Accessorizing Your Space, Your Taste & Your Lifestyle

There are many ways to express yourself in your home. Paint color, furniture and how you use your space are a few ways, but the best way to truly personalize your home is with accessories. These pieces tell a bit about who lives in the home, what they like and what their interests are. They add color and texture, while they can also soften a space and make you feel more at home.

Start with the accessories you already have. Most everyone has a few items they’ve collected or been given over time. Framed photos. Art work. Flower vases. These pieces will convey your personality to anyone visiting your home and they should also provide you a peek into knowing their story and how they came to be in your possession.

If you need to add to what you already have, visit antique stores and home décor boutiques. Think about using natural elements like a bowl of fruit, fresh cut flowers, plants or even a beautiful branch that can be a simple, yet interesting piece to give a room some earthiness and a lived-in quality. You can also consider function. For example, using interesting boxes that add to your décor, but also serve as a place to keep remote controls and clutter.

As you place your décor, think about how you use your space. If you have pets or kids, you will want to stay away from certain types of accessories or at least, make sure you are placing them out of reach of paws and little hands. Also, consider staging some accessories as if they were a museum piece. Not everything needs to be clustered together or completely filling a space. One figurine from a collection next to a mirrored vase with an orchid could create the perfect story and have more impact than a grouping of 14 figurines.

Lastly, don’t look at accessorizing as permanent. Try different things, move them around and work with your pieces to fit within your lifestyle. Some pieces may be seasonal or just need to be moved to a new spot in your home. You can also build in flexibility with your space. For example, use an accent tray on a coffee table with a few favorite things. When company comes over and you need that space, you can easily move the tray with its accessories and put it back later once company has left.

Be sure to try different vignettes or still lifes with your accessories, using them to tell a story about your life in the past, your current life and your future. In the end, your space will look, and feel, like your home!

Sean Hughes
Mandil Inc.

Four Stepping Stones to Creating Your Perfect Landscape

Your landscape is the first thing your friends, family and guests see when they come to visit and it creates their first impression of your home.  It should be a place of comfort and safety you can enjoy with family and friends, as well as being your own personal oasis.

Where do you begin?  How will you express yourself?  The options can be overwhelming, and you may decide you need the help of a professional. Engaging the right landscape designer or landscape architect will assure you get the answers to your questions and bring your vision to life.  Follow these steps to begin the process.

Research Landscape Designers

The first part of your landscape journey is to do your research when selecting a designer.  Find someone that really speaks to your style by looking at websites and portfolios.  Ask for referrals from friends or from neighbors with landscapes you like, and ask about their experience.  Once you have a short list, set up a meeting to see if your personalities click. Be sure to ask them how they will address the future maturity, maintenance and functionality, in addition to the aesthetic, of your outdoor space.  Remember, you’ll be spending a fair amount of time with this person, possibly for several months, and living with the results for even longer.

Determine Wants and Needs

One of the most important things you can do before meeting with your landscape designer or architect is to have a “wants and needs” list for your landscape.  Gather pictures and have them ready to start the discussion. Houzz, Pinterest, Google, books, inspiration from your travels, etc., are all great resources to help guide your design.  Consider what your outside space really means to you.   How do you plan to use it – for entertaining, relaxing, gardening or play?  Is it a place that needs to be child and/or dog friendly?  What focal elements do you want to be included? Do you want to incorporate elements of water or fire, or large annual flower displays? The opportunities are endless, so dialing in on some of these aspects beforehand is key.  Again, just do what you can; any information is better than nothing and your designer will help you expand from there.

Study Your Outdoor Space

Next you will want to prepare yourself for your meeting by thoroughly looking at your space. Spend a few minutes in different areas mentally inventorying what is around you. What is already there you can or want to change, and alternatively, what can’t be changed? Identify what you feel are positives and negatives about the space.  Are there amazing views you want to frame/maintain or undesirable views to downplay? Ask yourself what time of the day you will mostly use the space and what the light is like at that time of day.  Do you think you’ll need shade cover, lighting or privacy?  Where do you want key features? These are details you’ll want to be ready to share.

