Kids’ rooms (part one)

Hi!  I’m still here!  I bet you thought we up and moved again.  NOPE!  Still here and having a grand time in Tennessee.  I think the kiddos are blissfully napping right now (they are in their rooms and it’s quiet so let’s call that good) so I thought I’d tell you a little about where they sleep.  First of all, this house is a quirky one as far as layout.  Officially, there are two bedrooms up and two down.  This makes arrangements for two kids and two adults a bit of a challenge, but I think we’ve managed to make the best of it.  Mark has his own room (for now) down the hall and we have a large room upstairs.  Ours is the largest in the house, but don’t be too jealous.  It also has the smallest closet.  No kidding.  And the closet has really annoying doors that slide so that part of the opening is always closed.  ANNOYING!  Currently Dr. Jay is keeping his clothes in a closet and dresser downstairs.  I hate this system but we haven’t really invested the brainpower to figure out something better yet.  Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the kids’ rooms.  Maybe the “master” bedroom we are using has such a small closet because there is such a large storage room right next to it off the hallway.  It’s so large, in fact, that we have Sawyer’s room set up in it.  It’s working pretty well.  There are no windows in it (which make photographing it difficult) but that makes it a perfect place for napping.  Mark’s room, on the other hand, has windows facing west and gets bright afternoon sun.  Sometimes he has a hard time falling asleep there.  Strike that.  Most times he has a hard time falling asleep.  But he’s getting so much better.  Don’t even get me started on his napping (or lack thereof) over the summer.  I came really close to ordering one of those mesh tents that fit on top of the crib and guess what?  You can’t buy those anymore.  Apparently there was a recall.  RECALL!  I think someone recalled Mark’s nap because we couldn’t pay the kid to take a decent nap this summer.  Things have improved over time (as I’ve learned they tend to do with kids) and I think getting Mark’s room set up here with all his stuff really helped.  Without further ado, let’s see some photos.


This is one of my favorite parts of his room- his reading nook.  We actually read stories here every afternoon before nap and every night before bed.  The story of this beanbag is a long one, but the short version is don’t buy a $20 beanbag from Target.  You are bound to regret it.  This is beanbag number two for us and I splurged for the “personalization” though de-personalized it with “Read”.  I wanted it to be all lower-case, but I guess the embroidery machines at PBkids aren’t set up for that.  Here is Mark, doing his thing in the reading nook.  This is not a staged photo, promise:


There’s no specific theme to Mark’s room, but there is a subtle pattern of maps.  The one just above him is from a seller on Etsy and has a real butterfly behind the glass.  The colorful one is a sheet of scrapbook paper from Martha Stewart.  Not sure if it’s still available.  Here’s another map in the room:


Hanging that map was a LONG time coming.  I bought it almost 2 years ago while thrifting with my sis-in-laws and mother-in-law.  In fact, I think she bought it for us.  We’ve been waiting for Mark to have a room big enough to hang it in.  My father-in-law installed it when he was here in October and I just love it.  Eventually, Mark’s bed will go up against that wall (short side of the bed).  For now, his sleeping situation is a crib in the middle of the room, but don’t ask unless you want me to go into a 20 minute discussion of toddler psychology.  That’s why I don’t have any full shots of his room.  The crib situation is embarrassing, but it’s working for us right now (our toddler is napping and sleeping by himself) so we aren’t going to change things up on him just yet.


I had fun stuffing this bookshelf.  The bottom two rows are FULL of books.  We love to read in this house.  I haven’t gotten Mark started on blogs yet, so for now it’s books.  HA.


Mark’s dresser with his Super Mark cape (courtesy of his aunt Martha) and fish painting by his aunt Laura.  Don’t mind that “You are my Sunshine” art- I still need to hang it.  Funny story about stuff made by his aunt Laura.  She’s made several things for our house (painted cards, a picture of an agave plant, sewed a foot pouf for me, etc) and we also have lots of stuff made by his aunt Ree, my mom, and plenty of other relatives.  But if you ask Mark where something came from, or who made it, inevitably he credits Aunt Laura. 

Last shot- Mark’s Schleich animal collection:


I try and get him one or two of these animals for his birthday and Christmas.  I just love how realistic they are, even if they aren’t to scale between each other (see the longhorn compared to the camel and hedgehog).  Eventually he and Sawyer will have a combined collection. 

