Posts by Author: andreasmith

Three Families Comfortably Fit in One Slim Lot

Modern multifamily home in Seattle with cedar and metal siding on the facade

Architects Tiffany Bowie and Joe Malboeuf’s Capitol Hill, Seattle, infill project was completed for $189 per square foot. Its street-facing facade is clad in prefinished siding from Taylor Metals, and cedar shaped and cut with CNC technology. The couple was inspired by the porthole windows of the Maritime Hotel in New York City, one of their favorite buildings. 

18th Avenue City Homes

Stroll down a number of streets in Capitol Hill, one of Seattle’s most popular enclaves, and you’ll encounter restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries, and myriad public transit offerings. In 2008, architects Tiffany Bowie and Joe Malboeuf purchased a 28-foot-wide vacant lot on one of the vibrant neighborhood’s quieter residential streets for their future abode. “We have always been interested in creating multifamily housing that is both livable and affordable,” says Bowie, who was the primary architect and builder of the three-unit project. “When Joe and I met in school, a lot of focus was on creating or reviving urban density. Urban infill also has the advantage of being more environmentally conscious in that you are providing density in areas that are already serviced by the city’s infrastructure and close to amenities, which reduce the need for a car. When we found this lot, we thought it would be a perfect site.”

It was an economically precarious time, so Bowie and Malboeuf put the build on hold for a couple of years. During that period, a Seattle zoning change made it possible to build three units instead of two on the property. Increasing the project’s size made financing more feasible and profitability more likely. Bowie designed the project so that it was permitted as a single structure. “There is a certain economy of scale when you construct one building with multiple units in that you have one siding bid, one foundation bid, and so on,” Bowie says. “That can save you money on the overall cost since it minimizes the number of subcontractors and construction phases. From a financing aspect, there was less risk to the bank since we were building two additional units to sell and cover the cost of construction for the entire project.” The architects set a $200-per-square-foot budget at the outset; it came in under that number at $189 per square foot for design, build, and  permitting costs.

Each of the three units is a slim 18 feet wide and is spread vertically across three stories. Malboeuf and Bowie’s residence is in the rear, one unit faces the street, and there’s a unit in between. “Incorporating volume and natural light into the interior was so important to us,” says Bowie. The ceilings are nine feet on the second and third floors, and large windows usher daylight into the interiors—a prized commodity in a city known for its overcast skies. The windows have a low-e coating to reduce solar heat gain. 

Modern multifamily home in Seattle with Wassily chair and Le Corbusier chaise in the living dining area

Bowie and Malboeuf’s unit occupies three levels facing the property’s backyard. The living-dining room has a mix of vintage pieces—a Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer and an LC4 chaise by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand—alongside furniture from CB2.

The structure achieved Built Green 4-Star certification verified by and administered through the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. Bowie and Malboeuf pursued this rating rather than LEED’s because it’s more affordable, it’s locally based, and it encourages designers to surpass minimum energy-efficiency codes. Integrated rain gardens, green roofs, and renewable bamboo flooring helped the design earn its green credentials. Careful material selection also helped Bowie and Malboeuf save on the bottom line. On the lower level, the architects simply polished, sealed, and heated the slab-on-grade concrete floors and substituted wood for the all-steel staircases they originally specified, reserving metal for the railings and some detailing. “Our value-engineered staircases turned out to be one of the best elements in each unit,” says Malboeuf. They ordered some finishes from Design and Direct Source, in Portland, Oregon, and bought subway and floor tile from Statements Tile, in Seattle. Local company Abodian fabricated the custom cabinetry. 

“We chose materials that are durable as well as cost effective and splurged in a few areas where we could afford to,” Malboeuf says. He and Bowie specified Carrara marble for backsplashes in the kitchens but opted for thin-cut white quartz for the counters. “You save a lot of money using countertops just two centimeters thick,” Bowie says. 

Modern multifamily home in Seattle with rocker chairs and steel planters on the roof deck

Rex folding rocker chairs from Design Within Reach are paired with black galvanized-steel planters from Ikea on the building’s roof deck.

