Where to See Wildflowers This Season

The best places to catch the West’s stunning blooms this spring

This winter may have been drier than last year’s, when record-breaking snow and rainfall brought wildflower superblooms to national parks and fields across the West, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to spot gorgeous blossoms this spring. As temperatures continue to rise, wildflower season is in full swing. Here are some prime spots to catch the blooms.


Set along the Puget Sound near Bellingham, Anacortes Community Forest Lands holds old-growth forests filled with native berry shrubs that bloom from February to August. Among these, Indian plum, red flowering currant, salmonberry, and red huckleberry are ones to watch for. Later in the spring and into summer, orange trumpet honeysuckle hangs from the trees overhead, and wild Lily of the Valley and coral root orchids blossom underfoot. The real treat is a trek through bald meadows on Fidalgo Island’s Sugarloaf Mountain, where hiking trails give views of spring gold, blue-eyed Marys, fawn lilies, Western buttercup, and red Indian paintbrush. Take a guided hike through the 2,700 protected acres, led by a local steward of nonprofit The Friends of the Forest.


Tom McCall Preserve, 231 acres of grassland along the Columbia River Gorge, is home to 300 species of plants, and grants you stunning views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River. Every spring, starting in late February, it’s also home to one of the most incredible wildflower displays in the state. Keep an eye out for grass widows, prairie stars, shooting stars, lupine, and Indian paintbrush. The grasslands are also home to four plant species unique to the River Gorge—Thompson’s broadleaf lupine, Columbia desert parsley, Thompson’s waterleaf, and Hood River milkvetch. Catch the blooms along the Rowena Plateau, near the edge of the River gorge, along a 3.6-mile round-trip hike.


California’s golden coast has long been famed for its poppy-filled plains. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a state-protected reserve of Mojave Desert grassland in northern Los Angeles County, offers 8 miles of hiking trails through rolling hills of golden poppies,  lupine, and coreopsi, from mid-February to mid-May. Though National Weather Service and Park Service officials aren’t confident that rainfall will increase significantly enough in the coming month to warrant another superbloom, the reserve is known for consistent poppy displays each year.

Further north, Death Valley’s famous flower displays begin earlier in the spring at lower elevations, where desert gold, notch-leaf Phacelia, golden evening primrose, and gravel ghost dot foothills until mid-April. As temperatures continue to rise, upper desert slopes and canyons welcome desert dandelion, Mojave aster, indigo bush, and desert paintbrush.


Colorado’s sweeping plains and mountainsides are prime for wildflower viewing, especially at the popular Roxborough State Park, 3,245 acres of wild land just southwest of Denver. Naturalist Ann Sarg suggests visiting the park to catch blooms in May, when natives like Nelson’s larkspur, nuttall violet, sand lilies, and mariposa lily bloom along paths like the Willow Creek trail. She also says some natives, like the spring beauty, have already begun to bloom, and that late-blooming varietals like porter aster and Liatris pop up later towards summer. Fellow naturalist Susan Dunn suggests arriving earlier in the morning for flower hikes in order to take advantage of cooler temperatures, and also recommends that visitors hop on the RoxRide, a five-passenger cart driven by a naturalist who can point out the blooms along the way during spring weekends.



You might not expect wildflowers to bloom in the deserts of Arizona, but the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix showcases dry-weather flowers that can be found across the state. Prime viewing time in the gardens starts in early March, when they fill with desert wildflowers like firecracker penstemon, blackfoot daisy, and Mexican gold poppies, along with blossoming cact, which bloom along the popular Harriet K. Maxwell wildflower trail.

Just an hour outside of Phoenix, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a 323-acre state park committed to the study of drought-toleran, desert-happy plants from all over the world. Come mid-March, spring flowers like desert marigolds, brittle brush, and perry penstemon fill the park’s several gardens with color, and native milkweed attracts monarch butterflies. After April, the park’s collection of cacti, which include ocotillo, yucca, hedgehog, saguaro, and aloes, share their regal blooms.

View the full article here at Sunset

13 Extraordinary Women in Design and Architecture You Need to Know

Celebrate International Women’s Day with the work of 13 inspiring designers whose contributions to architecture, interior design, industrial design, and beyond are changing the game.

