The Future is Here: Adaptable Housing for the 21st-Century Household Comes to DC

In the early 1990s, the share of nuclear family households in the U.S. was overtaken by the number of single-person households. Yet today, most of the nation’s housing stock is still geared toward the former. This mismatch directly contributes to the dearth of adequate housing supply and affordability seen nationwide.

Now, the National Building Museum is mounting a new exhibit that highlights currently-available, yet lesser-known housing trends that are directly responsive to the modern household.

A walk through the Making Room: Housing for a Changing America exhibit showcases data about U.S. household demographics and current jurisdictional regulations that dictate the type, density and quantity of housing that is built. As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, many localities are giving a renewed look at their zoning codes. For example, DC (and, perhaps soon, Arlington and Prince George’s County) loosened its stipulations around construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which can provide lower-cost housing options for a wider array of needs.

There has also been a move in many urban areas toward unique housing solutions that are more efficient, such as prefabrication, tiny houses, home-sharing, coliving, and microunits. Some of those concepts have been successfully employed in the DC area, such as in Ditto Residential’s Oslo developments, WeLive, and the Ker Conway veteran residences.

However, the centerpiece of the NBM exhibit is a nearly 1,000 square-foot house configured as a three-bedroom, two-bath to show how four adult roommates can coexist in a dwelling that takes advantage of the latest universal design and adaptable furniture technology.

Designed by Italian architect Pierluigi Colombo, the house has two moveable walls and three wall beds with built-in storage. While the “roommates” layout is the first on display, the house will be reconfigured with a multi-generational household layout in late February, followed by a layout for an older couple aging in place in late May.

The 220 square-foot kitchen is the primary communal space, with a hydraulic natural stone island that can be adjusted for cooking and seating heights and has a built-in induction stovetop and scale. The cabinets have pull-down shelving units inside, a retractable TV and outlets, and LED lighting around the handles. A portion of the counter along the wall recedes downward to create a bar sink with the touch of a button.

The house doesn’t have a living room, per se, but has three bedrooms that can be adapted into living rooms. A simple couch surrounded by built-ins can be turned into a queen-size bed once the wall unit above the couch is pulled down. Sliding partition doors can separate the rooms or join them as a larger space. Large wall mirrors double as television screens. A desk can be pulled out into a dining table that seats ten people.

The largest of the rooms is a 246 square-foot bedroom for a couple with seven feet of wall closet space; this will later serve as a studio apartment for an elderly couple when the house is reconfigured next year. In its studio form, two of the 7 feet of closet space will be outfitted with a hideaway kitchen box.

Making Room is organized by the Citizens Housing & Planning Council and presented in partnership with Resource Furniture and Clei. The exhibit opens on Saturday and will run through September 16, 2018.

As published by Urban Turf – Nena Perry Brown – 11-16-17

Marriott Unveils ‘Smart’ Hotel Room Prototypes, With Personalized Presets and Voice Control

A new hotel room prototype from Marriott would let guests control everything from the temperature of the shower to the color of the light with the sound of their voice.

The “smart” hotel rooms, which the company previewed in its corporate headquarters in Bethesda on Tuesday, include devices and amenities that respond to individual guests and are customizable based on their preferences. The rooms are designed as an application of the Internet of Things—the connection of physical devices in a network.

“We don’t want to break what is working in hotels. We just want to add a user-friendly experience,” said Pete Horton, vice president of business development of Legrand, a partner with Marriott in the project.

Marriott International officials presented two rooms Tuesday—one mimicking a standard hotel room that could be refurbished to allow for more technological control and another showing a room built from scratch to fully implement the latest advancements.

Ufuk Keskin, a senior manager in Global Design at Marriott, said the project was a result of everyday devices that are becoming more connected and responsive.

“We predict that 20 billion of these devices will be connected to each other within five years, so we wanted to get ahead of that to imagine how that would affect guest experience in our hotels,” he said.

The room presets would be based on customers’ loyalty accounts with Marriott, allowing them to set their preferences before they arrive. That way, Marriott spokesman Brendan McManus said, they could have everything as they want it when they arrive in the room: the temperature, brightness, even whether the drapes are open.

The same presets could be saved for whatever Marriott brand hotel they stay at. The company owns brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Gaylord, Sheraton, Westin and Fairfield Inn.

Once the guests arrive, they can set the atmosphere to their liking by the turn of a switch or voice commands. Horton demonstrated this by telling an Amazon Alexa, which a room would have, to heat the shower to a specific temperature and setting the room setting to “reading light”—after which the lights got whiter and softer.

