Monday, December 27, 2010

You think you know somebody...

Last night I was talking with my Aunt Donna. She's always been one of my favorite people. For much of my childhood she lived on a series of sail boats in Mission Bay, San Diego, and I loved spending summers there. I used to get sea sick, but I might be able to sail because of her.

She's retired from nursing now, living in Fresno, caring for my Grandma (another one of my favorite people).

After the earthquake in Haiti, she told us she was going to travel down there with a group of doctors. She did, and when she returned, told us about the devastation, and how wonderful the people were, and that she intended to go back.

It's several months later now, and she's returned to Haiti multiple times. Last night, as she was telling us about her latest trip, she mentioned that we could see photos on her website. "What website?"
"My website,".

Now I've been to her website, and read every word. It's a little bit hard to read. It takes me out of my warm home, away from my family, and makes me question the things I take for granted. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it yet, but as for you, I'd encourage you to go to her website, read her story, and make a donation. As you can see, she's doing good stuff with the money.

You can donate here.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

California Home + Design

Here's another cool piece of press. People seem to love this thing.
I owe Ron Dack some thanks for this one.
If he didn't actually come up with the idea, he at least inspired it
(although I like getting all the credit).

We're in the L.A. Times

I meant to mention this before the Unique LA Show, which I also meant to mention. We've been getting some pretty decent free publicity, or press, as it is sometimes called.
I think we're on to something.
We keep knocking out projects and products, but I seem too busy working to talk about it.
I just designed a multilevel, 1200 square foot deck, complete with small 2 story "Castle", which I look forward to starting. We're ordering the stone for the castle and garden walls tomorrow. The stone is quarried somewhere near Tahoe, I think.
I also just designed a cool kitchen which I hope to start after the new year. Small, but unique. I'll post the pictures when they're a little more fine tuned.
Off to Fresno this weekend to celebrate Eric Burke's 40th. Happy Birthday Eric!
And I certainly can't forget my favorite niece, Lilli, who turns 11 the same day. Unfortunately, I have to wait a week to celebrate her birthday.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I might've worn robes in another life.

Like a lot of guys, I like Star Wars (not the new ones, of course). And I was just thinking about how the bad-asses of the film, the Jedi, get to wear bathrobes and slippers all day. I'm sure they're not ordinary JC Penney bathrobes, but still, I think that's one of the ways you know you've made it. I can only imagine what it would be like to show up to work in a bathrobe. Any guy that works in a bathrobe probably has an ottoman in his office.
Monks and priests, and guys that hand out diplomas get to wear bathrobes to work too. It must be nice. I wonder if they had that day when they thought to themselves, "This is the last time I ever have to wear pants". Or maybe the robe thing happened so naturally that one day the Pope thought, "Jesus, it's been years since I've worn a pair of pants."
I usually put on a pair of sweat pants when I get home from work, but I'm not trying to kid myself by puttin' on a robe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

So much to tell...

The new ABLE And BAKER design studio is up and running in Ventura, and we've already managed to crank out several cool projects, with several more on the horizon.

We've had more work than expected, and haven't had time to work on our little art/furniture gallery. As a result, we're postponing the opening date to mid October. When we pick a real date, we'll buy a case of the finest Charles Shaw and let you know.

In an effort to get more of my personal creations out there, I've been working evenings and weekends (which is pretty much my M.O. anyway). I recently whipped out this cool table.
I'm a big fan of institutional furniture, which is typically built to take some abuse. This table includes some classic elements from Ernie Pyle Elementary School classroom furniture, including high-density 13 ply maple, high-pressure laminate table top, and steel tubing. Of course, there's more to it, including the obvious connections to mid-century modern, and sci-fi design. The sci-fi influence is really a result of looking to the future of design, rather than trying to capture elements of sci-fi specifically.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Would you put these two beavers in motion?"

I don't know a lot about Roosevelt's WPA program but it sure seems cool.

