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Archive for category: advice without strings

redesign, powder room, steps

How to Redesign a Powder Room in 5 Easy Steps

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 undertaking. In this post I’ll show how to do it in 5 easy steps. Read More

DIY Like an Architect, workshop, generating ideas

DIY Like an Architect Workshop: Generating Ideas

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 uncover new facets of themselves. I want to learn from them, actually. Read More

good environment, meditation, routine

A Good Environment for a Meditation Routine

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. Losing concentration is still an issue, but slowly it’s getting better. Regardless, I keep at it —  not too much of a commitment, just a 15-minute routine. Consistent, brief, daily sessions eventually garner good results. Read More

shabby, studio, apartment, home

How I Was Able To Turn a Shabby Studio Apartment Into a Home

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 like to share how I was able to turn a shabby studio apartment into a home. Read More

The Autobiography of an Idea, books, architecture, Louis Sullivan

Books on Architecture: Louis Sullivan’s The Autobiography of an Idea

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 instantly replied that absolutely number one is Louis Sullivan’s The Autobiography of an Idea. Read More

type V sheet, construction details, submittal requirements

Type V Sheet Construction Details: Submittal Requirements / Part 2

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 mastering the most tedious Type V Sheet construction details! Read More

Hollywood Regency Style, remodel

How to Remodel in Hollywood Regency Style

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 that is in need of a full interior and exterior remodel. Would you be able to consult them/me and possibly help with the entire process?” Read More

submittal, requirements, one-story, addition, alteration

Submittal Requirements for a One-Story Addition or Alteration / Part 1

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 are being fulfilled. Read More

working, little details, bath, shelf

Working Out Little Details: a Bath Shelf

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 want to do something unconventional (from a standard builder point of view) with a long narrow shelf across the width of the room.” Read More

site plan, backyard, pool, hot tub, pergola

Site Plan: Backyard Pool, Hot Tub, and Pergola

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 pool, a pergola, and a hot tub using an aerial view. Read More

transitional space, design advice

Transitional Space Design Advice

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 how we would join these two places and am concerned whether the transitional space would be so awkward that it wouldn’t be worth it.” Read More

remodeling, master bedroom, master bath

Remodeling Master Bedroom and Master Bath

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 template if you want to make sketches of what you think would work for us.” Read More

good craftsmanship

6 Reasons Why Good Craftsmanship Matters

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 mistake after another. The result was unacceptable. Read More

reflected ceiling plan, design

Reflected Ceiling Plan Design

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 from 12′ to 8.5′ high. We would like to get some input on ceiling and lighting design.” Read More

kosher kitchen

Kosher Kitchen Design: 7 Considerations

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 about it. In order to explain it to you, I’ve had to do some thinking about it, which is good.” Read More

Pantheon, engaging the architect within

The Pantheon and Engaging the Architect Within

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, wrong or right — life cannot be avoided and I might as well plan for my thoughts to support, not undermine my efforts. Read More

displaying, organizing, continuity

Displaying and Organizing While Creating Continuity

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 Human Beings. On view, there are sculptures, drawings, paintings, even painted textiles. Read More

upcoming project, planning, kitchen remodel

Upcoming Project: Planning for a Kitchen Remodel

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 the view through the living room to the 12-foot sliding patio door that looks out onto our backyard and pond.” Read More

floor plan

Start Every Project with a Floor Plan

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 mudroom/entry way. We would also like to move the stairs to the left, closer to the driveway.” Read More

making furniture, experimentation, David Gale

Making Furniture, David Gale, and Experimentation

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 from NY and was in the process of furnishing a new apartment. Meeting him inspired a wave of experimentation with metal. Read More

mindfulness, living in the moment

Practicing Mindfulness or Living in the Moment

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 glory of it, to savor every second while practicing mindfulness — concentrating on each other. Read More

IKEA's. Sunnersta, mini-kitchen

My Plans for IKEA’s Sunnersta Mini-Kitchen

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 full-sized kitchen with just a fraction of the assembly and installation effort.” Read More

architecture, 11-step method

Architecture 101: 11-step Method

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 experience enabled me to invent the 11-step method supporting anyone tackling a building project from scratch. Read More

architect, Louis Kahn

How I Am Still Learning from Architect Louis Kahn

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 a usual search for the latest classical detail.” Read More

skylights

A Few Tips on Choosing Skylights

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 dotted line. Today, I want to concentrate on defining what they are and consider them in section. Read More

reach-in closet

Tips on Designing a Reach-in Closet

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 will have to be reconsidered. Read More

Alla DIY Ally, space planning

Alla DIY Ally Project: Space Planning

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 of examples that demonstrate the aforementioned benefits. Read More

stone walkways, dry construction, wet construction

Stone Walkways: Dry Construction or Wet Construction?

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 decide between dry or wet construction. Read More

Home Depot, DIY Ally, studio apartment

Home Depot and DIY Ally Update My Studio Apartment

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 out of the question. With the help of Home Depot and DIY Ally inspiration I was able to make some affordable and impactful changes. Read More

repurpose, wet bar, functional space

How to Repurpose a Wet Bar Into a Functional Space

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 have been to replace “the wet bar with a bar area against the wall, and ideally still include a small computer space.”  Read More

staircase

Staircase Design: 8 Things To Consider

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 structural system at lending points
Stair stringer (tread support that carries the weight) spans between posts and beams or other load bearing elements. The staircase should be designed both in plan and elevation. For additional information, please refer to a downloadable e-book DIY Like an Architect.

2. Placement
Its location in plan needs to correlate with the over-all circulation scheme on all levels. Think three-dimensionally about where the staircase starts and ends up.

3. Dimensional clearances
A person shouldn’t be able to extend and touch the staircase ceiling. It should not be lower than the height of a standard door (6’8”).

4. Safety
Always check applicable building codes for minimum and maximum required dimensions. Make sure that it is well lit from above.

5. Ease of travel
The staircase should be neither too steep or too shallow. For most situations, a riser of 7” (or slightly over) is recommended. All risers must be identical in height. The slightest discrepancy between steps creates a tripping hazard. Intermediate landings can be introduced to lessen the fatigue factor.

6. Approach and departure
The staircase can be approached and departed either directly or perpendicular to a stair run. Landings should equal the width of the stair by a minimum of 3 feet. No doors are allowed to swing over the steps.

7. Shape
When deciding on the type (straight run, “U” return stair, “L,” winder, or spiral) think about function and make sure it fits.

8. Style
Define your aesthetic with a choice of materials for the structural elements. Whether you opt for ornate or minimalist details, they need to follow safety code requirements. Take a look at these for some good ideas!

I hope this is useful. For additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me here.

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