Monday, February 27, 2006

We interrupt this broadcast: The Big Move.

We're all about cardboard right now and have the paper cuts to prove it.

For the next 4 or 5 days, we'll be focused on moving, unpacking, cleaning, arranging and organizing. Moving isn't the most fun undertaking on the face of the planet, that's for darn sure. Luckily we hired a good company to do the lifting and placing.

When we've hit solid ground again, the site will be back with a vengeance.

Austin, Texas here we come! Ya'll better buckle up.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shopping: The Well Dressed Home

Well Dressed Home is a pretty cool online shop. The selection is a little limited but you can always find something useful or cool.

I LOVE this canister set.

Instead of text or some cutesy imagery to signify the contents, there's a peekaboo window in the stainless exterior. Cool and functional. You definitely don't see many canister sets that would fit nicely in a modern kitchen or pantry and be functional at the same time.

Check em out.

Reader Request: Our House Program

I've had a few folks ask to see our written house program (the document one gives to architects and designers that describes what we want in our future home).

Okie Doke.

It certainly isn't a visually stimulating post, but here goes:


A modern home, reflecting the vernacular, with between 1600 and 2200 heated square feet. We want a sense of classicism and symmetry and a lot of natural light.

A courtyard configuration (or the feel of one) would be ideal.

We like a sense of privacy. Water features would be welcome.

The street façade of the home can be fairly simple, conveying a bit of a demure side. The design drama could be contained behind the front entrance, if it made sense on the site.

We like a sense of security and solidity. Stone, concrete and/or brick are appreciated. We respond to traditional, vernacular materials used in modern ways. We insist on sloped roofs with deep overhangs, and outdoor entertaining spaces.

We are open to creative multi-use spaces, such as:

Guest Bedroom/Home Office
Artists Studio/Guest Room
Artists Studio/Bare Entertaining Spaces


The courtyard homes of Pompeii, Santa Fe and the French Quarter
Warm, friendly farmhouse kitchens
Southern/Southwestern vernacular buildings
Classical symmetry


Phillip Johnson’s Glass House, for its careful balance of positive and negative.
Paul Rudolph’s Manhattan townhouse for Halston, for its creative use of space and levels.
Pretty much anything by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Northpark shopping mall in Dallas. So timeless, it could have been built yesterday.
The Kimball museum in Fort Worth, for its diffusion of light and serenity.


Stone or brick, painted or not.
Galvanized sheet metal.
Concrete floors and concrete block.
Limestone and other simple, monochromatic stones
Darker woods used in simple, spare and dramatic ways.


Elegant, Comfortable Living Space:
Vaulted or double-height space; a sense of drama
Fireplace (shared with kitchen or dining?)
Room for two living seating groups (one for fireplace/one for media) or one seating group that does double duty
Hidden plasma television

Elegant Dining:
Combined with another space?
Space allowed for two 6’ round tables.

Modern Farmhouse Cook’s Kitchen:
Connected to, but not in the same room as living/dining
Space for antique farmhouse table (seats 8)
Kitchen island with potrack (or space allowed for mobile island on wheels)
Plenty of natural light
Double wall ovens and professional-type range
Thoughtful storage for huge assortment of dishes and cookware
Cookbook shelves
Wine cooler

Convenient to both kitchen and master suite
Space for full sized washer/dryer and folding table
Utility sink for dog-washing

Restful Master Suite:
Standard-sized master bedroom oriented to an outdoor focal point (pool, courtyard, tree, view, etc)
Very large walk in master closet for two (or two closets), with room for dressers/built in drawers
Master bath with two sinks, ample drawers (with integral electrical plugs), two-person shower with two heads and toilet closet.
Hidden plasma television

Small, Comfortable Guest Room:
Room can be of minimum size for function and/or be a flex space

Glamorous Guest Bath:
Hallway access/double as powder room
Include a bathtub/shower

Other Stuff:
Covered front entry, however small
Designated/delineated interior entryway with coat closet
Painting studio (flex space?) with canvas and supply storage closet
Space allowed for antique baby grand piano in public spaces
Home office with two workstations and ample storage (flex space?)
One big wall of built-in book shelves (think Hugh Newell Jacobsen)
Built in media closet with multi-media wiring throughout home
Covered/protected outdoor seating/patio with screened porch section
Two-car covered off street carport/garage, whether attached or not
Storage for lawn equipment/tools with space for garden workbench and composting area
Allowed space for future swimming pool
Koi pond (or space allowed)
Out-of-way space allocated to cat box (pantry/laundry?)

