Giving New Life To Reclaimed Materials

Carolands Chateau
Several years ago a young contractor by the name of James Dawes, who specialized in salvaging materials from properties that were being demolished, contacted me because he had just salvaged a large quantity of Purple Vermont Slate from the historic Carolands Chateau in Hillsborough, California.
At the time, I was designing a new house in Los Altos where we had been planning on using a slate roof. The owner was interested and he purchased all the beautiful slate with a 90-year patina that a new slate roof could never match. In addition to the roof, two large vertical fireplaces were clad in the slate. Its storied history became the feature material of the house.
Over the years I’ve sought to introduce reclaimed materials wherever I could.  I recently finished a house where we renovated a historic water tower and used it as a staircase to link the four levels of the house together.  The entire interior of the water tower was clad in reclaimed redwood.  The graining was better than any new material I could purchase and, when re-milled, its color is stunning.
Another addition to a historic mid-century modern house in Los Altos Hills, California was clad in reclaimed teak. We had to epoxy-fill some areas, since reclaimed material sometimes needs careful selection in the field and may have some signs of it’s former use. But in the end the wood is the feature of the addition, both inside and out.  Again, the color and quality of the material would be hard to match with new material and using it saves it from simply ending up in a landfill somewhere.
Today I’m still working with James on a little studio for a long time client and we’ve managed to clad the entire structure inside and out with reclaimed materials.  All the cabinetry was salvaged material we simply re-purposed.  This wonderful material begins another life under the redwood trees.  It isn’t quite finished yet but it will be a unique little jewel box when it’s complete.

It Doesn’t Get “Slicker” Than This…..

This week, the principals at CAW have asked us each to locate two images that exemplify how we think about design. For me one of those images will most certainly be from my faux magazine shoot for my raincoat made of plastic grocery bags.


 A little background: The raincoat came about as a challenge from my thesis professor in design school. She assigned us the task of crafting an entry for the Cal Poly architecture department’s annual furniture show, Vellum, using only waste material. With my background as a seamstress I immediately knew I wanted to sew rather than putting in long hours in the wood or metal shop, and I was vaguely familiar with plarning which is essentially crocheting with a yarn made from strips of plastic grocery bags. After a few failed attempts at plarning anything of interest, I hunted around and found a tutorial for fusing layers of plastic bags with a low iron to make a textile able to be sewn with a sewing machine.

So there I sat in my studio with my first scrap of plastic fabric: a durable, waterproof application of a petroleum-based product that would otherwise go to landfill or destroy a habitat. My professor asked me what I was going to do with it. I threw out ideas for a sling style chair, or possibly using it for upholstery, before finally admitting that what I really wanted to do was make a fabulous raincoat out of it— because it’s so cool that it’s waterproof. She gave me the green light, and that’s how I ended up entering a raincoat in a furniture competition. (Someone else won, but I was the runner-up; thanks for asking.)

Bag Count

Constructing the coat was simple enough. The great thing about making my own textile was that I could fabricate pieces in the exact right sizes for my pattern pieces. I would also have some amount of control over where the logos ended up on the finished garment. I’m particularly proud of the closures: they are the necks and tops of soda bottles, and you actually screw them closed!

The challenge for me was how to present the coat and its message. So often in design, it seems having a product or project be “green” is an excuse to let it be clunky or non-functional. The prevailing notion seems to be that consumers should ‘buy green’ to ‘do the right thing’ or be imbued with a sense of righteousness for saving the world.  My entire thesis was about consumerism and how to use great design to turn the ‘right thing’ into an object of desire. I didn’t want visitors to the competition to view my coat as an arts and crafts project (in the hot-glue-gun sense, not the 19th-century-architectural-movement sense) that you might see on some environmental blog. I wanted my audience to view the coat as high fashion, and that is where the photo shoot came in.

I’m lucky enough to be friends with Mike Rogers, an absurdly talented fashion photographer, who was a fellow student at Cal Poly. My best hope was for some campy, highly tongue-in-cheek photos, featuring me as the model, that would nonetheless get my message across.  Instead, I was presented with absolutely gorgeous, professional, high-fashion caliber photos that even had me believing my raincoat was a must-have item. At the competition itself the photos were absolutely the draw, and the coat was subject to some vigorous bidding in the silent auction. For me, it was a lesson in the power of marketing if ever there was one.


 So, as awkward as it is to present oneself as a model, the photography was as much a part of my thesis as the coat itself.  My coat had become desirable— and not just because it hid its sustainable features behind a slick exterior. People loved it because it was made out of plastic bags, and because they could recognize the Safeway, Walmart, 99cent Store, and ever-iconic “Thank you, Come Again” logos (a small commentary on the pervasiveness of brand-based marketing in the fashion world). I’ve had requests for regional coats that use bags from grocery stores in other parts of the country. The Piggly-Wiggly raincoat has yet to manifest, however.

