My Internship at SHWA!

Posted by Christopher Junn
May 28, 2015

Back in the days when I loved reading Percy Jackson and thought that Lady Gaga was the “coolest”, I also wanted to be an architect. There would be nights when I decided that homework could wait till the next morning and I would draw the night away with terribly ugly plans of my dream home. I wanted a pool with a diving board, a Japanese garden with a sea of white stones, a flagpole with an American flag, iron gates with the head of lions welded onto them and a bunch of other stuff that a 12 year old kid could dream of having. You see, I grew up off Skyline Boulevard, a long stretch of rugged black asphalt that’s lined with a number of handsome houses. On my daily twenty-five minute transit to school, I gazed at the houses that flew past our car window and made a mental note of my favorite parts so that later that night I could add them to my architectural plans. Soon my drawings turned into a collage of glorious ideas that looked like a junkyard for the entirety of human architectural history. There was a cave attached to a Roman-like soaking pool in the back of the house, a contemporary fountain out in front, a Bauhaus-style tower touching the great blue skies on one side of the garden and, on the other side of the garden, a medieval castle-tower a little more than two elephants tall. Although these descriptions may be exaggerated, my point is that my architectural plans were terrible.

This week, I witnessed a real landscape architect at work. Hours at a desk with a ruler in the left hand, pencil in the right and beautiful sketches of gardens, this is what I imagined the life of an architect would be but I learned that there is more to landscape architecture than just mapping gardens.

While over the past few days, my work mostly consisted of learning to update a blog that hasn’t been changed in three years and designing a mailing card for the architectural firm, I was also able to accompany my mentor, Sam Williamson, to a couple of job sites and a historical building review hearing. He has a very handsome office located in the industrial part of east Portland. In his office are three large L-shaped desks that sit under a wide window adorned with yellow, red and rust-colored (I think? I’m doing this from memory so this might not actually be true…) vintage water sprinklers. In the back of his office, he has a neat and well-lit meeting room with a large white table in the middle of it. On the right side this room is an eight-foot long shelf stacked with books about architectural design. Above it, an impressive archive of Sam’s past designs fills the space between the top of the shelf and the room’s ceiling. Now, instead of drawing Sam’s office with words, let me just submit this pleasant picture of his office so I can move on and talk about the going-ons of my first week as an intern at a landscape architectural firm.

My first day at “Samuel H. Williamson Associates” (Long for SHWA –this is the name of Sam’s architectural firm.) was spent paying bills, grumbling at a computer software –because why does it have to be so hard to update a blog? –and attending a historical building review hearing. Here is the link to the blog: www.shwa.net . I am sincerely impressed that the person that worked here before, Crystal, was able to make this all on her own because it took me a few days to learn how to post one blog update to the website while following the directions that Crystal left behind (the instructions were crystal clear ;) . The reason why it took me so long was because of my inability to manage the blog software Adobe Dreamweaver). Anyways, after we ate our lunch, we left the office to go to the historical building review hearing. This hearing is basically a debate where a few individuals selected by the mayor guide a discussion of what changes can be made to a historical building. Sam has to attend this meeting because he is part of a team that is making changes to a historical building in Portland. During the meeting the architects present the changes they’re going to make then people that want to speak talk about their concerns for these changes.

Some interesting things from the hearing:

- The owner of the building actually bought the building before the historical period the building represents. This creates conflicts because if he had bought the building afterwards, he would have to comply with the city and make the changes that the architects think is most representative of this era. But because he bought it before the historical period, his decisions can influence the design of the building

- One of the discussion leaders said that the design for the historical building looks like a Dutch row house because of its “vertical-ness.”

I should probably add a little about what my mentor does. As a landscape architect, Sam mostly designs the landscape of residential houses. He's the one who decides where to put the pool, the fountain, the plants, the stairs and all the stuff that you find in your backyard. The process of getting a landscape done is very long. There are a lot of emails and meetings involved during the process. Much like the historical review hearing, there are always going to be some conflicts of what people want and what is actually effective so Sam has to go to the job sites and talk to his customers and talk to them about what they want.

For my office work, in addition to paying pills, running errands to the bank and updating the blog, I also designed the mailing card below. To design this card, I had to first look through hundreds of photos that dated back to early 2000’s and pick the photos that I thought best represented Sam’s landscape architectural work from both modern and traditional styles. Then, I had to arrange them so that the placement of the photos was a pleasant sight to the eyes. Sam was very serious about this and had me re-work the card many, several, a lot of times before he approved it. But as you can see now, the hard work paid off because IT IS a beautiful card.

