Home Design: Cheap Chic
Missed the Monday posting due a family matter, but saw this article on the Professional Builder website. This is the type of stuff I like. Good design elements without a lot of money
Home Design: Cheap Chic
I usually post on Mondays,but I have been playing IT guy instead of architect. Last Friday my internet went out. Being a one man office the one word I can use to describe what it felt like with no internet was "isolation".
I forgot what it felt like not having "always on" internet. I do remember the sound of the dialup modem and I can understand having to login to look things up, but what about email? I have become so use to just turning around looking for new emails, I find it hard to think I would have to login to get them back then. I can not remember the last time I sent a letter to a business associate or consultant,
I decided after the internet was down that I would just turn around and continue with my AutoCAD on my work machine, but many times while working I would try to default to the internet. I need to convert these CAD files to PDFs and email them to my consultant, then it was "Oh, yea I can't do that, no internet". I may be working on a section and wonder what thickness plywood I need to use, so I'll just Google it "Oh yea, I can't do that with no internet". I would be listening to some music (I still can do CDs!), and wonder how old the singer was and thought I'll look that up on Wikipedia, then "Oh yea, I can't do that with no internet. It really got to be a pain after a while.
Being somewhat technically literate, I think I know the procedure to check these things out. 1) unplug both the modem and router. 2) Plug the modem back in and wait for it to come back on. 3) Once the modem it back online, then cut the router back on. This did not work. I could get the internet back but only for about 20-30 mins at a time. So after it finally when out completely on Sunday afternoon I called Time Warner Cable and they said someone would be at my office between 8AM and Noon. I know if I was told that and they were coming to service my house they may show up about 1 PM. To my amazement, the TWC tech was sitting at my door at 8AM.
He was a great technician and an extremely pleasant guy! He replaced just about everything including my modem. He was here from 8AM till about 9:30AM. He had everything running smoothly so he left, but told me to call him if there were any issues. 30 mins later I had no internet. He tried to access the modem from his truck and was informed it was unavailable. He came back about 11AM and he was stumped. He then installed new modem #2. He sat here in my office an monitored my service until about 12:30 PM. He wanted to replace the line from my office to the outside, but it ran through the ceiling of the vacant tenant space next door. Fortunately my landlord is also one of my best clients. So I got a key and today another techie came by and replaced the cables from my office all the way to the box outside. Shortly after he left I had very slow speeds, but never lost internet connection. As time has progress through the day the connection speeds have improved.
I know that I am dependent on the internet. I am an android / Google / Chrome, kind of guy. I do own a Chromebook. I realize I spend most of my online time in my Chrome Browser. I use gmail, Google Keep, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google +, Google Maps, Google Drive, and other programs like Feedly, Facebook, Weebly and Pocket none of which work unless I am online.
Just like I know I can always got back to drawing on my parallel bar in candle light if I had to, it is nice to know without the internet I can still keep drawing because my AutoCAD in located on my local hard drive. I love having stuff in the cloud, but decided that if I had a cloud based CAD program, I would have been up a creek this weekend without any internet access. So I say to you, that as much as I like all these other cloud based program, I really don't see me ever switching to a cloud based CAD service (AutoDesk) if it goes that way. It would just be taking too much control of my means of living and that is something that makes me uncomfortable. That's my two cents.
OK, this is a spur of the moment reactionary thought. Just read Bob Borson's latest post from his world famous "Life of an Architect" Blog. Bob makes comments about doing the fun stuff "design" versus doing the not so fun stuff "building envelop detailing". This is a common attitude among many architects. Bob as usual, wrote an excellent post and it got me thinking. Through my 35 in the architectural profession, I always heard how "design" was the fun part of architecture and construction documents were the boring part of the profession. I never really separated the two. The design part was just the beginning and the construction drawings were just the ending part of that stage of the project. I consider it just as much of a challenge trying to figure out the specific details of what you want built as struggling to start from ideas and verbiage and create a form on paper. If designing is the fun part, but doing the drawings to put the specific ideas on paper and work out all the details is the undesirable part, how in the world do some architects like to take their design ideas down to the level of creating the furniture that goes into their buildings? Broad swipes of fat pens do not define a chair without the detailed drawings, so I would think you want to show exactly how you want the chair built. Wouldn't that desire also apply to your building or am I just missing something here? I tell clients jokingly, when asked what I do for a living, that I "draw pictures". In reality I build my building in my mind, as I can't draw what I don't know how to build. I would find it embarrassing as an architect to go out in the field and have someone ask me "How the hell am I suppose to build that?" and have my response be "I don't know" I may not draw the best method and I may not draw the fast method, but be sure what I draw can be built. We are always designing from preliminary designs to construction documents. We are problem solvers and regardless of what we are doing we are just solving puzzles, but on many different levels. I really do enjoy doing construction documents. Am I one of the few?
