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Hand Poured Concrete Counter Tops

We are getting closer to the completion of The Franklin House. The finishes are going up. The floors have been put in. We just have to wrap up a few details.  It is so exciting! I can’t wait to share some more of the bits and pieces with everyone.

I love hand poured concrete counter tops. They are durable, earthy, and cool. I have been telling Pete that I want them in our kitchen for years now. Concrete was perfect for this project because the use of natural and man made materials plays into our industrial vibe.

After some research online I found some great forms from Z Counterforms. These forms were pretty easy to use and created a great smooth edge. The white form you see in the picture below was the rigid form and the black you see is the curve form. They just screw into the concrete board and once the concrete has cured they snap right off! We will definitely use these forms again.


Kitchen Counter Top Form

Once the forms were off the counters had to be diamond ground…sanded…and sanded…and sanded…and sanded some more.

Kitchen Counter Top Poured

The sanding exposed the tiny aggregate in the concrete and created and really organic finish. The edges have tiny little voids and holes that show the handmade nature of the product. This is more beautiful to me than any perfection.

Kitchen Counter Sanding

After all the sanding the counters have to be sealed with several coats of concrete sealer to protect them from staining, though I personally like the way the staining and mottling that occurs over time. I can’t wait to have concrete counter tops in my own kitchen!

Kitchen Counter Top Finished

We also poured a trough sink for the master bath. This was a little more labor intensive since there was no easy peasy forms to be had from the internet. Pete had to build a form from melamine from scratch. It took a whole bunch of math and lot of measuring!

Master Sink Form 1

Both the kitchen counter top and the master sink had to have mesh reinforcement in the concrete to prevent cracking.

Master Sink Form 2

Because of the difference in the type of form we used on the sink, it needed far less sanding and therefore did not expose the aggregate in the concrete. The sink is much shallower than a traditional sink.

Master Sink Unmolded

The sink is installed and will have 2 faucets. Perfect for the master bath!

  • Master Sink

Burned out… but have to finish strong!

I am sure everyone who has had a small taste of success has felt this way. Anxious, inspired, confused, determined, in your own head constantly, a little insane, positive, struggling, and invested in an idea. I guess they would say there is beauty in the struggle. There is also a realization that it is one thing to have a good idea, and it is another to turn the idea into reality. But, what if that idea was your dream. Not just one of those strange dreams that happen one night after one too many, but one of those reoccurring dreams that sticks with you.

Roof Garden Installation

When I was younger I heard about the land bank dollar property program and was insistent that I would find an old house and fix it up. Some how at that time I knew what I wanted to do… fix up old houses and build new ones. What are the steps that have to be taken to fulfill this desire? What must one do to achieve a goal? Although we did not buy the Franklin House through the land bank, we bought the property and I was officially living the dream! The dream then turned into reality… design, logistics, expenses, scheduling, hiring, firing, systems, construction, lead time, competition, headaches, questions, alcohol, sobriety, coffee, hard work, Whats Next? “Do, don’t try.” Make a deadline. That will help!

As much as I like to rant, there must be a point to this post… ? … Oh yeah I am feeling a little burned out and I am now able to admit it. I don’t think it is because of the project, or the social implications that I now realize, or the connections that I have made with everyone involved and everyone impacted, or the fact that there is probably going to be zero monetary ROI or possibly a loss… I think it is more the angst from the unknown.

What positive impact will the result have and what opportunities lie ahead. I have a couple potential clients interested in my design capabilities, we are looking for the next house to fix up and a vacant in-fill lot to build on. But is it enough to fill the void after seeing the dream to fruition? Do I have to take time to dream more? Should I go back to school so I can actually call myself an architect? Can I afford that? Will any of this pay off? Does anyone understand? ” Hold it together man…”(slap)

The mind is an amazing piece of the puzzle that we all take for granted at a given point in time. Sometimes we become so self involved that we cut other people off in their journey through life. It is a hard truth about the human condition… but other times we care deeply about an idea, cause, and other people… look now he is a philosopher.

What is a house?

