Reno’s micro-climates let us choose our snow levels

The wind howled all night. Rain, followed by snow, pelted our windows. We woke up to 3 new inches of heavy, wet snow on the driveway. Just to the west, up the alluvial fan leading to Mount Rose, some neighborhoods

received 20 plus inches.

In Reno proper — barely a dusting fell. In Spanish Springs and in Wingfield Springs to the northeast, even less fell.

Wind lashes the south side of our home near Mount Rose Highway south of Reno proper, while calmness reigns in the California Avenue

neighborhood where my husband grew up.

Reno – Sparks offers the opportunity to live in an alpine setting surrounded by trees where residents can snowshoe from their front doors.  It offers horse properties in urban and rural neighborhoods.

Reno also offers neighborhoods where snow rarely falls and when it does it melts quickly. Homeowners with south-facing driveways often just let the snow melt off — and it does.

I grew up in Maine and our driveway faces north. I always shovel.  It gives the concrete a chance to dry out and prevents ice build up. Plus it’s a free workout.rarely have to shovel, even in my neighborhood.

You can ski and golf — often in the same day.  It’s a key marketing point and one that entices travelers to visit here.  The climate and topography attract new residents and businesses. The mountain vistas give nearly every home a gorgeous vista.

How lucky is that!

Reno medical-facility design firm goes global

Holly O’Driscoll, 2/27/2012

Marie Wikoff of Wikoff Design Studios in Reno is carving out a niche in profitable field of medical facility design — and she’s becoming a part of Nevada’s growing community of exporters in the process.

Wikoff specializes in creating welcoming, soothing healing spaces, often for children. Her 100-plus medical-related projects range from small waiting areas to full treatment centers.

Along with northern Nevada projects, she’s handling work in Brazil. That’s bringing fresh dollars into the region’s economy and helping to support local suppliers who are waiting out the long downturn in construction.

“(Studies show) color and design can help with the healing process,” said Wikoff, a graduate of the Design Institute of San Diego.

Designing spaces for children is a specialty within the specialty. “A lot of modern design has sharp edges (strong defined lines). Well that doesn’t work for children. They bump into things and could get hurt,” Wikoff said.

And when it comes to design, age matters a lot. “Designing for children means (considering) a range of sizes. Not everything for little ones will work for teenagers, and you need to take that into account,” she said.

Two current projects highlight her talents. Carson Medical Group selected architect Jeff Frame, contractor Shaheen Beauchamp and designer Wikoff to build a 20,000-square-foot office. They chose this team in large part because Frame brought Wikoff to meet the physicians.

“Marie really listened to us. She really understood what we wanted,” said Dr. Sandra Koch.

When completed in March, the building at 1470 Medical Parkway will house 16 physicians and two nurse practitioners for two types of practices: OB/GYN and pediatrics. The design has separate offices and a common break and meeting areas. The flooring and wall colors coordinate, yet have distinctive differences.

The pediatric office has two waiting areas: one for sick children, one for well-visits. A glass wall decorated with an underwater sea-life scene separates the two. Bright colors accent the sandy-toned walls.

The OB/GYN office has soft, warm feminine tones accented with tans and pastels.

Frame designed the building; Wikoff influenced the interior, suggested the central staff area and colors for the exterior and landscape.Marie Wikoff

“It’s even more impressive and appealing now that it’s nearly done than we imagined,” said Michael Lollich, the group’s administrator. “Marie brought an artistic view to the entire project. She was influential in all the details, right down to the furnishings,” he said.

Wikoff’s other current project is the Hospital de Cancer de Barretos in Brazil. The hospital hired her to do the complete interior design work for a 90,000-square-foot children’s cancer center in the state of Sao Paulo. The first phase of about 20,000-square-feet is scheduled to open March 24.

The firm’s Web site opened the door to the Brazilian project.

“Brazilians love American design,” Wikoff said. Her Web site intrigued one of the project’s local architects, who recommended her to the hospital’s director Henrique Prata, a member of the family that built the 50-acre, 20-building non-profit hospital.

Though far from the ocean, her design for the center features cheery beach colors, portholes, coral and sea scenes to entertain children. Every area is color-coded.

Working with an international client poses challenges, Wikoff said. The language (Brazilians speak Portuguese) was big. “Thank goodness for translate.google.com,” Wikoff said. The time difference (six hours), initially meant 4 a.m. phone calls. Brazil uses the metric system, so every measurement is converted.

Brazil’s love of America is helping the northern Nevada economy. Wikoff has shipped more than $500,000 worth of design products for the first phase of the project — much of it from local businesses.

“I am creating, or helping companies maintain, local jobs,” Wikoff said. Companies she uses include VIA Inc., Reno Business Interiors, SI Legacy Floor Finishing, Nevada Lighting Representatives and Graybar Services. She also contracts with five former co-workers on various phases of the design work.

Wikoff moved to Reno in 2003 to work with HMC Architects. When the housing market crashed in 2009, she struck out on her own. “It was an opportunity to reinvent myself,” she said.

