Nagging energy questions, answered

Dec 15, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Porch lights are great, especially during Halloween.

Ever wondered how much it costs you to leave your computer or porch light on all night?  Here's your answer. Cliff Notes: Turn computer off when not in use, you're bleeding money even if it's in sleep mode.  Leave porch light on (it does wonders for neighborhood safety) but use a compact fluorescent (and a timer, too - then it turn off in the morning and you don't even have to think about it).

Topics: Life, Materials

Colors, Textures, and Light

Nov 17, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

We are very happy with the photos Joe Fletcher took of our recent project in Albany, California.  He really captures the concepts that we considered during the design process: colors, textures, and light.

The stair well to the new second floor features a tall window, almost floor to ceiling, with operable awning windows for natural ventilation.  You can see the sun beaming through and illuminating the first floor.

Clean edges and asymmetry give a modern look, while wood keeps it feeling grounded and timeless.

We made sure that the differing wood species on the custom kitchen cabinets didn't clash with the details of the open dining room.

Black and red were used to articulate the kitchen.  The black toekick, a pretty standard detail in our projects, is effective in making the cabinets look less heavy, particularly when the cabinet and the floor are similar finishes.  Windows between the counter and upper cabinets provide a sliced and framed view of the yard.

A floor-to-ceiling window in the kitchen lets in a lot of light and separates the full height pantry wall from the counter space.  A lowered marble top is used for baking.

The upstairs bathroom has two high awnings and a skylight, all providing lots of natural light while maintaining privacy.  White cabinets and walls keep the room bright, and allows room for bold and darker colors to be used playfully in an otherwise compact room.

You can also view these photos and other projects on our Facebook page.

Topics: Projects

What is happening

Nov 11, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I've been thinking a lot about Coco Chanel lately.  Not just her mark on fashion history, but also her profound and timeless quotes.  I enjoy how so many of them can transcend the fashion context and be applied to design in general.  Here is one I especially like: Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Replace "fashion" with "architecture", and "dresses" with "buildings".  I couldn't have said it better.   The best designs are a balanced commentary on its surroundings. I find the best inspiration in the mundane and everyday, like wet footprints, a warm towel right out of the dryer, and the quiet of early morning hours.

or dry footprints... although I don't know how this is possible.

What inspires you to create?  What do you think is beautiful?

Topics: Inspiration, Life


Nov 2, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

The word "ratatouille" evokes many thoughts and images in our household.

For my three-year old son, it's an image of a talking rat, fuzzy and adorable.  After watching the movie "Ratatouille" for the 38th time, he finally realized that "Ratatouille" was not the name of the main character, but the name of a dish that is made in the movie. It will probably be another 38 viewings until he is tired of watching it.

via Disney

For David, ratatouille is "a pain in the butt".  Traditionally, every vegetable is cooked separately, then tossed together at the end; the process is time-consuming and well, a pain in the butt.  In his mind, it's also difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, all around pain-in-the-butt.

For me, it's the quintessential French bistro dish that takes me back to my brief time in Paris.  It's the comfort food of a culture I adore.  So when I found this recipe that adds lots of other ingredients but abbreviates the cooking process, I jumped at the chance of recreating a little bit of France in our kitchen.

We had just made some eggplant curry (a favorite in our household, let me know if you want the recipe) and had some Asian vegetables left in our fridge.  I'm kind of a purist when it comes to recipes and like to do exactly what they say, at least for the first go-around, but since this particular recipe was already a tangent from the traditional ratatouille, I figured it would be acceptable if the vegetables weren't exactly right.

The result was amazing - a great use of many vegetables, the smell of a Paris bistro permeating the house, and the taste of fall, hearty and warming.

image by Dana Treatvia Dana Treat

Adapted from Dana Treat
Serves 3-4

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small winter squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used unpeeled delicata squash)
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used snake beans)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used Chinese eggplant)
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large and preferably oven proof pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, chile, and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the winter squash and continue frying for another 5 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside in a bowl.  Add a bit more oil and then add the green beans, zucchini, and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot.  Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir well and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Pour in enough water to half cover the vegetables.  Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently, lowering heat as necessary, for 30 minutes.  Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  If your pot is oven-proof, remove the cover and place the pot in the oven.  If not, transfer the vegetables and their liquid to a large deep roasting pan.  Either way, bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

Topics: Food, Life

Welcome to Ogawa Fisher Architects!

Oct 25, 2010 by Lynn Fisher

Our latest news: Hiromi Ogawa Architects will now be Ogawa Fisher Architects.  The change reflects the commitment of our two equal partners, Hiromi Ogawa and Lynn Fisher.  We will still bring you the same, high level of client services and customized design to every project.

Lynn Fisher started working at Hiromi Ogawa Architects in 2006.  She became a partner in 2008.  Her dedication to each project and wide range of design expertise has steadily gained a loyal following of clients.  We are very excited to have our new name represent her tremendous contribution to the company.

