Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can You Afford an Architect for your Renovation?

If you are thinking of renovating, altering or adding on to an existing home, I say you can't afford not to use an Architect. Not just because I am one, but because our firm gets called in all the time to fix the projects that were done without one or with an unqualified one.

What is qualified? If you are working on your home, qualify that the Architect's experience is in residential work. The American Institute of Architects can also assist in matching you with an Architect in your area. A family member or friend that works for a "Big Time, Big Building firm" typically does not understand the scale, the details required or the zoning to do residential work and while the fees may seem like a will always get what you pay for.

Your home is quite possibly one of your most valuable assets. A good Architect is the insurance you need to protect the integrity of that investment. A good Architect creates straight forward, sophisticated solution to complex problems. The solutions can add value and can reduce project costs in excess of the entire fee. At Clawson Architects, many of our clients have realized a return on their investment that yielded far more than our fees.

As one client put it, "By simply suggesting that we relocate our front door to the other side of the house, Clawson Architects saved me $150,000...the cost of constructing an addition and the associated taxes and utilities on a larger home."

In other situations, our clients have realized a cost savings far greater than our fees just in the cost of a competitive bid based on quality, well defined details in our drawings/construction documents and our knowledge of the construction of their home. So, when your friends and builders say you don't need an Architect to renovate your home, my guess is that they have never worked with a Licensed Architect or at least not a good one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Loving Frank and Why You Should Too.

This past week Marvin Clawson, my husband/business partner and I, attended the Traditional Building Show in Chicago. The Show is an opportunity to attend classes, workshops and tours as well as view the latest products related to Traditional Building. This was also a chance for Marvin and me to getaway which doesn't happen too often and for me to see Chicago for the first time.

When we arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, we hit the ground running, our first tour was Historic Oak Park to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio as well as about a half dozen of his residential projects and culminating in a tour of Wright's Unity Temple. It was unseasonably warm and sunny and we were able to meander the streets of Oak Park and hear all about the homes Wright was retained to design. We learned about how Mr. Wright was ahead of his time, and how the homes Wright designed are modern in appearance however, they were built during the same time as the surrounding Victorian Homes that line the streets. We learned of the 'Path of Discovery' and how Mr. Wright often hid the front door. How he brought you onto the site and how you entered the home was no accident.

A few years ago, while in Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit Taliesin East, and living in New York City, I have been to the Guggenheim, most recently to see the exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wrights work. Much is written about Mr. Wright, his life and family and how he often designed the furniture and its location, the rugs and the lighting fixtures. Some talk adoringly about him "controlling" everything in and about the house including how you walk to the front door while others criticize this and ask "Why are Architects such Control Freaks?"

Well my friends...we Architects can be a little Obsessive ...and as you look for an Architect, you may want to consider this trait a good one...and while I have intuitively understood why some may feel one way or the other never has it been so clear why allowing the architect to render complete services, staying involved to the end, whether designing the furnishings and furniture or guiding in the selection and placement as an independent service or in collaboration with an interior designer is very important. This will yield a much stronger end result and protect your investment in the Architects Designs. Allow me to continue and explain how.

No trip to Chicago or Tour of Frank Lloyd Wrights work by two architects would be complete without a trip to the Robie House in Hyde Park. Now 100 years old, it is being restored for the Centennial Celebration. The tour begins with an introduction to time period when Mr. Robie retained Mr. Wright to design the house. It was an opportunity for Mr. Wright to work with someone who appreciated his unique Prairie Style home, the style that Frank Lloyd Wright is credited with and hailed as the original American Architectural style. The Guide first had us go across the street to a new building designed for the University of Chicago, the Charles M. Harper Center designed by another distinguished and world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly.

We went up on to the Terrace of this building to view the Robie House. The Guide talked about how Mr. Viñoly and the University of Chicago (the current owner of the Robie House) realized that the Robie House was special and had a place in American Architectural History. They wanted to respect what Mr. Wright had created and so, Viñoly pulled his building back from the street creating exterior terrace spaces with plantings and paid homage by emulating the long horizontal lines of the Prairie Style Wright had become known for and allowing people the opportunity to stand back off the street and view what is considered to be one of the most recognizable elevations of the Robie House. We then ventured back across the street and continued on the by now, well known "Path of Discovery." Well into the house, we stood in what is the Living Room of the Robie House. The Guide talked about the sofa and the built-in storage Wright designed and pointed out the lighting fixtures, other built in storage pieces and the art glass in the windows. The Guide continued to talk and as I gazed out thru the beautiful art glass windows it hit me..."Wright controlled all the views, " we had been told..."into, around and out of the house." Well I am sure he never dreamed that when we looked out of his window that instead of a Prairie we would look at a series of clear glass office spaces where 'control had been lost'. The offices in the spaces across the street in the Harper Center are floor to ceiling glass. You see it all, from the backs of computers with all the cables hanging out to stacks of books piled willy nilly all over. It was Sunday and an empty chair sits facing its desk and I shutter to think what the view could be if a woman with a skirt sits in that chair.