The Final Details

Lastly, and most importantly, think about how much time and money you want to invest in the landscape project and ongoing maintenance.  Make sure your garden meets your needs in the long run.  Ask yourself how long you plan to live in your home, as this will help guide your decisions.  Multiple phases spread throughout a few years to make the investment more palatable is a great choice, just start with a master plan.

Being prepared, doing your research and hiring the right landscape architect/designer for your project will save you both time and money, and being able to communicate your vision from the beginning is key. Don’t feel pressured to paint a complete picture or have all of the answers, but bring as much information to the table as you can to provide an overall direction. Following these steps will be invaluable to your designer and help them guide you through the creation of your perfect outdoor space.

Troy Shimp
Lifescape Colorado

A Win-Win for Architecture Students and Firms

For aspiring architects looking to transition from school into a job with an architecture firm, there is a crucial middle step to consider – an internship. What you learn in school is important – theory, history, different disciplines, etc. – but it is all fantasy. There is no client. No budget. You may have time constraints and pressure from professors, but this is vastly different from the “real world.”

Your internship is an extension of your school work providing you with real-world experience. From completing competition entries to building models, meeting with clients and working with budgets, an internship can prepare you to confidently step in to your first professional position at an architecture firm.

Building Your Career While Building Models

Interning at an architecture firm is a rite of passage from student to professional. School is not enough to catapult you into your career. An internship can provide you with:

    • Real world experience learning the day-to-day with clients, for example, listening in on calls and how you would speak differently with a consultant vs. an owner.
    • A more forgiving environment to learn how to get things done quickly and correctly.
    • Learning what you truly enjoy or not, for example, commercial vs. residential work.
    • The opportunity to demonstrate your budding expertise to a potential employer.
    • A chance to grow your professional network.

Steven Vujeva and Mandil Inc. intern, Brian Duncan

Keeping Current and Giving Back

Students aren’t the only ones to benefit from an internship. The employer has much to gain, including:

  • An in-house guide to teach your team the latest computer programs they are learning about in school, keeping your firm current in the digital age.
  • Help with junior level tasks such as running prints and deliveries.
  • Support in maintaining office standards for drawings.
  • The opportunity to give back by furthering the student’s education through redlines and explaining why changes should be made.
  • Your next hire, already familiar with your processes and style.

At Mandil Inc., we have a paid intern program that typically runs through the school year and into the summer. In some cases, it may be shorter or some longer. Our current intern, Brian Duncan, a student at the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning, has worked at Mandil for a year and a half. His contributions have been invaluable, and we know an intern can bring your firm many benefits too.

Steven Vujeva, RA, NCARB
Mandil Inc.

About GFRC: Super Concrete on a Diet

If you can imagine it, it can probably be made out of concrete. GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) is a type of super-strong concrete that can be made incredibly thin (compared to normal concrete) without breaking, and thin means lightweight, and lightweight means you can use concrete in places and in ways you didn’t think were possible.

To visualize the benefits of GFRC, imagine a 3’x3’x’3 cube made out of concrete. If the entire cube were made out of concrete, it would weigh about 4,050 pounds. If you were smart, you’d make it hollow, because nobody would know the difference just by looking at it or touching it. It would still feel like a block of concrete if it were hollow, and it would require less materials, and it would be easier to move around.

But if you hollow it out too much, you’d get concerned about it breaking under its own weight. You still have to pick it up and move it around and transport it. Maybe you’d feel comfortable it’s not going to ever crack/break if you got the walls down to 4” thick and filled them with steel rebar. A typical 36” precast concrete sewer pipe has a wall thickness of 4”, for reference, and we can bet if the people who engineered those thought they could safely make it thinner, they would. The cube at that thickness would weigh almost 2,000lbs. 3” thick would weigh about 1,500 lbs.

But here comes GFRC. We can make the same 3’x3’x3’ cube out of GFRC with 3/4” thick walls, no steel reinforcement required, and the weight drops to about 250 lbs. or less.  And, you and several friends can climb and stand on it without fear of it breaking. It still looks and feels like a 4,050 pound block of concrete.

