From concept to construction, HartmanBaldwin Design/Build pushes the boundaries of sustainable artchitecture and construction. Check us out, we’d love to work with you, and create something beautiful together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Employee Loyalty Alive and Well

Reg Abersek enjoying his brand new truck.
A gift from Bill Baldwin for reaching the 20 year milestone with HartmanBaldwin Design/Build

The year was 1991 and Reg Abersek had just moved to Claremont from Canada when someone mentioned he should go check-out a well known local construction company that was always looking for great craftsmen. He met with Bill Baldwin, Owner of HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, and it wasn’t long after that he came on board.
Bill Baldwin retells Reg's story to the rest of the HartmanBaldwin staff during a casual luncheon.
“Reg had a Cary Grant quality to him...very bright, charming and when we talked about what we were aiming to do here...he just ‘got it’,” recalls Baldwin. “He understood that the sophistication of what we were trying to accomplish at HartmanBaldwin went beyond just great carpentry needed a brain and the ability to build client relationships that transcended what a typical contractor expects of their people. It’s no surprise to me that Reg turned out to be an instrumental person in the evolution of HartmanBaldwin.”
Allen Suckley (left), was the first HB employee to reach
the 20-year milestone. Tom Trautmann (center), congratulates Reg. Ralph Castillo (right), Operations Manager.
As the years passed not only did the company grow, but so did the projects and their respective deadlines. One would think that after 20 years the routine or grind would inevitably result in someone burning out or phoning it in, not so for Reg Abersek. “Reg is a professional. I’m impressed by his energy, calm demeanor and ability to handle the responsibility that rests on his shoulders. It’s not a surprise to me that he’s in the position he is in”, says Ralph Castillo, Operations Manager for HartmanBaldwin.

Yet in 2011 it’s still the rarity to be with a company for 20 years, it begs the question, what about the next 20? “ I don’t know about that,” laughs Abersek, “I don’t know what the future has in store for me. I love what I do, the people I work with and I guess that’s why time has flown by. You’ve got to love what you do and have pride in the smallest of details. I tell the young guys all the time to remember that, if you don’t love what you do you should move on, life’s too short.”

Almost all of Us.
To commemorate the occasion Bill Baldwin is repeating a tradition he started when Allen Suckley became the first HB employee to reach the 20 year mark. “There aren’t many people in this world that will stick with you through the growth of a business. That’s real loyalty, but it’s more than that, these guys were committed to improving, growing and reinventing themselves as our company grew. They are a huge reason why HartmanBaldwin is where it is today,” smiles Baldwin. “It’s going to be a great day and one I’m looking forward to when I get to hand Reg the keys to his brand new truck.”
Reg Abersek and Bill Baldwin.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Life In What We Create by Bill Baldwin of HartmanBaldwin Design/Build

Is there an independent energy in the things that we create? How do the objects we shape, shape us and others? Can we create a certain “life” in buildings, a chair, or even a motorcycle?

For over 25 years I have participated in the creation or alteration of space. At its best the fusion of insightful architecture, masterful craftsmanship, and an inspired client is magical. Often our team will visit with past clients and listen as they recount minute details of a specific epiphany or an idea forged from relentless attention to an issue that changed their relationship to the space in which they live. This is the juice for us, an inspired creation that continues to inspire those for whom we created it.

On a few occasions I have had the chance to meet with the new owners of a past project. Their desire is usually to inquire about the maintenance of a certain feature or perhaps they have a new requirement and want advice about a change. On at least two occasions something startling transpired: The new owners would point out a certain space, transition, or detail that they were drawn to and their description would mirror the discussion and process that led to its creation…as if they had been present when we designed it.

This gave me pause. I had come to see the design process as a very individual path to the outcome of the final piece and always assumed that a rich explanation of the program and solutions would be required to fully understand the final product. Yet in these instances it appeared that much of the process simply resided in the space itself, independent of the designer and the client, as if it were a language of sorts. I began to reflect on the countless times that our team would be playing with a certain color combination, ratio, or balance of a specific detail and all would sense when it was “just right.” It was as if the strings of a musical instrument came into tune.

Poor design is inflicted on all of us and on a regular, if not daily, basis. From the momentary annoyance of packaging that is impossible to open ... to the consistent frustration of traffic-choked highways and bewildering urban centers. At these times I do not believe that it is a hyperbole to state that poor design pulls life from you. Think how quickly you will jettison a poorly-designed pen from your hand if you need to write something longer than your name on a check. Can the reverse be true as well? Is there a continuum of relative energy in creations from those where its absence depletes it from you to those that inspire and instill it in you?

