Super retro – the pyramids make a come-back!

Here’s How One Artist Wants to Bring Back the Pyramid

Amy Schellenbaum | Curbed National | September 30, 2013 | link

PyramidHouseJuanCarlosRamos3.jpgRendering via My Modern Met

With these edgy, light-filled renderings, Mexican architectural visualization artist Juan Carlos Ramos has dreamed up a way to bring the iconic pyramid shape outside the realm of kitschy hotels and into the realm of kitschy single-family homes. As a house, the pyramid, a long-time favorite of ancient peoples (and, you know, Bjarke Ingels) has previously been limited to 1980s relics and the architectural dregs of 1960s counterculture, but Ramos has succeeded in designing a pyramidal home that has all of the makings of a contemporary real estate hit: a privacy-eschewing glass wall, sunken living areas, an open plan, and photo-realistic renderings beautiful enough to be oil paintings.

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Step aside Boomers…

Are Millennials the New Luxury Buyers?

Samantha DeBianchi | Zillow Blog | September 20, 2013 | link


Luxury Malibu listingAlthough it’s been argued that rising mortgage rates and home values have largely excluded millennials from the housing recovery, a portion of Generation Y has skipped traditional starter homes and moved right to the top.

From Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to entrepreneurial Facebook users, more and more millennials are purchasing luxury properties. And with the market as hot as it is, why wouldn’t they?

Interest rates are still relatively low by historical standards, and overall consumer confidence and the belief that real estate is a wise investment have led more and more millennials to skip the baby steps and move right to a luxurious lifestyle by purchasing their million dollar (and multi-million dollar) baby.

Here are a few more factors influencing the trend:

Familial assistance

As older generations have been through the “better and worse” of the real estate market, they realize today is in fact a great time to buy. In turn, they’re providing their children with financial assistance —  from hefty down payments to purchasing a property with a child — to help them achieve the American Dream.

Safest bet

Young buyers have also come to the conclusion that investing in real estate is a lot less risky than riding through the stock market. Millennials have seen how the market can and will change, allowing them to be more prepared for adjustments within the real estate sphere. When prepared, a more confident decision can be made, leading them to not only purchase luxury properties but also to add investment properties to their portfolios.

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“Cozy” doesn’t being to describe it…

The City’s Smallest Apartment for Rent is 264 Square Feet


Mallory Farrugia | Curbed SF | September 20, 2013 | link

Most of the rental discussion in San Francisco these days revolves around properties that rent for more than $2,000/month. So we asked: Is it possible to rent a habitable space for significantly less than that – say, less than $1,500/month? What we found looks to be the smallest apartment currently available for rent in the city: it’s 264 square feet and going for $1,200/month.This micro-pad is located in SoMa and boasts an elevator in the building, laminate wood floors, a stove, a small refrigerator (which as yet to be installed), and a full bathroom. In fact, the bathroom may actually be nearly as big as the living space. No closets though – so you’ll have to use valuable floor space for a little bit of storage. Depressing thought? Cheer up: it’s still cheaper and bigger than thesmallest apartment on the market in Manhattan.

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Sitting on 580? Here’s why…

A Fantastically Clear, Concise Explanation of Why Traffic Happens


Eric Jaffe | The Atlantic Cities | September 20, 2013 | link

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, gave a great 20-minute overview on the counterintuitive science of congestion at the Boing Boing: Ingenuity conference in San Francisco last month. Turns out a lot of the problems we ascribe to poor roads or other drivers are really our own fault. “[T]he individual driver cannot often understand the larger traffic system,” says Vanderbilt.

The talk is worth a full watch — especially if you’re parked in gridlock — but we’ve plucked out a few nuggets most relevant to metro area commuters.

Executing the “zipper” merge. Road work often reduces two lanes of traffic down to one. In these situations, American drivers typically merge into the right lane as soon as possible and form one long line. The main reason they do this is because people think it’s bad behavior to stay in the left lane and merge late.

In fact, says Vanderbilt, traffic would be much better off if cars stayed in both lanes then merged at the very end, one by one, like a zipper. It’s safer (fewer lane changes), it reduces back-ups (often up to 40 percent), and it quenches road rage (still on the rise).

The zipper merge is used in Germany but can’t overcome its bad reputation in the United States. A trial in Minnesota failed because drivers wouldn’t stay to the left. They were too nice.

Maintaining a steady speed. A big reason for traffic is that too many cars are trying to occupy too little space on the road. But that’s not the only problem. A human inability to maintain a steady speed and following distance on the highway makes traffic a lot less smooth than it could be.

A few years back a group of Japanese physicists gathered drivers on a closed loop course and asked them to keep a certain speed and following distance. They couldn’t do it. After a while the system broke down and a reverse shockwave rippled back through the whole line of cars.