We'd like your help with a few changes pertaining to this new name:

  • Our website will now be under  Please reset your bookmarks.
  • Our blog site will now be under  Please reset your bookmarks and/or blog subscriptions.
  • Our email addresses will change to, with the first part of our address remaining the same.  Please make this change in your address books.
  • Our Facebook page will now change to ogawa fisher architects.  Please "like" us at our new page so we can keep you up to date.

We look forward to staying in touch with you.

Topics: Office

New album of old photos on our Facebook page

Oct 7, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Check out photos of a Berkeley Remodel and Addition we designed back in 2006.  Photos by Joe Fletcher Photography.

Here are some of the services we provided:

  • designed the new layout for their home, including the exterior aesthetic, interior flow, window placement, appropriate room sizes, and overall update on the house based on a more modern lifestyle
  • drew plans and elevations to help the owners understand the new look and feel of the house; designed custom cabinets for the kitchen, dining room, living room, and bathrooms to fit all their storage and use needs
  • helped the owners select exterior colors, interior colors, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, furniture, window coverings, and other design-related pieces
  • drew details and compiled schedules to obtain a building permit
  • helped the owners interview contractors, and negotiated the final bid
  • acted as owner's representative by overseeing construction, assisting the owner with last minute changes, and reviewing the contractor's invoices

And this is just a partial list.  We take care of each project as if it were our babies.  We love every home as if it were our own.  We treasure our projects and our clients.  And we are proud of that.

Topics: Projects

Check out a Kill A Watt

Sep 28, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Our local Multnomah Public Library lets patrons borrow a Kill A Watt device to use in their home.  This device measures how many watts your fixture or appliance uses.  You just plug the appliance into the device, and the device into an outlet.  You can also measure phantom energy loads, which is the amount of energy an appliance uses even when it's technically turned off.  You know that little red light that says your TV is off?  Or the digital clock on your trusty microwave?  The Kill A Watt can tell you how much energy those little things are using, too.

The best solution for saving phantom energy is to plug a cluster of appliances into a power strip, then switch off the power strip when those appliances are not in use.  This is especially helpful around the media console - TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. - where it's a pain to turn everything off one at a time.  I know those digital clocks are reset every time they are unplugged, but do you really need 13 synchronized digital clocks in your kitchen? I didn't think so.

The device has been around for a while, but what got me excited is the fact that my library lets me and everyone else check it out and use it.  Not everyone needs to own a Kill A Watt, but I bet many people want to try it out for a few weeks around their home.  Find out if your local library has this device or something similar available, and if not, it would be worth requesting it.

House Addition featured in Portland Architecture blog

Sep 21, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Brian Libby at Portland Architecture interviewed Hiromi about our recently completed project in North Portland, as well as our company's general approach to projects.  You can read more about it here.

Topics: Press, Projects

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Sep 9, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I just returned from Japan, where it has been unusually hot this summer.  To escape the heat, my family and I stayed in Hakone for a few days.  (It is higher in altitude than Tokyo but we found that it was equally hot in Hakone, too.)  The area is known for its beautiful countryside and historic hot spring, but during this visit we also fell in love with the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

Most of the work is installed outdoors, where the sun and foliage play against the art.  Many of the pieces were interactive, like the garden maze above.

Even though the art never seemed overcrowded, there were things to see at every turn.  It felt like an outdoor version of Charles and Ray Eames' living room: things weren't on display, they were placed as a backdrop for living.

We could also make our own sculpture, using colorful foam pieces imagined by architect Mikiko Endo. (I love the fact that architects in Japan work on such a wide range of artistic projects.)

Almost everything in the museum was enjoyable for children.  They seemed to understand what the art wanted them to do - to touch, to inquire, and to enjoy.  The child in me really liked the woven sculpture by Toshiko Horiuchi, housed in a heavy timber pavilion by Tezuka Architects.

I feel refreshed and inspired after seeing art and architecture working together to create an environment that everyone can enjoy.  I recommend you visit the museum next time you're in Japan.

Topics: Art, Inspiration, Life

Limited Edition Jeremy Dubow notepads still available

Jun 28, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

three designs

Opening reception for our Portrait show was a great success. Artist signed and numbered notepads are still available but are limited in supply. $10 for 1 or $27 for a pack of 3. Comment on this post or send me an email with your order.
Each of the 27 portraits in the show had a number, corresponding to the chronological order in which Jeremy painted them.  3 of those paintings were selected and graphically produced into booklet format by Beadle Design.  Choose from these styles:
No. 2 is an orange portrait, with blank paper.
No. 3 is a pink portrait, with lined paper.
No. 5 is a blue portrait, with gridded paper.
No obligation to buy the notepad with my face on it, although it gives you an excuse to draw a huge mustache on me.  Buy all three and you can explore all kinds of facial hair.
Topics: Art, Office