What did we gain by losing so much weight? We gained the ability to put a large concrete fire pit on your client’s rooftop patio without worrying about the weight. We gained the ability to make beautiful precast countertops in controlled conditions, which can be transported and carried to the jobsite, up three sets of stairs and installed without a forklift.  We can make ½” thick concrete wall panels where wet pouring a thin concrete wall veneer would be impractical, if not impossible. We can make a giant trough sink for a bathroom that looks like its 12” thick and weighs a ton and hang it from the wall.

No matter how you look at it, the main reason to spec GFRC is the weight, or more accurately the lack thereof. Where weight or transport or appearance isn’t quite as important, normal concrete more than fits the bill, and GFRC will never replace it. GFRC has other benefits over normal concrete, the most obvious of which will be the beautiful finish, but even that is a result of the ability to easily transport it due to the light weight.

Important things to know about GFRC:

  1. It doesn’t stain. Red wine, oil, coffee, etc., are not a concern. The reactive urethane sealer used by Art District Concrete is impenetrable by liquids, and is really tough stuff. Staining is probably the biggest concern about using concrete as a countertop, and there’s a lot of information on the internet stating that concrete stains easily. And, most of the stories about concrete staining are probably true, but it’s a sure thing that none of them are using a reactive urethane sealer. Raw concrete stains very easily. Put a sealer on it that doesn’t let liquid through and it will never stain.
  2. It doesn’t need resealing or maintenance. Reactive urethane only needs to be applied once, and under normal usage you’ll never wear through it.
  3. It can scratch. This is probably the biggest flaw of concrete, at least compared to some other surface materials. You can’t cut on it. You can use it like a normal countertop without worrying about it scratching if you’re not intentionally dragging sharp objects (like knives or heavy flour pots with metal legs) across it. Simply being aware that it can scratch is really the only precaution anyone needs to take.
  4. Cooking type heat (<500 degrees or so) is theoretically ok, and it’s been tested to be safe, but it’s prudent to put down a potholder before setting down a hot casserole dish on the counter. We know high heat permanently weakens concrete, even if it doesn’t show. Fire type heat (1000 degrees) is never ok for concrete, and it will certainly weaken the concrete to the point of failure. For that reason we design fire pits with the flame not actually touching the concrete and the heat always going up and away from the concrete.
  5. It shouldn’t ever develop cracks under normal circumstances, and breaking once installed on top of cabinets would be unheard of. GRFC will deflect a large amount before it breaks (like rubber), so any small movement in cabinets or the house will not affect GFRC countertops.

Art District Concrete specializes in GFRC concrete countertops, tabletops and 3D objects like fire pits or water features. We’d love to help figure out how to make your dream a reality, and to teach you more about the possibilities of GFRC.

Wayne Rodgers
Art District Concrete

Intimate Design Style

Your best friend probably knows your favorite color and how you take your coffee, and your partner knows what type of art you like. You know which rooms get the most use in your home and how you fill your time using that space. These are all intimate details your interior designer should know about you as well.

Working with clients is about providing them with what they want. Whether modern or traditional, in a specific color scheme or with an eclectic flair, a client’s style is singularly their own and should be a direct reflection of their personality and how they live their life.

A home should nurture and relax, while reflecting what’s important to you. Home is a place where you can take a deep breath and leave behind the hectic world around us. Home should be a place that when you walk through the front door, you feel good. You may not know why, but it just feels right.

To achieve the feeling of home, the most important step is to develop a relationship with your interior designer (and the designer with their client). Meet in your home, share how you live within your home, talk about family and whatever else is important to you. In between meetings, look at homes on Houzz or Pinterest and create a portfolio of likes and dislikes. You don’t have to define what it is you like or not; simply recognize when something you’re looking at makes you feel good.

My own home is a true reflection of my appreciation for all different design styles; from modern to historic to European farmhouse, I have bits and pieces of several styles represented – in simple fashion – throughout my home. It is a true representation of the way I live, my family, travels and life experiences.

Paula M. Breuwet-Cohen
PC Designs LLC

The (Architecturally) Good Neighbor

Being a good neighbor extends beyond pleasantries at the mailbox and bringing over cookies for the holidays. It extends to the entire neighborhood.

