San Mateo Highlands

Joseph Eichler built iconic Mid-century Modern houses in California in the 1950s and 1960s. While he built over 11,000 houses over his career, the The Highlands of San Mateo, California is the largest contiguous development of Eichler homes. This past weekend, we had a chance to visit eleven of the approximately 700 Eichlers in the Highlands, as well as one in nearby Burlingame. We'll revisit most of them individually in this blog, but we wanted to begin with a gallery of houses that were not on the tour just so you can become familiar with the context of this unique late 1950s communities.


Some of us here at Inertia are fans of coffee. We are fairly indiscriminate about our modes of coffee making. Yes, we have a Keurig and a Nespresso machine. We also have a grinder and a French press. What we haven't had is a coffee shop that we can walk to.

Now, this was a deliberate decision. When we signed the lease on our Highfield office we were very busy. We contemplated renting an office with a more fashionable address. But Inertia has been through one downturn in it's history, and we've learned that the last thing you want when things get slow is high overhead. As well, our commitment to our staff is unwavering, and we didn't want to be faced with the prospect of eroding our team just to pay the rent.

Which brings me back to coffee. Early in 2014, we were watching an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (which we recommend for obvious reasons), and Jerry Seinfeld took Patton Oswalt to a Handsome Coffee, a shop in Los Angeles that was quite clearly in the middle of nowhere. 

Handsome Coffee as featured in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Handsome Coffee as featured in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

We decided to check it out. Last year, when we were in Los Angeles for the Dwell Home Tour, we took a detour to the industrial wasteland south of Downtown Los Angeles. The coffee business was going strong (as was business at the taco truck outside that would deliver your tacos right to your seat in the coffee shop!). Bluebottle has since purchased the location (and the talent), and a restaurant has moved in across the street, but we still had to pass a number of crumbling brick warehouses and razor wired lots to get there from our parking spot.

We thought, if Angelenos can have a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere, why can't we! And yet we didn't ... until just a few months ago.

The latest Analog Coffee is in our 'hood!

The latest Analog Coffee is in our 'hood!

Fratello Coffee Roasters has been in the coffee business coming on thirty years. Their roastery on 9th Street SE has served a growing number of Analog Coffee locations in Calgary as well as a much broader network of shops that serve their beans. And, a few months ago. they decided to open their training counter up as a full service coffee shop!

Darcy manning the counter at Analog in Highfield

Darcy manning the counter at Analog in Highfield

We're thrilled to be able to walk to our local coffee shop. And it's not just any shop; it's arguably the best coffee in the city. We recommend to all of our clients (and everyone else) that you pay a visit when you're in the neighbourhood. And say 'Hi' to Darcy from us!

Vancouver Housing Tour 2015

A few months ago, Inertia went on a housing tour of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. The area is in the middle of a housing boom, and we were able to see a wide range of product over the two day tour.


Microsuites are becoming popular in the area, but not where we expected to find them. Tien Sher's Balance project isn't in downtown Vancouver, but rather in Surrey. Many of the units were less than 400 square feet. Because it was hard for people to visualize how to use this tiny space, the smallest units were fitted out with murphy beds from Resource Furniture.

The elevation demonstrates that it is still possible to achieve something engaging while still using basic finishes.


One of our favourite projects from the tour were Mosaic Homes' Freemont Indigo and Freemont Green in Port Coquitlam. These are mid-rise and townhouse developments respectively that are on the Pitt River near the Lougheed Highway. We were impressed by the layouts, landscaping, finishes and attention to detail. They also reminded us of comprehensive developments we've seen in Southern California, both in terms of design and presentation. Like such southern projects, Freemont shares a common private club house that features a lounge, fitness studio, meeting room, community garden, dogwash, gymnasium and a pool.


Hayer's Exchange Townhouses in Willoughby are unexpectedly urban for being almost an hour out of Downtown Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway. The back-to-back layout presents the challenge of how to accommodate an attached garage, amenity space, enough bedrooms and bringing enough light into the units. The solution was to sling two storey units overtop of the garage, put a deck on the roof, limit the interior units to two bedrooms and locate the three bedroom units on the corners.

The Amazing Brentwood

We've joked about the absurdly named Amazing Brentwood project, but its the one project name that we remember without fail. Amazing is an urban development project on a massive scale. In the previously vast parking lot that surrounded a suburban mall, an increasing number of 50+ storey residential towers are being built. In combination with the nearby Skytrain station, Brentwood is quickly becoming a dense urban hub for North Burnaby.

At the time of our visit, the first tower was still just a hole in the ground. That said, at the time of this post, the first two towers are sold out and the third tower is 75% sold.


In West Vancouver, Grosvenor's Ambleside demonstrates what move-down living can look like when money isn't an object. This urban project is aimed at those who are simplifying their lives and who want a lock-and leave-alternative to their West Vancouver house but who don't want to leave their neighbourhood or their furniture.

This James Cheng designed building has units that range in size from about 1,000 SF to over 2,500 SF. Each unit also features private underground parking.

There wasn't much to see of the actual project yet, but their model and sales centre were spectacular.

And Many More

We toured eighteen projects in two days. Most of them were interesting, but there were certainly too many to fit into this post. After visitings a few new developents near UBC as well as the Shannon Wall Centre on Granville, we finished the second day up at the Residences at the Georgia Hotel. There we were treated to spectacular views of Downtown Vancouver and surroundings.

Clearly there is a lot of choice in the Vancouver housing market whether you want to live 50 storeys in the sky or in under 500 square feet. Issues of a housing bubble or foreign investment aside, we were able to bring back some great ideas that we continue to incorporate into our new designs.

Dwell on Design Los Angeles 2015

Inertia had the opportunity to go on the South Bay home tour at the recent Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles. Only personal photography is permitted inside the private homes, so here are some shots that anyone could take from the street with their iPhone. Unlike last year's tour, we were impressed with the quality of design and finishing. To find out more about this tour and the selected houses, visit the Dwell on Design website.