Saturday, December 10, 2011

T St Flats

Every time I do a renovation, I try to figure out a way to step my game up from the previous one. There is a lot of consideration that goes into the designs of these houses. It’s a great experience but can also be an agonizing one. Mainly because I don’t like repeating myself and the creative process can drive me a little insane. Everything just has to be RIGHT! And I don’t like to compromise on my vision. Here is the video of the finished urban modern renovation, “T St Flats”. ENJOY!

There is only so much information that can fit into a 9 min video on a project that is so large. But there are a few design details that I want to highlight and clarify beyond what I was able to show on screen. 

I take extra care when picking out lighting because I really think that it makes a room. My consultant Kat at Maurice Electric has the patience of a saint. I will go thru catalogue after catalogue to make sure I have just the right fixture for a space. The “Crescendo” light fixture in the master loft really is a show stopper, but it is on the more expensive end. I made some compromised to fit it into the budget.  As far as I am concerned, under-cabinet lights are a must! it adds a different life to your kitchen. As you may have seen from me before in my previous renovation video The Catalyst, I am a fan of putting two side wall sconces in bathrooms to really give an even light on your face. It’s more effective than just having a light above the vanity mirror.

Tile is also another one of my favorite mediums. But another one that drives me crazy! Too many choices spawn too many ideas and then when you mix in a budget... ARGH! It would not be unusual to see me meditating on the floor in the middle of a tile showroom. I spent about 3 hours in there making my final selections. It’s about 2.5 hours of stressing and playing with options, then 30 minutes of an exhilarating mad dash thru the store grabbing things because I had that “AHHA” moment. I loved my tile rep at Architectural Ceramics (she sends me homemade cookies and treats) but sadly she recently left the company. I could have shed a tear. It’s so important to have the right person who can pull together all of the craziness and competing ideas.  

I decided to use two different color countertops. A white for the main area and a dark taupe for the island. To  keep the kitchen visually appealing, I also varied the color of the cabinets to create more contrast. I used a medium brown with the white countertops and white cabinets for the dark countertop. The countertops are Caesarstone. This particular type has bits of recycled material throughout that makes it eco-friendly. Due to how it is manufactured, it is less porous than marble so it holds less bacterial. It is also harder and more heat resistant. I was able to hunt for deals and came out cheaper than I would with a comparable granite. Notice that I did not put the typical 4”backsplash of countertop material, but instead ran the backslash tile all the way down to the countertop. That’s new school, the other way is traditional. I am also a big fan of Slide-in ranges or cooktops. This eliminates the bulky control panel that usually on the back of your range and also makes the controls accessible for people in wheel chairs. Ever since my catalyst project I have become a big fan of built in microwaves also. 

Built in Surround Sound
This was a new feature for me to incorporate. Fortunately I have an amazing  audio subcontractor on my team who was able to educate me on the subject. I didn’t get a chance to go into detail on how it worked in the video. It’s in the top unit and broken into two zones. There is one for the main living area and another for the master bedroom loft. The two can play different or the same music. But can also play surround sound from the TV or your favorite radio stations. It also has speakers to the out door decks and patios.
Out door spaces
As an island boy, outdoor living spaces are a must for me. So we incorporated a semi-private garden area on the basement level to escape the city. I really love how the garden turned out, but I know I am going to really love it when the plants mature. I incorporated one of my favorite trees, the Japanese Maple, the will provide shade for the bench. 
 Shopping for these plants was an “experience” to say the least. Shopping with me in general is a trip. I know what I wanted without knowing what I wanted (I hope that makes sense). I know I wanted a shrub, that grows a certain height, blooms a certain color that can work in a certain kind of shade and sunlight. It doesn’t help that I shop like I think; like a madd man. Luckily the staff at Old City Green was patient, knowledgeable and accommodating. 
For more outdoor space we also incorporated back patios off of the master bedroom on the top two units. The master loft also is set up to accomidate a large sized rooftop deck that has amazing views since the house sits on an elevated lot.

Front Entrance
I wanted to create a feeling that was a mix of private but inviting as people approached the house. I decided to construct a half wall on the right side of the stairs and cover all the exterior surfaces with a Pennsylvania blue flagstone, capped with limestone. But to keep it from being an overpowering amount of hard surface,  I decided to have a horizontal open railing system on the left side of the stairs. I curved the railing around the front half wall to give the urban oasis garden a semi-private feel. Thanks to the staff at Ernest Maier for helping me pick the palette of stones that worked just right for the project.