It seems the house and even new apartment buildings being built into neighborhoods, mainly the urban neighborhoods, where an established street is being transformed into a “Mini All About Me” set of structures. There are few, if any, relationships to the past or for that matter the present with a level of scale, gracefulness or respect to the street.

This isn’t about the McMansions of the past in cities such as Atlanta, Boca Raton or Denver suburbs where homes have a little more land and air space between them, but in the tighter lots within the urban setting where the transfer of one style to the next is sometimes a mere 10 feet away.

The current dwelling design trend, that of non-classically proportioned modern or “mid-century modern” being dropped onto a street of other homes thereby competing with various styles of architecture. This does not encourage a warm neighborhood feeling, but rather a stark existence of people living closely together.

Because I am now thought of as “Old School,” earning my Master of Architecture in 1988, I know I’ve developed my own philosophies on architecture trends, but I never dismiss the classic study and honored traditions of architecture. My father always said a classic button down is never out of style and if it is kept in good shape, no one would ever know what year you bought it. It’s the same with architecture.


Photo by Nathan Blewett of Positive Perceptions

Today’s architecture, in many cases, aims to mix as many unrelated materials in random patterns and directions to more-or-less hide the box being built. I’ve coined this “Click Architecture.” With the click of a mouse, siding is changed from vertical to horizontal, metal panels in random color selections are added to one section and so on. Multiple individual elements that don’t relate to one another are brought together.

As noted in the book, “Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use & Avoid,” by Marianne Cusato and Ben Pentreath, today’s neighborhoods can be described as, “…each house attempts to be the center of attention, making it impossible for any one of them to be noticed.” They go on to say, “…successful streets have buildings that work together to create a larger composition.”

This holds true for commercial buildings as well, such as those being built as I write in several Denver’s currently “hot” neighborhoods like the Highlands and RiNo.

Even if building a GREEN or LEED certified structure, it is not at all green if it ends up under a wrecking ball in 50 years.

Stephen Hentschel, NCIDQ, ICAA
Hentschel Mandil Architects

Small & Chic Spaces

Kids going off to college. Colorado’s young professionals living in “New York-size” apartments. Trading the suburbs for city living. These are a few reasons why you might find yourself living in a small space. And, small spaces deserve well-designed interiors as much as, if not even more than, a large house.

It all comes down to doing less, better. The first step is to go through all your belongings and hold on to pieces that have an emotional value. It is an exercise in determining what is important. Get rid of the large furniture and focus on the things that you truly can’t live without.

Working with an interior designer, you can simplify in a beautiful way. Using color as the backdrop for your meaningful belongings, you can inject both personality and feeling. Making the space feel larger, or cozier depending on your style, is created by using the perfect hue. Selecting a color that will be timeless, as opposed to on trend, will help in the long run saving time and expenditures for re-painting when you tire of the color of the year on your walls. Light fixtures, hardware and other fixed details become the jewelry for your home, presenting your taste in a sophisticated and elegant way.

If you are living in a high-rise condominium or another smaller environment, it is anything but punishment. Smaller spaces give you the opportunity to reorganize your furniture, art and other pieces into a space that flows with your life. Every piece is reinvented to make the space feel more functional and even feel bigger. When well organized, you can have the ability to dress up or dress down your space with multi-functional spaces and pieces.

Take for example, two one-bedroom units in the same building. Though they are the same size and same layout, they are completely different. The photos shared here demonstrate the ability to take a small space and make it uniquely yours and comfortably fitted to your lifestyle. With good design, you don’t need a big house to feel right at home.

Eric Mandil

Mandil Inc.

A Fresh Take on Outdoor Living – Setting the Mood

With more than 15 years in the luxury landscape design industry, I have seen trends come and go, including many that should never return. Today’s approach to landscape design is focused on useful home expansion. With simple, yet smart design, and the use of materials with one-of-a-kind appeal, your outdoor living space can exist in harmony with the natural surroundings.

