Every Home a Custom Fit   1 comment

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Designing a home is like finding the right music.  The tempo, orchestration, lyrics, and mood of your favorite music can lift you up, hang peacefully in the background, bring life to your party or accent a major event.   Imagine if your home was like listening to someone else’s playlist over and over.   A home design that resonates with the very lifestyle and movements of its occupants becomes a harmonic experience where each improves the other.  At Dennis Kowal Architects, we shape the home, land and interior design to complement the way you live.

Traditional Interiors bistro

Traditional

Danish Modern

Danish Modern

Historic Preservation Long

Historic Preservation

Organic

Contemporary

Contemporary beihl

English Cottage

Colonial

Colonial

Interior Design

Luxury

Carriage House

Carriage House & Landforming

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs homes that fit your lifestyle

Posted March 11, 2015 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Residential

Timeless House Design   Leave a comment

Timeless House Design

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Shakespeare in Love!  This English-cottage inspired design greets guests with a two-story rotunda and curved staircase tower.  Creeping ivy, steep-sloped roofs, bay windows, low eaves and a meandering walk create a small scale charm for this 7,500 square foot home.

When you travel for a living, a welcoming home provides a much needed grounding.  With a picturesque exterior and a timeless interior, the owners desired a setting to host dinner parties, display their art,  write books and fit an extensive collection of antique furniture.  “We designed a place, not just a house.  Building and land blend seamlessly creating a constantly unfolding experience of new, intimate and relaxed spaces inside and out.” said Kowal of his design that puts equal emphasis on landscape, contours, architecture and natural light.

Exterior Details

A garden path to a second private entrance allows guest-authors to stay in their own Wing and work on their books without interruption.  The L-shaped house features a four-car carriage house with a second floor office for this national speaker, writer and consultant.

While most contemporary homes are designed on the open plan, forcing movement through a room to access the next room, the open plan in this home is paralleled with delightful walkways lined with art, orchids and natural light at the crossings.  Guests, hosts or caterers can circumnavigate the occupied rooms when necessary and then enjoy the open arrangements at other times.  “The experience is like wandering through forest chases and arriving at welcoming, open groves along the way”.

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Interiors feature thickened masonry walls and arches to bring permanence and solidity to this design while playful small interior openings between some rooms present pre-designed views of nature, natural light and displays.  An interior art gallery and library ends in a two story apse bathed in natural light and second floor views from above.

Site, style, scale, and the lifestyle of the occupants all combine to achieve a master plan for living with nature and retreating from the hassles of airports, highways and business.  Several different groups can be in the same house and not interrupt one another but the centrality of the floor plan and the overlooking second floor interior balconies brings everyone together when desired.  Exterior walkways, terraces, docks and covered spaces, all designed by DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS, provide leisurely connections to the land and waterways.  The perfect author’s retreat!

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs homes that resonate with their environment and the people that use them.

Posted February 20, 2015 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Residential

Guatemala starts construction   2 comments

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Guatemala starts Construction

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Workers at the Genesaret Church in Guatemala City begin reinforcement of the two story walls to accommodate a second floor.  A combination of rebar, poured concrete and block walls  provides earthquake protection and added security against intrusion.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS (DKA) raises the roof!   Through the wonderful humanitarian efforts of Caring Partners International (CPI), a faith-based organization that brings medical supplies and treatment to those in need around the world, DKA has joined forces with the Genesaret Church in downtown Guatemala City.   The renovation and expansion will allow both worship and expanded medical services to flourish in this depressed neighborhood where crime, poverty and gangs are common.  The Church has been effective in reaching this community where several former gang members are now regular attenders.

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Meetings

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Dennis J. Kowal AIA has traveled to this church many times over the past ten years and has always been impressed by the complete sacrificial effort of Pastor Hernandez and his wife Marianna and their love for their neighborhood residents.  This respect has evolved into a relationship and building partnership.  Planning sessions included presentations to the congregation and discussions with the leadership.

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Now that construction has begun, CPI Executive Director, Rhonda Reed, writes: “I remember our time together in Guatemala City in the Spring of 2012, reviewing the initial construction plans with Pastor Hernandez. His dreams of creating a multi-story facility are now becoming reality thanks to your input and involvement.  As you know, the living conditions present in their local neighborhood are less than ideal, and they need creative planning for proper ventilation, natural lighting, and practical finishes. Your experience and counsel will ensure a successful project .”

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Construction

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Once the second floor and balcony are complete, the Church  will serve even more people.  The Church offers free clinics to the community several times a year.  Over  1400 patients were seen here this year.  The construction has been a joint effort of local architects, partners, volunteers and donors.

