In the 1970’s the EPA was formed under President Nixon to establish policies to protect our only home-Earth. Now the EPA is under attack. Economics over Environment. But the Environment is fighting back. Climate change is real. Take a look around: Out of control forest fires in the western United States, flooding in the Eastern states, drought in the mid-west. It’s not just the United States but the world. Western Canada, Greece, and Australia are experiencing unprecedented wildfires. Europe is experiencing droughts, while India is reporting the worse monsoon in nearly a century.
How does man contribute to Climate Change? For those who are climate change deniers: How do you justify that 7.5 billion people and counting (the current Earth population) do not contribute to climate change? Do you still believe the Earth is Flat?
Climate change is not only Natural but ManMade. Our carbon footprint is a culprit. We are building in areas that should not be built. Human sprawl is alive and well. Humans are reproducing at an alarming rate. Fossil fuels, industrial solvents, VOC’s all contribute to climate change. Man is to blame.
According to NASA’s website: humans contribute to climate change. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there’s a better than 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years.”
Climate change is a worldwide epidemic. Since the Industrial Revolution levels of carbon dioxide have risen as well as methane, halocarbons and nitrous oxide. The use of fossil fuels and VOC’s, the increase of aerosols in the air and creating crop-lands by deforestation have all contributed to climate change. Human consumption has outweighed the natural cycle of volcanic eruptions and the sun.
A few days ago, I was going through my father’s belongs, (the late Anthony Hars, Architect) and found one of his many writings. As I read it I was impressed by the way he thought about Architecture and how it relates to us and the environment. Close to 50 years ago he wrote about the correlation between allergies and building materials. He was a man of vision and a great Architect. Even to this day, we are slowly understanding how materials affect us and the environment. I would like to share it with you.
“A friend of mine, an M.D. insists that the AIA should be sued for malpractice. He says Architects prescribe environment without realizing what they are doing – “practicing medicine without license”.
While we change the name of Schools of Architecture to Environmental Design Institutes, etc, we have to send our A.I.A. research director to Poland to a conference on “Effects of Building Materials on Micro-climates” sponsored by HEW. There is nothing wrong with going to Poland, the problem is that practically no architectural research is being done in this country about relationships between design, specifications, and planning on one hand and the non-microbial health hazards on the other, allergies in particular. Over 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of allergies, yet most architects never heard of methods of coping with that phenomenon. We indulge in specifying poisoning of the soil (as common practice) under concrete slabs for termite protection while lobbying against various pesticides. We are calling for durable materials and Industry creates them, (and nobody knows how to dispose of them, of course), but I have yet to see a material handbook warning about the health-hazard of any material (lead being about the only exception).
The importance of the air-electric climate and its possible control prompted, among many others, a team from the University of Jerusalem to investigate, measure and report its findings. Architects consider usually one aspect of this problem, in terms of flooring materials for operating rooms, ammunition depots, etc. Elsewhere, only the carpet industry did something to isolate the problem and propose some solutions, but carpet is only one type of building element.
Inner logic: The attitude of awareness. Awareness, not only of things that are “obvious”, but those more subtle. When huge concrete and masonry piles, like the Pruitt-Igoe Towers, St. Louis, (structurally, mechanically, etc – so sound) are being blown up at government expense – then we must come to terms with subtleties of our chemical, electrical, as well as social environment. An eminent elder statesman of our profession dismissed these gropings with”we are not post-industrial enough to go primitive” and as the cop-out of “wishful sons of rich capitalists”.
I have a substantial bibliography, leads, and ideas. In addition, I have plans and specifications for an allergy-free house with a controlled air-electrical environment-an experimental house (actual project) to be built later this year and next year.
