Archive for July 2009

Small-Business 101 (or what we learned the hard way!)

July 31, 2009

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Ah, nothing better than a nice swim!
Our niece, Jessica enjoying some time (way) before heading off to Boston University… where she now attends.
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It’s summer. Who wants to think about work? We all want to rest up a bit, recharge our batteries, soak up a little sun, and enjoy family and friends. Well, it doesn’t always work out that way. Christopher is getting ready for one of his annual gift shows up in New York. This show is an event where he presents his pieces to buyers across the U.S. and beyond, which begins mid-August. Greg, on the other hand, has never been busier. His business has really taken off this summer, and new clients have been knocking on his door. Lots to do, and there is no vacation at the beach for the two of us this year.

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Ah, the beach!
Greg, on Martha’s Vineyard many summers ago.
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Being creative types, we really are not big fans of business. But, since we started our own small companies, we have learned that about 85% of our day-to-day work is running our own business. We have to keep the books, pay people, send press releases, talk to vendors and store owners, send and receive shipments… It sure is not as glamorous as people think.

We would love to have much more time to draw, more time to plan our designs, and more time to talk with other creative souls. If people understood what we actually did during our days, most of you would be bored by our jobs. However, we still love what we do, and it is worth waiting for that 15% of that valuable creative time to have fun and design!

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Over the past few months, people have asked us how we run our business. We think that the economy is making some people think seriously about starting their own business. So, we thought we could help a little, and we wanted to offer some tips that we have learned from books, from mentors, or shear luck. We hope we can offer a little advice, as we both count on each other for support. Here are some ideas:

What’s the (business) plan? We know, we know…. a business plan? What a lot of work! If you are looking to start a business, we bet that you did not want to hear this. When Christopher first started, he read the same thing… “write a business plan” and thought; “I am so smart, I can figure it out as I go along. I don’t need a business plan. That is for real businesses, not creative ones”. Creative people don’t have to do this, do they? We guess not… unless you want financial backers. So, he wrote one all the while kicking and screaming. It was the best thing he did to get his business going.

A business plan can really help you focus on to what you might want to do, how to direct your business, and how to see what you want in two, five, and ten years. We think it helps you plan a little better, as it makes you think about future or potential issues and problems before you actually face them. It is also kind of like an organized diary that helps you see in writing, what you dream or envision your business, and life to be.

Christopher looks at it every so often to remember his vision, and to stay on course when he doesn’t trust his instincts. He also edits the plan as time goes on, as goals and economic conditions change.

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Ah, youth!
Christopher vacationing at Mustang Island a few decades ago.
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It is a really great idea to talk to a friend who knows about business plans, or has resources to direct you to writing. Christopher was really lucky to have his friend, Lisa, a business mentor, guide him in writing this. A free, and great source for information is the Small Business Association. Most cities, and towns have an office where they offer free workshops for starting businesses. You can take classes, get forms, or just get advice to help you out. Most of the volunteers and workers seem to be retired people with some great advice, and sincerely want you to succeed. We love that positivity!

We also recommend finding someone to look your plan over to help you fill in those missing links. It also helps so that you do not feel like you are all alone. Starting a new venture is a lonely business unless you have some great support. So, talk to anyone who might want to listen. It is great to present your business plan to others, and is great practice to sell yourself to others.

“Here’s what you need to do…” We know people want to be helpful. We would love to help you figure out what you should do, but you are the only person who knows your goals, and desires. People want to offer help and give advice. We hear it all of the time, and appreciate any advice we can get. We welcome every bit. But, we warn you to be careful. It is so easy to get caught up in listening in every bit of advice, that you can lose focus of your goals.

If you work alone, like we do, we love to show friends and some colleagues our ideas to get an opinion. We also have to please customers and clients, or we would be out of a job. We do have to remember to stay true to our unique ideas, however. Those ideas make us who we are. You have to remember that you can’t please everyone, and if you take every bit of criticism to heart, your head will swirl.