We as architects think with our creativity that we should be good at a lot of things. I am sure some think they can be master chefs and some think they can be the next picasso, but we know that is not always the case. As an architect it is expected that we can sketch. Sketch I can, sketch well I can not! I am too technical so when lines aren’t just right, it bothers me. I also determined I did not have the patience to sketch, so SketchUp is more to my liking. I know some feel the same way about taking pictures. Some of us think we can “see’ the photos just like a professional and some can not. Probably the best and most impactful comment I heard about photography is that good photographes “Make a good picture, they don’t just take a good picture”. To me this means they conceive the image prior to taking, put themselves in the best position to get the composition they want and post process if necessary to recreate that image they had in their head. I like taking pictures and although I don’t get out enough to do it, I think it is a creative and fun process. Can I take the same quality picture of a building as a professional, probably not, but I can take one good enough I would be proud to show someone.
I have more cameras than one should legally be able to keep. In this post I what to show you a few and explain what I use them for and then tell you the camera I think is the best for me, the architect, to have.
My first camera is my Canon SD1400 IS. This is a great camera to carry around just to take anytime photos. I use this camera when I go to job sites. It takes really nice pictures and fits in your pocket. I would say this would be the everyday camera people use to carry before they started using their cell phones. When I go to the job site I take many pictures. You never know what your missing until you get back to the office. This camera has never let me down. It takes great pictures and with this SD1400 in your pants pocket you hardly notice it is there.
My second camera is my Samsung WB250F. I thought this thing was the “cat’s pajamas” when I bought it. I think I got it off of Woot.com for $99. It has a lot of bells and whistles. It does panoramas, it has built in filters, it even has wifi built in. So you can take pictures with it and connect the camera to a wifi service (starbucks or McDonalds) and send pictures directly to the internet, no PC required. You can wirelessly send pictures directly to your android phone too. It is a very nice camera, but the images are “soft”. For taking pictures to put on your website these images are just not sharp enough. I now understand what the reviewer’s meant with they called it a “fun” camera.
Having had a 35mm camera in high school and college (a Minolta SRT 101) I knew from past experience the lens I would need to take pictures of buildings. The lens you need is a wide angle lens, so having a camera that allows you to swap lens is a big plus. So I purchased an Olympus PEN E-PL1, which is a micro 4/3 camera, and you can get different lens for it. I didn't feel I was up to a DSLR and this camera cost much less. There is a wide angle adaptor for the stock lens that you can purchase and it does well enough that It serves me well. I never take this adaptor off and use it frequently.
I got a bug up my fanny and made an impulse buy to purchase a DSLR. I wanted one mainly to do HDRs. (see about HDRs here). The more frames you can take for your HDRs the better you image may turn out (but not necessarily). Most cameras take 3 brackets per snapshot. 3 images automatically with 3 different settings. The DSLR, Pentax K-10, will take 5 images automatically. I have had this for a while, but only taken test shots with it.
So what I wanted in a camera was one that would take a great quality picture, unlike the Samsung. I wanted one that would take AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) for HDRs, unlike the SD 1400. I finally wanted something that was pocketable, unlike the Olympus and Pentax. What I finally settled on after a great amount of research was a Canon S110. This camera takes great quality images. It has AEB for my HDRs and it’s size is inbetween my SD1400 and the Samsung. This camera give me manual control and has specs that will let you take great low level light pictures. By far it is my favorite camera of the punch. The only drawback is it has a fixed lens, so if I am traveling and think I will need the wide angle lens I just drop this in the camera case with my Olympus and I am good to go! I think it is nice to have a camera on your phone, but I do not think the camera’s can take the same quality of my S110 and it is small enough that it really isn't a burden to carry. Highly recommended. I did buy my S110 on Ebay used. I did not want to spend my money on the latest and greatest, but I did have certain specs that I wanted.