Architecture is meant to be experienced...and I was reminded of that as I walked in and around Wrights work. His drawings are cherished as works of art, as are the thousands of coffee table books and gifts bearing his art glass designs...but walking in and around his houses is something to put on your bucket list. Seeing the development of his work over a twenty year stretch with in a few days was a real treat. allowing the Architect to draw more, and consider the furniture, and exact windows and locations you are allowing the "inner Control Freak" in your Architect to help you with how your space will be experienced not only by you looking out by by others looking in.

Luckily, Marvin and I are passionate about architecture so our weekend exploring Chicago and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright was an exciting and rejuvenating trip. We did have time to chill with friends (all architects/architectural historians of course) new and old and enjoy drinks at the Signature Bar atop The John Hancock Tower, because after all, it is all about the views.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three Kitchens by Clawson Architects Three Different Looks

KITCHEN ONE ...................KITCHEN TWO...................KITCHEN THREE

Three Maplewood Kitchens...Three Makeovers....
No Additions....ALL BEAUTIFUL NOW!



For the complete story visit

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NY Times College Corner Blog-Landing an Internship

Be it a summer job, an internship, a gap year postion or your first post college job, I have written a few tips for landing that job.

Good luck...and one last thing, spit the gum out in the trash before you walk in!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

20 Questions the AIA says you should ask your Architect

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has a fantastic website The consumer section, entitled "The Value of an Architect" addresses "How Design works for You," "Find an Architect," and "20 Questions to Ask Your Architect".

The AIA has done a great job promoting their site and it is clearly working, because today's web-savvy clients are calling me at Clawson Architects with the same 20 questions!  So I thought I would take a moment to give you:

Clawson Archtiects, LLC's official answers to the AIA's 20 Questions to Ask Your Architect:

1. What does the architect see as important issues or considerations in your project?
Site unseen, the most important issues and considerations are your goals and your budget.

2. What are the challenges of the project?
Meeting your goals within your budget while meeting local zoning laws and building codes.

3. How will the architect approach your project?
With enthusiasm, confidence, skill, and keen attention to your needs, likes and dislikes.

4. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc.?
We interview you about your lifestyle and, during our discussions and working sessions, we draw in front of you...working out the overall schematic design ideas based on your program requirements (your space needs).

5. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
Priorities are established during the interview process with you, and decisions are based on your overall goals, budget and priorities. Clawson Architects has a wealth of experience and knowledge; we will give you our professional advice and the most up to date information so that you can make informed decisions.

6. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?
The team at Clawson Architects works together, tapping the professionals with the best fit -- considering design and construction experience as well as working style -- for each project. A Principal Partner, either Marvin or René Clawson, is directly in charge at all times; a Project Manager is the  day-to-day contact. However, Marvin and René are always available to you. The partners work closely, know each other's strengths, and call on each other to provide input to projects where his/her expertise will benefit the outcome. If at any time you prefer to work with one principal or team member over the other, please voice the preference and you will be accommodated accordingly.

7. How interested is the architect in this project?
We look at each new client and project as an opportunity to meet someone new and to create something unique and wonderful that will enhance the environment of the individuals and community around it. We strive to create both sustainable architecture and relationships. When we engage in a contract for services, it is not just a project for us, it is about helping someone achieve their goals or solve a problem, and the relationship that develops with the client during the process is often a lasting one. We are proud to say that we also have repeat clients -- folks that have moved up, moved on, or are adding more.

8. How busy is the architect?
We are blessed with a successful practice and do our best to meet your expectations. If we are not able to meet them from the start, we will let you know.

9. What sets this architect apart from the rest?

The People the Process and the Projects.

Our design team can draw solutions in front of you on demand to scale.  We can conceptualize the solutions and communicate them to you in free hand drawings. We don't go off and come back with ideas for you to pick from, we generate ideas with you. We are not wed to a single style -- only excellence. 

We are an experienced, client-focused design firm.
We work with you individually, involving you in the creative process of meeting your program requirements and working along side you to include and enhance any design ideas you may have. The amount of attention and service is based on your needs. We are available to be there from  beginning to end, overseeing the details if requested. We will not abandon you with a half-baked plan or just the exterior shell for you to fill in. We are up to date, keeping abreast of trends and technologies and watching for opportunities to enhance the quality of life for you, our client.

