Archive for December, 2006

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

Carpet Over Radiant Floor Heating System?

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

Yes, carpet works very well over a radiant floor heating system. In fact, almost any flooring material may be installed over a radiant floor. The key to installing wall-to-wall carpet is using the proper padding material. Radiant floor systems work best with slab foam rubber carpet pad. SFRP is a superior carpet pad, providing a better “feel” than standard carpet pads and transferring heat exceptionally well.

Interested in radiant heating? Check out Warmboard.

Creating Enduring Neighborhoods

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Living Well Link of the Week: Charter of the New Urbanism

To Flip or Not to Flip

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

You can watch the TV shows every evening on HGTV and TLC…the home flippers buying a house in need of work, spending a few weeks of time, a few thousand dollars and selling for a easy profit. Being a residential architect, I watch these shows strictly as entertainment. Its nice to think that it might be that easy. I am here to tell you that it is not.

I submitted a proposal to perform architectural services for a local “flip” about 1 year ago. During the interview, I was very honest about the amount of time and money it would take to complete the scope of work for this residence. I lost the job.

I occasionally drive by the project. It’s still under construction, and from the looks of the amount of work being performed, the cost is way more than I estimated. If in fact it is still a “flip”, there is very little chance that the owner is going to make any profit at all. My guess is that, with the current direction of the real estate market, they will lose thousands on their investment.

Its just not that easy.

If you are considering a “flip”, the current issue of Oprah at Home magazine has a great article (written by Suzie Orman) on the subject.

Other shows, like ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, are even more unrealistic. Unless you have few hundred thousand dollars in corporate sponsorships, a few hundred enthusiastic volunteer tradespeople and a very cooprerative building department, an event like Makeover is just not possible.

Television shows like these establish very unrealistic expectations for homeowners cosidering a renovation project. The average renovation project in Westchester County takes at least one full year from start to finish; about 4 to 6 months to design, at least 1 month for municipal review and about 6 to 8 months to build. Construction costs in the county start at $225 per square foot and quickly go up from there.

Major renovations take too much time, cost too much money and involve way too much risk. If you’re looking to “flip”, use the “4Re” rule. Stick to a house that can be Repainted, Refinished, Repaired and Re-sold. Paint the house inside and out. (Quick tip: Educate yourself well on home color or hire an architect to select the colors. Color will make or break you. Neutrals are NOT the answer.) Refinish the floors and woodwork. Repair anything that is visibly damaged or worn. Make sure the house is spotlessly clean and resell for a quick profit. Ten or 20 thousand dollars in a month or two is way better than risking big bucks on a unstable real estate market.

Italian Village Warms withs First Winter Sunrise in 800 Years

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Viganella is an Italian alpine village where between Nov 11 and Feb 2 the sun does not rise above the mountains.

Christoph at anArchitecture blog posts news that the village has installed a large motorized mirror that tracks the sun and reflects sunlight down to the village.

The sun coming up everyday…living well!

New F.A.R. Zoning may Allow BIGGER Houses

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

In a strange twist to the trend of further restriction on Westchester zoning codes, the Town of Spring Valley has proposed to increase the floor area ratios (FAR) for single and multi-family residences.

Yes, I know…Spring Valley is on the “far side” of the river in Rockland County, but…

The proposal, if approved, will increase the town’s FAR limits from 30 percent to 55 percent. The change is in response to the neighboring town, Ramapo, increasing its FAR to 90% for one small zoning district bordering Spring Valley.

Although it may feel like every town in the Tri-State Area is restricting property owners’ rights to suffocating limits (and this may be true for Westchester…I don’t know), I just wanted to highlight some that are bucking the trend.

Sensational Color for the Holidays

Monday, December 18th, 2006

“Red and Green move over. This year it’s all about picking a holiday color scheme that compliments your home and your personality.”

“The holidays are a great time to add some color, sparkle and drama to your home’s decor, and while red and green may be the traditional choice, this year it’s all about picking a color scheme that compliments your home and your personality. Whether you’re hosting an open-house, opening up presents with your family, or ringing in the New Year with an intimate dinner for two, this is a great time to experiment with this year’s hottest holiday color trends.”

Read the entire article at the Sensational Color website.

Designing the Perfect Bath: Waterworks Style

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Barbara Sallick, Co-founder and Senior Vice President of Design at Waterworks, released her second publication this November, titled The Definitive Guide to Designing the Perfect Bath.

The ideal shelf-mate to her previous book, Waterworks: Inventing Bath Style, The Definitive Guide emphasizes the importance of planning, meticulous installation, choosing and trusting your design professionals, and accessorizing as the finishing touch for the complete bath experience.

The Definitive Guide is the perfect tool for anyone building a new house, planning a major renovation, or making just a few small changes to the bath. It is the ultimate companion throughout the bath design process.
The guide provides useful worksheets and checklists, and defines important questions to ask before embarking upon your design journey.

Barbara says of The Definitive Guide, “A space will yield the most complete bath experiences when each decision that you have made about architecture and design feels right and the bath becomes a private retreat for your daily bath rituals.”

As arbiter of the Waterworks’ influential bath aesthetic, Barbara brings a lifelong background in design to her philosophy of modern bath style, employing formal principles of architecture and decoration to make this utilitarian environment as rich and livable as any other room in the home. Barbara has continued to build on this precedent for nearly 30 years, seeking inspiration in past design traditions as the basis of an evolving, modern bath viewpoint.

The book is available at or direct from the Waterworks website.

Hardware for the Holidays

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Door knobs are some of the few pieces in your home that visitors actually touch. A well crafted, solid cast door knob can instantly tell a visitor that your home is well built throughout.

The Nanz Company crafts some of the most beautiful hardware in the world. The above lead crystal knob is hand cast and polished using the same techniques and manufacturers that were being used in the 1880s.

If you can’t find what you want in the online catalog (and I would be surprised if you don’t), they can also fabricate custom built-to-order pieces.

All Nanz hardware is hand-crafted in their factory located in Brooklyn, NY. Their uptown Manhattan showroom is located at 213 East 59th Street and is open to the public from 9 to 6.

An Elegant “Backdrop for a Well-Lived Life”

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Living Well Link of the Week: Barbara Barry Realized by Henredon