Monday, December 27, 2010


A good friend of mine has found an opportunity to design a golf course and housing in Chengdu, China. He has put together a project team including a land planner, golf course designer, and landscape architect, with him and me as architects.

 The site is here. Zoom out and switch to map view to get your bearings.

click to enlarge

The site is about 2 hundred acres or so, which will be tight for an 18-hole course, and will include a club house and several hundred residential units around the golf course. The site is also very hilly, which can be seen in the aerial photo, and the challenge will be to create a  sufficient amount of level areas for the golf course, as well as the houses.

This is all very preliminary at the moment: we sent portfolios and a conceptual proposal to his contact in China last month. He is currently in China, and will have an introductory meeting with the client. If they ask us to proceed, we will work on preliminary designs, including land planning / grading, golf course design, clubhouse architecture, and residential design.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Return of the Stove

     On Saturday, the restorers returned our stove; this was a small surprise, because there was some question about when the chrome pieces would be back from the plating service, and so we did not expect it for a few more days. Now things will return to normal, and we will be able to bake and fry eggs for the first time in about five weeks. From this little experiment, we realized how much we take the convenience of cooking food for granted. We were limited to our microwave oven, electric teakettle and the grille. In addition to numerous instances of take-out from the local Thai restaurant, there has been numerous salads and sandwiches, cans of soup, noodles, simple pasta dishes, and lots of grilling and smoking.

    We also made lots of trips to the farmers' market for fresh vegetables each week in search of different things to try, and had to experiment with alternate cooking techniques. In the end, not having a stove has resulted in both of us losing a few pounds, and exploring a few new ways of cooking things; for instance, having a mesh grilling basket like the one below made it possible to do a wider variety of vegetables, etc. on the grill:

This is now an indispensable requirement for summer grilling. Get one from Williams - Sonoma or Crate & Barrel.
     Most root vegetables will grill very well, as well as potatoes, onions, peppers, etc. One surprise discovery we made was that beets can be a wonderful thing to grill: sliced thinly with just a little olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to finish. They do not taste at all like the horrid canned beets that taste like dirt.

     And now, lots of shiny pictures:

 Our 1954 O'Keefe & Merritt model 640, looking like new. (We had the appliance guy drop in the living room for a few photos) Compare with the "before" photos in the previous post.

     The restorers took the whole thing apart, cleaned everything, repainted the chassis, and replaced the insulation around the oven. The exterior panels were in good condition, so this is actually the original enamel, only having been cleaned up.

Broiler on the left side and oven on the right. Note the three chrome drip pans just above. We really like the printed table of cooking temps and times on the inside of the oven door

     The really amazing improvement was with all of the chrome; it shows how impressive these stoves were when new.  This thing reminds one of a 1953 Chevy:


    All top surfaces and trim pieces were re-chromed, and the burner trivets re-enamelled.

     And under the hood:

     The speckled enamelling is original; the gas manifolds, flash tubes and burner heads were re-enamelled. There are new gas lines and oven thermostat, and butterfly valves were re-chromed.

     This is a view of the broiler in action, one of our favorite features of the stove:

The broiler is raised and lowered by the knob in front (Click to watch live Grillevator action)
    Before the fix, the hinges on the oven door were damaged, and so the door would not stay shut. The oven temperature was 25-50 degrees below the indicated temperature on the thermostat, and fluctuated widely. They were able to fix the hinges and springs, and so the first thing we cooked was cinnamon rolls to check the oven; the oven temperature now seems accurate and consistent, so we will finally be able to bake according to recipe instructions.

     Here is the whole thing re-installed in the kitchen, and everything is back to normal:

Top Down.
Top up.
The top also forms a shelf.
SO SHINY! - Ready for another 56 years.
     We were careful to allow enough time for the restorers to finish in time for us to have the stove back and be able to cook dinner for Thanksgiving, and it is now time to start baking fruitcakes.

     Our thanks go to Carolina's Antique Appliances for an impressive and thorough job.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Remodel, Post #2

     This is an update of the project previously posted under, "Back to Work", and fills in some context and background for the job.

     First the existing house: this is a fairly common style single-story ranch house, built in the mid sixties. The elevations and plan of the existing house are shown below.

