Friday, December 31, 2010

Design Ideas - Special Fireplace

I ran across this sculpture installation that really caught my eye.  A really simple fireplace wall composition with one spectacular piece of art.  The glass wheat sculpture is designed by Canlis Glass out of Seattle, Washington.  Check it out.

Simple composition of the fireplace wall.  A contemporary fire box and open display niche sit side by side.  Wheat sculpture centered above.

Lighting is important here as it really emphasizes the overall texture of the glass.

The stems of glass are set into the base of the sculpture; which in this case also serves as the fireplace mantel.

I don't want to know how much this costs.
I would imagine that this unique glass sculpture is cost prohibitive.  But the idea of the fireplace wall can be borrowed.  Keep the composition very simple.  No need for a fancy fireplace surround with expensive stone and and an ornate mantel.  Instead just place one interesting piece of art above.  Beautiful idea.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

really modern really old house design

I ran across some photos of this house I thought interesting.  Actually, I love it.  The home located in Yport in Normandy, France was designed by Franklin Azzi Architecture in Paris.

I have for some time been very interested in the blending and contrasting of old and new - of traditional and modern.  Here the focal point for the design composition is a simple brick and stone box.  This emulates old fashioned rural farm structures that can be seen throughout the French countryside.  
The ends of the box have been completely opened up - providing access to a modern flat roof covered patio.  The design of the roof clearly contrasts with the gable form.

The rear of the home has a clearly modern "addition".  The gable form itself is repeated however the design clearly distinguishes itself from the traditional box.
Ridiculous views of countryside.  The roof deck we could never do in the USA because building codes would not allow it.  Someone could fall off.
Clean and simple interior bedroom space with exposed timber framework.  The old and new again coming together.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ron Brenner Design to be Featured in New Book

An In-Law Apartment I designed a few years ago is to be featured in an upcoming book by Michael Litchfield.  The book is called in-laws, outlaws and granny flats; and is slated to be available in bookstores and online by late February / early March.

the book can be pre-ordered at the taunton store - in-laws-outlaws-and-granny-flats

The book features a number of case studies that illustrate ways in which homeowners are creating in-law suites.  In our case study - called "Billys Place" we converted an existing garage attic space into a beautiful live able one room studio for Grandpa.

We used the volumes created by the shape of the roof and dormers to zone distinct spaces within.

The living, sitting and entry zones lie underneath the main gable.

The kitchen zone is carved into the northern dormer.
The bed zone lies within the southern dormer.
We at Simply Elegant Home Designs have created a couple of Garage / Studio Apartment designs inspired by "Billys Place".  If interested you can check them out with the links below:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Netflix for....books??

Just stumbled across this fantastic service for all you bibliophiles out's called Book Swim.  Set up to work like Netflix, Book Swim delivers books to your door, you keep them as long as you want, and return them in a postage paid envelope.  Flat monthly fee.  Plans start as low as $9.95/month.  I'm loving this idea!  Visit the link ~here~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gypsy high fashion?

Looks like fashion designers are loving gypsies this season.  Check out Alexandre Herchovitch's fall/winter collection ~here~

Michal Negrin

Israel seems to have more than their fair share of talented designers, and Michal Negrin is no exception.  Her creations are beautifully detailed and romantic, and her website is a lot of fun.  She offers jewelry (natch), clothing, and accessories.  Check her out:  ~Michal Negrin~

Monday, December 20, 2010

New House Plan Offering - The Excelsior Cottage

Simply Elegant Home Designs is very proud to offer an amazing new house plan - the Excelsior Farmhouse Cottage; designed by Ron Brenner of Ron Brenner Architects.  The design combines elements from traditional farmhouse and contemporary cottage home styles.    

Excelsior Farmhouse Cottage - Front

Excelsior Farmhouse Cottage - Side / Rear

Excelsior Farmhouse Cottage - Living Room
This home plan’s exterior is characterized by this designer’s exquisite attention to scale, proportion, window patterns, materials and all of the details. A beautifully proportioned second story front gable and graceful columns provide a striking entry to the home.  Subtle overhangs with delicate brackets provide interesting shadow lines and help to protect the windows below.

The main floor accommodates kitchen, living and dining areas within its elegant open floor plan. Upstairs the three bedrooms, including the master suite, are neatly placed beneath an interesting roof line.  An above garage bonus room provides ample space for an additional bedroom and family flex areas.

You can visit Excelsior Farmhouse Cottage to learn more about this home design.