There is a large amount of research behind this but mostly buried in learned journals and proceedings of exclusive conferences. A publication (book-form) as a result of all these investigations is almost a “must” as all those considerations would remain isolated efforts of individuals unless they are brought to the attention of each other as well as others, who have not embarked on similar enterprises, but are groping for answers to present and future problems of our existence.” – Anthony Hars, Architect
My father hit the nail on the head so to speak. Even to this day, many Architects, builders, and designers specify toxic materials. As a Sustainable Designer, I feel that we have a moral and ethical responsibility to our clients and the environment to specify non-toxic materials and design-build practices. As my father stated in 1972, 30 million people suffered from Allergies. According to http://www.aafa.org 50 million people suffer from allergies today and the number is increasing. It would be interesting to know the correlation between indoor air pollution from toxic materials and allergies. I will be researching and blogging about it in the coming month and will share my findings with you.
In the late 1960’s my father, Anthony Hars, was working as an Architect for the famed Boston Architect, James Lawrence, Jr. In 1967, my parents were expecting their third child and the 800 sf two bedroom cape in Winchester, MA, was bursting at the seams. My father asked James for a raise so they could afford a larger home. Since James couldn’t give my father a raise he suggested that my family move into his family home in Groton, MA, and become the caretakers of The Lawrence Homestead.
Well, as the story goes, my parents viewed the home. My mother saw the potential and fell in love with it. My father, on the other hand, was quite taken aback. He marched right into James Lawrence’s office and said: “No Way! No How!”.
Even though no one lived in the home for many years, James thought it was in decent shape. He was insulted by my father’s comments. That day, he personally drove from Boston to Groton to inspect the house and when he came back he was flabbergasted. The house was in shambles, beer cans and cigarettes were littered in some of the rooms, the utilities were shot. Insulation? What is that? Horsehair plaster of course! The heat was almost nonexistent and raccoons and other varmints were the tenants.
After many discussions, they finally struck a deal. In exchange for being the caretakers and overseeing the restorations of The Lawrence Homestead located at 44 Farmer’s Row, Groton, MA, my father would be able to purchase two acres of land on what was known as West Groton Road to build his contemporary dream house. This was no ordinary feat since the land had been in the Lawrence family since 1860. James Jr and his father James III felt the home needed a family, and we were it.
On July 4, 1967, we moved into the 13,000+ sf, 40 room mansion, I was just 2.5 years old. The winter of 1967-1968, was one of the worst on record, and the only room in the entire home which was warm was the South facing Playroom on the second story above the dining room (right of the sleeping porch in the above photograph). We weathered the storm.
Slowly but surely the house was put back together. I remember helping my mom wallpaper the dining room. It was a two-tone red and velvet striped wallpaper (see picture below). My mom mixed the paste and applied the wallpaper with a brush. Funny how the smell of paste still lingers in my mind. It was a sunny room with windows facing south. The tray ceiling was interesting with detailed moldings. I would lie on the floor and imagine walking on the ceiling upside down.
One of the interesting details of the dining room was the Safe. Behind a wooden door was a massive steel door with a combination lock. We envisioned heaps of gold and silver coins hidden inside. I remember one evening, one of my father’s friends, with his ear against the combination unlocked it. As the heavy steel door opened, we held our breath in anticipation. We were sorely disappointed, however, only to find a few odds and ends of silverware.
Over the years my parents restored the home. They converted rooms into apartments and rented to military families from Fort Devens. It was a long process, but thanks in part to my parents the Lawrence Homestead is what it is today.
What a wonderful home to grow up in. Our creativity grew out from our time here. It was an amazing experience. Wandering the halls, putting on plays in the Master Bedroom with large burgundy velvet curtains that hung from the 12′ ceilings draping the floor. It was an honor to live there and enjoy the home and the grounds. Even to this day, I have dreams that are so real about the details of the home.
In future blogs, I will share my experiences of growing up in a historic home.
Compensation: Is a great design which meets your present and future lifestyle important to you? Do you value a great design which a builder bases his or her quote? Compensation: Just like you, Designers are paid for the work we perform. It’s the value that counts.
Depending on the project my compensation is as follows:
Hourly: Small jobs such as consulting on colors, furniture placement, or shopping, I charge $75 per hour. According to fixr.com the national average range for Interior Designers is between $50-$200 per hour. Factors include location, experience, and scope of work. I give my clients an invoice detailing the hours I spend on the project.
