K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for August, 2010

Aug 20 2010

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Vision House Series continues in Orlando for IBS 2011


Green Builder Magazine’s VISION HOUSE series kicks off in Orlando this year for the International Builder’s Show with two new projects that highlight the latest technologies in green building and remodelling. As America experiences a slight upturn in the economy, hope for a big swing and a return to ‘the way we were’ is still first on our minds. I don’t know about you, but the scorecard changes daily, from cautious optimism to doom and gloom, depending on whom you talk to.

Last week I visited the site of the two houses I’m working on in Orlando and met with the builder, Southern Traditions Development. This husband and wife building team work in an amazing little section of Orlando called College Park, which is about 20 minutes from the Convention Center. This neighborhood is full of adorable bungalows and “cracker-style” homes that are synonymous with Southern architecture dating back to the 1920s. Cobblestone streets and airy front porches make this area look like a Hollywood movie set.

John Plevich and Kim Foy, the owners of Southern Traditions Development, have managed to maintain the quaint feel of the neighborhood and build and remodel homes that are not only attractive and sustainable, but also affordable. Their business is flourishing and continues to evolve, even in this sluggish economy. So here’s a perfect example of what it takes to make it work. A passion for what they do, an eye for clean, simple design, and a vision for building and remodelling sustainably.

This year’s VISION HOUSE, which is new construction, is made from insulated concrete forms instead of the usual stick-built way with wood framing. Blocks of hollow styrofoam stack together like Legos for the outside shell and are filled with concrete, creating a hurricane-proof, waterproof, highly insulated structure—not unlike a thermos bottle or styrofoam cooler. The outside can be finished with traditional siding or stucco, just like any other home. The advantage, of course, is in the energy savings on heating and cooling as well as storm protection.


The other project in Orlando this year is a followup to last year’s successful RE-Vision house in Las Vegas, which was a remodelled mid-century modern home that achieved net zero energy status and still maintained it’s cool modern vibe. Remodelling existing housing stock is the greenest thing you can do, improving what’s there without creating a huge carbon footprint.

This year’s Re-Vision project is in the same College Park neighborhood. It’s a 1950s ranch-style home with no particular architectural integrity, but sits well on a nice-sized lot on a cul-de-sac. By adding a small master bed and bath wing and reconfiguring the existing space, the house will go from small cramped rooms to a more open-style plan that works well with today’s lifestyle.

What’s important to me as a designer is to create living spaces that are simple and uncluttered, and stay as far away as I can from a heavy or grandiose look that’s been so popular in recent years. This year’s house will have a California Napa-style look, with some Spanish or Mediterannean influence, but with a much easier, lighter tone. Both homes will feature many green and sustainable products, from kitchen cabinetry to flooring and furniture.

You can read more about both these homes on Green Builder Magazine’s website: www.greenbuildermag.com

Patricia Gaylor

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Aug 18 2010

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The kitchen is “haute” once again with inline cooking

A hot design trend in Europe for the past several years, “inline” cooking, has finally arrived in the U.S.

In the chaotic atmosphere of a restaurant kitchen, where a intricate ballet of boiling water, haute1open flames, sharp pointy things, as well as a cast of many, all moving about to create a meal for one or 101, we find that safety and efficiency are still at the heart of the primal kitchen. To avoid burning or scalding oneself and to keep from reaching over a pot or pan to stir another, we find the burners are all neatly aligned in a single horizontal row, all within easy reach and control of the chef. Now we find this simple, but brilliant idea available for the American home.

Inline cooking doesn’t end with the cooktop as we find that this new aesthetic has moved to built-in cooking equipment as well. The 60 cm x 60 cm (24-in. x24-in.) oven size has been the European standard for more than 30 years. It was introduced in Germany in the mid-1970s as a form of consumer protection.

This standard form of oven size would allow consumers to replace their oven with newer models with new options, features and aesthetics—and not on the size of the hole left by the old oven. The U.S. appliance industry could learn a thing or two from their European cousins, as almost every U.S. manufacturer builds its product to its on standard, forcing the American consumer to purchase a new oven from the same supplier or having to remodel the existing kitchen to allow for new appliances.

Now, for the first time in nearly 30 years, a new size matrix of 60 cm x 45 cm (24 in. x18 in.) has been introduced into the U.S. market by the Europeans. It was first launched by a few European manufacturers in the form of a steam convection oven and then as an integrated coffee machine.


Currently, most German, Italian and Spanish appliance manufacturers are offering a complete range of kitchen products, including standard convection, steam convection, micro-convection, as well as coffee systems and, more recently in the U.S. market, a fully integrated TV to round out the matrix.

If you thought that the kitchen was “hot” before, it just got “hauteur” as this new aesthetic opens up a whole new design opportunity for personalization, with the ability to introduce inline cooking as well as the opportunity to place smaller and multifunctional cooking elements throughout the kitchen and living areas.

Kevin Henry

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Aug 17 2010

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Who’s minding the showroom?

This week, I watched parents bring their children into our showroom. A few kept their children close, but others completely ignored their kids, who felt free to crawl up on the counters, open and slam doors, and generally race around.

This isn’t unusual and is, in fact, part of the generation divide. This generation with young families views it as freedom of choice for their children—letting kids be kids. For the older generation, it’s viewed as a disappointing lack of responsible parenting.

Of course, there are exceptions to all generalizations. On the whole, we have pretty good families that come through our doors, but the divide can sometimes be pretty noticeable to those of us in showrooms.

I have to admit, I have a dilemma. Unlike the big stores, most small business showrooms are paid for through sweat equity and hard-earned dollars. There’s no big conglomerate that will simply replace damaged items—anything banged up usually comes out of an owner’s pockets. Now, this isn’t my showroom although I did spend a fair amount of design time on it, but having been part of a family business, I know how much we sacrificed to make our business work.

Now, I don’t mind if a child is rooting around the showroom—within reason. But businesses have added liability concerns if someone is hurt in our showroom. I get nervous when a 36-in. child is crawling on top of the 42-in. display.

So what does one do?

I think it’s perfectly fine to keep an eye on the children and to either let the child know to be careful, or ask the parents to do so. Unlike the days of my childhood, when we were taught to listen to all adults, some parents tend to get upset, but it’s very rare.

I asked one child to please get down from the counter as it was dangerous, and he did so, and the parents nodded their thanks and kept him close for the remainder of their visit. Hey, I know that parents don’t always have eyes in the backs of their heads (I had to find out eventually, mom!) Keeping it nice and polite keeps everyone happy. If it doesn’t, you can’t win them all. But I think it’s better to say something than to have an accident on your hands.

What do you think? Is this the way it is now and we should just accept it? Or do you have rules for your own showrooms?

Until next time,


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Aug 16 2010

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Coastal living

I love spending time in Big Sur and am quite thankful to have few projects there. While only a few hours from San Francisco, it feels decades and lifetimes away. The mixture of the steep bluffs, the big sky, and epic ocean view seems to put everything into perspective. We have been very fortunate to be doing ongoing work in Big Sur and love every time we visit. During one visit I was fortunate to be able to stay with friends in this amazing home designed by Mickey Muening (and interiors by Steven Miller).

The challenge with the site is to maintain the extraordinary views, but protect the home from the elements which can be intense with winds. The approach was to embed the home into the landscape, a genius move for many reasons. The result is an open, yet cozy and protected feeling. It is modern, but warm. The materials are simple and elegant, yet organic. It feels connected to the site, at one with the landscape. Beautiful coastal living.


Michelle Kaufmann

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