We started the project of the Franklin House strong and I intend to finish it the same way. What ever comes next will happen in due time. I have to tell myself every morning to “Roll with time” it is a saying of patience (the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, thanks Google). I hope that my work spreads a positive message of sustainability and love. I want people to see beauty in reality… maybe that is the dream?

It’s Been Way Too Long…

It has been quite a while since I have shared any updates! It was WAYYYYYY back in November! Too long…. way too long. One of the reasons that I have not been updating as much was the holiday season. I swear it gets busier every year! Then I discovered the white screen of death due to a bad plug-in on the website. Luckily Peter is MUCH more computer savvy than me. He was able to fix it (three times). Third time was the charm!


Queen Anne Exterior FrontIt was mid-January when we hit our one-year anniversary with the Franklin House. Which is both scary and amazing to me.  Scary because we misjudged how much time this project would take. Amazing because we have done SO much to bring this house back to life.

We have had some major ups and downs in this project and we are preparing to do an extensive analysis to figure out what we did right and what went wrong. We know that framing and rebuilding the structure took way longer than anticipated, so much rotten wood… Also every aspect of the project took longer and cost more than we originally thought. But that same down is also an up, because it has been an amazing learning process. That kind of sums up this last year in nutshell…

We are getting closer and closer to the completion of the project. One of the biggest wins from this past year have been the friendships and acquaintances that we have made. That is definitely one of the biggest things that we will miss about this house, the neighbors! Everybody that we have met loves the Olde Towne East neighborhood. There is such a sense of community in this area! I hope that the new homeowners love these people and this area as much as we do!

Front With Siding


I have a TON of updates to share with you so keep your eye out for those. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and Peter posts all kinds of fun stuff on Instagram! We are Larsen Dwellings on all social media.

As always guys…THANK YOU!




The interior of the Franklin House is getting close! It has seemed to be a slow progression but I have heard before that the days are long but the years are short. We have almost completely rebuilt this house. Replaced rotten wood, main beams, awkward staircases, all the mechanical elements and we rearranged the floor plan. It is a new old house. It is a historic home with a modern life. We love this old girl and are excited to get her dressed and ready to meet her new family.
Living Space Before

Remember this space? This past January we walked into this sad, neglected, saggy room and we saw the potential. “This could be amazing!” we said. The light…..it was the light that attracted us to this space. The south facing windows let in the most beautiful winter light.  And it was cold in there! Those first few days that we measured and wandered around the crazy chopped up space I have NEVER been so cold. It was 10 degrees out and felt even colder inside.

Living Room Demo

Pete and George demolished the lath and plaster. They took everything down to studs. We really got a good look at changes that various owners had made through out the years. We could see where a single family home had been made into a duplex. We could see where a duplex had been brought back to a single family home. It was a rebirth for this place. And we saw more progression…

Living Room Rebuild

We moved a staircase, removed a staircase and rebuilt a staircase. We cleaned and repaired brick. We installed two HUGE beams. We created an open inviting floor plan that takes advantage of the light. We had good insulation put in. Never again will we freeze inside! We had drywall installed and all of a sudden…..it was a house again!

Living Room Drywall

We are really proud of how this space feels. It is open but cozy. After being a dark unfinished area for so long the reflective light in here now that we have drywall is really cheerful. When writing this post it was pretty crazy to go through all the old pictures to really see the progression of the space.

Keep your eye out for a pieces parts post soon! And as always…..thank you for reading!

The Finished Roof Cresting!

We finally are sharing the finished roof cresting!

Roof Cresting Before

Hi Guys! It has been a while since I have had time to share an update with you! Big things are happening around these parts but that is another post for another day.

Do you remember this roof cresting? I get a little sad when I see these pictures…this amazing detail deserved so much better than this chippy purple paint.  Pete and George worked hard to bring this 130 year old detail back to life. Cresting Repair

It took much sanding to get all the old paint and rust off. This old galvanized metal had worn almost completely away. The guys had to replace the missing bits with new pieces. It worked really well!

Replaced humps

Since the original cresting was missing some of the humps we had a good (and talented) friend make these replacement parts. The only thing that we couldn’t remake were the rosettes. Ah well….