This small thesis project made a lasting change in how I view my role as a designer. Designers are marketers and storytellers. We should forever strive to package the environmentally conscious strategies that, as far as I’m concerned, exemplify our duty as architects— with designs that exceed our clients’ highest expectations. In this way our projects can communicate to the community that they are the ‘right thing’ without having to shout that they are desirable.

View more of Mike’s photography at

I’m Thinking of Buying a Historic House: What Should I Know?

Palo Alto
Waverley Oaks – Category 1 Landmark
For many potential Palo Alto homebuyers, some of the homes they may be considering are listed as historic.
What should these buyer’s consider?
The City of Palo Alto has several historic categories, so the first step is to find out which one applies to the property under consideration.  Category 1 and 2 homes are considered “significant structures,” while Category designations of 3 and 4 are considered “contributing structures.”  Category 1 and 2 structures are subject to review by the City’s Historic Resources Board for exterior changes only;  the City does not have purview over interior modifications.  
The City has a Historic Inventory that lists all historic or potentially historic structures within the City’s boundaries.  City staff at the Development Office, located on the corner of Hamilton and Bryant, will be able to assist in determining which Category designation applies to a particular property.  Homebuyers can also call our office at (650) 328-1818 and speak with me and I can determine the properties designation.
Does historic designation limit my ability to remodel the structure?
The City of Palo Alto, like most local municipalities, have adopted the National Park Service Standards for Rehabilitation as a standard for reviewing historic structures.
These Standards were written knowing that changes to historic buildings are often necessary to accommodate more contemporary uses or lifestyles. They offer guidelines to help assist in making these changes without destroying the key defining features of the historic residence.  These Standards don’t prohibit change;  they try and guide sensitive solutions so alterations are compatible with the historic structure.
If homebuyers are considering purchasing a property with an idea toward modifying it and plan to work with an architect, that architect should be well-versed with the Standards and how they apply.
Our office offers homebuyers a free one-hour consultation to assist in examining your options or highlighting issues before purchase.
Are there any advantages to buying a historic house?
I never view historic designation as a negative; in fact, historic designation has allowed me to leverage the historic nature to gain zoning exemptions or leniency that would not be afforded a newer property.  For instance, older homes often don’t meet requirements for height or setback making adding additions sometimes awkward or difficult.  Historic designations have allowed us to have more lenient height and setback requirements for newer additions, adding square footage where otherwise it would have been prohibited.
Historic buildings are also afforded leniency from strict interpretations of modern building and energy requirements.  California has a special provision of the building code that applies to historic buildings that allow engineers some flexibility when trying to bring an older building up to code.  I never see historic designation as a negative;  in contrast it often allows architects and engineers a great deal of flexibility when developing solutions.
What else should I consider?
Many people love the look of older homes and the charming neighborhoods where they exist, but I find that most people are less than enthusiastic about the dark interiors and compartmentalized floor plans.  Many people want to live in homes that have more open floor plans, especially when it comes to the kitchen and family room that have become the heart of the house for today’s modern family.
Nearly all of our clients with older homes have a desire to have more light and a more open floor plan.  We have been able to successfully renovate scores of historic homes to accommodate a more open living environment while preserving key historic features.
When considering the purchase of an older home, you may also want to read my blog post titled “Five Things to Look For When Buying an Old House.”

Important Design Course Entrance Examinations in India

Design school aspirants have big dreams and it begins when one qualifies for the design course offered by the design schools across the country. For doing this, one must appear in the entrance examination and qualify for doing the course. Here is a look at the courses and the qualification needed.

The most important of the design entrance exams are NEED, CEED, NIFT Entrance Exam, and Pearl Academy Fashion Entrance Exam. You must get an application form from the centre, fill it, and send it before the last date. Those who qualify in the written examination can go to the next stage of the qualification process.

National Institute for Design (NID), Ahmedabad

The National Entrance Examination for Design (NEED) is conducted by the NID Ahmedabad. It conducts admission tests for its Graduate Diploma Programme in Design (GDPD) that has 100 seats in the Ahmedabad campus.  NEED takes place at 11 centres across India. The application form costs Rs 1,500. One must have a pass in Higher Secondary (10+2) examination. One can also have an equivalent certificate such as AISSCE/ICSE/IB, and so on. The candidates must not be older than 20 years. The examination is in January and the last date for sending the application is November.

IIT, Bombay

The Common Entrance Examination for Design (CEED) is conducted by the IIT, Bombay for admission to post-graduate programmes such as M. Des. in the IITs. The cost of the application is Rs 950. To become eligible, you must have one of the these:

  1. BFA
  2. Bachelor degree in Design/Architecture/Engineering
  3. Master degree in Science/ Arts/ Computer Applications
  4. GD Art with 1 year experience
  5. Professional Diploma from NID or CEPT

The exam takes place in January and the last date is in November.

NID entrance examination

The NIFT entrance exam takes place in February with more than 2000 seats in the design courses across the country. You can take the test from one of the 30 test centres in India. Aspirants can have their NID NIFT entrance exam preparation by joining a coaching centre. The application form costs Rs 1,000. The eligibility is 10+2 exam pass from any recognised Board/Public School in India or equivalent foreign certificate recognised by the Association of Indian Universities. The exam date is February and the last date is January.