I admittedly have some weird fetish for doors. I am sure I can come up with a deep underlying meaning stemming from it being the portals to your space and your appetizer for the interior, but I think I just like em. I am slowly building a collection of custom Designed doors that I use in my renovations. For T St Flats I created the “Full Tower” and “Slim Tower” door, constructed by Rollin Supply. And just like everything else, it was designed the way it is for a reason. I wanted to mimic the towering posture of the building that boast 4 tall floors on a relatively slim lot. The small rectangle on the bottom mimics the basement unit. The larger middle rectangle is for the main living spaces and another small rectangle on top for the loft top floor.

Sidenote: I really don’t like your basic 6-panel doors for interiors. It’s soooo builder’s standard and doesn’t set your space apart. On this project I used a slightly more expensive 2-panel door from Home Depot for all the interiors.
The “Show Stopper”- The Glass Wall
So everyone seems to be in love with the glass wall. When I say that  I dream about design, I mean that literally! I saw this glass wall in my dream one night, woke up and sketched it out, then designed everything else around it. At the time I didn’t know much about what the final design was going to be, but I knew this had to be a part of it. 

If you know of someone doing a urban modern renovation, be a friend and share this link. I hope this information was helpful, I look forward to your comments and questions. And SUBSCRIBE to this blog! Thanks!
Just tell them H. Alex Sanchez (please don’t forget the H.) sent you and they’ll treat you right.
General Contractor- Kofi Construction (240)-793-1207
Audio- Nerical-ask for Cristian
Cabinets- IKEA (College Park) - ask for Able or Esta
Glass, mirror and shower enclosure- Amalfi Glass-ask for Reed
landscaper- Mac- (202) 536-0085
Custom staircase- Integrated Design Solutions ask for Shawn
Stone- Ernest Maier
Countertops- Aguillar’s Marble and Granite- ask for Mr. Aguillar
Tile- Architectural Ceramics (Rockville)-ask for Shanda
Door Manufacturer- Rollin Supply- ask for Mike Tignal
Lighting- Maurice Electric (DC)- ask for Kat
Flooring- Lumber Liquidators (Beltsville, MD)
Videography- John Ledbetter
Video Graphics and Animation- Depi Depisoir
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Monday, December 5, 2011

The #42daychallenge

Many of us set goals at the beginning of the year. But too often we fall short of achieving them, only to set the same goals year after year. So the 42 day challenge was set up to end that cycle. It's where you dedicate the last 42 days of the year to really push to cross things off your list. It is easier to focus on staying disciplined for a short period of time (as we learned the first few weeks of January while we were still on task) than over a 365 day period. So beginning November 19th til 11:59pm December 31st, it's a serious grind. The grind will be easier if we have a community pushing each other to succeed. Why November 19th? Because it's my birthday of course! Hey, I made up the challenge, I make up the rules! It's a chance to start the new year feeling accomplished. 
Join the challenge on FB, on twitter (#42daychallenge) and on this blog (subscribe). Let's make moves!
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Scenic Route

Here is a little known fact about me. Every couple of days my brain gets so filled and overwhelmed that I need an escape. I usually go to the woods, hiking, sit by a body of water or anywhere in nature to just clear my head and sort out my thoughts. Last week, on my way to one of my frequent spots in Virginia a cab driver (the worst drivers in the world) cuts me off and makes me miss my exit. 
Instead of fighting it, I decide to let myself get lost. I just drove until my gut told me I should turn and let my instincts guide me. Since it was close to sunset, I just decided to follow the sun. Trying to hold on to daylight as long as possible. Finally, I reached to the top of a hill at a dead end. 

I take fences and no trespassing signs as just a suggestion, not a rule!

I decided to get out and walk. It's amazing where you end up and the sights you see when you follow your instincts... Enjoy!

The George Washington Masonic Memorial- View from the back way
Sun setting over Alexandria Virginia

Dusk over the memorial while jets fly by

My favorite scene of the day

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Image Rollercoaster

My very good friend, Nicholas Hawkins, owner of the image consulting company Young Gentleman Society, has been given he unfortunate task of being my image consultant (No, I am not hollywood, just smart enough to know that my image contributes a large part to my success) for the last year. I have hired and fired him a record of 5 times over the course of one weekend (can we say "high maintenance"). Admittedly, because of my own issues.
I have so many ideas and so many concepts of how my life should be lived that conflict with each other, causing one bad ass roller coaster of personal presentation. It was difficult for me to find a balance of holding on to who I was, becoming who I want to be, and changing the things that weren't aligned with my vision. Even tho the path was turbulent, the goal was always the same; authenticity.