Terminology has never been my forte, so after a job site meeting with one of Sam’s customers, I tried to make an insightful comment about the laurels but my comment rebounded terribly because it made absolutely no sense to my mentor when I unknowingly substituted the work “laurels” for “eaves.” If you don’t know what these are, like I did, eaves are the over-hangings of a roof and laurels are a hedge-type plant. Because “eaves” sounded like a name of a plant to me, I confidently talked for a good thirty seconds about how this hedge could be attached to a gate when I was actually talking about how it would be nice if a gutter could to strapped to a gate. (I should probably work on learning my terminology this coming week.) Anyways, this week we visited three job sites in total. The first job site was one of a previous customer that wanted more landscaping work done in their backyard. We brought Sam’s previous design for the backyard to the job site to make notes on it. Like all his plans, it’s a sight to behold. All my life, I've always been impressed with the organization and structure that architectural plans display. Trees there, a border here and a fireplace over there, they all just look so nice. Anyways, in order to make a new plan for the house, Sam needed measurements for a topographical map.

Back at the office, Sam showed me to basics of landscape design. A topographical map has multiple levels that are presented as lines with a certain number to them which indicate a measurement of altitude. This kind of stuff is important for irrigation, storm water and a bunch of other stuff that landscape architects take into account when they design a garden. So measurements are always an important thing for a landscape design.

I learned a ton of stuff this past week and can’t wait to learn more! Landscape architecture involves a lot of thought and knowledge so it’s almost never boring. From the little conversations with my mentor to the job site meetings, I really am learning a lot and am very grateful that I was able to take this on as my senior project. I really excited for the next coming weeks!

 

Bowstring Truss House in DWELL!

Posted by Courtney Skybak
May 28, 2015

We are very pleased to have one of our projects featured in the latest issue of Dwell magazine (June 2015). This issue focuses on outdoor spaces, and design that blends indoor and outdoor environments. http://www.dwell.com/magazine/bring-outside

The project, called the Bowstring Truss House, was a collaboration with Works Partnership, who did a really amazing conversion of a warehouse in NW Portland to a combined residence and artist's studio (one of the owners is an accomplished artist). The building renovation preserved the shell of the building and left its sculptural truss system exposed, inserting box-like structures within to divide up the space. The white-painted interior is illuminated by a dozen skylights, and the center is punctured by a small glass- and cedar-walled atrium that is open to the sky. Our task within the atrium was to bring a little bit of nature into the home. The atrium garden features a sculpted ground plane planted with native species: wild ginger underfoot and sword ferns around a single vine maple, all within a frame of dark grey pebbles. A simple white hammock stretches across the space, allowing the owners to gaze skyward while enjoying a small slice of the outdoors within the walls of their home. With the large sliding doors open, the atrium can bring a refreshing breeze, the sound of rain, and the smells of the seasons.

A second, larger garden sits outside the home, in a private courtyard enclosed by multi-story apartment buildings on three sides that lack windows into the space. The courtyard garden is divided into two spaces, one belonging to the studio and one to the home, separated by a grid of columnar shrubs that sits outside their bedroom window. Each space is paved in gravel and framed by low retaining walls of rusted plate steel. At the studio, the gravel terrace functions as an anteroom, welcoming visitors who enter from the street to view the client's artwork and work space. Outside the living room, a larger gravel terrace, this one sunken, is framed by shrubs and perennials that showcase foliage color and texture and the change of the seasons. Golden ornamental hops climb up the tall apartment walls, racing toward the sun each spring. Hostas, heucheras, and hellebores mix with swathes of wild strawberry and black mondo grass. Peonies, hydrangeas, and Mexican orange bloom in spring. White Japanese anemones raise their delicate flowers in late summer. The courtyard garden presented an interesting design challenge because it is such a unique microclimate, with all of Portland's precipitation, but lots of reflected light and heat from the surrounding walls. The richness of texture, color, and form in the garden provides a foil to the austerity of the house's interior.


At the house's front door, a simple planting scheme at the sidewalk features a single sculptural Japanese maple in a carpet of glossy evergreen Sarcococca. The tree is visible from inside the house through the perforated metal screen next to their front door. The minimalist composition in the landscape complements the understated simplicity of the house's facade.

 

CRIME IN PROGRESS!!