We are licensed and registered and insured architects.        Marvin and René are both Certified Interior Designers in the state of New Jersey. Marvin is a professor of Interior Design at the #1 design school in the nation, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and lectures at Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America where he is a Fellow Emeritus.  René is a LEED Accredited Professional keeping abreast of the latest green technologies.  She also owns and operates a cabinetry business and will guide you toward storage solutions that work as well as the opportunity to buy cabinets if you please.

We have a team of educated and credentialed individuals, specializing in Architecture, Interiors, Planning, Historical Preservation and Restoration as well as LEED.

We are designers. 

We design a space that is in sync with your needs, how you work and live. We are always talking about how the spaces will flow and be furnished with you. One only has to look at our website to see that no two projects look the same...and that is because we listen to you, our client and look for cues in your environment to make each project unique and all yours.  

The details. We understand the historical and contemporary details and how to employ them correctly. Marvin has been teaching detailing for years and, it makes a difference.  

10. How does the architect establish fees?

Our fees are hourly for services rendered. Today's clients are very educated and we work with them allowing them to participate as much or as little as they like. Many have envisioned their projects and know exactly what they want, but need help with the details and pulling the ideas together. Others prefer full service and only know that what they have is not working and need our help to envision possible solutions that meet their goals. If fees are a concern and the clients have time, some choose to shop on their own for finishes and fixtures and even work on their own variance applications.

11. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?
The answer to this requires detailed information about the project, the client, and their goals.

12. What are the steps in the design process?
13. How does the architect organize the process?

For answers to 12 and 13 please visit our website where the design process and working with Clawson Architects is discussed in detail and diagrammed for those who prefer flow charts.

14. What does the architect expect you to provide?
Goals; budget; survey of property by a licensed engineer in the state; any information regarding historical significance, deed restrictions and hazardous materials; and prompt payment for services rendered.

15. What is the architect's design philosophy?

Simple elegance.

16. What is the architect's experience/track record with cost estimating?

We work with contractors or cost estimators at very early stages to reconcile the plans with your budget to keep them in alignment and to eliminate value engineering and change orders at the end.

17. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or computer animations?
We have model building, hand-drawing and computer rendering capabilities; based on the client's preference and their ability to visualize, we can do any or all of the above. 

18. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?

We work to build your project on paper so that you will know exactly what is going to be constructed. We work to make sure the client understands the spaces--either with drawings, computer renderings, models or even staking it out with string on the property or chalk on the floor within an existing space. Our fees are hourly and we feel that this helps the clients stay on task and focused on their priorities, goals and budget. We continually weigh the ideas that are generated against the priorities, goals and budget that were established at the beginning. If the priorities, goals or budget change that is fine, but moving targets can become very expensive to hit. 

19. What services does the architect provide during construction?
Construction Administration.  This is by far the most valuable portion of our services.  Many feel they have the plans and a good contractor and they will take it from there, thinking they are saving money.  We can give examples where our services saved the owners in the end.  We as the author of the drawings and design are intimately familiar with the plans.  There is always room for interpretation and it is our goal to get you the design you have invested in with us. With our years of experience, we are work collaboratively with the contractor you choose, with the goal of protecting your investment in the design, the integrity of your home as well as the integrity of the structure.  Details are not just a thing of beauty.  History shows us how they came about and why. Over the years they have been "simplified, emulated or taken out with out an understanding of why they are there.  While you may realize an immediate savings, proper detailing and the materials specified on our projects are there for a reason.  They have withstood the test of time.  Substitutions may be presented by the contractor. They may be fine, and may not have been an effort to deceive you. It may be that it is what they have always done and they just don't know any better. If we are there, we can help you evaluate if the saving is worth the risk.  If there is a substitution and it meets the design intent, is there a savings for you? What is it. During the pricing and construction phase, we are there to help.  There will always been unforeseen conditions especially on a renovation project.  Our goals are to help find solutions that meet your goals, the design intent and keep the job moving forward. We will also continue to assist in negotiations of the debit or credit to your account based on the solution.  

During the construction phase of the project, 
our services include the following:A. Site visits on an average of one (1) site visit per week to document the project progress.
B. Preparation of a Field Report and/or meeting notes that document(s) the conditions of the site, progress of the work, conformance with the Construction Documents and list(s) open issues related to the progression of the work.
C. Review of shop drawings provided by the contractor for the cabinetry, windows, doors, custom mill work and other items, as required by us.
D. Review of samples provided by the Client or Contractor for the building components and building materials.
E. Review of the Contractor's Request for payment for accuracy relative to the progression of the project. 

