New Review

We are very proud to receive a glowing review from one of our clients on Houzz.com.  We have been using Houzz.com more and more with our clients to share ideas and images.  Check out our Houzz profile here.

HOUZZ PROFILE

701 West Putnam, Greenwich CT

701 West Putnam, Greenwich CT

2014 At Home Magazine A-List Awards

For the past few years At Home Fairfield County magazine has hosted a design competition for local Architects, Interior Designers, Builders, etc. entitled the "A-List" awards.  We had never submitted any projects for consideration, but decided this year to submit three of our projects.  Today, we were thrilled to find out that 2 of those projects are now finalists in their respective catagories!

In the "Poolhouse" category, our Modern Poolhouse project in Greenwich, CT  was selected.

And in the "Traditional Residence less than 7,000 sqft" category, our "Healthy House" project in Riverside, CT was selected.

We will find out the results at the A-List Awards event held in September.  Wish us luck!

We're Hiring. . .

We are looking for to add a key member to our team here at Mockler Taylor Architects.  Have what it takes?

Mockler Taylor Architects is looking for an intern/junior architect with 0-3 years of professional experience.  We are a small firm with a focus on high-end custom residences at various scales.

Interested applicants should possess,

·      Proficiency in 3D modeling skills (ArchiCAD a plus)

·      Strong rendering and presentation skills

·      Excellent written and verbal communication skills

·      Self-motivated and energetic

·      Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously

·      Team player with a passion for learning

Qualified applicants that can show creativity with a sense of refinement and interested in working in all phases of design/construction administration process can send a cover letter, resume and portfolio of work samples via email.  No phone calls please. 

Scout Shot of the Day: Display Cases

While traveling over the kids February break, we stayed at the Auberge Saint-Antione in Quebec City.  Throughout the hotel, there are these beautiful glass display cases containing artifacts that were found when excavating to build the modern portion of the hotel.

Display cases at the lobby

Display cases at the lobby

The display cases were detailed such that they are recessed into the thick plaster walls and then the frameless glass display boxes pop out and are proud of the wall surface leaving a deep reveal of stainless steel between the glass and plaster.

Display cases at elevators

Display cases at elevators

The display cases at the elevators were detailed similarly as above, but in a larger, square format and they contained colored LED lights that slowly changed colors throughout the day.

Room number signs

Room number signs

Finally, here is the design of the room numbers for the hotel rooms.  Each room number was presented as a display case for a single artifact and the room was named after the artifact.  Very nice.

Quote of the day. . .

These clients say, “Oh, you’re going to remodel my master bath and master bedroom and master closet for $13,000, when the other bids I got were for $45,000 or $50,000.” But it’s like ordering surf and turf and being charged a buck ninety-five. Come on, how do you think this will turn out?

This is from comedian Adam Carolla in a recent New York Times article. Good quote about construction costs in general, but also apropos for Architect fees as well.

Full article here

Scout Shot of the Day: Tile Edge Detail

We are always particular about small details on our projects - details that can either ruin an otherwise successful design, or can make them sing.  One frequent detail that we must resolve is how to stop the wall tile at a bathroom, in this case, so that we have a clean detail without unfinished edges or unsightly grout showing. 

We have used bullnose tile, decorative profiled tile, wood trim details, etc., but in this project in Westport, CT we needed a more modern detail to finish the wall tile edge.  As shown here, we found a product that provides a nice clean line, flush with the face of the tile and is available in stainless steel, aluminum, solid brass, or white as seen here (they may have other colors as well).  This finishing edge trim allowed us to tile right to the edge of this window frame without needing any traditional wood casing - keeping the detailing clean and tight.

Clean finishing edge trim for tile wall at window

Clean finishing edge trim for tile wall at window

Scout Shot of the Day: Stairwell

We have been posting a few of these images on our Facebook fan page as a way to disseminate images that we would not typically show in our portfolio.  These are far from professional photographs, but literally scout shots frequently taken with our iPhones.  They sometimes show small details, cool materials, or just interesting images about our work. 

We have gotten a good response, so we thought we would do the same here.  Enjoy.

And, if you would like to check out our Facebook page you can see it here.

Shot of glass guardrail looking up from bottom of stairwell.

Shot of glass guardrail looking up from bottom of stairwell.