March may be Women’s History Month in the United States, but the work of women in all fields of design surrounds us every day of the year. From textile design to landscape architecture, ceramics to interior design, we’ve highlighted the work of 13 diverse women in the U.S. and asked them to provide insight into what motivates their work, how they established their design studios, and their role as females in the design world. Read on to learn about how they approach their projects, maintain a work/life balance, seek out and become mentors, and more.

Marie Burgos of Marie Burgos Design

Raised in Paris to a family of Caribbean origin from the island of Martinque, Marie Burgos established her interior design offices and furniture lines, Marie Burgos Design, in Los Angeles and New York. Drawing inspiration from the great art, architecture, and interiors that she was exposed to from an early age—as well as the native foods, family life, traditions, and beaches of Martinque—Burgos has created furniture and lighting collections jointly with her husband.

Burgos sees her role as a designer as someone who creates spaces that are nurturing and personal, and her role as an employer to showcase the business and create a productive work environment that fosters a sense of wellbeing for each employee. A strong believer in balance and harmony in design as well as her personal life, Burgos says that she has become a “seasoned, productive multi-tasker” as a designer, wife, and mother of two young children.

The unconditional love, perspective, and balance that she has learned and achieved, along with new levels of patience and prioritizing, brings her “a high degree of positive energy that I am able to use in my working relationships as well as my family life.” Burgos also seeks to be a role model for her daughter and for her staff, hiring and encouraging other women.




Casey Keasler of Casework

Founded in 2015 and based in Portland, Oregon, Casework is a design studio started by interior designer Casey Keasler focused on interiors and how they are experienced. As the founder and creative director of the firm, Keasler seeks to promote creativity, collaboration, and curiosity; her projects range from residential to commercial designs. Keasler calls her clients her biggest source of inspiration, learning what makes them tick and what their vision is so that she can translate that into a personal, thoughtfully designed environment.

Before starting her own firm, she was told by a mentor that she didn’t need to know everything, but had to learn how to ask the right questions to achieve the results she wanted. To that end, she spent a lot of time listening, learning, and growing until she was ready to start her own business. Now that she has successfully done so, she is motivated to carve out a “creative, supportive space for women in this world.”




Ellen Van Dusen of Dusen Dusen

Established in 2010, Ellen Van Dusen’s textile and clothing company, Dusen Dusen, is focused on creating bold, colorful prints. Van Dusen currently is based in Brooklyn, and expanded her collection in 2015 with Dusen Dusen Home, a textile and home goods line that includes bedding, throws, pillows, and towels.

Van Dusen’s work, and in particular her clothing, is known for versatile, wearable silhouettes made with her eye-catching prints. She is regularly inspired by fine art, commercial and naïve design, and the brain’s reaction to color and contrast. Currently, she is inspired by oversized versions of ordinary objects, Madeline Arakawa and Madeline Gins, tropical birds, and board games.






Carly Nance & Rachel Bentley of The Citizenry

Founded in 2014, Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley started The Citizenry as a socially conscious home decor brand that partners with master artisans around the world to create modern, globally inspired designs. From leather butterfly chairs handcrafted in Argentina to blankets woven in the mountains of Peru, The Citizenry brings the world’s best craftsmanship directly to consumers online.

With new collections (and artisan partners) added every year, the two work with their product design director, Haley Seidel, and are inspired by “different cultures, crafts, and raw materials; each one is a unique input to our design process.” In a female-run company, Carly says that “empathy and insight run deep in our culture,” and Rachel considers the ability to support talented craftswomen around the world as one of the most rewarding aspects of her role in bridging across cultures.




View the full article here at Dwell

Are you a homeowner? Here’s how much richer you are now

Strong demand for housing last year kept home prices surging, and that means more homeowners are now sitting on more cash in the form of home equity.

Collectively, homeowners with mortgages saw their equity increase by just over 8 percent in 2018, according to CoreLogic. That is from a combination of home value gains and borrowers paying down their mortgages. It adds up to roughly $678 billion in additional wealth over the last year — or about $9,700 per homeowner.