Note:  Many want to exclude the architect from the contract negotiations.  This always becomes an issue when you call for help. It becomes a challenge as we can not really help you if we don't know what your negotiated.  Keep in mind that contractors and architects do this all day long.  Why would you want to go in and negotiate on your own, when you did not create the plans which are the contract or have over 30 years of daily experience doing so that you will be up against. To go into a business deal allowing the mouse to guard the cheese is never recommended.  The goal is to get what you paid for. Allow us to help you.  Remember, we are hourly, so there is no incentive for us to drive the price up.  We would like our services to pay for themselves in the end with the return on investment.

20. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?
This is very project-specific and therefore varies widely. Many clients prefer to live elsewhere during renovation projects, however, this presents added costs. You will want to consider the hazards of renovation that are articulated in the EPA's pamphlet, "Renovate Right," and consider the additional cost of moving out during the demolition process. If your project is new construction, every attempt is made to disturb as little of the surrounding environment as possible. The length of the project is based on many factors including but not limited to:

1. The local Building Department;
2. The skill and organization of the contractor;
3. The number of changes made in the field; and 
4. The finish materials, fixtures and number of custom elements.

20+1. Does the architect have a list of past clients that you can contact?
(Yes, the AIA actually had 21 questions listed under the heading 20 this is the bonus question!)

Of course we do. Clawson Architects prefers to learn more about your project so we can match you up with a meaningful reference from someone for whom we designed a project of a similar size or scope or worked with a contractor you may be considering for the job. Some reviews are listed on 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Man caves," "Manlands," "Manchuaries"

Every man’s home is his castle…you would not know it most of the time when flipping through the remodeling magazines at the check out counter or the home shows on HG TV. Here at Clawson Architects, in our Residential Design Studio we have noticed a surge in the Man Cave requests: A space where the King gets his say, the final say in one particular area of the home…no compromises…just what the Man Wants.

The requests have included:

A room to be designed around an inherited Snooker Table being shipped in from England.
Outdoor Living Spaces with deluxe outdoor kitchens and Grills.
Outdoor fire pits and fire places.

New Garage Additon built into hillside with room above.
Outdoor patio grill and fireplace.

Humidors and smoking rooms.
Wine Cellars.
Cabinets for Scotch Collections
And libraries.

Workout Rooms where former NFL player can use an elliptical without hitting his head
(Structural Engineers called in to re-frame area in existing Basement)
Big TVs, Really Big TV’s with surround sound and Really, Really Big TV’s/home theaters.
Decks with hot tubs and endless pool…and amazing views of Manhattan
(not sure about this one, client was a single guy, so more like the ultimate Bachelors Pad than a Man Cave.)

Garages with:
Private office above
Hydraulic lifts for sports car over luxury sedan
Temperature control for collectors’ car
Basket Ball hoop attached in the traditional way but with Lighted Court
Indoor Basketball court…for the kids …wink wink.

This Garage with Room/Private office above also has a Hydrolic car lift to
create room for that sports car to be parked above the everyday ride.

And there are the homes with private docks for the floating Man Cave.

There are lots of themed rooms mostly around teams that now include stadium chairs from demolished stadiums...most are finding that this is not as comfortable as the Lazy Boy

#1 request is simply a urinal in the house
…some guys are just easy or maybe they have given up…to them I say, "take control and seek help". There are websites now dedicated to the Man Cave with toys galore…
Some of the toys could get you into trouble i.e. …I would avoid the stripper pole especially if you get the Kegerator unless you have a good lawyer and think you will get to keep the castle for yourself if it all ends.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Fix: Even Appliances Need a Spring Cleaning

Something to think about....during the fast paced new housing market that most American families were now moving every three years. The source which I do not recall also noted that appliances today were built to last only 5 years. The business model is interesting...before the second owner moves out they replace all the appliances and sell to the third owner with appliances that are just a year old...crazy. The information below, both the New York Times and quotes from a House & Garden article may assist you in getting a little more out of your appliances now that the trend to move seems to be slowing.

Link to the Times article:
The Fix: Even Appliances Need a Spring Cleaning

An Article published in House and Garden in May 2004 by Glenn Recchia is one of my favorites.

In the article, Glenn reminds us that even the best appliances need care and will last longer with periodic cleaning. He likens this to the maintenance of your car and notes that many of today's high end kitchen appliances cost more than his car.

Below I have summarized Mr. Recchia Recommendations and they are as follows:

Refrigerator Maintenance:
If you own a Sub Zero, the condensers require regular cleanings to prevent overheating. Remove the grill every six months and dust with a gentle tool so as not to damage the aluminum fins. Then, with a soft brush attachment on your vacuum, remove the dust and finish up by cleaning the coils with a refrigerator coil brush.
For a standard refrigerator with typical coils on the back, vacuum these every six months as well.
And finally get down on the floor and look at the toe grille...yuck. Pop that off and vacuum/dust behind it and wash the grille in warm soapy water...this will insure that your appliance is getting enough air circulating around it.