Friday, December 17, 2010

she's got The Look

Though I am decidedly unfashionable, I still love fashion. These are the latest ensembles that caught my eye from

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

books and chai by the fire

I really like this unpretentious book. Elizabeth gives us an interesting history into the bohemian culture and highlights some great interiors by some famous (and infamous) bohemians.
Sigh. I love this book. The Paris Apartment has many luscious photos of gorgeous interiors, but best of all, Claudia shows us how to create that romantic, chic French look in our homes on a *budget*. She gives tips on how to scour flea markets and put it all together. Fabulous.
Bohemian Manifesto is a fun, quirky look at the modern bohemian culture. It details different bohemian "types" (I'm a blend of Nouveau and Gypsy...big surprise!), and extols the lifestyles of each. Great illustrations throughout. Neat Christmas gift for any boho friend.

Blog love affair

...I'm in love with my new blog design. Can't stop looking at it! Love the colors, the feeling, everything about it. It was created by the super-talented Sharon at Plumrose Lane. Click the link on the upper right hand corner of my blog and check her out!


Well, now that my website is up and comfortably running, I decided to give Etsy a whirl. For those of you that don't know, Etsy is a site created as a marketplace for handcrafted and/or vintage items. Soooo much talent - wow! So, I now have a humble little shop there, and I'm excited to create, create, create. My Etsy banner and avatar was created by a VERY talented graphic artist, Dale at Sea Dream Studio. Check her out!

And my shop...

Love and Peace!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gypsy Living...

I love colorful, playful interiors that have personality and a relaxed feel. When I think of bohemian living, the images above capture that style for me. Home is truly our sanctuary, where we should feel nurtured, safe, and surrounded by things we love!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


~update...this set is sold...found a home with a lovely customer!~
I'm obsessed with the color burgundy. Love, love, love it. On a trip to Gemstar a while ago, I came upon these gorgeous pearls and had to have them. I just finished this necklace today, and I'm not sure I can part with it! ;) Check it out on my website - it's perfect for the holidays. Matching earrings included...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peacock Dreams

I've been enchanted by peacocks since I was a little girl. I created this necklace (and matching earrings) to honor these magnificent creatures. The peacock pendant is embellished with Swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls. Very unusual piece! It is for sale on my website. To take the concept a step further, I found these great images of peacock themed weddings! I've always been a fan of non-traditional weddings, and this theme is fantastic - colorful and unique.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gypsy Music

Thought we could all use a little traditional gypsy music!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ron Brenner Architects creates new Cottage House Plan

Ron Brenner Architects is creating a new design for the Cottagewood division of Kyle Hunt & Partners. The design is characterized by a dramatic steep front gable roof line and will feature a modern open floor plan. Design refinements are still in progress but the video below illustrates its current state.

Cottagewood specializes in crafting Architect designed homes. They have created strategic partnerships with several Architects including Brenner to provide services for their clients. This design will be featured at their Palmer Pointe neighborhood in Minnetrista, MN.

I just thought I would give you an update on this design we are working on. We have done some "tweaking" of the exterior. The image below is the latest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Architects Suck?

I had quite a long conversation with a very nice fellow the other day. I’ll call him Tom, the owner of another pre-designed house plan company. His company specializes in the sale of architect designed houses that were originally designed for a real client. Anyways, Tom talks to people every day that are interested in purchasing his plans. Based on these conversations he believes that Architects have gained a bad reputation amongst the general public. Over and over again he hears a long list of complaints:
  • Architect did not listen to client
  • Architect ignored the construction budget
  • Architect ignored the design budget
  • Architect took forever to get anything done
  • Architect did drawings that were not “buildable
  • Architect is not cooperative with the builder
  • Architect does not communicate
  • Architect has “attitude”
  • Architects Suck!
All of this is a bit disheartening; but I happen to know the complaints are all too often true. I have heard similar complaints from the builders and contractors I have worked with. In my primary residential architecture business at Ron Brenner Architects we have taken on a fair number of new clients that came to us after having a bad experience with another Architectural Firm.
I am certain that none of my fellow CORA (congress of residential architecture) members fit into this “bad egg” category. But there seems to be a small component of the Architect family that does not put client first. We have a tough enough time out there without having to deal with a bad rep.

Most of us provide a great service for our clients and add value to their projects. We simply need to find more ways to get the good word out. Architects need to start generating some new ideas on how to do that.
I believe the internet is providing architects with more and more opportunity to reach out. One such example is Flickr. Here, Architects can post images of their projects, thus exposing more examples of good architecture to the general public. You might check out the CORA Flickr site which is beginning to post many good images of residential architecture.
You could also explore my own Ron Brenner Flickr site where I have posted images of projects completed by Ron Brenner Architects.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Simple Yet Dramatic Home Design

I just completed a new home design for a client that will be built in "Tapestry at Charlotte's Grove"; a new community in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  This modern cottage house plan is a classic example of the kind of work I love to do.  Simple yet dramatic in form.  Clean detailing inside and out.  Open and connected spaces.  Efficient in it's use of space and relatively affordable to construct.  Here is a sneak peek at the exteriors.