Many family’s most memorable moments are shared in their backyard. Consider your own family. How do you use your outdoor spaces? How do you wish you did? More space for play? Ready for a spontaneous dinner party? A quiet spot to unwind?

No matter the type of space you want to create, the options for making your home’s outdoors more enjoyable have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The popularity of remodeling exterior areas has created a market for well-made materials and design elements able to withstand long-term outdoor exposure. However, there is a lot of information to sift through and understand for busy homeowners. Investing wisely the first time is critical to saving money and future headache.

The best outdoor spaces encourage fun and relaxation, while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. An inviting landscape does not have to be elaborate or large in scale to draw people in. Simple elements thoughtfully placed can create charm and warmth, and custom craftsmanship can make all the difference. A unique fire pit can inspire everything from kids roasting marshmallows to a romantic evening for two. Water features offer soothing sounds that can also create a sense of coolness and calm, while canceling out or distractions from unwanted noise. An outdoor sound system makes it effortless to enjoy music. Lush greens generously planted are vital the visual enjoyment of the space. Plant material and annual containers should be used creatively to carve out more intimate spaces in a way that feels natural and alluring.

Lighting is an extremely effective tool for setting the mood and making a space functional. Skimping on or skipping lighting reduces the wow factor of your space at night, as well as possibly making your outdoor space difficult and unsafe to use after dark. Thoughtfully placed directional lighting allows you to get many more hours of enjoyment outside.

Ambiance and intimacy are more commonly associated with dining rooms, bedrooms and other interior spaces, yet both are attainable in landscape design.  Your outdoor space is your chance to creatively expand your home beyond its doors and maximize your living space. Working with a professional landscape firm will ensure you consider all the possibilities for gathering and enjoying the natural setting that surrounds your home.

Troy Shimp
Lifescape Colorado

Creating Unique Spaces

For most, painting a home involves a can of paint, a brush and something to cover up what you don’t want to get covered with errant drips of paint. For me, it involves a whole lot more.

I have painted many four-walled rooms in one color, with clean lines and every drip of paint caught by a drop cloth. But, what I most enjoy about my profession is when I am painting anything other than a four-walled room. Specializing in the luxury market, I have the opportunity to create unique spaces in a variety of settings from interior and exterior, residential to commercial.

Aside from getting dialed in on exactly what the customer wants, the biggest challenge is remodel projects. Working with dissimilar materials or a portion of a whole, merging old with new, is a craft in itself. Painting is easy; it’s the matching and melding that require patience and skill.

The greatest reward is the people I meet. As you can imagine, creating a Tuscan finish, perfecting high gloss panels or applying an epoxy treatment to an outdoor hockey rink introduces me to some of the most interesting people in Colorado.

Many projects today look for painted woodwork versus the past trend of stained wood. Smooth finishes, and clean, light colors are also a common thread in today’s design. What never goes out of fashion? Good breaks and clean tape lines.

Matt Poskochil
Fine Line Painting

Bringing Tile to the Architecture & Design Community

My first job out of college was in sales for a phone and data systems provider. Since then, I have made sales my professional track, but have changed industries to one much more colorful and creative than data technology.

I was recruited away from my first sales position by family business man Jerry Hall. He liked my sales presentation when I sold him data equipment for his Indianapolis business, Custom Floors. We worked together for four years and in that time, more than doubled the company’s revenue by selling and installing tile, hardwood, carpet and vinyl flooring. I learned about working with builders, estimating for plans, site measurements, ordering materials and scheduling appropriately for new home building.

After moving to Colorado in 2008, it was a natural progression to start working at ANN SACKS, and since March of this year, Bedrosians. The transition from working with residential homeowners to high end, luxury custom projects was a challenge, in a good way. All the skills I had developed working directly with vendors, home builders and home owners parlayed into creating a substantial book of architecture and design (A & D) business at ANN SACKS.

Having the opportunity to learn about and then help create the vision of the A & D community has been an aspect of selling I hadn’t anticipated, and I really enjoy it. Continuing those relationships in my new role as regional manager for Bedrosians, a family-owned business celebrating its 70th year, I look forward to bringing the A & D community along with me on this journey.

Travis Daugherty
Bedrosians