Despite budgetary and spatial constraints, the architects refused to compromise on character and infused the structure with a distinctive, modern sensibility. The exterior is clad in brick, wood, metal, and cement fiberboard, all prefinished. The fiberboard sheets are lapped to look like shingles, creating interest while saving labor costs. Few things required paint, which further reduced expenses and will keep long-term maintenance to a minimum.

The couple kept the rear unit as the office for Malboeuf Bowie Architecture and as their home, which they share with their daughter, Anouk. The front and center units sold as soon as they hit the market, in August 2013. Bowie and Malboeuf squeezed in three parking spots at the back of the property, earning a few more Built Green credits by using a permeable plastic grid for the surface rather than paving. 

Bowie also points out how much they saved by creating the town houses themselves: Decision making was more timely and efficient. “There weren’t any conflicts between the builder and designer,” she says with a grin.

Modern multifamily home in Seattle with cedar doors on the garage

Pricier materials, like the locally sourced cedar used for the garage doors, are applied judiciously. 


An Energy Expert Explains How Solar Power Could De-Carbonize the Grid at Basically No Cost

Modern home with solar roof panels by Sharp

“In the near future, the question won’t be if you have solar, but what kind you have.” —Scott Franklin, CEO of Lumos Solar, a solar module company


Photo by Derek Shapton. Image courtesy of © Derek Shapton.

What do you think the next five years will bring in solar power?

There’s been an extraordinary collapse in the price of solar panels in the past five years; more than an 80 percent price reduction. And the frontiers for further price reduction are significant. What does it cost to get something engineered, permitted, hooked up? Just as a benchmark, the Germans install solar panels at half the price that we do because they have made further advances on soft costs. So a 50 percent reduction awaits us by clearing up bureaucratic clutter. That is a big deal.

So solar’s big challenge now is to clear up this red tape?

Yes. With these dramatic price drops, solar becomes a contender for both electricity markets and custome loyalty. And when you become a mainstream player, you get grown-up enemies. Solar is disruptive to energy markets. It used to be that German utilities made all their money in the energy markets in the middle of the day when prices were high. Then solar comes along and the power prices become incredibly low because sunshine is free. So all the conventional generators start losing money, a lot of money. German utilities have lost 75 percent of their market value in the past five years to solar. If that’s not a wake-up call for the utility business, I don’t know what is. 

What’s the solution?

The wrong answer—which some utilities are pursuing vigorously—is to charge anyone with a solar panel a lot of money every month just for the privilege of having a solar panel. That’s a very bad idea for America because it means we’re going to deprive ourselves of free energy. It’s bad for homeowners because it deprives them of choice. And it’s bad for utilities because it’s basically telling your customers, “You’re not actually customers, you’re hostages.” 

The right way is for utilities to say, okay, it turns out there are a lot of ways to make electricity, and there are a lot of ways to save electricity. Xcel Energy, an eight state utility, is doing that; they’ve written a 65-page paper for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission saying they want a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and they want to be the agency that drives a reinvention of the whole business. If we do that, we can de-carbonize the grid at essentially no cost, something I could not have said five years ago. That’s crazy-good news.


An 1850s Prefab Cottage from Boston Finds New Life in Australia

Courtyard at a renovated 1850s Melbourne prefab cottage

Keeping the original home intact, the team added to the existing structure to create a U-shaped layout that surrounds an open courtyard. The deteriorating old roof was replaced with a custom galvanized steel Orb roof by Lysaght, and the entire rear façade was wrapped with clean white BGC Durascape cement sheeting. A life-size plastic cow, found at the home when the couple bought it, became a permanent fixture in the yard. 

In a Melbourne suburb, a rundown 1850s cottage sat vacant on the market without buyer interest. Its worn and weathered appearance didn’t deter the property’s eventual owners, Agata and Chris Millington, from seeing the potential behind the dilapidated facade, though. The home, a prefab manufactured in Boston, was originally shipped from the United States to Australia in the 1850s and assembled on site. This historical context meant that the original structure could not be torn down, but instead had to be preserved in compliance with local Heritage Council restrictions. Unphased, the owners embraced the original structure, and set out to create their dream home. Together with Melbourne-based Jost Architects, the couple dramatically transformed the derelict cottage into a lively and vibrant home for themselves and their young son, all in just five months.


