Happiness in a Can

When I was about eleven years old my family lived in a house that abutted the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.   Every day after school when the fair was in town my brother and I would crawl through a hole in our backyard fence, go to the front gate to get our hand stamped and then roam around amongst the excitement.

You would think as a young’n I would head straight for the fairway with all of the rides and games.  But, nope.  I was too excited to go see the display of Winnebagos.  I dreamed of owning one and traveling the country from coast to coast.  There must be a little bit of gypsy in my lineage.

Unexpectedly, last Fall I came across an ad for a gutted 1985 Airstream Excella for cheap money.  Funny about that year, 1985, because that was the same year my dream of travel trailer ownership was born.  After a few days concentrating on convincing my husband, we bought it.  Yay!!!


She  wasn’t in the best shape, but I envisioned her being renewed once again into an absolute darling on wheels.   My husband just gave me that here-we-go-again look, imagining what he was in for in order to make my vision complete.  See, John is such a talented craftsman that I’m always throwing  challenging projects in his lap.  It’s only because he always brings them so beautifully to life!


After moving her to a little spot of raw land in Maine (which we are planning to develop into our camping oasis), we spent the winter doing research and planning for the restoration project.   John was focused mainly on tightening up and insulating the shell, and installing a whole new electrical system.  I was, of course, focused on the layout, fixtures and finishes.

Here is our current plan/guideline.  We’ll see how the finish product compares when all is said and done.

Paper.Denmark, ME.13

This past weekend was our first big work effort.  We pulled out the floor sheathing to find the insulation beneath was wet.  Luckily, though, the frame proved to still be solid.   We decided to do a water test to try to find the leak.  John climbed up on the roof and poured water down over the top and sides while I watched inside to locate the inlet.  It turned out to be at the horizontal trim running on the lower half of the exterior.  John went all the way around with some Henry’s Clear Seal caulking to button it up.


We then removed the wall panels and wiring in the front half of the interior; replaced the floor insulation with a rigid foam base and spray foam in the crevices; then reinstalled the floor sheathing.

On our next Airstream work weekend we plan to do the same to the rear half of the interior and begin running electrical wiring.

So, stay tuned and let the fun begin!





New Mexico Air and Flair

The one time I visited New Mexico was when I was twelve. It left a vibrant impression on me. Everything seemed to be more colorful there, more fresh and bright to all of my senses.

I was deep into the Trixie Belden book series at the time, on the volume of a cave mystery. So when we went cave exploring in Carlsbad Caverns, it was one of the most exciting adventures I’d ever had! It forever branded New Mexico on my heart.

I’ve revisited that vacation in my memories many times. If ever I were to build a home for myself in that beautiful state, it would be this one.

Do you love it, too?

Wyoming Skies

Crisp air, blue skies dotted with white puffy clouds, cool green grass under bare feet, the mixed scents of a leather saddle a fresh horse and pine needles…aaahhhh that what I think of when Wyoming is in mind.

So, it seems logical to create my Wyoming house plan with post-and-beam barn details.  The main floor is all open for family (and pet) congregating.  The garage is underneath with enough room left in the basement for a finished game/media room.  

The Second Floor is neatly divided up into three bedrooms and two baths with a small loft at the top of the stairs for a pretty sitting or study area.

I love the whole package.

West Virginia Mountain Views

Who can resist a field of green grass with a wide view of tree-covered mountains beyond?  That’s my kind of place for total relaxation and lighting my inner creative spark.  And that’s the setting I imagine for this home design.  What a happy place!

Assuming a scenic view at the back of the house, every room is positioned to share in the treasures of very season.  I can almost smell the fresh breezes now coming through the open windows.  

With an open plan on the main level, this home can transition smoothly from casual family time to entertaining events, especially with the added flexibility of a large deck, accessible from the living, dining and kitchen.

The central staircase is a clear invitation to finish off the downstairs for more family or kid play space.

Three spacious bedrooms and two baths round out the second floor.  Open ceilings looking over the dining room and entry create an airy feeling in the common hall around the stair.  And with a cupola over the stair, light will pour in, bathing the whole floor in warm and happy sunshine.

I think I love it. 😍

In the North Dakota Fields

With so much room in North Dakota, I designed this plan as a sprawled out one level.  A large open common area, three comfortable sized bedrooms and a generous utility space make this home easily transformable from starter home to family home to empty-nester.  It’s definitely a keeper! 

CSI New Jersey

Coastal Serenity Illustrated…a pretty little vacation cottage for the New Jersey shore.  With a small and easy floor plan, this cutie is perfect for a relaxing getaway.

I used the Paper 53 app to create these illustrations and plan to continue using it for this series.  Hopefully I will be able to master the tools at least by the end!  