The more advanced room included a responsive mirror that could be programmed to demonstrate the positions of a yoga routine. The mirror was also a screen that laid out programmable yoga poses that a guest could use as a reference for exercise.

The mini-fridge could come stocked with items guests select or preset items they want at every hotel they stay at.

McManus said the company plans to start implementing more technology into its hotel rooms gradually and hopes to have some fully connective rooms available by the time it opens its new headquarters in downtown Bethesda in 2022.

As published by Bethesda Magazine – Joe Zimmerman – 11-14-17

Organic Thanksgiving Sophistication

It is really quite surprising to think that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away. When you visit your local department stores and card shops you might have thought you missed it as the Christmas trees are up and carols are playing. Even Starbuck’s has hit it early with the Peppermint mochas and share the joy cups. If there is anything remaining of Thanksgiving décor it’s truly “Thanksgiving LEFTOVERS”. Here are a few last minute ideas that I always like to share to assist you in creating that perfect American Thanksgiving table:

• Create an organic styled table runner with branches and herbs. If you don’t have time to create or purchase floral arrangements, create a runner with branches from your yard. This will add an organic and free flowing casual elegance to your table. If you feel that you need more definition, use a length of simple brown craft paper unrolled down the middle of the table. Next top it off with the branches and herbs.

• Create your own placements.Utilize craft paper or paper shopping bags and cut them into large round charge size placemats or rectangular placemat shapes. Collect leaves from outside your home and glue them strategically to the paper. Place your simple white dinner plates on top and you are ready to go!

• Utilize twine to create napkin rings.While you are outside looking for leaves to apply to the placemats, collect interesting shaped sticks. Next, utilize pieces of the extra herbs from the kitchen (rosemary, sage, thyme) and make a small cluster. Take the twine from the roll and wrap it around your napkin a few times-loosely. Quickly, add the small cluster of herbs to the twine and tie it tight. Presto! A beautiful organic and aromatic napkin ring.

• Use your empty wine or clear glass bottles to create candleholders for your centerpiece.Create a cluster of bottles on the middles of your table and simply add multiple height candle tapers to the open tops. If you don’t have differing height candles-burn a few earlier in the day. The candles should look very organic and natural. Allow them to drip a bit…they will look beautiful. If you are utilizing the craft paper runner for your table runner, there is no need to worry about the mess from your tapers. Simply role it up and dispose when you are finished at the end of the day!

• Use normal glasses, goblets & china cups as vases.If you are fortunate to have fresh flowers, create small low clusters of flowers through out the table utilizing mixed glasses, goblets and china from your china cabinet. This will create a shabby chic and classic feel. I love the charming look of simple grocery store flowers placed in low water glasses. Their petite size is a nice change from grander arrangements and enables each guest to have a personal “bud vase” in front of their place setting.

• Buy a can of starch.If everything else fails and you don’t have the time or the opportunity to exercise any of the ideas from above-take a white top sheet and press it crisp. Place it on your table. Next, make certain all your glass wear and plates are sparkling clean. A minimal elegant table is all you need when you have the love of your family and friends.

David Brown
Mulberry Seed Design

An Urban Agriculture Enterprise Run by D.C. Returning Citizens Fights to Grow

The grill is going, the sun’s too warm for November, and some of the 32 plant beds still have vegetables worth picking.

“See how much peace and harmony there is right here?” Mushin “Boe Luther” Umar asks. Luther was born in an apartment at Richardson Dwellings, a public housing complex in Clay Terrace, just yards from this spot: the Dix Street Garden at 54th Street NE, also called the Soilful City Garden.

“You don’t hear about this,” he says. “Of course there’s the shooting and the killing, but look at the part you don’t see.”

The garden has benches made out of wood pallets, plastic crates that serve as planter boxes, and a partially enclosed shack built from recyclables. That’s where Luther grills hot dogs for anyone who assists with the upkeep. “We’re trying to bait them into helping us fix this place up,” he explains.

Wallace Kirby is the other half of Hustlerz 2 Harvesters, a novel enterprise dedicated to urban agriculture east of the Anacostia River. He and Luther are working to alleviate nutrition and employment disparities in Ward 7, much of which is considered a food desert.

So far, Luther and Kirby say, they’ve attracted between five and 10 people who regularly participate in their group as volunteers. But at the moment, the duo doesn’t have the same resources as other D.C. organizations combatting food insecurity. Both men are returning citizens.

“This is all made of throwaways, and they considered us throwaways,” Kirby says. “We’re recycled,” Luther jokes.

Although the two only recently reconnected, their lives are intertwined. Kirby also lived in Clay Terrace and knew Luther’s uncle. Luther recounts that his mother was killed when he was four, and others in the neighborhood, including Kirby, looked after him.

