Does Your Home Have Green DNA?

First published on Zillow Blog

It takes a little science and a little art to design a beautiful, livable new home that’s energy-efficient, uses less material to build, and connects with its building site.

Those are some of the major ingredients of good design - and essential ingredients of "green" design.

But beautiful design can be skin deep and sometimes “green” is too.  An energy-efficient home isn't just matter of more insulation and better windows; a truly green home is green from the inside out; meaning that the “green” can’t be separated from the “home”.

What's The Best Stone To Use On My House?

My clients and I talk a lot about the materials we’ll use on the outside of their homes, especially windows, siding, roofing, brick, and stone.

Stone in particular is a frequent topic, because while everyone knows what stone looks like, they aren’t often aware of the wide variety of stone types and colors, and don’t always know “real” stone from “cultured” stone – something that can impact the design of a home from the very beginning.

Stone lasts - just ask the Romans
Stone as a building material dates back to the very earliest days of civilization. The ancient Egyptians, and later Romans, quarried huge quantities of stone for their pyramids, colosseums, roads, and temples.

The art of stone building reached its peak in the Middle Ages with the construction of the great cathedrals of Europe, when, like ancient builders, stone was both the structure and the decoration of buildings.

Today, we rarely use stone as a structural material. Especially on homes, stone is typically a veneer – a relatively thin layer applied over the wall structure. How thin that veneer is depends on the type of stone you’re using, and how you’re applying it to the walls.

When the BEHR Box comes, well it's just like Christmas at RTA Studio! Although I use Sherwin-Williams paint quite a bit, I do like the way BEHR organizes their samples!

Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at RTA Studio Architects to arrange a meeting or an online consultation.

5 Rules of Thumb for Better Home Design

Recently a friend asked me to help him figure out the proper size for a family room addition he was designing. He was looking for some "rules of thumb" that would guarantee a comfortable, “architecturally-correct” space – a short cut to a good design, because lot of money was at stake and he didn’t want to do it wrong.

You might be surprised to hear (from me, anyway) that much of what you need to get good design is something you (the non-architect!) already have – the ability to do a little research; plenty of patience; knowledge of your own personal comfort; and reasonably good taste.

There’s no secret formula that guarantees a successful design, but follow my five “rules of thumb” and you’ll be well on your way to better design.

Rule #1: Good Research Leads to Good Design

Start by fully understanding your site
in every season and every kind of weather
Before any real design work can begin, you need to have a thorough understanding of the "problem".

It starts with researching your building site; locating other buildings on or near the site; mapping out the best and worst views, noting the climate and sun angles throughout the year, measuring the slope, and anything else that might affect your homes’ design.

Simply walking your site at different times of the year and in different weather will tell you a great deal about how your house might fit, and how the design should respond to the conditions of the site.

How To Safely Store A Valuable Car When There's No Room In The Garage

I bought my first car when I was fifteen years old.  My dad had it dragged back to our garage, and I spent the next year – until I was old enough to drive – taking the car apart, fixing it, and eventually putting it back together again.

But since the garage attached to our suburban Columbus home held only two cars, that meant someone’s car had to stay outside.

That arrangement probably won’t work at your house, but if you’ve got more cars than garages, what can you do?

REmodel; REnovate; REstore; What's the Difference?

Clear communication between owner, contractor, and Architect is critical to a successful home design project.  Agreement on some simple definitions is a good place to start.

"Remodeling" is often broadly used to describe any kind of change to an existing house.  Technically it's more accurate to say that to remodel means to change the character of a house or a portion of a house.

So when you convert a den into a master bedroom you're remodeling the den; when you combine a kitchen and dining room into one large eat-in kitchen, you're remodeling the kitchen and dining room (this is an extremely popular type of project in our office right now!).

"Renovating" is a much more specific term.  It means, quite literally, to make new again. An out-of-date kitchen, updated with new finishes and fixtures, has been renovated.  Replacing old windows with new ones is a renovation project.

"Restoring" a house is sort of the opposite of renovation - instead of updating, you're making the house like it was before (i.e. you can do a historic restoration but not a historic renovation).  Even if you convert existing spaces back to their original use, you're still restoring the original rooms.


Three similar terms, three different meanings.  I remember them this way:

Remodel: changing the use of a space or spaces
Renovate: make a space new without changing its use
Restore: return a space to its original use, and/or return a space to its original character

What do you think - how do you use these definitions?  What other "RE" terms apply to home design?