Tag Archives: symmetry

San Francisco: Fire Escapes

So on my recent trip to San Francisco, I got the idea in my head that I would take some series of photographs of things that I found in abundance, with variety and that I really liked to look at (and look for!) around the city.  My first theme?  Fire escapes, of course!  They are everywhere, especially in the downtown area.  Some of them are so ornate, I caught myself wondering if they were really up there for function, or just because they look so darn cool on the side of a building!

Here are some of my favourite photos, given an old-timey feel thanks to the ever fantastic instagram:

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Art Deco Inspiration

It’s been a while since I last posted.  I really felt like I was getting into a rhythm there for a bit…  Oh, well.

Lots has been keeping me busy lately.  A recent project is an redesign of the kitchen in a very charming, and very unique, Art Deco period home here in Victoria.  When doing some of the research for design inspirations, I found a few images that really knocked my socks off.  While Art Deco isn’t really a style that I gravitate to in my own taste, I can really appreciate the aesthetic and the huge momentum behind this style.  One of my favourite finds during my research on Art Deco and influences was the S.S. Normandie.

The SS Normandie was a French ocean liner – the fastest and largest passenger ship on the seas when it was launched for service in 1935.  The interiors were luxuriously appointed in the Art Deco style, and many of the passenger spaces on board the ship served first-class passengers from both France and the United States.

French architect Roger-Henri Expert was in charge of the overall interior decor.  The many grand spaces on the ship reflected both the Art Deco style of the times, as well as highlighting the glory of the largest and fastest ship in which they were appointed.  The stylings were modern and triumphant – a celebration of modern man’s conquering the seas and of the impressive advances in technology during this time.

The first class dining room used repeating geometric shapes and motifs, typical of Art Deco, to create a grand and visually dynamic space, likened to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.  The repetition of strong vertical lines creates an impression of height and of dynamic strength, both important underlying dynamics represented by Art Deco.  The lavishness of the design is both a nod to the abilities made possible by advances in technology, as well as a reaction to the severity of WWI.

Personally, I really love the repetition of the lighting in this room, especially the enormous “floor chandeliers” that line the walls and echo the shape of the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  The stepped form is reminiscent of  many art deco buildings, including the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.  Art Deco on the whole relied on repeating motifs, and this repetition of form wasn’t strictly limited to any one facet of design during the time; many common Art Deco motifs can be found on the exteriors of buildings, as elements of interior design, in fashion and jewelry, in household items such as lamps and radios, and in the design of cars and other modes of transportation.  A shape or motif used in the design of a skyscraper can be found applied to a light fixture on an ocean liner as well.

I really found my research into this era fascinating, and it really helped inform some elements of the design of the kitchen I’ve been working on.  The pattern on the countertop, flooring, cabinetry details and hardware all have some element that speaks to the Art Deco style while finding a place in a modern, functional kitchen.

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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: 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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