I recently saw a Gardenista article recommending a book by Ethne Clarke titled The Midcentury Modern Landscape. I’ve ordered and have just read it in preparation for an upcoming project. I’m going to Long Island, NY to plan a renovation and remodel. I will be adding an extension, a swimming…Read More
I’ve written about a beautification project I am working on. One of the areas I will be remodeling is the rooftop pool deck. To make it more of an amenity and cultivate spa-like experience, the client suggested incorporating an outdoor shower.
A message from a new client in Miami made my morning: “Hello, Alla. I am so happy I came across your website – thank you for offering your services.” She was very smart to consult an online architect and address space planning or conceptual questions before taking on a renovation…Read More
An architect friend of ours, Marina Chkheidze, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in June. In August she was gone. I wonder what she felt once she knew there was no time and possibly no strength at all left to do anything. Perhaps that was the reason she was rushing to get it over…Read More
Good news! We just got a building permit for the daycare center project. With the load off, I can spend some time preparing for the presentation I wrote about last week. This time the focus will be on re-imagining the building’s roof terrace not just as a pool deck, but as a roof…Read More
I have to admit. My work schedule is getting more demanding. In the spirit of multi-tasking, this blog has become a platform for client meeting prep. Thus, I’d like to share my process of organizing ideas for a potential project. It involves a beautification of a lobby, a roof deck with a…Read More
I am in the process of designing an enclosed patio attached to an existing house. The added space will have an outdoor bathroom. We are making it wheelchair accessible; it consists of a toilet, a sink, and a hand-held spray (without a showerhead). Since there’s no shower enclosure per se, the…Read More
A few weeks ago I received an email: “Dear Alla, I got your name through a neighbor of yours, Monika Lightstone. My name is Sharon, and I am an ex-architect who currently is in charge of an art department at a yeshiva in Los Angeles, Ohr Eliyahu. In the summer, I run a 3-week design…Read More
I just got a “project of a lifetime.” It’s a small in-home childcare. Years ago, when my kids were little, I specialized in design for children and dreamt of doing a school. Never got a chance or was selected. Until now, that is. An empty nester, I have all the time in the world to…Read More
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of my design ideas for a powder room makeover. Aside from a custom wedge-shaped vanity cabinet, I’ve proposed a very straightforward, sensible fix.
I was recently hired by a condominium association to come up with a functional solution — a balcony screen — to address lack of privacy and extreme heat gain as experienced by the homeowners with units facing the internal courtyard.
My friends are tired of the way their powder room looks and feels these days. They want to freshen it up, change the fixtures, replace a misbehaving pocket door. I think they should also redesign flooring and lighting. No big deal, right? But to them, even thinking about it feels like a huge…Read More
Every time I teach DIY Like an Architect workshop through Art Center’s ACN, a sense of doing something meaningful gives me a jolt. Being able to assist with the process of generating ideas is uplifting. It’s so inspiring to come in contact with men and women who’d give up their Sunday to…Read More
I am getting better at living in the now. These days, I start my day by doing a particular meditation routine called Falun Dafa. Thanks to a good environment and my husband, an experienced teacher, with every practice I feel more confident and able to focus. At first, I was really distracted….Read More
This smallish bathroom is designed to feel as large as possible. It doubles as an entryway to a sauna and has to feel like a sanctuary, a space to unwind. A room for relaxation, it is supposed to be used by a few people at a time. And most importantly, there should be enough storage.
Okay, okay. You are probably tired of hearing about my garden. Let me tell you about the transformation of the garden shed/3-car garage instead. Located toward the back of the site, that’s where all the garden paths lead — away from the pressures of the city life, through a blue door.
I am not a conformist; it just doesn’t feel right to follow in someone else’s footsteps. Instead, I rebelliously change the world by instilling harmony in my personal environment. Indeed. The process of articulating space using compositional tools of my own is quite enjoyable!
