A collection of random thoughts, kudos and useful resources for home and business owners looking to do architectural work -additions, renovations or new construction- to their home or small business.


Value of Adding A (Arts) to STEM Thinking


The tendency to attribute symbolic meaning to acronyms we use in our daily life made me think about the meaning behind the educational philosophy of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and the recent capitulation to add the letter A, for Art, thus turning STEM into STEAM. While a minor change in terms, the meaning could be profound.

stem, according to the dictionary is “ the ascending axis of a plant,” or the origin or cause of a thing. At least physically, a stem is always grounded in the earth. Whether a flower or tree, the stem reaches for the sun and roots itself in the soil. It is the support system and backbone, carrying the weight of branches, leaves and flowers. But it is immobile.

Steam, on the other hand, is an “invisible vapor into which water is converted when heated to the boiling point.” Steam is water which has become free of the earth, air born, an ethereal mist, shape-shifting and mysterious. Steam, though immaterial, is also powerful! The industrial age was born of it.

So, the simple addition of an A to an educational acronym, as well as the simple act of adding Art to the Science/Tech mix, if treated seriously, has the power to catapult the education system, and society at large into a new and powerful way of thinking about our future.

To rise above the already astonishing landscape we have built, to add other dimensions, depth and character, we need the wings of creativity and imagination. To grow beyond the industrial age that has grounded us in materiality, but also greed and waste, we need the wholeness and harmony that the arts contribute.

A balance of nature and culture, science and art, brawn and beauty is what allows us to be bold, build amazing things, yet also be introspective, and to add meaning, fun and beauty to the things we make.

“Where science ends, art begins,” Charles Nègre








The new modern home possesses an elegant simplicity and harmony in design

The new modern home promotes chosen lifestyle patterns, and allots resources to enrich those choices

The new modern home advances the unique and essential qualities of the individual

The new modern home inspires the imagination and preserves our best memories

The new modern home engages the heart and shares in the desires and passions of the family

The new modern home expands our intellect and summons our greater purpose

The new modern home removes the superfluous and moves toward clarity and balance

The new modern home, by compartmentalizing, lessens unnecessary choices and reduces chaos

The new modern home is a respectful and engaging neighbor

The new modern home is archetypal in form, yet modern in style

The new modern home evokes an overall mood, yet allows for areas of deviation and distinction

The new modern home allows for undisturbed retreat, spiritual sanctuary and safe shelter

The new modern home encourages fun, camaraderie, family gatherings, and entertaining

The new modern home reinforces active exploration and discovery in the outside world

The new modern home is smart and sustainable, but does not allow technology to dominate living spaces

The new modern home engages the land locally, and conserves resources globally

The new modern home makes homeownership a positive, worthy and significant experience

The new modern home adds to the intricate tapestry of life



Building for Life- book review

corinthian column symbolic of tree, projecting vertical strength and floral embellishment: truth, utility and beauty

Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection

by Steven Kellert

I tell people my greatest interest in architecture is when I can merge the inside and outside into a single flowing design. Building for Life does not go into length on this particular concept but supports it in general as a part of the love of nature continuum. He refers to this as Biophilia, a term coined by scientist E O Wilson that translates to “love of life.” The idea is that man is inherently attracted to nature, and is at a loss when nature is missing from his environment. This book explores ways of bringing nature back into our work places and personal surroundings. It provides scientific studies as proof of the need, and offers solutions that begin to remedy the problem by incorporating nature into architecture both directly and symbolically.

Kellert believes that it is especially important to expose children to nature, in whatever ways possible. Empathy and knowledge are really our best defense against environmental waste and destruction. I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods (my Dad was a forest ranger when he wasn’t teaching science), so his theory helped put my passion for nature into perspective. In nature we connect, we understand that we are not separate but part of a larger world. 