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Ah, numbers!
Christopher’s Number plates started his business, and still continue to grow.
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On the other hand, Christopher started his Number dinnerware line thinking that they would do ok, and would have a small, limited run. People told him that they would be successful. He did not believe them at all. Now that Number line has become his best seller, and he is currently expanding the pieces to go with this selection.

Obviously, there is no magic way to figure out what is going to work, so listen to your heart and gut, and any other parts that help you in life. Try things out slowly, and don’t throw everything you have into one idea… it may or not work.

One is the loneliest number We both started our business by ourselves. Without any other help. We have to tell you that if gets pretty lonely sometimes. We miss the camaraderie of working with others who are in the same situation. It is really nice to work along with other people doing similar things. We also miss the support and resources that was offered at our jobs for other company. And, we especially miss the people who have expertise with things that we don’t know.

A good support group is important if you are starting a business by yourself. We have learned that are people just like us searching for the same support. Christopher has made friends with other dinnerware designers through the internet. Just sending off an email to someone that you admire, or someone you might have information you can learn from is easy. You’d be surprised how nice people are. Some people that he’s never met in person have helped him out in ways that have been invaluable. We have learned that people are really genuinely nice. It helps us to realize that we are not alone in this world!

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We have read a lot of stories of other business peoples struggles, gains, and creativity, and it has helped and inspired us to plod along and keep doing what we do. There have been many rough, and confusing times, but, we can honestly say that the ride is fun, and we look back at our accomplishments with pride. We know we have a lot more to learn, and a lot more goals to achieve.

Next week, we will write a little more (Business 102) about some of the things we have learned over the years. We will tell you hat we know about getting your name out there, and other things that hopefully can help someone out there!

Until next week
—Christopher and Greg

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Design Brothers this week:
Christopher thanks Knack for the fine shout out!

Happy Birthday wishes go out to our mom, Barbara, and our sister, Kelly!
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One-stop shopping

July 24, 2009

We have beaten the odds. Our blog has lasted much longer than the average. From reports, the majority of blog writers get burned out, lose interest, or just get too busy to continue writing. We have had many close calls ourselves, and almost didn’t make a week or two, or just didn’t have anything to say. This was one of those weeks.

So, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you… all of our regular, and new readers who have stayed with us, forgiven our typos, and given our writing skills some slack. We are always happy to hear from you, and always like to hear what you would like to read, or know about us. We know that there are so many blogs to read, as we read our share, and we appreciate that you have taken a look at ours.

Frankly, it is especially hard to want to get the energy to write the blog this time of year. We are deep in the middle of summer, so Greg is outside every chance he gets to enjoy Chicago’s great weather. In the Windy City, it doesn’t last that long, so he has to get out while the getting is good. Christopher, on the other hand, is holed up at his home staying close to the air-conditioner. Phoenix has been hitting the 114 degree mark, with monsoon winds making indoor life a choice. So he is busily getting new products ready, and planning for his next big gift show. The two-times a year New York show is a great opportunity to show his products to retailers in one location.

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Jumping Jack This is just one of Christopher’s new encaustic paintings on etsy.com

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While the heat is on, and work-time in full mode, Christopher finally had the time to post his small encaustic bird paintings on etsy.com. A few years back, Christopher wanted to send thank you and birthday gifts for friends, and started painting the birds that surrounded him as he was painting in his back yard. Since then, the work have become popular enough for a few galleries around the country to represent them. Two galleries that show these works include Level 9, in Cave Creek, Arizona, and 13FOREST Gallery in Arlington, Massachussets.

For those who are not familiar with Etsy, it is one of the largest sites on line to find handmade products. We both love this site, and go there quite often to find out what is going on in the handmade world. We visit the site to get inspired by some amazing creativity. There are so many products available in different categories, that it can be a bit overwhelming.

We wanted to get you started by recommending a few places to check out. We cannot vouch for the reputation of all of the sellers, but the site has a great reputation, and we know many people who buy things on etsy regularly. Here are some interesting things on the site, and sellers that we have found and liked: Happy hunting!