If there is a “language” that speaks to the energy of a design, then perhaps there are some essential symbols one needs learn before speaking in sentences. As I write this, the shape of the computer screen, the mouse I hold in my hand, the cell phone on my desk, my wallet and the credit cards inside all relate to an essential design ratio. The “Golden Rectangle” is a rectangle in which the ratio of length to width is the golden ratio of 1.62 (if you have a 2-ft long rectangle the other side will be approximately 2 x 1.62, or 3.24).

This ratio surrounds us in everyday objects and has been a guiding design principal in art and architecture since the Renaissance as well as in use dating back to the Egyptians and Mayans. Why? It has intrinsic appeal. Something appears to simply be “true” about it. Mathematicians from Fibonacci in 1202 to Steven Hawking’s genius sidekick, Sir Roger Penrose, have been fascinated with it. But you need not be a mathematician to feel its pull anymore than past jazz greats needed to study musical theory to understand the beauty of their riffs.

I decided to try these ideas “on for size” with two functional art firms whose work I greatly admire.  Both create objects that seem to speak this language I am attempting to interpret.

Shinya Kimura founded Zero Engineering in Okazaki, Japan, in 1992. Shinya’s “Zero Style” hand-built motorcycles are minimalist sculptures that rebuke the contrived and fabricated flash of most modern choppers. The bikes combine a vintage feel with subtle and sinuous handmade parts that give his creations the sense of an “ancient future.” Shinya left Zero Engineering in 2006 to form Chabott Engineering and continue to explore his definition of the motorcycle as art. With his bikes featured in films and owned by celebrities, Shinya has gained quite a cult following.

Shinya’s shop resembles his bikes, earthy and almost primitive. We sat in a simple loft among art/bike books and two of his recent creations. Below, a dozen or more bikes were aligned like spawning fish and his current project, a cafĂ© bike with a rare 70’s Italian motor as its heart, sat above its brethren on a workbench. His art translating more easily than his English, Shinya’s gracious partner Ayu Yamakita handled the English and Japanese between us. Shinya’s creations are deeply personal. Although he extensively interviews a client before he begins, he follows his own instincts to find balance and harmony… a feedback loop with his art as opposed to working out the details in advance. He starts with the motor, the reciprocating soul of the machine and then follows his intuition.

Shinya claims that if the client is not pleased with the machine he will keep the bike himself and refund the commission. One imagines this has never happened. His recent creations are almost biomechanical, insect-like in form, and the hand-wrought raw metal feel much like an exoskeleton that brings to mind the work of Swiss surrealist, H.R. Giger, of “Alien” fame. Shinya smirked at this observation, revealing some academic background in entomology.

When I pursued the concept of independent energy in his creations, at first he focused back on an essential triangle of creator, creation and client as though they each possessed a key to a lock that required all three keys to open. He spoke to his intimacy with his art, “a piece of me is in each bike,” and I was struck by the simultaneous intensity and modesty of the man. Shinya seemed to embrace the old adage “love the art in you, not the you in the art.” However specific his intentions may be to the piece and his client, Shinya acknowledged that he has reached many he has never met with the subtlety and power of his craft and after we explored this further and returned to the concept of an essential energy in his motorcycles, his smile and further words needed less and less translation from Ayu.

We lost Sam Maloof last year and local prejudice aside; I believe that he was the most famous woodworker in America. A MacArthur Genius Award winner, with his work showcased in the collections of the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art and others, Sam’s signature rocking chairs were both collected by former presidents of the United States and crafted to meet the timing of local expectant mothers. I have the honor of owning one of the rockers and every child that visits my home heads for our rocker with glee as its archetypal shape seems to embrace every age and size.

Sam Maloof working on one of his signature rocking chairs. The celebrated furniture maker died on May 21 at his home near Los Angeles.

Though Sam is gone, the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation still flourishes in its new location and his shop is still quite busy. I stopped by and spoke with two of his master woodworkers, Larry White and David Wade. Larry, David and fellow woodworker, Mike Johnson are multitalented artists in their own right. Together they form a trio that Sam affectionately referred to as “The Boys". They have been the backbone of the shop with their unrelenting attention to every detail. In addition to the incredible craftsmanship their furniture design finds that elusive balance of organic and intentional. As though the guiding hands had “grown” the chair and it were being crafted much like a bonsai tree.

The concept of energy in their creations found a quick home with both David and Larry. David had returned from a show in Chicago and remarked how Sam’s furniture had elicited a common reaction from the show’s attendees – that his pieces had “soul”. Larry investigated the question directly from the “energy” position and said, “If there is an energy to creativity, Sam had his finger in the socket of it.”
What is this energy? Is it simply a matter of personal taste? Or is there an underlying form to harmonious design, and in this sense, is the world as much discovered as it is invented?

Perhaps there is a commonality between Shinya Kimura’s motorcycles, Sam Maloof’s furniture, and humbly …the moments when I see our design/build team find that “just right” balance.

