Design for a Willow Glen Cottage

When a place has good bones, be it a cottage or a palace or a treehouse in the woods, one simply doesn't want to disrupt this fine circumstance.

Staying true to what already works...what is already beautiful...is important to the harmony of the house and those who inhabit it.

A lovely little cottage wants to grow with reason and care. A palace wants an Inigo Jones to create that perfect addition. And a treehouse, done well, feeds the souls of those who must climb the ladder to get there.

Therefore, I believe, one must try to build without rattling the bones.

Long ago, at this cottage, the sweet 20's garage might have housed an early version of Henry Ford's masterwork. Perhaps there was a cart, also, or a wagon, or some such thing--something to bring home baskets of cherries and bushels of plums from the surrounding orchards.

All things considered, the little building cried out for a good solid set of doors that looked like they'd been crafted to keep the cavalry mounts in for the eve. Somehow, in it's soul, the now-vintage space seemed far grander than a garage/fruit drying shed.

It might have held cherries, but I couldn't help thinking that the first inhabitant of the sturdy structure might've been a horse, rather than a horseless carriage. Anyway, it--the structure, not the long-ago-imagined horse--wanted us to make these doors. Bespoke, as it were.

Either way, I find myself hoping the Buffalo Soldiers would have approved wholeheartedly.

Above, the as-yet unpainted doors await final touches.

design: victoria thorne

Hearth for Home

The truly important part of home design is the collaborative effort behind it.

When the project is finished, the goal is to have created something that is useful and beautiful: the design needs to fit, like a glove, those who live there.

If you can create a space in which your clients can live well and happily...a space that holds, with care, the essence of their lives...then you've done your job.

To get a call from someone gifted with a great eye, an open spirit, and the desire to roll up their sleeves and work toward this vision with you...that is, clearly, the best of all possible worlds. This project is that.

When we started the work, I had just returned from France and had seen, in the Louvre, the original foundation of the Great Tower. The rough beauty of the 12th century stones was astonishing. There was a sort of quiet enchantment to the whole business...something that made you just want to be there, a solid peace.

To build a fireplace--the virtual heart of the project--and incorporate a bit of the feeling from this remarkable fortress seemed ideal.

The result sits firmly centered in the back of the yard now, holding down it's own little fort. It is solid and well-used, and has a bit of a sense of humor in it's stout and stalwart appearance. (When riffing--in California and elsewhere--on an ancient french chateau, a grain of Cleeseian Salt seems advisable.) The fireplace became the inspiration for much of the building and masonry that followed. Grand in it's own happy way, it brings a quiet bit of peace to the family on many a weekend, and work night.

A Little Cottage Project

This week: will be showing a few details from the cottage I've been working on...first, a little taste of the barbeque doors. The feeling I was going for was a bit of Brian Keith's groovy cali-ranch in the 1961 "Parent Trap" (one of my favorite movies, as a kid...still is...doesn't it just make you want to run away to camp?)...with a little touch of Connecticut Yankee thrown in.

The doors are set in the outdoor grill-o-rama, which is actually pretty subtle (read: not on steroids, thank goodness)...so these were sort of a fillip, adding a dash of elan with a sense of humor.


Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain

Father Tim is a Jesuit Catholic Priest & former 
Stanford Molecular Neurobiologist 
who is currently serving in Iraq.

This is a wonderful wonderful blog, by
 a man who has been called 
to do amazing things. 

I have a great amount of respect for the Chaplains who serve 
in the military: for all who serve in the military. 
Please, if you have a moment, give thanks for them. 
And send Father Tim, and his colleagues, 
special blessings 
to assist them with the good work that they do for so many.

Gosford Park Gets All The Good Lines

Watching Gosford Park (for maybe the thousandth time?) once again this weekend: herewith, some favorite lines...

"Yummy, yummy, yummy" (This one, from Maggie Smith, simply fills me with delight every time I think of her uttering it.)

"I can't believe you forget much, Mrs. Wilson."

"I believe in love, not just getting it, giving it, and I believe as long as you love somebody...it's worth it."

"Difficult color green...very tricky."

"It's the gift of anticipation...I'm the perfect servant....I know [what they want] before they know it themselves."

And--once having seen the movie--the one that resonates, perhaps, the most deeply:

"I know. And what purpose could it possibly serve, anyway?"

I love this movie.

Must Go Now: Lee Miller leaves SFMOMA on 9.14

"I would rather take a picture than be one..." 
these words from
only until the 14th...
must hop on freeway now...

to the right, 
Nob Hill 

San Francisco...an easy place to leave your heart....


Last Fall: A Little Trip Down Memory Lane, Courtesy of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang

Thank you, D, with more gratitude than I can possibly put into words.

Thanks, also, to Dustin and Jasmine of the
Dustin David Salon in Los Gatos 
for the impeccable hair and make-up. 
You are always superb!

Be Still My Heart: Siberian Wooden Houses

I love Shedworking, a wonderful blog from the U.K.