Private outdoor shower, steps from master suite
A greenhouse/conservatory type space for raising orchids
A butler’s pantry for dish storage

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Inspiring Houses: West Texas Modern

A publisher and Mies and Carrots reader sent this article on from the New York Times.

An architect and artist couple in Lubbock built a modern home for $51 per square foot.

The house is sheathed in painted corrugated steel.

And the house itself appears extremely livable and quite ample.

I'm sure the cost seems almost otherworldly to the majority of New York Times readers. Surely the couple did a very large percentage of the work themselves, though, to yield a home at that price.

And of course land costs in Lubbock are hardly prohibitive.

An inspiring little article. Have a read.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Small Miracles: Tenacious Spring

Gigantic sigh of relief.

We had a little cold spell this past weekend in these parts, and it was quite the nail-biter at our little house.

Late this past fall, we spent two days out of our lives planting Spring bulbs: tulips, crocus, grape hyacinths and narcissi. The early warmth caused everything to sprout sooner than predicted, and the weekend weather threatened to thwart our payoff.

Happy to report that, with a little love and a nice warm coverup, our tulips survived the trial.

Ladies and gentlemen, the money shot.

Ah, Spring. I love you.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Shopping: Sale at Jonathan Adler

If you like Jonathan Adler's stuff, you should check out the website.

A sale!

I particularly like this Zig Zag vase and this Edie vase, both at about 50% off.

There is also a small selection of sheets, pillows and rugs at discounted prices as well. Hurry!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fun Finds: Modern Doorchimes

There are some sinfully ugly doorchimes on the market.

Modern Doorbells has a selection of four cool designs that would fit in a new or vintage modern home.

Cage model is probably the most low key, design wise:

And at only $89, a darn good deal.

Tones doorchime is all white plastic with an accordian design:

And the Horns chime is steel with just a little flair:

I would probably go with the most understated one, but hey, to each his own.

Random Posts: Confessions of an Armchair Architect

If you've read through the entire blog then you know about my silly youthful obsession with drawing house plans.

The truth is, it never stopped. I am an armchair architect.

Whoo, it feels good to put that out there.

I've been drawing houses and other buildings my entire life. Should I have studied architecture? Possibly. Do I spend an inordinate amount of free time obsessing over houses? Possibly. Does the thought of commissioning my own house excite me to no end? Possibly.

I get the idea of a structure into my wee pea brain, and the only way to get it out is to start putting it down on paper. Often what I put down makes no sense, but I have fun doing it nonetheless.

And, considering I have zero schooling in this regard, sometimes the results don't suck too terribly bad.

Here is the simple design of a tiny rural house I like to dream of building on my family's farm:

A metal hipped roof and simplified posts and railings would define the front facade, giving it an enthusiastic nod to the past. It would top out at about 650 heated square feet. A nice screened porch on the back would provide a respite from the biting bugs in summer.

And this is one that I've been tweaking for months. It encompasses pretty much everything we want in the house we build.

Yet, this house is pretty much a pipedream. I worked from the inside out, adding spaces as I went along rather than working with the size limitations that our budget and probable property will allow.

So, it ends up at around 2800 square feet...much more house than we truly want or need.


We just want all that same 1000 less square feet! Hence the reason we'll hire someone to design our house...and the reason that I'm an armchair architect...and not the real deal.

Modern Masters: Louise Nevelson

One of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) helped to pioneer the art of assemblage.

Born just before the turn of the century to Russian Jewish parents who emigrated to the United States,
Nevelson studied under Diego Rivera and by many accounts floundered until her 60's, when she began to create large-scale assemblage works in wood and metal. Her monochromatic works established her as a prominent figure in the environmental art movement of the 60's and 70's.