I would suggest that in our finest moments we discover a small slice of truth. I would go even further to suggest that when we can reconcile the ambiguity of our individual reality with the mysterious lure of the infinite, there is magic afoot. This is magic only in the fact that it unveils a common connection in what appears at times a chaotic world. As Plato said, “From the gods a gift to the human race: Thus I reckon the gift of seeing the One in many and the many in the One.”

As a last offering of this assertion, I ask a small favor: If you do not already own it, go to iTunes and download Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major-Prelude.

Most, if not all have heard this before. Is there a note that could be changed? Is its beauty a matter of opinion? Or is there something that fuses the hearts and minds of anyone who will give it its due?

You tell me…

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Traditionalism.  Modernism. Revivalism.  Most of those words are recognizable to homeowners.  However, a new word is coming into the public’s glossary: performalism.  The “ism” denotes a design movement, but what does it exactly mean for architecture to perform?

Well, at HartmanBaldwin, we believe that homes should not just be beautiful masterpieces of design and style.  Your home should be a stunning success you would put on display - but also a tool of efficiency.  What can be more inspiring and fantastical than form meeting function, showmanship meeting utilitarian use, design meeting needs? 

So, at the end of the day, we ask ourselves: How do we know that the beautiful buildings we create are performing for us?  Are they durable, sustainable, and energy efficient?  Following the protocols outlined by Home Performance with Energy Star, a national program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE), HartmanBaldwin Design/Build presents clients with a whole-house approach to maximizing homes performance in health, comfort, and energy-efficiency.

By taking a look at the facts, we’ve learned that the building sector is the single largest contributor to global warming.  Buildings are responsible for 48% of all energy consumption and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually.

By making a commitment to reducing the overall energy use of your home you can reduce our nation’s reliance on a dwindling supply of oil and gas.  Also, living a greener, more ethical lifestyle leads to great boons: Home Performance with Energy Star can allow you to keep your home perfectly comfortable for $0.10-$0.20 per sq. ft. per year.  It can also reduce your energy consumption by 30-60%, protect you from “green washing,” identify and eliminate health safety issues, and make a zero energy home more affordable. 

More than half of the over 66 million single-family homes in the United States were constructed before modern energy codes existed.  The solution?  Rebuild and remodel homes for maximum energy efficiency.  Homeowner Jamie McCoy of Pasadena, CA originally didn’t sign up for this retrofit, having originally contacted HartmanBaldwin to remodel her kitchen.  However, she changed her mind and signed up for a whole-house energy retrofit.  By increasing insulation, sealing the attic air-tight, replacing leaking windows, and adding a ventilation fan, Jamie was able to reduce air conditioning, cut air leakage from 13,523 cfm50 to 7400 cfm50, and cut her electricity bills in half. 

To find out more about making your home greener and cost-efficient, visit our website or give us a call.  We’d love to change the way you live. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sustainable Preservation

Our passion for architectural preservation “has won us many reward and a reputation for being the go to…firm for recreating class structures that retain their original essence,” as stated in this month’s Arroyo Monthly. HartmanBaldwin is proud to be a part of this magazine’s monthly focus on historic preservation and sustainability. For many residents who live in older, character homes, creating a more ecologically intelligent and technologically advanced environment simply doesn’t fit the design. However, there are reasonable means to preserving the historical integrity of the home while upgrading it with new environmentally friendly technologies.

At the end of the day, HartmanBaldwin understands that the greenest home is the home already built. However, prolonging the life of a historic home also means upgrading the systems and building envelope so it can withstand the elements as the years pass. This type of remodeling requires meticulous attention to detail and research that are important and specific to restoration projects.

Do you have “green” on the brain now? Learn more about how we can restore and improve your current historical jewel of a house into a durable, comfortable, and energy efficient home that exemplifies environmental responsibility. Check out HartmanBaldwin’s Green Your Home Seminar and learn how greening your home increases its resale value, reduces long-term maintenance costs and utility bills, as well as reducing your home’s carbon footprint. If you’re running a little short on time than take a look at 10 tips to green your home and the ways we integrated green design into the Darling-Wright Residence, as featured in the L.A. Times blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remodeling Project on the Mind?

       HartmanBaldwin Design/Build wants to change the way you think about home remodeling, show you a smarter way to live in your home, and how together we can improve your community in the process. That’s why every other month we offer The Home Remodelers’ Survival Guide Workshop. This free and enlightening workshop is part of a regional community outreach and education program provided by HartmanBaldwin that presents our time-tested insider tools and tips to help you take control of your remodeling project and budget.

       We know how poorly planned remodeling projects can get stressful and overwhelming, not to mention the nightmare that can occur if you hire the wrong person for the job. That’s why we’ve created this workshop and are here to put your late-night worries to rest. We’re confident that participating in this workshop will illuminate your proverbial light bulb, remove that big remodeling chip on your shoulder, and get you off the pot (so to speak) so you can get going on that dream home you never imagined possible.

