Tyson and Billy Architects

The 100th Anniversary Butter Cow

Ron Billy - our President, Owner, Commander and Chief,  and the "Billy" of Tyson and Billy Architects - announced a few weeks ago that he was doing something unprecedented ...  taking a vacation!

This post should be filed under, "Reason's to Celebrate" because Ron NEVER takes a vacation. Ever. There are many things we offer our clients and one of the unadvertised perks is the constant availability of our President. You won't find him out golfing, fishing, on lunch, or any combination of activities that consists of not working. You might, however, find him taking your call or answering your email from his son's baseball / football game, his daughters' softball / soccer / cheerleading events, or visiting the Butter Cow …

Ron sets a high standard for work ethic that we are equally inspired by and motivated to keep up with.  So, we cheered Ron on to his well earned and long overdue vacation to the holy grail of state fair attractions, a cow made of 2,400 sticks of butter.

That's not the only place Ron went or visited, but he did bring us back this picture … which sparked as you can image a entire morning of Butter Cow conversations.

What in the world is a "Butter Cow"?? … I asked myself the SAME thing. Thanks to the internet I now am vested with a well rounded knowledge of this attraction. And lucky you - you will now be too... Read on!

Butter sculpting at the Iowa State Fair began in 1911 as a way for the dairy industry to promote itself. Not only has there been a Butter Cow for the past 100 years, but "companion sculptures" are also created in the same form and butter medium as the bovine masterpieces.

The famous Butter Cow consists of 600 pounds of low moisture, pure cream Iowa butter equivalent to approximately 2,400 sticks of butter.

Norma "Duffy" Lyon with her 2003 Ayrshire cow.

If you're trying to put this into terms you can fathom … there is enough butter in the Butter Cow for 19,200 slices of toast, which would take an average person two lifetimes to consume.

Are you amazed now? You should be.

Norma sculpting her first cow in 1960.

Arguably the most famous butter sculptress Norma "Duffy" Lyon began her butter sculpting powerless in 1960 and continued until her retirement 46 years later.

Norma's 2001 John Wayne

Known as the “Butter Cow Lady”,  she has sculpted all six breeds of dairy cows, a Butter Elvis, Garth Brooks, a butter version of Grant Wood's American Gothic, the Peanuts characters, Iowa native John Wayne, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, various animals, and a butter rendition of Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper - which alone used 2,000 lbs. of butter!

1997’s Butter Elvis was a tribute to the singer and marked the 20th anniversary of his death.

The 6 six-foot tall Elvis took 5 days to completed and weighed in at 400 pounds of butter (compared to 600 pounds for the cow).

The 2002 sculpture of the Peanuts characters was a big hit with young Fairgoers.

Norma Lyon was succeeded by her 15 year apprentice Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines - the Fair's fifth and current butter sculptor.

Pratt has created companion sculptures featuring fictional characters such as Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss and famous Iowans such as Shawn Johnson and Brandon Routh, star of “Superman Returns.”

The Butter Cow shared a cooler with Harry Potter in 2007.

The 2008 sculpture commemorated Shawn Johnson.

2010’s Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham (pictured here in progress) added a faniciful element to the butter cooler.

Other Notable Companion Sculptures across the years:

1939 companion sculpture

J.E. Wallace sculpting his last sculpture - Davey Crockett with a grizzly bear.

In 1990 the butter cow shared a cooler with a draft horse.

Fun facts on the Butter Cow …

Much of the butter is recycled and reused for up to 7 years.

The Butter Cow is not solid. Instead, it starts with a wood, metal, wire and steel mesh frame.

The Butter Cow is approximately 5 ½ feet tall and 8 feet long.

The temperature in the butter cooler is 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nationally, butter sculpting was suspended during World War II when there was a butter shortage, but as soon as the war was over, butter sculpturing was revived. (Fun Fact: The Iowa State Fair was not held from 1942-45.)

A butter President Coolidge accompanied the Butter Cow in 1925. A sign in front of them read “Keep Cool with Coolidge.”

On three occasions the Butter Cow actually “produced” milk ... this was done with a recirculation pump.