The later half of her life was unbelievably productive and rich. She worked in cast paper, cast resin, printmaking and colossal outdoor sculptures.

Her first major museum retrospective took place in 1967 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Princeton University commissioned Nevelson to create a monumental outdoor steel sculpture in 1969, the same year the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gave her a solo exhibition.

The book Dawns and Dusks, written by Diana MacKown, reads like a personal conversation with the master herself. It is truly fascinating and inspiring to learn how one person devoted every minute of every day to her work, and very little else.

In sharp contrast to the monochromatic nature of her work, Nevelson was a colorful character and made quite the entrance. With her flowing garments, tattered headwraps and heavily applied eyeliner, she was the embodiment of the flamboyant and eccentric artiste.

Louise Nevelson's original works now fetch millions and she is represented in the most important collections on the planet.

Her legacy to us embodies not only her moody, contemplative and powerful sculptures and prints, but her example that, oftentimes, the very last years can be the very best years of one's life.

An inspiration for all of us.

Key Learnings: Sometimes you gotta Punt

After spending 6 months looking for building sites, developments, and existing homes that might be renovated, we came up with diddly squat.

The "Spring Explosion" has yet to explode when it comes to the Austin real estate market. And considering we move to Austin in two weeks, we decided it might be a good idea to put an actual roof over our heads.

We spent last weekend looking at rentals.

We have 3 beautiful, perfect dogs, so of course our options were limited. About 80% of the rental ads have "no pets" listed somewhere toward the end of the description. Animal hating, money grubbing slum lords!!!!

After a lot of pre-research on the internets, we decided to have a look at the KRDB rental that is currently featured on The duplexes are really cool and were included on the AIA tour back in 2000. They sit back behind an existing home, which is a good thing. There is a strong sense of privacy.

And, the owner is super cool. We came this close to renting the unit above on the left. Huge yard for a duplex. Complete privacy. Great interior spaces. However, it is about 7 miles from both of our offices, and we decided to hold off just a bit and drive closer into town to see what might be available that wasn't advertised.

We ended up in Clarksville, the eclectic and cool neighborhood just west of downtown, combing the area in a grid pattern like frustrated bird dogs. And just when we were about to give up, voila: a really cute bungalow with beautiful landscaping and a nice covered porch. For lease, no less.

Two babyyuppies were sniffing around the property when we pulled up, so I whipped out my cell and placed the call. The owner was 5 minutes away and said she'd be right there. Meanwhile, the babyyuppies got distracted and wandered off.

After a quick look at the house and a meeting of minds with the owner, a cool Austin chick who plans to eventually live in the house herself, we took a private moment to make a final and very easy decision.

When we appeared on the front porch to give her the thumbs up, there they were: the babyyuppies. I wanted to scream "Scram, ya 20-somethings! You have no place here!", but instead let them leave in a huff while we firmed up the deal. (I would've scrapped with 'em for it if the owner had suggested it, but alas she didn't go there.)

A small moment of triumph.

The beauty of this find is that we will both be less than one mile from work.

We can pop home for lunch. We can sleep later. We can avoid all kinds of traffic. We can plant stuff!

It is the little things.

We'll enjoy our cool little bungalow while it lasts and continue the quest for our permanent modern home.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Site Visit: Agave Development

There are a lot of modern developments under way out there. Some good. Some not so good.

I've heard a lot of buzz about
Agave, a modern development about 6 miles East of downtown on MLK, so I thought I'd check it out. My realtor also seems to think the investment would be very worthwhile.

First off, it truly is a development. There isn't much else out that way except for other (think
suburban ranchburger) developments. However, it is about a 15 minute commute and lots of Austin folks spend more time than that simply getting across the river during rush hour traffic.

And, some of the houses on the website seem very promising. I particularly like this one:

It has nice strong lines.

And I like the looks of this modern farmhouse:

And this very Zen 3 bedroom:

This one is being built right now, but there was way too much construction activity for me to think about walking through it:

But I want you to notice one thing. Look at the architect's rendering and then look beneath it at the construction photo. Do you see something missing (aside from the stiff looking little family) ?