Posted by Sam Wiliamson
May 4, 2015

I’m home with a head cold today and this morning I walked to my neighborhood hardware store in NW Portland. During my walk, I observed a blatantly perpetrated crime. As horrific as it might be to show, I am doing so purely as a service to the public:

The birdfeeder is (probably) in violation of city zoning code, state building code and possibly criminal trespass as well.

Of course the reason that the City does not take these homeowners to task is because, by and large, they’re reasonable people and they know that the edge of the law is rarely a sharp line. The unwritten policy is that the houses in a given area have some limited latitude when it comes to what happens on the land between the sidewalk and the street. This is why you find blocks in Portland that seem to have come to some kind of consensus where all the parking strips are lush perennial beds. Technically, the plants in the strips are not supposed to impede a driver walking from their car to the sidewalk but if the neighbors don’t complain (and others are already doing it) then the City turns a blind eye.

Another blurred zone often occurs because the public rights-of-way bordering private property are often wider than the road itself. This is especially true if the roadways were laid out to accommodate sidewalks that were never built. This creates a no-mans land between the street and the homeowner’s property line. Effectively this land becomes part of the homeowner’s garden but the City reserves the right to tear it up if they have a construction project that requires it.

Sometimes this leads to confusion. In the SHWA project below, an out-of-state architect designed a concrete walk leading to the owner’s property line, but that left a ten-foot muddy moat between the entry walk and the street. We added a matching concrete pad to the street. Our general policy at SHWA is to pave the entry walk to the street and plant in the city-owned strip but hold any walls or fences back behind the property line in case the City decides they need to dig it up.

The entry walk stopped ten feet short of the street.

In twenty years of practicing in Portland, this just happened for the first time. The City wants to add a sidewalk and retaining wall in front of a client’s home in SW Portland and we are working with the City and client the accommodate the sidewalk as best as possible. I think it will turn out just fine.

Our plans however will include plants trespassing one City land as much as that birdhouse but we trust that if no one puts up a fuss, neither will the City.

Most building and zoning codes find their most fundamental legal justification in preserving public safety. Landscape architectural projects impact public safety but often not as much as architects and structural engineers. As a result, landscape architects can end up operating in that fuzzy zone between legal and illegal actions more than those other professions.

 

Garden Tour

Posted by Joel Port
September 19, 2012

Since we've been experienceing very smoky skies over Portland during the past few weeks, I figured the filtered sunlight would be ideal for taking photos of some past projects. So, I hopped in the truck and made the rounds. I was glad to see that the gardens are all looking nice and our clients have been enjoying them. It's always fun to see how our gardens have evolved over time.

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First, I visited a home in the SW hills where Sam and I had done an extensive design for a backyard with new retaining walls, walkways, and a circular patio. It even included a greenhouse, alpine slope and a peat bed for the avid, alpine-plant collecting homeowner. Construction was completed in May.

The greenhouse (by Sturdi-built Greenhouses of Portland) and the "Alpine Slope" with the homeowners' collection of alpine trees, sub-shrubs and forbs.

A dry-laid, basalt wall (by Stone Sculptures) retained the steeply-sloping hillside and provided a level area for a small lawn.

The homeowners (and their two dogs) have gotten a lot of use out of their bluestone patio.

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Next, I visited a project that Courtney was the project manager for. It was finished this spring.

The homeowners have found that the dining terrace and fireplace (by J&L Masonry) have been well-suited for entertaing guests.

I really like this casual sitting area. In the background, Anemone (Windflower) and Caryopteris (Bluebeard or Blue Mist Spirea) are really showing off their late-summer glory.

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The garden for the next property on my tour was originally designed by noted, Portland-area landscape designer Barbara Feeley decades ago. Sam and I designed a dry-laid stone terrace to replace the rotted wood deck.

The homeowner requested an area for tending to his small collection of bonsai trees. We were able to integrate that into a curving seatwall that surrounds the patio on one side.

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Here's another one of Courtney and Sam's outdoor fireplaces. The new homeowners told me they've used this area everyday this summer.

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Finally, I stopped by the project that I've been covering over the past few months. All of the large elements have been built. Now it's down to the detailed, finish work. Everyone involved with construction has done a wonderful job.

The pavilion's roof has been completed. All of the paving has been laid. Cabinets for the grill area have also arrived and are being installed as I write this!

Perennial plantings and the edging for the curved path have also been installed. Gravel will be spread tomorrow and the lawn will be seeded next week!