Of course all real estate is local, and so were the gains. Homeowners in Western states saw the biggest annual increases in home equity, with Nevada homeowners now about $29,000 richer. Idaho homeowners gained close to $27,000 and Californians just short of $20,000. Washington state, New York and Florida homes also saw big equity gains. There were, however, some losses. Homeowners in North Dakota, Louisiana and Connecticut saw their equity drop.

Rising equity usually fuels the remodeling market, as people tap that extra cash to do home remodels or upgrades. Home remodeling was very strong last year, not just because of rising equity, but because homebuilders are putting up fewer homes, meaning more people are staying in older homes longer and repairing or upgrading.

“The increase in home equity over the past several years provides homeowners with the means to finance home remodels and repairs,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “With rates still ultra-low by historical standards, home-equity loans provide a low-cost method to finance home-improvement spending. These expenditures are expected to rise 5 percent in 2019.”

Increasing equity also helped more homeowners rise above water on their mortgages. The number of underwater properties fell 14 percent last year, as 351,000 borrowers no longer owe more on their loans than their homes are worth. There are still 2.2 million homes in a negative equity position.

“Our forecast for the CoreLogic Home Price Index predicts there will be a a 4.5 percent increase in our national index from December 2018 to the end of 2019,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “If all homes experience this gain, this would lift about 350,000 homeowners from being underwater and restore positive equity.”

Negative equity peaked at 26 percent of mortgaged residential properties in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to CoreLogic. Just 4.2 percent of homes are currently still underwater.

View the full article here at CNBC

Developers Are Now Designing Apartments for Selfies

Designer Ryan Korban has always been devoted to Instagram. An influencer himself (with some 137,000 followers), the 34-year-old New School graduate earned his success by designing flagship stores for high-fashion brands that were flooded with selfie-takers from the go. Using bold colors and “wow moments” such as a massive dome made of gold leaf for the Madison Avenue Aquazzura boutique, he lured lookie-loos and the design-curious off the street just to take photos to post to their feeds. “No one wants to design a store that people just walk past,” he says.

So when Broad Street Development asked him to imagine the interiors for40 Bleecker in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, Korban’s mind immediately turned to how his designs would look on social media. He started with a lobby whose lighting makes anyone look 10 years younger, then furnished it with two marble sofas and lush suede walls.

“It is all about over-the-top symmetry and graphic marbles—all of it meant to fit into a vertical frame that looks great on a cellphone,” he says.

Sales agents stationed in the lobby welcome visitors who just want to pose on those stone slabs. Never mind that the selfie-stick set may not be looking to purchase a condo in the 12-story building, whose one- to five-bedroom homes start at around $2 million, or whether they’re financially eligible.

“We are building a brand, and it deserves to get as many eyes on it as possible,” says Korban of his photo-friendly designs.

While Instagram remains the fastest-growing social media platform on the planet, with more than 100 million active users in the U.S. alone, real estate developers have been slow to embrace social media from the design phase of building. Many worry that photo-ready rooms that allow entrée to just anyone might cheapen their expensive product, while others simply don’t want wide-eyed out-of-towners hunting for real estate porn.

But savvy developers and architects are embracing the power of the platform to move product, and are baking creative moments into the design process—sometimes from the moment of construction. With the right Instagram-worthy photo op available to all, the thinking goes, a post just might influence a close.

Up at Aby Rosen’s 100 East 53rd Street, art is the focus of the Foster + Partners-designed building, where plenty of visitors and brokers pop by to take photos with the Rachel Feinstein work in the lobby and the blue-chip pieces from the developer’s private collection in the building’s model loft residence. Compass’s Leonard Steinberg is fine with prospective buyers posting images of themselves with the building’s hashtag (#100e53), and has seen some traction through random influencers.

“We have gotten some direct inquiries from social media posts—sometimes from agents, sometimes from buyers who ask their agent to see it,” Steinberg says of the Midtown residence, where studios start at $2.1 million.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s record-busting Quay Tower (the penthouse is in contract for more than $20 million, which stands to become the highest-priced sale ever in the New York borough) installed an Instagram pop-up station in its sales office. Wannabe selfie-takers step into a cartoon version of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the developer has thoughtfully placed props for playful photo ops. (The photo is emailed to participants, in the process collecting contact information for future sales.)

