This Window Could Save Your Life

Do you know what an “egress window” is?  If you’re building or remodeling a home, you should.

Houses can be dangerous places.  They’re usually built of wood and other flammable materials, they’re full of electrical wires, and the people that live in them sometimes forget to turn off the stove.

Which mean every now and then, they catch fire.

If you’re home when that happens, you might be able to get out quickly…assuming you’re awake, or assuming your smoke detectors wake you up in time, or assuming the smoke doesn’t trap you in your bedroom.

But what if everything doesn’t go just right and you wake up to find the fire’s right outside the door of your second-floor bedroom?  What if you’re overcome by smoke before you can escape? How are you going to get out?

How To Measure the Area of Your House

One of the most confusing and misleading metrics in the home building and home selling business is area - the "size" of a house.

The problem is that there's no adopted standard - everyone measures it differently. There has been a move in the last few years to create a universal standard like the one architects use (specified in AIA contracts), but it isn't mandatory, and isn't yet widely used.

Many state boards of real estate specify a process to measure house area, but it's a recommendation, not a requirement.  So "house area" means different things to different people. 

The one thing that is always true is that area is never measured from the inside of the walls - the area of a house always includes all wall thicknesses interior and exterior.

Be "The Boss" of Your Home Design

“The rangers had a homecoming in Harlem, late last night
And the magic rat drove his sleek machine, over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl, sitting on the hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo lane”

The rhyme in the first lines of Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” is subtle and complex, but there’s a balance and flow to the verse that helps make it one of the best in rock ‘n roll.

Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”, on the other hand, is simple, straightforward, and the short lines rhyme easily:

“Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don't know where it's flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going”

Both songs are appealing in their own way – one is simple and symmetrical, the other is balanced, but asymmetrical (and one’s a whole lot easier to sing along with!).

Houses can be that way, too. The classically-styled homes we’re all familiar with (see below) are often perfectly symmetrical. Their appeal is simple and easily understood – it’s no wonder American neighborhoods are filled with them.

5 Great Built-In Ideas for Your Home Office

A big home office used to be a fairly common room in the homes I’ve designed, back when “working from home” required a separate, private room.

That’s not the norm these days – with laptops, tablets, and home networking in most houses, Mom and Dad can get work done from almost any room.

But the home office hasn’t disappeared completely…it’s just taking up a lot less space.  Sometimes it's a much smaller room, and sometimes it's a wall of custom built-in cabinets and shelves, like the ones in these RTA Studio projects:

Tucked in a corner of the family dining area, and just off the kitchen, this desk/home management area helps keep this family's daily activities organized.

When Is A Design Trend Not A Trend?

We humans generally don’t like being surprised.  We hope that things will go according to plan; we like to know what’s coming our way.

We like to be in control.

Occasionally though, when a pleasant surprise does come along, we’re happy about it.

Like earlier this week when Karen suggested we see Dustin Hoffman’s movie The Quartet.

I’d never heard of it, and frankly wasn’t thrilled about seeing it (especially now, right in the middle of the summer blockbuster season).

But – it was a wonderfully sweet film, very enjoyable, unexpectedly poignant, and superbly acted.



A client of ours called the other day to tell us she’d just returned from the local “Street of Dreams” (also called the Street of New Homes, New Home Show, Home Parade, or something similar depending on where you are), and said she had a few new thoughts about the home design we’re working on with her.

Great Ideas for Custom Built-in Bookshelves

I clearly remember everyone talking about a "paperless society" a few decades ago.  It was the dawn of the "digital era", and all the buzz was about how email and digital documents would soon almost completely replace printing anything on paper.

And that was before tablets and smartphones!

Digital documents have certainly become a preferred method of data transfer for many of us (how many emails do you send and receive every day?) but there's still plenty of paper around.  Some things, it seems, just don't work quite right in a digital format.

Like books.  You probably still have books. Maybe a lot of books, and you need shelves to store and display them.

If you're thinking about building or remodeling a home, and you're past the boards-on-concrete-blocks kind of bookshelves, you might consider built-in bookshelves for your project.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

These traditional "library" bookshelves cover two entire walls in this remodeled home.