Time and Materials: This is an hourly design rate plus finish materials that are bought through Maria JK Hars Designs. This is the same concept that builders charge.
Fixed/flat fee: The cost depends on the scope of work. The more elaborate the higher the cost. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most detailed and expensive rooms in the home. An updated and well designed kitchen and bathroom will increase the value of your home. My design fees are as follows:
A standard bathroom: $300.
Laundry room: $300+
An elaborate bathroom: $750+.
Kitchen design: Ranges from $1000-$2000.
Master walk in closet: $500.
Redesigning per room: $500.
Redesigning a whole house: $4,000-$5,000.
These fees can change based on the project.
You are going to live with that floor plan and materials, so it better work for you. The cost includes the initial consultation of understanding your wants, needs and budget to designing floor plans, meetings with you, meeting with the builder, meeting with tradespeople, building departments, and creating working drawings. We spend many hours on the project to give you the best design which meets your present and future lifestyle.
Resale: Instead of paying a direct fee, I am paid through the products. My vendors/suppliers give me a discount and I mark it up and resell it to you. This is standard practice in the kitchen and bath industry. If you buy cabinetry through a big box store, a showroom or an independent designer, the designers work is compensated through the price of the material. If you are not paying for the services directly, you are paying indirectly for the services through the products.
I charge a flat fee for design and a resale fee on finished products/materials from my vendors (see above-Resale) This is similar to the concept builders charge for their time and materials to do the job.
The Contract: My contract is called a Scope of Work Letter. This is a detailed letter which outlines your wants, needs, budget, time frame and financial commitment. The contract explains the process and how compensation for services are paid. It’s a series of one on one meetings. Each meeting is about 1-2 hours. My fee is broken down per meeting. I bring the drawings, we discuss changes and I am paid at the end of each meeting. For example if the fixed rate is $2,000 and there are four meetings, I’m paid $500/meeting . Once the contract is signed by all parties then work commences.
If you are renovating a kitchen, a large bathroom, a laundry room, or a master walk-in closet which includes many finished materials such as cabinetry, counter-tops, plumbing/lighting fixtures, wall finishes, flooring, windows, and hardware I will credit you the design fee if you buy all the finished materials through my company.
I lived in Groton, MA, and the surrounding area for over 45 years before relocating to Whitefish, Montana near Glacier National Park. What a beautiful area it is. The diversity of people and landscape all wrapped up into one. The hustle and bustle of life and the quiet sounds of nature; we have it all, majestic mountains, forests, fields, rivers, lakes, cities, and small quintessential towns. No matter where we are, it tugs at our heart-strings. Sometimes one must leave in order to understand what one has given up. All is not lost, however, one can come home again.
It’s good to be back even though the last few weeks we’ve had record cold temperatures which have tested us to our core. Soon this will pass and warmer days will be upon us. I’m looking forward to this new chapter where I can continue to help people redesign and update their homes for their present and future lifestyle. A well-designed home can accommodate years of living in all stages of life. We call this Universal Design.
My father, the late Anthony Hars, Architect believed a home, large or small can accommodate the cycle of life. He designed the passive solar hybrid contemporary for our family. His vision was multi-functional. It could be used not only as a home to raise a family but could accommodate a home for his wife (sometimes living in separate quarters makes a happy marriage), a place to work and a place to entertain. He wanted to raise a family, work out of it, grow old with his second wife, Sarita Choate, and enjoy his remaining years in the house he loved. His wish came true.
I learned a lot from my father who was my mentor. Homes are a place where we find solace no matter what size, style, or age. It’s part of our identity. We turn houses into homes. One home I’m very happy to be part of is The Linden Retreat, a tiny home on wheels which I designed and helped build in Kalispell, Montana. I lived in it for a year to fully understand what tiny living is all about and rented it out successfully on Airbnb
There are so many possibilities for tiny homes: affordable housing, temporary homes, guest homes, senior housing, income property, vacation homes, retreats, and commercial endeavors (remember RIF-the mobile bookstore which came to elementary schools?). Thinking outside the box is what life is all about.
If you are planning on renovating or would like a tiny home, please call me today at 406.407.3331 and start turning your dreams into reality.
Now that the holidays are once again upon us the kitchen is where it’s at. It’s the heart and soul of the home where people gather (like it or not) for great food, conversation, and drink. It’s a place where we find comfort. The intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread, turkey baking in the oven, and wonderful food wafting through the air makes our mouths water and our bellies grumble.
The supreme test of a well designed kitchen is surviving holiday entertaining. This is when our kitchens are bursting at the seams with activity. The functionality of the space tests us. Is there room to prepare, cook, clean and converse without colliding into a chaotic frenzy? Are we tripping over feet while precariously serving the meal? Is it stressing you out?
If it is then you might want to consider redesigning a more functional kitchen which you can enjoy for years to come. Kitchens come in all sizes, colors, shapes and styles. It’s not the size that matters but how it functions. Assuming that bigger is better is a fallacy. What is better? A terribly designed enormous kitchen? Or, a small kitchen with a great layout?
When designing, it’s important to ask a number of questions such as who is using the kitchen? How many cooks? How tall are the people? Are there any handicaps or limitations? Are you left handed or right handed? How many people are you cooking for? How do you want to use it? Where do you want to put your dishes, your food, pots, cutlery, utensils, trash? What do you love and dislike about your current kitchen? What do you want? What do you need? What is your budget? What is your timeframe? Where will you cook when it is being renovated? These are some of the questions you must think about and prepare to answer.
It’s all in the minute details. Is the faucet handle on the left or the right side? If you are left handed you might want it on the left side of the faucet opposed to the right side. What style window do you want? Most people have casement windows overlooking the yard. You might consider an awning window which opens and closes at the bottom. If one forgets to close a casement window during a rain storm guess what happens? Envision the scenario. Coming home after a long day to find a deluge of water all over your brand new kitchen. That is the last thing you want to deal with.
As an experience designer I understand these scenarios. It’s my job to educate you to make informed decisions. The kitchen is the most expensive room in your home. Designing a well thought out kitchen with a good flow pattern, plenty of storage, counter space, the right appliances and finished materials will make your life easier. Some call it form and function, I call it beauty and brains.
I had the honor of growing up in Architecturally pleasing homes. From the beautiful 13,000+ sf Lawrence Homestead, a rambling Colonial Victorian mansion to the 6400 sf contemporary my father designed for our family. I’ve lived in small homes under 1200 sf and a 400 sf bedroom loft style apartment. Currently I live in a 267 sf (including sleeping loft) tiny home on wheels which I designed and helped build. I affectionately call it the Linden Retreat since my surname means Linden Tree. I couldn’t be happier. I love my tiny abode.
I’ve come to realize that square footage is a state of mind. Realistically we only need shelter from the elements to keep us warm in the winter, cool in the summer and free of harsh weather. The comedian George Carlin skit about “Stuff” summed it up perfectly: the real reason we have large homes is for our accumulated belongings.
Even though the McMansions are going out of style and people are downsizing, the need for storage is great. That’s why the Public Storage industry is booming. We are busting at the seams.
Adaptability is key to downsizing. We can do almost anything if we put our minds to it. I’ve always been interested in the tiny home movement. If one thinks about it, when we were children, what room in the house were we most comfortable in? Most of us can say without hesitation our bedroom. A place where we sought refuge, it was our safe zone.
Tiny homes are equivalent to our childhood bedroom. We seek freedom and simplicity. Something that is all of our own.
Living in my tiny home on wheels has been a wonderful experience. Through the Northwest Montana seasons of 30 below zero in January to 100 degrees in July, My THOW and I have weathered the storms unscathed. I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to understand what tiny living is all about. It’s a wonderful experience one that I will always treasure.
Recently I decided to sell it. I’m hoping to find a buyer who will love it as much as I have. Thinking outside the box, it would be perfect for a writers retreat, art/music studio, guest quarters, investment property, hang out, office, away space, or take it on the road and explore the landscape of this beautiful country we call home: The sky is the limit.
It’s been four years since my father passed away at the age 79 in Groton, Massachusetts. The following is his obituary which my sister Adele Hars wrote and I wanted to share it with you so you can understand my roots.
Born Antal Emil Hars in Hungary in 1933, he was the son of György and Adél Hars, and the grandson of Emil Nagy de Vámos, a prominent attorney, Hungarian parliament member and Minister of Justice. He received his degree in architecture from the Technical University of Budapest in 1956. During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, he left the country and emigrated to the United States, where he Americanized his name to Anthony, becoming an American citizen in 1963.
A licensed architect and member of the American Institute of Architects and Boston Society of Architects, he began his career at top firms such as Eleanor La Maire Associates in New York City and Anshen & Allen in San Francisco. As project architect with the James Lawrence firm in Boston into the early 1970’s, he helped create the Gothic-style greenhouses at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as well as the museum’s cafe, shop and library. Other projects included North Adams State College (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts), and many private residences, including one for the Olympic gold medal skater Tenley Albright
He moved his family to Groton, MA in 1967, where he first lived in and helped preserve the Lawrence Homestead mansion. He set up private practice in Groton in 1972.
While steeped in modern tradition, he had a deep respect for the surrounding land as a context for his work. As such he designed many beautiful homes and businesses throughout New England. Speaking of the magnificent home he designed and built for himself on Long Hill Road in Groton in the early 1980’s, he told a local newspaper, “I love space. I will buy space above all else in a building budget. You cannot add space. Area, yes, but space, no.”
Beyond his professional life, he also firmly believed in service to the community. As such, he served many years as the head and member of the Groton Historic District Commission, working tirelessly to ensure that the traditional character of the town center was preserved. He was one of the founders and president of the Groton Music Association, which paved the way for Indian Hill, now a major cultural institution in the region. For many years, he served on and chaired the town School Committee. He was a former president and lifetime member of the Groton Rotary Club; and he opened his home to meetings for many a political candidate and worthy cause.
On a personal level he loved opera, art, writing, literature, history and travel. A published author, he also enjoyed painting, ballroom and swing dancing, playing the piano and the sport of fencing.
He died suddenly of a heart attack. He leaves four daughters from his marriage to the late Carol Jane Philblad (d.1984): Adele Hars of Paris, France, Maria Hars of Groton, and Eve and Anne Hars, both of Los Angeles, CA. He married again in 1997 to Sarita B. Choate of Groton, and they spent many happy years together, until her death in 2009.
He was a wonderful father who told us to Never let the Bastards get us down and to believe in our dreams. He was also an Architect who listened to his clients wants and needs and created Architecture for the soul. He was my mentor and I know he will forever be with me as I help others create spaces which they love in the now and in the future. Thanks Dad for believing in me. RIP
As a child my favorite toys were building blocks. I played for hours creating cool buildings, well at least in my mind they were cool. Growing up in an Architects home helped lay the foundation for my life’s passion of helping others turn houses into homes. It’s been a long road but an interesting journey of self discovery.
Everything we do has been a first. We take chances sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed but we learn from our experiences. During the Recession of 1988 I became a Realtor. I remember showing houses to people and could not understand how they could afford these houses. Interest rates were in the double digits and new homes were $400,000 plus. In order for me to understand, I went into banking and received my Paralegal Certificate in Real Estate. In 1991 I worked as a Foreclosure Representative under the RTC and learned first hand what happened in the real estate crash: Greed was the culprit.
From there I worked as a Loan Closer and Loan Officer for different mortgage companies. It was an eye opening experience which I’m grateful for. In 1994 after 5 years in banking I jumped back into real estate working for a buyer’s agency which was in its infancy. At that time it was unheard of to have fiduciary responsibility to the Buyer. Seller Agents were weary of the idea and refused to work with buyer’s agents. But we persevered through educating the Seller’s agents, letting them know they were off the hook when it came to the Buyer. We took the responsibility off them.