      To learn more, register online or request more information visit our website at or just check us out, we’d love to get an opportunity to meet you.

Happy Remodeling,

Your Friends at HartmanBaldwin Design/Build

Monday, April 19, 2010

Remodeling Kick-Start Kit

Are you thinking of of pursuing that remodeling project you've always been dreaming of? As exciting as this is for any homeowner, it can seem a little daunting. However, with a little help from a designer or a contractor, the decision making process can be smooth and enjoyable! I mean, who doesn't want to make their house into their ideal home?

HartmanBaldwin just recently wrote a fast & easy guide to kick-starting your remodeling project. Quick refresher: look to your favorite places! Look at colors, lighting, textures, and overall style that makes you go "ohh" and "ahh." What abour aura, you ask? Well, add some sophistication and character to your home with arched doorways and exposed ceilings.

Want to add timelessness? Add sophistication with arched doorways, exposed ceilings, or give your flight of stairs a facelift! Trying to be green? Then make your home eco-friendly by using materials that are recycled, renewable, or sourced from environmentally responsible companies. Love being outdoors? Well, why not enhance the exterior of your home? When remodeling, make sure you always keep in mind the goal. Always remind yourself of why you wanted to remodel, what you were unsatisfied with, and what can make it better. Make a list of activities you already perform in the space and what you'd like to facilitate through your remodel. This list will ultimately help your architect find out how to create the most efficient and beautiful home for you and your family.

Friday, April 9, 2010


 These are the last things anyone wants to hear.  However, if you're prepared, these natural disasters don't have to be as scary as they are.  If you’ve committed to a remodeling project, be sure to talk with your builder about incorporating disaster-ready alternatives into your home construction. Just making small adjustments in building materials can protect your home from natural disasters in the future. Think about disasters that are common to your area.  Fires?  Why not use cellulose insulation, a green material made from recycled paper and treated with non-toxic fire retardent additives?  Southern California homeowners, this is a definite must have for you since our wild-fires are quite frequent and temperatures are getting higher every year.  Also, think about  fire-proofing your roof and siding.

A lot of rainfall?  Hurricanes?  Flooding?  Consider the following to protect your home against water and wind damage:
  •  Impact-resistant glass can save your windows and doors from hurricane-related damage.
  •  Carpets are ruined by flooding. Install tile instead for flooring with a longer life-span.
  •  Installing electrical outlets 24 or 36 inches from the floor (rather than the conventional 16) will lessen the chance of water damage.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Think About Your Favorite Places

        The goal of remodeling is to create the perfect space for you.  Look around at the places where you live, work, and visit.  Think about what you like about these places and ways that they can be integrated into your dream home.
        So go visit your favorite places!  Is it a bookstore with great lighting and chairs you can just throw yourself into?  Perhaps it's the outdoors with beautiful greenery?  Or maybe it's your local coffee shop with that cool bohemian feel?  Take notes and pictures of the the things that you are immediately attracted to and try to find patterns and similarities.  Also, if you're running short on time, take a peek through pictures in magazines, books, or websites for colors, styles, items, or buildings that catch your eye. 
        For a quick start, how about taking a look through HartmanBaldwin's very own designs and see the homes we've created.  From avant-garde to a Spanish-Mediterranean style, find the design that best represents who you are and how you live.  Look through the photos, find your favorites, and don't worry about having too many!  When creating the home of your choice, don't edit your like and dislikes - go with your instincts.  The most inspired spaces usually meld multiple style sources, making your home truly unique and personable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Will Remodeling Increase the Resale Value of Your Home?

      For most homeowners, increased resale value is a good reason to remodel your home.  That can be true, but much depends on the kind of work being done and the neighborhood itself.  So, keep in the mind the following:
  • Kitchen and bath remodels usually experience the most immediate return.
  • Eccentric designs could make the house less appealing to future buyers.
  • Consider your neighborhood.  Will your improvement bring your home's resale value in line with your neighbors property?
      Once you've considered this and you're well on your way to designing your dream house, look for some innovative and stylish ways to making your home unique and personable.  Builder Magazine had some great ideas with the "8 Hot Kitchen Trends for 2010."  Or, if you're looking to re-do your bathroom, make sure to consider bathrooms for him and her.  We all know men and women want different things, but what greater fusion can you get when it comes from within your home!  And always, consider The Finishing Touch - and by this, of course, I mean the painting on the wall.  Our homes are our pride and joy and we want them to represent who we are - so when considering the color of paint look at paint quality, the effects of natural light, and the interior and exterior surroundings for a holistic effect.

     Nice first blog.  See you when we find more interesting tips of the trade!