 

Houzz Profile

Posted by Joel Port
September 11, 2012

Houzz is a great resource for designers and homeowners alike. As a designer and active do-it-yourselfer, I like to check out the latest products, photos, and discussions regarding everything house-related. I'm always finding something fun or inspiring. There's even a section for locating design professionals, contractors and suppliers throughout the country.

SHWA has a profile and extensive image gallery...

Samuel H. Williamson Associates Featured on Houzz

 

Our Latest Plan

Posted by Joel Port
September 10, 2012

We've just completed a schematic plan for an assisted living facility's garden space (see image, below).

We really wanted to offer a plan that would stretch the expectations of the owners. We approached the design process as an opportunity to offer a variety of spaces and experiences for the residents to enjoy. All the while, it was critical that all of the current safety standards for elderly users be met. The end result was a plan that, if implemented, will be a functional and therapeutic asset for the users.

 

Framing and Masonary Work

Posted by Joel Port
August 27, 2012

Here's the latest update from one of our projects in SW Portland...

The masonry wall, behind the grill, is up. We designed a "knock out" detail where bricks have been omitted in the flemish-bond pattern. Notice that the mason used the less-desirable, black and white bricks from the color blend behind where the cabinetry will be. Therefore, all of the visible brick will have a more consistent color.

 

The masons have also begun laying the bluestone paving! Below, you can see a worker setting a radially-cut piece in the circle of the main terrace. Inside the circle will be dry-laid, random, irregular slabs of bluestone with vegetated joints. The rest of the terrace will have a herringbone pattern of bluestone. The color and form contrasts are going to look great!

The massive beams for the roof structure are also in place now. The rafters have also been installed since I took these photos last week. The entire space is really taking shape!

 

Excavation is Underway

Posted by Joel Port
June 26, 2012

We're excited to report that LHL Homes (lhlhomes.com) has broken ground on the second phase of a garden we designed in SW Portland! The formwork is in place and is ready for concrete to be poured later this week.

A gravel path will lead to a dining pavilion that will be built just beyond the pile of soil in this photo.

Looking out from the upper deck, you can see the holes that have been dug for the pavilion footings (on the left). The main terrace will be on the right and a row of evergreen magnolia trees will be planted along the inside of the long hedge.

These stakes outline where a circular bluestone band will surround a dry-laid area of random, irregular bluestone.

In the coming weeks, there will be lots going on at this project. I'll post more updates as things move along.

 

Halloween!

Posted by Sam Williamson

In the spirit of the season, here is a design project I did last year: turning our living room into a forest under starry skies for a Halloween dinner party. Besides gardening and landscape architecture, I also enjoy costumes and stage design.

The "clouds" were cotton batting used for quilts and the night sky was deep blue fabric with LED lights. The "stars" of course were all the same brightness, and I was surprised by how fake that made them look, so I strung a second semi-translucent sheet of black fabric below them and poked a few of them through (making bright stars) and left some of them behind the fabric (making dimmer ones). The windows were covered with a roll of brown paper we found in our house when we moved in. Beyond the trees was the silhouette of a distant horizon made from the cardboard boxes of the bookshelves we bought when SHWA moved into its new office on SE Madison St.. The cardboard was painted black and lit from behind with strings of red Christmas lights.

My wife Janet did a beautiful centerpiece employing, among other things, blackberry vines snaking along the tabletop and she made pumpkin soup in hollowed-out pumpkins. I made a digital "mixed tape" of crazed music interspersed with woodland night sounds.

The trees were free and harvested from the State Forest. Red alder saplings will, if left unchecked, choke and block drainage culverts along their roads. The Forest Department has to clear them out every year and are happy to have someone else remove a few of them. Everything was recycled the following day.

 

The "Bump-In Detail"

Posted by Joel Port

This summer we've been working on the landscape design for a beautiful, traditional craftsman home in SW Portland. One of the distinct challenges was to connect the interior rooms with the garden spaces (which are about five feet below the finished floor elevation of the house and deck). So, we set out to create a graceful descent that provided opportunities to comfortably view the garden along the way. A single flight of steps was definitely not going to work. Instead, we developed a plan that utilizes several flights that lead in different directions. Each flight (made up of four 5”-tall steps) will be separated by a generous 6'x6' landing. We've found that using short risers and deep treads lends a more relaxed, comfortable feeling to any garden space.

The steps and landings will surround a central, raised planter. The planter allows us to raise the grade surrounding the deck in order to comply with safety codes that would have otherwise required guard rails. We wanted to maintain an open feel for the area, without railings, so the raised planter was essential.