This past Saturday we did one of those things you plan on doing before you move, but never do. There's a million great things to see in the Bay Area, but as permanent residents, we've barely taken the time to be tourists. This weekend we finally hit Coit Tower. I really got into the murals in the lobby. It took 26 artists 6 months. I like how consistent their work is, yet it's easy to see that the work was created by different artists. Different brush strokes, different line styles, differently shaped faces.

In one of the little paragraphs that described the history of the work, they mentioned that some of the work had to be changed because of some potentially pro-communist imagery.

It seems so funny to think of those times. Those cold war James Bond & various war movies where the Commies were our enemies. There should be a VH1 special - "The Commies. Where are they now?". I guess they traded in those big furry hats for turbans.
It's nice that we haven't had to face more than one major enemy at a time in the last 60 years. We're lucky the Taliban & the communists never hooked up.

Anyhow, you should check out the 2000 Tim Robbins film "Cradle Will Rock". It's a great film, and a good commentary on how our fear of the Red Scare affected the WPA Theatre Project, as well as Diego Rivera's mural in Rockefeller Center.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ryan's Yo-Yo's

I've known Ryan Williams 15 years or so, from my Fresno California days. A couple of months ago, when we came over to his house to hang out, he said, excitedly, "I've got something to show you."
He ducked into the hall, but I could still hear him talking, "For years I've been meaning to show you these, and every time you come over, before you show up, I try to remember to bring them out..."


So here's the brief.
When Ryan was a (younger) boy, he spent a lot of time hanging out with his Grandpa, Walter Cull.

As I remember the story, Ryan and his grandfather were in a toy store one day when young Ryan found a Yo-Yo. His grandfather, dis-satisfied with the plastic yo-yo's quality said he could make a better one, and so he did.

And then another and another.

He collected exotic woods, and created one unique design after another. He made them so well that he began to sell them, and he sold quite a few. Each yo-yo he sold included a little booklet describing the various exotic woods used for making them. But here's the coolest part - He made 2 of every design ; One to sell and one for Ryan.

Now Ryan has this awesome collection.

Here's a full page article from the Modesto Bee, April 20th, 1987, about Ryan, and his Grandfather.
"The designs emerge after he laminates small pieces of wood into a block, then cuts the yo-yo spools on the lathe in his garage shop."

The fun continues with Ryan and Remy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Average vs. Half-ass vs. Bad-ass

I'm so sick of average stuff. It's everywhere. Particularly architecture. I was at the Dwell On Design show at the LA Convention Center last Friday. There were a couple of cool things (I'll post them later, cuz they deserve it), but for the most part, nothing mind-blowing. But dammit, I'm ready to get my mind blown!
I mean...I get it. There are certain inevitable constraints. The number one constraint is typically budget. I'm familiar with that one. If I had an unlimited budget I''ll see.
And the half-ass sucks too. Half-ass is the result of average designers trying to be bad-ass. Jeez this sounds critical and egotistical... but how 'bout this - Anyone wanna take me on? Let's get out the pencil & paper, clay, Legos, papier mache, Lincoln Logs, 2x4's....or lets just grab a stick and find some wet sand and see who can come up with what. I mean, it's not like this is a new idea. Most contemporary designers can't keep up with the Egyptians or Greeks. I'm not saying there isn't any cool stuff out there. There is. And it's MIND BLOWING! But it's rare. And it's the exception to the rule.
Think about it this way: When you're driving around (or riding) take a look at all of the stuff you pass....all of the objects. Take a look at the cars, the mailboxes, the landscaping, but mostly the buildings. There's so many of them. They're everywhere! Everybody's got at least one, but how many of them would qualify as bad-ass? Not enough. That's how many.
Well, anyhow...if you need some examples, here's a guy I like - Art Dyson. There's others of course, but he's the first that comes to mind.
Now let me get some dough together so I can go visually squash some fools.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This-Into-That Stepladder

I was talking with Jim of This Into That (one of our neighbors at the Sawtooth building in Berkeley), and the subject of my stepladder project came up. He invited me into his studio and showed me his most recent acquisition: A stepladder.
I was immediately jealous, and told him that I wish he hadn't shown it to me. Oh well.
Pretty nice, huh?

