If the question is “when”…

Nov 17, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

working hard

Back in September my family and I were visiting relatives in California.  My sweet mother-in-law has a wonderful selection of magazines in her house, and while my son was doing laps in their yard with a bubble-blowing miniature lawn mower, I sat down and read through an issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

I find that as I get older, things no longer seem coincidental.  I don't know if that's because I know more and things have a better chance of connecting in some way, or if I've acquired a karmic connection with everything in the world.  Both reasons are equally questionable but on that sunny September day in California, I was amazed by how pertinent this issue of Better Homes and Garden was for me.

In particular, I want to share an article about "The Case for Remodeling Now", which takes you through the thought process of doing your house project now rather than later. (Sadly, the article is not available online; if you know anyone who has the September issue, it's definitely worth checking out).  It lists 7 reasons to consider the approach and timing of a remodel:

1.  You can get the job done quickly with a top pro.

2.  Renovation is on sale.

3.  Financing is cheap.

4.  You can save money for years to come with energy updates.

5.  You can be set when the market changes.

6.  Prices may be down - but they won't stay down.

7.  Renovate now - and enjoy it for years to come.

the makings of a master suite

I think this article is interesting because it could be written at any time and it would still be true.  Yes, the recession has put a damper on people's willingness to invest money into home improvements, but most of the 7 reasons above would be true in a better economy.  In the end, remodeling is good at any time if the advantages of having a new and improved environment for you and your family outweigh the temporary disadvantages of financing and construction dust.

Topics: Projects

Remembering Our First Portland Office Art Show

Nov 9, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

photo by Kristin Beadle

A big thank you to everyone who attended our first art show – it was a great success.  Our office was filled with good art, good company, and good conversation.


photo by Kristin Beadle

Artists Anderson Bailey and Jessie Bean Goodman choreographed the display, mixing glass pieces with ceramic, and some softer felted pieces in between.  The result was a visual field of colors, textures, and reflections that led the patrons through the space.  At the end of our long space, the lounge area offered a $5 bargain bin, with bowls and ornaments that everyone thought was clearly worth more than the price.  These items disappeared quickly!


Kids' Lounge - photo by Kristin Beadle

There were a fair number of children (including my own rambunctious 2-year old son) in the crowd, and they were all extremely well behaved.  It seems we always underestimate how well our children understand their environment.  This event proved (to me, the most skeptical) that we can have perfectly sensible parties with kids in our midst.  I think we’d like to host more shows in the future – so stay tuned.


Matt Roman - photo by Kristin Beadle

I feel so lucky to have the most fun and flexible office mates in the world – architectural designer Matt Roman and graphic designer Kristin Beadle.  They let me open our doors to the public, and invited their friends to join in the fun.  They are a source of energy and inspiration for me, and the office’s collaborative atmosphere is all thanks to them.

And last but not least: special thanks to Anderson and Jessie, who created a beautiful display and helped organize the event.  Have a wonderful road trip to Tennessee, and best wishes – we will miss you!

Topics: Life, Office

Portland Office Art Show – Friday 10/30/09

Oct 27, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

Anderson Bailey / Jessie Bean Goodman

Farewell Art Show and Office Happy Hour

Opening Night:  This Friday 10/30/09 4:30pm - 7:30pm
at hiromi ogawa architects
107 SE Washington Street, Suite 150
Portland, OR 97214


Please join us for happy hour as we showcase the work of two very talented artists who are leaving Oregon next month.  We wish them the best as they seek their next adventure in Tennessee.  Don't miss this show, as this will perhaps be the last time in a long time that their work will be available in Portland.
A wide variety of pieces will be on display and for sale during the event.  Cash and personal checks with ID will be accepted.

We look forward to seeing you.

For more information on the artists, visit:

Topics: Inspiration

For reals?

Oct 21, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

Bloodybelly comb jelly.  It's the stuff of Martians and outer space, yet it has lived in our waters all along.  I love this stuff.

