To-Dos: Your July Home Checklist

With Independence Day kicking off the month here in the States, kids in the throes of school break and the days (and evenings) luxuriously long, July is a month to celebrate summer in all its glory. So make a summer bucket list, swing in a hammock, invite some friends over and stay cool — these to-dos are as much about fun as they are about smart home maintenance and safety.

Put summer fun on the schedule. Do you want to finally pull out that hand-crank ice cream maker, take a trip to the coast or visit a carnival? Make your own summer fun list, but go one step further: Schedule your top activities on the calendar to ensure you won’t miss out.
Set up a games room. Whether you scoot out the dining table to transform the formal dining room into a billiards or pingpong room or put a card table piled high with games in the family room, making visible space for fun is a sure way to encourage more of it.
Hang out in a hammock. There’s just something about a hammock — even looking at one is relaxing! String one up on the porch, deck, lawn or even in the living room and savor an afternoon catnap.

Clean fans and filters. Clean or replace filters in your home’s window AC units or HVAC system. Climb a ladder (carefully!) and wipe dust off ceiling fan blades.

Check safety devices. Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house and replace batteries as needed. Check expiration dates on fire extinguishers and replace as needed.

Tackle a major remodeling project. If you have an outdoor shower (or want an excuse to rig one up), summer is a great time to take on a major bathroom renovation. In pleasant weather, an outdoor shower (as long as it’s private) can be used for everyday bathing, making the upheaval that goes along with a bathroom remodeling project a bit more bearable. Likewise, when the weather is agreeable you can easily shift your cooking outdoors while a kitchen remodel is underway.

Wash out the washer and dryer. Sand from towels and swimsuits can build up in the washing machine and dryer in the summer, making your clothes come out less than clean. To keep your appliances running smoothly, wipe sand and grit from inside the drum and rubber seal, then run the washer while empty with a cup of white vinegar or a specialty washer-cleaning product. To keep sand at bay in the future, dry suits and towels outdoors and shake out sand before washing.

Give old-school line drying a try. Even if you don’t do it all the time, hanging your whites to dry on a clothesline can help shave a few bucks off your energy bill. Plus, the sun’s natural bleaching power means you can skip the harsh chemicals in the wash.

Alden Miller Interiors
Provide ample water on hot days. Small children and furry friends are especially susceptible to overheating, so be sure to keep fresh water within reach outdoors.

That goes for you too during that marathon lawn-mowing session. A water fountain that provides fresh, filtered water makes it super easy, but a dispenser filled with ice water on the deck works too.

Share your backyard harvest. Expecting a glut of tomatoes or zucchini in your garden this season? Don’t let excess veggies go to waste: Host a garden swap with neighbors, or donate to a food pantry, where the produce can be put to good use. Check Ample Harvest to search for a local pantry that accepts such donations.

Add shade to the yard. Make spending time in your backyard more enjoyable by providing ample shade cover where you need it most.

Shade sails are good for covering a patio or deck, and free-standing umbrellas can be positioned and repositioned as needed.



100-Year Treehouse Will Take a Century to Be Completed

From the perspective of an adult today, this will be a building forever half-finished in our lifetimes – a work in progress eventually to form an apt shape for something so time-centric: that of an hourglass.

Visiondivision is working with a group of students to grow and bend the ring of 10 Japanese cherry trees for this hundred-year project titled The Patient Gardener, with tables and chairs formed from plum trees on the lower level.

Eventually, a ground-covering arched canopy (created by joining the half-grown trees at a center point) will be mirrored by a skyward-curved, second-story loft, accessed by steps grown, ladder-like, between two pairs of trees on either side of the structure.

“The workshop, playing with the metaphor of forests, aimed to generate new visions to explain the contemporary and immediate future ways of being in the spirit of green design, resilience, recycling, and ethical consciousness.”

“If we can be patient with the building time we can reduce the need for transportation, waste of material and different manufacturing processes, simply by helping nature grow in a more architectonic and useful way.”