They both open up about their criminal pasts. “We were really deep into that subculture on the streets,” Kirby says. “Before we got into the drug game later, we were stick-up boys. We robbed banks, post offices, hotels, and brought the money back over here.”

When Luther and Kirby were released, they saw a community in need. “You have to look at how to address social factors in addition to food,” says Kirby. Agriculture, they figured, could provide living wages.

Hence Hustlerz 2 Harvesters. “Because really, what is a hustler?” Kirby says. “No more than a person engaged in entrepreneurship activities to better their economic situation.”

Two years ago, Luther, Kirby, and Mary C. Morgan, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, wanted to do something with a plot of land at the top of a hill in Marvin Gaye Park. They found out it belonged to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation and learned about free DPR training in horticulture.

They enrolled in several courses and emerged with skills in urban gardening, composting, woodworking, and carpentry. Luther received additional training through the University of the District of Columbia in hoop house gardening, cooking, and nutrition.

“It was a garden that a nonprofit in the area had built and walked away from, which happens a lot in D.C.,” says Josh Singer, DPR’s Community Garden Specialist. “They worked with us to reorganize the garden and use a community-first approach. It’s a huge community resource now, mainly because of Boe and Wallace.”

Now, the pair wants to empower others. They’ve benefited from small donations from a variety of community organizations and recently applied for a UDC grant that would allow them to train 20 returning citizens in gardening and composting over two years.

But Luther and Kirby are frustrated by what they perceive as barriers to Hustlerz 2 Harvesters’ growth. Chief among them is another group in the area that also seeks to improve public parks.

Just down the hill from the Dix Street Garden are the Marvin Gaye Greening Center and the Riverside Healthy Living Center. Washington Parks and People, a nonprofit headed by Stephen W. Coleman, runs both facilities. (WPP is the nonprofit Singer referred to.)

Luther and Kirby say WPP’s spaces aren’t fully accessible to neighbors, and they’d like a shot at similar resources. “Give us the same opportunities y’all gave Steve Coleman,” Kirby says.

Originally founded in 1990 as Friends of Meridian Hill, a group that worked to beautify the 16th Street NW park and received a 1994 leadership award from then-President Bill Clinton, WPP has been involved in Marvin Gaye Park for almost 17 years. Yet despite its job-training programs and accolades, WPP has faced criticism from those who feel the group has effectively colonized Marvin Gaye Park and contributed to gentrification.

There’s tension between WPP and Hustlerz 2 Harvesters over who gets to use land in Ward 7, and how. It came to a head at a D.C. Council hearing on Oct. 20, when the council’s committee on finance and revenue considered a bill to exempt WPP’s “North Columbia Heights Green” at 11th Street and Park Road NW from property taxes. (Unlike the public land WPP uses at Marvin Gaye Park, the group owns its Ward 1 land.)

Luther testified against the tax break for the Columbia Heights garden, calling WPP “property pimps” and saying “they haven’t been doing well by us at all” in Ward 7. Ecology activist Claudia Barragan also criticized WPP for its alleged lack of inclusiveness.

WPP was absent from the hearing. Committee chair Jack Evans said he wanted to get to the bottom of Luther’s and Barragan’s concerns, and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman offered to host a meeting.

That meeting occurred on Monday and lasted for more than an hour. While it was occasionally heated, both sides discussed how to resolve their antagonism. (City Paper observed the meeting on background.) They agreed to visit each other’s sites and check in with Silverman’s office after a month.

Kirby left the meeting hopeful about a resolution. He said Hustlerz 2 Harvesters is working toward 501(c)(3) nonprofit status with help from local food-equity organization Dreaming Out Loud. Without it, Kirby and Luther have been at a competitive disadvantage compared to other nonprofits that do urban farming, including WPP. Dreaming Out Loud founder Christopher Bradshaw says he considers Luther and Kirby strategic partners.

Coleman said WPP wants to continue to strengthen Ward 7 through sustainable urban agriculture and workforce development. He attributed the friction between his group and Hustlerz 2 Harvesters to the notion that land-use in D.C. is a zero-sum game. “We can be a real driving force together,” he said, acknowledging there’s “certainly more work to be done” to build trust.

Hustlerz 2 Harvesters has a slate of projects they hope to tackle, especially if they make financial gains. One facet of their vision is a vertical garden that Luther is building, using the principles of permaculture. “We’ll have all these crates going all the way up and these PVC pipes will run down in between for watering,” he says.

He also hopes to finish a children’s research center where youth can learn to care for plants in soil-filled plastic crates. Because these containers are easy to build, Luther thinks he could sell them to D.C. schools. And since he cooks, he wants to add tables with umbrellas where people could eat, further establishing the garden as a community gathering place.