Stove Tops and Range Maintenance:
By wiping up spills and overflows from pots, you will eliminate repairs. Using a fine wire brush typically found in paint stores, you can keep the little holes on gas burners functioning. Glenn recommends that "If spills occur while your are cooking, cover them with salt, both on top of the stove and in the oven, as soon as possible." This makes it easier to wipe off later. Cleaning grates with warm soapy water or in the dish washer is advised on a weekly basis.
Monthly vacuuming of the inside range is also recommended.

Dishwasher Maintenance:
Clogging is the biggest issue with dishwashers. I know many claim to clean it all off for you, but it is advised that you get the chucks off. It will prolong the life or the unit. If yours has a filter, check it often at least once a week and clean it removing any debris and brush it clean. It is recommended that you run the washer with a cup of white vinegar. Just throw it into the bottom and run the machine through one wash and rinse cycle and stop. Do not dry.

Stove Hood Maintenance:
The aluminum filters can usually be placed in the dishwasher on the pots-and-pans cycle at least once a month. It is recommended that you shut the power off to the hood first, and then wipe the fan blades behind the filters. If you really cook, you may want to consider calling in a professional to steam clean the the duct work to remove grease.

In conclusion:
Ammonia and abrasive cleansers are usually not best for the finishes so I recommend that with all of this advice that you please remember...even though it is not very popular or fun thing to the manual. That is the best way to insure you get the most out of your purchases. An you may even be surprised to learn about a feature you did not know you had.

Domestic Detox: Extreme Home Cleaning

Domestic Detox: Extreme Home Cleaning
The article in the New York Times Home Section today explains 'Building Biology' the latest certification you can earn online. As the article states, " 'sick building syndrome' or a sensitivity to chemicals like formaldehyde used in construction" became a diagnoses when people living in new homes or working in new offices began to suffer with illnesses.

The article finishes by calling for legislation for stricter laws on products and technologies.
Buyer Beware and until that legislation day comes...visit one of my favorite sites to verify product content and "greenness"
Greenguard Environmental Institute Product Guide

Friday, May 14, 2010

Indoor Air Quality ---You may want to Hold your Breath!

EPA-The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

Green Guard

Summary quotes and information from GreenGuard and the EPA--


“The US Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to Human Health. “


Indoor Air is 2-5 times more polluted than Outdoor Air and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.

Why is this problem?


"People spend 90 percent of their time indoors."

In fact the EPA estimates that


"the average person receives 72 percent of their chemical exposure at home, which means that very place most people consider safest paradoxically exposes them to the greatest amounts of potentially hazardous pollutants."

The EPA and Green Guard a third party test group notes...
There are FOUR contributors to poor indoor air quality
1. Chemicals
2. Mold
3. Particulates
4. Poor Ventilation

1. Chemicals- including off gassing from furnishings, dry cleaning and chemical cleaners as well as in finishes like paint, wall paper, carpet and curtains....
a. Controlling the source…what you or the "cat dragged in" is a problem.

2. Mold- from moisture problems including damp basements, humid laundry rooms and bathrooms…
a. Controlling the moisture with proper ventilation
b. and dehumidifiers

3. Particulates- Airborne particulates can also come from dirt and dust that are tracked in from outdoors…
a. Installing walk-off mats at doorways and cleaning them regularly.
b. Changing air filters regularly
c. Using a vacuum with a Hepa filter are all good strategies to limit these pollutants.

4. Poor Ventilation—
a. With the new standards for air tight construction, it is even more important to have ventilation systems that are designed to bring in fresh air.
b. Most ventilation systems are designed to bring in very little outdoor air and instead re-circulate the indoor air that has already been heated or cooled as an effective way to minimize energy costs; it can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality.

My two cents... You may hear things like open your window from the EPA if you are painting, and the US Green Building's LEED certification for buildings has a highly controversial flushing system that recommends blowing large quantities of air into your building to "flush out" all the toxic off gassing...well, if you really want to get technical, if you live near the water, or in a humid area, the moisture that gets pulled into the room takes you back to #2 Mold issues….And if you have allergies and it is Pollen or Hay fever season you may want to make considerations on a case by case, region by region bases but...

Please do not let this information paralyze you...

The #1 Strategy for controlling IAQ is...

Source Control-- reduce indoor air pollution and limit chemical exposure by not bringing it into your space in the first place.

1. Take off your shoes so you don't track particulates into the home.

2. When you are Buying Products--furnishings, clothing, dry cleaning, detergents and cleaning products, think about the off gassing or VOC’s.