1 Man, 10 Stories, 100 Feet: Tallest Treehouse in the World

giant tree house

It looks downright dangerous … yet its creator claims it is divinely inspired by a vision he received in which he was told to begin building a tree house for which he would never run out of materials. 15 years, 10,000 square feet and 250,000 nails and a lot of scrap wood later, this amazing structure towers up over the very trees that support it.

giant handmade tree house
Known as the Minister’s Treehouse (out of deference to creator Horace Burgess, de facto pastor of the forest) trange features of this phenomenal structure include: a third-floor basketball-court-and-sanctuary combination, a half-ton chime at the very top of the building on top of a penthouse suite Burgess built for his wife as an anniversary present.

giant rustic tree home
The structure itself seems to fluctuate between highly organized, regular and planned to completely haphazard, chaotic and unstable. Perhaps as weird and wonderful as anything else this unique building has to offer: essentially the entire tree house is open to the public, provided they obey simple no-smoking rules and respect the structure of course (additional images via Baking with Medusa)


22 Very Unique Staircases That Will Inspire You

Designed by: Arquitectura en Movimiento

In most people’s homes a staircase is just a functional means of travelling from one floor to another. Usually there is nothing very remarkable about a staircase, though some are more attractive than others. It used to be that you had a choice. Closed or open sides, and natural or painted wood. Some might have more ornate spindles and balusters, while others would just have paneling underneath the handrail. That all now seems a bit dull and passé, especially when compared to this collection of 22 outstanding and individual staircases we spotted onBored Panda. All of a sudden we were overcome with a sense of ‘How could anyone think up such a remarkable design?’ as we looked at image after image. Clearly there are some genuine ‘outside the box’ thinkers in a number of architectural practices and wouldn’t the word be a duller place without them?

Designed by: Deriba Furniture

What particularly appealed to us about these designs wasn’t just the style and flow, the grace and elegance, the uniqueness and individuality. It is just so lovely to see that in a world of synthetics and polymers, good old fashioned timber and other ‘raw’ materials are being used once again to give features within a property some extra life and warmth. Okay, we have to confess that having a ‘tree trunk’ as a newel post and the branches as handrails is quite far-fetched, but the idea of adding some unique character to an otherwise bland space is genius. We had to giggle and certainly most of us were hit with twinges of jealousy when we saw the kids’ (we assume they were for kids!) slides running alongside the staircase itself. “Race you to the bottom” must be one of the most often used phrases in that household!

Designed by: unknown

Designed by: Architetture del Ferro

Designed by: Tetrarc

Designed by: Hanne Fuglbjerg

Designed by: Philip Watts

Designed by: Levitate Architects

Designed by: Patrick Jouin

Designed by: Vincent Dubourg

Designed by: unknown

Designed by: Dust

Designed by: Dust

Designed by: TAF arkitektkontor

Designed by: TAF arkitektkontor

Designed by: ecole

Designed by: Heatherwick studio

Designed by: Heatherwick studio

Designed by: unknown

Designed by: Alex Michaelis

Designed by: unknown

Designed by: Atmos Studio

Designed by: Atmos Studio

Designed by: Studio Mieke Meijer

Designed by: Francesco Librizzi

Designed by: Moon Hoon



Designed by: Moon Hoon



A transparent church in Belgium by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

Achieving buildings which do not obstruct the view of their surroundings is one of the greatest concerns of any architect and even more so when in natural landscapes. This problem can be solved thanks to the construction of “transparent” walls.

Wood and steel make up a peculiar church erected in a meadow on the outskirts of Limburg (Belgium). Depending on the perspective, the building dissolves, allowing the landscape to be seen through its walls, or turns opaque to pattern the green fields of the Haspengouw region of Belgium with abstract lines.

Reading between lines is the result of the collaboration between architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, working together on the project under the name Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. For its construction, the project managers used a technique very common in churches in the region, in which horizontal boards are stacked, leaving empty gaps, to achieve transparent walls.

With a height of 10 metres, 100 slim wooden boards assembled with pieces of steel shape this paradigmatic construction which, far from fulfilling the classic functions of this type of building, proposes a reflexion about emptiness and spirituality, as well as achieving a surprising visual effect which seems to defy the laws of physics.

As the architects note, the number of worshippers who attend church is becoming lower and lower, and so here we find a type of building which is falling into disuse, whose future is destined to be empty and abandoned.

The construction makes up part of the Z-OUT initiative, a Z33 House for Contemporary Art project through which various constructions and facilities have been created, distributed among different public spaces of the landscape of the Flemish region over five years.




Engineered Wood

Engineered Wood


Engineered wood, also called composite wood, man-made wood, or manufactured board; includes a range of derivative wood products which are manufactured by binding or fixing the strands, particles, fibers, or veneers or boards of wood, together with adhesives, or other methods of fixation to form composite materials. These products are engineered to precise design specifications which are tested to meet national or international standards. Engineered wood products are used in a variety of applications, from home construction to commercial buildings to industrial products. The products can be used for joists and beams that replace steel in many building projects.