“In the summertime, we’re going to put a projector right here showing documentaries around urban agriculture,” Kirby says.

The pair’s next move is to deflate the tires of an ice cream truck they once ran and turn it into a resource center at the garden. They also dream of launching a mobile education center that would crisscross city farms and gardens.

“Our ancestors started the agricultural movement at Tuskegee University,” Kirby says. “They realized how far the distances were between the farms down there. People didn’t have the means to learn about new technology and agriculture until they came up with a mobile buggy to take knowledge to distant black farms. We’re following that trend.”

As published by WCP – Laura Hayes and Andrew Giambrone – 11-9-17

Where to Find Great Thanksgiving Takeout Around DC

Don’t have time to baste a turkey every hour? Burnt the first (and only) pie you ever made? Save yourself the hassle and get some (or all) of your Thanksgiving dishes from these DC-area restaurants offering feasts to-go. Remember: many places have deadlines for orders and specific pick-up and delivery days and times, so make note.

Alta Strada

2911 District Ave., Fairfax

Pastry chef Alex Levin is offering a variety of baked goods to sweeten up your holiday at his Thanksgiving pop-up shop inside Alta Strada. Treats include honey pecan pie, caramelized banana bread cake, dark chocolate toffee, and more. Order individual items for pick-up, and check out the delivery options on select days.


1309 5th St., NE

Union Market’s seasonal American restaurant has a full Thanksgiving to-go menu with options for each course. The star of the menu, the oven-roasted turkey, is available in three different sizes and comes with a quart of gravy, two pounds of stuffing, and a quart of cranberry sauce. You can round out a meal with dishes like roasted butternut squash soup or caramelized brussels sprouts.


4883 MacArthur Blvd.

Restaurateur Jeff Black’s Palisades seafood market offers a large catering menu, with everything from brined-and-ready fresh turkeys to roast, spiral-cut hams, appetizers, sides, and desserts. You’ll find plenty of classics alongside specialities of the house like Chincoteague oyster stuffing and Kentucky Derby pie with chocolate, walnuts, and bourbon (don’t skip a pint or two of the homemade ice cream alongside).

Blue Duck Tavern

24th & M St., NW

The Park Hyatt’s elegant American restaurant serves a Thanksgiving feast, and also offers a luxe version to-go. The package, which feeds six to eight, includes a 10 to 12 pound roasted turkey, and sides like glazed carrots with kohlrabi, roasted bread dumplings, potato puree, crispy brussels sprouts, and freshly baked bread. For dessert, indulge in apple and pumpkin pies. The meal costs $425, plus $75 for an optional cheese and charcuterie board.

Brookland’s Finest

3126 12th St., NE

Chefs Shannan Troncoso and Inma Bonarelli are bringing their family dessert recipes to the table this Thanksgiving, such as Troncoso’s Midwestern pumpkin pie from her mother, and Bonarelli’s chocolate tres leches cake served at her father’s restaurant in the Dominican Republic. Other desserts include chocolate cake with rosewater buttercream, spiced cheesecake with an Oreo crust, and chocolate chip pecan pie.


425 7th St., NW

This family-style, Italian-American restaurant is offering a full spread that feeds eight to ten ($250 total). The meal includes an 18 pound bird served with sausage and sage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a bounty of sides such as Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions, green beans, and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy. Top it off with a pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie.

A Centrolina

974 Palmer Alley, NW

Amy Brandwein is putting an Italian spin on her Thanksgiving feast, with takeout dishes like pumpkin ravioli, sweet potato cornbread glazed with cream cheese, and an apple spice bundt cake. If you want the whole shebang, order the cider-brined, free-range turkey with rosemary-sage stuffing, a recipe from her mom.


1805 14th St., NW

Though Cork won’t make your turkey, it will make all the sides and sweets you’ll need to complete your Thanksgiving table this year. Dishes include sausage-cornbread stuffing, gingery cranberry sauce, mac n’ cheese with aged cheddar and blue cheese, and salted caramel-pecan tarts.

Del Campo

777 I St., NW

Bring a little South American flare to your turkey day with Del Campo’s catering menu. The lineup includes mains like spatchcocked turkey, Peruvian chicken, and smoked brisket, as well as a bounty of starters and sides including jalapeno mashed potatoes, wagyu beef empanadas, and pumpkin pie.

