my knowledgeable rep from Pirch which is all about great products and even better customer service. Not to mention the delicious iced Jalapeno cilantro lemonade they serve!

Doorbell..... Check!
Plumbing fixtures....Almost Check! Again, need to finalize with Jon at Pirch.  The Tour de force item on our order is the breathtaking BIG free-standing bathtub. It will be like sinking into heaven!  From the brochure, here is a sneak peek....

Jeff and I have worked so well together on all of this.  I typically do the initial research and narrow down selections, and Jeff has been involved with finalizing all the decisions with me.

And thankfully Jeff is handling the research and selections on sound systems, televisions, alarm systems, and water filtration. Teamwork at its best! Over the years, I have seen this architecture and construction process drive a wedge between couples…and other times it’s a bonding experience.  I’m delighted and relieved at how fun this has really been, and that as Jeff and I work together to see our dream home come to life...we are sync. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Framing Finale!

 In October of last year we brought the house down to its naked bare bones.  And from there began the rebuilding process. This week we reached a noteworthy milestone in the Casa Gertruda project. On Wednesday, I got the following text from our framer, Turtle:
 "Framing is done!"
Just reading that, my heart jumped a beat! Even though I am at the house meeting with the framers just about every day, that text still caught me by surprise. We were really at the end of a huge chapter!

In the last few weeks, skylights and the fireplace in the master bedroom have been framed, the master bathroom shower is framed, all the niches in our accent walls at the entry and the dining room are in place.

Master Bedroom fireplace

Master Bathroom shower

Gym (blocking for ballet barre)

In the gym/meditation room, we put blocking in the wall that will have a ballet barre for all those barre workouts I plan to do!  That way, as I am out of breath, using the ballet barre for support, and feeling like I might collapse from physical exertion....the wall won't collapse with me! I'm hoping Marlea, my soon-to-be 21 year old daughter who has loved ballet since she was 4, will join me at the barre when she visits.  And I did say barre not bar!

One of the last things to be framed were the "canopies" at the front corner office window and above the dining room rear multi-fold doors.  They add detailing, sun and rain protection, and accentuate these design elements. They will eventually be wrapped in metal with metal "ribs" underneath (see the rendering at the beginning of the blog to visualize).

Canopy at office corner window
Canopy at dining room
Turtle nailing the last straps to Casa's framing
So as we close this chapter, we are ready to begin the next one.  Artisan Builders will take it from here as they will be at Casa Gertruda full time starting Monday morning.  I got the coolest text from George, the General Contractor (Artisan Builders) on Friday:
" (now that framing is finished) I'm checking out your new house. This is an awesome layout.  I'm going to build you two (Jeff and Karen) a masterpiece." 
It's pretty great when your contractor is as excited about the project as you are!

And I was thinking today that like one of my earlier blogs suggested, football season and "framing season" aligned pretty neatly.  We started Casa when football season began, and we wrapped up its framing the week of the Super Bowl.   And though I don't know if the Patriots or the Seahawks will win, or if we have yet heard all of the deflated ball thing I know for sure...for next year's Super Bowl, Jeff and I will be happily hanging out at Casa Gertruda.

And though the footballs may not be deflated next year...the home bank account most likely will be!
By the looks of it so will be well worth it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hammer time...and then some


The framing crew has been working away on Casa Gertruda. We are talking about lots and lots of lumber! The roof at the great room is framed, the deck above the office is framed, and the interior walls and ceilings at the kitchen and dining room are up! Things are moving along, and we are movin’ on up…to the second floor! The gym walls are going up and the master bedroom has expanded. It is all starting to take form.

View from kitchen towards great room and front porch (where we have a beautiful porta-potty!)

Great room ceiling/roof with our three skylights framed.

View of side yard wall at great room where new chimney (field change) bisects the triangular clerestory window above.

Gym walls going up and outdoor deck above office framed.

Framing crew moving on up to second floor!

 Also framed is the roof overhang at the front door which will give us that bit of protection from the ultra-rare southern California rain as we scramble furiously to find our keys…ok well maybe not Jeff...but at least me scrambling…have you seen the size of women’s handbags these days?


As is the case with most projects, there are usually some field changes…and this project is no exception.  I did re-look at the back corner of the master bathroom, which is where the tub sits.  Originally the design incorporated exterior planters with the walls/windows set in.  After looking at tubs and seeing that we could really put that space to better use indoors…I re-designed a bit.  Unchanged are the modern corner windows and the openness of the space, but now the planters are indoors where they are much more accessible, and give us a bit more room for the tub. We are also going to drop the wall that divides the tub and the shower a bit…high enough to hide any nudity…but low enough to be able to see out beyond the tub to the outdoors while showering….kind of like showering al aire fresco!

This week, I have been looking for exciting and unique lighting and finalizing the appliance and fixture purchase list.  Within a week or so, we will be saying farewell to our fantastic framing crew, Turtle, (Robert who is on the right in the picture below) and his guys, as they head off to another framing project....and as George, Kent, and Scott from Artisan Builders (the dream team of craftsmanship) set up shop! We are excitedly ready for the next phase!
Diamond Construction, our stellar framers (and foundation too).