I decided a few years ago that I will never live life unhappy, restricted or too calculated. So as my style started to change from "barefoot island athlete" to "artistic business owner and public figure", I rebelled. Afraid that I was somehow being disingenuous from who I was. So my roller coaster with my image consultant went from "photoshoot fresh, looking like wealth" to "true artists live off the land and make clothes from the sheep I raised". Needless to say that this made it impossible for Nick to work with me.
But in retrospect, the struggle was a necessary one. It came from a good place. I just never want to portray something that I am not. The problem was that it was hard for me to accept that I am not the same person I was growing up. I am not in the same position and I am working on different goals. But I still have the same beliefs and morals, and that's what needs to be held close. I just had to get comfortable with being me and own it!

So now, Nick is back on the team for the 12th time (I'm a handful). He and his staff have the patience of saints. But this time I have learned to accept a few things. I was putting too much emphasis on what was on the exterior. Putting on a suit doesn't change that I am simple island boy. And dressing like a vagrant doesn't negate my education or my potential altitude. I had to fight my fear of becoming materialistic and accept that I am a fan of fashion. I like looking nice. I like expressing myself through my personal presentation. And fighting against that so the I can stay "real" was my biggest form of being unauthentic.
As I write this I am back home in the Virgin Islands. Now, I go to a regular local spot in a linen button up and chinos. Yes, I definitely stand out among the oversized T shirts and du-rags but I am not going to force fit myself into any group. I have ti face that I am not that guy anymore. But what I have found is that a few things happen when you present yourself, as yourself, confidently. People take notice and want to know who you are , you attract people to you on a greater level and you feel less pressure to make moral compromises.
So yes, I flew into the island with a shirt and tie on. Why not? I'm a business man (or as I say "I own some stuff!"). I like the way I am treated when I wear a tie. I like working internationally, so when I give people my business card in airports, wearing my suit rather than my flip flops, they stare, read intently, and carefully put it away to find later. but even more importantly... I just feel good!
When I go out. I like to keep it more simple and less stuffy (still stylish because I like fashion as art). I like to be comfortable because the point of going out is to relax and have fun. So the odds are finding me at a spot that has a "strict dress code" unless it's for business or a special event, is slim. Because although I like fashion, profiling (the young professional DC scene is famous for this) is not my idea of fun.
I remember my former boss, millionaire club owner Marc Barnes, making a statement to this effect, "I don't understand why people buy all these fancy clothes to go out, but look like crap when they come to work. You should look better when you are making money than when you are spending it". (Knowing him, I'm sure there were a few profanities littered throughout the statement but you get the point)
"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson "Our Deepest Fear"
Well now my roller coaster is slowly become a less turbulent ride. But it had to start with self acceptance, courage and confidence. Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prove Them Wrong