Siberian Wooden Houses is the newest post. Too wonderful.

More in Shedworking: see the office garden view of our best red-headed architect-president...I have been a great fan, since college in good ol' Virginny, of the way T.J. used windows--especially when they doubled as floor-to-ceiling triple-sash doors. Brilliance. 

And I've mentioned this one before, but it is an all-time favorite. Beach Hut Tuesday. I'm packing my bags right now; surely, there is a beach hut waiting for me in Barcelona...

Above, a mysterious set of doors from the Albrecht Durer house in Nuremberg. They might've been right at home in one of those groovy Siberian Huts, eh?


Two Days O' Twyla: "Build Your Own Validation Squad"

Once more unto the breach: Twyla Tharp on Validation...

"Look around you. 
Who are the brightest, 
most talented people you know? 
Choose them, 'qualify' them... 
and then get them involved.
 All you need is people with good judgment in other parts of their lives who care about you and will give you their honest opinion with no strings attached. The last point is crucial. All things being equal, the validation that matters most is the kind that comes with no agenda."

Tharp also quotes the great director Billy Wilder: "If I like something, I am lucky enough, fool enough, or smart enough to believe that other people are going to like it too." 

"As we mature," Tharp writes, "we need to build criticism into the working process, as we do failure."

 Nice job. Twyla Tharp: 


Tweeting Twyla's Mad Skills: Tharp, on Learning from Failure

First off, thanks to Merlin Mann for mentioning Twyla's book in a Tweet

In "The Creative Habit," Twyla says:

 "When you fail in public, you are forcing yourself to learn a whole new set of skills, skills that have nothing to do with creating and everything to do with surviving.
     Jerome Robbins liked to say that you do your best work after your biggest disasters. For one thing, it's so painful it almost guarantees that you won't make those mistakes again. Also, you have nothing to lose; you've hit bottom, and the only place to go is up. A fiasco compels you to change dramatically. The golfer Bobby Jones said, 'I never learned anything from a match I won.' He respected defeat and he profited from it."


A Window on Creativity: Twyla Tharp, Amy Tan, and Han Feng

Amy Tan speaks on creativity, for TED.

Twyla Tharp writes on creativity, and Merlin Mann thinks 
it's one of the best books on the subject he's ever read. 
I, for one, bought the book right away, 
on the strength of Mr. Mann's conviction. 

Han Feng has done the costumes for the upcoming premiere, 
at the San Francisco Opera, 
of Amy Tan's

May your weekend be creative and full of life. 
As Goethe implored, 
"...turn around, and dare to be happy."

This post is dedicated to my amazing sister: 
good luck, next week, and many blessings. 
This is a remarkable voyage that you embark on: 
fair winds, and following seas.


Matt Nauman on Nanosolar


Because Kim Boatman Nauman is one of my all-time-favorite people on earth, I was thrilled to see that her wonderful husband wrote this article.

Yeah, it sounds sorta like Greek to me, too. But, because both the Naumans are superb writers, if you click on the above sentence, you can read more and learn. Matt Nauman makes a lot more sense of this than I do.

Go Nauman Fam!

Photo: Solar power in it's purest form. Go Waikiki!

Late to the Party: Nice Guys Still Finish First

Admittedly late to the party on this one, but always worth noting: 
Nice Guys Finish First. 
Proven, pretty much, at Harvard. 
Tested in Kindergartens all over the country. Double-tested in homes all over the world. 

Click Here for the NPR interview with David Rand.

Be nice. It's the best way to make your way through the world. Good to remember, today and every day.

Above, Cindy Sherman photo from the MOMA this summer. Surely, she is looking for a book about nice things. 

Why late to the party? The NPR interview was in March. Even so, the research is eternally relevant.


"put down your credit card and go take a walk"

wonderful quote in the October issue of dwell: 
"'We need less stuff,' states Phil Tucker, project director for the California Healthy Communities Network. 'We're a nation of consumers, but we can only consume so much before we've consumed it all.' In other words, if you truly want to act sustainably, put down your credit card and go take a walk."


Ralph Lauren at the Olympics: It Doesn't Get More Gatsby Than This

Watching the Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Goodness.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, for better or for worse, captured the spirit of a new America...Ralph has perfectly defined the sportswear.

Jay Gatsby is somewhere, smiling broadly, wishing he could've stayed around long enough to suit up in these whites.

Looking at the athletes as they walk past the camera, you can smell the Sands Point lawn, and feel an Indian Summer breeze, almost, floating sweetly off the Atlantic...

Southampton shells courtesy of Kirk. Many Thanks.

One More Shot

One more shot of the new fixie.
(couldn't help it)

Fixie: A Boy and His Bike

(we started this at Christmas, and it is good to see it finished)


Banksy and Sargent and Outlaw Art: Beyond the Pale

Madame X was pretty much outlaw art when she appeared.  
In the end, the painter thought it his best work ever. I can simply say that she literally took my breath away when I finally got to see her, and I stayed so long, in a sort of beauty induced shock (remembering to breathe, when I got dizzy), that the guards started eyeing me thoughtfully or curiously or warily or whatever. Who knows. All I know is her skin is pale, palest, lilac and you really can see where the strap was painted at first. If there be goddesses, she is one.