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Fillings and extractions with the minimum of anesthesia sometime requires serious hand-holding and verbal support.  Being an architect isn’t always about structure, design and drawings…the many good works at the Geneserat Church are a constant reminder that it is also about the people who use the spaces.

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Posted December 18, 2014 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Places of Worship

National Association recognizes Kowal Design   2 comments

National Association recognizes Kowal Design

The magazine of the American Library Association selected a Dennis Kowal Architects’ design for creating a lot of impact for the dollar.    One of a handful of projects showcased in their Library Design Showcase 2012 for “Small Projects/Big Impact”, the new Plainfield Public Library children’s room is a first of its kind.  The entire existing children’s library was re-invented by the Kowal Team from lighting to furniture to architecture (see our earlier blog on September 26, 2011).

Working closely with the Library Director, Assistant, and a Board Member with rainforest expertise, the Kowal Team shaped all of the existing liabilities into assets.  A old reading pit that the Library assumed would be in-filled became a reading pond complete with a rope bridge and foliage.   The mess of pipes concrete, and ductwork above the suspended ceilings that were assumed to remain neatly out of sight were instead exposed to create a lofty interior and painted to look like vines and the tree canopy.    And the existing wide open and “boring” floor plan was enhanced with a series of intimate spaces.  Thatched roof reading huts, a canvas teen tent, a reptile inspired computer counter wrapping around a bamboo forest, and a story room under a strangler fig tree define fun places to read without sacrificing sight lines and ease of supervision.    Even the circulation desk is a compilation of custom made cargo boxes which feature sustainable wood construction.

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Table tops and walls featured scenes from the rainforest.

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A rope bridge spans this 15’ reading pond that is a favorite of all who enter.

BEFORE photo with low ceilings and and overcrowded circulation desk.

AFTER photo with exposed concrete waffle slab construction and sinuous piping transformed into the forest canopy.

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Once again, Dennis Kowal Architects prove you can stretch your dollars when you are willing to stretch your imagination. Critics apparently agree. One impressed patron was overheard saying “I used to drag my children to the library, now my kids drag me!” The Dennis Kowal Architects design was also featured in the October 2011 issue of Library Journal and noted as “New Jersey children are wild about the rain forest-themed children’s library!”

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Lessons from Nicaragua   Leave a comment

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Lessons from Nicaragua

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designed this new health care facility in the village of Masaya, Nicaragua outside of the capital city of Managua using strategies for resilient design.  This approach allows the facility to function without electricity while relying on natural building systems.

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Designing a new healthcare facility in Nicaragua is much different than in the United States.  But the US can learn lessons from a third world country where electric is spotty, contamination is likely, and water is untreated.   When a disaster like Superstorm Sandy strands eleven States without power, many US healthcare facilities like the NYU Medical Center were crippled and couldn’t function.    However, Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) applied the principals of “resilient” architecture to their healthcare facility design in Managua, Nicaragua.  Since power failures are common, DKA designed the facility to use natural ventilation and natural lighting.  To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, another very common occurrence, DKA created outdoor waiting rooms open to the air but covered from the sun thus reducing the chance of contact and airborne contamination.  The interior walls have an application of plaster that naturally contains calcium hydroxide, a mineral that resists the growth of bacteria while providing a durable and easy to clean surface.   Kowal explained: “in essence, the facility takes care of itself, especially during a natural disaster”.

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High  window openings in the exam rooms ensure privacy yet allow light and air to naturally circulate.  A large covered, but open,  atrium at the center of the complex creates a natural ventilation stack for all of the surrounding rooms.  The atrium brings light and air into the rooms that ring the courtyard and simultaneously creates an outdoor waiting room.  A landscaped courtyard surrounds the facility to allow the families a place to play while a family member is receiving treatment; at night the same wall provides security.

 

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Some of the children that have been treated by the doctors of Caring Partners International using temporary facilities,  pose for the camera.  Others may walk all night (as did this woman assisted by her grand-daughter) to get to a care center.  Existing conditions can be dirty, dusty and contaminated by animal waste and garbage dumps.  Ubiquitous volcanic ash often covers the village in dust (see photo of girl in dress).  The new medical facility provides a clean, healthy, and resilient environment as well as a model of sanitation for the villagers to follow.

 

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Planning the healthcare facility on-site in Nicaragua is only the first step in a master plan for a new village.  Dennis Kowal Architects met with local doctors to select the site, visited with the mayor to solidify support and caucused with nurses and staff to design the facility.  Local Architectural student, Maria, helped with translation of the complex medical and architectural terms.   Since the site is near an active volcano, resistance to earthquake forces factors into all of the reinforced concrete construction in the area.

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DKA worked with local architects to assess the building materials, climate, and standards of construction.  A low impact design was desired that could operate during a disaster.    Above, Maria (a student of architecture) was also a translator for Dennis Kowal Architects as they interviewed the doctors and patients to design a facility that would meet their needs but also provide a resilient design. 