Every morning before getting up, I reach for the roller shade, open it up, and soak in the view of my private garden. In the previous post, I talked about its architecture. I’d like to further elaborate on the topic as it relates to organizing space in the process of synthesizing practical…Read More
Architecture of a garden? Let me explain. First, there is nothing but an enormous Fig Tree. Eventually, on the same spot, a water-wise enchanted oasis appears. Yes, its structure, circulation, and lighting are designed with practical functions in mind. But it has a higher purpose.
Hello, it’s Mia Kazovsky, and I’m back for another guest post after over a year. Here’s a refresher: I moved into a studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the beginning of 2016. In the previous post, I wrote about the first steps in the process of upgrading my digs. Today, I’d…Read More
A client wondered: “If I only have room in my backpack for three books on architecture which ones should they be?” I promised to get back to him and, in turn, asked a friend — she is the authority — to name three books that taught her everything she needed to know about architecture. She…Read More
I wish I knew how to achieve a state of serenity and self-reflection. It would be nice. I was just talking to my daughter about that. Is it even attainable? I would particularly like to know how to experience yuan bei (Chinese) – a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment even while…Read More
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the issues encountered while producing a set of documents necessary to get a building permit. Thankfully, I am done with all of the submittal requirements. Considering my aversion to all things UBC, it took staunch determination. And I’m especially proud of…Read More
This week my focus is on establishing hierarchy in plan and section as I’m helping a client in New Mexico who is DIYing an “outbuilding” that will serve as his private gallery and art studios.
Hollywood Regency Style, a synthesis of 19th-century French, Greek Revival, and Modern was never of interest to me. That is until last Wednesday, when I received a text: “Good morning Alla. I wanted to see how busy you are these days as my parents just bought a vacation home in Palm Desert…Read More
A friend of a friend asked me to help with producing a set of documents necessary to get a building permit. Acting as an owner-contractor, they are planning a one-story addition/alteration and need to demonstrate that all of the submittal requirements per the Department of Building and Safety…Read More
When people ask me what my style is, I usually go to something like: “I don’t have a style. It’s all about functionality.” I’d rather talk about my inspiration. I identify with the process and work of Richard Serra.
Sorry, my blog posts in this category, Living in the Now, are very repetitive and quite mundane. Like a broken record, I am humming about just one simple thing: how important it is to acknowledge and appreciate every moment, to live in the present.
A potential DIY Ally client asked me if I enjoy working out little details. She wrote: “Hello, I am remodeling a 1938 bath in Washington DC. Have worked with architects previously, so attempting this without an architect, with a very trustworthy contractor. But he’s not a designer, and I…Read More
I’ve written about my garage conversion frustrations. I also discussed at length my plans to install Sunnersta mini-kitchen by IKEA. Now that the project is completed, I’m happy to share one of my customizing made affordable efforts — a wall-mounted organizer.
I am helping my DIY Ally clients Bob and Karol with their master bedroom & bathroom renovation in Rhode Island. Bob is a retired mechanical engineer/naval architect. Karol is a retired software engineer.
My friend called to discuss his DIY project. They recently bought a property in Palm Springs and he said that the house itself is in a pretty good shape, but the backyard is begging for a makeover. He shared his initial sketches. Intuitively, he started designing with a site plan — arranging a…Read More
Architects are always integrating. Synthesizing man-made structures with a landscape, unifying functional requirements with a building envelope, fusing family needs with a space they will inhabit. But how does one accomplish said design integration? I find clues and inspiration in movies that…Read More
A gloomy Sunday. Our plans to go hiking in Malibu Canyon are not materializing — it might rain any minute. My friend says: “I wish we could go somewhere completely new and unfamiliar.” Oh! That sounds good. I am all for infusing experience with a dose of surprise
My DIY Ally clients look to me for guidance, expertise, and design advice — I take their questions to heart. One writes: “I suddenly have the option of buying the apartment adjoining my own in NYC but the apartments are awkwardly connected at the kitchens!! I’m hoping for some advice about…Read More
A DIY Ally client wrote: “Alla, I have another project for you. We need a defined entryway. Not a grand foyer but something fitting of the inside of the house and the beautiful location. Can you give me a few tips?”