3. Maintain Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment--Change those filters on a regular bases.

To get past the green washing of low and no VOC’s check to see if the product has been given the GREENGUARD Certified for low chemical emissions. Green Guard is a third party testing company that certifies products and their Greeness if you will. Some paints claim to be no VOC, however, the tinting added when you choose the colors are not in some cases only the base is No VOC. GREEGUARD has an amazing online Product Guide and all of these tips to improve IAQ listed on their website.

Additionally, Consumer Report Greener Choices Website is also very useful Listing information regarding Products.

Get outside and get some fresh air. Take in deep breaths. You will feel better....just remember to wear your sunscreen :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Insulation and Window Replacement ---What you need to know.

window replacement; historic window; bay window

Energy Efficiency is all about insulation and installation.

Window Replacement advertisements on TV and in mail circulars abound-
anyone concerned about their energy bill is told that old drafty windows are the enemy. While the typical old window does not have a very high "R-value" (insulating value) ranging from less than one to about 1, new top of the line, triple pane windows with the low e glass will only have an R-value of about 4. The R-value for an insulated wall used in standard wood frame construction is about 12. That said:

Tip one:

A more energy efficient home is well insulated
--start there.

Insulation is relatively inexpensive, and will make a difference. Be sure to read and follow the installation instructions. An insulation with a high R-value installed incorrectly will do you no good and may cause problems down the line.
Pay attention to the installation directions and read the Department of Energy Insulation Fact Sheet for even more helpful tips and facts.

Tip two:

If you are going to replace the windows, consider the R-Value but again, consider the installation. Window replacement done correctly is expensive. Done cheaply, the benefits are diminished and the architectural aesthetic as well as the amount of natural light are compromised along with the value of your home.

Typically, if a window replacement is done correctly, the exterior and interior trim will be removed along with the old flashing and window. New headers may be required by code, new flashing will be installed, rotted sills replaced and the new energy efficient window installed.

The window replacements that take a day, take out your old window and attach an insert/new jamb liner and window in the existing opening.
This does a few things:

1. It decreases the amount of light coming into the room as the window opening was just made smaller by installing the new liner over the old.

2. The new windows have a larger sash profile and the total amount of glass is decreased again decreasing the amount of natural light into the space.

3. The last concern is that the new liner is not energy rated, only the smaller window is.

4. Yes the windows were replaced in a day and it was a bargain but you may not even qualify for the government tax breaks and incentives behind the rally cry.

For older homes, if you have storm windows, use them, if you don't have them, consider them as a cost effective alternative to window replacement.

If nothing else please remember with
Insulation and Window Replacement


More information about the correct selection and installation of replacement windows is available in this article by James O'Bannon and Andre Grieco in Home Energy Magazine

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

EPA- Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools

Renovation, Repairing or Painting (RRP) Effective April 20, 2010 The EPA's new Lead Hazard Renovate Right Laws begin. There is no grandfathering, if you are in the middle of a project you must comply immediately....that is if you are paying someone for the services.

Quotes from the EPA's Renovate Right Pamphlet:

"Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renovating six square feet or more of painted surfaces in a room for interior projects or more than twenty square feet of painted surfaces for exterior projects in housing, child care facilities and schools built before 1978." EPA Pamphlet

"Also, beginning April 2010, Federal Law will require contractors that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools, built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Therefore beginning in April 2010, ask to see your contractor's certification." EPA Pamphlet

The contractor must provide you with the Renovate Right pamphlet and proof of their certification. EPA Pamphlet

"Do-it-yourself'" projects. If you plan to do renovation work yourself, this pamphlet is a good start, but you will need more information to complete the work safely. Call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800424-LEAD and ask for more information on how to work safely in a home with lead-based paint." EPA Pamphlet


Okay, this is all very serious stuff and I had a few questions about the do-it yourself quote above so I did as it said, I called the above hot line and Kessiah answered. She was very friendly so I read her the quote and I asked about the "more information" that I needed to get from them. She suggested that I visit the website.

When I pressured Kessiah for more information from her, what exactly should I know from the mountains of information on the website she was not sure exactly what I should know so I tried another approach to getting more information...

I explained, "I am a home owner and I want to paint my child's room and the painted trim is already chipping." Kessiah suggested I read the website and call if I had any other questions. There is so much information about lead safe practices and testing and laws, so I pressed Kessiah more, "As a home owner do-it-yourself-er, do I have to comply with the New EPA Law Read EPA's Regulations on Residential Property Renovation at 40 CFR 745.80, Subpart E. ?"

Kessiah answered "no"... we talked some more and reasoned that even though the answer is no

one should for the safety and well being of themselves and those around, and one must comply if anyone is paid to help and that the help must be certified.