Need More Butter?

Don't fret … the thoroughly modern Butter Cow has its own Facebook page and IowaStateFair.org has a wealth of information and a slide show of the 100 years of the Butter Cow.

Thanks Ron for attending the Iowa State Fair and sparking this post. I do believe I see a office field trip in our future!

~ Kelly

Credits & Pictures for this post belong to IowaStateFair.org


South African Serenity

Located in Umhlanga, South Africa this gorgeous glass-wall home was designed to center around family, entertaining friends, outdoors, and Eco-friendly living.

With views like these you can see why normal walls would just not do.

Outdoor landscaping complete with vertical garden walls.
Such cute kids!

What to do with all that openness?

Texture, texture, and more texture.

Layering textures keeps the room intimate without distracting from the soaring height of the room. Adding room curtains at the height of a normal ceiling gives a sense of placement to the bed and makes for a cozy feel.

Designer's Note: the neutral color palette is perfect for this space. Adding a punch of color would have taken away from the stunning vertical.

Simple and Luxurious.

The addition of the curtains behind the tub is casually elegant and keeps this space from feeling empty.

Designer's Note: If you  have a room that is feeling a little bland or needing a touch of warmth … see where you can hang a textile vertically. A easy way to bring coziness without the big cost.

A dual work and dining space opens into the kitchen.
Adjacent doors open to the terrace ~ a wonderful backdrop for family meals and dreaded homework time.

And lastly the Star of this Home: the Living Room

A showcase of texture, color and light this room has a lived in feel with a touch of elegance. The perfect balance for a busy family with a flair for entertaining.

Your geography lesson for today …

Umhlanga is a residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Thanks Wikipedia!

It's Monday. There's a lot of things we could be … so Be Inspired!

~ Kelly

Visit House & Leisure for the full article and design credits.


Revisiting Rock Island

A meeting yesterday took me on a exceptionally rainy drive over to Rock Island, Illinois.

It poured the entire way down, rained even harder while I was ducking between site visits, and then at last, it stopped.

Just in time for me to snap a few pictures and head back to Rockford. Go figure.

Gray, overcast skies were the order of the day and my "travel" pictures are all blah.
Blah sky, blah color, blah contrast. To make these pictures even more wonky the sun kind of came out, but mostly was a bright overcast which resulted in a hazy look.

So to match the mood of yesterday's rain I colorized these photos this morning in Photoshop.

You What?? I colorizing these, which is a process in Photoshop whereby I created a "effect" by dividing each photo into multiple sections and colorizing each section with a different color. Tweak the contrast, fade, channels, curves, etc. etc. and the result: A vintage effect.

Which resolves my aforementioned blah issues and instead makes it look intentional.

For example, the colorized picture above and the SOOC (straight out of camera) below:

Ah, much better. I like the moody effect it creates like these doors:

Street art displayed in alleys all over downtown...

This sign made me want to go in and buy their coffee, but I was iffy about jumping back out into the rain from the protection of the car. And yes, 99.9% of these pictures are taken from my cozy seat in the car.

This is my .01% where I had to put one foot out the door to get the right angle.

The Quad City Botanical Center with their beautiful gardens.

History of Rock Island mural in downtown.
I didn't realize until looking at this picture this morning this is a side of a entire building (notice the step downs on the top). I thought this was a sign, it's so well done.

And every time I take travel pictures I get seriously honked at. I made someone very angry for stalling them at the light. I think this person could have used a Jolly Burger.
*Geesh. 2 seconds, buddy. Relax already. I'm zooming in!

Speaking of burgers, this place looked … interesting. I love the self proclaimed "good food."

Strange but captivating sculptures in their outdoor dining area. I have no idea what these are, but they photographed wonderfully. I'm a little lost between the shark on the roof and this yard art … but I would eat here if only to see if their sign is bait and switch or true to the claim.

Church Doors:
I've seen modern corporate offices with architectural salvage doors from churches before. These would be a great item to reclaim. Too bad they are still being used =)

This window is humongous. The scale of this window compared to the building is startling. Notice the tiny little window AC? That's normal size - this window is truly that big.

