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Old People and Technology

This video is a bit of a rant about stereotypes.  I personally love learning new ways of doing my job faster and better.  

When I was in graduate school there was a bit of controversy over the gaining popularity of the computer as a design tool.  This was back in 1992-1996, when we were still taught drafting by hand.  A prospective student asked the head of our graduate program if SCI-Arc had a computer department- “the computer is just a tool, we don’t have a pencil department” was his response.  I still wonder what that REALLY means.  Self-proclaimed Luddites refused to embrace the new technology and waxed poetic about drawing and building by hand.  Some people used computers to generate forms, but I don’t remember any drafting software being used.  I don’t think laptops were a thing then (only one person that I can think of in the school had a cell phone, the rest of us used the pay phones by the cafe).  I do have fond memories of drafting, of my lead holders and lead sharpeners and the electric eraser that felt so high tech and finding interesting drafting dots, the way that the sharp lead buried into the paper, the wider bit at the end of each line. I also have unfond memories of sweating onto drawings and tearing the paper and smudging the drawings and erasing holes in the drawings and not lining up the drawings correctly when putting it back on the board and so ending up with a non-orthogonal mess.  Drawing the same thing over and over and over was part of the education process, I suppose.  

In my practice I gave up hand drafting for AutoCAD in about 1999, then after 17 years switched to a 3D program.  I admire hand drawing, but the computer is faster and more practical for the renovation work that I do.  I get a lot out of it and I think my clients appreciate it too. 

Some people are interested in new programs that help them get their work done more efficiently, some people want to stick to what they know and love. They believe that their _______ (phone, drafting method, AOL) has served them well over the years and doesn’t need to change. 

I believe that this isn’t a function of their age as much as their interest level and personality type.  

At 52 I’m looking at ageism as a crazy social construct.  It makes no sense!  Don’t get me going about that again.   

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8 common mistakes to avoid while renovating

Today I’ve got a written version and a video version of my advice about 8 common mistakes to avoid while renovating. Each project is different and will have custom mistakes to avoid as well- I love finding- and helping people avoid- those mistakes!

Here they are, in no particular oder-


Budget isn’t realistic

So many potential clients come to me with a very low budget.  $100,000 is definitely a lot of money, but it doesn’t go too far in construction in the Boston area.  Renovations are difficult to budget for since taking apart an existing house involves so many unknowns.  I’ve noticed that many on-line sources are completely unrealistic on construction costs. Moving one wall involves demolition, framing, plaster, flooring, electrical- and repairing the area around the moved wall.  


Hiring a contractor just based on price, especially if his price was far lower than other contractors interviewed

You are entering into a relationship with a company that may involve some stressful moments.  The relationship will definitely involve a lot of money. Hire a company that you feel comfortable with, they and their subcontractors will be spending the next 4 to 6 months in your home.  If one company’s price is far less than the other bids, look into the reason for that. Asking for itemized bids will be helpful in comparing bids and determining what might have been excluded from the low bid.  


Not researching zoning before submitting a plan

Planning a whole addition that isn’t going to be able to happen without special permission wastes time and money.  You’ll need to research setbacks, lot coverages, open space requirements and square footage maximums before designing your addition.  


Changing your mind frequently during construction

Going through a thorough planning process will help to minimize changes during construction.  It helps many of my clients to see the space in a 3D computer model as the design evolves. A few small changes during the course of construction are likely, so review the process for change orders with your contractor before construction begins, and keep track of the change orders during construction.  $6000 here and $2000 there adds up quickly.


Choosing materials that you don’t love because of a difference in price that really isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of the project

Make at least one splurge on finished materials, something you will love and be thrilled to see every time you enter the room.  I chose a 2” carrera marble countertop for my kitchen, something I fell in love with and a far cry from my planned concrete countertops.  Seeing the sunlight on the marble and appreciating its depth and glow still makes me happy 10 years later.


Ordering cabinets before finished space can be measured

The cabinet company should measure the available space after the space has been plastered and is ready for the cabinets.  At the very least, they need to wait until framing is complete. Plans and reality can differ significantly, especially if changes have been made to the plan.


Planning to live in the house during an extensive renovation

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and it depends on the nature of the renovation. If you can’t seal off the area under construction for the entire project, consider moving into temporary housing.  Renovating creates a ton of dust and debris. There will be early morning construction noises. There may be dishwashing in the tub. Setting up a temporary kitchen helps. Living on a construction site adds to the stress of the project.


Making choices based on resale

Avoid making design moves that are just odd.  Other than that, when are you planning to sell the house?  If you plan to be there for 5 more years at least, then design for yourselves.  We can’t know who the next owners of our houses will be and how much of the house they are going to want to change.

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Hoarder House episode 1

We’ve owned two houses. The first house wasn’t done until the day it went on the market and I suspect our current house will be the same. Many architects I know take on these projects as a labor of love. My husband and I fall for old houses in distress.

This is the first episode of Tales from my Hoarder House. We expect to release an episode every month. I hope that you enjoy it.