Typically, engineered wood products are made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used to manufacture lumber. Sawmill scraps and other wood waste can be used for engineered wood composed of wood particles or fibers, but whole logs are usually used for veneers, such as plywood, MDF or particle board. Some engineered wood products, like oriented strand board (OSB), can use trees from the poplar family, a common but non-structural species.

Alternatively, it is also possible to manufacture similar engineered bamboo from bamboo; and similar engineered cellulosic products from other lignin-containing materials such as rye straw, wheat straw, rice straw, hemp stalks, kenaf stalks, or sugar cane residue, in which case they contain no actual wood but rather vegetable fibers.

Flat pack furniture is typically made out of man-made wood due to its low manufacturing costs and its low weight, making it easy to transport.


Types of Engineered Wood Products

1. Plywood

wood structural panel, is sometimes called the original engineered wood product. Plywood is manufactured from sheets of cross-laminated veneer and bonded under heat and pressure with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives. By alternating the grain direction of the veneers from layer to layer, or “cross-orienting”, panel strength and stiffness in both directions are maximized. Other structural wood panels include oriented strand board and structural composite panels.

2. Oriented Standard Board (OSB)

 is a wood structural panel manufactured from rectangular-shaped strands of wood that are oriented lengthwise and then arranged in layers, laid up into mats, and bonded together with moisture-resistant, heat-cured adhesives. The individual layers are cross-oriented to provide strength and stiffness to the panel. Produced in huge, continuous mats, OSB is a solid panel product of consistent quality with no laps, gaps or voids.

3. Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)

is produced by bonding thin wood veneers together in a large billet. The grain of all veneers in the LVL billet is parallel to the long direction. The resulting product features enhanced mechanical properties and dimensional stability that offer a broader range in product width, depth and length than conventional lumber. LVL is a member of the structural composite lumber (SCL) family of engineered wood products that are commonly used in the same structural applications as conventional sawn lumber and timber, including rafters, headers, beams, joists, rim boards, studs and columns.

4. Finger-jointed Lumber

is made up of short pieces of wood combined to form longer lengths and is used in doorjambs, mouldings and studs. It is also produced in long lengths and wide dimensions for floors.

Engineered Wood Advantages

Engineered wood products are used in a variety of ways, often in applications similar to solid wood products. Engineered wood products may be preferred over solid wood in some applications due to certain comparative advantages:

  • Because engineered wood is man-made, it can be designed to meet application-specific performance requirements.
  • Engineered wood products are versatile and available in a wide variety of thicknesses, sizes, grades, and exposure durability classifications, making the products ideal for use in unlimited construction, industrial and home project application.
  • Engineered wood products are designed and manufactured to maximize the natural strength and stiffness characteristics of wood. The products are very stable and some offer greater structural strength than typical wood building materials. Eight-storey Stadthaus, an apartment complex in London, England, was made with cross-laminated timber panels and is the tallest habitable timber building in the world.
  • Glued laminated timber (glulam) has greater strength and stiffness than comparable dimensional lumber and, pound for pound, is stronger than steel.  Glulam products are also a better environmental choice than steel because they have less embodied energy.
  • Some engineered wood products offer more design options without sacrificing structural requirements.
  • Engineered wood panels are easy to work with using ordinary tools and basic skills. They can be cut, drilled, routed, jointed, glued, and fastened. Plywood can be bent to form curved surfaces without loss of strength. And large panel size speeds construction by reducing the number of pieces to be handled and installed.
  • Engineered wood products provide the natural warmth and beauty of wood. Many products are available in a variety of surface textures and treatments for nearly every aesthetic taste, from rustic to elegant. The products can be easily and beautifully finished with paints, stains, and varnishes.
  • Engineered wood products make more efficient use of wood. They can be made from small pieces of wood, wood that has defects or underutilized species.
  • Wooden trusses are competitive in many roof and floor applications, and their high strength-to-weight ratios permit long spans offering flexibility in floor layouts.
  • Sustainable design advocates recommend using engineered wood, which can be produced from relatively small trees, rather than large pieces of solid dimensional lumber, which requires cutting a large tree.





Round Tulipwood Table by Barnby & Day for Alex de Rijke

A project initiated by the American Hardwood Export Council and Benchmark Furniture,
The Wish List – What I have always wanted is… brings together a stellar list of architects and designers to create a compelling installation, The Wish List, which will be exhibited at the V&A during the 2014 London Design Festival.