Kapnos and Kapnos Taverna

2201 14th St., NW; 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 7777 Baltimore Ave., College Park

Mike Isabella is putting a Greek spin on Thanksgiving and offering dishes like a Greek-spiced spit-roast turkey, chestnut stuffing with duck confit, mac with mizithra and feta cheese, and apple and pear pies with almond crumble. Pick up locations include DC, Arlington, and College Park, Maryland.

Lincoln’s Bar-b-Que

931 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring

The Silver Spring restaurant is catering a smoked turkey with three sides. Guests can choose between mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes and cornbread, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. The menu feeds six and costs $95.

Red Apron

multiple locations

Red Apron is offering both fresh and brined turkey as part of its takeout menu, along with a mix of ready-to-eat sides such as garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. There’re also items to help you cook, including sage sausage and homemade stock.

Red’s Table

11150 South Lakes Dr., Reston

The family-owned Reston eatery will offer a 16 to 20 pound roasted turkey, buttermilk biscuits with whipped butter, cornbread stuffing, whipped potatoes, glazed yams, and pumpkin pie. The dishes are designed to feed eight people, and can be ordered a la carte or in a full spread priced at $209.

Woodward Table

1426 H St., NW

WTF (Woodward Takeout Food) wants to cater your whole Thanksgiving table, with a 14 to 16 pound roasted Amish turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry shrub, parker house rolls, a choice of pie, and four sides. Side options include granny smith apples with fennel stuffing, whipped russet potatoes, and mac and cheese, while the pies come in flavors like pumpkin spice and maple bourbon sweet potato. The spread coasts $195 and feeds four to six people.

As published by Washingtonian – Nehal Aggarwal – November 8, 2017

Unexpected Visits and Surprises

As our lives evolve and we take on new roles and responsibilities there are always a few things that come up that make us re-think or our home decorating choices. One of those wonderful surprises includes a visit or addition of a toddler to your home. For many of you it is not a big deal but for some of us that have “things everywhere” we just aren’t necessarily prepared for the inquisitive love that these little ones bring with them. Just like us, they are attracted to texture, things that are different and most likely things that you wouldn’t have even thought twice about.

Here are a few things to look out for during their visit or before they move in:

• CORDLESS. Be aware of the cords on your lamps, mobile chargers, and most importantly your WINDOW TREATMENTS. What may seem like fun for toddlers quickly could become a hazard. There is an apparent amazement with pulling blinds up and down. These long cords can pose a serious problem and become a serious strangulation hazard. If they have looped cords make certain you cut them so they become two free hanging strands or role them up and attach them to the top of the window treatment.

•WINDOWS. I just didn’t think about the cranking window shaft. Make certain you remove the shafts if they are moving into your home. They love to play with the windows. They present a huge risk and create an easy access for them to fall. If a window can open more than seven centimeters, you need to add a window guard. Adding a guard is also essential for any window that is low to the floor or part of a window seat design.

•DOORS. Slamming doors are a major hazard for our little loved ones. They are believe it or not the main causes for finger and thumb amputations among children. It is important o install devices that prevent the inside doors from closing all the way. For a quick visitor fix, hang a small towel over the top of the door to prevent it from shutting tightly and too suddenly.

• DISH TIME. If your dishwasher has a lock setting make certain you use it. This will prevent a toddler from getting inside. Make certain you aren’t storing knives blade down and emptying the trays immediately once the wash cycle completed. Also, be aware that dishwashing detergent is a serious threat to small digestive systems, so runt he dishwasher as so as you deposit the detergent.

• LOW HANGING FRUIT. Don’t forget about the low cabinets. Make certain you do not store dishwashing detergent, spray cleaners, and drain solutions, cleaning supplies or pod products in your lower cabinets. If you have no other storage options, attach a childproof latch to the cabinet for their safety.

• TV TIME. Be aware of our unanchored flat screen TV’s. The television can easily topple over and cause serious harm to children. Securely mount your TV to the wall to prevent toddlers from grabbing and pulling it down onto themselves.

• PLUGS. Enough said, plug them up.

• BATH & BUBBLES. Keep the bathroom door locked and consider setting your hot-water tank below 48 degrees. Another great alternative is to install and anti-scalding device, which is designed to turn off the faucet when the water temperature gets too high.

• TALL FURNITURE. If the furniture is taller than your toddler, make certain you anchor them to the wall. If they are visiting for the day make certain you are avoiding areas in your home with dressers and armoires.

• FIREPLACE. The one thing I didn’t think about except for the hearth. Make certain you consider foam pads on the edge of the hearth to protect their little heads. Make certain the fire tools are far from reach. Add flame resistant gates and lock your stove or fireplace doors when not in use. If you have a non wood-burning fireplace, remove the small rocks or decorative crystals, as they can be a potential choking hazard.