We decided to utilize a traditional, Flemish-bond brick pattern on the raised planters. Unlike the more common running-bond brick pattern, Flemish-bond alternates between stretcher-header-stretcher-header and so on. We like the fact that the pattern isn't seen much in western gardens and it presents an opportunity for us to add even more visual interest by tweaking it slightly. We decided to include areas where certain bricks were recessed into the face of the wall. The feature has become known as the “bump-in detail”. The "bump-in detail" will show up elsewhere throughout the garden too. A similar feature will even be used for the back wall of the dining pavilion. Except the "bump-ins" will be "knock-outs"... stay tuned for more on that.

Mark Wheeler and his masonry crew has just finished their work on the raised bed and piers. I'm really pleased with the way they've turned out!

In the coming weeks, construction on the decking and steps will continue. The landscape crew will also be setting a boulder retaining wall and installing plants. I'll keep posting updates along the way. Check back soon to see the progress.

 

Unbuilt Work (at least so far)

Posted by Sam Williamson

Two years ago SHWA designed a dining/seating structure for a client on an island off the coast of Maine. My family and I are visiting friends and family on that same island right now, so I thought I would dust it off to give myself a little homework assignment in Sketchup. Here are some images:

Here it is closed up. The retractable roof panels are pulled closed and the folding doors and clerestory panels are shut too. The interior is a comfortable 16' x 16'; fully capable of being warmed by the big stone fireplace on a cool or rainy Maine summer evening.

The sun came out! The roof has been retraced and doors have all been opened. The floorspace is now 24' x 24'.

A stone retaining wall levels more area around the pavilion, creating more space for spillover; big enough for a summer cocktail party.

The simple plan of the interior space allows for the furniture to be easily rearranged.

 

Sacsayhuamán

Posted by Sam Williamson

I considered calling this entry, “And You Call Yourself a Stone Mason?” but that doesn’t seem quite fair. Immense blocks of limestone were quarried and moved several miles before being precision-shaped into dry-laid retaining walls; with joints so tight, a piece of paper can’t fit between them. This UNESCO World Heritage site is outside of Cusco, Peru and I saw it with my family for the first time over the Christmas Holiday. (That's me on the far left.)

The biggest of these stone pieces weighed 220 tons and all of this construction took place at an elevation 1000 feet above to top of Mount Hood(!)

 

Organic Garden Maintenance

Posted by Courtney Skybak

When all the walls have been built, the paths paved, the planting beds mulched and the dust and debris swept away, you can finally relax because your garden is done....kind of. As it turns out, just because the construction of your garden is complete doesn't mean that you can walk away from it and it will take care of itself. A garden is a living thing, growing and changing as the seasons change and the years pass, and maintenance is essential for your landscape to thrive. There is no such thing as a no-maintenance landscape. Too many homeowners forget about maintenance, and as a result they lose some of the value of the investment they've made in a custom-designed landscape.

Before I pursued my landscape architecture degree, I got plenty of exposure to landscape maintenance, taking care of public, private, and municipal landscapes through my various part-time and short-term jobs. I learned conventional methods for keeping a garden looking neat and tidy, including weeding, mulching, mowing, trimming, and applications of fertilizers and pesticides. I've learned through trial and error in my own garden as well, though there I've tended to focus on chemical-free practices. And through my work at SHWA I've witnessed the difference between gardens that are carefully nurtured after installation, and those that are not. The former end up fulfilling the intent of the design, and the latter too often end up looking like a mess.

garden at planting

Above, see one of our gardens right after planting. Below, see how it looked just two years later with good maintenance during the establishment period.

well maintained garden


In order to better offer advice to our clients and to augment my existing knowledge of how to care for the landscape, I have recently completed a certification course in organic gardening administered by Oregon State University's Extension Service, similar to the Master Gardeners course that many of you have likely heard of. This was the first of its kind in the country (hurray, Oregon!), explaining in detail the principles behind organic gardening and farming and providing lots of hands-on in-the-garden learning experiences. The 60-hour course, held over several Saturdays this fall, covered an enormous amount of material and underscored the importance of cultivating a balanced community of plants, animals, and microorganisms in the garden. Each section of the class was taught by an expert in that particular topic. I learned a great deal and look forward to learning much more when I complete the Master Gardeners certification this winter. Here are a few highlights of what I learned:

1. Most plant problems in the garden are symptoms of mis-management, not evidence of pests or disease. A plant will never do well if it is planted in the wrong place or given too much or too little of the sunlight, water, or fertility that it needs.

