Gifts that Give Back


One way to feel better about this crazy consumer season is to shop for gifts that help fund good works, either by supporting makers or by donating a portion of proceeds. Here is a round-up of round-ups about these great gift ideas:

•  Forbes – A Shopping Guide for the Socially Conscious

•  The Good Trade – Gifts that Give Back for Her and for Him

•  Huff Post Style – Sucheta Rawal: Holiday Gifts that Give Back

•  Los Angeles Times – 11 Gifts that Will Change the World

•  Refinery29 – Ethical Charitable Gift Ideas

•  Remodelista – Gift Guide 2015: Charitable Gifts

•  This Old House – 13 Gifts that Give Back

•  Today – Gifts that Give Back [Video]

And if you need a handy reminder about when to get these gifts out the door, check the guidelines from USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Gratitude and Your Brain

In this month’s letter, we referred to research by the Greater Good Science Center that shows how people who make a habit of gratitude also experience stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure; lower levels of negative emotions like loneliness and anxiety; and higher levels of positive emotions like joy, optimism, and compassion.

Here is a presentation from their Greater Good Gratitude Summit in which Dr. Christina M. Karns (a University of Oregon Research Associate) describes her study of the relationships among gratitude, social reasoning, decision-making, and the brain. There are a lot of interesting presentations on the center’s YouTube channel so, if the subject interests you, take some time to explore them.

Wherever you are spending your Thanksgiving this year, we hope it is enjoyable and relaxing!


Happy at Home

This month’s letter to our clients and friends is all about happiness — how to improve our chances for achieving it and what benefits it brings to our lives — but since we work in residential design and construction, we’re equally interested in what makes people happy in their homes. We were, um, happy to learn that when led a survey of their users earlier this year, the findings indicate home improvement impacts happiness a great deal (once construction is finished, of course!).

Accessory Dwelling Units


At the beginning of the month, we attended Building Small, Live Large: Portland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Tour. We toured eight of the twelve sites on the self-guided tour — and it was hopping!

An Accessory Dwellings Unit (ADU) is a secondary residence located on the same site as a single-family home. Sometimes called mother-in-law units or granny flats, ADUs usually take the form of an apartment over a garage or a garage conversion (an example of the latter is shown above); a basement apartment with a private entrance; or a purpose-built structure separate from the original home.

The tour was hosted by Accessory Dwellings, and their site is full of useful information about ADUs, including numerous case studies with plenty of photographs, several guides, and a new 12-part series on ADU research and policy.

Other key resources include…

For design inspiration, try the ADU category at Small House Bliss or search for ADUs on Houzz. Many people who build these units also turn out to be prolific bloggers, so let your fingers do the googling!

By the way, the tour was so successful that the organizers had to cap the attendance and all the tickets were sold. Based on that success, future tours are sure to be scheduled. Accessory Dwellings organizes and announces other events throughout the year, so you may want to visit their events listings from time to time.