The window sill

There's a very unhappy meeting of the window, counter and window sill in the exisitng bath.  The "robust victorian" casing around the window is about 6" wide with a corresponding 6" apron below.  I just saw that Daltile makes a pre-fabricated beveled window sill in various stones including carrera marble. 

I had considered just having the window sill fabricated from left over pieces from the countertop and that's what we may still do.  Horizontal surfaces, particularly in moist areas like a bathroom  are probably better served with a non-organic - easily washable surface.  Since we're thinking of using carrera marble on the countertop, it could simplify and improve the meeting of materials.  I'm also thinking of removing the wood casings and apron in a move towards a more consistent sleek look.  The contrast between old and new that we had attempted before did not work out as well as it could.

I'm using Google sketchup to explore ideas.  Its a great free modeling software product that many people including architects are using.
Right now the tub is set against the left wall and there is a low platform at the right end of the tub (not visible).  It is tiled in white and has become a catch-all of clutter and ugly grout.  The curtain rod is suspended from the 11' ceiling -- all in an attempt to recreate an original victorian feel.

We wanted to keep the tub from feeling too enclosed so we are not using a shower enclosure.  I wanted to eliminate the platform so my first thought was to furr out the wall to meet the tub but that made the area seem constricted.  Furring out the wall at the toilet end seemed a better option to eliminate the platform.  I thought using a darker tile platform to set the tub in place would minimize the ugly grout issue.  Finally, I wanted to eliminate the suspended curtain ring.  The wall receiving the curtain rod at the foot of the tub does not extend far enough out to receive the rod so this rod bends back to the wall.

Pre-fabricated shampoo niches are made by Tile RediNoble Niche, and others.  I haven't used either product so this is not an endorsement.
Minimizing the clutter of bottles is a good thing, particularly if everyone has their own special product.   
Traditionally these niches are hand fabricated on-site by the installer or a ceramic  soap dish can be used.  The ceramic soap dish is usually too small for anything beyond soap and it can be kind of clunky visually.  
Now there are prefabricated units that can be recessed into the wall and the ceramic tile can be installed over it to form a continuous tile surface of the same material.  Theoretically this should have a better waterproof seal as there are fewer exposed joints.   I wonder if there is even a better way to hide the clutter?

Mies van der rohe's  famous quote, "less is more" has intrigued architects for most of the 20th century and he is considered a foremost proponent of the minimalist design approach.  Although there was a flirting with post-modern longings for historical reference, the minimalist aesthetic is a strong as ever today.
Minimalist Door Detail
Although less is visible, it takes more time to detail and skilled craftsmanship to deliver a superior product.     

I tried this minimalist approach recently on a project on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.   When you look at this photo of the trimless flush installed  door, what you see is not just the plane of the wall and door, but suddenly the joint separating the wall and door presents itself.  In this case it is straight, parallel, and crisp.  

I wouldn't have attempted this without the help of a master craftsman - Kenji.  I'm thrilled with the result and so is my client.

Kenji san
Kenji is from Japan and is a master Japanese carpenter and furniture builder. His work is second to none.  Thanks Kenji.

Neapolis plays in the background on the mezzanine of the Baltic Restaurant.
  March 30, 2008 - Spring Break and the first night of an AM Family vacation in London.  Sometimes the juxtaposition of time, place, food, company, mood and music creates an event that lingers on in the mind -- pleasure in the  memory. Across the Thames River from our hotel is the Baltic Restaurant that Chris found in a NY Times review.  Tired and hungry after the long flight and excited to be in London, we walk across the Thames to find the restaurant.  Not much on the outside, but inside the sleek interiors contrasted nicely against the centuries old heavy timber structure.  The food is different and good.  

The sun fades from the skylights and the light softens.  Candles glow.  The jazz band Neapolis  with guitarist Nico Di Battista starts playing weaving a magic atmosphere.  Dessert and coffee is served.  I linger as long as I can -- but all good things must come to an end.  On the way out, we show the NY Times review to the staff.  They didn't know about it so they were happy.  We were happy.  
We off to a great vacation.