It’s the preconceived notion that “It is so much easier to live wrong than it is to live right”. and that untested theory keeps so many from even trying. The bad examples are abundant and the good examples are quiet. So the deck remains apparently stacked against us. Fidelity, loyalty, honesty, and personal change is pedaled as a myth. An unattainable goal. Everyone cheats. Everyone lies. You will never change! These are all lies perpetuated by the weak minded to justify their failures. It’s in our music, it’s in our barbershop talk, it’s on the tongue of our elders, but don’t believe the hype.
Many may not know, thanks to my young innocent face(just go with me on this one), but “my previous lifestyles were quite wild”-Drizzy. But I make no apologies for it. I was young, dumb and full of.... (well you get the point). I enjoyed that period of my life and I learned a whole lot about myself thru those experiences. But there will be people who know you through different periods of your life and try to keep you there. They can not accept that you are able to transcend especially if they want to, but find themselves stuck. I see it in their faces when they ask me “so how are things going?”. I feel the sarcasm in their hearts when they ask “so you a changed man now?”. I almost always respond with a slight smile. But inside I am being motivated to prove myself thru action.
People can not conceive of you having the strength to be the person that you are. They look at their own disability to live a certain life and try to attribute their weaknesses to you. Don’t argue with such people. live the life that you set out to. live it right. And you will leave them with nothing but the reality of their weakness. Seeing you achieve what was believed to be impossible, will eliminate all their excuses and silence all of their gossip.
There are many people who want to see you fail to justify them not trying. You have to be the light in that room full of darkness.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Many of us spend hours imagining the type of life we will have in the future. We see cars drive by and claim them as ours. We see Houses on TV and talk about what we will do differently when we have our mansion. We talk about all the countries we want to visit and how we are going to be pampered when we get there. We talk about how amazing our marriage and kids will be and how much of a big deal we will be.
Reality Check: For many of us, a dream is all it’s going to be. And I believe that deep down inside we know it’s not going to be a reality. We learned as kids that it is fun to pretend. Even if it doesn’t come into fruition, at least we lived the experience in our minds.
But what about those people who just dreaming of it is simply not enough? What makes this kind of ambition a pipe dream for some but an attainable goal for others? It’s not superior genius, it’s not an advantaged birthright, it’s not an incredible talent. It’s just a resolute attitude of what they truly desire. Unlike many others, these exceptional individuals actually go for what they want with an expectation to get it.
Too many times people will look at the success of a person and dismiss it as luck or being in the right place at the right time. The dangerous effect of doing that, is that you miss the lesson of what can make you successful. You are dismissing the formula that you can apply to achieving your goals. Since you can’t force luck or coincidence, you stay doing the same things day in and day out, dreaming of your lucky break. It doesn’t work that way! When someone “makes it”, take a deeper look into their life and see what really brings lasting success.
The craziest thing to me is that people expect to have an exceptional life but live a completely ordinary existence daily. We invent things like luck and coincidence to justify living within the margins and expecting to somehow fall into the life we desire. Next time you hear people talking about what they plan to have, how they plan to live, how amazing their future is going to be... Ask them, “HOW?”! Ask them their plan to get to that next level. And I bet you see how many crazy people are out there; Expecting to get to a destination without walking in that direction.
The name of my blog is “I Choose Real Life” because I just want to tell you the truth. The media has a way of making things look easy. As if unparalleled success is just around the corner. Unless that corner is at the end of a road of tireless work and commitment, there will be nothing but more of the same things that’s in your life now around that corner.
If you want to know if you are leading a life that is going to lead to an exceptional future, just look at most of the people around you. If the way you live your life, resembles the way most of them live theirs, you are NOT on the path. If your thinking is in line with what the media pushes to the masses, you are NOT on the path. If your daily activities have no actions that are above and beyond what is required of you, you are NOT on the path. Just look at the definition of the word.
forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary
unusually excellent; superior
By definition alone, Your life, actions and thinking can not be like most people’s. You can not just fall in line and follow the status quo. one of my favorite quotes puts it simply-“Live Like No One Else [will] So You Can Live Like No One Else [can]”- Dave Ramsey

DO you really think the current industry moguls only put in 8-9 hors of work a day, do you think people that grew from having nothing to independently wealthy was focus on buying the latest things. DO you really believe that the most talented among us didn't practice their craft hundreds of times more than the rest of us?

So next time you start talking about how exceptional your life is going to be in the future, either know how you are going to make it happen, or give the disclaimer that it’s just an empty dream that will never come true because you are not willing to work for it. You have to live an exceptional existence daily, to have an exceptional life. There are no shortcuts, just illusions.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bachelor Home Office

My task at hand was to take the empty room that was a catch all an make it into a functional work space. Armed with a modest budget and creativity here are the results from this bachelor home office design.

The color palette is simple but very
intentional. Beige with gray tones give a neutral backdrop with a masculine, contemporary feeling. The muted red provides energy and life. The deep dark brown wall texture anchors the room and adds elegance. The colors work together to achieve a goal. contemporary, cozy, elegant and interesting.

The wall texture is subtle but sick (that means really cool for the slang illiterates)! It's a dark brown natural reed wallpaper that adds texture to the space without becoming fussy. It's illuminated by very contemorary wall scones (of course it is set on dimmers) on either side of the desk area. The only thing left is to bring in a huge oil rendering of my client between the lights, a lit cigar and you will have a space fit for a BOSS (Said in my best Rick Ross voice [the rapper not the mobster {btw- I don't condone smoking ]}). I got side tracked, where was I? oh yeah, the design...

