July, Still here (sometimes)

Hey Friends! I’m still here, trying to make the most of summer. We’ve been in and out, up and down for the past two months but I wanted to pop in and share a few things from the interwebs that I think are fun. So here are a few of my favorites:

This blog post from MPix for a sweet photography/art project with kids!

These incredible bus stops in Austria. Let’s go!

My friend Shane, in Austin, had work published at HOUZZ.com. It’s his house! Way to go, Shane!

These shorts! Pompoms and sleepwear- doesn’t get much better than that. Etsy is so awesome. I will either need to buy some of these or make them myself. Or someone could buy them for me!

Speaking of Etsy, I finally convinced MODwoodworks to put these bottle openers in his shop. These things are so cool. You need one. Everybody’s doing it!

 

I’ve ended it all with exclamation points! I’m just so excited about the internet’s offerings these days! Cheers!

 

p.s. I’ve finally joined Instagram. It was too big a force not to get sucked in. Follow me at racheldebacker and let me know- should I follow you?

 

Babble Interview: Katrina Evans

You all know that I love providing great interviews with women in design here on the Babble. I have such a fun interview to share with you this month.  Katrina Evans has been high on my list to interview for a while, and I’m so glad our schedules finally worked out because I’m able to publish this post on her birthday of all days.  Happy Birthday, Katrina!

Katrina Evans

Katrina Evans

I first met Katrina and her husband Chris when we moved to Athens, Georgia back in 2008.  Though their business (E+E Architecture) was just starting up, she took me in as their first employee.  I couldn’t believe the number of projects she had going at once.  Katrina managed to not only keep her business afloat during the worst of the recession, she’s such a (forgive this choice of words) hustler that they made it through a shining example of success.

I admire Katrina’s work ethic and drive, her down to earth nature, her functional creativity.  She’s patient while at the same time demands excellence from those she works with.  I learned a lot from Katrina during the short time I worked with her (we relocated to Virginia in 2009) and do wonder what life would be like had we stayed in Athens.  She taught me how to respect clients’ wishes and still keep the project rolling along.  It’s the same attitude she applies to her family, making the whole work/life balance look effortless.  Katrina and her husband Chris recently designed and built their house in Athens, and she’ll talk a little about that in her interview.  Let’s get to it.

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

 I am originally from a smallish town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids. I studied architecture at Iowa State University. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome for a semester and had some perspective knocked into my wholesome Midwest background. I graduated and stomped around as a young professional in NYC, later moved to Atlanta. After a few years working at a great firm, Perkins & Will, I had the opportunity to work as a staff architect for a hospital in Athens, GA. My husband, Chris (also an architect) and I jumped at the chance to move away from Atlanta into our charming college town.

Present day, my husband and I have our own Architecture / Interior design firm with a few capable employees. E+E Architecture started in 2007, right before the economy tanked but somehow we’ve grown each year and have a solid reputation with some cool projects under our belt.

How did you get interested in architecture?

 I think I got interested by one of those super basic classes in early high school where you draft out a house. I poured myself into the project and proclaimed that I would become an architect. As a bonus, I liked that upon earning a degree, you practiced architecture versus aimlessly wandering around in the business world. This is of course not really true since folks trained as architects branch into a million directions.

At what point did you decide to go into business for yourself?

Chris and I had a few side projects and formed E+E in 2006. We both had full time jobs but out of the blue the hospital I worked for cut my position.   I freaked out for a couple hours and decided by the end of the day that I would ramp up E+E full time. Chris joined two years later.

Tell us a little about your home and work schedule.  How do you make it all work with a shared business, two kids and a dog?

 Ha! I suppose we make it work because we work our tails off. It definitely helps that Chris and I have shared goals: a healthy business and happy home with our kids. We split up all duties and divide and conquer as much as possible. I used to be the type of person where I could waste away a whole weekend doing very little of anything. Now, we are always on the go or doing something which helps. Balancing both family and work can definitely be overwhelming for us. We try to remember a mantra “work to live, not live to work”.