The paint color in Mark’s room is Behr Ultra in Grey Morning.  I think these photos are pretty accurate as far as how it looks in person.  It’s a light blue grey that’s pretty subdued.  Colors like that are nice as the backdrop in kids’ rooms where their toys and books are so bright and colorful.  I can’t wait to photograph the room in its entirety when it’s all set up with his big boy bed.  All the photos in this post were taken with my iphone (hey, the light was working for me and Mark was cooperating so I did the best I could) but I’ll take more with a better camera when his room is outfitted with a real bed.

Part Two of this post will be Sawyer’s room.  I am  proud of the way we’ve made the space work. 
See you soon!


Sprucing up the bathroom

Hello blogworld!  I know, it’s been a while since we’ve talked.  I’m busy, you’re busy.  I get it.  Can we still be friends?  Good, because I have something fun and (gasp) architecture-related to share with you. 

You all know how I’m a patron of the arts and everything, right?  I shop on Etsy.  Well, a few months back we were blessed with a brand-new bathroom courtesy of our landlady.  Things had been going down the you-know-where in there for a while and she stepped in and decided to completely replace everything while we were on an extended trip in California.  Wonderful.  Except that all the art and furnishings I had in the previous bathroom (which was a minty-hospital green with a lot of white tile) no longer seemed right in the new, very-neutral large-format tile with mosaic border bathroom.  My framed stamps and watercolor art were childish in there.  So I decided Etsy would help me.  I searched for “architectural drawings” hoping to find a line drawing that would save me from neutrality boredom.  Here’s what I found that eventually made its way to our bathroom:


It’s a construction drawing of a horseshoe.  Isn’t that clever?  We have a thing for horseshoes in this house.  There have been multiple discussions about them, and which way they should hang over the doorway for good luck.  So I framed this and stuck it in our bathroom for a little added luck to our household.

Since purchasing this item, I have been put on the artist’s mailing list.  She sent out an email recently about a Black Friday sale, and I discovered these beautiful gems:


Here’s Boston and Austin, two of my favorite cities!  Your city may be there, too- she has many major American cities, worldwide cities, and even the Seven Wonders of the World, both Ancient and Modern.  That could make a pretty cool Christmas card, or Christmas gift! 

We’ll be sending the traditional photo card this Christmas.  They are sitting right here next to me on the desk, waiting to be put-together, stamped and shipped off after Thanksgiving.  What, you didn’t order your holiday cards by Halloween?  Actually, I don’t know where this fit of efficiency came from other than a visit to the Martha Stewart Show in October.  She can do that to a person.

Let me know if you want the scoop on that Black Friday sale at Architette Studios.  And you better share any Black Friday sale info you are holding as well.  Cause that’s what friends do, right?

[Babble Interviews] Nicole Blair

I’ve been excited about this interview for a while.  In fact, when I first conceived of posting interviews on my blog, Nicole Blair was high on my list to pursue.  I’ve often told Dr. Jay that if we still lived in Austin, I would love to be working at Studio 512.  For free.  She’s just that cool.

I met Nicole through friends (in a wine club, when life was so different) in Austin while I was in grad school.  I always liked to mix it up with people not associated with architecture while I was a student, and in grad school I was friends with some business school ladies who did things like tail-gate and participate in a wine club.  Here I was, socializing with my “not architecture” friends, and I meet Nicole Blair, one of Austin’s hippest designers.  Of course.  And I’m so glad I did.  Nicole started her own firm called Studio 512 (the numbers refer to Austin’s area code) and was nice enough to show me around her office one day a few years ago.  It was immediately evident how hard she works.  She really gives her all to her clients.  What I hope you can tell from this interview is just how genuine and original she is.  Her solutions to design-problems are thoughtful and usually very budget-conscious.  She is approachable and makes people feel that way about her architecture.  I have so much respect for Nicole and everything she has accomplished.  She did not fail to impress me with this interview, and I’ll know you’ll be impressed, too.  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tell us a little about yourself- where you’re from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.


I grew up in Austin, TX. After taking an 11 year hiatus to study, work and travel, I returned to Austin and began Studio 512, a design firm focused on finding functional, unique solutions to architectural design problems. While away I earned degrees from Cornell University (B. of Science in Textiles and Apparel) and Rice University (Masters of Architecture), traveled abroad to Paris and Florence, and worked for Architects Peter Eisenman and Robert Stern in New York City. It’s been a treat to return to my hometown and help shape the place that first shaped me. 