Cresting Primed

After tons of soldering and repairing and attaching we sealed the bottom side for water tightness and primed the whole thing. You can see the repairs when you are up close but when the cresting is on the roof you can’t tell at all!

Painted Cresting

We decided to go with black to match the color tones of the new roof. I think the whole neighborhood was happy to see this go back up!

Cresting On Roof

We are so happy to see this up on the new roof! The black looks amazing against the sky. The hard work that it took to keep the cresting was totally worth it!

Keep your eyes out for another blog post later this week. I will be sharing my BIG news! Yay!

Designing inside a shell and outside the box…

Designing inside a shell and outside the box… Rebuilding the Franklin House

I will not apologize for the cliché title… because it is very fitting to this project. I am not too sure what drew me to this house, maybe it was the history of it, the neighborhood, or maybe it is the amazing diversity of the Olde Towne East residents and their aspirations for the future. This part of Columbus, Ohio is America at its finest. It is awesome to see so many subcultures mesh together in a community that is rebuilding.  I wanted a challenge and a learning experience, and this house sure has delivered thus far!

The fact that you could not just walk into this house and update the cabinets, knock down a couple walls, paint, and flip it, intrigued me. A mess for a floor plan in a dense urban environment requires designing inside a shell and outside the box. The Franklin House has been in existence for one hundred and thirty one years. Originally built in 1884, it is older than any living human being on our beautiful planet, and I think this is something that needs to be respected. There should be something said about the understanding of sustainability. There should be something said about the Zeitgeist. But for now I will try to remain on topic. In the following paragraphs, and images, I will summarize the design process for the reconfiguration of the existing floor plan into a plan for a house that can be functional and beautiful for a family in the year 2015.

1026_Franklin_EXT 1st&2nd FL PL


The images above show the existing floor plan of the first and second levels when we acquired the dwelling. When I completed these drawings I knew at that moment there was a need for drastic changes. If you have been following the blogs my lovely wife Geri has been posting you could probably see in the before, and demo, pictures that there was a lot of work to be done. I have heard from several people that have moved into the neighborhood that they looked at possibly buying the house but it needed too much… I will tell you after gutting the place and starting to level the floors no one saw the half of it…. let me get back on track. So the house had two staircases, two main spaces, I guess two kitchens; though Geri and I go back and forth whether a kitchen was shared; strange halls leading to and from the bathrooms, all around the place had been modified in so many ways, into a duplex back to a single family to multi-room apartments, we would tear out a wall and find an old renovations. Even the back section of the house is an early addition on rubble foundation with a crawl space… probably added for a kitchen with servant’s quarters above. To say it simply there was no possible way to make this floor plan work.

So, how do you create order from chaos? This is a great question… if you know the answer we would love to hear it. Though as a question of design there are a couple ways to create function and intrigue. What I did was draw several diagrams outlining the overall geometry of what was given (the shell). I abstracted the programmatic elements then played with the relationships between the spaces. Once there is a clear vision of the interior space, I then asked myself what the best way to move from one space to the other, and what are you going to see along the way? After making a few sketches it was clear both staircases had to go… The staircase in the back of the house leads up to what I would call an extra-large laundry room…what? The main staircase in the front of the house goes west to east then east to west with a five foot by five foot space off of a single step landing. I have heard a room of this nature is called a “Sew Room”…for crafts or something. But who knows? There is a window in the sew room that had a lovely view at the neighbors siding, it did bring in some good light and I could see it being a nice library or meditation spot. But… You must step outside that box.

The creation of a main core for circulation is necessary in order to organize the path between programmatic elements. Since the second floor plan was the worst arrangement of space I have ever seen, it held precedent over the first floor, which I wanted to remain as open as possible. The best plan I could come up with was to feed each room with a corridor. With this corridor it was then obvious… A new staircase had to be constructed parallel to it!

