Compact Living: Display Devices

Consider televisions and computer monitors. You may be thinking of two discrete devices: one dedicated television broadcast programming, the other dedicated to office work. Functionally, however, they both project moving picture.

As a recent graduate from UC Berkeley, I’ve experienced a smaller living-situation in triple-room student housing and have seen my friends’ adaptations to cramped apartments. In dorm rooms or studio apartments, there just isn’t enough space or real estate to house both a new 52-inch television and a new 25-inch monitor – even less so in shared living arrangements. Smaller spaces constrain the amount and size of hardware you can store and keep, but with some consolidated thinking you won’t have to sacrifice your visual luxuries. The compact resident would be wise to select a mid-to-high-end monitor to serve both as the television and a computer display (or even serve as a second monitor – those are always nice!). I have found them more portable and lighter, making them easier to rearrange when needed.

Since the monitor will be doing the work of a television, a larger screen is probably preferable. This lets viewers comfortably distance themselves and recline on a couch or bed. Look for 1080p resolution support. SAMSUNG has well-rated 27-inch monitors starting from around the low $300s (see Newegg). While you can get larger-sized TVs for a lesser price, computer monitors often support much higher resolutions than TVs. The higher resolution affords computer users a roomy workspace for Facebook and Reddit working on, say, high-resolution graphics work, multiple documents, or software development. If a variety of source inputs (VGA, DP, HDMI, composite) aren’t available on the monitor or if you need more input ports, a switcher box would provide great convenience in organizing and hooking up multiple feeds (this ViewHD box for instance).

Realizing you can satisfy two needs with one piece of hardware helps you fit more into compact living.

Below is my monitor and laptop setup. The monitor is frequently used for TV and movie viewing. It is a Hanns.G HZ251.

My laptop hooked up to a large monitor, frequently used for movie or tv viewing.

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$1,000 for a “free” salvaged window

Salvaging windows and finding crazy deals on Craigslist can be fun, sustainable and affordable. But salvaged windows can also be costly if they aren’t part of the plan from the very beginning.

In one of our favorite projects for our favorite clients we used several reclaimed windows in a little 120 square foot office.

The windows were cheap and some were free, but there were several changes that occurred that got pricey. This is an example and cautionary tale about how changing something like a window can cause the cost of the work to double or triple. This is due to the increased hours required to make the changes and every hour that a guy is working adds up.

For example, this cool nine pane window could be installed in about four hours. A $65 per hour carpenter adding water proofing, leveling, squaring and attaching it to the walls will add up to a total of $260.

But this office had different windows planned when the walls were built. The original windows were installed and then removed and then new ones installed.

The original plan was to
1) Build the walls
2) Install the windows

But some new salvaged windows were found as the project progressed and the project ended up requiring these steps:
1) Build the walls
2) Install the original windows
3) Find different windows and the superintendent figures out how to make them fit
4) Remove the original windows
5) Rebuild the walls to change the size of the opening
6) Install the newer windows

These changes each required about four hours of work by a carpenter that earns $65 per hour. That’s $260 for each unplanned step #3, #4, #5 and #6. Plus an extra trip to the local hardware store to pick up additional materials. That’s over $1,000 in labor to put in a “free” window.

These are rough numbers to demonstrate a point, but it’s close to the actual costs of making changes like these.

You don’t have to shy away from salvaged windows – but try to find those great windows and put them in your garage before the architect even starts designing the home.   If they are always part of the plan, then you will save a lot of expense and do the environment a favor.    The sooner you can find them the better!

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B Lab Recognizes New Avenue

New Avenue Recognized in First ‘Best for the World’ List of Businesses With Less Than 10 Employees Creating Most Overall Positive Social and Environmental Impact

‘Best for the World’ Businesses Score 50% Higher Than Nearly 2,000 Other Sustainable Businesses in Most Comprehensive Assessment of Overall Corporate Impact

Top 10% Among Certified B Corps With Under 10 Employees

New Avenue has been recognized as ‘Best for the World’ in a list of businesses with less than 10 employees creating the most overall positive social and environmental impact. New Avenue and the other ‘Best for the World’ businesses earned a score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations with 10 employees or less, and, on average, 50% higher than the average score of nearly 2,000 other sustainable businesses that have completed the B Impact Assessment.

