Launch Slideshow

Miles of Aisles

Architect Michael Hall goes to The Home Depot and picks out his favorite products to use.

Miles of Aisles

Architect Michael Hall goes to The Home Depot and picks out his favorite products to use.

  • “A simple paver like this one looks much better and much cleaner than when you try too hard and use something that looks like fake cobblestone. Plus, it’s a $1 per square foot less than those that look like stone. ... It’s hard to find pavers that are less expensive than these.”

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    1. Pavestone These simple pavers are Hall’s option for landscaping work. Made from dry-cast concrete, the pieces are strong, durable, and easy to install. Pavers measure 12 inches by 12 inches.

  • “We use these [3-inch recessed lights] all the time. Instead of using four of the big diameter ones, we use six or eight of these. They spread light more evenly and reduce glare.”

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    2. Commercial Electric Gimbal The 3-inch recessed kit includes the trim, a non-IC housing, a gimbal trim, and a 50-watt GU light bulb. It can be used for directional lighting and is ideal for both remodeling and new construction.

  • “We like this ceiling fan with no light. They move a lot of air, and they are simple and quiet looking.”

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    3. Hampton Bay The 52-inch Farmington fan offers five reversible blades, three-speed reversible control, and moves up to 5,069 cubic feet of air per minute.

  • “We avoid exterior lighting that shines glare in people’s faces. We look for dark-sky–rated fixtures, and we specify lenses that are shaded. These do the job and are very inexpensive.”

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    4. Progress Lighting The 5-inch diameter cylinder light is made with from heavy-duty aluminium and has a powder-coated finish. It measures 14 inches long.

  • “We use these all day long. Just plain [or with] frosted glass panels for a bathroom or for a row house when you’re trying to get a little light.”

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    5. JELD-WEN Hall specifies two types of doors from The Home Depot: an unfinished flat-panel solid-core product or a two-panel version with or without frosted glass.

  • “We only look for Energy Star appliances, and The Home Depot is good for that. We like the LG 24-inch, front-loading, under-cabinet washer. You don’t need the giant ones, and these save a lot of space.”

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    6. LG Designed to fit small spaces, the 24-inch-wide, Energy Star washer offers 2.7 cubic feet of space and features a stainless steel tub. It has nine wash programs and an LED panel.

  • “Clients are always asking about bamboo. It’s great, and it’s inexpensive. But I use the edge grain version, which looks more like bamboo. And you can get some nice colors depending on how long they steam it.”

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    7. Home Legend Studio: CrowleyHall prefers to refinish and reuse the wood floors in its remodeling projects or use a locally grown hardwood such as maple or oak. But sometimes the firm uses this bamboo. It measures 5/8 of an inch thick, 3 ¾ inches wide, and 37 ¾ inches long.

  • “We take this stuff and flip it upside down, and it looks 10 times better. It goes back to honesty in material. It’s hard to find any synthetic stuff that’s cheaper than this stuff right here. They have the nice wood grain on one side, but [the alternative side] is nice and grippy, and has a nice texture.”

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    8. Fiberon Veranda Made from recycled wood and plastic, this composite deck does not require refinishing. Slate gray boards measure 8 feet long and 5 ¼ inches wide.

  • “I tend to steer people away from cheap water heaters. You want something with a short recovery rate and something that will retain heat longer.”

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    9. Rheem This EcoSense tankless gas water heater offers 150,000 BTUs and delivers 6.4 gallons of water per minute. It has an .82 efficiency factor.

  • “These are nice simple mosaics ... . The rule here is the same as what we talked about: Stay away from all the stuff that’s too complicated. And when you’re doing a surface, don’t do too much with it. ... Keep it simple, and let the material speak.”

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    10. Premium Mosaics These days you can get almost every type of tile at The Home Depot, including glass mosaics. Hall recommends simple repeating patterns or solids.

Architects, at least the very good ones, are different than you and me. They visualize and organize spaces in unusual ways and they also have a knack for seeing products in ways that are not obvious to the rest of us. Builder wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at how an architect chooses products, so we tagged along with Michael William Hall to see how he navigates The Home Depot in Northeast Washington, D.C.

Hall and his wife, architect Anne Crowley, who together run Studio: CrowleyHall, have a simple approach to architecture and products: Keep it straightforward.

“Simple designs that emphasize light and well–thought out circulation result in relaxed spaces that will not need changing in the future,” Hall says. “Don’t use more lines, gables, and trim to make up for an ill-proportioned design. … Less is better than more, especially in this market.”

Hall and Crowley avoid getting bogged down by conventional thinking—such as the current dictum that a house must have granite countertops or whirlpool tubs. Instead, the firm focuses on the important elements first: structure, building envelope, insulation, mechanical systems. In this firm’s eyes, energy is king.

“You don’t need to build a LEED Platinum project to provide clients good energy-efficient design,” says Hall. “Simple designs save money that can be spent on good insulation, high R-value windows, and energy-efficient equipment. … Steer clients to these options first, before solar panels and such. Clients will love you for years!”

Having said that, Hall still has some products that he likes, and he was kind enough to share them with us.

  • Credit: Jonathan Hanson

Hall’s Helpful Product Hints

  • Energy. Energy. Energy.
  • Never cheap out on insulation or water heaters.
  • Prioritize. It’s not about how many gewgaws you have; it’s the quality of the material.
  • Keep it simple. Look for simple designs and forms.
  • Pick all one color of an item.
  • Always choose three of one thing.
  • Use honest materials. Stay away from products that try to look like the real thing.
  • Specify low-voltage fixtures, and use more of them instead of high-voltage and fewer fixtures.
  • Use hardwood in main rooms and carpet in secondary rooms.
  • Sometimes a locally grown product is more sustainable than rapidly renewable products from overseas.