1026_Franklin_1st&2nd FL PL


The new floor plan hinged on relocating the staircase. Now the fun part… Section drawings! Can I meet or exceed code requirements if I run the stairs south to north, as well as having a wide enough corridor to feed the program? The concept is solid but now how to make it fit? I was already sold on the fact that the corridor and staircase can run parallel to each other straddling the main load bearing wall. I also wanted to keep an open floor plan on the first level. Luckily for me some HVAC pro in the past hacked through the main load bearing wall and beam, over time creating massive sagging… so it had to be replaced. In section drawing you can see that there are three load bearing points for the central load points of the structure, continuing to the foundation and footers. As I said before the room on the north side of the house was an early addition over a crawl space, so it can be considered a separate structure at this time. After compiling the existing measurements and calculating the rise and run of the new staircase, the solution came when realizing the necessity of installing a laminated veneer beam to span the load bearing points and support the second and third floors This solution allowed for a large enough landing at the top of the stairs to make a one hundred and eighty degree turn to access the corridor comfortably.




A couple other interesting things came up as a result of relocating the staircase. Raising the level of that semi-useless sew room on the old staircase became usable space for both the first and second floor… I must digress right here to say that I love my wife! She gets the credit for seeing that move before I did. You know that point when you have been staring at CAD for hours and need to come back to reality? No? Well at that point I normally like to walk away from the computer and sketch. While sketching Geri hit the nail on the head. Then the question became, what fits in our new found space?  On the first floor it gave me the ability to shift the kitchen, create an open line of sight from an eat in kitchen to the living room, and create a large enough walk in pantry to house the refrigerator, in turn creating the appearance of a minimalist kitchen. With the shift the new usable space moved to the addition where I placed the mud room and half bathroom. Finally all those times playing Tetris pays off! It was one of our original intention to create a master suite when re positioning the program, and the additional floor space on the second floor allowed for a walk in closet at the end of a corridor from the master bedroom through the master bath… sounds easy. Right?



One of the downfalls to trying to optimize the space on the first level is that I left no access to the cellar from the inside of the house. Really though, the cellar is mainly for utilities and at a height of 6’6” to the bottom of the joists, we should be happy you can stand up in it for a house this old. And there is no possible way to meet code for a staircase leading down there. So… under the new staircase leading to the second floor became a broom closet and storage, and if you trip a breaker in the winter you will need a coat and boots to go reset it.



 The third floor has been left for an oneiric space, or a room to dream and grow. Not much has changed to the layout other than rebuilding the staircase from the second floor, in order to bring it up to code, which took a little square footage… but it is a lot safer to access the third level now! We conditioned the space with forced air and furred out the rafters to allow proper ventilation of the attic and a higher R-Value. The location of the windows were not only dangerous because it was not tempered glass four inched off the floor, but everyone had to duck to see out of them. So that was fixed as well!

It has taken a while for me to compile all of these thoughts about the house and the newly designed floor plans. At this point in time on the project we have passed all rough inspections, which has to be one of my favorite points in the process. Mainly because the structure and utility systems are fully exposed, still it is hard for the average person to visualize the finished product.

Folks it is all about the finish details… they can make or break all of the hard work to get to the point of finish. Yet, one could install the most lavish finish materials and fall short if the frame is not structurally sound and the utility systems installed improperly. Finish materials get replaced over the life of a house, but once the drywall goes in you do not want to have to change any utility or structural issue.

So let’s talk about finish materials for a brief moment. One important note… Mid-century modern architects viewed finish materials as something that could be adapted over time. For example Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas on the Usonian House was to be finished with the structural cinder block walls exposed in order to keep the cost of the house down as well as give the home owner the opportunity to face it with brick or stone in the future as these materials became affordable, or as they so pleased. We all know that in this day and age of the HGTV thirty minute to completion shows and the internet, there should be no flaws in any finish materials, and because most people do not have the vision, or interest, to adapt their space to their taste. If you had to pin down a style for the Franklin House it would be a “Queen Anne Victorian meets an Urban Contemporary Industrial.”

These design techniques are one solution of many. The key with any design is that you must have “style” when creating unique spaces. Some of the most interesting spaces I have seen were created from simple, or reclaimed, materials. So I will leave you today with a quote from Le Corbusier “You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: This is beautiful. That is Architecture. Art enters in.” At the end of the day it should still be a fun experiment! Stay tuned for more updates on the progress of the rebuild… Thanks for the support!