Pearl Academy Fashion Entrance Exam

Entrance Examinations

This is another important exam for the design course aspirants. The cost of the application is Rs 1,000 and the test takes place in 7 testcentres across India. To qualify for the exam one must have at least 50% marks in 10+2 school certificate exam or equivalent. The aspirants must also appear for an Admission Test followed by an Interview. The exam date is May and the last date is the beginning of May.

The objective of the test is to check the response of the student in various design aspects. This will include the visual perception ability, aptitude for design, creativity, and logical reasoning. The successful student will possess good communicative skills. He or she will have strong drawing skills. Only the successful students will receive a response from the exam centre.

Reliable and Risk Free Environment with the Hood Cleaning Services

Hoods are considered as the integral parts of the kitchen. At the commercial level, the hoods are of great importance because hoods can keep the smoke out of the kitchen. Hoods are considered as one of those components of the kitchen that are excessively used during the process of cooking. For the same reason grease may accumulate inside the hood. Restaurants need to have the clean environment all the time, it also includes kitchen. Kitchen is one of the places that are required to be clean. Hoods are of those parts that may seems to be clean from the outside but there is a high degree of grease that can stick to the inside part of the hood. It can usually be observed by seeing the hood right from below but that is not mandatory that it can be seen always. Some of the hood designs are complex and users may not be able to have a view of the hood. Grease and the dust inside the hood can be a hazard as well. So it is important to clean the hood not only from the safety point of view but it is also important for the hygienic environment as well. If you are looking for a professional hood cleaning services, then there is no better option than hiring New York Hood Cleaning services. Our services can not only make it sure that your hood is clean but it can also protect our client from getting involved into any kind of risk. Grease and dust can catch fire any time.

Required equipment and expertise

The type of professional services that we are offering is based upon the type of equipment that we use. Cleaning services mostly rely on to the equipment used by the cleaning staff. New York Hood Cleaning services have all the required equipment that can manage to clean any complex hood design. It doesn’t matter what type of hood is installed in restaurants, all types of hoods are easily cleaned by the cleaning professionals. The professionals that we provide to our clients are expert in dealing with the multiple kinds of services. The professional cleaning can get the required results because of the experience that our professionals have got. The equipment that we use is not only up to date but at the same time our equipment can handle any type of hood, no matter how dirty your hood is , we can still manage to get your hood revived.  With the latest equipment, we can also manage to provide quick cleaning services to the customers. At the commercial level, time is always a constraint. As a cleaning company we are very well aware of the fact that how important it is for the client to get the services in a timely manner. We are just one call away from our clients; you can get quick and reliable hood cleaning services in a timely manner. This is not just the end; New York Hood Cleaning has a wide range of cleaning equipment that can generate 100% cleaning results.

Get a Brighter and Fresher Look of your Yard Look

your Yard Look

Yard is one of the places that are used quite frequently.  It is quite common that the places that are used frequently needs to be cleaned as well. Yard is mostly used for multiple purposes; you can park your car in the yard, as well as you can have seating arrangements for your family. Yard is one of the essential parts of the building that can have an integral role. In the overall look of any building, yard is of great importance. The yard needs to be maintained as well. Most of the time, the yards are often open, it means that the yard can have environmental effects as well.  The environmental factors like the dust and the rain can make yard look dull. In most of the cases there are some stains that can be seen on the yard. A cleaner yard can boost up the appearance of any building.  As a cleaning company we can Power Wash Your Yard.  There are multiple advantages that can be obtained from a power wash that we are offering. For a power wash there is specific type of cleaning equipment that is used. With a power wash, there is a major difference that can be seen. Likewise a power wash offered by our company can get a fresher look to your yard.  The yard can have multiple colors; these colors are actually added to compliment the exterior design of the building. Power wash can get a brighter look to the yard.

The value of property and the impact of power wash

A yard can get discoloration effect due to the natural factors. These factors are mostly rain, dirt, and wind and sun ultraviolet rays. The yard can lose its originality over the period of time. Once the yard is unattractive, it can affect the overall appearance of a building. The factors like the like the pollutants can also have an impact onto the yard. These pollutants can permanently damage your yard if unattended. So it is important for the building owners to keep an eye onto the yard and make it sure that it should be maintained properly. One of the practices through which yard can be kept clean is by cleaning the yard. Having power wash your yard can be a great option. We as a company can provide power wash to your yard in a meaningful way. With our power wash there are multiple advantages that can be fetched. Likewise having a wonderful and clean yard will make a definite impact onto the overall property value. The value of clean and maintained property is always greater than the other properties. With our power wash, client can literally remove anything from the yard. Oil stains are considered as one of the toughest stains that are hard to remove. But as a cleaning company we can provide a type a power wash that can make yard look new. A cleaner and brighter yard can definitely boost up the value of overall property and it will make a definite impression as well.