A DIY Ally client wrote: “We are currently in the process of completely remodeling our master bedroom and master bath. Please see the attached drawings for the existing bath layout, a couple of proposed layouts that we have considered (we have the Chief Architect Software), and a blank…Read More
Tommy Hilton, an artist of a carpenter, is an inspiration. He is an expert at what he does. When Tommy is on the job, I can feel at ease. Everything will be done even better than I envisioned.
My DIY Ally client emailed: “They have hooked us up with a contractor to do our kitchen remodel, which includes ‘design’ services. We have been underwhelmed by their cabinet layout designs, so we were wondering what you might charge to look at their proposal. Can you show us how to…Read More
On the one hand, I love being my own client. On the other, the experience of building for myself (my family’s own use) is quite unnerving. I live for it, but as soon as I embark on the actual construction of a project, I get anxious. It happens every single time.
Whether you are building from scratch or remodeling, good craftsmanship makes a world of difference. Especially if you lean toward minimal aesthetic, like me. I recently had to fire a construction worker who just did not put his heart into what he was doing. He was rushing too much, making one…Read More
As DIY Ally, I never get tired of emphasizing the importance of aligning and centering. Last week I wrote about helping a client to design a reflected ceiling plan. This week’s installment is a sequel to that post.
As DIY Ally, I’ve been asked to help with a design of a reflected ceiling plan (RCP). Nothing technical, just a drawing, which shows the lighting scheme of a space. A client’s email stated: “So we are adding a room to our house, it will be 16′ x 20′ with a single pitch ceiling…Read More
I was very fortunate to interview Mrs. Sterna Citron, the wife of our rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Citron of Los Angeles, about her kosher kitchen. Mrs. Citron approached our talk as an opportunity to teach and reflect, as she said: “It’s something I’ve done all my life. So I don’t think much…Read More
Thinking of the Pantheon while engaging the architect within helps me begin, despite of uncertainty. Not knowing the outcome before embarking on something is really hard, but even if there are no guarantees, I can’t just sit around and wait for something benevolent to happen. Nervous or not,…Read More
As DIY Ally, I’ll gladly delve into the issue of moving kitchen plumbing. The other day, I received an email with the subject line “dumbfounded duplex in Minneapolis.” Having signed up for the initial consultation, a client was asking for “help with generating ideas.”
My living room and adjoining dining room are abundant with the artwork by our daughters. But there’s nothing random about what I’m displaying. There’s a sense of continuity, a cohesive connection between all of the pieces. The organizing element, the theme of this curated installation is…Read More
As a DIY Ally, I am always on hand to help with a layout for an upcoming project. This particular kitchen remodel is no exception. A couple came to me with the following request: “Our main goal is to open up the kitchen to the adjoining dining/living room area in order to take advantage of…Read More
The importance of starting with a floor plan cannot be emphasized enough. A new client writes: “Hello Alla. We have been renovating a house we bought last year, and our next project will be the front porch. The basic concept is to turn the current sunroom into 2/3 open porch and 1/3…Read More
Over the last 30 years, I’ve been making furniture that doubles as art for my own consumption. In college, I built it myself, but after practically cutting off a tip of my thumb, I started to rely on fabricators. That’s how I met David Gale; it was in 1989, right after I moved to LA…Read More
Last weekend was spent with the family. It’s been a long time since we were all together — in one place. Long anticipated, finally a blissful opportunity of revisiting favorite spots and living in the moment, without any concern for the past or the future. It’s up to us to bask in the…Read More
Architect Richard Meier says: “If you’re ever seriously depressed, just get out of bed and go to the Getty.” Depressed or not, it’s a marvelous place to soak in beauty as it is expressed in every single detail, down to handrails and guardrails.
This week’s blog post falls into the category of “keeping it organized.” So, I feel perfectly justified talking about space planning. Creating a functional foyer is the first step in organizing space thoughtfully.
