Talking Points

At this week’s Pacific Coast Builder’s Conference in San Francisco the glass was half empty and half full: in other words there was an understandable air of worry about economic realities but also a sense that this is an exciting time of reinvention with its own set of opportunities. Two speakers made me think about a key aspect of my job — editing our universe of 28,000+ plans down to manageable collections.

Consumer research guru J. Walker Smith, author of Generation Ageless: How Baby Boomers Are Changing The Way We Live Today…And They’re Just Getting Started) spoke about how our lifestyle aspirations are changing dramatically. The super-abundance of choice has paradoxically created numerous scarcities. For example, if you Google something and get hundreds of thousands of results, that’s not very useful — there’s a scarcity of truly relevant information despite all the abundance. We need ways to smarten or personalize the search for what we want. And that’s what I hope I’m doing when I assemble groupings of plans out of our huge inventory. I want to be your “Smart Plan Searcher.”

Take this delightful house.


It’s Plan 64-168 in our Unique and Unusual Plan Collection. I included it in the collection because to me it immediately says seashore vacation. I think it’s romantic and wonderful. And here’s one in the Porch Time Collection:


I can imagine enjoying an evening meal outside on that covered terrace (Plan 410-123). My goal is to help you think about what you want in a home by gathering houses that illustrate particular ideas or design approaches. So if you’re interested in the concept of summer living — which is all about a relaxed outdoor-oriented lifestyle that’s not confined to cabins — I hope this collection helps you clarify what you want in a house.

Also at PCBC, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell spoke about the mechanics of good judgement; how the process of making accurate assessments of the world around us is fragile and easy to undermine. He was elaborating on themes in his recent book titled Blink (a fascinating read). I think looking for the right house is a good example of what he’s talking about: while you’re judging what plan is best for you it’s easy to be distracted by insignificant details. This “tail wagging the dog” or “woolgathering” syndrome happens to me sometimes as I organize plans around a theme or feature. (It also happens when I’m driving and take a wrong turn because I’ve been admiring a building instead of concentrating on where I’m going…). I always need to remind myself to concentrate on the clarity of the plan or elevation and how it relates to the subject of the collection. It’s no wonder that coaches are always yelling “Focus!” at their team members.

Home Show Hit Parade

Several new products at PCBC caught my attention.

Wireless Light Wizard. I was impressed by a new wireless, radio frequency-based lighting control system that reduces the amount of wiring needed in a new home. It’s called the Whole House Lighting System from Verve Living Systems. Once it’s installed you can change where you want to put your light switches. In effect each switch becomes a remote. You can even keep one in the car so when you get home in the dark you can click all the lights on as you enter the garage.

Flexible Faucet. Kohler has introduced a cool new articulating kitchen faucet called Karbon. The segmented neck can move in any direction for aiming the spray, even upwards to create an instant drinking fountain.


And the gear-shift like handle is seductive too.

Canopy Kit. Many new houses don’t have weather protection over entries. Here’s a fine solution: the LightLine canopy kit from Feeney Architectural Products. It’s a sturdy ultraviolet light-resistant acrylic (clear or tinted) panel supported on stainless steel brackets. It comes in a kit you assemble and then screw to the wall.

canopy kit overview1

The same company makes handsome handsome railings out of stainless steel cables that almost disappear.

Skylight Power. Velux, the people who bring you a huge range of versatile skylights have now created a skylight lookalike that’s actually a solar powered hot water heating mechanism.


It looks just like a skylight. Pretty cool.The hot water tank is separate from the solar panel. Stay tuned for more product news.

One response to “EYE ON DESIGN: News from PCBC

  1. Great article… very informative and nice angle on the PCBC. We linked to this from BuildingOnline’s eUpdate news page and eMail newsletter at:


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