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Thank you for visiting my blog. I am a designer providing design, presentation, and documentation services in Southern California. My background is in interior design, and my work is mostly done utilizing CAD and modeling programs. Most of my clients are interior designers and architects. This blog is where I share my personal experience and opinions on work-related topics. This blog covers architecture, interior design, and some landscape design. I also draw inspiration from my life here in Southern California, my trips to Taiwan visiting my family, and Taiwanese and Japanese TV programs I watch. Please make yourself comfortable. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. Thank you!

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The Art of Gift Giving

It is not always easy to know what to gift to show our appreciation. I try to choose something that’s meaningful and suits the recipient. And within my budget.
Arts and Crafts:
Luxurious home fragrances. All the fragrances work with each other beautifully.
These soy candles are soothing. The simply white color doesn’t compete with any decor. 
Beautiful leather flower accessories.
Robot illustrations
Charming leather creations.
Handmade Creations under one roof!
Monthly pop-up shows throughout Southern California
Cultural Experiences:
Museum memberships
tours to local places/events
concert/performance tickets
books
magazine subscriptions
Food & Beverage:
Le Vert thé (available through White Peony Style in the U.S.)
High quality tea from Taiwan.
Baked goods and desserts from local bakery.

Cake, macarons, and cookie from Belwood Bakery Cafe in Northridge, California.

Time Together:
This is the ultimate gift. The best part is you give and receive at the same time!
No matter what I decide to gift, a handwritten card or note is always a nice touch.

Moss Wall Art

We know adding plants to an interior space can add to visual interest and make the space livelier. In recent years, living walls have become popular. However, maintenance for live plants on vertical surfaces can be an inconvenience. I have found something that would add greenery and interest to walls and does not require light or water! Emerald Coast Plantscapes now offers custom wall art made with real moss preserved.
 

I asked my friend Kevin Urquhart, owner of Emerald Coast Plantscapes for more details about this new product:

M (Michelle): Since it is preserved, I assume it doesn’t attract bugs, right? 
K (Kevin): It will not attract bugs. Bugs are attracted to live plants for one of two reasons: 1) they eat the actual plant, or 2) Gnats gather when there is excessive moisture so they can breed and lay their larva. In the case of the preserved moss we use this is not an issue.
M: How about dust? Can it be vacuumed?
K: To dust I would recommend a light feather duster or condensed air held at a distance, like the kind used for electronics.
M: Are there any spaces you would NOT recommend? Restaurants? Hotels? Medical facilities? Classrooms? Are there loose pieces that can fall off?
K: If you were to use it in a restaurant I would recommend placing it as far as possible away from the kitchen as there is usually a lot of grease in the air that sticks to everything then dust sticks to the grease and creates a real mess. Other than that, the only thing I would keep it away from is direct sunlight as this could fade the color quickly. There are loos pieces that could fall if the moss is bumped or rubbed up against.
M: Anything you want to add?
K: Each piece is custom made; shape size etc. We have made them as small as 2’x2’ or we can cover an entire wall. The frames are made to our specifications by a local cabinet maker and we can custom color the frames. Each piece takes on a character of its own making no two pieces are exactly alike. We have just completed a project with a piece measuring 2’ X 7’ in which we placed the client’s metal logo right into the moss.
We can add many elements to the moss such as manzanita branches, driftwood, preserved leaves etc.
We love this new form of creative expression in botanical art. As popular as live vertical wall plantings have become, we have found there are many problems associate with living wall plants. Problems such as expensive installation, maintenance issues with watering and plants outgrowing their space creating high replacement costs. So with the preserved moss you still get a very unique botanical expression with more versatility and less cost and less upkeep.

“We are very excited about the uniqueness of the moss art and the high level of interest we are receiving for custom pieces. Of course, we are also very engaged in delivering the life, warmth and beauty of live plants and services to offices from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica.”

Kevin can be reached at:
kevin@ecplants.com
805-480-9141
ecplants.com
 

Office Decoration

A manager of a medical group was seeking some advice on re-decorating one dental clinic without spending a fortune. The areas she was thinking included the waiting area, hallway, and individual patient “cubicles”. 
Without seeing the actual space and the surrounding areas, I could only give some general ideas as guidelines. My suggestion was using images of the nature. And not buying from big box store to avoid getting something too common.
Framed botanical prints are versatile to fit the size of room/wall. A group of the prints work for a bigger area, and a single print is great for individual “cubicles” and have a theme.

Moonlight Fern – Set of 6 Z Gallerie

Liz Williams Interiors

Other ideas for art can be abstract, still life drawings, floral, music, dance,…  Besides framed or canvas art,  wall decals are inexpensive and give impacts.

Jane Malinina

GChome

My last idea was to group small frames with photos or postcards. This is inexpensive and can be impressive. You can be creative with the composition. IKEA has this collage frame that already did the thinking for you.

IKEA Vaxbo

I am happy to report the office manager took my advice and had a satisfactory result!

[Ask Michelle] Do I Need a Licensed Architect for My Remodeling Project?

In the State of California, not all building projects need to be designed by a licensed architect. According to the chart posted on California Architects Board‘s website, unlicensed persons may design the following:
  • Single-family dwelling of woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
  • Multiple dwellings containing not more than four dwelling units of woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height. No more than four dwelling units per lot.
  • Garages or other structures appurtenant to single-family dwelling, or woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
  • Agricultural and ranch buildings of woodframe construction, unless the building official having jurisdiction deems that an undue risk to the public health, safety, or welfare is involved.
  • Nonstructural or nonseismic storefronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, or other appliances or equipment, including nonstructural or nonseismic work necessary to provide for their installation.
If structural design is necessary, the designer (licensed architect or not) will work with an engineer. 
Additional reading:
Consumer’s Guide to Hiring an Architect – California Architects Board

How I Became a LEED Green Associate

As of February 26, 2017, I am a LEED Green Associate.
In September 2016, I came across a Community Green Scholars grant on Facebook. After some consideration, I created an account on USGBC website and managed to submit my application before the November 1, 2016 deadline. Early in November 2016, I was awarded the grant. I was on my way to take the LEED Green Associate exam. the condition was to register for the exam by November 15, 2016, and take the exam before March 1, 2017.
The grant I received included an essential document to read and access to the Eudcation@USGBC. On Christmas Day 2016, I scheduled the exam as close to the deadline as I could.
In January, I attended a webinar held by GBES that helped me understand the exam better. I also bought the book “LEED Green Associate Exam Preparation Guide, LEED v4 Edition” which included online access to flashcards and quizzes.
The day of the exam, I got to the testing center early and review some key points for 20 minutes. During the exam, I read each question throughly. I review my answers 3 times until the time was up. Overall, the exam was straight forward.
I currently don’t have any plan to take the LEED AP exam. My focus now is maintaining the LEED Green Associate credential.