I Have Seen the Light!

I put in hundreds of lights in every home I design, mostly in the kitchens to accentuate every glorious crumb on the counters, but sometimes in the dungeons, too (occasionally the homeowners want to clean out some of the dank or buff the chains).  My go-to fixtures use halogen, MR16 bulbs because of their gorgeous light quality. But, LED’s are taking over the world, and while they are much more energy efficient, the light quality tends to bluish and sickly, even the supposedly “warm” bulbs. They sometimes make me long for fluorescent. A part of the light spectrum is missing.

I received a new bulb sample today, the Soraa. It set me back $20. But, finally! I have found the holy grail of lighting, an LED light bulb that not only doesn’t make me bilious, but that I can honestly say I like.

If you have any Low Voltage, MR16 light fixtures in your home, I recommend you give these a look (literally).

Where Have All the Models Gone? A Lament for the Past.

Models have gone the way of the buggy whip, the Dodo bird, and my plaid bell-bottoms. No, I’m not talking about fashion models. They’re still around, just skinnier. I’m talking about physical, architectural models, crafted from cardboard, wood or even metal. They have all but vanished from the architectural world, supplanted by computer models like the one below.

Computer model of a modern kitchen

Why? You might guess it’s because of the time and expense involved in building a physical model. And you would be correct – I have never built a physical model of one of my kitchen designs due to their limited budgets, but I always construct a computer model.

Yet, there are a myriad of other reasons. For example, with a computer model, the architect is not limited by the modeling materials. Further, it is quick and easy to digitally experiment with various ideas and to use the model as part of the design process rather than merely as a finished representation of the building. Limitations of shape and form are nonexistent. And, let’s not forget the ability to “walk” inside the model. Now, that’s cool!

Another limitation of physical models is their inability to accurately convey color and texture. Typically, additional renderings are also required incurring even more expense. The wood model below is excellent for describing form and massing, but is incomplete without the associated color renderings.

I’m not the least bit nostalgic over the loss of my drafting table, parallel bar, T-square and triangles… and if I had to choose between computer models and physical models, the computer wins hands down. But a piece of me still yearns for lovely physical models. Today, the only time we build them is for projects with large budgets or for clients to display.

It’s Like Being a Kid Again. The Best Multi-Colored Pencil (and Pen)… Ever

Pentel Pen and Pencil

Is it the most beautiful? No.
Is it classy? No.

This pen is all about function (and memories of that 64 pack of crayons with the sharpener on the back). Need to sign a check? No problem. Color a restaurant placemat? Easy. Highlight a passage in a book? Choose fluorescent yellow, pink or orange.

I use many nice pens, but the one I carry with me every day in my sketchbook, is the Pentel Super Multi-8 PH803. Why? Because, “form follows function.”

Not much larger than a standard Pen, Pentel managed to pack in 8, yes you read that right, 8 pens or colored pencils into a normal sized barrel. You may use any combination of pens or pencils in the 8 slots.

Pentel only offers red, blue, and black ballpoint pen refills, though, so if chartreuse is your thing, you’re out of luck (unless you don’t mind customizing a refill – see below).

The colored pencils are high quality, neither dull nor scratchy. Instead of sketching with Pentel’s included black colored pencil, I substitute my favorite Koh-i-noor 4300/24 2mm lead. It’s not really necessary, but I’m likely more finicky than most.

Pentel PH803

The pen does have a couple of minor drawbacks:

  1. There is no .5 mm mechanical pencil option, only 2mm graphite, same diameter as the colored pencils. But, oddly enough, even as an architect, I never use mechanical pencils. I can’t remember the last time I used an eraser, either (it doesn’t have one, btw).
  2. The pen refills are basic ballpoints specific to Pentel. No other refills fit. I cannot express how much I loath ballpoint pens (I prefer gel ink that doesn’t skip or need scribbling to get it started). Yet, with a little effort you can customize a standard D1 Pen refill by simply trimming it with a wire cutter (you could try using your teeth, but unless you’re the tall dude from that James Bond film, I’d consult your dentist first).


The kid’s version below (Pentel Multi 8) is a third the cost, more colorful, but otherwise exactly the same functionality. You have to purchase the ballpoint refills separately because this one only comes with colored pencils. It makes a great stocking stuffer.

Pentel PH158


Another Perfect Pen

Tronnovate - Takumi Pure

What makes this pen so cool? Choices. And options. Options with choices. Options with options.

Tronnovate - Takumi Pure

  • The minimalist  Takumi Pure, from Tronnovate, a recent and astutely managed Kickstarter project, accepts every worthwhile ink refill on the planet (slight bias, here). Most importantly, it accepts the venerable Hi-Tec-C ink cartridge, the staple of my stable (write that three times, fast – without the ink skipping. My Hi-Tec-C can.).
  • Because it is constructed from light-weight aluminum (not a bit of cheap plastic anywhere), it is the obvious choice of weight conscious astronauts and long distance runners. And, tight-rope walkers.

Tronnovate - Customizable Pen Tip Length

  • The tip is adjustable (the length it protrudes from the barrel), so you can set the angle-of-attack to fit your writing preference.

Tronnovate - Removable Clip

  • It comes with two cap options (dome or flat).
  • The pocket clip is removable! I can’t emphasize how much I appreciate this option. Plus, the clip works fabulously on thick materials, like a leather briefcase or the pocket of your jeans. And, it doesn’t snag.

Tronnovate - Mix and Match

  • You can mix and match components between pens with different finishes. The black body with silver tip doubles, in a pinch, as a magic wand for your kid’s school play. How cool is that?

Tronnovate - Minimalist with Options

  • The branding is subtle and doesn’t detract from the aesthetic.

What’s most impressive? All these features come in a beautiful, minimalist design. Minimalism, by definition, strips an item down to its minimum function and aesthetic, leaving no room for customization and options. But, these people managed to break that rule without breaking it. Congratulations, Tronnovate!

The Perfect Pencil

Penxo Pencil

Often, people ask me what pencil I use to draw and sketch (by often, I mean nobody, ever). So here is my current favorite tool, recently received via Kickstarter. If you have a hankerin’ to put lead on paper, the Penxo pencil is for you. Minimalist, perfectly balanced perfection. Combine it with Koh-i-noor’s 4300/24 2mm lead for black, non-smearing goodness.

Penxo pencil

A great unadvertised feature: it’s also a pen! Simply slip a standard D1 pen refill in place of the lead.

[Edit 4/5/17: It appears the company is now out of business]

The Perfect Pen

A pen is an integral part of my life, almost a permanent extension of my hand. As such, it must feel good, write and sketch well and, of course, look beautiful. It must be a joy to use and elevate my work. It must call to me in my dreams and make me want cuddle up next to it (there’s still room for you too, Robyn). I have never met a ballpoint pen that can do this.

THIS is not a ballpoint pen. This pen incorporates the Pilot Hi-Tec-C – the most beloved, precision ink delivery system of architects throughout the world.

Pen Type-B

The pen by CW&T is Simple, Minimal, Elegant, Timeless, Solid… and most important, ages to a beautiful patina. It is not a pen to display in a cabinet for fear it might be scuffed, but one whose beauty increases with use and wear over a lifetime. It is a stainless steel and brass heirloom for your kids to fight over – but only if they eat their vegetables.