In June, the Gold Nugget Awards - the nations largest and most prestigious awards in the areas of design, planning and development - held its 52nd annual gala bash in San Diego, California. Builders, Architects and Land Planners from around the globe were recognized for their exceptional concepts, unique visions and flawless execution of design and development.
The folks that comprise the recognizing body of the Gold Nugget awards emphasize not only aesthetic talent and technical skill, but place high value on the ways in which these home and land designs positively impact our environment, our communities and ourselves.
This year, the awards within the U.S. leaned heavily toward the overall themes of efficiency, sustainability, ambiance and understated elegance. While our European counterparts favored opulence, the U.S. - especially in the west - was feeling a little more zen. With trends that bring outdoor spaces - and the transitional space between indoor and outdoor - into the forefront, it is clear that many Americans are embracing (arguably craving) the natural world like never before. Repurposed materials are becoming commonplace and energy efficiency and sustainability, almost a market mandate.
According to Builderonline.com - Gold Nugget's chief sponsor - the prominent trends of 2015 are:
• Integrated, open designs, unexpected materials, sophisticated lighting and striking, thoughtful details.
• Emphasizing and formalizing outdoor space while minimizing indoor space. Seamless, innovative transition areas like collapsible, floor-to-ceiling doors were the types of "space shifting" designs that were given great praise.
• Along a more practical vein, the trend of creating multi-functional spaces was recognized as a forward-thinking approach to not only solving a space crunch, but to help move folks away from designating spaces in the home that go largely unused. Outfitting a formal dining room to double as a home office solves the problem of working at the kitchen table or in the basement, but also puts to use a space that is perhaps only inhabited three or four times per year.
• Minimalism: Clean lines and single focal points within rooms (a bathtub, for example) were the indoor trends that caught the attention of the judges.
• Sustainability. It appears these days that no matter how innovative or captivating a home or land design may be, it is considered clumsy and irresponsible if not executed in an earth-friendly, efficient and sustainable way. That's very good news for the environment, but also good news for the homeowner. Soon will be gone, the days of energy-gouging appliances, inefficient heating/cooling systems and slipshod construction.
A wonderful slideshow of the winners is up for viewing on builderonline.com and a list of all the winners in all categories (single/multi-family, custom, mixed-use and commercial), can be found directly on the .
As the snow begins to melt and the icicles drip to reveal branches of the tree again, the scene gradually turns into an airborne nightmare of pollen and particulate matter, gusting about the spring air. For those with allergies, this is the worst time of the year.
Luckily, PollenTEC is here to the rescue. It has partnered with a European textile company to produce screens that are designed to block allergens from entering your home while letting in fresh air, so you don't have to shut all the windows and doors on a windy day.
The European Center for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) has tested the screen on several tree allergens, which are the most prominent triggers for allergies, and their findings verified that 100 percent of grass pollens, 99.71 percent of birch pollens, 93.1 percent of stinging nettle-pollen and 90.9 percent of ragweed pollen were filtered through PollenTec screens. So, if you're anticipating another nose-sniffling, poofy-eyed season, PollenTEC might be able to help.
Even adults dream of hiding away in a cool tree house. WebUrbanist has compiled a list with photos of "10 Amazing Tree Houses from around the World: Sustainable, Unique and Creative Designs." Check out these amazing photos.
I'm a big fan of simple designs that fit the surroundings, which may be why I find siding made of bark so interesting. This style was quite popular in Appalachian mountain resorts at the turn of the century until the chestnut blight hit in the 1940s and the bark was no longer commercially available. A shame, too, because the bark siding was thick, rugged and gave buildings a rustic look. Now Highland Craftsman has reinvented this look using poplar bark, which is actually more durable than the original chestnut. The sample they sent me embodies the word "TOUGH." When properly installed, bark siding can last over 75 years and resist some of the toughest weather conditions found in America, all without chemical additives. This is green building at its finest. The bark used in producing the siding is normally discarded in conventional timber harvesting but, in this case, is reclaimed for use. The bark siding is kiln dried, resists infestations and meets the most stringent building code standards for flammability. Another plus, with bark shingles, there is no need for paint. Yay! There is a limited season for harvesting and production of bark shingles so customers are encouraged to plan ahead. Contact information for Highland Craftsman can be found on their web site. You can also call 828-765-9010 to request a sample and brochure, pricing information or place an order.
So you think you're patio is ugly? Well, there's a contest designed just for you— Oldcastle Architectural, maker of ornamental concrete, pavers, patio stones, edgers, and walls, is calling for photos of the ugliest patio. They're offering two categories, one for patios up to 500 square feet and the second for large patios up to 1,000 square feet. Winners will receive an Oldcastle patio makeover. This makes sense given that hardscaping and exterior improvements can earn homeowners up to 15 percent in increased value. Besides, who wouldn't want a stylish exterior facelift. Your neighbors will thank you! So visit Oldcastle and get out your cameras. It's time to reward yourself for years of landscaping shame. See, ugly can actually pay off!
I write about this stuff all the time, but it's really cool to see how siding can transform a home. Last weekend, while visiting family, I just gasped when I saw how new red cedar siding had transformed this house. Clear grade, no knots, and a rich glow from the natural wood. Truly, this is stunning. The owner understands that the wood is naturally strong and insect resistant, so he's not messing with it. Just a light oil to seal and finish it. Wow, it's enough to make me do my own house...
I have a couple of friends with second-floor apartments who, due to small balcony space, find themselves bereft of a grill. This pretty much rules them out as hosts of a summer-time bash, because let’s face it—if you can’t grill, the party is going to be a little lame. For space-conscious people in want of a grill, the Del Mar Magma grill comes in diameters measuring 16.25 inches and 18.25 inches respectively. Del Mar Magma's polished stainless-steel unit stands 41” tall. They all come in natural gas or propane varieties, with the 1 lb. quick-change, disposable propane canisters fitting neatly inside the base. The natural gas version can be hooked up to your home’s supply. At $400 this item is not a bad investment—think of how many more friends you’ll have now that you can grill! The small tank might only allow for 3 hours of continuous grilling, but burgers and dogs only take minutes, so your guests shouldn’t go hungry. Available now.