Lower down the price-point totem pole, David Barry, president and chief executive officer of development firm Urby, knows his prospective tenants want enviable experiences to post on their Instagram feeds. So he thinks up photo-friendly spaces before construction begins. His Harrison Urby building in Harrison, N.J., where rentals start at around $2,000 for a studio, has a 30-foot-tall treehouse with a wall of braided rope in the common-area café. Anyone can come by for a latte and a snap.

“The combination of greenery, oak millwork, decorative lighting, and a multicolored, tiled floor creates the feeling of a tropical oasis in what is a historically industrial town,” says Barry, and when it’s flooded with selfie-takers, it gives the common space a lively energy.

His Staten Island Urby was conceived with the only commercial farm to be incorporated into a residential development in that borough; it grows more than 50 varieties of plants and vegetables, tended by a real farmer. (Is anything more Instagrammable than an urban farmer?)

Barry loves that his spaces have earned their own social media presence—@urbylife has nearly 16,000 followers—and he believes Instagram falls somewhere midway up the sales and marketing funnel, as renters work their way toward finding the perfect dwelling.

“I don’t think Instagram’s primary purpose is transactions, but it is a great way to promote brand awareness, and that may translate indirectly as transactions, eventually,” he says.

For him, slowly growing his Instagram presence through fun posts is better than any website. It’s a mosaic, he says, a composite over time that authentically expresses a building’s singular personality. Which is why Barry doesn’t bother much with hiring professional photographers to take stock shots. “Urby builds pretty, fun, quirky places for people to pose and post, then lets the process unfold organically.”

This fire-resistant home is the next line of defense against climate change

It is impossible to build a fully fireproof home, but researchers are now focused on making homes at least fire resistant. They have to, because climate change is increasing the intensity of wildfires around the world, putting billions of dollars’ worth of real estate literally in the line of fire.

Wildfires destroyed more U.S. homes and buildings last year than at any other point in recorded history, and the eight most destructive years for wildfires ever have been in the last 13 years.

“There is no reason to think they are going to get better,” said Roy Wright, CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. “You look at this kind of impact — the variations in the climate we have had, we are far more susceptible to the size and intensity of fires.”

Roughly 14,000 homes burned to the ground in just two of the enormous California wildfires last year. Wildfire damage to residential and commercial property in California alone last year totaled nearly $19 billion, according to CoreLogic. The rainy season in California is getting shorter and the droughts more prolonged, meaning there is simply more combustible material and a greater chance of wildfires.

But it is not just California. Wright points to increasingly intense wildfires recently in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina. All of those states have huge homebuilding industries.

“There are steps that we can take so that the impact of that fire is narrowed, it doesn’t spread as far, and it impacts far fewer structures,” said Wright.

Wright’s insurance institute built two test homes at its facility in Richburg, South Carolina, one a typical structure, the other using fire-resistant materials and landscaping. Using large fans and ember generators, it showed how quickly one house erupted in flames, while the other did not. Though a wildfire’s wall of flame might look most destructive, 90 percent of fires are ignited by flying embers, some the size of a human hand.

“Fire resistance means you’ve incorporated building materials and design features that will get the ember exposure, will get the fire exposure, but would resist it,” said Daniel Gorham, research engineer with the institute.

Landscaping is key

The siding on the fire-resistant home was a fiber cement composite, rather than typical wood shingles or planks. This composite is offered in different colors and designs that look just like wood.

Landscaping was also key. The typical home had mulch, the fire-resistant home, rocks. The fire resistant home also had all its plantings at least 5 feet from the siding and the siding was raised 6 inches off the ground.

“We have noncombustible landscaping. In this case, we have rock mulch from zero to 5 feet away from the building. We also have the ornamental vegetation outside of that 5-foot zone, and spaced strategically,” said Gorham.

Satellites have captured embers flying up to 7 miles from a wildfire. These start secondary fires. The embers can land in gutters and siding and smolder for up to 12 hours before they ignite. Using metal instead of vinyl gutters mitigates fire risk: vinyl can melt and drop fire onto the side of the house — metal will not.

Windows and doors also need fortification in the line of fire.