One of the cool things that Etsy offers is a cool search page which allows you to search for a close-by artist who sells items in your area. It is a great way to support local artists, save on shipping fees, and find out where they may be in your area.

Yee-Haw Industries

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Robert Johnson Hand-Printed Letterpress and Wood Block poster from Yee-Haw Industries

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Yee-Haw is a company that we mentioned in this blog before. Christopher had the pleasure to meet one of the principles’ Julie Belcher back in January at the New York International Gift show. He will be heading there next month for the August show, and hope to see their booth again. Long before he met her, we’ve been aware of her and her partner Kevin Bradley’s work through various design and illustration publications. They’ve won various design and illustration awards, and have done work for the likes of Ralph Lauren, and the Cartoon Network.

Their letterpress work is beautifully inspired by music icons such as Hank Williams and Lucinda Williams, bluegrass and folk music, along with southern, hillbilly and popular culture. I absolutely love that everything they do is by hand, so each piece feels and looks special. Since their studio opened in 1996, Yee-Haw has always been environmentally conscious, and is not another company that has jumped on the green bandwagon.

Yee-Haw creates their own original artwork using a letterpress, and work with linoleum and wood cut prints, with laid out lead and wood block type. They sell a variety of products t-shirts, cards, posters, and other cool things. Check this cool company out.

The Fuzzy Monkey

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Fuzzy, felted, funny, and pfersonalized Felted wool bowls from The Fuzzy Monkey

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Sharon of the Fuzzy Monkey, is the craftsperson, and stay at home mom out of New Mexico, who is currently taking a break from her job as a research scientist to make these knitted and felted bowls. These are the craziest thing ever, and we love them. We don’t know what we would use them for right now, but think they would be great holders for fruit, pencils, paper clip, or anything else that needs a soft holder. They are pretty funny, and would make a perfect gift, as you can have a name or phrase embroidered on them!

Vintage Items

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Found at The Lovely’s Although the lamp is great, we wish that the shade were included. We might have to find a way to get another shade that works.

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In addition to handmade objects, Etsy also sells vintage items. Ebay may have the market on used items, but Etsy has a few terrific spots to find some cool objects. This feature of the site seems to be growing, and is really worth look when you are looking for those hard to find vintage items.

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Great color This 1960’s aqua blue pair of lamps can be found at Fabulouness.

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Christopher loves vintage lamps ans was doing a search the other day, and found some great sites to choose from. Shops include; The Lovely’s Shop, Fabulousness, and Tent Pitcher. Some of these sites also had some cool mid-century items for sale.

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From Tent Pitcher Design While this mint green General Electric lamp has been repainted, we think it is still pretty cool.

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Gallardoworks

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Howdy These flowery note cards are paired with vellum envelopes and come in a set of ten.

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We also wanted to briefly mention our friend, Emily Gallardo, who also has a shop on etsy. We interviewed her on this blog already. Emily sells some terrific hand-made items for under ten bucks. Including the cards above. Surprise your friends with these beautiful not-found-in-any-store things!

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Etsy is pretty fun, but a warning to viewers… it is very addicting. Once you start looking for something, you will find about 10 other items that you would like. One problem that we have with Etsy is with the search engine. Sometimes when looking for a specific item, you many not get any results at all, so we recommend doing a broader search to find what you are looking for.

If you find any other stores on this site that you think we should take a look at, please let us know. We’re always looking for more lamps!

Have a great week, and happy shopping.
—Greg and Christopher

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Design Brothers this week Happy Birthday Brian!
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It’s a TV Party

July 17, 2009

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Christopher has always loved his TV.
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We admit it, we like TV. We always have. We were raised with TV. Some of our favorite shows were classic television; I Love Lucy, Leave it To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, and Bewitched. We are by no means TV snobs. You know the type of people… those who claim that they never watch it EVER! We have a few friends like that. We have kidded them, because they will spend hours looking at youtube.com, or use their TV to rent movies like Leprechaun. There is nothing wrong with that, as we watch our share of garbage, but will be the first to admit we love TV. In fact, we will go on a limb, and say that we are sometimes inspired by TV shows.