After a very slow start to the year, I needed to rethink about getting some new clients in my office. I have never really thought of my website as a “client getter”, to me it was more of a resume online. I have always thought of myself as a tech savvy person, but I am no coder. I had a website in the past that was hosted by a local friend and I used Microsoft Frontpage. I always struggled with it, as I could never get things to look like I wanted. I had published a newsletter for our local AutoCAD user’s group many years earlier using Publisher. I was looking for something as simple as Publisher and Frontpage wasn’t it. I was informed by my local host that the “frames” in Frontpage were no longer going to be supported, so I needed to find another Web Site program. Frames just set up a grid on the web page for me that allowed me to place text or pictures in a organized manner. It was the compromise I had found that allowed me to use Frontpage. I looked for a long time, but never really found a replacement.
I follow many technology people on the web. Most are survivors of “The Screen Savers” from the old Tech TV. Many have gone on to work for big name companies and some ended up starting new internet networks, such as Revision 3 and TWiT.tv. These new site got advertisers to support their new networks and Squarespace (http://www.squarespace.com/) was one of the sponsers. I had a squarespace account for about 12 months and never put up a site. I tried, but I must have had a mental block because for an easy “drop and drag” / no coding required site, I never could figure it out. I think I got an account for about $8 / month. At the time they were a brand new service and I got an offer code from TWiT. Unfortunately it was a waste of my time and money. I know they advertise big time on many of the tech sites I visit and sponsor many of the videos I watch. I really don’t have anything bad to say, but I didn't get it.
While reading my late and great Google Reader feeds (I have moved on to Feedly.com - Highly recommended) one day I saw an article on Weebly (www.weebly.com). Strange name - "weeblies wobble, but they don’t fall down" (I know it's really weebles). They give you two free sites with certain limitations. I played with it for a week or two and decided to joined. It may not be robust enough for some, but it was easy enough for me to use. I needed to have a presences on the web and this site would allow me to do have one. I signed up for a Pro account, which gives me 10 websites. I only need one, but given the availability of ten sites I am sure I can figure out something to do with the rest of them. I paid $71.80 for 24 months or $3 / month for all 10 potential sites. I need the Pro account so I could use my own domain name, www.barch.com, otherwise it would have been www.barch.weebly.com.
I gave one site to my son, www.arphotecture.com (architecture + photography). I came up with that name because I have used arcadtect (architect + CAD) for a long time. I have the domain names www.arcadtect.com and www.arcadtecture.com, the latter I use for this blog site, which is also a weebly site. Weebly has a template for blogging sites. I use one for the duplex that we now rent, but lived in for 14 years. www.929shadylawnroad.com. I don’t do much bid work, but within the last 12 months I was taking the bids on a project for one of the developers I work for and it got to be a pain the butt answer the phone for all the subcontractors who wanted the bid list of GCs. So I set a site up with the bid list. I then left a voicemail message that included “if you are calling for a bid list for the project please go to www.bidlist.weebly.com. The subs would call once and then they stopped calling a second, third, fourth, and fifth time desperate to get the names of the GCs prior to the bid deadline. I thought it was a pretty good specific use of a web site. I could do multiple bid lists on the site because you can password protect the access to each web page.
I recently have met with some potential new clients and realized that I have been in business for over 25 years and my site didn't represent nearly enough of my projects. There are no award winners in there, but It is nice to let people know what you have done. So as I write this I am trying to make a major push to add more projects. It can be a pain the behind having to go back through all the pictures I have and to find decent pictures to post. Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming and I need to take a step away. I realize if I am going to make a push to get new clients that filling the webpage with projects is a priority.
Weebly lets me do everything I need to do for my site. Like all sites they have pre-built, but modifiable templates. If you can code you can add it to your site. They have a fairly large selections of templates and one of the nice things is you can create a site with one template and then choose another to see what your site would look like in that template. It automatically transfers the information. You do not have to start over if you change a template. Weebly handles text, photos, and videos without any problems. It has a pre-built contact form. It can handle ecommerce if you want to sells something (books and such). You can add scrollable forms, so you could put a template of your contract on there for just viewing or downloading. I obviously really like the site.
The only other web site service I have seen some good press on is
www.Wix.com . I really don’t know much about it but I did find an article that compared Wix and Weebly (http://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/wix-vs-weebly-which-website-builder-is-better/)
If you need to set up a website and you want something that is easy and will give you a professional looking site, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money. One other thing is Weebly will give you statistics of the number of page views and the number of uniques views which is something we are all interested in. It nice to know if someone has looked at your site. I personally recommend Weebly.
A self employed architect. Office of one.