Architect Tony Moretti is one of the most unassuming and humble people I know. He’s my hero along with Louis Kahn and Carlo Scarpa. Extremely knowledgeable, he embodies the growth mindset in everything he does — from professional to personal life. Read More
Sunday morning is the time for connecting with nature. I am walking barefoot on a sandy beach of Santa Monica. Lucky for me, it’s only a thirty-minute drive from my house. Read More
I received an email from a DIY Ally client with the subject line: “Exterior elevations. Front door entrance, steel French doors and windows.” The message read: “Alla, I am thrilled to find your website and would appreciate your help. I am in the midst of remodeling my 1930 home and having difficulty determining the appropriate look of French doors, windows as well as the front/back door.” Read More
Phew! Just emailed a revised set of drawings to a client. Having gotten a NY State license, I am picking up the pace — we’re planning to submit for permits in less than a month. My passion for the project in Bridgehampton is all-consuming. Now that I’ve worked out all of the “big moves,” it’s time to get to details — I’ve been designing a fireplace. Read More
We’re on a family vacation in Mammoth. The only one who doesn’t ski, I’m sitting in our cute cabin, mulling over the subject matter for my next blog post. I waited to get here, assuming that our master bathroom will prompt a good discussion. Well… Outdated or not, I can still ponder the efficiency of its compact shower stall or enclosure. Read More
I am feeling better compared to last week. Not able to visualize the massing — confused by how various pitched roofs came together — I made a crude model to assist myself. And finally, I got on the right track. Big or small, the most important design rule is to pay attention to the scale and proportions of the space. Read More
I am nervous: adding to an existing house. In my opinion, the addition, instead of blending in, has to be distinctly autonomous. Making it trendy, reminiscent of everything else around, is safe. However, design is not about applying a style. The new has to work with the existing and the end result should be timeless. 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 wrote about helping a friend with an IKEA kitchen remodel recently. Unfortunately, it has not gone well. We are very disappointed with the cabinet installation. A problem that could’ve been addressed and resolved on site was ignored. The resulting mistake has not been acknowledged and fixed. Instead of taking responsibility and apologizing, the contractor in charge is still arguing, causing a major delay, not to mention a headache. Read More
A client asked me to create an electrical plan for her. I responded: “Oh, no problem. But first, I have to design a reflected ceiling plan.” She wondered what that entailed. I explained briefly and would like to elaborate. Read More
A client wants to act as a general contractor on her own small addition project. She asked me to help her understand the plumbing issues involved, as I’ve done with rainwater harvesting. Today I’m researching the installation requirements for a Submersible Sewage Simplex Pump, which will have to accommodate a new bathroom and possibly another small bathroom / kitchen if she converts a garage in the future. Read More
Over the weekend, visiting Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I snapped a few images of Gerrit Rietveld’s sideboard and Red/Blue chair. At that point I was collecting ideas for my next post. The following day, another Maria Popova article struck a chord. Titled Oliver Sacks on the Three Essential Elements of Creativity, it stated that all creative work begins with imitation. Read More
I’m on a mission to help a friend and do it as efficiently as possible. It’s a personal quest. How quickly can I plan an IKEA kitchen that looks custom-built? Since this blog has become something of a journal, I’ll record the stages of the creative process as it unfolds. Read More
I am back from New York. As anticipated, it was a productive trip. I’m inspired by the opportunities of the new project in Bridgehampton, “a former whaling and farming village.” Will gladly share many details as the design process moves along. It involves remodeling and adding to a traditional shingle-style house on a ¾ of an acre lot. Besides the primary residence, there is a freestanding shed on the property that will serve as a guesthouse, pool house and gallery. Read More
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 pool, as well as (in Clarke’s words) “an easy-care landscape that ties it to the site.” Read More
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 project. Obviously, when someone says that “your help and insight are much appreciated,” you work a little harder. 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 entire bathroom will function as a shower, which makes it a “wet room.” 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. Read More
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. Read More
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
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
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
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. Read More
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! Read More
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 with sublime. 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. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?” Read More
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
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 streamline our kitchen elevations?” 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. Read More
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
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
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
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
Everyone advises you to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. Even when consulting a horoscope, you read: “Now is the time to be a little fearless and go after the unknown.” 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.” Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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 as it happens. 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
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 kitchen work triangle to all of the alternative layouts. 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
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. Read More
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 all. 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. Read More
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, easy to clean, and sustainable. 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
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. Read More
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. 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
The work of architect Carlo Scarpa has been an inspiration and a point of reference in building a life that reveals who I am without pretenses. 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 decide between dry or wet construction. 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. Read More
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 trees in his garden. I am in for another treat! Read More
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
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
It’s pouring outside. Since the roof over your head is the best protection from the elements, I decided to look into what types of roofing materials are commonly used to do the job right. Read More
The other night I went to The Home Depot to challenge IKEA. In the process of setting up a home office, I wanted to see if The Home Depot can serve me better. Read More
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? Read More
Becoming DIY Ally, an online architect, helped me achieve fulfillment through accepting things as they are, without concern where I rank among others. Read More
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! Read More
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. 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.
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 wonderful.
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. Read More