As part of The Wish List, dRMM’s Alex de Rijke commissioned furniture makers Barnby & Day to create a round table using Tulipwood.











Project description

The Wish List has not only engaged the interest of 10 design legends, who have commissioned something personal. It is also giving an extraordinary opportunity to a group of emerging talented designers, who will not only develop the designs but actually come and make their pieces under the watchful eye and guidance of Benchmark’s master craftsmen, some of whom have 40 years’ experience to draw on!

Terence Conran, co-founder of Benchmark, instigated the project when he wrote to his friends and asked, “What have you always wanted in your home, but never been able to find?”

Alex de Rijke has commissioned Barnby & Day… dRMM’s Alex de Rijke has always wanted a beautiful large round laminated dining table. Alex is known for pioneering innovative uses of timber within the construction industry and designed the first ever use of hardwood CLT, ‘Endless Stair’ with for London Design Festival 2013. In an article entitled, ‘Timber is the new concrete’, he predicted that timber would be the dominant construction material of the 21st Century. Applying this thinking to furniture design, Barnby & Day will laminate American tulipwood and turn a hollow round table for Alex de Rijke who wants the table to look very solid but in fact be very light.

From Barnby & Day

10 young businesses (us being one) were paired with some amazing high profile architects, designers and artists. They were to act as our commissioners, with their brief being to commission us to work with them to design and make a piece for their home; “something they had always wanted but never been able to find.”

Collaborating with Sir Terence and Sean Sutcliffe from Benchmark were the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). AHEC gave us a wide range of American hardwoods to work with. Ourselves and our commissioner Alex de Rijke (of dRMM Architects and dean of architecture at the RCA) chose tulip wood as it was a timber Alex had used before with huge success in his project the ‘Endless Stair’. The project was exhibited outside The Tate Modern before being shown in Milan, and pioneered the technique of cross laminating timber (CLT).

Alex wanted a large round sculptural dining table and liked the idea of trying to make it from CLT. Alex believes a round table is more dramatic – and around it, ‘the best decisions are made, work is done, and drinks are drunk’.

Round it was to be and from CLT! Laminating timber in this way gives it huge structural strength and almost eliminates movement which is a common problem in the wood industry. Alex didn’t want to use precious hardwoods, ‘tulip wood is very fast growing and America has an abundance of it’. We all agreed the colour variation and grain pattern was beautiful so the project took off!


DIY Christmas Decorations

Handmade Christmas decorations add a special touch to your home for the holiday season. Between baking, entertaining, and cooking, it can be hard to find the time to add “crafting” to you to-do list. These DIY Christmas crafts are as fast and easy to make as they are festive!

christmas kissing ball craft

Pucker Up

Encourage seasonal smooches with this no-fuss kissing ball. Wrap a 4-inch Styrofoam ball in a 14-inch fabric square; secure with a rubber band. Thread the end of 1 1/2 yards of ribbon down through the band, around the ball, and up through the band’s other side so ribbon ends match up (knot them to hang the ball). Wrap 14 inches of ribbon around the ball’s other side (crossing first ribbon, as shown); tuck ends into band. Hide band with a shimmery bow and festive sprigs.

wreath candle holder

Let It Shine

Sophisticated yet stress-free, this candlelit centerpiece will last until you ring in the New Year. Just place several snowy tapers in short candlesticks in the center of a store-bought boxwood wreath. To keep greenery looking fresh, spritz occasionally with water and dry overnight in the tub.

 christmas table runner

Put Bells On

Give pricey table linens a run for their money with this beribboned beauty. Start with nonfraying fabric, like felt or heavy wool, that’s sized as a runner for your table. Four inches up from the runner’s bottom and 3 inches in from the edge, cut a 1/2-inch pair of parallel vertical slits 2 inches apart. Make another pair of vertical cuts 3 inches away from the first set of slits. Repeat along the width of the runner. Thread a 1/2-inch velvet ribbon through the slits. Punch a hole through fabric to insert the end of the ribbon. Tie bells onto the end of the ribbon for a jingly finish.


mitten craft

Give ‘Em a Hand

Assist stockings with the annual gift-dispensing duties by transforming mittens into hanging holders for tiny treats — simply stitch on a loop of ribbon.