Check out their website for a beautiful video of the jelly in motion.

photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium website

photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium website

Topics: Inspiration

My newest iPhone app – Seafood Watch

Oct 1, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

The Monterey Bay Aquarium regularly updates their Seafood Watch, which is a guide to sustainable seafood consumption.  I used to get several copies of the handy little pocket guide from my husband David, who was part of a team that designed a recent remodel and addition to the aquarium.  After the project ended and he stopped having regular access to the newest pocket guides, I started downloading a pdf of it from their website, which wasn't as small or as colorful (well, I guess it would be if I had the patience to print it out in color and cut along the dotted line), but still did the trick. But now they've come up with an iPhone app. It's colorful, up-to-date, and best of all, you can SEARCH. I love it.  You will love it.  Spread the word.


Urchins seen on recent beach visit, probably not edible.


Topics: Food, Life

To demand or not to demand? The tankless (and endless) hot water debate

Sep 30, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

Tankless water heaters have been a hot topic with our clients.  There was one instance recently when a plumber recommended a conventional water heater due to earthquake concerns (the plumber, located in California, said that the water tank also acts as a reserve for emergency water in case of a natural disaster), but most of the time, everyone agrees that tankless is the newest and most stylish way to go.

We have been explaining the pros and cons of tankless hot water units to our clients, but I came across this article that neatly summarizes what we've been talking about.

One other consideration we like to add when we talk about tankless is time of use.  In general, a conventional water heater is ideal for households where hot water is being used on and off all day, since the stored hot water in the tank gives you access to it instantly.  If the house is usually vacant for most of the day, it makes less sense to keep a 50-gallon tank of water warm while no one is using it.  So with houses (or areas of houses) with limited time of use, we usually recommend a tankless unit.

Some people have noted that tankless hot water heaters take a long time to deliver hot water to the faucet, and I have found this to be true from my own tankless unit at home.  There's a debate on whether it's worth going to tankless when you are still wasting water while you wait for the hot water to arrive (i.e., what you are saving in gas usage for heating, you are still wasting in water usage).   I believe that you just need to change the way you think about water, to adapt to a tankless system.  Here are some things I have implemented:

- keep a bin or basin near the sink so that you collect the cold water while you wait for hot water to arrive.  Use the cold water to water plants, or boil pasta.

- fill the bath tub by starting with the hot water only.  You will get cold water while you wait for hot water, then the hot water will warm the cold water that you've already saved.  Then adjust the water temperature with more cold water, if needed.

- purchase appliances that have their own hot water heater.  This is more and more common in appliances that require hot water, such as dishwashers and clothes washers.  This eliminates the need to run the tap while waiting for hot water to arrive to your appliance (which used to be true for older dishwashers).

When the contractor finished installing my tankless hot water heater, he turned to me and said "welcome to the world of endless hot water".  Which is true - the one big advantage to the tankless units is that the hot water is heated on-demand, and never ends.  My friends at eco-guides remarked that this is sometimes a blessing and a curse, since some people now want to take longer showers.  You can't win this debate.  I think it just depends on where your priorities lie, and what makes the most sense for your household.

Topics: Materials

One Room at a Time

Aug 7, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

We've been looking forward to telling you about our new service, One Room at a Time, but it's been a super busy summer (which is a good thing!) and so, here's a summary of what we want you to know.

One Room at a Time is a turn-key, fast-track, design-build service where we transform a room (or two) for instant gratification.  We have teamed up with a great builder to provide a one stop shop for you to get your project done quickly and easily.  The response has been great, especially since we establish a hard cap on the budget, and then work backwards from there; we're only doing as much as you can afford, not a penny more.

kitchen - before

kitchen - before

You know what I'm talking about - that bonus room you've wanted, the kitchen that needs a facelift, an unfinished basement or attic with so much potential.  And you keep hoping that you'll have time next weekend to work on it, right?  Maybe you think the project is too small or the budget too tight for a builder, much less an architect?

