It's Time to Build!

I attended an online seminar ("Stimulus and the Housing Market") yesterday put on by Professional Builder Publications. Here are a few interesting tidbits.

  1. First time home buyers can still get an $8,000.00 tax credit if you purchase the home by December 1 of 2009. There is speculation that this credit may be extended or even expanded to non-first time buyers. Let's hope.
  2. For those thinking of remodeling tax credits are available for window and door replacements and / or other energy improving strategies. You can get more information on this at
  3. The Home Affordability Index is at a record high. This means that construction costs are low and financing is still relatively cheap. If you are in a position to build or buy, this is truly the time to do it.
  4. Consumer confidence is just beginning to improve.
  5. Single Family housing is expected to begin modest recovery soon. Multi-Family is expected to lag for a while.
  6. Existing home inventory is still high, but it is going down. This is a good sign.
  7. U.S. construction spending is expected to start increasing by end of 09' or early 10'.
So what is the point? Now is really a good time to buy, build or remodel. Low consumer confidence and low demand are keeping construction costs down while financing costs are still relatively low. This is a good combination if you are in a position to take action. Once recovery starts to happen you know where construction costs are going to go.

vacation time

: : the next few weeks for me will be spent here, on Sa Tuna beach in northern Spain. And in Sweden with family & friends. happy summer! Ill be back with lots of photos to share.

Small but Unique, Cheap but Nice House Plans

I was discussing home design trends with a builder friend of mine the other day. He said to me that "small is the new big". This is true because people are demanding much more value in their purchases now. But they also still want quality. So how can designers and builders deliver on this? Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Build it small - but liveable. A floor plan needs to be smart in order to be functional while remaining compact. Every space should be analyzed for efficiency. Better hire a pro.
  • Keep it simple. Roof form and wall massing should be as simple as possible. This reduces labor costs and additional materials.
  • Keep it square. A square plan has much less surface area than more complicated plan shapes. That means less roofing, wall and foundation materials.
  • Keep it square 2. Square plans have less jogs. And jogs are transitions that cost money. Think about it. It is faster to build one long wall than 3 or 4 separate walls that total the same overall length.
  • 1 for 2 special. One big window is less expensive than 2 small ones. Labor and materials included.
  • Get rid of the ginger bread. A quality design does not need ornamentation but a bad design does. We call it "putting earrings on a pig".
  • Eliminate redundancy. Most folks don't really need 3 places to eat (kitchen island, kitchen nook and formal dining room). Most folks don't use a formal living room if they have a main floor family room. It's not the 1950's anymore Beaver.
  • Use the basement. You have to build that foundation anyway (up north anyway), so you might as well incorporate it into your plan.
  • Use the garage. Many times we will use the space above the garage as a master suite or family room space.
  • Question everything. Look at every building system and every component critically. Ask yourself if there is a better choice to be made. Make sure it's functional as well as beautiful and economical. If it's functional but ugly - I don't call that value.
  • Plan ahead. Get your plan completely right before you build. Work with a pro. If you get the plan right then you can build without changes. Changes during construction always cost time and money.

  • Ok, I'll stop. There are a million other great ideas. I'd like to hear some of yours. Please comment.

SEHD and Southern Living House Plans

Simply Elegant Home Designs is announcing a new relationship with Southern Living House Plans. Southern Living will be marketing two plans as seen below.

Ron Brenner, President of Simply Elegant Home Designs had this to say -
" We are so excited about the opportunity to work with Southern Living House Plans. What we are trying to do here at Simply Elegant is to make truly good home design more economically achievable for the general public, and we see this new relationship with Southern Living as a great way to do that. We think our designs are special, and we want to get them out there for as many people to see as possible. The additional exposure we receive through SL will be more valuable than many press releases."

The Marine Farmhouse is being featured this week (week of June 22nd) on the Southern Living Custom Builder program at

Paper Architecture

"Paper Architecture" is a term in our industry that has traditionally referred to buildings that we design that never get built. It seems in this current economic situation there is an awful lot of paper architecture going on.