Look for a variation of this design to be offered soon at  Simply Elegant Home Designs.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Home Design Ideas - Split the Garage!

At Ron Brenner Architects, I am currently working with a client on a new home design to be constructed in Rochester, MN.  Here we have run into a very common dilemma.  What to do with 3 1/2 cars worth of garage?   

If you put all of that garage to the side of the house you get one very wide plan.  If you put all of that garage forward of the house you get one very deep plan.  Many lots cannot accommodate either one of those plan arrangements.  So what I have proposed to do here is to split the garages into two separate structures.  The main two car garage is directly connected to the house via the mudroom zone.  The additional 1 1/2 car garage is placed on the opposite side of the lot; resulting in a nifty little entry court.  See sketches below.

Here you can see a birds eye view of the layout.  Notice the roof between the garage and house is low.  This helps to reduce the mass of the house.  Pulling the garages a bit forward of the front porch creates a nifty little courtyard.

view from street

view approaching courtyard

nice little composition

So when you develop your next house plan - please think about the impact of that garage and look for creative solutions.

Saturday, September 11, 2010 is a fun site that combines vintage images and artwork with modern fashion ideas. I love their montages! Enjoy...
Byzantine Style with Louboutin

Monday, September 6, 2010


"Clasp my love around your neck,
wear my heart on your finger.
My soul will be your pendant:
I live to adorn you -
you're the precious one."

~Grey Livingston

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dragonfly Dreams

This piece is a bit of a departure from my usual vintage designs, but it really is stunning. While roaming around Gemstar in Enfield, NH (if you love stones, you really must check out this place!), I came across these amazing snakeskin agate stones and had to make something with them. I already had the dragonfly at home and knew the combination would make a great nature-themed necklace. Then the search was on to find a pendant for the dragonfly to rest on...and this gorgeous green leaf jumped out at me at a local bead shop. Perfect. I "test drive" all of my pieces before I sell them to ensure they're comfortable and secure, and I got a LOT of compliments while wearing this piece. It makes a statement! Available for sale on my website.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ocean Moon Goddess

The sister piece to Pink Moon Goddess (posted below), Ocean Moon Goddess is in a lovely shade of celadon - that beautiful blue/green color that reminds me of the sea. Her stone is accented with shades of lavender and white...she appears to be floating in the clouds! She's available for sale on my website. Matching earrings included.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Autumn is almost here!

For me, New England living doesn't get any better than during the fall - I love everything about it! Crisp air, fireplaces, brilliant leaves, apple latest simple necklace pays tribute to the season. This was fun to make and photograph; I happened upon the background paper at a craft store yesterday - perfect! I also made some earrings from the same oak leaves. I'm going to order more as I can already see other ways to use these pretty leaves.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Meet Pink Moon Goddess! She's one of my recent designs that was sold to a truly lovely woman. She (and her sister piece, Ocean Moon Goddess) were a joy to create; they just came together perfectly. I will be on the hunt for more unique stones in different colors and create more of these in the future.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

House Plans - Build it yourself

In the "old days" people used to build their own houses. Many would buy a set of house plans and the construction materials from the Sears & Roebuck Catalog; the pieces would get shipped to there home site and they would build it. Today there are Architect Designed Sears homes all over the country that were built in the early part of the 20th century. Here are a few examples.

This trend went away after world war II when the baby boom began. There was an enormous demand for housing and as a result developers began mass producing houses. One cookie cutter house after another.

Times are sure different now and I wonder if it is time to learn a bit from our past. The economy is tight and people don't have as much money to spend, but everyone still wants a nice home to live in. So why not start building our homes ourselves again?

I would never recommend that you literally go out and start framing your house. You would have to be very skilled and knowledgeable to take on that kind of effort. But depending on how handy you are and your level of confidence there are many ways that you can save money. Here are a few thoughts on things that you might consider tackling yourself:
  1. Be your own general contractor
  2. Build your own decks
  3. Install your own cabinets
  4. Install your own counter tops
  5. Perform all of your own painting (exterior and interior)
  6. Install your fireplace surround
  7. Do your own landscaping
  8. Install your own appliances
  9. Install your own patio or sidewalk pavers
  10. Install your own music system
  11. Build your own special interior staircase
  12. Install your own light fixtures
  13. Install your own bathroom accessories
On my own home I did at least some work in each of the above categories. My strategy was to let the professionals perform all of the critical work (foundations, framing, roofing, siding, etc.); but I would do the work that I was confident I could handle. I saved a bundle of money, which made my home affordable. Be warned however that this is a crazy amount of work for you to take on yourself. Many times you have to be available during normal work hours. And forget about having any kind of a life during construction. You will be at your job site every single night and weekend.

If you think you want to take on this kind of an effort you might start by finding a great architect designed house plan at Simply Elegant Home Designs.