Spa Living at Home

With the pace of modern life seemingly increasing all the time and the boundaries of the nine-to-five work day expanding with unceasing electronic communication, who doesn’t sometimes feel the need to escape to a peaceful oasis of serenity for a relaxing interlude? Fortunately, that escape can be just around the corner with a well-designed, spa-like bath in your home. Far from the cramped, utilitarian spaces many of us remember from childhood bathrooms, a luxurious custom bathroom can be spacious and bright, and as soothing or dramatic as your imagination can make it.

The finish materials have an outsized impact on the character and mood of any space, and luxury baths are no exception. The need for water resistance around tubs and showers naturally leads to using tile floors, although wood floors are suitable for, and often used in, powder rooms. Within the world of tile, though, the options are practically limitless. Natural stone can run the gamut from glossy marble to rustic travertine. Water-cut stone mosaics provide intricate patterns and colors. Porcelain and other ceramic tiles are available in every color and shape imaginable. Large-format tiles give a sharp, modern feel to a space, while porcelain planks can mimic the appearance of weathered wood. Stone slabs and tile can be used as wall finishes as well, as backsplashes, wainscoting, or full-height finishes. The use of an unexpected material, such as irregular, natural stone or pebble-like tiles, can add a dramatic touch to a composition.

Our moods respond dramatically to color, so the material and color palette should combine to set a comforting tone. Many clients are attracted to soothing blues, grays, and earth tones, which have a calming effect and can be combined with a variety of accent colors.

Bringing natural light into any space makes it more inviting, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a beautiful view from your bath, you’ll want to be sure to take advantage. Nothing could be better than lounging in a comfortable soaking tub with a view of the water.

The bathtub is naturally one of the centerpieces of a spa-like bath. Although platform tubs can be a beautiful solution, the current trend is very much toward free-standing tubs. The classic claw-foot bath is still around, but now it can be had with fun design features like chrome feet, which add interest.

Other free-standing tubs look more like modern sculptures than bath fixtures, with shapes ranging from classical to organic to geometric. More and more synthetic materials are being used in the manufacture of tubs, which help to reduce the weight from the cast iron of yesterday, and also help retain the warmth of the bath water. If simply soaking isn’t your cup of tea, tubs are available with whirlpool jets, bubble massagers, and chromatherapy.

The shower is the other major amenity in a luxe bath, and like the tub, you might be surprised at the variety of fixtures and features to choose from. Multiple shower heads, waterfall heads, rain heads, hand sprays, and body sprays can be combined to give the user anything from a gentle spring rain to a full-blown monsoon. Steam showers provide the ultimate relaxing spa experience. Finally, curbless showers are becoming more popular in high-end homes, and are easier and safer to enter, allowing people to stay in their home even if they lose mobility.

Finally, don’t forget the delightful little details than can add so much to the bathing experience. Heated floors can easily be installed under tile floors to provide a comfortable warmth underfoot on a chilly morning. Towel warmers, either installed in a drawer or wall-mounted as a towel rack, offer that just-out-of-the-dryer feeling every day. And if you want soothing music while you soak, or to catch the morning traffic report as you start your day, you can integrate audio and video components into the space. Just be careful – you may never want to leave!

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Building Your Custom Home In Real Time

As a client, how can you avoid paying for a new custom home you don’t want? Here’s how. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you have it built!

There is no better way to understand and have a feel for a new design than to see it three-dimensionally! Rather than relying on imagination to see if the bathroom door will be far enough away from the kitchen, 3D drawings allow you to virtually walk through your home before even approving any specifications or designs. Want to see that great room with coffered ceilings? No problem! Want to check out the water view from the kitchen window? Step right up. Changed your mind and now want no windows? Hold on a sec!

3D design is a fast and efficient way to get involved in every part of the design process. And it’s fun! When architects actually design with you, and present other, different or better options, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions on a design that’s perfect for you!

How do you know if your architect works in 3D? It’s always a good idea to ask when you’re interviewing potential firms and to take a look at their examples of drawings and models. 3D design should be an industry-standard in the world of residential design, but sadly it’s not. Finding a great architect who works in 3D software is not easy. The good news is firms shouldn’t charge more for 3D capabilities. They either have it or they don’t.

At PCA, we are using the leading technological advancements in 3D design software, Revit and Enscape, to accomplish these goals for our clients:

1. Establishing and developing a clear vision of the project. Understanding traditional 2D floor plans and elevations can be difficult. Many people can get the general idea from a floor plan but still have trouble visualizing how the design is going to look. Being able to see and experience your design in 3D will help you understand how it is going to work. The more you understand the look and feel of your design, the more comfortable you’ll be at making decisions.