David Brown
Mulberry Seed Design

Parking Spaces That Could Make You Rich

Betty Jones dabbles in real estate, and her portfolio includes a handful of rental properties in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. Some are spacious apartments with lovely views, but the rentals that give her the greatest return on investment are small, dark and have no view — unless you count the parallel white lines that separate them.

They are three parking spaces below a residential building in Washington’s Dupont Circle. As is increasingly the case these days, the building’s spaces are sold “unbundled,” or separate, from the apartment units, which are far greater in number.

Ms. Jones, a trial consultant in Houston, last year paid around $37,000 each for the spaces, which combined, net about $700 a month after property taxes and a garage fee. “It’s a lot less hassle than an apartment,” she said.

No worries about slovenly tenants, leaky toilets or broken appliances. And if a tenant decides not to renew a lease, she said, she just has her son, who lives nearby, tack up a sign in the building’s laundry room and the space is rented out in less than three days.

“I don’t have to hire a Realtor to show it, I don’t have to meet the tenant — boom, it’s done,” she said. “It only takes one winter of looking for a parking space in the snow for people to realize they never want to do it again.”

Buying individual parking spaces is a little known but extremely appealing real estate play for small investors like Ms. Jones. The obvious selling points are comparatively low prices, steady income, next to no maintenance, and wear and tear limited to the odd oil stain on the cement. Moreover, a growing number of parking apps is making it easier to rent out these spaces on a yearly, monthly, daily and even hourly basis.

“It’s a great investment idea for individuals or small groups, for sure,” said Keith Bawolek, chief executive of Vermillion Realty Advisors in Chicago, Ill., which specializes in acquiring multimillion-dollar garages and parking facilities for institutional investors. “There are opportunities in every market. You just have to be diligent and understand the right entry point for you as an investor.”

Marc Wisotsky and his partner, Jackie Lew, bought two spaces in 2005 in a parking garage near their home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for around $45,000 each. They used one and rented out the other for $600 a month, pocketing $310 after taxes and the garage fee.

It was a tidy, reliable income, Mr. Wisotsky said, but the real payoff came when he and Ms. Lew sold their extra space last year for $285,000. “We could have gotten more — the prices just keep going up and up,” he said. “There are never as many parking spaces as residential units being built.”

Charles Cridland, a founder of YourParkingSpace, which he describes as the Airbnb of parking in the United Kingdom, at a parking space that his parents own and rent out in East Putney, London. Credit David Azia for The New York Times

According to Parkopedia’s 2017 Global Parking Index, the most expensive cities in the United States to park are New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Chicago. Abroad, it’s London, Zurich, Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Top average rates are about $600 a month in New York and London, $47 a day in Sydney and $33 for two hours in New York.

Moreover, the value of parking spaces tends to appreciate even when the overall real estate market softens. Experts say this is because of an ever-declining supply brought on, in part, by developers who have successfully lobbied municipalities to do away with regulations to build sufficient (if any) parking and urban planners who advocate limited parking to encourage the use of mass transit.

Of course, the barrier to entry in some of these markets is substantial. In Hong Kong, prices for spaces can go as high as $644,000, which can make any derived rental income seem piddling. But if you’re strategic and pay attention to population density and traffic flows, you can find affordable, income-producing parking investments on the fringes of major markets, as well as in smaller cities and suburban areas, said Charles Cridland, a founder of YourParkingSpace, which he described as the Airbnb for parking in the United Kingdom.

The vast majority of listers on his platform are individuals, including his parents, who invested part of their pension in three spaces in garages near train stations in the Putney and Brixton neighborhoods in south and southwest London. They paid a total of $73,000 and are getting around a 7 percent annual return, mediated by their son’s app, which books the spaces and collects the rent.

Most individuals listing on YourParkingSpace rent out their spaces by the month, Mr. Cridland said, because it’s easier, particularly if there is a fob or card-key entry that needs to be handed over. But he said, “We also have mini-entrepreneurs who go around to friends and neighbors and ask, ‘Can I rent out your space?’” and then list maybe 20 spaces around London, some of which they can turn a couple of times a day to earn a “significant side income.”

SpotHero, an app that helps car owners locate spaces in the United States and Canada, lists mostly excess vacancies in hotel garages. But Larry Kiss, a founder of the company, said he has noticed more independent listers offering spaces on the site, whether it’s an extra space in their home garage or driveway or a space they have purchased. Another app listing an increasing number of one-off parking spaces, as well as storage space, is Spacer.

Parking investors do face an uncertain future, though. If more people start driving electric cars, spaces without charging stations will be less desirable. Ride hailing apps and self-driving car services could also dampen demand.