My guess is if you read what lead poisoning can do to you, you will think twice about the "do-it-yourself" part if it involves any sanding or scraping.

If you are just changing the color, open the window and follow the EPA's Healthy Indoor Painting Practices. choose no VOC paints and have some fun.

Regarding who will be enforcing this new law, I spoke with the Building Department today, and this is considered to be in the Health Departments realm of business. I am sure there will be more to come regarding this issue.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Coat of Paint Can Change Your Life!

So, what color should I paint the room/house?

Oh the Choices!!! There are so many colors to choose from. For a while now, Paint companies have offered us thousands of colors to select from and have been able to color match anything you bring to them.

Traditional paint fans are great, but can be overwhelming. That is why Pottery Barn has partnered with Benjamin Moore. Their catalog phone operators received so many inquiries about "the color on the wall in the catalog on page..." that they make mini seasonal color fans of the selections that work with the products they are selling in the stores. (

Martha Stewart has cards for her paints that actually make suggestions for trim and accent colors to use instead of the traditional card with shades of the same color all on one strip leaving you with the task of picking the trim and accent color.

Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams now offer apps for your phone with a "color capture" feature but I am not to convinced that it is as accurate as having a physical sample of the color you like. Just bring that scarf, your grandma's favorite dress, or the piece of wraping paper to the paint store...they will match it.

You may want to consider the psychological effect the color you choose will have on the people that enter the room. There are studies that indicate that people are more apt to be dishonest in dark rooms and a study by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that the "Physical environment" (including color)"is an important component in the acute care setting that can directly impact patient safety, nursing and medication errors, as well as contribute to staff fatigue, stress and burnout resulting in errors."

Colors are also very cultural...hence the new line of colors by Sherwin Williams called "Hacienda" ( speaks to the growing number of Hispanics buying their products or that they are trying to lure as consumers.

If you google Color Psychology, you will find David Johnson's research on the question "Do different colors affect your mood?"

In short, Mr.'s Johnson's article states that:

"Black is the color of authority and power...

White innocence and purity, but also in the medical field, to imply sterility...

Red stimulates a faster heartbeat and is an appetite stimulant...

Pink is more tranquilizing to the point that sports teams sometime paint the locker rooms used by opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy...

Blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals but can also be cold and depressing." shades matter "dark blue symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms and Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms...

Green is the most popular decorating color, the easiest on the eye and can improve vision. It is calming and why people waiting to appear on TV sit in the 'green room'.

Yellow is cheerful and considered an optimistic color, however, people lose their temper more often in yellow rooms, and babies will cry more. It speeds metabolism and enhances concentration and calls attention.

Purple the color of royalty...

Brown implies solid and reliable" ...What can brown do for you?..."

Because color is so highly emotional, the best advice I can give you it to go buy a small can in the colors you are considering and try them out...look at the sample area during all times of day and night. What will the lighting in the room be like when you are there most? How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Benjamin Moore allows you to order wet paint samples that are "actual 2 oz containers of your favorite paint colors that cover a 2’ X 2’ surface area with two coats of paint.
or Our large color chips are 18” X 18” color-filled sheets you can move easily throughout your home. "

I personally carried a one inch piece of fabric in my wallet for a very long time because I liked it. When it came time to paint my house...I went to the paint store and asked them to match it. That is now the color of my Front Door.

Still can't decide what me I am sure I can help you find a color that will make you happy.

Please be mindful if you hire a company to paint a room or building that was built before 1978 you must comply with the new EPA laws for Lead. Renovate Right (pdf) - EPA Lead Hazard Information. If you do it would be wise to follow the procedures as well.

For more on Healthy Indoor Painting Practices from the EPA check out this Pamphlet

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow!

Congratulations to Marvin Clawson, AIA, NCARB who was recently Elected President of the Fellows at The Institute for Classical Architecture and Classical America.(ICA & CA)
ICA & CA is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the classical tradition in architecture, urban planning and their allied arts.

Marvin Clawson has been an Adjunct Faculty Member there since 2000. He is also currently an Adjunct Faculty Member at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Marvin's solid background in the fundamental elements of Classical Design enhances his work as Principal and co-owner of Clawson Architects, LLC in Maplewood, NJ. Whether Marvin is working on a Historic Preservation and Restoration project, designing a New "Old" Building or a Modern one, he brings his strong classical design background and working knowledge of details, orders and proportions to each project adding elegance and integrity to his inspired and sustainable design solutions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Travel Programs — Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America

Marvin Clawson; Rene Clawson

Travel Programs — Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America

Summer Break- It all started back in the summer of '87, it was official by the end of the summer of '89 and at the end of this past summer, celebrating 20 years of marriage my husband Marvin and I are still learning new things about each other and Architecture! This past June we travelled to Rome on a "Drawing Tour" for ten days that included walking tours, drawing lessons with master artists and lectures at the Rome Academy, also a side trip to Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este. ...Note: for all my colleagues Lots and I mean Lots of Continuing Education Credits (40 AIA/CES LUs 15 HSW AIA/CES LUs)... Great news, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America is hosting this program again, Marvin if your reading I think we should celebrate 21 years in the same way...To the good life - La Dolce Vita!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ranch 'Dressing' Tasteful Home Renovations

ranch style home
So, you bought the ranch.... What now?