How the Iconic Tripp Trapp High Chair Came to Life

Portrait of Norwegian furniture designer Peter Opsvik in 2013

A 2013 portrait of Norwegian furniture designer Peter Opsvik in his workshop, a venue he finds “more suitable for experiments than the computer.” 

An artful reminiscence of Rietveld’s 1934 Zig-Zag chair—with a spare, wooden geometric frame in the shape of a letter Z, and bearing a name equally alliterative—the Tripp Trapp, designed by Peter Opsvik, distinguishes itself from other high chairs in that it allows children to sit closer and more intimately to the family dining table. “I tried to find a chair that allowed our [then-] two-year-son to sit comfortably together with us at the table,” the Norwegian industrial designer recalls. “So I had to figure out the solution myself.” 

Selling more than 9 million chairs to date, the Tripp Trapp has remained in continued production since its launch in 1972. With movable seat and footrest panels that can be adjusted to a user’s growing height, the timeless design is built to be long-enduring for its individual user, as well: It can be used comfortably from infancy to adulthood, scaling up from a high chair to a task chair that accommodates users of up to 300 pounds. For Opsvik, who has focused on ergonomic design for more than 45 years through his independent, Oslo-based practice, the Tripp Trapp remains his most famous work. “It is satisfying to see that products that solve everyday challenges are appreciated,” he says. “The distinct visual form gives Tripp Trapp longevity. It does not look old-fashioned and thus, there is no reason to replace it.” 


As the Cost of Panels Plummets, Energy Utilities Rethink Solar

Solar State illustration by Raymond Biesinger

Bright Side of History

Recent innovations in solar technology have made photovoltaics drastically more affordable and accessible to individuals. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a U.S. trade group, the cost of installing residential solar panels decreased 45 percent between 2010 and 2014.

It has been the “power source of the future” for at least the past 40 years. It’s one of the few things on which people agree across the entire political spectrum. And thanks to the development of more efficient and inexpensive solar panels and intelligent infrastructure like smart meters and inverters, it looks as though solar power’s time in the sun has finally arrived. The amount of solar photovoltaic power generated in the United States has increased from 16,000 megawatt hours in 2007 to 15,874,000 in 2014. That thousandfold increase has caused electric utilities across the country to either panic or seriously rethink their business model. 

The chief reason for the disruption is that, unlike most other renewable sources of energy, solar can be controlled at the homeowner level. Lennar Corporation, a major American homebuilder, has been looking at integrating “no brainer” solar—photovoltaic  installations that require next-to-no customer involvement—into their houses since around 2006. Now, when you build or buy in any of their 100-plus SunStreet communities, every single home is designed from the ground up with an integrated solar generating system, which produces 70 percent of their estimated energy needs. 

This much generating capacity in the hands of individuals creates an entirely new energy landscape, one that many utilities aren’t ready to handle technologically or logistically. From Wisconsin to Hawaii, utilities are taking what some call punitive action against small-scale solar power, ranging from monthly surcharges to a complete moratorium on new photovoltaic hookups. Michael Hyland, senior vice president of engineering services at the American Public Power Association (APPA), an electric utility service organization, says, “We have an inkling that many utilities will need to review their rates and how they have charged for electricity over the past hundred years.” One positive change the APPA sees is the development of what it calls community solar: putting photovoltaics on publicly owned land—near landfills, airports, parking lots—that can be utilized by the entire community. The utility will benefit by not having to deal with multiple owners and installers, and the homeowners will benefit by not having to front the cost of their own solar installation.

With social and technological innovations like these, the power source of the future may finally be ready for the present. Or as Hyland puts it, “Electricity drives the economy. It is sometimes thought of as the eighth wonder of the world. So this is really a juicy time to get into the industry.” 


This Awesome Software Converts the Music of the Beatles and Queen Into Textile Patterns

BeatWoven’s DreaMelody: Patterns in Play collection by Nadia-Anne Ricketts

BeatWoven’s DreaMelody: Patterns in Play collection features designs derived by custom software from musical patterns in iconic British pop songs, including Queen’s “A Kind of Magic” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles. The large cushion with piping is $450; small pillows are $300. 