The B Impact Assessment, governed by the nonprofit B Lab, is the most rigorous, comprehensive, and comparable independent assessment of overall corporate impact and shows the relative value businesses create for society by comparing nearly 200 individual metrics on corporate impact on workers, consumers, suppliers, community and the environment. “New Avenue Homes is a leader in the global movement to redefine success in business,” said Jay Coen Gilbert, co founder of B Lab, the organization that certifies B Corporations. “New Avenue Homes is among the best in the world at being the best for the world.”

“At New Avenue we believe we are doing two very positive things for the communities and people we work with” says founder and CEO Kevin Casey. “First, we want to encourage multigeneraltional families to live together. Aging parents want to live closer to their kids and young families need help from grandparents. We want to make putting in extra space to accomodate family a very approachable, very enjoyable process. Second, we believe that in-fill development at scale is a critical component to healthy growth for our urban and sub-urban communities. We do not need more ubiquitous sprawl of oversized housing. In-fill development encourages efficient use of building materials with smaller homes, increased use of public transportation and closer knit communities with individuals sharing their most valuable resource – property.”

The ‘Best for the World’ list appears in the 2012 B Corp Annual Report published today by B Lab.

‘Best for the World’ businesses with less than 10 employees include: Autonomie Project, Inc., Big City Farms LLC, Co-op Power / Northeast Biodiesel, davistudio, EduCare Education, Enviro-Stewards, Fair Trade Sports, Inc., GreenLight Apparel, Hives for Lives, InVenture Fund, JustNeem, KINeSYS Inc., LEAP Organics, Little Pickle Press, mindful investors, Natural Investments LLC, New Avenue, Palmetto Ventures, Pivotal Production, SABEResPODER, Social Enterprise Associates, Social(k), Sustainability Television, The Inclusive & Sustainable Group, LLC, The Sustainability Advantage, Veterans Ink

Learn more about how New Avenue creates positive social and environmental impact at

B Lab is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a new sector of the economy that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Lab drives systemic change through three interrelated initiatives: 1) building a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and just good marketing; 2) driving capital to impact investments through use of GIIRS Ratings and Analytics; and 3) advancing supportive public policies to accelerate growth of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. To earn certification, B Corps must achieve a verified minimum score (80 out of 200) on the B Impact Assessment and amend their bylaws to legally require their directors to consider the interests of stakeholders, not just shareholders, when making decisions. For more information, checkwww.bcorporation.netor contact Jay Coen Gilbert at jay (a.t) bcorporation [-dot-] net.

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Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

A Nation to Build a Cottage

About a week ago we posted an insightful reflection from one of our clients Kitty. Upon being asked the question “what did you learn that was totally unexpected?” she matter-of-factly and humorously responded “So…Many…People.” Kitty was commenting on all she had seen before construction started and her observation continues to be right on when you have building permits in hand, ready to break ground.

The list below runs through each element of a construction project requiring a specific professional with a specific type of expertise. It’s a master list of trade professionals that will, directly or indirectly, be involved in a cottage construction project. Though it is small, the truth is it takes a nation to build a cottage. It’s a funny thought, and illustrates a couple interesting points about the nature of construction, irrespective of the size you are building.

First, the fundamentals of the planning process and needed expertise is not all that dissimilar between a 300 unit high rise tower and a 300 square foot backyard cottage. It almost takes the same number of trades to build a cottage as it does to build a high rise.

Second, the ultimate success of any construction project, 300 units or 300 square feet, might be most simply described as the product of intelligently coordinated teamwork between a ton of professionals. At New Avenue we see our primary job as orchestrating effective teamwork between all these professionals.

  1. Foundation
  2. Plumber
  3. Electrician
  4. Termit Pre-treatment
  5. Framer and rough carpentry
  6. Windows
  7. Roofer
  8. HVAC – heating and cooling
  9. Siding type
  10. Low voltage – stereo systems
  11. Insulation
  12. Drywall
  13. Millwork
  14. Stair railing
  15. Finish carpentry
  16. Painter
  17. Cabinets
  18. Countertops
  19. Tile
  20. Hardwood flooring
  21. Appliances
  22. Light fixtures
  23. Mirrors and shower enclosures
  24. Rough cleaner
  25. Finish cleaner
  26. Prep & detail
  27. Garage doors
  28. Grading
  29. Fencing
  30. Landscaping

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Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Under the Stairs

Stairs and Ladders for small spaces and lofts…

The most coveted design feature in a small home is any idea that will give you as much space and storage as possible. When you have a small footprint to work with, lofts and second stories are a great way to add more living space. The downside to both lofts and second stories is the need for stairs and stairs take up valuable space. That’s why we love to gather great ideas on making the best use out of the area under the stairs, and other fun ways to sneak in storage. Here are a few photos of some of our favorite ideas. You’ll see that while the stairs are a space constraint, what to do with them is rich with creative possibilities.