I brought in different but complimentary pottery as a collection. I wanted to have something to contract all of the straight lines and had a bit more of an organic feel. I also framed pitures I took, the metro collection to add an urban feel to the space. In retrospect, a plant will go well in this room even tho it as not part of the finished design.
The metro collection by Renaissance Photography

In any room the lighting is key! instead of springing the bucks for strategically placed recessed lighting, I decided for an inexpensive adjustable track light on a dimmer). This enables us to create a mood in the space. The lighting draws your attention to key elements and gives the room it's drama.

Offices have a way of collecting stuff. With that in mind, I kept the accessories to a minimum and storage to a maximum. I used the entire back wall to assemble a modular storage unit that takes advantage of the vertical space in the room without eating up valuable floor space.
Let's talk Feng Shui! I am far from being an expert but I do utilize some of it's practices in my designs, because a room is just as much about how it feels as it is about how it looks! here are some of the principles that I implemented on this design.
1. Having a clearly separated space between your work and living area is important. it's even suggested that you take a short walk before and after spending time in your home office to keep your personal and business lives separate. If you don't have a separate room. use a room divider to block off your work area.
2. Do not have you back to the door
3. it's best to have your office facing east (that just happened to work out well for this project)
4. Red is a color that promotes energy in all your career efforts
5. Dont not place you desk under a window, it's best to have the light wash over it from the side.
6. Have ample storage because clutter prevents the free flow of energy throughout the room.

Check out my mini-vid as I walk thru the space and give more insight on the design.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Work-a-holic Rehab

After a few weeks of working 7 days a week, I did the unspeakable...
I took a day off!Iactually didn’t necessarily NEED a day off but I have been told that it’s healthy to do every once in a while
So I forced myself to do no work for one day. The original plan was a beach day in Delaware but mother nature nixed that plan with thunderstorms. So instead I decided to enjoy one of my favorite past times.. hiking!

Note to self: Staying up til 5 am playing spades with the boys is probably a bad idea before waking up to go hiking.
(Even more important) note to self: trying
to wake up a friend who was hanging out
the night before and convincing them that going on a vigorous hike early in the morning will be met with extreme resistance
None-the-less... I made it happen. We got a late start to the day, but I decided to stop and pick up a wide angle lens to capture this mini-adventure. And now I get to share it with you.

We went to Great Falls, VA and walked into the visitor’s center. We were greeted by a nice lady who we affectionately called Betty (on the premise that she looked like Betty White). Everyone knows I like a challenge, and clearly so did Betty. As we walked in she said “You two look like strong, strapping, athletic, manly Mandingo men that can handle the toughest of all trails easily” (slightly exaggerated, but I’m sure she thought it). Then pointed us to the toughest trail they had... Hell yeah! I‘m excited.
She however forgot to mention that they just changed the trail so a lot of the markers led to barricaded paths. Forget being Mandingo men, we were guinea pigs.. I’m sure she was thinking “if they survive, then we will re-mark the trail”. It started off with some rough terrain, nicely wooded areas, expected bugs and wildlife, and great views (from points off the path that we were not suppose to go).

We were suppose to follow the blue markers... that was a joke.. Most of them led to barracaded paths and rocks that the average person should not have been expected to climb.

The views were worth the potential absolute death falls
But then... as we had to start scaling cliffs, jumping rock piles, shimmying down narrow ravines, and trying to keep our ankles from breaking we just kept saying “We gonna have to have some words with Betty when/if we get back!”.
Before we left, she did ask “Do you beautifully built, striking black men (still exaggerating) have water?”.
But what the treacherous granny meant to ask was “Do you all have a overnight gear, first aid kit, wildlife survival handbook and last will and testament prepared!?”

I chased this lil frog (about the size of my thumb nail) all over the damn woods trying to get a picture of him... finally got it! This butterfly on the otherhand, not only showed off in couture poses but stalked me for the rest of the hike #vaincreatures

Come'on.. I been running 3-5 miles every day for the past two weeks,

did you really think I wouldn't throw in a picture of me with my shirt off and "sweat dripping aaaall over my boooody"!?

So 3 hours later! we finally get back to the main path that leads us out of the park.
We are alive, all limbs still in place and one more trail conquered. It was fun, relaxing and well worth it.

Luckily my phone wasn’t working in that area so it was a true day off and great exercise. Now... Back to work!

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