Web tour: Old-House Journal: Historic-house energy retrofit

Pick up the April/May 2013 issue of Old-House Journal to find my story about the energy-saving retrofit of Historic New England's c. 1793 Lyman Estate in Waltham, Mass. The retrofit aims to reduce the National Historic Landmark's energy consumption by 50%, while respecting its historic character. Old-house homeowners, in general, could benefit from many of the same energy-saving strategies.

Find the story online here -- and an online bonus sidebar about energy-saving behavior here.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Web tour: Sunset magazine: Backyard bliss

It's snowing here in Rhode Island as I write this, so what better time to leisurely peruse the pages of Sunset magazine, which is frequently filled with page after page of sunny, warm, verdant gardens and landscapes. If you're not familiar with Sunset, it's a west-coast lifestyle magazine that this east-coaster savors every month.

The January 2013 issue features a favorite KHS project type -- the backyard small retreat. This one is a tool shed turned "chick shack", as its owner, garden designer Rebecca Sweet, calls it. It's simple, fun, and inviting. Be sure to check out the detail photos, too. For more House Enthusiast and KHS chatter about small retreats, click here, here, and here.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Studio tour: Pat Warwick, ceramist

Before Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy hit, I had the pleasure of attending several studio tours in my new hometown of Warren, RI. Twice, I dropped in on the studio of Pat Warwick who creates one-of-a-kind ceramic surfaces.

If you're a New Englander, you may recognize Pat's embossed ceramic tiles which depict elegant sea creatures and insects set in simple white tiles. I did. A couple of years ago my sister-in-law picked up a fish tile by Pat in Woods Hole as a gift for us. Then, this fall we received the tiles shown here (on our kitchen counter) as a gift from our art-savvy realtor, Paula Silva. Just lovely.

So I jumped at the chance to drop in on Pat's studio during the recent Warren Walkabout and ART Night Bristol and Warren. The great thing about a studio tour is it shares much of the appeal of a house or garden tour. It offers a rare opportunity to glimpse how someone has shaped their environment to suit, reflect, and enhance who they are, who they want to become, and how they choose to interact with the greater world. Of course, the added advantage of the studio tour is that a piece of the artist's unique world, their work, is generally available for purchase.

I'm already scheming how to incorporate some of Pat's work into my own home, and how her work might make for a nice accent as a backsplash in a client's powder room.

Check out open studios in your area for insight into your local artists and their work. This weekend consider attending open studios at Holliston Mill, in Roslindale, and Waltham Mills

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Salem Window Box Competition 2012

I can spot a winner. True, former winners often repeat, but still, I called this one early in the summer before it  blossomed into its full award-winning glory.

See all of this year's winners in the Salem Gazette (print edition), including the box above at 188 Derby Street created by Claire Bailey. Well done. I've featured the fruits of Claire's labor in previous years, as in this design snapshot from the House Enthusiast archives. Another stunning entry from a previous year resembles this year's third-place finisher in the Business Window Box category. (Not sure if they're the same location.)

Congrats to those who repeated and to those who secured first-time wins. Victory certainly smells sweet.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Web tour: Maine Home + Design: Craft in architecture

Crafted detail on the West Tisbury HouseMaine architect Will Winkelman writes in the August issue of Maine Home + Design about the essential collaboration between craftspeople and architects in creating well-crafted homes.

Winkelman notes that craft "can add an entirely new dimension." Indeed. He writes, "The addition of a layer of craft to a project furthers the project's narrative, giving more depth and character, furthering the story of its 'place'." How true.

It's well-crafted details and moments that speak to our desire to live a well-crafted life. This is the sentiment behind Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness, too. Quality craftsmanship can be perceived as a form of beauty and as such can reflect back to us the kind of life we desire, where such care, thoughtfulness and artistry are at home. It's why the collaboration between craftsperson and architect is vital to creating a home that resonates with those who encounter it.

When a home sets my heart aflutter, it's often the craftsmanship of the architecture that's sparked my reaction. Let's continue to promote craft in the craft of architecture.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast