Friday, September 7, 2012

It's been a very busy summer here at Zeitgeist!  We have had projects ranging from small to complex and everything in between.  Jessica has just completed two new kitchen's with more under way.  She is also heading up two large renovations, while finishing up several smaller projects.
...classical with a pinch of modern or...
...eichler interpreted
We at Zeitgeist are always thinking about ways to improve the service we render our clients.  Since Jessica has been working on several kitchens lately, we talked about how we could get more control over the end-product, especially when it comes to cabinetry.   One of the main decisions is whether to go with a custom or standard system.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, a custom system has more options, however, the actual product, and particularly its finish, are not 100% known until it’s – well – finished…  A standard system, on the other hand, might require unattractive fillers and other ways to mitigate a less than perfect fit and the details and craftsmanship are often not up to our standard.  There is, however, a third option, in a new partnership with a long established manufacturer; each piece is made to our specifications, down to the 1/8th of an inch!  We in house produce the shop-drawings, all the details on the drawings, before anything is ordered.   No more back and forth between the manufacturer and the designer!   Clearly another cost savings in the overall process.  With amazing selections in both wood species and paint, factory hard finishes (not available in California!), they meet the best green building guidelines. This furnishes you with all the bells and whistles of a custom product, with the consistency and price point of a standard one.

 Petaluma Residence:

I am getting started with a new addition, am working on two renovations, while assisting with construction administration on one of Jessica's renovations.  Some of my larger projects are finally on the home stretch.  You might remember the modern house with a separate granny unit and garage.   Floor finishes have been installed, finished electrical is under way.  Unfortunately the protective plastic wrap on the windows takes a bit away from the photos...  

Sonoma Residence:   Hard to say what I like more - the amazing views or the beautiful railings and deck system we have just completed. To be able to see San Francisco from Sonoma......

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

sonoma inspirations

This project’s clients are a young couple immersed in the local ‘culture du vin’, and the fresh parents of a now one-year old.  They had purchased this home just prior to engaging us.   We were asked to update the living room and master suite, along with other bathrooms, furnishings, lighting, colors etc. This home featured some grand spaces and some very ordinary ones.   As with all of our projects, we started by asking ourselves: How can we infuse this fairly ordinarily built and finished house with inspiration of the Sonoma County life-style combined with the calm but engaging spirit of the family. 
We started by thinking of natural materials, their tactile qualities, their temperature. We also thought of the quality of light specific to this area, and how to use it best to articulate the design, the spaces, the materials.
The master bedroom (below) with its ( see link below)8’ ceiling and its small and poorly placed windows presented us with one of the trickier challenges.  
It worked great as a pool table room, but for a inviting and restful master suite?  How one wakes up can set the tone for the day!  The ceiling felt oppressively low, so we took out the existing roof trusses and replaced them with conventional framing  (without touching the existing roof).  
We created a fake ridge along the center of the space, and added a small window centered on the south wall, sending a small square of sunlight (and moonlight too) wandering across the room, while framing foliage from adjacent trees. We also added new large windows that come down low to meet a built in window seat and open the room up to the beautiful back-yard. A new gas fireplace adds to the ambiance on cold or rainy days.

We feel that the renovation has transformed the residence to fit our clients’ life-styles and greatly upgraded it, without feeling pretentious. Additionally, the design allows the re-designed spaces to co-exist with existing spaces, creating a elegant and appropriate fusion bringing back an integrity to the architecture that was sorely missing.
The living room (right) featured, front and center, a very large and quite heinous white brick fireplace. and some seriously gothic chandeliers.   Again we thought of what materials would lend themselves to turning this into a Sonoma County space. We decided on Travertine and re-purposed, re-milled wood to bring a sophisticated but earthy and organic quality to this space.   We kept the design minimalist, asymmetrical, and uncompromised. The result is sleek, modern, but warm and quite tactile.

The Master bathroom (left):  We came across a gorgeous slab of blue marble with heavy diagonal veining. That slab became the design inspirations for the entire master bath. We ended using it on several walls, in the shower and around the tub. The new large windows were carefully placed to light  the stone, making it radiate like the edge of a glacier, turning the walls into natural modern art. The coolness of the stone is offset by warm blue walls and radiant custom colored walnut cabinetry, also adding warmth.

Children's Jack and Jill bathroom (below):  Correlating with more traditional styling at this location, we have octagonal tile flooring and antique reproduction brushed nickel faucets. 
This overall aesthetic is given a playful, contemporary edge with gorgeous stacking glass tiles.  The custom cabinetry was designed to work around the lower sill height of this window, providing a lovely stoop and viewing spot for a young child.

Please see our website for many more photos and information on this and other projects.  Thank you!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mexican Inspirations

A family event recently prompted us to take a short trip to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, Mexico. The simplicity, innovation and expressiveness of the architecture there very much inspired us.
There is so much beauty here! We especially loved the rich colors (including the reddest red…), the simplicity of shape, the richness of textures.  It seemed much more art than just architecture. More expressionism than space-engineering. More poetry than technical writing. Just reinforced with me the point that American architecture has been reduced to an (almost) Germanic Funktionsarchitektur, a sort of utilitarian engineering, lacking the pure flame of inspiration, or simply cohones...
Less is more? That certainly seems to be the case with Mexican architecture:  You can tell a lot of it has been built with a tight budget in mind. Nonetheless much is beautiful. Stairs are narrow and steep, made out of concrete, the bamboo railings are sturdy and about 2 feet above the top of the treads. You’ll find sliding doors on the second floor without a railing. Sort of a built-in Darwinian filter system…

I also loved some of the playful detailing of the buildings.  Bands of stone meander across sidewalks, surround pools, outline parking lots.  And these or not just flat stones, no, they are beautiful, matching river pebbles, set on end in concrete, creating a wonderful texture under your bare feet.  It was also evident in the exterior painting of buildings, for which the walls were often used like a canvas, making small windows pop out, or framing a door like a portrait of a loved one. No effort was spared to create palappas over windows, so they could stay open when it rains.  Balconies are decorated with brick tile patterns, allowing air to pass through, while conserving privacy.
The use of form and color and the way in which natural materials are combined with very modern elements were captivating and reminiscent of some of Corbusier’s work we’ve seen in Chandigar, India.  It took us both back to our roots in design school, and you might notice some of these elements surface in future Zeitgeist projects…
I could go and on...                                      
I hope to weave these inspirations into my work from here on out.  I also hope to incorporate some of the Mexican savoir vivre in my life and work. To work hard, yet to enjoy life as if took place on the beach in Sayulita… Anyone thinking about building a concrete house?  It’s way greener than a lot of these allegedly green materials!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain Road renovation / addition:
The original architects of this house (who shall remain nameless) are not known for individualizing designs, but rather using a kit of parts and assembling them per the client’s wishes. While a great business model, this really compromises the overall integrity of the design and the site is rarely taken into consideration.  Built on a sloped site, this means expansive (read: unusable) crawlspaces and a dwelling that looks misplaced.  Perched up in the hills, this residence suffers from the cantilever effect.While we love our views, what is one to do with these derrières of our home, 20 feet off the ground?  We’re addressing that by designing a wall that will close off the space underneath the new expansive deck. That wall will be featuring Parasoleil’s  decorative metal panels interspersed with wood columns and will be resting on stone-clad foundation walls. 

 They will ground the whole assembly by connecting it with the earth in a beautiful and committed way, but ohh, will we miss acres of the ever lovely lattice-work... This renovation will orient itself around the new beautiful deck space, really creating the indoor outdoor living space the client desires.  By changing out poorly placed and economy doors and windows, we are able to refocus on the beautiful views of Sonoma Valley. We are also adding guest quarters room in the expansive crawlspace below the house.
By adding stucco over the existing siding, a metal roof and most significantly the live able deck space around grandpa Oak, the overall character and level of sophistication of the residence will change considerably.  These changes will transform what is now pretty much a run-of-the-mill ranch-style (one design fits all!) home into a substantial Sonoma-style residence with expansive, multi-tiered decks, sweeping views and almost transparent (as in don’t block the view) cable-rails. This project is slated to start construction in early summer.
Los Angles Hills, addition:
We are also designing an addition for a residence in Los Angeles.  This project is challenging because of its site constrictions. We are adding a master-suite with a master bedroom, a master bath and a walk-in closet. Especially challenging was making the addition feel spacious and fun while working with a very narrow layout dictated by the site.  We added jogs, windows at the end of hallway, some extra space and large pocket-doors to be able to keep the space flowing when privacy is not needed, while being able to spaces up when it is needed.  It is fun to have project down there, and thanks to the direct connection from our Sonoma airport it’s a breeze to zip down there and back up and still be home for dinner, all in one day!
Healdsburg, renovation / rebuild:
While it is always a joy to reconnect with our old clients, and a wonderful confirmation on the work we do… we so wish this project were under different circumstances.  Their home recently suffered a 60% loss due to a house fire. This Healdsburg site, is on a beautiful hill-side overlooking a large pond, and surrounded by lots of large old trees. We are placing lots of glass to frame the best views and take advantage of the sun angles. We have also incorporated a two sided fireplace to help articulate the now larger living room and dining room.  The original space’s usefulness was compromised by several angular walls and their proximities. We are enjoying tweaking that space to transform it from an auxiliary space into what will be a main living (and dining) room, taking full advantage of the best attributes of the site. Jessica had helped these clients with some interior design a couple of years ago.  We hope to get them back into their home really soon with it feeling more beautiful and functional than ever.