While the Internet is amazing, and getting the media buzz these days, we would still have to say that we are living in a golden age of television. In the past few years there have been thrilling shows like Dexter, The Sopranos, and Iconoclasts. There are, and have been shows that we can’t wait to talk about the next day, like The Daily Show, True Blood, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (*language warning), and there are shows that still bring new cultural references into our lives like the Simpsons (still!), The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live (still?), and the many Reality TV shows that pepper the airwaves.

Last week, when we were in Orlando, Greg found out that Bravo TV was auditioning people to be in a new reality TV show for artists. Christopher really thought about going to Los Angeles to give it a try. But, with the auditions being only four days away, there would be too much work to prepare, so he decided to watch it when it airs instead. The thought of living in a community of interesting characters, sleeping (most probably) on a bunk bed with roommates, along with the pressure to be entertaining… sounded a little exhausting for the moment. Maybe the second season?

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With Emmy nominations announced this week, we thought it would be fun to talk about television and a few of our favorite shows that we can’t miss, make us think, or are just fun to watch:

C: I have never been a slave to fashion. I really have always had a hard time wearing adult clothes in Phoenix, except for those few months when it cold enough to get out all my sweaters and those nice slacks I own. Otherwise, khaki shorts and a plain t-shirt are the norm. Do I have to wear shoes? However, I am not a fashion-illiterate. I am well aware of the big names, and some of those up-and-comers in the fashion-world. But, like most men, I am oblivious to trends. Do I wear the skinny tie again, or the square-toed shoes. Don’t ask me. Ask Greg. He knows.

So, when Project Runway started to air, I thought I would just be mildly interested, but watched anyway, to see what Bravo (my favorite channel) had to offer. The show is full of the usual little petty dramas that I guess every show needs these days, but I was surprised to see the actual creative light bulbs going off. It was amazing that this show gave me a whole new respect for the creativity of fashion designers. I think I finally realized that fashion design is thoughtful, and full of passion that I didn’t realize before.

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A design from last year’s winner, Leanne Marshall on Project Runway
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Not all of my favorite designers have won over the many seasons, but I find the process amazing. Since the show began, I have become more aware of the world of fashion. I now find myself looking at clothing details, and noting whose work interests me. I also think that Tim Gunn’s soothing persona is a welcome change from the usual TV personalities.

G: I also love Bravo TV, and anything reality. Real Housewives of..Anywhere, Top Chef, and like you, Project Runway. Flipping Out is a personal fave. Jeff Lewis and his obsessive-compulsive ways make me cringe, and worship him all in the same breath.

C: I guess we are both compulsive, control freaks, so it is natural to understand him a bit. Like Jeff Lewis, everything we do has our name to it, so we want it to be perfect.

G: Working for a good 17 years in Corporate America, I find the cultural references in The Office spot on as to how an office really works. True, some of the characters may be a bit over exaggerated (but then again, some, not so much). The realism of the office dynamics always makes me laugh and also reminds me why I escaped the “day to day” grind of office life.

G + C: We could swear that the writers have stolen some of both of our office experiences, and written them into the show. Now, when we watch The Office, we are both so happy to be working for ourselves.

C: Comedies have always been my favorite shows to watch. I can’t wait for Flight of the Conchords to return on HBO, to watch the musical interludes. I also love to watch Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock. I think I have a weird crush on them. I can always watch these shows more than once.

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The Huxtable’s home in Brooklyn
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G: Remember The Cosby Show? That was a great, funny show back in its day. Their brownstone in Brooklyn was comfortable and warm, yet sophisticated for a family of 5 kids and parents. Who didn’t want to live in that house? Even in this bad real estate market, the home must be worth a fortune. “Must See TV” for sure.