2. The first step in treating most pest or disease problems is good hygiene: removing and discarding afflicted plants or parts of plants.

3. Fruit trees in general are very high-maintenance, especially if you want a good harvest. Figs and persimmons are two exceptions to this rule, and are beautiful trees to boot.

4. Preserving and enhancing soil structure and fertility are essential to nurturing a thriving garden. That means protecting the soil from compaction, and making sure it is rich in organic matter. An annual top-dressing of well-composted mulch helps on both these counts.

5. Insects are an important part of the garden, especially pollinators. Most insects will do NO damage to the plants in your landscape, and on the contrary help them to thrive. Many insecticides don't discriminate, and will kill off the beneficial insects as well as pests.

6. Understanding the life cycle of a garden pest can make it much easier to minimize its presence in the garden without resorting to harmful chemicals. It's amazing how helpful it can be to know exactly what you're dealing with.

7. An important aspect of managing the landscape is actually managing one's expectations. Plants are not pieces of furniture; they are living things that will grow and change over time.

8. Investing in the proper tools and learning how to correctly use and maintain them can make garden work a much more enjoyable experience.

The course comprised a lot of work and a lot of fun. I look forward to continuing my education over the winter, and putting it to work for our clients. If you have any questions about how to care for your landscape and make it look its best, don't hesitate to give us a call. We are happy to offer on-site maintenance consultations or draft landscape management documents to guide our clients and their landscape crews in nurturing a thriving and beautiful landscape.

 

 

The Crumpled Dock

Posted by Joel Port

I've recently been working on the schematic design of a lakeside dock here in Oregon.

Rather than a small collection of flat planes for the various levels of the dock and retaining walls, Sam envisioned a crumpled surface of gentle slopes. We took inspiration from other notable landscape and architectural projects as the Simcoe Wavedock in Toronto, skateparks, the Oslo Opera House, sailboat decking, and hang glider launch ramps (of all things!). We've been adapting concepts from those projects to better suit the homeowners' specific needs and the site. Tilted planes of decking will disguise retaining walls, transition between different levels of the dock, and accommodate a kayak/canoe launch ramp.

Initially it was difficult to envision how the many planes of decking would intersect and relate with each other. So, we turned to Sketch-Up for help. The three-dimensional modeling program is a very useful tool for us at SHWA. Before long, we had a study model from which we could further develop the design and accurately convey our vision to the homeowners.

So, from loose, trace paper sketches...

we created a Sketch-Up study model...

The homeowners are enthusiastic about the plan. I'm excited too and am looking forward to the finished product! Check back at our blog for updates on the progress.

 

 

A New Home

Posted by Courtney Skybak

Office Exterior

After several years in Portland's Pearl District, SHWA has made the move to a new neighborhood, one that is much like what the Pearl used to be when Sam opened his office there in 1999. Our new office is in the SE warehouse district, near the Hawthorne bridge, and we couldn't be happier with it. We've joined a rich and varied community of creative businesses housed within the historic warehouses and workshops sandwiched between the Willamette River and the bustling Martin Luther King Boulevard.

It took us a couple of weeks to settle into our new office, using paint, furniture, and our own creativity to make the space our own. Being designers and problem-solvers, the tailoring of this new space to meet our needs has actually been fun, though exhausting, and we are happy to be nearing completion. The move has also been a great opportunity to sort through the years' accumulation of stuff, get rid of things we don't use, and reorganize the rest to be most useful to us. I've always found that process, creating order from the chaos, to be particularly satisfying.

Office Interior

I am quite fond of the vaulted ceilings and long bank of big south-facing windows in our new space. It's interesting to think about the past of this old building, to try to interpret the evidence left behind in the old wood floors, decommissioned pipes and wires, and walls of different materials and ages. I wonder what the life of this building has been since it was built in the early twenties.

One of the greatest benefits of our new home compared to the old one is the company we now keep. Our old office was tucked into an out-of-the-way corner on the second floor of an old industrial building, which meant we very rarely saw any of our neighbors. Our new location is much more prominent, so we regularly get to chat with the furniture makers, builder, seamstress, architectural renderer, and glass blower that work nearby. It really has been a pleasure to get to know our neighbors.

There is one additional aspect of our new home that I find particularly charming. Every day at 11:00 on the dot a food-vending truck pulls up in front of one of the buildings down the street, and as it does so it honks its horn, which is incredibly loud and has the most comical melody. It makes me smile every time. So I'm guaranteed to smile at least once a day!