So, outlaw art. Last night, I read a bit of Banksy's "Wall and Piece." In it, he says:

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back.

It doesn't matter whether you completely agree with Banksy on this, or disagree completely. 

What is critical in his statement is that one can hear the voice of everyman when he says "you're never allowed to answer back."  

Outlaw art. Brilliant artists seem to live at the edge--or beyond--the norms of society. Beyond the pale. Not big news there. 

But think about this, for maybe just a moment. 
When was the last time you thought something was beyond reason, pushing the limits, beautiful, and perhaps sane, but it simply wouldn't fit into your frame of "this is okay in my life?"
 Was that thing so dizzying or shock-inducing or truthful that it was, really, showing us the beauty of the future? 
The beauty that could exist now, if we let it? 
Just wondering. 


The Incomparable Topher Delaney: Land As Art

Taking design classes, a few years back, was fortunate enough to hear Topher Delaney speak. The occasion was, like the woman -- and her work -- memorable, remarkable, transforming. I was, before meeting her, aware of her landscapes and had seen them featured in a number of periodicals. But hearing her speak turned me into a true convert. It's wonderful to find that she has a blog.

Looks like, currently, she's working (with her wonderful team) on a fascinating project in Sweden; see blue & white cups, Gunnebo Garden To Go containers. (I'll take 6 dozen, thank you.)


Hot, Flat, and Crowded

This month, Wired magazine takes a look at Thomas Friedman's new book 
Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Looks like it's full of good thoughts on methods which might help us ease ourselves out of our "climate-destroying fossil-fuel age"...

"We need 100,000 people in 100,000 garages trying 100,000 things--in the hope that five of them break through." 

The battle over "green," he believes, will define the early 21st century just as the battle over "red" (Communism) defined the last half of the 20th.

Nice followup to The World is Flat

Perhaps, in a few years, he can write The World is Green.


Emily Dickinson: Brilliant Flowers for a Brilliant Friend

I send two Sunsets--
Day and I in competition ran,
I finished two, and several stars,
While He was making one.

His own is ampler--
But, as I was saying to a friend,
Mine is the more convenient
To carry in the hand.

Looking, this evening, for a way to send all good thoughts to the dearest of friends. There is a white pitcher painted with butterflies that has been waiting to go to her house, for days...with sunflowers in it, a note on it, thoughts of thankfulness for her friendship surrounding it. Until the pitcher gets to it's appointed home, this little poem by Emily might suffice.

Winston Churchill understood, too:

"Friendship," he said, "is the only cement that will hold the world together."


The Lamp of Life|The Seven Lamps of Architecture

I believe
the right question to ask,
respecting all ornament,
is simply this:
Was it done with enjoyment--
was the carver
while he was
about it?"



[now Whole House]
Palo Alto is

Click on the links above,
and you'll see what
Clear as a bell.

photo: weimar, summer.07

And Joan Vigliotta and Dr. Beverly Vaughn Hock...

...I would also like to nominate to the Insight Hall of Fame...for without them, and their incredible abilities, there would be no Peter Sis interview (see artbookschildren.blogspot: there are more good moments to come, also, but our erstwhile film editor is back at work in UC Davis)...anyhow:

Joan Vigliotta has, I believe, pitch-perfect taste in illustration. She called me years ago, when running a children's book department in San Francisco, and told me that there was an illustrator coming to town whose work I would love, and she could get the books for me, and yes, it was Mr. Sis, and yes, she then kept up with his books, his writing and illustration, and hosted him, many more times, at the bookstore...always remarking, afterward, that he was simply wonderful, the most amazing gentleman (as you can see in the videos!). And Dr. Beverly Hock, who is the Director of the magnificent Reading the World program at the University of San Francisco, was instrumental in bringing the amazing Mr. Sis back to the Bay Area earlier this year to talk to all of us about "The Wall," amongst other things.

Bev and Joan are both forces of nature; their enthusiasm and knowledge are unparalleled, and they are both as wonderful and refreshing as...well, as the sweet waterfalls that Olafur Eliasson provided New York City with, this year, on those hot summer days.

For your own meritorious honorable-mention for insight, I couldn't suggest a better place to start than Reading the World 2009...a must for anyone who loves books or kids or illustration or San Francisco. Sure, you missed Peter Sis last year...but don't despair...rumor has it, for 2009, there's someone also wonderful and worth waiting for...see you at USF in in early '09!


Good Stuff from San Francisco: Cheap Girl Draws

This is a link to a wonderful blog: Cheap Girl Draws

Very Good Stuff. 
From San Francisco.

(Love San Francisco. Even the funny little corners of the Presidio, above.)