Tell us a little about the house that you and Chris Evans designed for your family: the property, the process, some of the trials, and what you are most proud of in the house.

 We had been looking for an in-town lot for a while and made a few unsuccessful attempts at buying one or two. When we found our current property, it took about two weeks of marinating on the thought because the house was just gross. Our friends called it the “flophouse” and it had been vacant for years. Ultimately, the street, schools, location and the wide double lot sealed the deal.

Before the renovation and expansion

Before the renovation and expansion

 

 

We established our goals: open floor plan, tons of light, a big screened porch and ultimately, a house that reflected exactly how our family lives. It was a little tricky to find the time to do our drawings since we were busy but we finally went on vacation and found time to lay it out. Elevations quickly followed and the entire process was pretty easy considering we are both hands-on dueling architects / spouses. We definitely disagreed on some parts here and there but overall, it was shockingly painfree.

Challenges were really about staying within our budget. A realization to us was that appraisers are not necessarily great at reading drawings and that “cool” elements don’t always translate into a higher appraisal. Once the home was complete, we did ask our appraiser to come out and walk the actual home and the number went up dramatically.

Completed house

Completed house

 

We also decided to GC it ourselves, which… is a lot work.   Fortunately, we worked with a friend / GC who helped us through site work, foundations and framing and then we tapped into the pool of wonderful sub contractors in the area. I think we may have worn a few folks out but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again to any of our clients.

 Describe some of the unique features you included. 

We are very happy with the quantity of windows. Every room has a generous amount and it fills the house so well with light. A bonus is that we can see our children in the front yard / back yard with ease.

Playroom window

Playroom window

Day-lit living space

Day-lit living space

I guess the standing seam vertical panels are somewhat unique. We love the way the panels fold up the connector and bridge from the original home to the addition.

In general, we kept the palette very clean –white walls and dark floors and intended for the light fixtures to be the only semi-permanent feature that jumps out. We found some great old fixtures, had a few custom made by the local lampsmith and we made the string lights upstairs. I love them all. It’s especially interesting to see the shadows the lights cast.

Handmade light fixture

Handmade light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Other design details we like are the stair railings. We wanted something that had interest, was economical and safe. They aren’t exactly code compliant so we had plywood up at our inspection and then installed the rope. I think it plays well with the light fixtures.

Lights and custom handrail

Lights and custom stair rails

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

What projects are you working on now?

 We are working on a mix of projects right now. We just wrapped up design on a new restaurant, Seabear, an Oyster Bar. We are also doing a childcare center, a new office building and an open-air pavilion for the UGA Ropes Course program.

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Child photo-bomb!

Child photo-bomb!

 

What architect (or architects) inspire you and why?

Lake Flato. They are very successful at merging vernacular architecture with modern, clean design. They also choose materials that have integrity and let those materials guide the design. They also work on various scales and budgets but still create spaces and places of beauty. I’m a fan.

Since you are currently teaching a course at UGA, what, if anything, would you change about architecture education?

 There are lots of flaws. Most basically, I think that there is so much emphasis put on design and theory, it leaves very little room for any practicality. Some programs around the country have a construction element built into their program and I think that would be invaluable. At Iowa State, which has a great program, it was deeply theoretical. A slightly more rounded approach would benefit students and the professionals that will work with them.

The class I teach, Building Systems for UGA Interior Design students, has a goal of teaching the students about how a building comes together by real-world examples and whenever possible, by getting out in the field.

Lastly, what is your favorite thing about being an architect?

 My favorite thing about being an architect is creating buildings or spaces that have a direct impact on people. Good design really does matter… and now research is backing up the egos of countless architects …

Examples: Being intentional about natural light can lead to improved outcomes in healthcare settings, lower pain medicine usage for patients. Staff will even sleep better with high exposure to natural light. Efficient, deliberate layouts of offices can increase productivity and decrease employee absenteeism.