The client has asked to enlarge the first floor bedrooms at the front of the house, add a playroom or den, and create a second-floor master suite. The extent of the additions are visible on the site plan below:

The colored sketch of the front elevation, below, is further developed, and reflects refinements to the floor plans since the first elevation sketch, shown in the last post.
     The first elevation sketch felt a little too Arts-and-Crafts in style; the clients have asked for something with a modern tropical style: open roof framing, metal roof, wood windows, clapboards, etc.:

Front Elevation (thanks to Steve Royse for doing the rendering).

     This is just the preliminary design; final floor plans and progress pictures will follow, as the job progresses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recent Acquisitions

"Dairy", Robert Glisson 
     I bought this from the artist at the Syracuse Arts and Crafts Festival, while I was on vacation in August.


A stove-sized hole. We will now begin the 5-week no-stove diet.
     There is a hole in the kitchen where the stove used to be. Our trusty 1954 O'Keefe & Merritt has stood in the space pictured above and performed steadfast service for at least 56 years. It had a few worn spots and loose hinges, but everything functioned until the capillary tube for the oven thermostat failed, due to metal fatigue. Since this left the oven with only one speed, being "furnace", we decided it was time to do some long-delayed restoration work.

     O'Keefe & Merritt had a factory in Los Angeles, and these old stoves are very common in this area.  These things are very solidly built, and can survive indefinitely. There are quite a few companies which specialize in repairing, refinishing and reselling them, and it is possible to buy one of these in nearly-new condition. They are also popular props for the film industry, and pop up frequently in commercials and TV shows.

This is the "before" picture
     This is what it looked like last week: There are four gas burners, separate oven and broiler, and a griddle in the center of the top. The upper shelf folds down to cover the entire cooktop, but that never really happens, as we need the shelf space, and there always seems to be a pot or pan in use on one of the burners.

     Other than light wear, scratching and spots of corrosion on the chrome, it is very good shape. We will have them do a thorough dis-assembly and cleaning, re-porcelain the burners, re-chrome the stove-top, and fix the thermostat, oven hinge springs and timer. Hopefully, replacing the insulation around the oven will also help improve the somewhat erratic and inaccurate oven temperatures that we have always had to work around.

Rustic stand-by power is available in the back yard.
     So, for the next few weeks, we will be preparing only what can be eaten raw, or cooked with a microwave oven, an electric tea kettle, our grill, or toaster (a 1958 Sunbeam T-20, but that's another story).

They don't make 'em like they used to: my toaster is older than me.

We may receive progress pix from the restorers, and I will post those as well as "after" photos as things progress.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to work

Elevation sketches for a renovation/addition to a house in Newport Beach: 
Front Elevation
Left Side Elevation
The Program on this project is to add a second-floor bedroom suite to an existing single-story house. Living rooms and seecondary bedrooms on the first floor will also be enlarged.

I will post more as this job progresses.

Friday, August 20, 2010

House on the Coast, Post#8

(A continuing series of construction progress photos)

Stucco Time.
At this point, the house has been wrapped with building paper and lath, and the appplication of stucco has begun. The finished pre-cast moldings are first anchored in place, and the grey scratch coat of plaster is trowelled on. The finish stucco color will be applied later.

Front elevation with precast and stucco scratch coat.
Tile is loaded on the roof

Front driveway court
Front driveway court from right side.
The driveway leads down the right side into the basement garage.
Rear elevation. The landscape work to the right is a large pool
(more about that later)
The precast moorish arches are a design motif which appears inside as well as outside. The arches are surrounded by panels with abstract floral designs.

precast arches and balcony at front elevation.
Close-up of precast entry portico.
Detail of precast moorish arch and decorative panel.
This is part of the colonnade visible during framing in previous post, #7.
The steel posts will be covered with precast columns.

Variation on a theme: the loggia outside the library is composed by
alternating sizes of arches.

The interior is progressing also, and is now starting to show elements of the final design:

Coffered arched ceiling in the master bedroom.
The theme of the moorish arched is continued
on the interior.
Coffered ceiling in living room.
View of rear yard from second floor balcony; the pool is taking shape,
and the view is already wonderful.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

House on the Coast, Post #7

(A continuing series of construction progress photos)

 I have been remiss in updating for quite a while, so I will try make up a lot of ground quickly.

These pictures show the completion of rough framing:

Font Elevation: Now it is possible to see the massing and roof lines.

Front elevation from the right corner.

Arches that will be a major design feature are boxed from plywood, and will
be clad in precast concrete moldings later.