If you find yourself at the Sawtooth (Kawneer) building on 8th & Dwight some time, stop in and give Jim a visit. His stuff is great.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jean Prouve Inspired Stepladder

Jonathan Taylor is the designer for one of my current clients in San Francisco. They're having me create all kinds of interesting stuff, and I'm really enjoying working with them. Their latest request is for a rolling stepladder, based on this 1951 design from Jean Prouve. Although many of Jean Prouve's pieces have been mass produced, there doesn't seem to be any reproductions of the stepladder. Our version will differ in many ways. Not only do I want to avoid infringing on anyone else's stuff, but the overall dimensions of the original don't quite suit our client's needs.

Here is the original Jean Prouve Stepladder. After studying it carefully, I decided that it is a nearly perfect design. I rarely draw this conclusion when studying a piece, but when it's good, it's good. So where do we go from perfect? I'm not sure what the client will ultimately want, but I decided to head in a different direction, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

This is my favorite variation so far. It is somewhat inspired by Star Wars, but not really. One of the few things I thot I could actually improve was the shape of the grab rail. I think the original grab rail protrudes a little bit too far, so I held these rails a little closer to the piece. These images don't include wheels (I got lazy). Those who know me may find elements they might consider my "trademark" details, but I won't point them out.

This elevation view shows the streamlined grab rail. Both the grab rail, and the back of the stair treads hold a vertical line.

Here's the cool, and completely superfluous tread detail from the top. The top tread is rectangular, but as they go down, each tread gets deeper, with a graduating arc. The actual standing area remains the same all the way down, but you get this neat effect at the back, which reminds me of some kind of cooling fin, or exoskeleton.

I took the ladder to my Uncle George, who is the retired master fabricator of the Ganshorn family. He liked the original Prouve better than my variations. A practical man, he thot I was "some kind of jack ass" for trying to complicate things "with all those extra curves and corners!" It's hard to argue with practicality.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This week on HOW ITS MADE: Airstream Kitchens

Our Airstream client wanted a minimal place to prepare food. We gave him a small convection oven (microwaves just don't make good food) a fridge with separate freezer, and one of those water boiling electric teapots.
In the following photos, the bulk of the cabinetry is complete, so it's mostly just pictures of us applying the Formica tops.

I doubled up layers of ply, to get a nice 1-1/2" countertop thickness. I created the curves using different types of moulding. The white part is a pretty standard door casing. Clever.

Josh Ganshorn and Tom Brown. A winning team. In this photo, Josh is trying to burn Toms hand.

I don't know if this looks easy or not, but It's really a pain bending this stuff and making it stick correctly.

The final touch, the standard plastic trailer molding from Vintage Trailer Supply.

The finished bench, ready to install. What some people don't realize is that beyond the obvious benefits of a bench, it's really just a way to hide the wheel wells. Hence, the shallow depth in the lower portion. I tried to make the most out of every square inch, so I created the small but deep cubbies for books and sketch pads. The owner is an artist, after all.

The morning after drill. Tom and Josh load in the pieces. I think Andrew Benson is around here somewhere.

....And Voila. Ready for appliances. Notice the small opening where the fridge goes (on the right). It's the service access for the hot water heater.

The semi-symmetrical layout turned out pretty good. All these curves are sexy (and a pain-in-the-ass to create).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pocket Door in the Making

I just saw the most recent issue of Sunset magazine and found someone else that converted an Airstream into an office, so it seemed like an appropriate time to revisit our own recent Airstream project.
After we finished our project, we got a chance to show it a couple of times, and one of the most common questions about the interior was, "Where did you get all of these cabinets, and how did you get it to fit so well?", or "So what part did you do? Did you just find a way to move around the interior and make it fit?"
The simple answer is that we custom fabricated nearly the entire interior (excluding the bathroom sink and tub), and as proof, we thot we would show a few samples of the work in progress, beginning with the interior pocket door.