IKEA’s new Sunnersta free-standing mini-kitchen is ideal for my garden room. Maybe to someone, it’s “the no-commitment kitchen,” but I love it. It was just unveiled as one of the brand new designs in IKEA’s 2017 catalog, which claims that this tiny thing offers “all the function of a…Read More
Establishing Children’s Architecture Workshop in 1995 meant embarking on a journey that shaped the course of my life as well as career. A young mother and a newly licensed architect, I aspired to make an impact and become a better parent in the process. Years of hands-on teaching architecture…Read More
Since college, the work of architect Louis Kahn has been a constant source of inspiration. Recently, I came across a letter of recommendation my professor at USC School of Architecture Roger Sherwood crafted on my behalf. He wrote: “I was impressed by a passion for books as something more than…Read More
Imagine being in a glorious garden. Dazzled, you are focusing on the landscaped grounds. The fascination and excitement you feel remind you of being a small child. You are not worried about the past or the future. Mindfully affecting the present, you are completely engaged and involved with life…Read More
I’ve been working on an overhaul project in Jersey City and writing about its various aspects that fit within this blog’s categories. This week’s theme “passion for details” lends itself to a discussion on skylights. All along, they’ve been a “suggested” on the plans with a…Read More
Today, still working on the project in Jersey City, I am focusing on a layout for a modular reach-in closet. At this point, all four of them are drawn diagrammatically, as identical blocks. So far, I’ve assumed that 5 linear feet is enough per bedroom. If that’s wrong, the entire floor plan…Read More
Last week, in this blog’s Design Ideas installment, I discussed one of my projects. It’s a two-story building renovation in Jersey City. I outlined my thought process while coming up with four versions for a loft kitchen plan. This week, let’s take it further and apply the concept of the…Read More
A relative is a New York City developer. Last time I was visiting, he showed me a building he purchased and plans to retrofit. The project intrigued me. On the airplane back, I was working on the layout for the loft — sketching, brainstorming, and breathing life into the space in my mind’s…Read More
If being a minimalist is knowing what’s important and treasuring it (instead of loosing sight and taking for granted), count me in! And if a minimalist way of thinking can improve the quality of life, I am willing to question all previous assumptions.
Sitting still at the beach is not an option. Instead, I walk along the water’s edge and gather pebbles. That’s my way of connecting to the energy of the ocean while getting enriched with sentimental collectibles.
A friend emailed asking if I would design a DIY balcony canopy kit for a condo complex. Its function would be to provide sun protection and improve curb appeal. It would bring uniformity to the exterior façade, as all of the residents would be asked to adopt the system or use nothing at…Read More
Integration is inclusion or unification of opposites. It lets you make room for the messiness of life by acknowledging both your fragility and strength. Integration is seeking creative control of an authentic, well-designed life through orchestration of thought.
When it comes to selecting bathroom fixtures, the toilet is one of the essential components. Frankly, its appearance has to be taken very seriously — it can ruin or enhance the over-all look as well as functionality of a bathroom. It’s critical to pick a model that is pleasing to the eye,…Read More
As Alla DIY Ally, an online architectural services provider, I am frequently asked to help with space planning. DIY home improvement enthusiasts can benefit a great deal by turning to an architect in the effort to make the most of the space available. In this post I’d like to discuss a couple…Read More
I am perusing various booths exhibiting at the New York’s ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair). Strikingly sculptural custom panels of a display catch my attention. Their abstract beauty stops me in my tracks. Design ideas and various possibilities come to mind right away.
This week I am going to be in NYC, my home away from home, for a memorial, dubbed as a “Celebration of Life.” If asked to speak, I will talk about celebrating beauty of life every day while we are alive, not just when a life is commemorated.
I discussed ideas and plans to change the hardscape of a certain “secret” garden in the previous Passion for Details post. I wanted to simplify the color palette and eliminate an annoying texture, but was not sure what construction method would suit our needs best.
Our “Garden Room” has a built-in 11-inch-deep bookcase comprised of predominantly open shelves and some closed storage. Even though minimum reach-in closet depth is two feet, I planned to use a portion of the unit as a closet.
I converted two-thirds of a detached 3-car garage into a studio; it’s my “Garden Room.” It would be great to take over the rest. I could set up a tiny kitchen and a bathroom with a sauna in the remaining area. As I imagine it, I define its guidelines.