What does your favorite song look like? BeatWoven, the music-inspired textile line by London-based designer Nadia-Anne Ricketts, might just have the answer.

“It’s bizarre, but I always get a bit of a color palette in my head when I hear music,” says Ricketts, who transforms songs into silk using a proprietary software that helps her visualize sound. From there, the designer intuitively adds color and edits the patterns before they’re woven on digital jacquard looms at a British silk mill that dates back to the 18th century. 

“I usually think of an interior story and then choose music that fits within that story,” says Ricketts of her audiovisual inspirations. British pop music served as the starting point for the collection she debuted stateside at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and she is currently working on a new line inspired by jazz, as well as private commissions. Think of it as music for your eyes. 

Below, watch a video to see the looms in action and hear Ricketts discuss the motivation behind the company.


One Family's Backyard Becomes Their Own Tiny Retreat

Backyard addition of a Massachusetts home

When the Ferguson Sauder family—parents Meg, a school counselor, and Tim, a design instructor, plus kids Cole, Olive, and Asher—wanted a multifunctional backyard addition, they decided to build it themselves. Two Liftoff chairs by Tim Miller, one of Tim’s former students, surround an oil-drum fire pit set in granite dug up on the property. On the deck, the Panamericana chair is by Industry of All Nations. 

Lanesville Outbuilding

Tim and Meg Ferguson Sauder had two problems: Like many parents, they wanted more space for their active family. They also needed to get rid of a deteriorating, hornet-infested storage shed sitting in the yard of their home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. So the family devised a solution in the form of a gift-box-size modern outbuilding that’s more of a weekend retreat than simply a place to park the lawn mower.  

The project was started out of pure necessity. Tim, the creative director of a student design studio at nearby Gordon College, where he is also an instructor, needed a home studio of his own. The couple’s children, Cole, 13, Olive, 10, and Asher, six, who have an informal business making long-board skateboards out of recycled wood, needed space to play and tinker. And with a large extended family always ready to visit them in Gloucester, an idyllic seaside town on Massachusetts’s North Shore, an extra bed would come in handy. 

As Tim and Meg describe it, building a better shed turned into a family project and an exercise in inexpensive, sustainable building. “We wanted to do this as a sort of experiment to see what we could do if we got to start from scratch,” Tim says.

With the exception of the roof and plastering, Tim, Meg, and their children built the 168-square-foot space themselves, almost exclusively with reclaimed materials. The mahogany that wraps the building and covers the deck came from a garbage bin, as did the oak for the floors, which was rescued from an apartment renovation near the famous Boston watering hole Cheers. A porthole-style window came at a discount from a building supply outlet. The outdoor fire pit was cut from an oil drum. 

The interior is a bright and cozy space that alternates functions from design studio to playroom to guestroom, depending on the family’s needs. Tim and Meg found a Murphy bed, through Craigslist, that they reassembled and covered in birch. Tim fished a broken Eero Saarinen Executive chair from Knoll out of a dumpster on campus; Meg convinced a local auto mechanic to repair the fiberglass frame, and they reassembled the chair themselves. Wanting to add a small bathroom without connecting to the sewer or a septic system, they found a waterless EcoJohn toilet, also via Craigslist, that uses a small propane burner to incinerate waste. 

In the 12 years they’ve lived in their home, Tim and Meg have taken on a few renovation projects. They gutted the interior, built new walls, and constructed an outdoor shower for rinsing off after summer adventures. “I think we like the challenge of saying you can make things really beautiful without spending tons of money,” Tim explains. 

Meg, a counselor at a local school, says that the family has always used Craigslist to find deals. While the push to use repurposed pieces in the outbuilding was driven in part by a goal of staying under a $10,000 budget, she says using ethically sourced goods is a daily part of the family’s life. When they began the project, in 2012, they worked with an architecture student on preliminary designs for the space. But Tim says they quickly realized their serendipitous approach to materials meant that normal planning wouldn’t work. 

