Trends Magazine Interview with Architect Tim Bjella – Modern Zen Kitchen Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota

I stumbled across this video on the web today of a penthouse loft I designed back in 2012. It’s an interview with New Zealand’s Trends Magazine that I had missed when it published. See the photos.

See more of my work at Bjella Architecture.

The End of an Era – Novelty Architecture sketches

My all time favorite sketch is… drum roll, please… a hot dog stand. Yep. Of all my sketches, this kitschy, little hot dog stand truly flips my boat, floats my world and rocks my switch (in all conceivable variations): Tail o’ the Pup – an icon of Los Angeles since 1946, and one of the last remnants of days long past. You know, the good ol’ days when buildings looked like the things they sold… otherwise known as Novelty Architecture. O.k., it wasn’t that great of an era, but still, it’s mostly gone, so show some respect.

The Pup is currently in mothballs, but slated to reopen in 2016. As befitting a work of (almost, kinda) art, Tail o’ the Pup is now a designated cultural landmark (the bar is apparently not all that high in L.A.). Greece has the Parthenon. We have a 17 foot long greasy wiener in a bun.

So why do I like it? Because it’s memorable. It’s silly. It’s fun. And, the Parthenon doesn’t make me smile. By way of context, I’m also a guy who thinks that all water towers should be painted with giant googly eyes. Seriously. That would be SO cool!

Not to be outdone, however, I’m currently working on an idea of my own. It’s a house, that looks like a shoe. Hope nobody’s already done it. I’ll get back to you on that.

Tim Bjella Sketches - Tail o the Pup

Tim Bjella Sketches - Tail o' the Pup

Tail o' the Pup

Below is another example of a novelty roadside attraction. Can you guess what type of food is served here? If you guessed Chinese, you are wrong (and probably don’t get out enough – or take-out enough).

Tim Bjella Sketches - Roadside Stand

Before you start thinking that Novelty Architecture as an art form lacks versatility and is limited to fast food stands, here is (was, actually) a famous (or not) real estate office in Hollywood, the Sphinx Realty:

Tim Bjella Sketches - Sphinx Realty

Sphinx Realty

And lastly, a long since demolished burger stand in Coulee City, Washington. A Tee Pee. Maybe they served bison burgers?

Tim Bjella Sketches - Coulee City, Washington

Tim Bjella Sketches - Coulee City, Washington

Novelty Architecture. Can’t get enough of it? See more on Pinterest .

Cheers! Tim Bjella

You call that a staircase? THIS is a staircase.

Modern Sculptural Winding Stair

Architects LOVE staircases. To us, they’re like candy, except less sticky. Ask us to design a house and we’ll probably suggest you put a staircase in every room, just so we can design a few more. A typical exchange with a client goes something like this:

“Yes, sir, of course you need a staircase in your bathroom.”

“But, but, but… it’s a 1-level house.”

“That is true, sir, but how will you get to the toilet we installed on the roof? And, you get to take the slide back down. Won’t that be fun?”

“The SLIDE????”

Modern Sculptural Winding Stair

See more of my work at Bjella Architecture.

Something Alive

Modern Kitchen with Flower Niche

I’m beginning to think that all of our kitchens should have a special place set aside for a flower – a place for something alive (but not alive like a monster or Frankenstein – unless you are into that kind of thing. In which case, call me. I’ve got some great ideas for an Evil Villain’s lair. Don’t think it will fit in your neighborhood? No worries. I know people. Bring suitcases full of money. These things don’t come cheap.

Modern Kitchen with Flower Niche

See more of my work at Bjella Architecture.

In the old man’s footsteps… Snowman Ornament – 2015 – Part 2

Ahhhhhh. The sounds of power tools and small children!

One of Beck’s buddies, Andres, came over mid-December to play with him, so instead of Xbox (mostly because we don’t own one), we went into the shop to play with the power tools. Rather than launching projectiles off the belt sander or seeing how many sparks we could make with the grinder (like on a typical Saturday night), we decided to actually build something.

After the kids received a crash course in safety, had an impromptu meeting with my attorney, signed all the requisite forms, and were blessed by a priest, we powered up the drill press, band saw and lathe (thankfully, without any significant crashing, or bleeding). I’m still, sort of, nervously shaking. The doctor says it will pass in time.

Because of my apparent obsession with snowman ornaments, we decided to each make one. Beck started out working on the lathe. That’s his snowman below. His mom thinks it’s a Christmas tree, but he and I know it’s a snowman.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

After that, he and Andres made a snowman like you see below.

But Beck wasn’t content to make a single ornament for mom, so he decided to make one for Grandma and Grandpa, too. Then another. Then another. Then… well, Henry Ford could have learned a thing or two from him. Beck went all out, or as he would say, “hard core” (yeah, we’re working on that). 18 total.

Beck Bjella Snowman Ornament 2015-6

When he finished, he was so excited that he wanted to give them the ornaments right away, before Christmas. A simple question, “Then what will you give them on Christmas day?” and, “I guess we could go to the mall shopping,” nipped that thought in the bud. Like father, like son.

“Time to learn gifting strategy, son. So, how best to give them to Grandma and Grandpa? Well, you could give it to them first thing on Christmas morning, or… you could use a little showmanship (or, in this case, snowmanship) to lower their expectations, then hit them with a sucker punch. But don’t actually hit them. Seriously. Don’t hit Grandma.” “That sounds good,” he said (anything to get back to playing Minecraft).

“So, here’s the plan: you wait until all of the other presents have been unwrapped, and just before you go off to play with yours, you tell Grandma, “Oh, I guess there’s one more. Sorry, I forgot, and it’s from me.” They will think that they weren’t getting a present from you. Then they will think that it will be just another ordinary one because you didn’t even remember it. Finally, when they open it, their jaws will drop!”