I call myself DIY Ally because I help DIYers with their building projects online. I get a lot of questions about simplifying circulation, a way people move through spaces and rooms. Last month, I received a contact request from Trinidad asking for advice on a “residential concept” that had…Read More
Last year, in addition to being under a tight deadline, I was working with a very tight budget. Consequently, I compromised on stone walkways, opting for “pool sand,” which turned out to be a mistake (soft underfoot and sticks to shoes). A year later, I am ready to fix it and am trying to…Read More
Yesterday, I went to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) with the sole purpose of collecting tips on displaying objects. I wanted to see what can anyone learn from a museum to apply at home.
In my previous post I wrote about nature-inspired design and my visit to a construction site four months ago. This week I was fortunate to come back and see the progress. My fellow DIY-er, who is too private and wishes to remain anonymous, is building a series of structures among the existing…Read More
Day two of my DYI Like an Architect two-day workshop at Art Center College of Design. Everyone is very enthusiastic about the process of approaching a design project with the 11-step method.
The first day of my DYI Like an Architect workshop at Art Center College of Design went really well! We tackled how do you start a design project question by learning DIY Ally’s 11-step method.
If you would rather lose a limb than surrender control of your dream project but would enjoy learning some tricks of the trade, the workshop I lead might be of interest. It is a two-day DIY Like an Architect workshop offered at Art Center College of Design.
Hello, my name is Mia; Alla DIY Ally is my mother and I have been consulting with her recently in the process of moving into a new studio apartment in lower Manhattan. Although some of its aspects were very outdated, as a renter with a budget even smaller than my NYC closet space, remodeling was…Read More
A potential client (she is in her early seventies) recently shared with me that her contractor would not hear of a curbless walk-in shower. He talked her out of it. As DIY Ally, I would like to make a case for it. It’s quite doable and is certainly worth the effort.
I received an email from a new client Heidi: “I have a wet bar in our dining/living room that we want to repurpose and make into something else.” She wondered if a small coat closet and a computer desk might be incorporated to turn it into a more functional space. Another alternative would…Read More
If you are looking for inspiration, playing tourist might be a fun place to start. Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs are all great sources. However, if you want to stir up some creative juices, a fieldtrip is better. It’s more enjoyable because inspiration flows together with your…Read More
Martha’s kitchen cabinets exclusively at The Home Depot are the answer. Edward and Margarita need my advice on updating their condo. It’s easy. It just needs fresh paint and new kitchen cabinets. They can keep the existing boxes, but drawers and cabinet doors should be replaced.
Design ideas category is my focus for the next post and I am in the process of researching zen gardens. I am distracted by an email from someone who just bought DIY Like an Architect: “Ciao Alla! I can’t wait to read your book!”
The Home Depot is the largest home improvement store in the world, a creative hub. It is the nerve center of activity involving the imagination or original ideas. That’s how I started thinking of it recently. Would you agree with me if I called it an awesome Temple of Creativity?
Tackling a cove lighting project made me realize how competitive The Home Depot prices are. Renovating an apartment 3 years ago, I went to a fancy wholesaler to get “special” fixtures, but it turns out that The Home Depot might have been less hassle and money!
Believe it or not, I expect to find original solutions and design inspiration for most of my projects at The Home Depot. I roam the isles and enjoy my builder-designer juices flowing. The other day, an idea came to mind.
The other day I went to the Home Depot to DIY a medicine cabinet. After seeing an elegant solution to a sliding mirror medicine cabinet in a magazine, I set out to engineer my own version.
A staircase lets us move up and down between levels. Whether enhancing a two-story volume or creeping through an extremely narrow shaft of space, it is an important element in the overall circulation scheme. 8 Things to Consider while designing the staircase: 1. Logical integration into the…Read More
When something is nature-inspired, it has the ability to bring us closer to who we are. It is calming, warm, and refreshing. It is inviting. It is invigorating. It makes use of natural earth-friendly products. Unobtrusive, it blends with the environment. It heals and makes us feel…Read More
Beginner eye helps us see beyond the surface by feeding our creative impulse. It lets us connect with the world that is hidden from view by mysteriously enhancing our perception. It makes us stay completely present.