“We have a dual-paned, tempered glass window, and we have a fiberglass door. Dual-paned is important because if we do get a fire here, single-paned glass would break, and then we have a window break, we now have a breach in the opening and that’s when flames and embers can get into the home,” said Gorham.

While the cost to real estate from wildfires is rising, the cost to build and landscape a fireproof home is actually the same or slightly less than the cost of a typical home. The savings is in the cement siding, cheaper than wood materials. That offsets cost increases in gutters and vents.

In the institute’s experiment, with equal amounts of embers blowing on them, the fire-resistant home did not burn at all, while the typical home, which was connected to it, was fully engulfed.

Paradise lost

“This work that we do here in the lab, this is real. I think all too often, we can watch something on TV, we can listen to it and go, ‘That’s interesting, but it won’t happen to me.’ But it does. It invades a family’s life,” said Wright.

Wright is a former FEMA official and native Californian. His parents lost their home in California’s Camp fire last year, the worst in the state’s history.

“I’ve always led my team saying, ‘Make sure we know the names of those people,’ but when that fire came through Paradise — and you get the text message from your mom that says, ‘Our home is gone. Where do I start?’ … the nature of how destructive it is hits home,” said Wright.

This business owner builds homes out of shipping containers

Carl Coffman is betting that in the near future, people will want to live in shipping containers.

After 35 years as an excavation contractor, Coffman decided he wanted to spark a conversation about climate change and natural resources. The retired contractor set up shop in Oregon City. His company, Relevant Buildings, fabricates finished homes out of recycled containers from nearby ports. He hopes to sell them for between $50,000 and $230,000.

“It’s simple if you just use these how they were designed,” he says.

Coffman’s operation sits in a gravel lot just off I-205, easily recognizable by the pile of 450-foot steel containers. A model home village features containers outfitted with windows, electrical wiring, plumbing, drywall, tiling and all the other accoutrements of a modern home. They range from single-container homes to three-container creations of more than 1,000 square feet.

Coffman’s latest project in the city of St. Helens is an eight-unit shipping container condo complex. The 650-foot, one-bedroom units are stacked together like Legos, four below and four above. Coffman is leasing the land from the city.

He’s also in the early stages of a ten-unit development in Milwaukie and a 20- to 30-unit project in Roseburg.

With affordable housing in crisis across the state, planners and developers are scrambling to accommodate new homebuilding solutions. Some alternatives include encouraging “missing-middle” housing like duplexes and triplexes. Portland recently amended its code to allow accessory dwelling units — small backyard living quarters often offered at an affordable price. And of course there are tiny homes.

Coffman insists his containers bring something different to the real estate market. They are not tiny homes, he says. Nor are they affordable housing, exactly. The St. Helens units will rent for around $1,200, and Coffman hopes to offer ownership options at or below that rate.

Coffman does hope to sell future developments to nonprofits. “Once we get to scale, we’ll make a dent in affordable housing,” he says.

The idea has the potential for provide housing at low cost. As with accessory dwelling units, developers can take advantage of modular construction. They can build the entire unit and ship it to the construction site, cutting down construction times and disruption to the neighborhood. The container homes also use only about an eighth of the wood in traditional light-frame U.S. homes.

Each home sits on a foundation and a thick bed of insulation. Various models feature different bumpouts for windows and doors welded to the container. The interiors are games of Tetris, with laundry machines in the bathroom or clever storage nooks. Some units even boast small porches.

Though relatively new to the United States, container architecture has become a worldwide fad. In an era of increasing urbanization, the structures can provide quick and flexible housing. Coffman was inspired by student housing in the Netherlands—an entire dorm built of stacked shipping containers.

With disaster resilience a frequent topic of conversation these days, Coffman says his containers are just the thing, water resistant and earthquake proof. “If you put a traditional house on a ship, stacked it seven high and sent it across the ocean, I don’t think it would do so well,” he says.

Before Coffman can scale up, however, he needs to get approved for state permits. That will require expensive testing of the homes’ structural integrity.

The entreprenueur doesn’t seem to have much of an idea of where this project will take him. So far he’s only sold two units.

He just knows he wants to shake up the traditional home building industry. “We’re trying to push back on the common way of doing things,” he says.

View the full article here at Oregon Business