Bathroom Bookshelves and stair combo Bookshelves and stair combo The smallest circular stairs possible
Drawers in the stairs Office under the stairs Office under the stairs Shelves and wardrobe
Believe it or not, this is plywood!


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26 Families in 2011

For New Avenue, 2011 started with nearly 500 people attending our first open house in Berkeley and by year-end we were working on 15 new homes that will help 26 families enjoy a new and better lifestyle.

Why are there nearly twice as many families as homes? Because when a homeowner hires New Avenue, we change their single family house into two homes that two families can share.

The stories about the families and friends that hire us are the most important part of what we do. Having an old best friend, a new good neighbor, a parent, a child or grandchildren nearby creates an almost endless list of benefits.

Here are three stories from our 2011 clients that illustrate who our clients are and a few examples of the benefits of their new lifestyle.

Three Generations in Orinda

Our first client in 2011 is a grandmother whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren moved to a beautiful hillside property in the Orinda Hills. The grandmother helped buy the home and then moved in with them so she can be an active part of their lives. The property had an asbestos filled, run down and literally collapsing guest house that we tore down and in place rebuilt a beautiful new cottage. Now this family is living comfortably, with privacy, but together in the same place. The grandmother sees her two grandkids every day and shuttles them around to summer camps, school and other activities. The children are enjoying a beautiful home with space for their kayaks, woodworking hobbies and hosting big family get togethers. With the grandchildren now attending Orinda schools, they may be the greatest beneficiaries of this new family compound.

Flexibility in Berkeley

The second client is a parent in Berkeley with a daughter who just had her first child. The daughter, son-in-law and grandkid will be splitting their time between Lebanon, where the son-in-law is originally from and currently works, and Berkeley, where they will eventually be moving into the main home that the daughter grew up in. Thinking of her growing family, then looking at the old garage full of junk, this new grandmother decided to replace the garage with a cute, 2 story cottage tucked away at the end of their driveway. In the immediate future, this new home will provide some income as a short term rental, will be a guest house for the children and grandchildren on their extended stays. In the distant future, when the daughter, son in law and grandchild move into the main home, this will be grandma’s cottage.

An Annuity for College/Retirement

The final story is about rejuvenating a great old home. This Berkeley client lives in the Elmwood Neighborhood in Berkeley and inherited what was once a beautiful carriage house in the backyard. Over several decades the early 1900 construction wore down and rotted into an unusable structure that was unsafe and barely fit for storage. However the space is perfect for a second unit, between several trees with a large yard extending to the main house. We worked with them to give it new life, in compliance with the zoning rules, keeping some of the original walls and building a new eco-efficient cottage in place of the old. This home is a pure investment strategy for the owners. With three bedrooms and two baths it will be a prime rental apartment for UC Berkeley students or young professional couple. The monthly financing cost for this home will be approximately $1,500 per month, while the rent for similar apartments on this block is over $3,300 per month. For this family the cottage will be a great annuity that will help with the tuition bills for two soon to be college students.

We’re looking forward to working with many more families in 2012 and helping more homeowners transform their properties from one home into two.

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Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue at PCBC 2011

PCBC was launched in 1959 as a small educational conference at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Since then, then show has evolved to become homebuilding’s most innovative event on the Pacific Coast, where the industry’s most influential trendsetters gather to share ideas and information. The PCBC community, has led the way to integrating new technologies into the home and embraces the idea that community is more than a collection of homes; it’s a feeling of belonging and feeling connected.

Two New Avenue designs were on display from June 22-June 24 2011. This exhibition was New Avenue’s first demonstration in the national spotlight and was very well received. Roughly 100,000 people toured the two homes over 3 days earning New Avenue press coverage from the SF chronicle, Dwell Magazine and an assortment of Green Building and Home & Garden blogs. Both homes were built in partnership with the innovative co-sponsors listed below.


‘Home of Innovation’ – PCBC 2011

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