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Bill Cosby setting an 80’s trend.
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C: I loved that they were interested in art and music on their show, and talked about African-American culture in a non-preachy way. They expected their audience to be sophisticated enough to be interested. Remember… it is now hard to fathom, but everyone in America was obsessed with Bill Cosby’s sweaters. In the 80’s, it seemed like every American dad was buying a sweater like him.

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Funeral Procession by Ellis Wilson was just one of many pieces of fine art that hung in the Huxtable home.
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Then shows like Seinfeld became the benchmark of style in the 90’s. Living in New York was cool and hip again.

G: We all thought the epitome of living in New York City was to have a place like in the show, Friends. The youthful exuberance of the loft, where the show primarily took place in, was eclectic, colorful, and the place we all wanted. Having lived in New York myself, the reality was far from the fantasy. Sure they shared the spacious quarters, but can’t even imagine what the rent would be… especially on a sous chef’s and coffee house barista’s salary. But we all wanted to have a place like that. And, still do.

In fact, I believe it helped launch the “Pottery Barn” experience; inexpensive, but somewhat stylish furniture that was easy for consumers to pick and match. It is much like the old children’s clothing concept of “Garanimals”… but, for adult furniture. The bricked-walled loft felt very lived-in and homey… with subway maps on the refrigerator and books strewn about. The place had something for every twenty-something.

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Central Perk The coffee shop from the show Friends
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C: It was a very aspirational place for those people who had big dreams of moving to the big city. This imaginary Manhattan was safe and cozy. The coffee shop down the street was another safe haven that really was another room for living. I’ve never been to a coffee shop in New York that was that large! But, the set designers really understood what we all wanted was a new kind of home that was funky, yet sophisticated. You can still see that design inspiration replicated in coffee shops and bookstores today.

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An office set from Mad Men
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I think another show that sets the mood of an era, is by far my most favorite series on television right now. Mad Men (on AMC) holds a special place in my heart because of the many years of working for the advertising industry. Of course, I did not work back in the sixties, but the characters seem to have genuineness to them. Of course I would never name names, but the good-ole-boy power plays in the show reflect a little reality. Some things never change. The writing is really smart and seems true.

The sets transport me back to the sixties in a realistic way. The furniture is not overly kitschy or cliché but is very well selected. Just as people today do not have an up to the minute 2009 house, people in the 1960’s (or any modern decade) did not have the latest gadget or fad in every house. I really can believe that these are not sets, and the characters actually could live in these homes.

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A grocery store set from Mad Men
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I also like that there are long moments of quiet in an episode. A lack of any background music really makes a difference to set the mood of the 1960’s. Long before cable TV, cell phones, and the constant white noise of life, life was relatively quiet. I am really obsessed with this show, and could talk on and on about it, but won’t bore our readers any more.

G: I think I’m just as obsessed with The Closer. I know, I know…. another cop gets the bad guys in the end. I am in love with Kyra Sedgwick, (did you know she is married to (the Six Degrees of) Kevin Bacon? Brenda Lee Johnson always looks impeccable, and can amazingly solve and murder within an hour.

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Jessica Lange [1], and Drew Barrymore [2] on the set of Grey Gardens
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I also just watched an HBO film called Grey Gardens. It is a remake of a documentary about the cousins of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Big Edie and Little Edie Beale. The house that they live in before their life took a turn was stunning. It was filled with De Gournay wallpaper, fine French furnishings and beautiful color combinations. The aubergine living room has various sitting areas with graceful lines, and a mix of both masculinity and floral touches. It looks as fresh today as it was when it was first decorated. In addition, he bright, crisp and airy entryway could be in any home magazine today.

C: The art directors really can add so much to a show. The house, even in decay, has a creepy beauty. I enjoyed watching the film too, but you have to see the original documentary, which, I think, is even more fantastic. There is always more to watch!

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Alright, we can now see that we watch a little too much TV. Christopher is dying to talk about some of his favorite animation shows, and Greg could talk about some of his all-time favorite movies. They will have to wait until a future blog.