Enchanting building that houses the county office.

Stunning architectural detailing.

A lovely old home converted to senior housing.

Even the porch is lovely.

Apartment housing downtown. The back view of this building.

And as you know by now, I love aged painted brick. I photograph it often. But - oh! - the colors.

This picture hails from a church that is currently for sale. Such a grandiose building. I hope someone buys it and brings it back to its' original splendor.

As you head out of downtown, the homes are as varied and unique as the downtown.

3 Fireplaces in this home?! I wanted to knock on their door and go see them. That often frightens people, so I opted not to, and besides it was raining again. So I stayed in the car.

What dignity and wonderful architecture this building has ... this is the street view of the before and after picture posted earlier.

To see more pictures and for links to Rock Island, visit our earlier post: Enchanted with Rock Island.

Hope you visit here soon … this fall would be a good time to take a trip with the fall color along the river =)

~ Kelly


Kitchen Crush ~ Colorful Cabinets

berloni gallery set2 kitchens

Kitchen design is one of my favorites. It's the most functional area in a house and is truly the family area of today's home. So why do we limit ourselves with light, medium, or dark wood tones for cabinets?

Not that those aren't gorgeous and you can introduce color in so many other ways … but why not start with the color ON the cabinets. I know! Revolutionary, and not as scary as you might think.

Here's a few images from my inspiration folder called:

Color, Color, Color

Oh this lime green and red is my favorite. Love the letter decals on the cabinet glass. Jean Allsopp

Designer's Tip: This much color needs to be grounded - notice the slate gray countertops and ebony floor. Perfect counterbalance.

Color in Small Doses … Just the Island

This teal island makes me swoon. This color is not standard from this manufacture. The homeowner found this color on a piece of furniture and they matched it for her.

Shaker Style Cabinets in Sweet Dreams

Don't be afraid to ask … custom is almost always a option and might cost less than you think!

Shaker Style Cabinets in Sweet Dreams

Even this dramatic kitchen needed some oomph. This island is the saving grace keeping this kitchen from being too dark, and giving the room a beautiful focal point topped off nicely by that stunning light fixture.

Square Raised Panel in Cardinal

Designer's Tip: Using glass fronted cabinets results in less visual weight maintaining that fine line between dramatic and overpowering.

Two-Tone Triumph

This traditional kitchen received a well executed design trick to keep this kitchen/dining room from getting lost in this expansive space.

Sweeping the eye from the inset hutch to the island and on to the cream chairs surrounding the table - the cream tones unite these three fields and give direction for the eye to follow.

Flanked by sage green cabinets -  the cream color sweep results is coziness instead of emptiness.

Square Raised Panel in Sage & Mushroom

Less is more. These bright red base cabinets are a shining spot of color in this neutral space. Snow white countertops and upper cabinets keeps this space balanced allowing the red be the showstopper.

Master Collection


"U" shaped kitchens can be a little heavy in appearance as there's so much cabinetry. This smart design uses mint green cabinets on the island and the between the windows keeping this kitchen light and airy.

Square Raised Panel in Cherry Willow


Designer's Tip: Use elements of the same color family to unite multiple colors in a room. For example the countertop and light fixtures in brown & cream above the green island relate back to the wood cabinets. Likewise the green wall paint above the wood cabinets coordinates with the green island and hutch. Subtly sneaky.

Beautiful Blue

Definitely a modern statements being made here with this urban kitchen. My favorite … the shades of blue being used from the cabinets, floor, chairs, countertop risers, and built-in shelves it's wonderful medley of many blues.
If you're wondering what the floor is - it's polished concrete.

Urban Desert Design

This sleek contemporary kitchen is a blend of stainless steel, walnut, and textured paneling. Check out the floating butcher's block above the seating area in the island countertop… and the stainless steel backsplash! So wonderful.

Dramatic Spaces

As see on our Facebook Page earlier today....

French Elegance

This bathroom is appropriately titled French Elegance. I could live here. Literally.

These are actually furniture-style cabinets, which allow for more complex mixing of color, style, and detailing. A amazing design that looks like it belongs in a historical French Chateau … that had chromotherapy tubs in the 18th century of course.