Over the weekend I ran across this more literal example of "Paper Architecture" - that being the art of creating an object out of a single piece of paper. A single sheet of paper is cut and folded into an intricate miniature structure. Here are a couple of examples:

Before the final design is finished, something like 20 to 30 (sometimes even more) prototypes are made by Ingrid Siliakus. Drawing paper architecture designs to Ingrid is as building: first one layer, with a single shape, will be drawn and than layer after layer are added. Read More:

dos visits

: : oh, I'm so happy. I have found a new favorite blog .dosvisits. by the .dosfamily.
(via .finelittleday.) so much eyecandy! wonderful wonderful photos of regular people's home in Sweden. have a lovely weekend!

from sthlm

: : I got a very sweet email from .tiffany. at .from sthml. She is a a San Fracisco girl married to a Swede. Having spent a lot of time in Sweden she has gained a deep appreciation for Swedish design. Frustrated that she can't find some of the items in the US that she has come to love in Sweden she decided to launch her own website to bring indepent Swedish designers recognition as well as selling their products in limited editions. It's a wonderful intitative I think, and I love being able to learn about the designer and being able to buy their products. We need more online resources like this for Scandinavian products!! Thank you .tiffany.

Mixed Media Painting Techniques, Frottage and Grattage

                                                                 Frottage 1 - 24" x 36" Mixed Media Painting: Pastel, Acrylic, Gesso on Glassine

For this summer's program of continuing education (last summer I studied Architecture in Italy), I have embarked on a course in 'Mixed Media Painting Techniques' at Emily Carr University of Art. The course teaches the process of image-making on built surfaces and works with a range of materials such as gesso, plaster, paint, ink, charcoal, and various papers. I am learning to explore 'expression and emotion' through layering, drawing, brushwork, Frottage and Grattage following in the footsteps of the greats in mixed media painting like: Max Ernst, Mark Rothko, and Paul Klee. I particularly like my teacher, Diana Kubicek's style of teaching. She teaches us to explore the various techniques fearlessly and says repeatedly there are "no mistakes"in painting. As a matter of fact "mistakes can be the building block of a great masterpiece". I like that! I have always been interested in drawing and sketching since my days in Design School, but find that I never have the time to take a brush to paper and do larger abstract paintings and works of art. So this course is a perfect opportunity to allow myself the freedom to explore different mixed media painting techniques. The last class we spent exploring the technique of Frottage (from French frotter, "to rub") a surrealist and "automatic" method of creative production. Frottage was developed by Max Ernst.

Frottage 2  - 8
Frottage 2 - 18" x 24" Mixed Media Painting: Ink, Acrylic & Pastel on Paper

In frottage painting the artist takes a pencil or other drawing tool and makes a "rubbing" over a textured surface. The frottage drawing can be left as is or used as the basis for further refinement (which we are supposed to do for homework with the pieces we created in this class). While this technique is superficially similar to brass rubbing and other forms of rubbing intended to reproduce an existing subject, frottage painting differs in being aleatoric and occurring by chance. Frottage was developed by Max Ernst in 1925. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the grain of the planks had been accentuated by many years of scrubbing. The patterns of the graining suggested strange images to him. He captured these by laying sheets of paper on the floor and then rubbing over them with a soft pencil. In my Frottage Paintings 1, 2 and 4 the textured surface that I used to make the Frottage rubbing was a bamboo mat, string, and screen. In Frottage Painting 3, I did the rubbing over a Gessoed canvas that was prepared with the free form focus on the bark of a tree. As I was doing Frottage Painting 3, rubbing on the Gessoed canvas, it slowly evolved to resemble a Japanese mountain landscape with a waterfall collecting into a pool at the base of the mountain. Our teacher guided us in exploring this technique in creating our Frottage paintings which is based on Surrealist automatism*. *Automatism is a surrealist technique in painting, practiced without conscious aesthetic or moral self-censorship. Automatism has taken on many forms: the automatic painting and drawing initially (and still to this day) practiced by surrealists can be compared to similar, or perhaps parallel phenomena, such as the non-idiomatic improvisation of free jazz.

Frottage 3 - 18 

Frottage Painting 3 - 18" x 24" Pastel on tracing paper

Frottage 4 - 12

Frottage Painting 4 - 12" x 18" Mixed Media Painting: Acrylic & Gesso on paper

In the first class we explored the technique of mixed media painting starting with a base of Gesso


Study 1 - 11" x 14" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Gesso, Acrylic and Watercolor on Card Stock

Gesso is an art supply used as surface preparation or primer for painting and sculpting. Gesso is believed to have been developed in Italy, since the word gesso is Italian for 'chalk'. Preparation varies according to intended use, but usually consists of mixing glue with plaster, chalk, or gypsum. (Gesso is the perfect base for starting a mixed media painting.)