Starting On the Exterior

The Franklin House is slowly but surely coming along. We are finally starting on the exterior! After the hiccup with our plumber (fired) we are making big steps forward this week! Our new plumber is an old friend and is rocking right along. We will be having our plumbing rough-in inspection on Friday. Our electrician, who is also a very good friend, is ready for his rough-in inspection also.

Exterior repair

While our awesome subcontractors are getting things done on the inside Pete and George are getting things done on the outside. The entire front of the house was rotten and needed to be replaced. Since this place is so old none of it has vapor barrier. That is definitely something we are going to remedy. Before everyone starts to worry, with all this replacement going on, we are going to take it back to where it was historically. We will be putting the fish scale siding back up as well as the clapboard.

Putting up scaffolding

The guys are using rented scaffolding (safety first!) to reach the top of the house. The best part is seeing the openings for the new windows and door. The space is going to be so light and bright!  We have made some color choices for the exterior and we are looking forward to showing you those. The mason will be working on our four chimneys soon and then it will be time for the roof.

Exciting things around here! We will keep you updated as things move along. And as always…thanks for reading!

A Usonian Home

Last fall Peter and I got married. And the thing to do when one marries an architectural designer in the midwest is honeymoon with Frank LLoyd Wright. We booked two nights at Polymath Park and stayed in The Duncan House.  This is one of the Usonian homes designed by Mr. Wright. Located in the Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania this property is only a hour or so from Fallingwater.

Duncan House
The Duncan House exterior.

This house is only 1 of 7 Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes that you can actually stay overnight in. Built elsewhere, this house was moved to this site and reassembled. Wright designed these usonian homes for the “everyman”. They are chock full of Wright’s architectural philosophies. From the outside this home is nestled into its landscape and takes advantage of its gorgeous surroundings. It has the large hearth that is centrally located in the home and the car port this is indicative to Wright’s designs.

Back of The Duncan House
The back of The Duncan House.

Much of these Usonian homes are made of concrete block. This was an inexpensive building material that could be left as it was or covered with a stone to make it more fancy.  One of the design features of these homes was the horizontal lines throughout that draw the eye around the structure. These houses had large windows in the back to bring the outdoors in and take full advantage of the sun.

Usonian Kitchen
The Kitchen of the fifties!

The homes had a small kitchen with plenty of storage space. Mr. Wright believed that built-in storage was necessary to keeping clutter away. This kitchen had the original red formica counter tops and the push button cooktop! Very space age!

Usonian Dining
The dining room built ins.

This view from the kitchen into the dining room shows the built ins and shelving that is definitely indicative of Frank Lloyd Wright design.  Also notice how the horizontal lines continue throughout the interior of the home as well.

Usonian Fireplace
The massive fireplace!

The centerpiece of any Wright design is the massive fireplace. In his philosophy the hearth is the heart of the home. This beauty is covered in a locally sourced stone ut originally it was left in concrete block. This draw back to this fireplace design is that it is not very efficient.

Usonian Living Room
The living room . The velvet furniture was down filled!

The living room is a large light filled space. The windows give it the indoor/outdoor feel. This is where the family would gather and spend most of their time since the Wrightian idea was that bedrooms were for sleeping and storing one’s clothing.

Usonian Hallway
The hallway was filled with more built ins.

This hallway leads to the three bedrooms and one of the  bathrooms in this home. Mr. Wright didn’t feel that this was a place to spend much time so the hall narrows to “push” you through it. Many more built ins here to store one’s belongings.

Usonian Bedroom
Master bedroom. This bed was one of the most comfortale that I have ever slept in!

This is the master bedroom. Its small size was due to the fact that all you were supposed to do in here was sleep and change your clothes. There is a small bathroom around the other side of the bed. It still had its fifties tiles (with fish!) and accessories. So cool.

We really enjoyed staying on this awesome property. We suggest if you are going to see Fallingwater that you spend a night in Polymath Park too!



Design Blogs I Love

Our Desks

Since starting this new business venture with Peter I have been paying a LOT more attention to design of all kinds. There are a whole bunch of great blogs and bloggers out in the internet. These are the design blogs that I love and are really inspired by.

