Living in a pyramid

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Look at this fascinating home in Seattle atop the Smith Tower.  Click on the links below and you’ll get a glimpse into how this pyramid-shaped space – the 37th floor had a caretaker’s apartment, above which was a 10,000 gallon water tank of cast iron for the fire sprinklers – became the home for a family of 4.   Petra Franklin is a woman with vision! 

 The water tank was disassembled by welders who cut it into pieces small enough to fit into the elevator!  How long do you suppose that took?!?   This apartment is the ONLY living space in the building…maybe a bit lonely, eh?

Rumors abound about who lives there…woman with 200 cats…typewriter heiress…but here’s the real story…

Pictures are here:

Article is here:

Wow!  😉


Efficient Kitchens


When I was a kid one of my most favorite books of all time was:  Cheaper by the Dozen, written in 1948 by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.  It’s a fun and fascinating autobiographical story about efficiency experts and their 12 children around the time of 1920. 

Cheaper By The Dozen

The idea of efficiency was a newfangled concept for most people.  The experts would ask people to perform certain tasks and time them as they did so.  They would do a time and motion study to analyze all the steps that went into doing that task and then figure out how to increase productivity.  The best known experiment by Frank Gilbreth, the dad, involved a bricklayer.  Scrutinizing the task, he reduced the number of steps involved in laying a brick from 18 to 5 or so.  Think about it.  That bricklayer was about 3x as fast as before because of this.

Later on, we discovered ergonomics, which is designing equipment and workplaces with the user in mind.  Which chair is best if you are typing at a computer all day?  Where should the keyboard be placed?  The answer can reduce strain and increase productivity!  Isn’t that nice…

So how does this relate to the kitchen?  As the kitchen is generally the most used room in the home, an efficient kitchen is vital. 

 Kitchen efficiency depends heavily on the kitchen triangle:  the areas of food preparation, cooking and fridge/storage.  Its important that these 3 areas be placed in proper relation to each other.  If they are too close, then the workspaces are cramped.  If they are too far apart, then you’ll be wasting time and energy getting to all 3 points on the triangle.

 Another important aspect of the work triangle is that it be outside of regular household traffic.  No one should have to walk through the work space in order to get to another room in the house.  Plus nothing should be in the way of the triangle.  Rick was in one house where the dining table was in the center of the kitchen AND you had to walk through the kitchen to get to the family room.  So everyone had to walk around the table to get from the stove to the sink and from the hall to the family room.  What a mess!

 If you are big into entertaining, then its possible that you’ll need 2 separate kitchen triangles.  That’s why you’ll frequently see 2 sinks in a kitchen, allowing more people to work efficiently.

Definitely needs two triangles! Notice TWO islands!


Ever been in a kitchen where the fridge or oven is at the edge of the peninsula or island?  And no one can get in or out of the kitchen when the door is open?

Lousy oven placement

We recently were in a beautiful, large kitchen with a huge island in the middle – great for a buffet dinner – but the fridge and stove were on one side and the sink was on the other.  You had to walk around the island every time you needed something out of the fridge.  If any kitchen begged for a 2nd sink, this one did.

 Sometimes people redo their kitchen and figure that a peninsula equals high class so they’ll stick one in regardless of whether it fits!

 Here’s a picture of a kitchen island that is so big we joked that you could land planes on it!  Seriously, its way too big.  You can barely even reach the center without lying on the thing!  Looks impressive but isn’t efficient.

Land your plane here!


There are tools for design that will help you get the best design for your money.

Of course, I advocate hiring a professional, because they can analyze the whys and wherefores of your likes

 For instance, years ago we had a client, Chad, who was digging in his heels at every suggestion Rick had regarding an addition and remodel to his house.  Both Rick and the client were getting pretty frustrated because no matter what Rick suggested, Chad hated it. 

 Finally, Rick asked what Chad liked best about his house and Chad said “The morning sun coming in when I’m having breakfast”.  Well, that enlightening bit of info completely changed how Rick approached the redesign of the house.  Needless to say, Rick now asks that question earlier in the design process!

Looking good!


Here are some sites that have good info on kitchen triangles, specifications, layout suggestions and ergonomics…good luck!  😉   Chris Adams’ blog

Cool Roofs


Saw an article in the San Jose Mercury News the other day.  About ‘cool roofs’, article written by some guy in New York. 

 So, why is the Merc News printing stories from out-of-state?  Just filling space, cheaply?   That bugs the heck out of me!   This isn’t the first time they’ve printed stories about houses and trends without  relating it to Silicon Valley.  They don’t have to pay a reporter/columnist for the article, it came from one of their newsgroups that they subscribe to or a sister paper.  I’ve seen articles about the housing market in Pennsylvania, for heaven’s sake!  What’s the purpose for that?

Sometimes the articles about trends in back East aren’t very helpful for our area – we have more strict rules about energy use, structural strength and flexibility, secondary dwellings and the like.

 Articles about how to convert your attic or basement?  Making your garage into a granny unit?   How about advising that you close off rooms to save on air conditioning and heating costs?  What the heck?  That last one  is totally at odds with green building practices (your HVAC system works just as hard or harder when you’ve shut the door or vent to a room, so you’re not gonna save money).

Before the whiteness

I wish, though, that they would have one of their columnists write a paragraph or two with the local take on the article.  I don’t mind reading about other areas, but would like to read how it relates to our area.

 Unfortunately, ‘cool roofs’ are frowned upon by many city/county jurisdictions.  The problem is, those cool roofs are highly reflective – which is why they stay cool, duh.  That means that the roof is glaring and stark.  And for an area where skylights have to have dark lenses (so they don’t glow too much at night, yes, really), glaringly white roofs are not acceptable!   Aesthetically displeasing that’s for sure!  In our area, we’ve had to force some towns to allow solar panels on the roof…some HomeOwner Associations won’t allow clotheslines outside.  They’ve taken ‘aesthetically pleasing’ a bit too far, I think.  My sister uses a clothesline, she saves about $30 a month!  She says she hasn’t had a problem with birds, even.

 You don’t have to have a white roof, though.  Sure, you can literally paint your roof white, or have that special stuff  installed like commercial buildings might use, but when its time to replace the roof, there are products that go underneath the roofing material that can create a cool roof and help reduce your indoor temperature by 10-15 degrees (and reduces your carbon footprint) – in fact we used one of those for the house we built 2 years ago – aren’t we special…

Don’t you agree?  😉

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