If you read this blog, you’ve already heard about my project in the Hamptons. The first stage of it is under construction, which consists of the garage remodel/pool house conversion. With respect to the existing structure, the intent is to preserve as much of it as possible, especially the operable barn door — keeping this endearing element is critical, even if it morphs into a window covering and its hardware is replaced. Read More
Many years ago, I attended a presentation by a motivational speaker whose description of her secret garden made a lasting impression on me. I still remember that inspired delineation arousing a sense of urgency in me. I left longing. Imagining her cherished mornings, I was galvanized. Read More
A client wants to build a deck at the top of her steep hillside property. The view from there is breathtaking! Unfortunately, structural requirements make it prohibitively expensive. In addition, the obligatory 25-foot-wide side yard deems the project impossible to implement at the location we’re considering. Well, I am not giving up just yet. There must be a feasible solution right at our fingertips. Actually, what if we create a free-standing rooftop structure over the existing roof? Read More
I am in the process of deciding what kind of an entrance/driveway gate is appropriate for a client’s property. Should it be an electric sliding gate or a bi-parting swing gate? The height is pre-determined by the local code and it cannot exceed 48”, which means that this gate will not function as a privacy or security barrier, but as a clear demarcation between public and private domains. Read More
A project you designed, when built, may present itself in ways that were ultimately unpredictable. Picturing a space with a degree of certainty is an acquired skill, and a scaled model is an invaluable tool for training your eye. It just makes it much easier to imagine what a room will feel like, to anticipate the spatial experience within it. Read More
Having just come across a post advocating putting wheels or casters on furniture, I am thinking out loud. Enhancing versatility with casters is a terrific concept. Unless the piece in question is intended to be a certain height, like a desk, and it would be ergonomically awkward to raise it. Clearly, it’s always better to build in wheels right from the start, not as an afterthought. Read More
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
I’ve written extensively about a collaboration with a wonderful client while designing an in-home child-care facility. We successfully got the project approved by the City of Santa Monica. You can read about our process here, here, and here. Finally, it’s under construction; the client is selecting/purchasing windows for a built-in window seat at the moment. Read More
Recently, a friend asked for my help with a design of an apartment she is looking to set up as a vacation spot for her family in Batumi, Georgia. Excited with a challenge at hand — maximizing function within a minimal footprint — I set out to create a compact unit that offers its guests all the comforts of a luxurious hotel room. 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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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. 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
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 major circulation issues. 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
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
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.
I know this client since the 80-ies; he is my ex-husband. He is one of my biggest fans these days and talks about the great job I‘ve done on his urban apartment when I am not there to hear it. Read More
My kids, my students, and my fellow DIYers (those home improvement enthusiasts I consult online as Alla DIY Ally) have all heard me exclaim time and time again: “That’s a blessing in disguise!” Read More
ORGANIZATION SYSTEM DESIGN IDEAS.
Imagine an ideal environment as a sophisticated contraption attending to all of your whims, making sure that your emotional and physical wellbeing are taken care of. Read More
WINE STORAGE DESIGN IDEAS.
I became acutely aware of my aversion to “going with the flow” when pregnant with first child. Read More
GARAGE CONVERSION DESIGN IDEAS.
We all need our own territory to manage emotions. I noticed that I tend to sit in the same chair over and over again in classrooms. Read More
HALLWAY DESIGN IDEAS.
I talk about good use of space and making every inch count all the time.Another theme that is of paramount importance is building an environment that instills confidence as much as nurtures creativity in children. Read More
Next ten posts will focus on how you can simultaneously organize and show off your prized possessions. Read More