A generic statement, such as: “In this bright white modern space, the architect used clean lines, a minimalist palette, and simple shapes to create…” can succinctly describe my intentions for a tiny bathroom and adjoining kitchenette I am in the process of planning. Although it sounds formulaic, it’s anything but. Trends come and go; the object is to design with the site-specific requirements in mind. Read More
Second installment of the workshop felt like the fastest three hours ever! In awe with the participants’ commitment, I admired and respected their passion for learning — the way they were striving to stretch their comfort zone — developing, acquiring knowledge and expanding existing skills. It made me think of life as work-in-progress. Read More
Although nervous and uncomfortable promoting my own system, I’m compelled to recommend it. I teach a strategy of organizing thoughts aimed at generating a parti, a launch pad for an architectural design. The process is quite simple; it’s outlined in my how-to ebook DIY Like an Architect: 11-step method. Read More
I just attended an exhibit at the Getty Museum titled “Pathways to Paradise: Medieval India and Europe” documenting people’s travels to destinations across Asia, Africa, and Europe in pursuit of heaven on earth. People have longed to find it for centuries, but have not been able to. Somehow, it made me think of DIYers I work with, those who are instead of expecting it to be somewhere waiting for them, are willing to build/create their own. Right where they are — in their own backyard. Read More
As architect on demand, I frequently get emails from DIYers concerned with their home’s curb appeal. When adding a few potted plants or planting climbing vines is enough to spruce up the entryway, Martha Stewart has great advice. However, it could be a question of subtracting, instead of adding. There are times when a façade can benefit from authentic architectural details and intervention. Read More
It’s the last week of December. Usually, at the end of the year I am focused on resolutions. It’s been a personal tradition to set goals. I turn to collaging in the process of designing outcomes. 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 pool, and a subterranean 2-level parking garage. The client is the homeowners association of a 24-unit condo complex in the foothills of Hollywood. 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 uncover new facets of themselves. I want to learn from them, actually. 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 are being fulfilled. Read More
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. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 of examples that demonstrate the aforementioned benefits. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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
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.
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”).
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.
When deciding on the type (straight run, “U” return stair, “L,” winder, or spiral) think about function and make sure it fits.
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.
Architecture class at Art Center’s Saturday High: week three. We are zeroing in on how to develop a design concept. Read More
Even in my wildest dreams, I had never considered becoming an architect until someone asked: “Why don’t you study architecture?” He was a stranger — my jaw dropped: “But I don’t even know how to draw!” Read More
To think like an architect is to approach life without pre-conceived notions with a child-like sense of wonder. Read More
REGISTRATION IS OPEN!
I am teaching a 3-hour workshop at Art Center College of Design on two consecutive Sundays: June 21 and June 28, 2015. Read More