Throughout our lives, we both have spent countless hours staring at the boob tube, and we know it is a little decadent. We have kicked ourselves after watching more than our share. But, for the most part, it has entertained us, moved us, and even inspired us. And, we know you love to watch along with us!

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Design Brothers this week: Christopher’s silhouette plates were mentioned in BillBlog. Follow us on twitter @designbrothers!

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Shout outs this week: A happy birthday shout out to our friend, Robert Davis! And, congratulations to Christine and Lee with the birth of their son, Max 7 lbs 11 ounces.

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Until next week.

Greg and Christopher


Building a better designer

July 10, 2009

This week the Design Brothers would like to introduce another extraordinary talent to our readers. Greg has known Bill Scholtens for several years, and they have worked very closely on many projects. Bill is a talented architect with a keen eye for design. Recently, Bill ventured out on his own to start Elements Architectural Group, and is making quite a name for himself. If you have not heard of him yet you will sure to be very soon.

His attention to detail and his outstanding working relationship with clients, contractors and vendors is one of the reasons he is so sought after. We hope you enjoy meeting him as much as we enjoyed interviewing him.

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Photo of ‘Billy-the-kid’ at his 3rd birthday party.
That is our friend, Bill, standing on the chair with knee-high yellow socks and there appears to be a house on his shirt. Nature or nurture…..hmmm. Gotta love those avocado appliances.
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G: When did you first realize you wanted to be an architect?
B: During my freshman year of high school. I recall seeing another student carrying a large architectural drawing in the hallway. I loved to draw and wanted to find out more about these types of classes. I later met with my career counselor. I was pretty good at both science and art, so it seemed a good fit and he got me on the path to becoming an architect.

It sounds like you had a smart counselor. Who else has inspired you?
I would have to say the professors at MIT where I attended graduate school. Professors Fernando Domeyko, Maurice Smith, and my thesis adviser the late Imre Halasz, were so committed to teaching. Under their guidance, I adopted a design approach where the built environment is an extension and continuation of the natural landscape. Such great people. Such great lessons that are always with me. I try to emulate the same experience today by serving and developing the people who work in my firm.

What happened after attending MIT?
After graduate school I worked here in Chicago for architect Harry Weese for 2 years, then moved back to Boston so my wife could attend grad school. In Boston I worked for 7 years at a design-build firm specializing in single-family residential and institutional renovations. A great experience during which time I took projects from design through construction. I learned project scheduling, construction logistics, and contract negotiation, and ultimately how to build. These experiences enable me to take bigger design risks because I understand the full process.

Christopher still considers Boston home, and of course, Chicago is Greg’s home. How do the two cities differ in style?
Chicago is a great place to own a design driven architecture firm. The city has a great culture for architecture and my clients are very open to progressive design. Boston is a much older city. I regularly worked on buildings built in the 1700’s whose owners preferred to maintain a more traditional style. By contrast, an ‘old’ Chicago dates around the early 1900’s. I have really enjoyed taking my experience working on traditional buildings in Boston and blending with a more modern approach here in Chicago. Some call this style transitional. I view it more as an interesting design contradiction where nothing is transitioning; rather the 2 styles are autonomous and allowed to co-exist within the same project.

You’ve continued to design homes? What is their appeal?
I believe designing a home is one of the most difficult tasks. There are all the same technical complexities, challenges and budget constraints as in larger projects, but the process is more intimate in designing a home. Each home is unique as each client is unique. Each home has some personal features that required us in many cases to build a prototype….so in many cases a home can be more technically challenging which I enjoy exploring and solving in a poetic way.