Everything starts with a template. For this unusual shape, I sacrificed 2 sheets of cheap luan ply.

This place is so dusty.

The door gets glued up.
This is a "Go-bar" table. Kind of an old-fashioned way to keep something flat.
Works great.

A test fitting. Ball bearing rollers (Cheap hardware drives me nuts). Smooove.

The finished installation. This sides all Walnut.

My favorite part is these dope curves on the door jamb. The original door was the width of the bottom half. It couldn't be any wider at the bottom because of the bathroom countertop and tub, as you can kind-of see in this photo. There were also other obstructions which I dealt with cleverly. The result is a 4" wider opening in the top half, which makes it sort-of ergonomic for those of us with arms.

On the lavatory side, the door is maple.

Now that it's gone, and I don't get to see it any more, I kinda forget how bad-ass our work is.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today is the first day of the rest of my week

Blogging is new for me. What a dumb word, "blog". Crude. I feel a little embarassed everytime I say or type it. I guess it's easier to say than "Digital Online Journal".

Since this is a relatively new experience, I haven't exactly known what thots and experiences were "blog-worthy". So far, I've restricted my entries to things that are specific to construction mostly, since that's my job, and this is linked directly to my business site. But I'm not always doing the most interesting work. At least, not so interesting that I feel the need to document it on a weekly basis.

Then, last night, while eating dinner at Quinn's Lighthouse (my regular spot in the East Bay) it occurred to me that beyond my work, people hiring me (and perhaps others) might be interested in other aspects of my life. After all, it is my cumulative life experience that has helped me to define my opinions and passions, and these are the things that define my work.

So, from now on, I hope my entries create a more well-rounded view of my life, and how I live it. I intend to include my thoughts on design, architecture, art, the way people live, how we treat each other, and anything else worth writing down. I'll also include excerpts from my book-in-progress, "Always Carry A Sharpie" (working title). It's a book of advice and opinions, mostly from me, which makes it the most egotistical thing I've ever done.

For now, I'll just leave you with this: A giant lemon that looks like Grampa Simpson. My Niece brot (brought) it home from her Grandparents lemon tree. The green butter dish in the background is there for scale. Don't say "Gi-normous". We'll look back on that word combo as a mistake.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cool Skylight and Ceiling in Master Bath

We're doing a remodel on a 1964 Eichler-esque home near Davis, CA. The Master bath is not on an exterior wall, and had no windows. It also had a drop ceiling to house the exhaust fan and electrical. Other rooms in the house had a beautiful knotty-pine T&G ceiling, and we were hoping this would be the case once we removed the drywall ceiling. We were in luck.

We redesigned the ceiling with a new skylight. The large opening lands on the existing 4x12 beams at each end. To support the long sides of the opening, we installed 3x9 glulam beams using Simpson Concealed Joist Ties, so no big metal brackets. We could have used a smaller beam, but the 9" depth gave us the necessary room to install a new exhaust fan.

We designed a custom flashing for the low pitch roof, made by Crown Sheet Metal, in Berkeley.

The finished ceiling.
Since the new skylight was so large, it left little space for central lighting on the ceiling. Instead, we ran the wiring through a channel concealed in the beams, and brought it out through the sides, where we will eventually install custom sconces.
A box was built to house the fan by continuing the new beams to the wall and re-using the T&G removed from the skylight opening for a cohesive look. The T&G was made into a removable panel, allowing access to a junction box and ductwork.

Lights off, and on a rainy day! Before the skylight, it would've been pitch black.

The tub is a Kohler whirlpool, with custom designed tile made in Sausalito at Heath Ceramics