Fall Here Now

img_6299I live pretty far north (comparatively) and up here we are in full fall color now. I took this photo on a recent, evening walk in my neighborhood.

All this beauty, means a couple of things: 1. I am busy at school! 2. Winter is headed for us and bringing with it snow, cold, short days and long nights. Winter brings my focus inside and I hope to get some solid work done on a book project I am working on. Let’s see if I can get myself to stay focused on this project and not fall down a giant rabbit-hole of Netflix this winter!

More “Old-School” Rendering


Recently I found this old hand-drawn rendering at my university. The rendering is in very rough shape after years of wasting away in a drawer. This appears to be a perspective drawing of a people mover system and station that was printed on “brown line” diazo* paper. While the paper is faded and torn, the initial excellent drawing and rendering continue to serve the design well and I find that this old-school approach can offer hints for current digital rendering and presentation.

Looking at the image, we see that the renderer was quite successful in using minimal media to create an excellent rendering. The rendering is created by making use of the light brown colored paper as a medium value and background, with pops of lighter colors such as white and very light blue –and pops of very dark marker areas and dark lines to define dark values and details. It appears chalk pastels in blue, gray and brown were used to depict light buildings and forms in the background. Minimal orange and gold marker areas are added for graphics and painted surfaces.

What can we learn from this?

1   We understand the forms that create the design without the drawing being hyper-realistic. Less can be more -even in digital rendering.

2 The use of white highlights to visually enhance the forward portions of objects and buildings is highly useful! Using white on the forward edges of elements gives the impression of light hitting the surface and creating a highlight. I would guess that the white is create using gauche paint (on a tiny brush) and white chalk pastels.

3 Notice the delicate use of black ink line weights. The forward portions of objects are depicted with light black lines and as the forms recede this is depicted with bolder, heavier black lines. Such a lovely balance of light and heavy lines.

4 Black marker areas are nicely balanced with lighter areas on object, helping the rendering read well in terms of value contrast.

5 The judicious use of bright color –using the same orange and gold color repeatedly creates good color balance.

I wanted to share this because I love these old-school renderings, I think this is a great one and I did not want it to waste away without being noticed. And, I do think we can bring some of these techniques to our hand drawn quick sketches as well as digital renderings.

This rendering was probably done by a former teacher, or visiting design professional at my university long before my time there. If anyone reading this knows the creator of this rendering, please let me know!

*Brown line diazo prints are a brown version of a blue line print. For those not familiar with this process, in the olden days (from the 1940s to 1980s) this type of printing was common. In this method, designers drew original line drawings on velum or mylar and these were printed using a chemical process. Use of this method was replaced by large format photocopies in the late 1980s

Marker Rendering: “Gelly Roll”* Pen For Highlights!


Recently a student introduced me to using a white “Sakura Gelly Roll Pen” for highlights in hand rendering, and I found this to be an excellent tool, so I will share some related information here.

Previously, for hand rendering,  I had used white “Prismacolor Premier” colored pencil for highlights and white/light areas. These are my overall favorite  colored pencils for hand rendering as they lay down the most color when full coverage is desired. I often use these white colored pencils to create sharp white highlights on edges (say they edge of a table or granite counter), I also use them to wash over larger areas of marker to lighten portions of objects and interiors.  IMG_5843

The “Gelly Roll Pen” seems to work better than colored pencils for creating sharp edges and smaller highlighted areas. Below I have an image of lines drawn in Gelly Roll Pen over dark brown marker —hopefully you can observe the sharp white lines even with this quick iPhone photo.


One of students in my summer class, the very talented Mao Vang, did a fantastic rendering of a whimsical chair and used the Gelly Roll Pen for the highlights —again this is a quick phone photo that does not do her work justice but it conveys the idea. (In person the rendering is more subtle and delicate than this image portrays).

Also included is a photo of her un-rendered line drawing of the chair. Mao used the quick sketch perspective method outlined in my book Interior Design Visual Presentation to develop the line drawing.

Whimsical Chair Rendering, by Mao Vang
Whimsical Chair Perspective Line Drawing, by Mao Vang

Hand rendering is a skill that continues to come in handy in this age of digital rendering and the skills learned from working by hand can translate nicely into rendering using Photoshop and Illustrator software.

Below is a link to a packet of “Gelly Roll Pens” on Amazon —you can also pick up single pens at most craft stores. A link to Prismacolor pencils on Amazon is also below. I hope to discuss hand rendering a bit more in future posts.