What has been the most challenging project you have worked on?
A Lincoln Park LEED Gold rated renovation and addition de-conversion of a multi-family building to a single family home currently under construction. The project is also a pilot home for the Chicago Green Homes program. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work on such a project- it has been a lot of fun. The home design is very complex. So many features and all within a limited budget… The home has a geo-thermal tank (not wells) heating and cooling system, day-light harvesting, solar panel to heat domestic water, interior and exterior solar shading systems, rain-water catchment systems, green roofs, a passive ventilation system that takes advantage of the building’s height by creating a stack/chimney effect of air, zoning issues, historic issues, an indoor in ground swimming pool, full home automation. There is a penthouse addition on the roof. On the interior we are using locally harvested materials — including a beautiful walnut plank floor from Walnut Grove, Iowa.

The design seeks to engage the outdoor spaces — an effortless flow between the interior and exterior spaces while respecting the environment and being good stewards of our limited natural resources. We made some tough choices during the project to keep it on budget, but I believe the project going through this ‘refiner’s fire’ has strengthened the goals of the project. You can read more about this on a green design website called Green Bean Chicago.

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Concept image of Lincoln Park Residence showing large window and door openings, outdoor terraces, solar shading and rain-water catchment.
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Lincoln Park Residence construction image taken recently at a site meeting.
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We had the opportunity to work together for about a year, what made you want to go out and work for yourself?
I was in my 10th year as an architect and found that the natural progression and promotion path in an architecture firm is toward management. I really love the craft of architecture, drawing, dreaming, and interacting with clients. Having my own firm has allowed me to time to travel and explore new ideas such as the light shelves shown on the Lincoln Park residence. The challenge is there is a 12’ wide piece of glass. How do we keep the hot summer sun out, allow the winter sun to warm the room and harvest daylight all year. So we created a 3D computer model of the home, set it in Google Earth and were able to study the sun moving across the home. This led us to discover that if we put a reflective roof on the sunshade we could bounce daylight through the transom glass deep into the room across the ceiling. By working for myself, I have the opportunity to engage more fully in these processes.

We had the privilege of working together recently on a North Shore home renovation. Can you talk about it a little?
I think a great architect is a great listener. This is something I aspire to. My first meeting with the client was at their home. They couldn’t decide whether to renovate, move, or tear down the home and start over. After walking through the home at length, I asked them what they liked about the home. Immediately both said ‘the pool’. I was surprised because I didn’t see a pool. To show me the pool, we went through a series of doors and rooms, out a storage room, out a door, and around the corner was this great pool. It was then I discovered that the home was backwards and proposed we keep the home, reorder the spaces, expand it, and open it to the great yard and pool. They were hesitant at first, the idea a bit radical. It is now complete and really a before/after success story.

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North Shore Residence back yard: before [1], and after [2].
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North Shore Residence living space: before [1], and after [2].
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kitchen

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North Shore Residence kitchen: before [1], and after [2].
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How do you see your firm growing and changing?
I would love to continue to develop a deep residential client base. I intend to do this by offering high quality, unique design work, and interacting with clients, co-workers and collaborators with care, love and integrity. I believe great things happen when you treat people as you like to be treated.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who deeply valued his faith, family, and friends. Thanks Greg for taking the time to speak with me. Go Design Brothers!
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To reach Bill please contact the following;

ELEMENTS ARCHITECTURAL GROUP Inc
205 Superior Street Oak Park IL 60302
tel 312 363 8175 fax 708 848 4751
wscholtens@elementsarchitects.com

Enjoy your week!

Greg & Christopher

Design, American style

July 3, 2009

As we write this blog, we just got the news that Michael Jackson has died. Up until that moment, we had forgotten what a talent we had in our midst. Sure, his fame got in the way of his genius, but we often took his music for granted. We thought he would always be around, and he was around for the majority of our lives. We grew up with him and loved that the Jackson 5 grew up not too far away from our hometown; in Gary, Indiana . When we were kids, we even laughed that as young boys that he and Greg looked a bit alike. They had the same hair back then.

Michael Jackson’s talent and life could only be an American story. He and his family had big dreams, and worked hard to make those dreams come true. It is a spirit only possible in this country. Like it or not, we Americans, are defined by celebrities, and other icons like baseball, apple pie, hot dogs, American flags, automobiles, Levi’s, McDonalds, and Elvis … all symbols of ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit in America. These are symbols defining our culture and how we are viewed throughout the world.