He also points out that if we don’t build places we love—that are beautiful, light filled, well built and unique in character—we will never put in the extra energy needed to preserve them longterm. And tearing down a building that is only a couple decades old is the worst affront to the conservation ideals of sustainability I can imagine. I’ll be watching to see how the ‘biophilia’ movement grows and transforms, and hopefully adding to it in some small way.

Shannon Scarlett

as a kid I did a lot of hiking with family, here on the Skyline trail in Oregon




outdoor rooms merging inside and out

hedge walls and stone and grass floors defining an outdoor room

Modern Dwelling


Modern Dwelling

Merging Inside and Out

The natural home — a home intimately connected to and respectful of the earth itself — creates an environment that raises everyday experiences from monotonous to moving, and imprints lasting memories that will impact our lives and the lives of those around us. The ways of merging home and land are abundant. Elements can be incorporated into the modern home to bring it closer to the earth.

Outdoor Rooms

Outdoor rooms offer an easy and economical way to add extra living space to a house without building additional square footage. Porches, decks, walled gardens, hedge enclosed terraces, screened porches and pergolas expand the indoor living space — even if only visually when the weather outside is too hot or cold to physically inhabit them — and directly connect or merge the indoors with the outdoors.


Alternately, daylight presents an expressive medium for drawing the natural world inside, creating mood and character using sunlight. As light enters the house it can be manipulated and shaped; as light passes through openings of different sizes and shapes it creates patterns and forms on adjacent surfaces.

Strong bands of shadow from an overhead trellis, for example, will stripe the floor and wall, accentuating the light source and the surfaces. Light can be refracted into different colors through prismatic cut glass, or light passing from a brightly colored room will take on a hue, glowing colorfully into an adjacent space.

In summer, protective covered porches buffer strong glare or heat from the sun from entering cool interior rooms. A deciduous vine-covered pergola filters summer sunlight, tinting the space with a cool greenish hue. While in the cold winter months, leaves drop off the vines, opening up the house to the bright yellow light and the warm rays of sun.

A light-colored terrace can bounce sunlight into a room from unexpected angles; the light from a reflecting pool outside can dance color across a white plaster ceiling. Translucent skylights or clerestory windows can disperse strong incoming light to a diffuse subtle glow.


In the winter months, we can enjoy nature or our garden handiwork from inside. Patterned parterres, stone walls, leafless trees, twiggy trellises, wisps of tall grasses and stalks of seed heads in silhouette against snow or glistening with frost create a painted vista that can be framed by a bank of windows or French door.

The first signs of life viewed from the kitchen window, in a late winter garden activates daydreams of spring and summer. Anticipation for the gardener grows as the plant and seed catalogues roll in, and the snowdrops and crocuses begin to push aside the bleak, wintry soil.

Transition Zones

Transition zones between inside and outside are central to any home — front and side porches, fenced yards, gates and courtyards — but they may also act as a double-edged sword. Transitional spaces are commonly tasked with simultaneously creating a sense of community and of security.

To establish a sense of community, transitional areas demand openness and connection to the world beyond. However, transition zones also ensure a sense of personal security; to achieve this requires some amount of closure and layers of actual or implied fortification. Gates, fences, porches and courtyards provide layers of protection between any possible intruders and us — real or imagined.

At the same time we want our yards and outdoor rooms to convey sanctuary — buffering us from the threats and pressures of the outside world — we want them to be amiable and welcoming to our neighbors and guests.

Balance is best achieved when physical security measures are masked as architectural features designed to enhance the character of the space, and that project a distinguished presence onto the street.

Daily Activity

In the end, it is the activities we enjoy — the summer parties on the deck and lawn, dinners with friends in the screened porch, a hot cup of coffee and Sunday paper enjoyed on a terrace bench, Frisbee with the kids and dog on the newly-mown lawn, or napping in a hammock in a quiet corner of the garden — that let us experience at home that mythical place called Paradise. These are the true everyday benefits of reestablishing a strong connection between our homes and Mother Nature.