Before and After

Let's face it, everyone loves a good Before and After. Whether it's a haircut, a fashion choice, or a home remodel – it’s inspiring to see a lackluster subject transformed into something fabulous!

In my profession, I have opportunities to witness and facilitate transformation every day. In fact, it's one of the favorite aspects of my job. I see it so frequently that I can picture 'after' in my mind's eye long before it happens. This vision helps guide the detailed decisions along the path to the end goal.

Because it comes easily for me, I sometimes forget that not everyone can imagine these possibilities or even knows that they are achievable. For that reason I thought it would be fun to share some Before and After shots from past projects with you. In each case note the improved space, light, and functionality. Some were additions and re-orientations – others simply a removed wall and updated surfaces. Looking back reminds me that it was a rewarding journey. Check out a few examples below:


The kitchen above was separated from the living and dining areas by an L-shaped wall, limiting natural light and constricting the traffic flow. Removing the wall (which had a load-bearing component, hence the remaining column) allowed for better light, easier entertaining, and over-all improved functionality. ('After' photo by An Indoor Lady)


The clients in the above kitchen entertain often. They needed larger serving areas and pathways as well as higher capacity amenities. By absorbing square footage from the yard, we were able to add a second island, an additional dishwasher, a prep area and beverage center, and widened access into and through the kitchen. ('After' photo by Casey Dunn)


The kitchen above was cramped and poorly located, with little opportunity for light or space. By opening an exterior wall at the back of the house and expanding into the yard, we carved out square footage for a grand kitchen addition with tall ceilings and improved storage and amenities. ('After' photo by Fine Focus Photography)


This last one is fun because it is small and recent and just so dang cute! I love this sassy little bathroom remodel. The main objective was to update surfaces, but we also enlarged the shower, maximized storage, and improved lighting and general functionality.

Has there been something about your space that bothers you, or you just feel the need for a refresh? Hopefully these photos will inspire you.  Imagine the possibilities for your home!

Less is More


Last week I visited the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona. Mies is the architectural icon who coined the phrases “Less is more” and “Form follows function”. These are two of my favorite design philosophies.


My belief is that good design requires minimal ornamentation or ‘decoration’. It might seem counter-intuitive for a designer to be saying this, but for me the feeling of an interior is largely defined by elements such as flow, light, texture, and function. Don’t get me wrong – the right furniture and fixtures are important and can enhance or detract from the experience in a space, but there’s a fine line between interiors that are too sparce versus over-complicated. It’s a delicate balance.


In our Western world today we accumulate so much stuff. Managing it is a constant challenge. I have read a few books on Feng Shui, and a concept that resonates with me is that 'clutter in the home is like clutter in the soul'. Wow – that’s powerful! Studies have revealed strong links between clutter and depression. It reminds me of a little story…


I have a loved one (who shall remain nameless, but she remembers the occasion well) and one day I walked into her bedroom and immediately burst into tears. I don’t know what came over me (it was a little embarrassing) but I saw the assortment of tables, curio-cabinets, chairs, etc. piled up with receipts, bills, flyers, magazines – suddenly I couldn’t breathe! You see, she was a “collector” of sorts (she liked to say that her hobby was “sale-ing… GARAGE sale-ing”), but despite keeping a sense of humor, she was depressed. I could immediately feel the link between the collecting behavior and her emotional wellness. That stuff had to go. I offered to help get rid of it, and she was thankful, because sorting through it can be over-whelming.


So here’s this month’s challenge – get rid of stuff! Okay now I've inspired myself, so I'm going into my study to tackle those piles right NOW!

Good luck, have fun, and be sure to share with me how happy you are afterward.

What is Green and How Does it Apply to Me?

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

You have likely heard of a term called Green Building. Many might think of it as something specific to the building industry. You know it's related to protecting the environment, but it doesn't seem to apply to you if you are not in the process of building or remodeling a house.

