Author Archives: John K. Coyne

About John K. Coyne

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Bob Vila’s Toolbox—Now on Your iPad!

Learn the tools and tricks of the trade from Bob Vila's Toolbox, a brand new DIY home improvement app for the iPad.

Bob Vila's Toolbox - DIY Home Improvement App - Screenshot 1

Photo: Bob Vila's Toolbox

Months in the making and brand new to the App Store, Bob Vila’s Toolbox is your ultimate guide to the essentials of remodeling and repair. No other home improvement app includes resources of such authority about the tools favored by master craftsmen and do-it-yourselfers alike.


Specially designed and built for the iPad—enriched by images, audio, and how-to video from the work site—Bob Vila’s Toolbox app teaches you the fine art of choosing and using the right tool for the job. As you gear up to tackle your next project, wouldn’t you feel more confident with Bob Vila at your side?

From traditional woodworking to plumbing, tiling, plastering and electrical work, this one-of-a-kind DIY app gives you instant access to the tips and insights Bob has gathered over the course of his 30-year career working side by side with experienced contractors and artisans around the country.

While some DIY apps aid in design, others deal with materials, and still others offer step-by-step tutorials, Toolbox is the first and last answer for any handy person looking to find a home improvement app focused on the tools and tricks of the building trade.

Whether you’re interested in fine woodworking or large-scale renovation, whether you’d like to know more about one tool or a full workshop’s worth, you can ensure top-quality results with clear and comprehensible, easy to understand guidance from America’s best-known expert on homes.

Bob Vila's Toolbox - DIY Home Improvement App - Screenshot 2

Photo: Bob Vila's Toolbox

“Working with tools has something of the same appeal of old houses and their individual histories. They both give me a strong and satisfying sense of continuity,” Bob says. An extension of his television career, Bob Vila’s Toolbox ushers a veteran’s wisdom and experience into the next generation.

Smartphone and tablet users enjoy no shortage of choice when it comes home improvement apps. In fact, this site has already covered several that are worth consideration:

The 5 Apps You Won’t Want to Renovate Without
3 Top Apps to Help You Plan a Remodel
Top Productivity Tools for Your Smartphone

But while many DIY apps may be available, there is only one Bob Vila. Visit iTunes now and download Bob Vila’s Toolbox today!

Nuts & Bolts: Designing America


Beloved for its impeccably researched and beautifully designed architectural history books, Acanthus Press recently introduced a pair of new titles concerning the evolution of American residential and landscape design.

Gardens for a Beautiful America tracks the evolution of landscape aesthetics in this country during the formative period 1895-1935. Enlivened with over 400 breathtakingly restored original photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston, this elegant, oversized tome allows a special glimpse into the grand aesthetics of a bygone era’s planted environments.


American Splendor: The Residential Architecture of Horace Trumbauer takes a long and well-worth-it look at the homes built by Horace Trumbauer, the architect of many grand mansions across the country, from Newport to Colorado Springs. The finest of his designs are knowledgeably presented here in this sumptuous coffee table book, on sale now.

Visit Acanthus Press for more information on either title.

For more on landscape and architectural history, consider:

10 Ways to Bring Historic Style Home
Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic House Styles
Touring the Victorian Opulence of Olana (VIDEO)

Blink and You Miss It: The Spencertown Residence

Spencertown, NY, is a church and a post office and a general store. It’s actually not even a town; it’s a hamlet. New spec and owner-built construction is common enough—a growing number of second homes are located here—but you’d hardly expect to find world-class contemporary architecture sited within minutes of the blink-and-you-miss-it main street.

The Spencertown Residence by Thomas Phifer and Partners

But it’s there and I found it. Accidentally. I knew that starchitect Thomas Phifer had designed a home in Taghkanic, NY (some 25 miles south), but I wasn’t aware of Phifer’s 2006 project in Spencertown—that is, until I spotted it from the dirt road leading right past the property.

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5 Seating Picks from ICFF

Hours before the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) closed its four-day run on Tuesday, the winners of this year’s ICFF Editors Awards were named. The top exhibitors in a range of categories are recognized annually, but while innovation and world-class design are always hallmarks of the Fair, the style and ingenuity rampant in the Seating category this year must have made for stiff competition.

Danish powerhouse Fritz Hansen ultimately took the top honor. The miniscule™ Chair joins practicality and stylishness in a compact, lightweight, and cozy creation. As the designer Cecilie Manz attests, “The chair has no secrets. You have the shell and you have the leg frame, and that’s about it. It is what you see.”

miniscule chair

miniscule™ Chair by Cecilie Manz for Fritz Hansen

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Nest Learning Thermostat: Digital-Age Home Temperature Control

Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat is, I’m betting, the first HVAC device to excite so much chatter in the blogosphere. An improbable mingling of tech, design, and shelter sites have voiced praised for the new digital thermostat’s sleek design and user-friendly interface—not to mention the environmental contribution it stands to make, which almost seems like a tacked-on bonus given how much fun it is to play with, reviewers say.

Of course, saving energy is the Nest thermostat’s raison d’etre. Studies indicate that heating and cooling make up for roughly half of residential energy consumption, while turning the heat or air conditioning down a single degree results in a five percent energy saving. The wasted energy and cumulative expense at stake is the whole point of programmable thermostats in the first place.

But until now, homeowners have mostly avoided, or been incapable of, learning to actually program their programmable thermostats. Research in 2008 found that homes with programmable models actually used more energy than comparable homes with standard thermostats. Subsequently, Energy Star lifted its certification from the entire category of products. The Nest’s intuitive, easy-as-an-iPod controls may change all that.

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