Trees. There are no trees. There is no greenery to speak of.

The land is as bare as a baby's bottom, aside from some scrub that will likely be chopped back or driven down by construction. I mean, it truly is a development.

But, for between about $189,000 and $275,000, you can get a whole lotta modern.

I could see this as a great option for young parents or die-hard modernists who are on a limited budget.

We're not that die-hard. We want trees.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Random Posts: Modern Eye Candy

Moby, the uber-PC musician and tea company founder, is selling his 9000 square foot, 5 level weekend retreat in upstate New York.

The beautifully done website includes tons of photos, floorplans and lots of information on the property, which he is attempting to sell through friends rather than on the open market. Nevermind how I found out about it.

While I can't post photos here (they can't be easily copied and pasted), I encourage you to check out the site, which is a mini vacation from the real world.

Somehow $3.5 million is looking like a bargain.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shopping: Sprout Home

Sprout Home is one of my favorite little online shops.

They have a modernist bent, a good eye, and the price point is approachable. What's not to like?

Arbor porcelain vase is a stunner. At only $41.75 for delicate cast porcelain, it is a steal, too. I love the pale green interior. There's also an Arbor platter that can be special ordered (or so they said via email).

These hand-pressed coasters are killer, and they are only $6.50 a set. Stock up on these, keep them in a drawer, and you have a fun hostess gift at the ready.

They have lots of gardener-friendly things as well. Take a gander at this great ceramic bird feeder for only $26.50. (Our squirrels would break it in 4.8 minutes, though)

There's stuff for kids, pets, gardens, holidays, and home. There's also a nice selection of books.

And, Sprout Home always have things on sale. Everyone likes a sale.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fun Finds: Good Art on the Cheap

We all say we want good art in our homes. However, only a small percentage of the population can afford to waltz into an art gallery, pick something out, and take it back to the casa.

Yet in almost every large city in the nation, nonprofit organizations hold fundraisers that have a focus on art.

Good art. Affordable good art.

They cajole artists into donating the stuff, then they auction it all off in one fun-filled silent auction. The artists get tax deductions, the nonprofits get your donation, and you get a great piece of art to take home. There is almost always a ticket price to attend these fundraisers, but you get libations and fellowship in return, along with a fun night on the town. Everyone wins.

In Austin, ArtHouse produces the 5 X 7 show every year. Artists from across the state donate works that are 5" X 7" and the public may purchase them for $100 each. Many of the artists are very well known, so you can walk away with quite a steal, along with that aforementioned good feeling down in your soul for helping to benefit a worthy organization.

In Dallas, The Resource Center of Dallas hosts Toast to Life, an annual gala fundraiser with a heavy focus on gallery-quality art and luxury goods. I've bought a few pieces at this event, and I've also donated a large painting every year.

We have friends that drive from Austin to Dallas for Toast to Life every year, and they always take home a piece of art. (Note that they drive so they can bring their new goodie home immediately, no matter the size)

The next Toast to Life event is coming right up, too: February 25 at Neiman Marcus downtown.

Also in Dallas, EASL (the Emergency Artist's Support League) often host fundraisers that feature one of a kind artworks, usually with a theme. It is worth getting on the mailing list if you live in Dallas, and EASL benefits local artists in need.

Wherever you live, keep your ear to the ground and get on mailing lists. Good art (really good art) can be had. You just have to go to fun parties and drink festive beverages to find it.

And hey, that ain't so bad.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cool Stuff: Galbraith & Paul

Galbraith and Paul are a small textile and lighting company that create really great looking hand-printed fabrics.

They'll sell you the fabric by the yard or they'll sell you the fabric stretched on a modern light fixture frame.

Their patterns are hand block printed on four different ground cloths - Shantung Silk, Cotton/Rayon Velvet, Sheer and Heavy Linen. Artisans hand print all of the fabrics to order in the studio, using fabric paints that are permanent and lightfast. Because they print to order, color substitutions and custom colors are not a problem. We like that.