On the other hand, I prefer to think of Green as a mind set rather than a building term. It's true that there is a very real set of standards for designing a 'Green' building, and the Green philosophy was developed by the construction industry as a guideline for how to reduce the impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment . These general strategies, however, can be adopted and implemented by all of us in a much broader sense as well. Let me explain...

If we evaluate the many ways that human existence affects the environment, the list is endless. From tearing down trees and covering the earth with man made materials, to depleting mother nature's resources, releasing chemicals and toxins back into the air, and generating waste that can't be naturally processed - our daily lives have an impact on our world (I realize there is some disagreement as to just how much affect. I am not here to argue that point). The bottom line is, our existence on this planet is inter-twined with our environment, and I sometimes feel sad thinking about how we as humans have a negative impact.


In my early twenties I lived in an apartment near Treaty Oak. Some of you may recall it's a historic Austin tree that was poisoned with chemicals and the man who did it was sentenced to a few years in prison. I felt sick to my stomach each time I saw that dying tree outside my window, and for months I felt compelled to ride the bus to work as a small gesture toward improving the air quality for that tree. I began to reconsider many things about my life, and even the fact that I had studied architecture felt a bit hypocritical. Over time I managed to squash that guilt and accept that if I wanted to be a normal human being and not live in the Alaskan Bush, I'd better just get over it. But now each day as I work with clients to design the homes of their dreams, I realize that there is a choice we can make to either have less impact or more impact on God's universe in the process.


So let's get back to what this means to you. For the most part, the high level concept involves some RE words: replacing systems that are inefficient, recycling material resources, and reusing items that we might otherwise choose to discard. These strategies can all be applied in some way in our homes. In addition to reducing the environmental impact, many of these changes will have a direct affect on your quality of life and your monthly energy bills. Here are some examples:

- If you need a new lightbulb, consider replacing your incandescents or even compact fluorescents with LED. There are HUGE benefits of this, not only from a long term cost savings standpoint, but in a practical way - no more changing light bulbs! The average lifespan of an LED is approx 10-15 years. And there are now LED bulbs you can put directly into normal light sockets.

- Replace older toilets and plumbing fixtures with low flow versions designed to give the same amount of pressure using less water.

- Add a water filter in your home for drinking water. If doesn't seem to be an easy task - buy a Brita that you keep in the fridge. Using your own purified water in a glass at home minimizes the waste generated from bottled water (even if those bottles are recycled) and costs less too. 

- If you replace an appliance, look for energy star ratings for new ones.

- Improve your home's efficiency by sealing windows & doors and adding insulation. Hire a professional to replace weather stripping and add insulation in your attic. If it's time to replace your windows, invest in high performance versions that filter UV and are much more energy efficient. You will notice a distinct improvement in interior climate control, comfort, and your monthly energy bills.

- Incorporate a 'recycle station' somewhere in your home. If your kitchen can't accommodate it, add a dedicated trash can for recycling in your garage or somewhere easily accessible from the kitchen. Try implementing the same thing at your office. Austin has been adding large recycling containers for many local businesses (including at LBI!)

- If you purchase paint for a project or to paint a room in your house, look for Low-VOC paint, which is non-toxic and improves air quality for your family.

- If replacing furniture, think about how your existing items can be reused elsewhere in your house or even in a family member's home. Can your table be painted and look good elsewhere? Can the old chair be covered and refinished for the bedroom?

- If you decide to purchase new furniture, be aware that some manufacturers are more committed than others to the Green philosophy. They use environmentally responsible processes, formaldehyde-free stains and finishes, and all natural materials. A few of my favorites are Lee Industries and Palecek.


Obviously this topic runs far and wide, and I have barely scratched the surface. Some of these suggestions refer more to waste management than to Green Building, but it's all inter-connected. My suggestion is that if we each take a moment to reflect on inefficiencies in our home, we can find ways to personally benefit from making a change, while at the same time protecting our environment.