In all, the process took about a year. Now the patchwork of recycled materials fits well with the outbuilding’s multiple roles. In the summer, it serves as a hub after badminton games or boat trips on Ipswich Bay, which is visible through the sliding glass doors. Some evenings, the family packs in for movie night, and, in the winter, the children play floor hockey and basketball inside. “It’s kind of like our playground,” says Olive. “When we get bored upstairs, it’s like we have a second house.” 


Product Designer Erwan Bouroullec on the Magic of Wrought Iron

Chair in the Officina Collection by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec for Magis

Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec’s new Officina collection for Magis includes chairs, stools, and tables made with wrought-iron frames, marking the brothers’ first experimentation with the material. In this age-old technique, iron is hammered into shape by hand.

Since 1999, brothers Erwan and Rowan Bouroullec have run an independent practice from their Paris-based studio, working with furniture brands such as Vitra, Kvadrat, and Cappellini. This year, they launched the Officina collection with Magis, using wrought iron to achieve the modern, elegantly functional pieces for which they are known. We caught up with Erwan at the Milan Furniture Fair to get his thoughts on the use of an ancient technique for a contemporary collection, and how production choices hold the power  to shape the industry.

How did you first approach the idea of using a traditional method for a contemporary line? 

If you compare it to cooking, to play with wrought iron is just like having an incredible fish—a beautiful one, like whole tuna. You shouldn’t do anything. You should just slice it perfectly and maybe bring just a little something. Because in the end, design techniques are like a flavor or seasoning. In the case of wrought iron, you’ve got a really, really rare flavor.  

How do you feel it contrasts with more common methods or materials, like aluminum or powder-coated metals?

It’s so strong because it’s filled with history, first. Then also, it’s filled with some incredibly primal steps: You see it, hammer it, heat it—fire, melt, poof! Hammer it into shape, and that’s it. As soon as we were confronted with it, it posed a big dilemma. It really took us a while to achieve such simplicity.

How do you feel this fits into your trajectory of work as a designer?

One responsibility that I understand, more and more, is that in the end, we work with companies, and those companies are partially in danger. Most of them are European, producing locally in Europe, so we have to think carefully when we do things. Now, with globalization and the movement of everything, design has to be much better every time. You need to find some clue— a reason—to resist local production. 

Have you found there are others that share your desire for a more organic way of producing things?

I’m happy I’m working with some producers that all have high expectations for good design. So, they’ve got different production techniques. Some of them are more industrial, some of them are less, but at least something that they all share is that if you do something, it has to be worth doing it. 

To you, what makes it worth it? 

One of the biggest considerations behind furniture is to make pieces that are able to travel time. If you look at all the production of the ’90s and the design, a lot of things were not able to do that. They were getting old instantly, and they were getting old by their visual language, and also by their function. They were just not necessary. This is one of the worst things you can do for furniture. They have to be able to be kind of non-temporal. In this regard, I think we work with the right partners. 


8 Multi-Bulb Lighting Displays

wood shelves of various sizes ornament the back wall, white couches, and a wood coffee table sit on a red, white and grey carpet

Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan collaborated with New Haven, Connecticut, firm Gray Organschi on their vacation home on Fire Island. After spending years in a 1970s A-frame in the area, the creative couple decided to build their first-ever ground-up project. The site-sensitive exterior belies an interior festooned with kaleidoscopic colors and an array of tactile materials. The Peter rug, Malibu sofa, and ceramics are Adler’s own designs. The tables, pendant lights, and rocker are vintage.

Photo by Floto + Warner.

An Adorable Midcentury Revamp in Bel Air

Exterior facade of a Bel Air ranch-style home

The architect kept the existing roof, streamlining it with Kynar-painted metal. The rest of the house is composed of white stucco

When writer Robin MacGuire and her husband, film financier Marc Schaberg, decided to transform a 1950s California ranch into a clean, minimalist home, their main concern was opening it up to the environment. Nestled at the bottom of a valley and facing the Getty Museum, the house embraces its scenic setting with skylights, sliding glass windows, and a garden pool. The open design also provides ventilation as an alternative to air conditioning. “The couple liked the idea of a low-maintenance home,” explains the architect, Clay Holden of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects. The minimalist, Scandinavian-style home is warmed by several midcentury furniture classics, such as an Eames lounge. 


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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