Deck the Doors

Dangle pinecones from every cabinet door: Form a 12-inch-long ribbon into a loop, and hot-glue to the pinecone’s base. Tie another 12-inch-long ribbon into a bow, and hot-glue over the ends of the first ribbon.


Go Nuts

Heaped with walnuts, cranberries, and kumquats, a cylinder vase displays festive flavors. Place a tall (8- to 12-inch) pillar candle and holder inside the vase; surround with fruits and nuts.


Get Star-Struck

For luminarias, cut red paper bags in half with decorative scissors, and trim the tops of white or brown bags. Pop out stars with a star-shaped hole punch. Insert taller bags into red bags; half-fill with sand; add LED candles or glass votives.


Urban Timber: From seed to city

New England was built with timber. Were it not for the Great Fire of Boston in 1872, the urban landscape of glass, steel, and concrete that we know today might have been very different.

This exhibition celebrates wood as the region’s most sensible and abundant choice of material for urban building, highlighting its flexibility and technical qualities, including timber’s potential to combat climate change.

Yugon Kim, founding partner of IKD, Associate/Director of TSKP Boston, and co-curator of the exhibition explains “We now know that timber is a superior structural building material that should be considered alongside steel and concrete. The carbon offset and sustainability benefits of wood make it an ever-relevant and timely building material in the urban landscape.” 

Urban Timber: From seed to city shows that recent developments—including numerous successful implementations of timber as primary structural for midrise buildings in Europe—point to a different future.

The exhibition includes a number of case studies, examples of existing wood technology and recent material innovations in the many kinds of engineered timber available to the building industry today.

On display, and the result of an open competition, are four winning projects proposed by emerging architects featuring innovative structural uses of timber. The winners collaborated with mentor architects, engineers, and material suppliers to install their unseen installations in the gallery.


Sean Gaffney
Christina Nguyen

Architecture Mentor
NADAAA / Nader Tehrani

Engineering Mentor
Lera / Benjamin M. Cornelius

CW Keller & Associates
Studio A+I
Kin & Co

Material Supplier
Plum Creek

Project Description
Duck-Work shows the three different properties of plywood:

  1. Availability in standardized dimensions and provides both workability and easy transportation.
  2. Resistance and allowance of bending.
  3. Composited of multiple layers and grains of wood, each performing a supportive role.

Standard practice requires that wood should be steamed, laminated or cut into a desired curve. Duck-Work invents a new type of wood construction method that integrates the tools used to bend wood directly into the assembly itself. It breaks down complex curvature into a series of smaller bends that can be assembled on site. Like plywood which is comprised of multiple layers of wood and glue, Duck-Work is made out of a series of plywood sheets formed by tension rods able to support large loads. The installation shows us that wood buildings can be easily modified and changed with little energy.

Four Corners


Yasmin Vobis, Aaron Forrest, Ultamoderne

Architecture Mentor
Waugh Thistleton Architects / Andrew Waugh

Project Description
Four Corners reimagines the traditional timber-framed New England Barn using cross-laminated timber (CLT). The team approached the structure as a material investigation. Mimicking the form of traditional barn gablesCLT is folded into complementary triangular shapes or bents cut from corners of a barn shape and reassembled. Four Corners shows us that unlike a traditional bent and gable structure that includes multiple elements, a single material (timber) is used to complete all the requirements, functioning as both the enclosure and structure. Notice the passages and space usually associated with a typical New England Barn.

Coopered Column

Timothy Olson

Architecture Mentor
Anmahian Winton Architects / Alex Anmahian

Project Description
The installation is an investigation into timber’s limits. It is modeled after a barrel with all of the connections done with fully threaded screws. The type of wood used is Port Orford Cedar, a tree commonly known as cypress.  The wood was chosen based on its smell to create juxtaposition between the sterile nature of exhibition spaces and the aroma of timber. Coopered Column illustrates how wood can affect our level of happiness. The presence of natural materials such as wood is associated with lower stress and positive feelings.


Christopher Taurasi
Lexi White
Jeffrey Lee

Architecture mentors
Gray Organschi Architects / Alan Organschi

Project Description
M2X3 bends engineered wood to create segments that could serve as both the structural and surface elements of a building. When they are combined, it becomes a framing system that can be used instead of the traditional framing joinery. M2X3 shows us that wood is a highly malleable material that can be stretched, bended and shaped to serve all construction and design related requirements. Notice the multiple layers of individual timber pressed to produce an organic and curvaceous structure, swirling and dramatically flowing in between one another. When the wood is laminated together, it minimizes weakness.

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