With the 4th of July holiday upon us, we began to reflect on American style, and how they affect our design sensibilities. Here are some of our thoughts on some great American icons and inspirations.

Oh, say can you see

Of course, there is nothing that brands the U.S. like the American flag. It is the definitive trademark and logo for all we stand for. Stars, stripes, red, white and blue are simple symbols, but say a lot. We both are inspired by this icon, and love when designers use the flag respectfully to show American spirit.

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At the
International Antiques Fair, this past spring, Greg ran across these vintage flags and was eager to incorporate these into a design esthetic.
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Generally flags are only displayed outside for special holidays, but we love when flags are proudly displayed inside the home, year round. These flags with their vivid, simple colors could work in either a very modern or very traditional setting. They would look outstanding in a beach house, which has a mostly white décor. Red, white, and blue are a classic combination that always livens up a space, makes it more inviting, and always seems to work.  But if these colors are a bit too strong for you, more subtle versions of this color scheme can work too… pale blue, or lavenders with reds and pinks along with cream used as a back drop work very nicely.

BIG flag

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Greg changed the art work in his home to show how a flag can set  the mood of a room.
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Several weeks back, while Greg was taking some photos of the retailers in his neighborhood, he ran across this club style chair upholstered in an American flag. This would be a great addition to a boys’ room, or a living room in a summer cottage. What an amazingly bold statement!
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America the Beautiful

The flag may be the logo of America, but the highway is the living, breathing image of the U.S. At some point in their lives, most Americans dream of getting in a vehicle and driving across the country, and seeing the Grand Canyon, the Florida Keys, New York City, and everything in between. Cars are; well, as American as cars. The open road has always been exhilarating to the American male (and female) psyche. The excitement of traveling from state to state, or city to city in a sleek Chevy convertible had most young boys’ heart’s pumping. It is always fascinating to think about life on one of the all American great inventions — the open road.

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The Grand Canyon last October A view from the North Rim on a cloudy, but (always) beautiful day.

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Imagine getting on the road with the windows open, or the top down.  Don’t forget to bring plenty of music! You’ll need your traveling mix tape to include some great Americans; Bruce, Elvis, Patsy, Ella, Stevie, Willie, Johnny, and of course, Michael. It would be nice to stop and eat fresh fruit from a stand or at a small town diner, and see Monument Valley. Ah, but we digress.

While Christopher finds cars beautiful and necessary to living in Phoenix, he always wanted his road trip to be in an Airstream trailer. The car itself never mattered. Since he was a boy, he has always been in love with that “silver-bullet” on wheels. Living on the road is probably more glamorous in a dream, but someday, you may find Christopher selling his dinnerware door to door out of his Airstream. We can all dream right?

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Small, smart, and ready to go The Airstream Sport. Just one of many designs.
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Designed by Wally Byam, out of his southern California garage, the Airstream was a success during the height of depression. The American road was new, and the lust to get out and see America began. The company saw some rough times, but survived thanks to its clean, beautiful, and thoughtful design. We don’t see many Airstreams on the road any longer, but when we do, we have to stop and admire as they whoosh by.

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Both of us have always believed in the mantra “K.I.S.S.” “Keep it simple, stupid”. In fact it is written above Christopher’s desk.  American designers like Wally Byam inspire both brothers to cut out those unnecessary frills. Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated. Like the American flag, beauty is found in its simplicity. So however you display your American spirit, keep it simple and please be safe this holiday weekend.

We wish you all a wonderful, safe Fourth of July holiday.

Cindy & Larry

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Our sister Cindy and her new husband Larry, Congratulations!
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Design Brothers this week Greg is mentioned in the July/August issue of Chicago Home and Garden magazine.  Also this week Greg and Christopher are traveling to Florida for our sister’s wedding.
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Until next week.
Christopher and Greg