I could geek out about this for a long time. Good design really is good business.

Upstairs

Upstairs

I hope these words and images inspire you like they do me.  I love when she shared her secret to success: work your tail off.  And those orange kid-proof chairs- I totally see where she’s going with that! She forgot to mention the astro-turf they installed in the kids’ playroom. Seems like they thought of everything.

Thanks for letting us take a peek into your life, Katrina.  And Happy Birthday!

 

I heart Palm Springs

Guys, did you know that it’s Modernism Week in Palm Springs?  M O D E R N I S M !  P A L M  S P R I N G S ! !

From February 13-23 this year, Palm Springs is celebrating all things Modernist. I can’t tell you how much I want to be a part of this. Palm Springs is way WAY up there on my list of places to go.  Just look at the scenery:

Image

The Kauffman Desert House, by Richard Neutra [ image source ]

gas station

The Tramway Gas Station (now the Palm Springs Visitors Center), by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers

[ image source ]

Vista Las Palmas

A home in the Vista Las Palmas Neighborhood in Palm Springs

[ image source ]

It’s about this time every year I long for warmer weather and short sleeves.  Doesn’t this look like the perfect place to warm up in the winter?  I could totally be a snowbird here, friends.  Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century design anywhere, all situated in the desert and hills of California, a little more than an hour and half southeast of Los Angeles.  Just about the best winter getaway I could ask for.

This map says it all:

Image

Map of Palm Springs by Nat Reed from the LA Times Blog [ image source ]

If I were still a kid, this would be my Disney World.  Modernism Week consists of walking tours, bus tours, lectures, parties and probably a lot of fun.  I’d check out works by John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Albert Frey and Donald Wexler, and I’d want to stay at the Saguaro Palm Springs:

Image

[ image source ]

saguaro-palm-springs-pool

[ image source ]

For more images, check out the Modernism Week Instagram feed here.  I know I plan to live vicariously through those photos.

+ Thank you all for your feedback on books for kids from this post: The books arrived a day after Valentines and the kids are shouting “Again, again” after reading the first book, so I’d say these are a success! +