She started with a tiny budget of about $5,000, which she invested in the Web site and top-notch photos of her work. It’s paid off.

Northern Nevada Business Weekly


Reno’s small town advantages — and drawbacks

In Reno, want to run into someone you haven’t seen in awhile — or someone you want to impress?  Put on ratty sweats and run to the post office  or the grocery store.  It works for me every time.

Looking good? Wearing a new outfit? Hair and makeup perfect (or as perfect as it ever gets?)  You won’t see anyone you know.  Anonymity will be preserved. Do that enough and get lulled into thinking no one will see you in sweats.  Wrong!

I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, for six years. I never saw anyone I knew at the grocery store — not even the checkout clerks.  I didn’t really expect to, though.  I was single, didn’t shop as much and didn’t notice. The difference in the size and transient nature of the Washington, D.C., metro area played a huge part, too.

Reno – Sparks is large enough to offer many city amenities including great restaurants, live shows & concerts,  art museums and such, yet small enough to quickly become connected and noticed.

At the Steve Martin/Steep Canyon Ranger concert Friday night at the Grand Sierra Resort, we ran into a soccer mom I hadn’t seen in a year. A gentleman I’d met at the last Western Industrial Nevada (WIN) breakfast/networking event ended up sitting next to us.  Random. Targeted. So Reno.

Reno-Sparks offers interconnection that larger areas just don’t. The socio-economic lines blur here too.   Anyone familiar with the Six Degrees of Separation game about Kevin Bacon should know living in Reno means three degrees of separation — MAX.

If you grew  up here — or married to someone who grew up here as I did, connections are even closer.  

Skiing at Mt. Rose or teaching skiing at Sky Tavern Junior Ski Program, you may meet a firefighter and a corporate vp at either spot, and the two are likely to be friends. Whatever activity you pursue chances are, eventually, you will find you know people in common or share other activities.   

 That’s a good thing.  Just be prepared and expect to get noticed, especially  if you’re wearing those those old, oh-so-comfortable, ratty sweats.


24 hours in Reno — Fire, Flood, Freeze

Reno’s record-breaking winter drought ended this week in horrendous events — and wonderful examples of community caring.

A bout of gale-force winds whipped through the area, reaching well over 50-mph in the valleys. An elderly man cleaning out his fireplace apparently dumped his still-warm ashes outside — sparking the blaze that eventually consumed more than 3,200 acres and destroying at least 26 homes. 

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday I left my home office for an in-town appointment, with no idea there was a fire.  I turned the corner to see the image posted here. The fire started about 10 miles south of here — and generated this much smoke within 30 minutes of ignition.  It grew to 3,200 acres. We saw flames along ridges less than 2 miles from our home.  We saw lines of flames and huge flare ups. The wind was blowing it westward uphill toward the Sierras.  Our neighborhood was never threatened.

We heard so many stories of neighbors helping neighbors — rescuing pets, loading horses into trailers, using hoses to try to douse/wet down property. The community spirit, cooperation among first responders and our neighbors underscores why Reno is such a great place to live.  The Reno Gazette-Journal has many terrific photos and the latest news on this event.

Friday night torrential rains moved in — at one point coming down with such force it sounded, and looked like someone was spraying our south windows with a power hose.  Warnings of flash floods were posted. Now, Saturday morning we have snow mixed with freezing rain on the valley floor — with more than 21 inches at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe just a few miles west of my house.  

The drought is over.


Two Great Finds near Reno — Breakfast in Auburn; Cheap hotel

I am a research fanatic. I need to know the details before committing to just about anything. Chalk it up to years and years of newspaper reporting and research. Knowing the whole story lets me filter, refine and produce a pithy, concise and complete  articles. 

Planning & Research pays off. Our trip quick trip to Sacramento yielded two great finds: A terrific breakfast/lunch cafe and a great deal on a hotel.  

Katrina’s Cafe is a tiny building with about 14 tables  — and heavenly food. It opens at 7 a.m. — and the regulars know to get there early. By 7:20 there was a waiting list. This cheerful, casual eatery is run by friendly folks who take food seriously.

The specials menu yields treats such as feather light lemon pancakes, seasonal pumpkin pancakes with a cranberry/cream topping and a Tuscan medley, along with more conventional breakfast choices. Our server said people start calling in August to ask when the pumpkin pancakes will be back on the menu. They really are that good.  

Antique plates, old mirrors adorn the bright yellow walls — and give an atmosphere of being in my great aunt’s country kitchen.  Full breakfast for 3 was $27 — and worth it!  We highly recommend a visit. From I-80 take the Hwy 49/Grass Valley exit north. Katrina’s is two blocks up on the right.

Hotel Bonus — Those Expedia ads on TV are true! We found a 3-star hotel in downtown Sacramento for $37 ($49 with taxes). It was the Clarion. Yes it was older, but the bed was perfect — not soft, not hard. I’ve stayed in 4-star hotels with beds like rocks.  The room was huge and clean; though the TV quite old.  For an overnight, I’d stay there again.