Gesso resembles paint, but is thinner and dries hard. Gesso is applied with a brush and must dry before the surface can be painted. This technique of applying Gesso was first created for use in painting, in order to give the surface the right properties to receive paint. In Gothic and Renaissance panel painting, the technique of applying gesso over a panel of wood was used in order to give the paint something to adhere to. It created a slightly rough surface and prevented the paint from seeping into the wood. We were taught to apply the Gesso to our surface of our mixed media painting with a palette knife using broad strokes to building up the surface. Then various tools are used to create the textures. In Study 1 I used a metal clay sculpting tool with a comb like ridge to scrape across the wet Gesso. I then used the edge of my pallet knife to scrape in the diagonal ridges, then finished off with blotting areas with a sponge. I let the piece dry and then applied watercolor and acrylic in layers to the painting, while at the same time using a roller to take off the excess wet color on the surface so that the paint pigment settled into the crevices of the Gesso. I used the side of my palette knife to scrape off the raised portions of the diagonal lines to reveal the white Gesso below - a technique called Grattage*. Also the Gesso doesn't extend to the edge of the paper and gives it an interesting border. *Grattage is a surrealist technique in mixed media painting in which (usually dry) paint is scraped off the canvas. It was employed by Max Ernst and Joan Miró

Detail of  11

Detail of Mixed Media Painting Technique: Study 1 above.


Study 2 - 10" x 10" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Masking Tape, Gesso and Watercolor on Glass


Study 3 - 7" x 10" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Gesso and Watercolor on Paper

Emily Carr University of Art  - Patricia Gray

Have you had any experience with Mixed Media Painting, Frottage or Grattage or other Mixed Media techniques?
Please let me know by leaving a Comment.

Abstract Art Slide Show 

Another post you might be interested in: Abstract Art - Go Big or Go Home

Patricia Gray writes about 'WHAT'S HOT 'in the world of Interior Design, new and emerging trends, modern design,
architecture, and travel, as well as how your surroundings can influence the world around you.
© Patricia Gray Interior Design Blog, 2009

New Modern Cottage House Plan

Simply Elegant Home Designs is offering a new house plan called the "Scandia Modern Cottage". The Scandia Modern Cottage was inspired by a recent visit to an infamous Scandinavean furniture store. On that visit this designer was struck by how small spaces could be made to be very efficient and liveable and in fact feel spacious. So I decided to set out to create a design with those same qualities.

The resulting design exhibits it's Scandinavean influences both inside and out. The exterior is characterized by simple gable and shed forms, strong and simple detailing and modern window styles / patterns. The design offers an open main floor with connected spaces. The two bedrooms and a shared bath fit under the gable roof lines on the second floor. At 1178 square feet this is the smallest plan that Simply Elegant now offers. The images below depict the design.

scandia modern cottage - front elevation

scandia modern cottage - view from back yard

You can obtain more information on this plan and others at Simply Elegant Home Designs.

The Best Garden Pathways

Boxwood Garden Pathways

This is the time of the year, summer, glorious summer to spend time outdoors. Renew, refresh, get inspired. Visit your favorite garden or park, or dream about making your garden a little more special. I love gardens with pathways that invite exploration. Gardens that make you want to meander, to spend time and to contemplate the finer things of life. I love all the different colors of green in gardens. You don't necessarily have to have color in flowers to make a garden pop. Try different textures, shapes, and colors of greens. A well placed statue or urn gives the eye a place to focus and center on. A water feature can add a cooling element, and a splashing fountain can be a calming and soothing to the soul. Well designed gardens with meandering pathways with well placed plantings and focal points are truly works of art using nature as the canvas.

Garden Pathways
Garden Pathways

Lavender Garden Pathway
Lavender Garden Pathway
Smell the lavender as you walk down the gravel path to the fountain with lily pads awaiting you.
I imagine that this pool is filled with Koi and that there is a bench or comfortable seating on
the other side to sit and contemplate.

  Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway
What a feat of design this elliptical planting between the slate pavers is.
A well placed statue draws you to the end of this pathway.

Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway
Still there are moments when the shadows fall And the low sea of flowers, wave on wave,
spreads to the pathway from the rosy wall Saying in coloured silence,
"Take our all; You gave to us, and back to you we gave.
Vita Sackville-West

This beautiful arbor (above)is supported by a brick wall. It reminds me of the gardens that English poet and novelist, Vita Sackville-West created at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. In April 1930 Vita Sackville-West and her son, Nigel, were looking for an old house where she could make a new garden. Vita fell in love with Sissinghurst Castle and bought it, along with 400 acres of farmland. She spent the next 30 years planting and designing the layout of the garden using the walls & buildings already in place. She was also the first to plant an "all-white garden" because she wanted the color of the flowers and foliage to act as an illuminating factor to prolong the daylight hours and hence to be able to extend the time she could spend in the garden. I spent a delightful summer, several years ago, reading her book: Garden. The gardens at Sissinghurst that Vita so lovingly created, are now part of the National trust and are open for public viewing.

villa san michele Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway Villa San Michele, Capri
The house was small, the rooms were few but there were loggias, terraces, and pergolas all around it to watch the sun,
the sea
and the clouds -- the soul needs more space than the body.

Reading this poem just makes me sigh and relax. It is so true that "the soul needs more space than the body" and how wonderful to recharge by spending time strolling under this pergola and hearing the soft crunch of the pea gravel under your feet - A thing of beauty is a joy forever! Excerpt by Axel Munthe from La Strada della Dolce Vita

 Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway

Garden Pathway Photograph David Duncan Livingston
Garden Pathway Photograph David Duncan Livingston

Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway

Garden Pathway  
Garden Pathway
The best garden pathways can be the simplest, like this cut grass pathway above.

Garden Courtyard Pathway
Garden Courtyard Pathway
Pea Gravel Pathway Bulgari Hotel Milan
Pea Gravel Pathway Bulgari Hotel Milan  
I love the use of old brick for garden pathways. Old brick has a character and charm that is hard to duplicate with new materials.

Garden Pathway michael van valkenburgh associates1
Garden Pathway
Garden on Turtle Creek, Dallas TX, (above and below) was designed by renowned Landscape Architects, Michael van Valkenburgh.
The backbone of the garden is a continuous path of varied walking surfaces and garden pathways that flow from the house down the slope.
The meandering stainless steel planks are hollow underfoot altering the pace of the walk through the garden.
A brilliant juxtaposition of materials!

Garden Pathway michael van valkenburgh associates
Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway Versailles
Garden Pathway Versailles
And who is not in love with the beautiful gardens at Versailles.
The French really take their strolling in garden pathways seriously!
Some of my most memorable and refreshing times have been spent in gardens
walking their beautiful pathways while taking in the sights and smells around me.

What makes a perfect garden pathway for you?
Please leave a
comment and let me know.

PATRICIA GRAY INC is an award winning interior design firm writing about lifestyle and
WHAT'S HOT in the world of interior design, architecture, art and travel.
2011 © Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™

wedding invite with a story

: : I love this wedding invite. (via designsponge) Maybe because I can relate in so many ways. God knows how many miles we traveled over the years, and the phonebills we payed. but it was never hard to justify because somewhere deep down you knew already from the beginning.........
we just celebrated our 10 year anniversary this week. (flowers and gourmet dinner awaited me at home, tack älskling!) and we've only been sharing a zip code for the last of those 10 years. long distance can work!! believe me!

thoughts on a Friday

: : minimalistic posters with words of wisdom. the creator was inspired by his public school teacher. via .swiss-miss.
happy weekend!

swedish design awards at Pratt

: : the .Swedish Design Award. exhibit is coming to .Pratt. on June 18th. The exhibit showcases the best of current Swedish Design. worth a visit, I'm sure!

New Tube House Lands from Outer Space!

I ran across this posting the other day at the following link:

The home was designed by Craig Konyk of Brooklyn-based Konyk Architecture. Konyk’s submission contemplates a single-room structure with bold red neoprene rubber walls that would serve as a retirement home for the senior citizen that frequents Atlantic City’s casinos and other attractions.
exterior axonometric view

you have to love the contextual design
be careful not to fall in that hole on your way to the front door

I am really struggling with what to say about this house, so I won't bother. I guess a picture is better than a thousand words.

New House Plan from Simply Elegant Home Designs

Simply Elegant Home Designs is offering a new house plan called the "Hudson Farmhouse". The Hudson Cottage offers an open main level floor plan with connected spaces that are perfect family gatherings. The master suite and a home office sit "around the corner" from the main floor public spaces. Two additional bedrooms and a shared bath occupy the second floor. At almost 2700 square feet this is the largest plan that Simply Elegant now offers, yet it still retains the modest massing and scale of a traditional farmhouse design. This was achieved through careful 3 dimensional computer modeling and study. The images below depict the design.

You can obtain more information on this plan and others at Simply Elegant Home Designs.