 

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While many developed countries are still reeling from the many natural disasters that have occurred, lessons can be learned from our third world neighbors who daily face a world without power, public transportation, or central air conditioning.  Beyond sustainable design which minimizes the impact on the environment, DKA understands the simple principals of natural systems that can adapt and survive during periods of stress, loss and disaster.

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“Dennis Kowal Architects designs buildings that are resilient and can take care of themselves in a disaster.”

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Unrelated advertisement directly below;   Our previous blogs follow below.  Please leave a comment about this blog in the comment box below the advertisement or click on more stories from the category list at the upper left top of this blog.

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Posted November 26, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Health Care, Sustainability

Hospital or Hotel?   Leave a comment

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Hospital or Hotel?

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Checking into the New Transitional Care Unit at Bayonne Medical Center is not unlike registering at a nice hotel complete with pendant lighting and a generous counters.

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“Can you make it feel like we are in a spa and less a hospital?” was the request of staff in the renovations of the Transitional Care Unit.  Pivotal to the elevator arrival and central to the floor plan, the nurses’ station would set the tone for the entire floor.   A “peaceful” solution included a transition from a lot of little elements to larger and less elements.   For example,  walls which had been covered in numerous decorations and notices, were quieted with large pieces of art which harmonized with the new color scheme.   The heavy crash rails at the front of the nurses’ desk were replaced with scratch resistant panels imbedded with real leaves and calming colors.  The existing soffit was highlighted with tangerine coloring and new art glass lights to create a focal point away from the harsher “hospital lighting” and the old telephone booths were converted to a media center and brochure rack to remove the barriers of displays and hand-outs that once lined the desk.

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The small BEFORE photos show the wear and tear this nurses station received.  The completed project provides durable materials that are easy to clean and maintain.

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The color scheme and new brown linoleum flooring resulted from matching the wood tones in the patient room floors which were required to remain.  To encourage patients to walk as part of their therapy,  a brochure was devised that describes the new wall art.  Patients are asked to match a list of artwork titles to the piece it best describes.  The entire floor needed to be renovated in 90 days, and the key to the renovation was not changing a lot of the structure including the pre-wired nurses’ desk walls.  New quartz counter tops, furniture and finishes made a quick transition easy, reduced waste, minimized dust and eliminated noise and shuffling additional parts through the hospital.

To further calm the space, every other 2’ x 2’ corridor light was replaced with a pendant fixture wrapped in an art metal design of branches to relate to the trees in the wall art.  These fixtures were put on a second circuit to allow staff to reduce the ambient lighting when possible.    When the newly renovated floor was opened three months later, the staff could not believe the transition and how “serene and relaxed” it now felt.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS is changing the face of Health Care.

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Unrelated advertisement below;  Previous blogs follow; Please leave a comment about this blog in the comment box below the advertisement or click on more stories from the category list at the upper left top of this blog.

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Posted August 14, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Health Care

Dennis Kowal Architects offices win Preservation Award   1 comment

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Dennis Kowal Architects offices win Preservation Award

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Converting a 1890 county post office into an office for the 21st century was no small task.  Fortunately, the three story Main Street masonry building had much of the original fabric from double-rolled German glass to the pressed metal ceilings.  The hundred years of neglect were a blessing in disguise because no one had renovated  (spelled “destroyed”) the building through the years with modernization.  Missing doors, trim, and wainscot in the main user areas were borrowed from hidden areas to restore the major interiors.   Yet, new data, power, HVAC and fiber optic lines needed to be inserted in a building that had brick interior walls and no space above the tin ceilings to run ductwork and power.

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collage 1 complete

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One clever solution involved adding a high and low voltage baseboard wiremold that distributed the CAT6 and new power circuits.  Capped with the original baseboard wood trim, the wiremold blended into the interior and provided connectivity throughout the building.   All previous ceiling-hung lighting was removed and the holes repaired; new concealed up-lighting uses the entire decorative ceiling as a reflected light source.

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collage 2 complete

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The renovated facility was filled with antique furniture and new cherry furniture that concealed power and data and the computer screens using a below-the-desk monitors.  Lateral files were concealed behind cherry chest of drawers giving the completed facility more a New York townhouse look than a modern office building.  The completed building won the County Cultural & Heritage Commission award for Historic Preservation and Adaptive Use.

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collage 3 complete

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Dennis Kowal Architects believe recycling buildings saves energy and the environment

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Unrelated advertisement below;  Please leave a comment about this blog in the comment box below the advertisement or click on more stories from the category list at the upper left top of this blog.

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Posted July 24, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Uncategorized

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