How did you get interested in architecture?

I visited an architecture booth at a career fair in Junior High School. I was mesmerized by a crisp, white scale model of a commercial building and thought a field which mixed the arts, science, and math was a good fit for me. The presenter said Architecture was historically male dominated, but was becoming a promising career path for women. I knew in that moment (one I still remember well) that I would pursue architecture as a career.

What projects are you currently working on?

A guest house for a film-maker, a showroom for a stone company, a master bath suite renovation, a new billiards/entertainment/wine tasting space for a family of five, and a 1920’s bungalow renovation and addition.

[some images of Nicole’s work, past and present]

The Off Shoot Renovation Project

The Off Shoot Renovation Project

off shoot bath


bathroom long from closet

1124 Chicon Street 78702 

Studio512_Chicon Duplex-Ext



What do you think is the biggest misconception about architects or architecture?

I think a lot of folks aren’t aware of the amount of time it takes to thoughtfully conceive of, design, draw, and detail a new house or other design project (commercial, civic, etc). The design process for even a small residential remodel typically spans months and includes dozens of meetings and communications between me and the client, contractors, possible subcontractors, material suppliers, city and neighborhood officials, etc.

What’s your most memorable project?

A non-traditional fence I built with my Dad between the back of a property and an alley. We strung 2 diameters (colors) of common weed eater wire in a woven pattern between posts with eyes. The fence’s design allows the possibility to change the woven material and pattern over time. Suitably, the design also eliminates the need for weed eating along the fence line as the wire is flexible enough for a lawn mower push the fence out (or in) to mow directly under the wire. It’s also fun to bounce against.



Tell us about some of the community projects you are involved in.

For me, involvement in community building projects and lending time and design expertise to non-profit efforts is critical to being a responsible design professional. On average Studio 512 is involved in one pro bono project per year. This year we worked with The Austin Museum of Art and students from The University of Texas at Austin to build interactive displays in their FamilyLab to illustrate concepts from their current exhibition: “Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller”. The UT students engaged in laser cutting, CNC routing, sewing, painting, woodworking, and video to create “Card City”, “Exploring Ergonomics”, “Fold your own Miniature Chair”, pattern printing and other projects for museum visitors. Last year we helped The Rude Mechanicals Theater Company design and build a theater practice space for their Grrl Action program.





What architect or architects inspire you and why?

Herzog and DeMeuron’s creative material facades and forms. Zumthor’s primal, spiritual, simply and clearly detailed buildings. Gaudi’s whimsy and imagination. The diffused natural light streaming into a museum gallery designed by Renzo Piano. MVRDV’s clever site planning, space making, stacking techniques. Jeanne Gang’s success as a female architect.

What is your favorite city for architecture?

I have had the privilege to live in Florence, Paris, Austin, Houston, and New York City, each of which have their own unique charm and appeal (yes, even Houston has attractive qualities which make it a vibrant, satisfying city to visit and live). I have visited cities throughout Europe and North America as well: London, LA, Marfa, Madrid. What excites me is experiencing their differences. Traveling along wide grand blocks in Barcelona then meandering through narrow, winding streets within Florence gives me reference to favor them both. I find joy in discovering new cities: considering their scale, topography, density, materiality, playfulness, efficiency, relative to other places I’ve been.

What work of architecture would you most like to visit?

If I could hop on a plane tomorrow, I would travel to Beijing to see The Nest by Herzog and DeMeuron.

If you weren’t an architect, what other career path would you have taken?

When I was a student I couldn’t imagine following any other career path, but now that I am an adult, I think I would enjoy being a chef, an event planner, a curator/gallerist, gift/ paper shop owner, or perhaps even a cinematographer.

What, if anything, would you change about architectural education?

Just after graduating from Rice, I complained to John Casbarian, the Assistant Dean of the School of Architecture, that I had not been taught enough practical skills to be productive in an architecture firm. He said this was a common complaint for recent graduates but that when he spoke with students when they returned for their 10 or 20 year reunions, they said they missed having time to focus on architectural theory and thinking more open-endedly about our built environment and how we live in it. I graduated 8 years ago and already have begun to see John’s point. Today, I would suggest that art history and hand drawing courses be required of all students seeking architectural degrees. I will likely answer differently in a couple of years.