Category Archives: Design in My Backyard

San Francisco: Flowers

So, it’s not really keeping to my ‘design’-y theme of this blog, but I can appreciate the advent of spring just like anyone else.  It was really nice to have some sunshine and see some really great flowers around town.  There are some beautiful gardens in the city, and people seemed to find ways to get garden space wherever they could.  Living in small rental spaces for the past ten years, I can absolutely appreciate that…

So here it is, in my last instalment of series photos from San Francisco: flowers.  Enjoy!

And my favourite, a succulent crab!

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Design in my Backyard: Richardson Street

I was dog-sitting this weekend, and found some time to get out and go for a walk in Fairfield, an area of town with lots of beautifully maintained character homes, many of which have a distinct Arts & Crafts vibe that I really love.  That is where my personal taste sits – solidly in that Craftsman style of building and design.  I find it balanced, comfortable, accessible (not abstract or overwhelming) on an emotional and intellectual level, and with lots of character and detail…  All elements of design that I think are incredibly important to creating an amazing space that resonates.  In this case, Arts & Crafts is what really resonates with me.

So Craftsman style aside, there I was on my walk, and this house caught my eye.  To be honest, lots of houses catch my eye every day, and especially in Fairfield, but this one had something about it that seemed very inviting and welcoming, even on a cold February day.  I present to you, 1249 Richardson Street:

To be fair, there are some elements of this house that I don’t really love, but a lot of elements that I do.  Let’s dig in…  First thing is that I don’t really like the use of the stone on the front porch area.  In fact, the whole front porch area isn’t fantastic in my view.  I think it would be better if it were raised up another one or two steps off the ground.  The way it’s situated, I feel like someone missed a level in there somewhere and just plonked the house down without remembering to set it all at grade, or to raise it up so it feels intentional.  I think that’s a really important thing for me in design… Something that tells me very clearly that someone made an intentional decision to design or produce a home (or aspect of it) in a particular way.  I want something that feels like a very clear decision has been made.

I’m also not a huge fan of the roof over the porch area, and off the side of the house, with the second storey looming over it.  Something feels unbalanced and out of proportion there to me.  I’m also not a fan of the one random round window.  Again, give me a clear rationale for decision-making that follows through visually in the design.

I do, however, really like the cedar shakes and the stain of that siding.  It looks weathered and welcoming, and I love the corbels underneath the roof gable at the top.  I really enjoy the balance of the gables on the roof.  The asymmetrical placement adds to the casual feel of the exterior.  I really love windows with muntins, and that throwback to original wood framed windows (I currently have about five old windows sitting in storage waiting for me to make some kind of funky stained glass and mirror project out of them…  I’m a sucker for an old window!)

I really dig the front door of this house.  I like the side lites, and I love any door that balances the top half with windows and the bottom half with heavy-looking wood.  Nothing like a solid door to make one feel like home.  I like the balance of all the vertical lines in this arrangement: the columns at the porch entrance, the side lites on the door, the framing and panels on the door itself.  Even the taller-than-wider windows add to the effect.

Overall, I think this is a good example of a nicely balanced home that feels larger and lighter than its footprint probably actually is.  While there are some areas with room for improvement, I have to say that my overall impression of this home was good – I probably wouldn’t have stopped to snap a photo otherwise!

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Design in my Backyard: Dallas Road

I had a nice chat with my good friend AB this evening.  One of A’s favourite places in Victoria is right in my neighbourhood, and is a building that I really love as well.  In fact, I pass it during my evening runs about twice a week, and I always admire it:

I sadly didn’t take this photograph, because the weather has been so miserable lately (welcome to January in Victoria…), but this image of the building definitely captures what I really love about it: the brick facade, the very square architecture, all capped off by that fantastic roofline.  I mean, how can you not love that detailing??  It’s bold and traditional, but something about it says to me, “I dare you to call me modern”…  I think it’s the great contrast between the modern shape of the building – flat roof, boxy envelope, geometry everywhere – and the traditional materials – brick, roofline edge that looks like crown molding, wrought iron railing, windows with mullions.  Just gorgeous.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of the building from when they were developing and selling the condo units.  Fun! …


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Design in My Backyard: More Superior Street

Well, my last post on Design in My Backyard was also on Superior Street, just down from where I live, and this next one is as well!  Superior is just a happening place for design, I guess…  Maybe it’s more that I’m just noticing the houses that are in my neighbourhood a bit more than anywhere else.  After all, I live and shop in the eight block radius around my house, and James Bay is a pretty awesome place for some very modern design, some very (very!) Victorian houses, some gorgeous Craftsman style places and everything in between.

So today’s house is also located in the lovely James Bay, just down the street from me.

The thing that catches my attention with this house is the “fish-scale” roofing tiles on the skirt roof under the upstairs balcony.  I love it!  I have never seen the same detail on another house.  It looks to me like this roofing tile is made of some kind of metal that is going through an oxidization process – maybe a copper with a patina on it?  This is a material that continues to age with the house (especially in a wet climate like Victoria) and will add grace and charm through the years.

I like the simple style of this duplex (another duplex!) – it is elegant, but has character.  The fish-scales are a big part of that, but there are a number of other details that I think really elevate this house from nice to eye-catching.  One of those details is the use of different siding textures on the upper and lower stories.  This is something I find myself drawn to over and over.  I find that mixing up the textures and colours between stories not only adds character, but also helps a multiple-storey building from being too overwhelming as a solid bulky block of house.  In this case, the horizontal plane of the lower storey siding helps to ground the bottom half of the building, while the vertical siding on the second storey pulls the eye upwards towards the roof. Overall, this detailing scheme keeps the structure from both being a boring flat face and towering over anyone standing at the front step.

Some of the other details that I find really engaging are the transom windows – both over the front door and in the bay window.  I especially love the stained glass elements in the bay window transoms.  I feel like the inclusion of stained glass is a nod to the Victorian houses in the neighbourhood.  I also love the style of the front door, with small glass lites high enough to allow light in and allow a visual connection between the inside and outside.  I think the proportioning on the door is great, and the dark stain gives it a feeling of substance and sturdiness.  Other details that I really enjoy are the thoughtful landscaping, the path of random-sized pavers with the darker border, the elements of the rock garden with the Japanese Maple, and the modern font used for the unit numbers (also used for the street address that is not in either photo).  I really like the thought and detail that has gone into making this exterior space engaging and welcoming.  These are all elements that draw people in, and they all probably contribute to me enjoying walking past this house so often!  I think that the design elements all really come together to create an exterior that is simple yet detailed, and has elements of modern and traditional design that make it unique.

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Design In My Backyard: Superior Street

I am constantly inspired by the houses in the city I live in, beautiful Victoria, BC.  One of my favourites is just down the street from where I live:

I really enjoy the balance of colour, texture and symmetry in this facade.  My favourite part has to be the very cheerful garage doors.  The colour just adds a really eye-catching pop that grabs your attention from the street.  I drive by this house at least twice a day, and look at it every single time.  I think the front doors are really well done, too.  The carry the viewer’s eye further into the house through the use of the same colour, while changing planes.  I get a really inviting vibe from this design – nicely done!  The perfectly symmetrical front works really well for me here.  It manages to look like a cohesive house, despite the obvious fact that it’s a duplex with two sets of doors.  The bay windows add some interest by changing planes again and adding some depth, and the cedar shakes on the gable tie the whole thing back down to the brick details at the front door posts.  It looks like this house has been really well considered, with great attention to the minute details that make people feel welcome and balanced without even knowing why!

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