too much

too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.  the past two years have revealed many things that were ignored for far too long.  in my opinion the ‘too much’ disease was one of those things.  everyone has things they like, things they love, things that bring them joy.  any one of those things in moderation is great.  you enjoy yard work? great get out there + enjoy it!  when yard work becomes 100% of every day, you’ve not taken a passion + made it your whole life.  when that happens in any facet of our life then we start to miss the bigger picture.  having a favorite show, attending a concert, going to a ball game, enjoying dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a favorite candy, a workout routine.  none of those things are bad in any way, when they become all you do then it’s too much.  there doesn’t have to be scheduled breaks or dead times, but there does need to be time to stop, to re-charge, to just be a person.  rushing from one meeting, marketing event, church event, school event + never actually sitting down to eat dinner with your family….too much.

as an architect, this too much follows over to the professional world as well.  accent walls, trim, colors, patterns are used to draw attention to areas of the spaces we all inhabit, however it is no longer an accent if it covers every wall + every surface.  it has become ‘too much’.  just like in life, our buildings, outdoor spaces, rooms…they can become too much by taking what we like + doing it to the point that it no longer is special or meaningful. 

let’s all take a look, see what we enjoy + filter it thru the ‘too much’ filter.  see if it is something that we have taken from an simple accent or a hobby, to something that has become our everything.  if it has, it’s never too late to step back + say “that’s just too much!”.

beer or whiskey

quality.  what does it mean?  is it the most expensive, the oldest, the latest fashion?  well from where i sit it depends.  no, not dodging the question, just providing a complicated answer because to me it’s a complicated word.

take coffee– a staple around here.  it depends on the day.  is today a ‘one-step-up-from-motor-oil-need-to-get-rolling kind of day?  or is it a day to sit + see where the first wisps of steam will lead the pen to? so, perhaps quality is judged based off the task at hand.

a good drink.  is tonight a double hopped ipa, burger paring kind of night?  or is it a slow sip bourbon whisky over a detail that just needs to be worked out?  quality depends on what you’re trying to do.  neither drink is of bad quality, but depending on where your headspace is, this could be a vastly different answer as to whether it’s a quality drink, or just a drink.  

you don’t need to always look at quality in the vein of what you need right now.  it can be something that is based off your feeling, your mood.  it’s okay to have a different yard stick for what quality means to you in that time.  

when it comes to design of any kind, the challenge is that quality is going to be measured over a much longer period of time than the sip of a good drink by the fireside.  you will inhabit, interact with, modify + grow with whatever space you are in.  you can’t switch between wood flooring + carpet depending on what warms your feet the best from night to night.  those quality decisions are much more complicated + nuanced.  those decisions are going to have pluses + minuses, but they don’t have to start off on the wrong path.  stop, think, grab the drink of the night for a few nights + see where the mood averages out to.  when you get to that space then you’ve found something that can be quality for the duration.

ultimately, quality comes down to what is right for you + not for someone else. design is meant to help you in the process + it’s okay to be the only glass of whiskey at the bar, if that’s what quality means to you.

sweet + inviting

coffee.  yes, again.  it’s a constant here at pencil + ink.  it pre-dates our business + will be apart of our lives long after business is a care of our minds.

we’ve tried many different beans, brews, + services in recent years.  lately we’ve been using a service that helps curate small + medium sized roasters all over the country.  sitting here going over the past dozen or so bags we’ve gotten, something struck me in the descriptions.  two words jumped out: sweet + inviting.  

sweet.  first, the only way coffee gets consumed in this studio is straight black.  not a hint of sugar or milk.  to see this word made me stop + think about it.  coffee beans are naturally sweet.  no, not the sugar type of sweet, but an earthy, natural first bite of an apple sweet.  that’s the first notes + the lingering after taste.  a good bean doesn’t need help, just a chance to release the sweetness it’s been holding in, ready to come out in the brew.

inviting. yes–beans that are freshly ground, brewed with hot water + their resulting aroma, rising with wisps of steam–that is inviting enough. even more inviting, is the cup that you sip from + hold in your hand partly to feel that steam + hold that warmth, but more importantly, to take a second sip before sitting it down. it presents a moment worth slowing down for, even if only for a moment.  an inviting cup not only summons you to drink a little more, but it invites you to linger, to think, to plan, to sketch, to be intentional.  

sweet + inviting.  that’s our current flavor.  what’s yours?  every season will be different but here’s to hoping whatever describes your cup helps define even a small part of your day + the intention for it.  

ryan's coffee mug was sitting here

fast, right, or cheap

choices.  life is full of them.  design + construction is no different.  there is a saying i picked up early on in my career while looking over a set of plans on a tailgate of a contractor’s truck at a soon to be new construction site.  he stopped, looked at the owner + said “do you want it fast, right or cheap?  you can pick two.”  everyone stopped + digested what he said.  then the owner of the soon to be project responded with i’ll take all three…while everyone got a good laugh.

this lighthearted moment at the start of a construction project that i helped design has stuck with me.  it was true then, it’s true now + it doesn’t just apply to design + construction.  we have to decide daily: do we want to invest our time into things that are instant + give immediate gratification or things that will last. 

the world we inhabit today is full of things that are fast + cheap.  we can see it from the clothes, food, items we buy + buildings we inhabit.  when you have to have something right now + you inevitably have a budget; you get that level of quality.  what if we all just slowed down + got what was right?  for one we’d all be a lot less busy + maybe we could go on that extra walk with our family, have that sit down dinner, sit + actually ask + listen to how everyone’s day went.  in that slow down we would inadvertently -but not accidentally- be getting more for our money as well.  being brave enough to buck the trend, choosing right + quality may take some getting used to, but it will be a reward that will outlast + outlive any instant gratification.  