Ranches in my town, look out of place among the charming older Victorians or the traditional Center Hall Colonial and stately Tutors. The 1950's Ranches are now known as 'Vintage Modern'. Ranches can be quite chic...with renovations done correctly, paying attention to the original details and doing the best within the existing genre is the secret.

The construction of a 1950's Ranches is solid and adding on or updating the existing is practical. Finishing touches and matching missing hardware or fixtures has been made easier with the help of Rejuvenation a period lighting and hardware online store. Design Within Reach another resource can help you with furnishings.

Let's say, you just can't 'do' your grandma's house. You want to update and bring the house up in time. This can be achieved by changing the 'trim package', updating the floor finishes, the bathroom and kitchen cabinets and the color scheme.

The The typical ranch trim package is a 2-1/2" casings around the doors and 4" baseboards. The doors are usually flat and hollow. By upgrading the trim to a 4" casing and a 6" baseboard you will add some 'weight' to the details.

Selecting a heavy wood door from Simpson and good looking hardware, you will give the home some character and a look that has been coined 'Transitional' ...meaning not historical and not modern. "Transitional" renovations will provide a clean updated look that will hold value in the marketplace. New tile and a new vanity in the bathroom, new wood floors and and an updated kitchen will make your home stylish and simply elegant.

For Clawson Architects most extreme Ranch 'Dressing' that is tasteful and unforgettable check Clawson Architects website to see how the Ranch above became so much more...
Renovated Ranch Home

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kitchen Addition for This Old House

Range with custom hood

kitchen design kitchen addition

Beautiful houses were built in the the early 1900's and they were built to last. In meeting with people to discuss their homes and the potential for adding on, the conversations often go in the same direction. "We love the character of the house, we love the neighborhood, we love the details and charm, but there is no family room, and while this dining room is huge, there is only a tiny old kitchen." Often the homeowner has come to some sort of a conclusion to add a family room and to renovate the kitchen.

As Architects we often see opportunities that have not revealed themselves to the homeowner yet. We see space and potential in the existing foot print that perhaps just needs to be re purposed.

Just because you bought a home with a large room that has a chandelier hanging in the center of the space does not mean that it has to be your dining room. We often hear 'we don't want to lower the real estate value' and to that I say, you are not getting rid of the space your are re purposing the space, if the next buyer wants it to be a Dining Room, they can rehang the chandelier.

One of our more creative out of the box clients came to us because they had done just that, they used the existing Dining Room as their Family Room. This space was just off the kitchen, as is typical with most traditional homes. For this family, with three young boys, the 'Dining Room' offered a play space they needed. As the boys grew, the breakfast table in the kitchen was not quite big enough and they felt they would like to have a more formal Dining Room back and add a family room addition onto the house. After looking at the spaces and recognizing the creative side of the client, I suggested that instead of adding a family room that we add a Kitchen to the rear of the house off the Largest Room in the house, the under utilized Living Room. In doing so, we re purpose the existing kitchen as a Dining Room and made the original Dining Room turned Family Room into a formal Living Room. The largest room, that under utilized Living Room, became the Family Room opening up into the new Kitchen. The other benefit to this idea, was that this busy family was able to continue using their existing kitchen until the new one was completed, and then we went to work on creating the Dining Room in the area where the original Kitchen was.
before renovation Dining Room renovation
The end results are a home with better circulation, a cozy intimate Living Room, a dramatic Dining Room, a new Butler's Pantry that leads to a new sun drenched Kitchen with views of the back yard, the Family Room, the Sun Room/Home Office and the Front Door. We gained a first floor Powder Room and Laundry Room and one very happy client.


Old Kitchen has been re purposed into a new Dining Room
A New Butler's Pantry connects the New Kitchen Addition to that Dining Room.
Original Dining Room Turned Family Room, is now a Formal Living Room.
Old Formal Living Room is now the Family Room.

Addition includes:
New Kitchen, Powder Room and Laundry Room and if that is not enough, the addition structure was designed to receive a second floor Master Suite above, should the owners decide that this is something they would like to add in the future.