Distractions

We live in a world of constant distractions.  We have hundreds of TV stations with a backlog of shows and movies saved on our DVR’s.  We have cell phones and text messaging, which create an expectation of being immediately available at all times.  We have the internet and YouTube, where every minute 24 hours of new content is uploaded.  Many of us check our email before we even get into the office, causing our focus to veer off in a myriad of directions.  Our smartphones are filled with apps that take our attention away from the world in front of us and constantly notify us with a beep or buzz that someone has emailed or text messaged us.

Paul Virilio has defined this condition as picnolepsy – similar to frequent epileptic fits, it is a condition of constant interruptions after which we are unaware of the time that we have lost.  For Virilio, this picnoleptic state is a symptom of an increase in speed at which content is consumed and the abolition of distances in time by various means of communication and telecommunications.

 I don’t mean for this to all sound negative.  I think it is incredible that I can take a picture of a framing connection with my iPad, bring the image into photoshop to clean it up, import the cleaned up version of the image into Sketchbook Pro where I can draw a sketch over or next to the image and write notes about whatever the issue is, email it to the structural engineer with a question and get an answer in (almost) real time.  And with the video conferencing capabilities on my iPhone, I can review a construction question/issue with a Builder from my desk, which truly has allowed us to effectively expand the territory in which we work.  Seriously, how did Frank Lloyd Wright get Fallingwater built without all this technology?

 When we describe our work, we like to talk about presence.  How the quality of construction and building materials evoke a physical presence.  How the various phenomena that is unique to a particular site interacts with the architecture.  How the relentless refinement of the design through our iterative process strips away inessential design details that distract from the perception of the architecture.  Just today, I have been thinking thru the difference between the way that light sculpts a round tuscan column versus the crisp transition on adjacent surfaces of a square column – for the project I am working on the square column works better.

 But we also can describe our work as allowing the occupants to be present in their lives and escape Virilio’s picnoleptic state.  At it’s best, great architecture has atmospheric qualities that allows for reflection and contemplation. 

 In residential architecture, this might mean a quiet space where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and experience the way that the light grazes a beautifully textured stone wall.  Or a space with great cross-ventilation where the smell and feel of the spring air causes your thoughts to be present in your environment.  Or a covered terrace where you can hear the rain falling on a copper roof.

MT_Ercklentz_02Have a great spring! 

 

Determining the Potential of your House

We meet a lot of potential clients who have been thinking about their houses for a long time.  Some are organized with lists and images, others less so.  But, the realization for us is that although we typically think the start of a project is when we go to look at the house, talk about the spaces and design potential – essentially the “interview”, the beginning of the design process is much earlier from the homeowner’s perspective.  Most homeowner’s have been thinking about adding, renovating, or knocking-down since before they purchased the property.  Let’s face it; it is fun to think about.

What is not so fun is when we find out that the project that the homeowner has spent so much time and mental energy thinking about is one that is not allowed under local zoning ordinances, or is impractical from a construction or budgetary point of view.  So, we thought we would write this article to give a roadmap of sorts on what we feel is an intelligent way, with practical advice, to start thinking about the potential your house offers.

First the fun part

The Image Library

One of the best ways to hone in on what you like and don’t like is to start an image library.  We suggest two types; a physical file and a digital file.  For the physical file, you can use a 3-ring binder, a file system in a file drawer, etc. - basically a physical mechanism for capturing ideas.  For the digital file, you want the same thing, just located on your computer.

For the physical image library, I would suggest organizing it into groups.  Some files can be for practical images such as decorative light fixtures or bathroom faucets that you like.  Other files can be more conceptual – I have a file of images that show different ways that light construction relates to heavy construction in ways that I find interesting.  One file type that I would recommend is a file just dedicated to images that convey a certain feeling – not something in particular in the image that you like or dislike, but images that just feel right/good to you.  These images typically come from torn out pages in magazines, newspapers, photographs (nothing wrong with taking a quick snapshot of a stone wall you like – I do), etc.