And that’s exactly how it went down (jaws and all). And, he didn’t hit Grandma.

Beck Bjella Snowman Ornament 2015-3

Beck Bjella Snowman Ornament 2015-5

See the 23rd year snowman ornament saga, part 1: Snowman Part 1

The Making of a Christmas Ornament

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what was involved in making this year’s minimal Christmas ornament (I say it’s a snowman, some say chicken, others penguin). My wife, Robyn, thinks these ornaments just appear by magic, or maybe elves (it is Christmas, after all), so this is really for her. See the rest of this year’s ornaments and read the story here: Snowman Ornament – Year 23 – Part 1

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Snowman Ornament – 2015 – Part 1

For each of the past twenty-three years I crafted a Christmas ornament for my wife, Robyn. Because of this, for twenty-three years I haven’t had to go to the mall and buy her a REAL gift (I bet you guys wish you had thought of this scam)! 😉 Let me tell you, she’s been waiting a long, long time for that new vacuum cleaner.

I admit it, I also proposed to her on Valentine’s day and married her on an even decade (1990). One less anniversary to forget and an easy calculation to remember. So, there!

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2003

The ornament is always a snowman – small (about the size of an egg), artistic and at times a bit off the wall. Typically, I craft it from wood, but occasionally metal or clay. The one shown above is a Santa snowman from a prior year.

Sometimes the ornament is locket-like with a picture inside. Sometimes it commemorates an important event or zeitgeist of the past year. Sometimes it is imbued with symbolic meaning, and sometimes it is SO DEEP the significance even escapes me. 😉 No worries though, I can usually come up with some cogent nonsense, after the fact, about how the inherent symbiotic prose creates a duo didactic metaphor for the tacit and disparate struggle between paradigms. Got that?

Anyway, some are just fun and elicit smiles. Some still cause me to tear up – like the one I made from the beads of a favorite necklace my mother wore before her passing.

This year’s snowman is old-school once again. Robyn prefers the timeless, handcrafted wood ornaments. Yet, this one is an experiment in minimalism, as well. With it, I was determined to resolve, once and for all, the question always on everyone’s mind when the snow falls, and the cause of too many sleepless nights, “What is the very essence of a snowman? How much can one strip away from a snowman and still HAVE a snowman? Conversely, and more importantly, what is the LAZIEST you can be when building a snowman?” Apparently, very lazy. Hat. Eyes. Buttons. Scarf. All gone. Listen up kids! Yep, a single ball with a carrot is still a snowman! You will thank me when you are older for all the time you saved in your youth. Now, go back inside to your video games.

Some would call this ornament simplistic, but I think it is cool! The real question is, will Robyn like it?

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

The anticipation was palpable on Christmas morning when Robyn began opening the snowman-sized present (it’s sort of a Pavlovian response after so many years). She was probably mumbling under her breath, “What did he do THIS year? PLEASE let it be… normal. Please. Please. Please…”

Pulling the ornament out of the box, she looked at me with eyebrows raised as if to say, “You surely can do better than THIS. I’d rather have a vacuum cleaner.” Of course, she didn’t actually say that, but we all know she was thinking it. She wasn’t mollified at all when I explained that this is what Apple would do if they designed a snowman ornament. You love your iPhone, right? Instead she asked, “so, where’s the body?” Good thing I made more than one ornament for her this year.

When my son, Beck, handed her the second snowman-sized box to open, she was relieved that she was getting another. “Is this the body?,” she asked before ripping open the package. Obviously, I have not done a good job managing her expectations over the years.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Turns out it was the second in a series of minimal snowman, except this time with a conical-shaped body. Snowmen don’t need to have round bodies, right?

“It looks like a chicken,” she said.

I replied somewhat stoically, “After 23 years, I’m evolving beyond my snowmen phase, right past my blue phase, and into my chicken phase. Nothing says Christmas like chickens.”

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

She was excited, though, when she turned it over to see the family picture. She loves those. “Why is there a bow between us in the picture?, ” she asked. “Seems a bit festive for a minimalist chicken.” To which I explained, the photo was taken at Santa’s Workshop and, as luck would have it, there was a giant donkey’s ass (or is that an ass’s ass?) right between us, so I thought a pretty bow would cover it up nicely. I guess I should have chosen a better place to take the photo.

The third ornament got her smiling. “Aw, that’s so cute! It has a propeller hat. You replicated our entire family with snowmen ornaments this year! This one is Beck, the conical-shaped one is me in a dress, of course, and the first one, the simple, tubby, round one is you.” “Yours looks like a chicken,” I said. O.k., that conversation never really happened, but you know we were all thinking it.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

I consider the fourth snowman in my minimal series an abject failure, being neither minimal nor well ornamented. It falls in between and lacks the conviction of either. I call this soft contemporary. I will speak no more about it.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Upon unwrapping the final snowman, Robyn said, “Now, this is more like it! I love it!” She didn’t know why, but she instinctively knew there was meaning behind this one. Or, at least it didn’t look like a chicken! I couldn’t hold the tears back as I explained its significance. It is quite personal for me. You see, our son Beck turned nine this year, and for the first eight years of his life he was a fixture on my shoulders. We went everywhere together that way. This snowman represents his passage from a child to a boy who is rapidly becoming a man. Not much longer will his dad be able to carry him or will he even want me to. It probably won’t happen until he turns thirty, but I got a head start on the ornament, anyway.

The ornament begins with Beck on my shoulders, then the top portion spins around to show us on our own… alas, forever. I will miss those days, dearly.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

See some photos in progress here: The Making of a Christmas Ornament

Read part 2 here: Snowman Ornament – Year 23 – Part 2