Sakura White “Gelly Roll Pen” (pack) on Amazon:

White “Prismacolor Premier” Pencil on Amazon:

*This is a brand name for a white gel pen that is pretty inexpensive and works for me, there are others that are quite good as well. Also, back in the old days we used white gouache paint on little tiny brushes to create white highlights (I am going to post an example of that in the future).


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Interior Design Visual Presentation | 5th Edition

I have agreed to complete a new edition of the book Interior Design Visual Presentation —this will be the 5th edition. Finding myself beginning work on this project is a bit of a jolt.

I started work on the 1st edition almost 20 years ago. Time flies, as they say, and when that original edition was published Revit and SketchUp software did not exist, nobody had a phone that was also a camera and 3-d printers were not a thing (not for regular people anyway). Now all of those previously non-existent things will be included in the new edition.

Honestly, I am always frightened to work on a new edition —it can seem very overwhelming. The motivation to do the work is usually a sense that the last edition has some “stuff” that needs “fixing” or at least serious updating. That is the case with this new edition, as I will be including new examples of both hand drawings/renderings and digital images and updating the many things that have changed since I completed the last edition in 2011.

The first part of this work will be to sort of attack the last edition and determine what needs to be eliminated and what needs to be revised. Usually at the same time I start to dig around to see what design firms are doing that is new and to see what seems to be happening both stylistically and technically with presentations. In a way this part is fun and easy because I am interested in what is going on out there and I am happy to be able to fix things that need fixing. Once I get my head around what needs to go and what has changed then the real work begins —more about that later!



Residential Interior Design | New Edition

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I’m happy to say that the third edition of Residential Interior Design: a Guide to Planning Spaces will be published late this spring (’16) by Wiley. I am currently at work on page proofs and the index (my least favorite task). The image above is a sneak preview of the cover design.

This edition includes updated code information (IRC 2015), statistical updates, and some improved graphics as well as expanded information on remodeling,

Planners: yes!

Okay, this may seem like a ridiculous thing to sit down and write about but it is important.

As a person that is not exactly organized by nature, its clear to me that a good planner is a very useful tool. I’ve tried all types and had mixed results but have finally found one that I like and can use consistently.

What I am saying is: my only hope for staying on top of things is to keep a planner going and to sort of enjoy the process.

A good planner can help with organization but for some people planners go well beyond that to become a hobby or creative outlet; they use the planner for all types of organization, record keeping and sort of embellish it. Artists and designers create journals that are sometimes combined with planners but I cannot quite make that work.

For me, the planner should be simple and have a good monthly overview page as well as larger spaces for each day. This way I can use the larger, daily spaces for ideas, as a sort of journal and for refer to the monthly view page for appointments. I like a neutral cover and simple page design. And, my planner must be small enough to fit in a bag or purse (say 5 by 9/10 inches) so I can bring it everywhere.


My current planner does all of the above and for a reasonable cost ($20). It is made by Shinola, a company I am happy to support. (sadly it appears they no longer have the 2016 version available –its called a Runwell Planner). Last year I tried to make my own planner by using an online calendar and scaling it down to fit in a moleskin. This years Shinola version shares the what I like about moleskin notebooks (elastic band and page marker) with  great calendar and monthly note pages.


My daughter likes a bigger planner that is more like a notebook and she uses it to keep on top of everything; she also does some major embellishing. Her current planner is by Erin Condren (Life Planner).


Some of the students I work with have created their own planners by hacking calendar pages found online and combining them with blank or lined pages for notes. One student has come up with a pretty spectacular version using this process this semester.


Ken Kellogg | Kendrick Bangs Kellogg | The High Desert House

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Here is an informative NY Times article about Kendrick Bangs Kellogg with a focus on  the High Desert House, in Joshua Tree.

Having lived in San Diego, CA, I long admired the work Kellogg did in the area. Years ago, I  was also lucky to be involved with a local lecture and tour of some of his projects.  It was wonderful to be able experience his work in person, particularly the relationships of the  interior, exterior and site on a range of projects.



Interior Design

IMG_4387What to call it? Maybe Interior Architecture? Sometimes, maybe, if you are actually doing that. Or, perhaps if it is a description of an academic program housed within an architecture school.

For me Interior Design continues to be the best way to describe this area of design.

Interior Design continues to be the best term to describe work done on projects that range from large scale commercial interiors that include significant space planning, materials, finish and furniture selections, to projects that focus on FF&E as well as residential design projects.

In selecting titles for books I have written I have always been intent on including “Interior Design” in the title. I have been asked to consider titles that might be seen as more general with less of a focus on the word “Interior” so that the books might be seen as more palatable to architects and other design professionals. But, I’m pretty happy to carry the banner and to keep pushing the profession forward in any way that I can.

Interior Design