Welcome back to me and to you

Hello Friends,

Having a wonderful 2013 so far?  Make any resolutions?  I like to call them goals.  It’s always good to have goals.  One of mine is to blog more.  So here we go.  And I know you are thinking, why is she just now talking about the New Year?  That happened like two weeks ago.  Well, Dr. Jay and the Little Miss and I just got back from a trip to the west coast (in fact, we’re not even home YET) and I haven’t really felt like I’ve shifted into my new year yet.  But I’m definitely done with 2012.  I’m kind of in-between right now.  Talk to me on Monday.  Hopefully I’ll be back on my feet by then.  See, we left Tennessee in a whirlwind on the 2nd for a trip to San Diego and Los Angeles (Dr. Jay had a conference and Little Miss and I tagged along and we left Mark to have fun with his various grandparents for several days).  Fresh from California, Dr. Jay and I want to juice everything, take more hikes and learn to surf.  It was a great trip. I’ll share some photos below.  But before we could leave, we had to get the downstairs ready for the floors to be refinished.  And some new hardwoods to be laid where there was carpet.  So this required some fancy footwork moving all the furniture out of the downstairs.  And Dr. Jay was working on re-mudding some walls that formerly had wallpaper on them and he wanted to complete all this before the floor work since it’s a messy job.  I wish I had photos for you.  We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  And we broke a pane in Mark’s window trying to hang some curtains.  Ughh.  It was one of those things that happens when you really don’t have time to deal with it.  But we managed to leave on time for our trip and without too much panic.  Yes, we left our house in the hands of a contractor.  I did remember to call my neighbor and let her know that we would be gone and that there would be trucks parked in front of our house for the floor work.  Other than that, we gave him free reign to work his magic while we were gone.  I am very very excited to see the floors tomorrow.  The house has red oak floors and the planks are about 2 inches wide and it used to have that sort of golden stain on it.  We had all the floors refinished to a stain called Early American.  We wanted them to be a medium brown with no red tones.  Anyway, leaving town was probably a great idea for us as a family.  It would have been too difficult to be there while this process was taking place.  BUT on the otherhand, it was hard for me as a designer to hand over the job to someone else and not be around to offer my suggestions.  We talked on the phone a few times (I really LOVE our contractor.  He is a perfectionist and I know he worked hard for us to be pleased with the job) but it was tough to not be around to say “Hold up, wait a minute”.  I actually had a dream the other night about the project going awry.  We came back to a scene of about 15 people roaming around doing some sort of tiling and I was confused because there wasn’t supposed to be any tile and I didn’t think so many people would be at our house.  The person running the job was actually a woman and she said “Honey, I gotta do what I gotta do.”  And then we had these crazy concrete statues (What?!) and I saw my contractor putting paint primer on them.  That’s when I lost it.  I screamed “Nothing vertical!   You aren’t supposed to touch anything vertical!”  Nice response, Rachel.  I don’t think it will be anything like that tomorrow when we see the floors, for the record.  But I thought that dream was so vivid I had to write it down.
I know I owe you a post on Sawyer’s room, and believe me, I have some decent photos of it.  BUT they are not with me at the moment so I thought I would update you with the state of the home renovations.  Basically, our plan for this year is to refinish the floors and add hardwood where there was carpet (check!), renovate the kitchen (sort of on-going), and remove wallpaper and paint a lot of the house.  Those are really the main goals for the house, along with just getting it in order and set up to host family and friends.  We’re actually pretty far along with the wallpaper removal.  We only have a super annoying/stuck on with super glue border in one of the rooms downstairs and the wallpaper in the bathroom upstairs to go as far as removal.  The other walls are being prepped for paint (which is a long process, especially when you leave town in the middle of it) and I’m currently choosing paint for these rooms.  That should be another post.  I have a lot of plans.
As far as the kitchen, we +hope+ to start that project by February.  We think we will use the same contractor (again, another post should be devoted to choosing a contractor) and we’ve already started in on buying some of the appliances.  We bought the dishwasher months ago when we bought the washer and dryer from Sears and it made sense to bundle appliances for more savings.  I bought the sink and faucet through my uncle who has connections in plumbing sales.  I cannot WAIT to use this sink and faucet- they are killer.  And we just scored the refrigerator on Craigslist a few weeks ago.  That’s a long story as well, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  We got a fabulous fridge for under $1000, a little more if you add in the delivery fee but it was well worth it.  I’ll share more photos as there is more progress to share.  Tomorrow I will definitely have floor photos to share.  I cannot wait.  For now, here’s a taste of what we saw in southern California.  The architecture on this trip blew me away.  And the TERRAIN!  I had no idea southern California had so many cool landforms, and so many houses and buildings built right into it.  Incredible.  AND we saw Frank Gehry’s house.  I’m telling you, it was a blast.
ImageSalk Institute: La Jolla, California
By Louis Kahn
Image
A building on the campus of University of California, San Diego.
UCSD blew us away.
ImageThe Library at UCSD.  Where you can read a book about astronauts in a building that looks like a spaceship.
ImageThis is the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD.  It is amazing.
Image
Frank Gehry’s house in Santa Monica.  This may have been my favorite part of the trip.  Please tell me he still lives there.  He and his wife started building this house, which is actually exterior to the original Dutch Colonial house, in the late ’70s.  It looks like he just keeps adding to it.  It is a joy to see.
Image
ImageI love this fence behind Gehry’s house.  I am totally gaga for the reveals in it.  Dr. Jay thinks I am such a weirdo.
Be back with floors and Sawyer’s room and so much more.  2013 is going to be a great year.