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Save your pennies the smart way…

5 Tips to Help 40-Somethings Save for a Rainy Day

 Selena Maranjian | Daily-Finance | Sep 19th 2013 | link
Man holding piggy bank, raising fist and smiling at camera
Getty Images, PhotoAlto

If you’re in your 40s, your main financial goals might be paying your children’s college bills and funding your retirement accounts. There’s another important financial goal you need to meet, too, though -– building an emergency fund.

It’s easy to assume that disasters won’t strike you, or to simply hope for the best. But disasters do happen to lots of people who are also not expecting them — things like job loss, an expensive medical crisis, or a major home repair emergency.

An emergency fund will protect you from being wiped out or left in financial dire straits. It should be stocked with at least a few months’ worth of living expenses (think food, rent, insurance payments, utilities, gas money, etc.). If you’re risk-averse, have dependents, or are in a field where it would take a long time to land a job, you might want to sock away as much as nine months’ or a year’s worth of living expenses.

Here are some tips to get your fund started and well under way:

1. Establish your fund in a sensible place. A savings account, money market account, or short-term CD is a good idea. Long-term CDs will levy penalties if you need to withdraw funds early, and the stock market can be risky because stocks can plunge over the short term.

That said, though, if you’re willing to take on a little risk, you might keep a few months’ worth of emergency money in a safe place such as a savings account, and keep the remainder somewhere that will offer a little more growth.

2. Make saving easier through automation. You might, for example, set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account into your emergency account. Your employer might be able to automatically deduct a set sum from your paycheck, too, and plunk it into your emergency fund. The point here is to set it and forget it, since you’ve likely got a lot of other things going on.

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A home for your greens…

How to Build a Backyard Greenhouse

Michael Franco | Zillow Blog | September 16, 2013 | link

Source: Groundswell Design Group, LLC

Source: Groundswell Design Group, LLC

Shorter days, colder temperatures and frozen earth: For most, the advent of winter marks the year’s end of planting, pruning and picking. Greenhouses — backyard structures of varying sophistication — extend the growing season well beyond the sun of spring and summer, providing a soul-warming haven of green for their cultivators. In fact, a well-maintained greenhouse can supply fresh vegetables for the dinner table, even in the midst of a snowstorm.


It doesn’t really matter where you put the birdbath, but choosing an appropriate site for a greenhouse is critically important. The ideal location is the south side of your property, where the greenhouse is most likely to receive the most sunlight throughout the seasons. A west-facing site is a good second option.

No matter the location you ultimately choose, take pains to ensure the greenhouse is going to get good morning sun. Observe the way light falls over your yard throughout the day, and plan around any trees or outbuildings that cast shadows on your property. Don’t avoid foliage entirely, as deciduous trees provide valuable shade that protects a greenhouse from the strong midday summer sun. And when the leaves drop in winter, the greenhouse welcomes the scant winter light.

While sun exposure takes priority, it’s also important to protect your greenhouse from the elements. Areas rimmed by a fence or a line of shrubbery are preferable, as those barriers tend to diminish the strength of winds that otherwise would steal vital heat from the interior of your grow zone.

Greenhouse - 2

Source: Cross Country Greenhouses

Design & layout

In the case of greenhouses, size matters. If you’ve never had a greenhouse before, you might be tempted to build a small one. Counterintuitively, small greenhouses are the most challenging, even for experienced growers, because they are prone to dramatic temperature fluctuations.

Meanwhile, a larger greenhouse requires commensurately more powerful heating and cooling equipment, making the initial and ongoing costs mount. The recommended minimum dimensions are 6 feet wide by 12 feet long. A 17-foot-wide design offers an appealing ratio between the size of the structure and the amount of usable area inside.

A favorite layout involves three long tables — often called “benches” — with one running down the middle and one along each side, leaving a walkway between. For maximum flexibility, consider adding caster wheels to a collection of several benches so  you can reconfigure the greenhouse as the light fluctuates from season to season.

Buy or create benches topped with a durable waterproof material, as much for easy cleanup as longevity (laminate countertops are a popular choice). As a safeguard against rust, opt for plastic or fiberglass storage shelving.


As you plan the construction of your greenhouse, two central questions must be answered: In what shape will it be built, and what materials will be used?

Shape. The right shape for your greenhouse depends on your climate. If you live somewhere that frequently gets snow, a pitched roof is a must. Elsewhere, a rounded roof structure may be used (options include Quonset or Gothic styles). If you’re tall, however, be aware that it may be difficult for you to stand upright inside an arched greenhouse.

Framing. Materials used to build greenhouse framing generally fall into one of two categories: wood or metal. Wood must be pressure-treated, as greenhouses are moist environments that would promote rot in traditional lumber. Among metals, galvanized steel and aluminum rank as favorites due to their light weight and rust resistance. Live in a mild climate? You might consider inexpensive PVC piping, especially if you’re only seeking a temporary solution.

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