But Mr. Wisotky in Brooklyn, for one, isn’t worried about a downturn in the market, nor is he giving up his remaining parking space anytime soon.

“You don’t know what freedom is until you get in your car, drive over to the supermarket, pick up a container of milk, drive home and it’s over,” he said. No waiting for a car service to pick you up or collecting data on your movements (hello, Uber).

And most of all, he said, “No circling the block for hours in the snow looking for a place to park.”

As published by The NYT – Kate Murphy – 11-2-2017

To Fans They’re Tiny Houses. To Businesses They’re Billboards.

It’s a philosophy. It’s a lifestyle. And now, it’s a marketing tool.

The tiny house, which captured the public’s fascination in books like “The Not So Big House,” by Sarah Susanka, and TV series like “Tiny House Nation,” is catching the attention of corporate America and entrepreneurs nationwide. Businesses are piggybacking off the trend, wooing customers and solidifying their brands.

Some 10,000 people in North America live in these humble homes to shrink both their housing costs and their carbon footprint, according to Ryan Mitchell, founder of The Tiny Life, a website devoted to tiny houses, and the organizer behind the annual Tiny House Conference. Furthermore, a building industry specializing in tiny homes has blossomed with at least 50 vendors in the United States boasting a range of architectural styles from cottage Americana to industrial chic. List prices generally start at $40,000 and climb past $100,000, depending on customer upgrades.

”It’s still a market in its nascent stage,” said Dan Dobrowolski, owner of Escape Traveler, a designer and builder of tiny homes in Rice Lake, Wis. “It has not by any means matured.”

In December, the developer of Mountainside at Northstar in Lake Tahoe, Calif., unveiled Rendezvous Cabins, a set of three 400-square-foot homes to be used as perks for residents, said Ron Barnes, senior strategist for the developer, Mountainside Partners.

“I wanted to create an experiential community where people discover paths and get to know nature a little more,” Mr. Barnes said. Mountainside homeowners can book them for free for any number of purposes, such as parties, sleepovers or lodging for visitors.

Two of the tiny cabins feature a porch with Adirondack chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows, a leather couch, a kitchen, a bathroom and a king-size bed. The third building is set up more as a living room and meeting hub. To encourage people to disconnect from digital distractions, the units are not equipped with televisions or Wi-Fi, Mr. Barnes said.

Mountainside promotes the Rendezvous Cabins in its marketing strategy; prospective buyers of homes in the development can spend a night in a tiny house or model home to experience the neighborhood. The plan seems to be working: About 90 percent of the visitors become buyers after experiencing a weekend there.

“Everyone is having a great time staying in them,” Mr. Barnes said.

Tiny houses are also used to help companies bolster their presence on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

This summer, Hormel, the maker of Spam, sponsored a Tiny House of Sizzle Tour with an ornate unit painted in blue and yellow. The home on wheels made stops at festivals, malls and ballparks, where company representatives handed out samples as people took pictures inside and marveled at the Spam souvenirs.

“The tiny house idea is definitely on trend right now,” said Brian Lillis, the Spam brand manager. “We are in the process of getting our social media numbers, but I am sure we tracked well.”

Untuckit, a New York apparel retailer that specializes in untucked shirts, hauled a tiny house that resembled one of its stores throughout the East Coast in 2016, stopping at universities and in small towns. The aim was to expose Untuckit to more consumers and determine where to open locations, said the company’s chief executive and co-founder, Chris Riccobono.

“If we sold shirts, that was a bonus,” he said.

Driving the mini-boutique around was like having a moving billboard, Mr. Riccobono said, and the payoff in social media presence justified the $40,000 investment. The campaign was so successful that the company is planning a second one for 2018.

TheSize Surfaces, a composite-stone manufacturer in Castellón, Spain, also ran a tiny-house tour to showcase a 400-square-foot dwelling clad with Neolith, the company’s stain-proof synthetic surface. The promotional journey started in January in Orlando, Fla., and will continue across the United States throughout the year. The company’s aim is to prove that Neolith can be applied on floors, walls, countertops, even exterior siding.

“We believe that anywhere where there’s a surface, you can cover with Neolith,” said Saudia Utter, marketing manager at FM Distributing, a Neolith provider in San Francisco.

In this tiny house with mansion features, a ladder leads up to an outdoor deck outfitted with a gas barbecue. Inside, the house features a loft bed, two bathrooms with Toto toilets, a kitchen with a tall wine refrigerator, recycling bins, a built-in espresso machine, Miele appliances and a living room with a flat-screen TV and an electric fireplace. A marblelike dining table cut of Neolith stands as the focal point of the kitchen.

“Everyone who has seen it has been impressed, and it is bigger than everyone imagined it to be,” said Ms. Utter, whose company hosted the model house for two months. “We were surprised by the fact it has been on the road all year and nothing has been cracked or broken. It has stayed in immaculate condition.”

Tiny homes are gaining traction as rental lodging, too. Across the United States, mini-hotels are springing up in R.V. parks and resorts and on private lots. Over the next five years, “we are going to see whole communities and tiny house hotels all over the place,” said Jamie Mackay, the founder and chief executive of Wheelhaus, a maker of modular homes in Jackson, Wyo.

Mr. Mackay also runs the nearby Fireside Resort, which features 25 tiny homes that he designed. After guests asked repeatedly where they could buy one of the units, he started Wheelhaus to sell his houses.

The rental units offer a taste of what it’s like to live in one without a full-time commitment. The website for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Colorado Springs tells buyers how they can make a profit on their investment and turn the houses into a hotel or bed-and-breakfast.

The Snake River Sporting Club, a 1,000-acre private club in Jackson, ordered a neighborhood of four one-bedroom tiny houses it calls Discovery Village. Lavished with Restoration Hardware furniture and accessories, the units can be booked for $225 to $525 nightly.

And tiny houses offer a humanitarian benefit. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, urban planning coordinators are looking to them as transitional housing that neighborhoods will see as an asset rather than a blight.

Mr. Dobrowolski of Escape Traveler said his company was in Houston helping hurricane-displaced residents with specially designed units. He has developed a lower-cost version of his Escape tiny homes that can be deployed quickly in a disaster.

Mr. Mackay of Wheelhaus recently announced Omni-Haus, a transportable structure that, when installed, can withstand winds of 190 miles per hour, he said. Working with local developers in hurricane-ravaged cities, his company is planning to deploy 100 to 200 units to Florida for hurricane survivors.

“Cheap emergency housing is a Band-Aid,” he said. “I want to deliver units that are built to last, not thrown in the landfill later on. Tiny houses are the next big disruption.”

As published by The New York Times – Kathy Chin Leong – 10-31-17


It’s almost the end of the month and you run to your mailbox anticipating the latest issue of your home design catalog. Quickly, you remove the plastic and rush into your home to reveal the latest in home design. As you work your way through the magazine you suddenly become puzzled. “What is it about these spaces that make them so special?” The answer is simple. It is all about the details- keeping the little things simple, elegant and pristine.

Here are a few things you can add to your space to elevate the feel and create that gracious home you love.

• Large oversized antique rugs can add a sense of history as well as class to any space.

• Unique or custom covered lamp shades can add charm and warmth.

• Bold graphic or scenic wall coverings create movement and interest.

• Decorative doors painted with contrasting color can “pop” a small space or make an entrance grand.

• Slipper chairs are a great choice for any space.They introduce sophistication as well as address a need for a place for your guest to sit.

• Animal prints of tiger and zebra are almost always used in custom designer spaces. They provide a sense of travel and add more texture.

• Classic or updated Chinoiserie is a great choice in wall coverings or upholstery. This exotic eclecticism takes you on a trip around the world.

• Personalize the space with monogramed pillows, beddings and stationery.

• Emphasize your art with individual picture lights.

• The addition of unique books as well as the addition of large oversized coffee table books adds a classic style while layering in additional color and MORE texture!

• Find a good balance between upholstered and non-upholstered furniture this will create a feeling of depth and warmth to any space.

• Lastly, layer in candles. Find your favorite scents from Malie, Dyptique, or Jo Malone.

David Brown
Mulberry Seed Design

The Economist Has a Food Truck and It’s Coming to DC

new food truck will hit DC’s culinary scene on Wednesday, November 1, outside CityCenterDC. It will dish out free samples of Beyond Burgers, a plant-based, meat-free product that is reputed to taste just like beef. Its proprietor is somewhat unexpected: The 174-year-old publication The Economist.

The magazine has been lately reporting on food waste and the future of food production, and plant-based protein is squarely within these editorial parameters. (Washingtonian staffers recently sampled a similar product, the Impossible Burger, and it’s fair to say we were startled by how real they tasted.)

The food truck will appear at locations around the city until November 12. Oddly, it is only the most recent media-related food-service venture in DC: Just last year, Politico drove a food truck around town to announce the rebirth of Playbook.

The Economist’s food truck was created in partnership with the firm Sense New York and will test one of economics’ most treasured maxims, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”: The samples are in fact gratis, though you will get a discounted offer for an Economist subscription if you try it.

As published by Washingtonian – Andrew Beaujon – 10-26-17