Friday, July 5, 2013

A Short Guide to a Happy Home

A few years ago, the American Institute of Architects ran an ad saying that if you have problems at home, you should consult an Architect.  While I don't subscribe to the idea that an Architect can or should solve a domestic dispute, I have learned a thing or two about how a home can be designed to enhance the quality of a family's life.  Below are a few of the things that I believe to be true about what makes a great and happy home:

1- Smaller houses make for tighter knit families - There was a time in America when a two bedroom home was common for a four person family.  The parents were in one room and the kids were in the other.  Kids did homework at the kitchen table while dinner was being made.  There was one TV in the whole house and the family room was used by the entire family.  Although it seems that many Americans desire a larger home, smaller homes actually create better environments for families to stay closer.  When Sarah Susanka developed the 'Not So Big House' concept (which argues that a smaller home of higher quality yields a better lifestyle than a larger home of less character) people latched onto it with resounding approval.   If you want to have a relationship with your kids and your partner, you have to live among them, not in the vicinity of them.

2- You need less than you think - Every year my wife and I do a complete inventory of our stuff.  If any of our stuff hasn't been used in the previous year (whether clothes or possessions) we either donate or sell it.  This ritual has made us very aware of what it is we actually need to survive.  And although we are by no means minimalists, you start to understand that the best things in life aren't things.  It also keeps us in check with respect to how much our kids need.  Your stuff can weigh you down.  Less stuff means less stress. 

3- You'd be amazed what you can get done when you're not watching TV - now before you freak out, I'm not advocating you get rid of your TV.  What I am saying is that it doesn't need to constantly be on in the background regardless of whatever else is going on.  With DVR and On Demand, you can pretty much watch your shows whenever you want.  So instead of hitting the couch for a solid block of time each night, dedicate one or two nights to catching your shows and use the other nights to do things that are productive.  It's also good for kids to see that you don't need to be watching TV every night.

4- Your home will never be finished - Whether you move into a new home or an old one, there will always be work to do.  That being said, don't sweat that weekend project that takes six months to finish.  Your home is an ever changing tapestry of your family life.  It will never be totally clean or totally finished unless your family stops growing and changing.  And when that happens, you're probably ready for the nursing home anyway.  Focus on keeping it warm and comfortable for whoever lives there and stop obsessing over how much stuff is on your kitchen table.

Think about your favorite memories from your childhood and your home.  I guarantee they have nothing to do with a cavernous bedroom or a three story foyer.  For me, they involve things like an old lawn chair that we used as the catcher when my brother and I played wiffle ball.  Or my Dad and I playing catch for a few minutes on the side of the house while we waited for the grill to warm up.  Memories are made by people, not by objects.  A big house can be nice, but a great home is something far more desirable and much harder to achieve.  When designing a great home, make sure that you leave room for that part of the design which cannot be planned or measured - otherwise known as LIFE.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Pocono Modern Shop - Chester, NJ

In November of 2011, Pocono  Modern launched their online shop featuring a handful of original items that included reclaimed wood furniture, limited edition posters, handmade candles, key chains, and pillows.  In the following 18 months, the company was able to follow up the online site with a series of new work, two successful sales with, a highly popular ETSY shop, and strategic partnerships with small batch artisans across the country.  The success of the online shop has been fueled by items such as vintage Pyrex posters, limited edition prints by Ty Mattson, and new furniture including a custom herringbone headboard hand laid with reclaimed douglas fir.  Due to overwhelming demand, the company moved into brick and mortar retailing with a new shop in Chester, New Jersey.  The shop (designed in partnership with Kalashian Architecture and Design) features a range of new and vintage items showcasing the brands timeless modern aesthetic.  Materials include reclaimed barn wood, custom concrete counters, pine plank siding, and engineered wood flooring.  Pocono Modern has also partnered with companies that share their high quality handmade mantra including Sydney Hale (candles), Colette Paperie (cards and stationary), Rifle Paper, Printing Grounds (hand screened linens), Dot and Army (vintage linens), Sugarfina (confections), Sweet Paul (magazine), and many others.   Below are some images from the new shop (click to enlarge):

To view the online shop visit

The new shop in Chester is located at 52 Main Street in Chester NJ.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The absurdity of Autodesk - Why is Autocad so expensive?

For as long as I can remember, AutoCAD has been the standard for computer drafting programs in the professions of Architecture and Engineering.  Chances are if you own an Architecture firm, you have to buy Autocad.  There are a few other programs out there, but none of them have the universal acceptance of AutoCAD in the industry. 

Since I own an Architecture firm as well as many licensed copies of AutoCAD, I can tell you that it is not cheap.  A fully functioning version of AutoCAD will cost you between $4-5K.  They have a lighter version called AutoCAD LT that will cost you about 1/3 of the full price, but has less features.  Now I don't know if that sounds expensive to you, but I can tell you that $5k per seat is really hard to justify, especially if you are starting out. Here are some things you should know about AutoCAD if you are thinking of buying a copy anytime soon:

1- You have to buy AutoCAD through an authorized reseller. This is so that they can control the price and prevent discounting.  You can't buy it on Amazon.  You can't buy it on EBAY.  In fact, if EBAY catches you trying to sell a legal copy of AutoCAD, they will take down your listing as fast as they can find it.  I don't know if AutoCAD has a government lobbying group but they protect the sale of that product like no other piece of software I've seen.

2- Once you buy from a reseller, they will never leave you alone.  I think it's part of the contract they sign, but I literally had a reseller calling me weekly about upgrading my package to the new version before the new version was even out.  Which leads me to my next point.

3- There's always a new version of AutoCAD that makes your old version useless.  One of the things that I can't stand is that they keep enhancing the file extension on your drawing files, so that if an engineer saves something on AutoCAD 2014 and you have Autocad 2011 you won't be able to open it.  At least make a converter or something!  This is how they get you to keep upgrading.

4- Your AutoCAD depreciates faster than a new car.  If you purchased AutoCAD 2011 three years ago, it is currently worth about 30% of what you paid for it. So imagine you paid $4K for a piece of software and when you go to upgrade to the new version and they charge you another $4K.  This is because the new versions get more expensive and they devalue the older one.  Again, thanks.  

5- The real reason AutoCAD is so expensive----drumroll please---to offset the cost of all the pirated copies.  I actually had a software sales person tell me that Autocad would be cheaper if people didn't steal it.  So basically everyone who buys AutoCAD and does the right thing is paying the price for those who take it for free?  Sounds like health insurance. 

So what does all this mean?  It means that as soon as a company writes a decent drafting program and makes it affordable then people will leave Autodesk faster than a speeding bullet. It's only a matter of time unless Autodesk gets human and starts treating its customers with some respect.  After all, a copy of Photoshop is around $700.  A copy of Office is half of that. There's no reason that AutoCAD should be $5K.  Unless it comes with free health insurance.  Now that's a concept I can get behind...