there is a theme i will touch on a lot here in this space.  having something intentional, authentic, + lasting requires patience….time.  in a time-is-money society this is so incredibly hard to grasp + even harder to accept.  however, once you start to realize just how good right is, you can then make the decision to have the patience to wait for it. 

you can’t rush a good brisket, good beer or whisky, or a tree to produce old growth wood any faster.  those things require resolve, patience + the right amount of perspective.  


porch: (noun) an addition to a dwelling that allows for a covered seating area. e.g. “meet you out on the porch” / (verb) filling up your cup; resting your bones e.g. “let’s porch this”

a porch is a place. a porch is a feeling.  a porch is where nature meets man-made.  it is a room “missing” a few walls.  that is just the start of what a porch is + can be.  there is no wrong way to do a porch (other than to not do it at all).  when you need a place to sit, to stop, to crossword, to relax, to talk, to listen….to be, the porch is it.  a few simple actions taken make just as big a difference as the items found there.  from an architectural standpoint, each part of a porch has a story, each has a purpose + most of all, a function. some aspects are purely functional: a way to keep out the rain, push back the harshest parts of the sun, welcome in the breeze + enjoy the smells.  a place that is neither in nor out, coming nor going.  a place that is never meant to be everything, but somehow provides a vehicle to all that we need, whenever we need it.  like the fireflies that come by in the summer, or the sound of a late-season downpour.  it can’t be captured, only experienced.

most importantly a porch becomes a part of who you are, if you will take the time to let it.  it isn’t intrusive or distracting or demanding.  it is something that ages as we do + it is timeless in a way we can’t be.  a place where memories are made + remembered simultaneously. 

what makes a porch?  that is difficult to answer, yet easy for anyone to sense.  for one person it might be a rocking chair that invokes time with a parent or grandparent.  for another it might be a well worn spot of a family dog.  for someone else it might be a swing that can fly you to some destination you’re dreaming of or simply watching children at play in the yard.  whatever the porch elements, that feeling is what makes the porch, well the porch.  

x ink


today’s thoughts come to you over a nice hot cup of coffee (okay maybe it’s actually my third cup of the morning, but who’s counting).  most days start this way for me; studio days, saturdays, job site days, travel days, + church mornings.  this morning’s cup comes from a roaster called stumptown that we ran across right here in atlanta in a favorite bookshop in vinings. when we discovered the coffee came all the way from the west coast, we knew it would have to be a standard on the shelf at home.

coffee to me is a constant.  yes, it is enjoyed every day + yes, it is always brewed fresh + served black.  however the roaster + flavors rotate, depending on the season.  the consistency comes with the first pour, no matter what is going on that day.  i take it everywhere in a plain white mug which accompanies me throughout the day to many places.  see, in my world coffee never stays long enough in the cup to justify keeping it warm for hours.  it’s meant to be consumed as it’s poured + refilled often.

it wasn’t until i was an adult with an all day black coffee consumption habit of my own that i realized without thinking about it, i was echoing a habit of my grandfather’s.  my mom drank coffee growing up, but, looking back i recall, it was on saturdays helping grandad i watched him have coffee for breakfast, lunch + dinner.  it was never odd to me then + it’s oddly comforting to me now. my coffee habits include a full day of coffee (along with some water at meals or a good beer in the mix).  it’s the smell, the warmth, the taste + the consistency.  

i hope to cover more coffee over time in this space just to let you know what’s brewing in our studio.  until then it’s time for another cup to keep the creativity flowing (+ me moving!).


it’s october. to many that means pumpkins, halloween, leaves, + football. to me, that has always meant baseball, more specifically, playoff baseball. now what does this have to do with design or even architecture you ask? for many it means absolutely nothing. for a boy that grew up loving the game + every aspect of it, this season means everything.

the game of baseball at surface level can be many things to many people. i have always appreciated the intricate parts of the sport; the strategy, angles, anticipation, preparation + snap decisions. as i grew older i was fascinated by the ballpark’s design, especially the cathedrals of america’s pastime that were torn down, replaced with faceless cookie cutters + then reimagined as city centers (more on that in snippets to come).

luckily, as an atlanta braves fan, most of my youth was spent enjoying the late fall + baseball bliss late into the evenings. for the first time in many years this is again a reality. so, as some late hours are the reality of design, this chance to watch my team extend into the wee hours is a rare + cherished opportunity. as the design ideas flow, if there happens to be a hit + run to win the game i’ll be happily here with my late night coffee to take it in.

full time charrettes

charrettes aren’t just for saturdays anymore!  today’s the day— i’m excited to be on this journey.  making this a reality for our family has been a long-time dream + now, the part time gig is the full time gig.  we’re excited to share the energy we have for devising intentional, creative solutions for any size space or situation.

stay tuned… more to come!

– ryan

first cup

good day!  welcome to the studio.  this is the place to come for random musings from the resident architect, tinkerer + coffee drinker.

as we get started in this dream of ours to make intentional design a part of the fabric of life in our little corner of the world, this is a way for me to put some thoughts on paper + document our journey.  my experience ranges from professional architect to helping my grandfather fix most anything as a child (or in his words, fix it so good no one else can).  my goal is to help share a little of what makes my world tick in the hopes that it can help you in some way.

stop by for some thoughts on design, construction, what coffee is brewing, what tunes we’re playing + sometimes, what meats we’ve got smoking/grilling.  i look forward to seeing where this goes + sharing the journey as it happens!

– ryan