The digital files can be organized in a similar way, but these images will be captured from the internet, digital photographs, scans, etc.   There are a few online resources that are great to look thru.  Houzz.com and Pinterest.com are both image banks to go thru and are organized by theme, location, etc.  So, if you want to look at dining rooms, you can look at hundreds of them from portfolios of design professionals all over the world.  On houzz.com you can even ask questions of the designers and oftentimes get answers either from the designer directly, or from some other knowledgeable person.  So, if you really like a showerhead in a bathroom you see, just post a question and most likely someone will know and give you the answer.  We use both platforms, but we have found that Pinterest is a little better in that you can create and share a private pinterest board that only you and I can see.  On some projects, I have many private boards so that we can stockpile case-study images of each room, for example.  You may be able to do the same thing on Houzz - I just haven't had the experience that I have had on Pinterest.

One word of caution when putting together the image libraries - it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can pull a bunch of images and identify things in each image that you like and then magically they will go together to form the perfect space.  So, even if you like this floor, and that wall treatment, and this cabinet with that countertop, and don’t you just love this light fixture . . .the likelihood of simply putting them all together to make a successful space is low in our experience.  It just doesn’t work that way.  It would be kind of like saying that because each ingredient in my pantry tastes good, I can just mix them all together and make something great.

Instead, I like to think of the image library as a dart board where you can never actually see or explain the bulls eye, but the more darts you throw and surround it, the closer you can come to getting to the core of what you want in a potential project.

The Wish List

It is also important to define your goals and wish list.  And try to get as granular as possible, so instead of just thinking, we need a new family room, try to think about how you want it furnished, how formal/informal you would like it to be, adjacency and site lines (want to be able to see the fireplace from the kitchen?), how open you would like it to the kitchen, relationship to outdoor spaces, types of lighting, etc, etc, etc.

The Constraints

It is also important to know the zoning and building constraints of your particular property.  Locating a site survey of your property and determining the site setbacks help you not to waste time and energy thinking about this fantastic master suite that juts out 30 feet off your house, when you are only allowed to go out 10 feet by the local zoning ordinances.  Knowing the height restrictions and how they are calculated will let you know the feasibility of raising the roof to convert the attic into a finished space.   Are there wetlands on the property and how do they affect a potential project? 

How do you do this?  Well, first you need to gather the data on your house and site.  Obtain your survey, and/or go to the Building Department to see if they have any old drawings or surveys on file.  Then, you need to do some investigation into the local Zoning Ordinances and see how they apply to your property.  At a minimum you will want to know what zone your are in, the size of your property, the setbacks, height restrictions and any lot coverage limits.  Then, you want to stop into the Wetlands department and see if they have any information on your property.  Here in Greenwich, they will look at their Wetlands map to see if your property has wetlands or not.  If your house has a septic system, you will also need to review what the Health Department has on file.  I know, it's a lot of work.  Don’t want to do the legwork?  Give us a call we are happy to help. 

What to do next

So, you want to take your potential project to the next step, but are not sure about totally committing to doing a project for whatever reason (timing, budget concerns, etc).  Then it might be a good idea to hire an architect to do a Feasibility Study.  This will typically include some or all of the following:

Pre-Design Work

-Measure the existing house and draw it in CAD

-Obtain the current site survey

-Firm up the site constraints and identify any critical issues that might affect the project.

-Review image library, project goals, wish list, budgetary goals, current construction costs, design and construction schedules, etc.

Schematic Design Work

-Develop preliminary design diagrams

-Draw loose (hand drawn) schematic plans and elevations that show what the project might look like.

-Define an opinion of probable construction costs.

Once these pieces are in place, we have defined your goals and wish list, we have identified the site constraints, we have a clear sense of what the project might look like and feel like, and we have an idea of what it might cost and how long the design and construction process might take, you will be in a great position to decide whether or not to pull the trigger on a project, or possibly look for a new house, or just stay put.  And if you decide to move forward with the project, you will do so armed with solid information that will remove the fear typically associated with a construction project and be able to have fun through the design process.

UPDATE:  We have written a follow up post relating to this article - Avoid these 4 Mistakes when Collecting Case-Study Images.  Check it out.

 

Inspiration: Alexander Creswell

Of all the books in our office, the one that stands directly in front of my desk, the only one in constant view all day, every day is a small pamphlet of watercolors by Alexander Creswell.  Truely amazing.  If you enjoy great watercolor painting, pick up a copy.

On a quick search of Mr. Creswell online, I stumbled across this video and thought it interesting enough to share.  Enjoy.