Crossing the River Thames.
Its  C O L D and we run and jump in high spirits back to the hotel to keep warm!

I've been looking at ceramic tile.  One of the problems with ceramic tile are grouted joint lines.  Sometimes the joint lines themselves become a visual feature to the benefit or detriment of the overall design.  I want to minimize the impact of the joint line.  

Minimizing the impact of the grout line means minimizing the total amount of joints by using larger tiles and or narrower widths.  This photo shows a grout line of about 1/16" which is probably the bare minimum.  Even then, the tile edge must be very square and the quality control of the size of the tiles must be excellent.  If there is any variation in size, you must accommodate it with a wider joint line.  The larger the tile, the more unforgiving it is to any imperfections on the surface on which it is applied.  Craftsmanship is important here.

Another way of minimizing the joint line is to pick a grout color that "matches" the color of the tile.  This usually works quite well unless the color changes with staining from mold or dirt.  The grey tile and grey grout seems to solve both of these problems and is a good solution -- if you like grey (which I do).  Fortunately the right grey can form an elegant backdrop for something else.

Here the grey tile contrasts with the white carrera marble allowing the marble to be the focus.    Michelangelo used it and maybe we will too.   

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The Julia Morgan Ballroom 465 California Street, San Francisco
Light has been a fascinating topic ever since I took Dick Peters architecture  class at UC Berkeley -- we built light boxes with moveable openings and shifted the "sun" around the "building" to study the different effects of light.  No computer simulation then!    

Balancing the light is almost always a good idea, particularly when visual clarity is important.  I've been in the Julia Morgan Ballroom at least two times before. As I entered for the third time, I immediately remembered the problem of lighting a space like this.  It's large and ornately detailed with dark paneling - heavily draped windows on the south and west.  In the top photo, notice the very strong natural light from the south facing windows producing blinding spots of light.    

In the ballroom above, there is no balancing natural light from the north side and an insignificant amount on the west side.  The artificial lighting is too meager to compensate for the cavernous dark interiors.  See how the speaker is backlit and it's almost impossible to see his face.  I wonder if this is how Ms. Julia Morgan originally designed the space?  It's nice to think that perhaps the arches on the north side of the space were once windows.

Hall of Mirrors - Palace of Versailles
This problem was luxuriously solved over 300 years ago in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.  Large arched mirrors were installed equal and opposite to the wall of windows.  I guess Louis XIV had a good architect (Jules Hardouin-Mansart).

Here is a sketch and photo of the existing conditions.
 The only thing original in the room is the wood wainscot.  It was stripped of many layers of paint in 1975 when I first bought the house.  The result was a fairly dull slightly damaged brown surface.  Years later, we had it stained and varnished to try and improve the appearance, but it wasn't much of an improvement. 

Hello Husband
 Chris has been patient with my attachment to the "original" wainscot although a few years ago she sent me a message by painting a small section white.  Well I guess I'm ready now.  The wainscot is going to go.  The wainscot is old clear heart redwood so it would be a shame to just trash it.  Maybe the backside is in pristine condition and we could use it another way?  Stay tuned.

Got a garage?  You've got a cafe.  That's what Vega Cafe is.
  Create your cafe by opening your garage door!  That's Vega Cafe.  No problem telling if it open or closed.  If its open it's open. Busy Folsom Street doesn't get a lot of foot traffic, but there's usually a parking space close by.  I stop here regularly on my way to work for my Americano and Blue Bottle Coffee.  Great guys work there and the coffee is the best!

Getting an iphone has changed how I look at things.  I'm amazed at the fun I've had taking pictures.  Even before aiming, you see  something amazing.  All you have to do is press the shutter and voila! Something great is all around us.  All we have to do is notice.