Alhambra Walking Tour! Jump Start 2016 with a Little Exploration

Los Angeles is home to some amazing architecture, but that’s not usually the first characteristic both residents and tourists think about. Hollywood and its infamous sign are the first to spring to mind and yet LA is filled with some extraordinary architecture. Downtown, for example, was home to 1920’s and 30’s film culture and is still littered with theaters (albeit rundown ones) that exude art nouveau design and style. Watch out for events coming up this month for Night on Broadway, an initiative to bring back the glory days of Broadway street and its magnificent theaters. If you want to get involved in an architectural event that is a little less urban, I would recommend taking a trip to the San Gabriel Valley, specifically Alhambra!

mission-san-gabrielAlhambra was founded in 1771 making it the oldest in the San Gabriel Valley. Its unique geography combined with the city’s practical location has contributed to some truly magnificent architecture, the San Gabriel Mission being one of the main attractions. Have I peaked your interest? Great! Then join other enthusiasts on “Gateway of the San Gabriel Valley” a walking tour that highlights these architectural, as well as, natural wonders and will surely help jump start any weight loss goals you might have made for 2016.



Frank Lloyd Wright, What is History and What is Contemporary

Last week I talked about Craftsman architecture, specifically, the characteristics of Prairie style. I figure, since I’m on a role, I should write a little about Frank Lloyd Wright. He was, after all, integral to the movement and the overall establishment of the aesthetic.

A masterful architectural designer, Wright developed a unique vocabulary of space, form, and patternhollyhockhouse-wright that represented a dramatic shift in design from the traditional houses of the day. Characterized by dramatic horizontal lines and masses, the Prairie buildings that emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century evoke the expansive Midwestern landscape. The buildings reflect an all-encompassing philosophy that Wright termed “Organic Architecture.” By this Wright meant that architecture should be suited to its environment and be a product of its place, purpose and time. First developed in 1894, when Wright was establishing his practice in Chicago, this philosophy of design would inform his entire career.

Today, Wright’s name is heavily associated with the movement away from ornate European styles and has become symbolic of classic American architecture. Most recently, Wright’s Holly Hock house, located on a majestic hilltop in Los Feliz, CA, was re-opened after undergoing nearly five years of restoration and repairs. You can go check it out for yourself or take an online tour of its stunning interiors!

Home on the… Prairie? American Architecture at its Finest.

In one of my first posts I talked about the origins of Craftsman architecture and given that Craftsman homes are currently going through a resurgence in popularity, I thought I would discuss a specific offshoot of the style: Prairie architecture.

prairie-1248I often times refer to my home as a Craftsman, simply because its the most approachable term to use, but I’d like to illustrate for you what artful history my home owes its origins to. This home, built in 1910, and designed by Clyde J. Powers is technically a Prairie style home, which has a lot in common with Craftsman architecture. Both use their environment as their core inspiration, but Prairie style sources that inspiration specifically from the vast horizontal expanses of America’s mid-western fields, endless roads and highways and never-ending telephone wires. The key element is thus horizontality and line. Prairie style is a purely American style of architecture, highlighting the minimal and essential attributes its creators thought homes should be celebrated for. I too share this design philosophy, and enjoy being apart of this home’s history.



Preserving Your Historic Windows

IMG_1827We see ourselves as extremely fortunate to own a home over 100 years old that contains nearly all of its original windows, some of which are intricate stained glass. They have, however, turned into one of the major projects on our restoration list. Little to no maintenance has been done on them over the years resulting in faulty pulley systems, cracks, scratches and broken hinges.

If you have  double hung windows with pulley rope you’re looking at anywhere from $100 to $200 per window in order to fix it. Guess what.. we have 40 windows in all!  The alternative would be to replace all of the windows with new windows, which would cost about the same, but I’m too attached to the beauty of the originals and there are some major advantages to keeping older windows. If you are making a similar decision, here are some great arguments for maintaining  rather than replacing:

1. The design of your windows should fit your home: An architect or designer took great care when your home was built to choose the right windows for your home. Don’t take a chance on throwing off its proportions with new windows. 2. Craftsmanship: The construction of old windows (often done by hand) is extremely durable, and as it ages it is easy to repair.

3. Materials: Old windows were generally made from old growth woods which are no longer available. Newer wood windows are made from fast growing and harvested woods that are more susceptible to invasions and rot.

4. Glass: Historic hand blown glass has a wavy texture that is very expensive to duplicate. The old leaded glass is strong and very clear.

5. Windows should last a long time: The warranty on most new windows is 20 to 30 years, and then they must be replaced. Historic windows can last at least 50 years between repairs.

6. PVC is bad for you: New windows are sometimes made of vinyl, which is PVC based, and other windows, such as aluminum or even wood have PVC parts. PVC is an environmental hazard as its produced, and as a product that off gasses in your home. It releases deadly toxins if it catches fire.

7. Sunlight!: New windows have to be fit into the existing frame, and the newer frames are often thicker, so you can lose up to 10% of the glass area, losing sunlight and views.

8. Old fashioned technology: Historic windows use solid brass hardware which operates smoothly and is averse to rusting. Historic single and double hung windows use pulleys and counter weights, which are far superior to friction alone.

9. The environment: By keeping your historic windows you can keep them out of landfills, and by not buying new ones you’re cutting down on manufacturing, wasted materials, and shipping costs.

10. Your fellow man: By restoring old windows you might be taking away low paying manufacturing jobs, but instead you are employing higher paid craftspeople who specialize in a field.

What is Feng Shui Anyway?

feng shuiAccording to Google Feng Shui is “a [Chinese] system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (qi), and whose favorable or unfavorable effects are taken into account when siting and designing buildings.” Color, orientation, material and cleanliness are among the main elements considered when designing either exterior or interior environemnts with Feng Shui, the ultimate goal being to achieve balance and prosperity.

A little warning here: to most Westerners feng shui will seem superstitious, and perhaps it is, but there are a lot of Western superstitions that we take seriously too; a black cat crossing your path, walking under a ladder, or even today (Friday the 13th) as causing bad luck. The Chinese believe that the practice of Feng shui enables the  manifestation of your own prosperity, so today, instead of indulging the bad luck that could be around every corner, try transferring your energy into one of these principles.  

How you might ask? Use a bagua map! The bagua map divides your home into a nine-by-nine grid containing equal parts. Lay the map over your home’s floor-plan with the wall that has your front door at the bottom of the map. Each part of the map relates to a different area of one’s life (wealth, children, travel, ect..). To enhance or improve one of these areas focus on the elements or colors that relate to that area (see map for reference). There may also be features in your home that can be detrimental to these areas, but each one can be fixed relatively easily.

Shift today’s luck, focus on harmonizing your environment with your goals for family, friends, romance, wealth and the like. Happy Friday the 13th!

Discovering Our Home’s Origins

Hey everyone! I discovered some more interesting facts about our new home. Power’s granddaughter (Edyth Scott Powers), as it turns out, was in contact with the woman that we bought the house from – we’ll refer to her as crazy pants or CP from now on (more on her in later posts). CP gave us a letter from Edyth, and enclosed were eight old black and white photos.

CaptureWe hoped that we would be able to get some clues as to the original look of the house; unfortunately most of the photos were too small to see much. The front of the house was also heavily covered with ivy, as you can see, adding to the challenge. This photo does reveal, however, that the two big urns planted with agaves were original and, if you look closely, you can see the shape of the tile roof, which we know was made of tin because it still exists in one small area in the back of the house.

That’s all I discovered so far, keep reading for the latest updates and if there’s an interior design concept that you’re curious about don’t hesitate to contact me!