I’m proud that I was part of the movement to create a fair playing field in real estate. Being the underdog can have its heartache but it also has its rewards. Sub Agency is a thing of the past, now both parties have representation. I was a Realtor for a number of years working for both sellers and buyers, but design was always my passion.
For years I also took care of the grounds of my father’s contemporary home. Gardening has always been therapeutic. To be outside enjoying nature, what more could one ask for? The summer of 2000 I started a side business called Creative Gardening where I designed & created flower-scapes (my term for landscapes using flowering plants/shrubs/trees). It was hard physical work but it was rewarding. I only did it for one summer but it was something I wanted to do. I continued working as a Realtor but more than anything I wanted to design. In 2003 I went back to school for Interior Design, working during the day and going to school at night. It took me five years but I did earned my degree.
In 2004, I had my first full time design job working as a Kitchen & Bath designer. It was an eye opening experience helping people create beautiful and functional kitchens. I also worked as a closet designer for another firm helping people create storage solutions. I had freedom to design and I loved it. I learned a lot not only how to design properly but to be a hands on designer in the field. The most important lesson I learned: Measure three times rather than once which will save a lot of headaches. The dam opened up and the creativity exploded. I was in my element.
I loved designing but I wasn’t satisfied just being a kitchen bath designer or a closet designer, I wanted to help people with other areas of their homes and use vendors and products I believed in. Even though I only had two years of full time design experience working for others, I had the desire to try and the willingness to fail. In 2006, I left a full time kitchen design position and went off on my own. It was scary I must admit but something inside me pushed me over the edge to freedom and I have never looked back.
One of my first achievements on my own was helping a family redesign a master bathroom, master closet and laundry room. It was a huge feat, since, I never did this before but I didn’t let that stop me. The fear pushed me to succeed. I remember drawing to scale the 6″ tile and counting how many I actually needed for the shower. I used materials I never used before such as glass block. I talked to vendors and they educated me. My thirst for knowledge was insatiable which helped me be a better designer.
The master bath was dated with pink and forest green tile, the large center jacuzzi tub was used for the plants since the only window faced south. The original laundry room was 5’x5′ with a metal shelf. The master closet had wire shelving and clothes were falling over. By listening to my clients wants and needs we worked together to create a space which they could use for many years to come.
By creating a bump out into the Master bath I incorporated a stacked washer/dryer unit. On the right side I designed a folding countertop which housed a laundry sink and room for hampers underneath. Above there was a wall cabinet and a rod for hanging clothes. Space doesn’t always have to be huge it just has to be functional.
To this day I’m still proud of my first large scale remodel. Yes, there were bumps in the road but I saw it through and in the end the clients loved it. I have had the privilege of working with many great homeowners, tradespeople and vendors. Each project has been unique. It’s an awesome feeling to know that even after ten years they still love the design and functionality of their space.
One of my greatest achievements is my tiny home on wheels. I’ve always thought it was an interesting concept. On my 6 month solo road trip around the USA a few years ago I had the opportunity to stay in a tiny home on wheels. There were things I liked about it but many things I would have changed.
After moving to NW Montana I found a builder who shared my interest in tiny homes. I came up with the shed roof style tiny home and he built it. I was in charge of buying all the materials and working with the vendors. I also stained and painted both the interior and exterior. I love working in the field because it makes me a knowledgeable designer. I designed, built and finished the 2 tier wood vanity, folding wood table and modular window seats which can be a single bed. Thank goodness for 7th & 8th grade Industrial Art classes where we learned to make and finish wood furniture.
Being able to have these first time experiences are part of learning and growing as a person and a designer. I could have stood by the sidelines and took the safe route but I didn’t want to be on my death bed regretting my life. Taking chances is scary but one will never know if one doesn’t try. The opportunity to work in a field which after many years I’m still passionate about is my greatest love. Other projects I would love to be part of are: flipping homes, helping buyers and sellers with their homes, designing & building affordable sustainable homes. I also look forward to working with people to create homes which work for them now and for years to come.