2. Designs can change and evolve in real time. Meetings are the best way to be included in the design process and to make sure nothing is overlooked. What does a design presentation in 3D look like? It could be a fly-through video or multiple perspective views of your project. We’ve found that the most efficient and productive 3D design meetings are in the conference room with everyone sitting around the flat-screen, walking through the project room by room. This usually always brings up design questions and changes can be made to the model during the meeting for instant results. If you’re a busy traveler and unable to make it into our office, these meetings can also take place via GoTo Meetings. PCA is well-versed at working with clients at a distance—even across the world—and also has the ability to sketch on a smart-screen to illustrate any changes before they are made.

3. 3D design can help cut down on changes after construction has begun. Reducing the amount of changes during construction can help save time and money. But it can be hard to do until you really understand what the space will look and feel like, which is where 3D design comes in.

4. It helps you avoid paying for work you don’t want. Having a clear understanding of your project before construction begins is the best method to significantly reduce the problem of unnecessary charges.

With all that said, there is definitely no substitute for having an experienced architect who understands the permit process, building codes and is well-versed in critical area law. While 3D design can be helpful to you and your project, know that great designs do not come from computer programs. They come from design professionals who have spent countless hours designing, reviewing plans, improving details and listening to everything you want in your custom home!

Behind the Scenes: Shop Drawings

As anyone knows who has been through a complex construction project, thousands of decisions large and small must be made to bring a design vision to reality. From major decisions like style, size, material, and location to the infinite variety of fixtures, finishes, appliances, and colors, everything must be picked from the variety of options available. But what about custom components, things that must be designed rather than picked from a catalog? Many of these items are designed in great detail using a collaborative process between architects and fabricators using shop drawings.

Generally, shop drawings are detailed working drawings that describe a building’s components to the high level of detail required for fabrication. Highly visible elements such as cabinetry are designed using shop drawings, but concealed systems such as structural steel, roof trusses, and heating and ventilation systems are designed the same way. The process progresses from general information to incredibly specific details, with input from many members of the design team coming together to reach a conclusion. Let’s take the example of a master bathroom design to examine how it works.

The architect works with the client to understand their requirements and desires: One vanity or two? How big is the shower? Platform tub or free-standing? Gradually, more detail is introduced: Do you want doors or drawers in the vanities? Are there cabinet towers above the countertop, or medicine chests built into the wall? Is there a separate makeup vanity built at a height to sit at? The answers to all these questions are synthesized into the architectural plans and interior elevations, which show the locations and sizes of all the components in the room, as well as their shape and character. Depending on the complexity of the design, the scale and budget of the project, and many other factors, these architectural drawings may be computer modeled or sketched by hand. But still more questions must be answered before the cabinet shop can begin building the vanity and trim components.

Initial Sketches

At this point, the architect will turn over the architectural drawings to a cabinet fabricator for further elaboration and development. The fabricator will use the architectural drawings as the basis for creating their own more detailed drawings: the shop drawings. These will usually be drawn at a larger scale than the architectural plans, which allows more detailed information to be included, covering both the appearance and the construction methods that will be used. Exactly how wide are the stiles and rails on the cabinet doors? What molding profiles are used in the different areas? Do drawers have dovetailed joints? Are the shelves adjustable or fixed?

When the shop drawings have been developed, they are submitted to the architect for review and approval. The architect examines the drawings to ensure, first, that the drawings match the design intent of the architectural plans. This could be verifying the sizes, the location of functions such as pull-out shelves or electrical outlets inside drawers, etc. Then the additional detail added to the shop drawings will be reviewed. Moldings, panels, alignments, and finishes are checked to ensure that the final product will turn out as intended.

Shop Drawings

After reviewing the drawings, the architect will return the drawings to the cabinet shop, with any requested changes marked on them. If necessary, this process of drawing, reviewing, and commenting can be repeated until the final drawings are approved for production.

Shop Drawing and Final Installation

The great benefit of the shop drawing process is that it allows each member of the design team to add their knowledge and expertise to the drawings. The architect doesn’t have to be an expert in every aspect of cabinet construction or truss design, because the designers who are experts in those topics add that information to the drawings. The cabinet maker or truss designer doesn’t have to understand the entire design project, because the architect will ensure the design matches the overall design intent. By allowing all the members of the design team to focus on their own areas of expertise and distributing the work of producing all of the information that’s required, the shop drawing process helps to bring all the details and decisions of a large project to a stunning conclusion.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Architecture & Interiors