I’ve never been to the Northwest, but it’s definitely in my sights.  One specific place John and I would love to go is Idaho to see the Elk River Basin and the Giant Cedar Grove.  We have a thing for forests and waterfalls.

This is what I had in mind as I designed a cottage for Idaho.  It is one of my favorites.


I imagine cedar siding with white trim, or maybe a colorful trim, I haven’t made up my mind about that yet.  It would depend upon the exact setting.  I think this cozy and welcoming cottage could fit in many different kinds of settings.

The common area is open and airy for family togetherness and organized function, while the Master Suite is tucked away for a comfortable level of privacy.



The Second Floor packs a good punch with a loft that can serve as either a playroom or media space.  Three bedrooms with roomy closets and a compartmentalized bath allow everyone to have their own space.

This design would be on my short list if we ever get around to building our own house!

Evolution of the Soul

One year ago, I resigned my position as a construction project manager in Boston in order to begin a new design-build company with my husband, John.  I equate the excitement of our new venture to the idea of a lengthy sailing trip.  Stay on course.  Don’t rock the boat.  Be ready to raise the sails as soon as the wind picks up.  Danger is just over the edge.   A storm could brew at any moment, stay aware.  Teamwork is essential in every kind of weather.

I’m very lucky to have John on my team.  People often ask us what it’s like to work together every day.  Most say they couldn’t work full time with their spouse.  But, John and I have complimentary talents that make our job quite fun.  Despite the worries of being business owners and carrying the burden of financial uncertainty, I can say it is much preferable to past positions I’ve held.

Amidst all of the current protests about women’s rights, I can’t help but think about my past on-the-job experiences.  More than once I’ve worked with men, both architects and contractors, that found it degrading to have to collaborate with a woman and went out of their way to limit my involvement.  One particular carpenter made it his earnest agenda to devalue my contributions as the design-build firm’s designer.  One architect asked me on several occasions to take the lead on design projects, yet he refused to allow my title to be anything but Draftsperson.

Another architect assigned me as the project management lead to a major project.   While at the time I considered it a huge career break, I later learned that I was making less than 30% of my male counterpart’s salary.   I decided to make it my goal to do an amazing job and bring the year-long project to successful completion in order to prove my worth.  This I did, to the point that even the client looked my boss straight in the eye and told him I deserved a raise.  However, at the end of the project, no raise was offered.  But, you can bet I was assigned to another equally demanding project.  When I asked outright for a raise, citing my accomplishments and the extensive gap in salaries between the male project manager and myself, this is the response I received – “I think you make enough money.”

Later, I worked for another project department manager who loaded me up with 75% of the department’s projects, promised a bonus, then conveniently dismissed any discussions of said bonus at the end of the year despite the successful completion of dozens of my projects.  I later learned that the next project manager he hired (a man) received a starting salary that was 28% higher than mine – and he hadn’t yet completed a single project!

Then, there was the architect that barely veiled his hopes to engage in something more than just a working relationship.  Oh, and I cannot forget all of the times it has been assumed I was the secretary or assistant, even being asked, “Is your boss here?”

I do want to point out that while I find inequality for women rampant in the design and construction industry, I’ve also worked with men who have been perfectly gracious and accepting of women as colleagues.

But strangely enough, I have encountered just as much degradation from people outside the industry.  People in general do not expect a woman to be well-versed in construction means and methods.  This I knew when John and I started our business.  He has since seen it first-hand, too.  People want to hear about solutions that entail a structural detail or building repair from him.  Yet, they want to hear from me when the issue entails colors, furniture arrangement or drapery selection.  The fact that I hold two degrees in architecture and project management along with twenty years of industry experience still doesn’t carry as much weight in society as the briefest explanation from a man, any man.  I kid you not, that is no exaggeration.

As angry as I have been on certain occasions about the unfairness of it all, I have learned that it is not about to change anytime soon.  I don’t blame the government.  It truly is a society thing.   I have come to terms with the fact that John must be the face of the business and I the backstage manager.   After all of the ethically lacking bosses I’ve had in the past, the fact that John truly appreciates my ideas, knowledge and contributions is enough.

All this woman needs is simply to be shown she is appreciated, fairly and squarely.  That’s what most women want and what all women deserve.




Arizona Front Elevation

Simple, yet grand.  Elegant and charming.  This design can evolve with a variety of colors, finishes and landscaping styles.  Imagine the possibilities!


Arizona First Floor

The first floor layout is family friendly, open and airy, great for entertaining.


Arizona Second Floor

Four bedrooms and two baths on the second level provide plenty of room for everyone’s comfort.

I can envision this home in many different settings with various decor.  So very versatile!

PlayHouzz 2016

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