A Refined Kitchen Designed with Unrefined Materials? Yep.

Two wrongs may not make a right, but often the unrefined makes the refined. Take this kitchen, for example. The floor and eating bar are exposed concrete while bolted steel carries heavy timbers and crowns the cabinets. The countertop backsplash is a raw steel channel, in contrast with the shiny, granite countertops and finely crafted mahogany cabinets.

Something special is created from the juxtaposition of common and fine materials. By way of contrast, the unrefined materials make the refined materials appear even more so.

I love this massive center island support. You could drive a truck over it. I don’t know if it will stand up to kids, though…

Woo Hoo! Our Calabasas Home is Approved!

Los Angeles Hilltop Modern Glass House

Pop the Champagne! After an extended, protracted and strung out (not to mention lengthy) approvals process, we received our final development permit for a home in Calabasas, California (near L.A.). We garnered unanimous approvals from the Planning Department, Architectural Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council, without a single voice of opposition. Apparently this is a first for this community. If you are interested in the process, check it out here:

Watch the Planning Commission Hearing (starts at 0:29:45, I speak at 1:27:40, accolades start at 1:33:40 🙂 )

Watch the City Council Hearing (starts at 2:05:55)

The next step is to obtain the construction permit. If all goes smoothly, the new year will echo with the sound of shovels breaking ground. My thanks to the team for your heroic efforts!

Amiens Cathedral – Sketches of Our First

Tim Bjella Sketches - Amiens, France

It’s date night with my wife, Robyn, out for sushi and a movie. So, I asked her if she remembered the first cathedral we ever visited together in our travels over the years, because that is what architects talk about. That, and curling (the sport, not the irons).

For those of you on the edge of your seats, the cathedral in the small town of Amiens, France was our first. Not the biggest, not the best, but it holds a special place in our hearts. Why? Because the hotel in which we stayed that night had its very own shower in the room! We still had to walk down the corridor to use the toilet and sink, but who cares when you have your own shower.

“Say Robyn, do you remember the cathedral in Amiens?”


“You know, the one where our hotel room had a shower?”

“Oh yeah, that one. I’ll never forget that.”

Memories are funny. They often piggyback on one another and you cannot separate them.

not simply a church,
but a pathway to heaven,
God? This thing is big!

Amiens Cathedral, France

Tim Bjella Sketches - Amiens Cathedral

Tim Bjella Sketches - Amiens Cathedral

Tim Bjella Sketches - Amiens, France

Amiens Canal

Amiens, France - Tim and Robyn Bjella
Isn’t it romantic? Two young kids, Robyn and Tim Bjella, backpacking through Europe – 1990.



Peekaboos between spaces make for interesting homes, creating an alluring tease which gradually reveals what lies beyond. Trust me, it’s much more fun than showing it all at once. Yes, this applies to architecture, too. In this example, a curved wall separates the foyer from the living room, and another separates the living from the dining. Combine this idea with the concept of layering spaces (a topic for another post), and you really have something.

Peekaboo Living Room

Modern House Living Room by Tim Bjella Arteriors Architects

Window-Dressing – A Modern Home Window Primer

Modern House Window Detail Arteriors Architects-1

This little corner of a modern house is a veritable laboratory of ways to incorporate windows in a home. It wasn’t my intent when I designed the home. It just worked out that way.

  1. Standard punched window, inset in the stone wall (this is the only type of window found in most homes)
  2. Projected window, at copper wall
  3. Frameless glass, above the stone wall
  4. Floor to ceiling “storefront” window, turns the corner

Modern House Window Detail Arteriors Architects-2

Extreme Air 5k – A Creative Run

Extreme Air 5k-9

A four-family 5k run with bouncy houses

Just another race for team “Ice Cream Truck Chasers.”

I lobbied for the name “Team Bad Ass,” but nobody wanted to be half or dumb (I called dibs on smart). Yet, we snarfed down ice cream afterwards, so everything worked out.

Extreme Air 5k-2

What made this run extreme wasn’t so much the huge bouncy obstacles (12 of them interspersed along the route), but the terrain and the 90 degree temps. Rather than a nice flat park, the organizers chose a ski hill (at least it was summer and hills in Minnesota aren’t exactly a mecca for mountain climbers – I didn’t see a single mountain goat). It would have been too easy to run along the contours so… you can see where this is going. Just picture that guy in hell, Sisyphus, who has to push a boulder for eternity up a steep hill, only to have it roll down before he gets to the top. Except, there’s no boulder, only endless hill and bouncy houses – whee!

Despite this, or because of it, it was the most fun we’ve had at any run, including those with “mud” in their names. I attribute it to our exhaustive and exhausting pre-run training regimen. I personally napped the day before and trimmed my toenails on race day.

Extreme Air 5k-1Plus, I think we won. There were no timing clocks, but we got these nice medals, so there you go!


I’m sad to report we had one casualty. Bob (pictured below in the middle, standing instead of running), helped the youngsters over some of the obstacles and did not eat ice cream after the run. He’s been banned from the team for not living up to its ideals. [Update: after much discussion with Robyn, Bob has been reinstated. Apparently his ideals of kindness, generosity and healthy eating are precisely what the team should aspire to, not the opposite (plus he’s our ringer). It’s a topsy turvy world.]

Extreme Air 5k-3

Color vs. Monochrome – Sketching the Desert Southwest

Occasionally I’ll dab some color on a monochrome sketch. I’m not sure which I prefer, the integrity of a raw sketch, or the vibrancy of added color. Any opinions? These are sketches from Arizona and southern California.

Tim Bjella Sketches - Desert Southwest

Tim Bjella Sketches - Desert Southwest

Tim Bjella Sketches - Desert Southwest

Arizona Shack

Tim Bjella Sketches - Serra Museum, San Diego
Serra Museum, San Diego