First up is Emily Henderson’s blog ! She is super hilarious and an amazing stylist. I love that she always shows both styled side and the “real” side of her photo shoots. Her style is cool mid-century California and I wish that I could go thrifting with her (by the beach please).

I also love Design Sponge.House tours and awesome round-ups abound in this blog. Simple and beautiful styling and fantastic pictures make this blog one that check every day.

Next is Vintage Revivals.  Mandi is a DIY queen! Creative projects are her specialty and it seems like she has the best craigslist luck ever. Make sure to check out The Nugget, the vintage trailer that she redid! It’s pretty drool worthy. I also love the large artwork she did for over her couch! I might have to do something similar this spring.

Oh, A Beautiful Mess, is there nothing that these talented and business savvy sisters can’t do? They have pulled together an amazing team of stylish women (and men!) who contribute to this very craftcentric lifestyle blog. The ABM team puts out TWO blog posts a day that cover everything from delicious recipes to home projects. Check out all of their amazing e-courses!

These are just a few of the great blogs that are out there! I am sure that there are a ton out there to satisfy anyone’s personal style. As always thanks for reading!

The Franklin House Design Inspiration

Pete and I love design. Personally, though we take a lot of risks in our design and make style choices that are very “us”. The Franklin House design inspiration comes from us trying to design a space that functions well and appeals to a wide range of people and life styles. We also had to take cues from this home’s history. Modern Industrial Victorian was just the right combination of all the parts that make the house unique!

Queen Anne


We are keeping all the exterior details that make the Queen Anne style of this place so charming. The cresting and fish scale siding are awesome detailing that we are planning to showcase but we are choosing some great modern colors to keep it from feeling too fussy and “granny”. We are having to replace some of the rotten fret work on the home and are taking that opportunity to add those Victorian details back with a sharper more modern edge.

One of the places on the exterior that we really want to add that cool modern feel is in the addition on the back of the home. We plan on using a metal siding or board and batten that has strong vertical line that will contrast well with the 3 inch slat horizontal siding. We really love the juxtaposition of old/new, modern/historic, and fussy/clean and the exterior of the house is going to be a perfect place to showcase that.

Metal Siding


On the interior of The Franklin House design inspiration was found mostly on Pinterest (Follow us!). Once we knew that modern Victorian was the feel we wanted a simple search for those terms resulted in a ton of images! Once we had browsed through those a specific color palette and finish style emerged. We were then able to inject some of that “Larsen Dwellings Style” with the industrial touches that feel  “city” to us.

Shelf Bracket



The most important part of the design to us is the way the house functions. After much discussion and gnashing of teeth we landed on a layout that we loved. It had to encompass modern home function like a master suite with bathroom and walk-in closet, second floor laundry, and common bathroom. We wanted to bring in the open floor plan that people love and a great kitchen for entertaining. Trying to put all of these things into a choppy old floor plan was a true test of Pete’s creativity and design chops!

Our color palette needed to be really fresh and clean for this house. We had already found a few great neutral grays when we painted our bathroom in our own home. It is hard to find grays that are not too warm or too cool. The grays allow us to go with black and white as accents. This can become way too cold if you are not careful so we are bringing warmth back in by exposing the FOUR brick chimneys that are in the house. We will be adding some different wood tones to warm it back up too.

Living Room


We had to add that historic charm back in once we had the other bits chosen. This comes in the form of bright white subway tile and adorable little penny tiles. We are reclaiming and reusing as much of what was in the house as we can. We will reuse the awesome French doors that were in the home when we acquired it for the master bath and laundry room. We are going to use some of the old lath as interesting wall treatment. Hopefully we can find a place to reuse some of the old hearth tiles too! The transom windows are another of those old pieces that has to stay with the home as well.



The industrial touches are pretty simple and understated. Mostly the lighting that we chose has this style. The exposed brick also adds to that loft feel. In the kitchen we will have exposed shelving over the stove with an industrial style bracket.

So that is The Franklin House design inspiration. Thanks for following along. Check back soon for more of Pete’s ramblings on changes we made in the layout of this space!

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