kitchen - after

kitchen - after

Well, let me tell you a little bit about our approach.  My lifelong motto for practicing architecture has been to make the world a beautiful place, one room at a time.  I feel it is my responsibility as an architect to ensure that everyone has access to good design expertise.  Small decisions (what paint color?  Which window manufacturer?  Where to go to buy a light fixture?) add up to define the quality of your space.  We've been shopping around, accumulating a resource library, drawing details, refining room layouts for our entire design career, so that we can help you with those decisions.  In order to make our services more user-friendly, and make the whole process easier to approach, we decided to package our services with a dedicated contractor.  You establish the budget, and we help you streamline design and construction, every step of the way.  The projects are small enough that we can go from our first design meeting to move-in ready in a few weeks.  We meet, we draw, we build, and PRESTO!  You are done!

bathroom - before

bathroom - before

The recession may have put your bigger dreams on hold, but that just means you need a little sanctuary in your house - a room you love - now more than ever, to escape the gloomy economy, and the colder months ahead.  Your quality of life could greatly improve by having one beautiful room in your house for you and your family, a place where you can (finally!) entertain your friends and be yourself.

bathroom - after

bathroom - after

It only sounds like a sales pitch because I am not very eloquent at telling you how much I believe in spreading good design.  Good architecture is for everyone.  And we want you to have it, one room at a time.

Topics: Projects

We are Recycle at Work Certified!

Jul 30, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

RAW_Award_July_09 Our Portland office is now Recycle at Work Certified.  The City has a program where it encourages businesses to take steps towards better recycling, and then recognizes businesses with this certification.  Here are the steps: Step 1: Identify your champion. That just means there should be an assigned recycling advocate for the office.  For our office, that would be me. Step 2: Recycle all paper bottles and cans. This sounds easy, but the tricky part is to have EVERYONE in your office do it. Step 3: Make recycling easy. Having recycling bins right next to garbage cans will motivate everyone to ask "can I recycle this?" before throwing it in the trash.  Clear signage is also important. Step 4: Train your team. Education is a big part of abundant and proper recycling.  Everyone in the office should know what can and can't be recycled. Step 5: Throw away less. Use less stuff.  Use reusable stuff. The program has made it easy for business to follow the right steps, and get help when they need it.  You should get certified, too!

Topics: Press

Tokyo Heat

Jul 21, 2009 by Hiromi Ogawa

June and July are the rainy months in Japan.  The heavy humidity and stagnant heat are downright oppressive. Combine that with sweaty people in crowded places and you have Tokyo.

I just got back from spending three weeks there, seeing family and drinking cold beverages.  That's one thing that really made an impression during this trip: the cultural desire for food and drinks to be cold, or just to seem colder, than the weather outside.  During the rainy season, and all throughout summer, Japanese cuisine is focused on cooling.  Cold noodles, ice cold beer.  Fragrant herbs, spices, and vinegars are used in abundance, because it's believed that it clears your senses and makes you feel cooler.

udon lunch set with ice cold beer
udon lunch set with ice cold beer

Ice cream is sold absolutely everywhere, with a large, 3D soft-service ice cream sign outside the stores.  Nico (our two year old) fully took advantage of this visual reminder to consume as many ice cream cones as possible.

mmm ice cream
mmm ice cream
mmm more ice cream
mmm more ice cream
Topics: Food, Life

Hi Sam!

Apr 27, 2009 by Lynn Fisher

Lynn Fisher in our San Francisco office has been on maternity leave, and is returning to work on 5/4/09. We wanted to share photos of little Sam since he's part of the hoa family!

sam 5 weeks

Samuel Paul Bogart was born January 29, 2009 at 9:33pm.  7lb 14oz.  20 3/4" long.

sam and tess

Here is Sam with Tess, who turned 2 in March.  Can you believe how big and mobile they get in just 2 years?

fisher bogart family

The whole family in Sea Ranch.  How they managed to get a smiling toddler to sit still, and a gurgling baby to look toward the camera, is beyond me.

We've missed Lynn at work and look forward to having her back.  Congratulations, Lynn!

Topics: Life