This linen print is great looking:

But it is their light fixtures that really turn my crank. These drum-shaped fixtures are modern, organic and tactile:

And there aren't many sconces out there that I'd let within 50 feet of my front door, but these would be welcome:

They also do some pretty cool rugs:

Check em out.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Good Books: 25 Houses

These are GREAT books.

25 Houses Under 2,500 Square Feet by James Grayson Trulove is an inspiration.

The content is just as the title suggests, and is made up of entirely modern and contemporary houses.

25 Houses Under 1,500 Square Feet, also by Mr. Trulove, is his followup and my personal favorite of the two. (Like I said, I love small houses)

More than half of the houses in the book would work on your average urban lot.

Chock full of amazing ideas for small spaces and featuring simple floorplans for reference, the books are highly functional when you want to learn just how do-able a small modern house really is.

I highly recommend both of these books for anyone who is even considering building a modest modern home.

Narrowing the List: Two

After a whole lot of thought, a bunch of talk and a couple of meetings, we've narrowed our list of potential architects down to two.

MJ Neal is an enthusiastic, talkative and inventive soul who comes across as truly passionate. He was on our list, off our list, then back on our list again. And after talking to him and talking to others about him, I know he is a strong possibility for us.

This three-time Texas Society of Architects Design Honor Award and two-time AIA Austin citation of Honor Award winner has some exciting projects in the works.

He seems to thoroughly enjoy his job...and simply talking about architecture. Contrary to other local architects I've researched and contacted, phonecalls and emails from potential clients don't come across as a burden, but an opportunity to talk about his passions. We like that.

Rick and Cindy Black are a couple of young architects that seemed to understand our needs and aesthetic right off the bat. They are very unpretentious and personally invested in their work. They want their work to have meaning, and it shows.

When I first sent him our written program, Rick immediately responded with a simple sketch that created a whole new way of looking at our project. We like that a lot. Their work is as grounded and as unpretentious as they are.

I met with Rick and Cindy early this past Saturday morning at their East Austin studio. They let me look through some plans, eyeball a couple of models, and show them my 10 year old file of inspiring magazine photos. It was fun and exciting to think that the house project is at least at a starting place.

What really cracks me up is that, after spending literally six months researching architects, looking at their work and talking to anyone who would listen, we've narrowed it down to the two architects who were recommended by personal friends at the very start.

Just goes to show you that sometimes the answers are in your back pocket.

Until we have a better understanding of our project or find our site, I doubt we'll narrow it down to our chosen architect. The artist has to like the medium, and vice versa.

Cool Art: Norman Kary

Norman Kary is a Dallas artist who does assemblage and collage.

He creates fairly edgy work, yet he is one of the happiest most unassuming people you'll ever meet. His work is evocative and thought-provoking, yet he hardly takes himself seriously.

Mr. Kary is an explorer, a philosopher and a fantasy fiction writer....all through his art. His work certainly reminds me of Rauschenberg. Both rough and elegant.

He recently had a
show in Dallas, and I made the mistake of stopping by on a whim with my wallet in my back pocket. I now own this piece, which is my second:

Next time you are in Dallas, swing by the gallery and check out his stuff.

Key Learnings: Geography is Destiny

I've spent the past week heavily researching Austin properties, touring some that are on the market, and doing a whole lot of listening.

I've learned a few things.

This move to Austin is all about quality of life, so the location of our home should also be about quality of life.

With that in mind, we've decided that we should probably live south of the river or east of 35 for easy airport access. We both travel for work a great deal, and easy access to the airport has become more important to us as we've explored Austin's neighborhoods and learned how the city's streets work...and don't work.

As Rick Black, one of our potential architects, pointed out, Austin isn't really an east-west is a north-south city. Driving to the airport from Northwest Austin in rush hour traffic might not be the most pleasant experience on the planet. Especially when you do it once or twice per week.

For said quality of life, we'll focus our search South of the Colorado River.

So, that's a milestone, isn't it? At least we've learned where we want (or need) to live.

Now we can continue the odyssey.