How To Safely Store A Valuable Car When There's No Room In The Garage

I bought my first car when I was fifteen years old.  My dad had it dragged back to our garage, and I spent the next year – until I was old enough to drive – taking the car apart, fixing it, and eventually putting it back together again.

But since the garage attached to our suburban Columbus home held only two cars, that meant someone’s car had to stay outside.

That arrangement probably won’t work at your house, but if you’ve got more cars than garages, what can you do?

REmodel; REnovate; REstore; What's the Difference?

Clear communication between owner, contractor, and Architect is critical to a successful home design project.  Agreement on some simple definitions is a good place to start.

"Remodeling" is often broadly used to describe any kind of change to an existing house.  Technically it's more accurate to say that to remodel means to change the character of a house or a portion of a house.

So when you convert a den into a master bedroom you're remodeling the den; when you combine a kitchen and dining room into one large eat-in kitchen, you're remodeling the kitchen and dining room (this is an extremely popular type of project in our office right now!).

"Renovating" is a much more specific term.  It means, quite literally, to make new again. An out-of-date kitchen, updated with new finishes and fixtures, has been renovated.  Replacing old windows with new ones is a renovation project.

"Restoring" a house is sort of the opposite of renovation - instead of updating, you're making the house like it was before (i.e. you can do a historic restoration but not a historic renovation).  Even if you convert existing spaces back to their original use, you're still restoring the original rooms.


Three similar terms, three different meanings.  I remember them this way:

Remodel: changing the use of a space or spaces
Renovate: make a space new without changing its use
Restore: return a space to its original use, and/or return a space to its original character

What do you think - how do you use these definitions?  What other "RE" terms apply to home design?

This Window Could Save Your Life

Do you know what an “egress window” is?  If you’re building or remodeling a home, you should.

Houses can be dangerous places.  They’re usually built of wood and other flammable materials, they’re full of electrical wires, and the people that live in them sometimes forget to turn off the stove.

Which mean every now and then, they catch fire.

If you’re home when that happens, you might be able to get out quickly…assuming you’re awake, or assuming your smoke detectors wake you up in time, or assuming the smoke doesn’t trap you in your bedroom.

But what if everything doesn’t go just right and you wake up to find the fire’s right outside the door of your second-floor bedroom?  What if you’re overcome by smoke before you can escape? How are you going to get out?

How To Measure the Area of Your House

One of the most confusing and misleading metrics in the home building and home selling business is area - the "size" of a house.

The problem is that there's no adopted standard - everyone measures it differently. There has been a move in the last few years to create a universal standard like the one architects use (specified in AIA contracts), but it isn't mandatory, and isn't yet widely used.

Many state boards of real estate specify a process to measure house area, but it's a recommendation, not a requirement.  So "house area" means different things to different people. 

The one thing that is always true is that area is never measured from the inside of the walls - the area of a house always includes all wall thicknesses interior and exterior.

Be "The Boss" of Your Home Design

“The rangers had a homecoming in Harlem, late last night
And the magic rat drove his sleek machine, over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl, sitting on the hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo lane”

The rhyme in the first lines of Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” is subtle and complex, but there’s a balance and flow to the verse that helps make it one of the best in rock ‘n roll.

Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”, on the other hand, is simple, straightforward, and the short lines rhyme easily:

“Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don't know where it's flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going”

Both songs are appealing in their own way – one is simple and symmetrical, the other is balanced, but asymmetrical (and one’s a whole lot easier to sing along with!).

Houses can be that way, too. The classically-styled homes we’re all familiar with (see below) are often perfectly symmetrical. Their appeal is simple and easily understood – it’s no wonder American neighborhoods are filled with them.

5 Great Built-In Ideas for Your Home Office

A big home office used to be a fairly common room in the homes I’ve designed, back when “working from home” required a separate, private room.

That’s not the norm these days – with laptops, tablets, and home networking in most houses, Mom and Dad can get work done from almost any room.

But the home office hasn’t disappeared completely…it’s just taking up a lot less space.  Sometimes it's a much smaller room, and sometimes it's a wall of custom built-in cabinets and shelves, like the ones in these RTA Studio projects:

Tucked in a corner of the family dining area, and just off the kitchen, this desk/home management area helps keep this family's daily activities organized.