Sophisticated Sage

A easy slide into color without having the drama of a dark color: Soft - almost but not quite neutral - Sage.

Square Raised Panel in Sage

Separating the kitchen and dining by function and color.  The change from wood tone to a glazed sage color adds clarification to each zone and brings emphasis to the display area.

Square Raised Panel in Sage

A custom sage color was mixed for these homeowners that found inspiration on a TV show.  In design there's not always the perfect match when you have something you're set on … that why there's semi-custom.

Flirtatious Finish

Side Note: This kitchen is set in a renovated farm house.

Dramatic Red

For those of you who are go big and bold or go home … these kitchens are for you!

This color is called cardinal and pairing it with a sophisticated gray is just the right touch to keep this bright color toned down and urban chic.

Solid Slab in Cardinal

Italian cabinets are always so sleek. Even when set with traditional detailing, there's something so fresh and updated about them.

Montecarlo Collection

Designer's Tip: They used a cream shade on the upper cabinets which pairs nicely with the wood on the floating island. A Pure white cabinet would have completely disappeared much like the top of the range hood.

Majestic Purple

The organic shapes around this open concept kitchen is made powerful by the introduction of purple cabinets. The purple punch of the cabinets assist in distinguishing zones of cooking / dining and living / relaxing in this wide open floor plan.

Lakeview Contemporary

I would love to do a entire kitchen in this smoky purple by Benjamin Moore (Vintage Wine 2116-20). It's sophisticated and timeless and so many great color compliments to go with this shade.

Vintage Wine

Designer's Tip: This shade of purple could be paired with gray, orange, taupe, green, or blue without a hitch.

A Nod to Unique

Farm House Red - chicken wire cabinets are so cool in the right setting. Coppery accents are such a nice compliment to this burnt umber shade.

Rugged Farmhouse Kitchen

There's actually two shades of green in this kitchen. Cabinet doors are in Green Tea and the island a Colonial Green.

Designer's Note: Contributing to this vintage vibe is a crackle finish on the cabinets giving it a charming and lived-in sensibility.

Inspired Questions?

If this has inspired you to make a change in your own kitchen and you have questions … post away! Add your question to the comment section of our blog and I'll reach out to you.

Life is too short for beige, so color away and ask a designer if in doubt!

~ Kelly

Sources for this blog post are as follows: HGTV Pro, K+BB, Plain & Fancy Cabinetry, Berloni America, Jean Allosopp, & KraftMaid.


Successful Design Paradox: Industrial yet Inviting

The most difficult challenge as a commercial designer is capturing a sense of warmth in a commercial setting especially when the design aesthetic is industrial.

Today I'd like to take a page out of one of European Restaurant Design's best design examples: Mazzo

Taking Note ~ European Dining Culture

Mazzo on Rozengracht

The European dining experience is completely different than our American counterpart. In a café in Amsterdam you might find locals going to lunch and staying for dinner, or lingering over dinner well into the night.

In the US our experience is eating and leaving. And frankly, if you stay too long and mingle over a cleared table, your waitress might come back around and give you the polite shove of:
"Was there something else you were wanting to order?" Hint, hint. Leave!

Discovering Mazzo

Order a Espresso or a plate of Pasta

For this Italian restaurant set in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, their motto is the antithesis of the above scenario and the embodiment of European dining:

Anyone, young and old, can come in from early morning until late at night … and stay, because we've designed this space for you to do so.

They achieve a design paradox of industrial yet inviting by introducing a "living room concept" to their space and a few smart tricks along the way:
Materials, Functional Display, Accommodating Families, and Portraits wall art.

Architectural Materials ~ Bringing Warmth to Steel

Welcoming Ambiance

To aid in achieving warmth a honest use of industrial materials results in a wonderful layering of texture.

Overall, the existing building's materials dictated the direction. Power floated concrete, chipped brickwork, and stone were the base, and the designers introduced only pine wood and raw steel to round out the palette of  five materials.

The warmth of brick and the soft pine wood are the perfect counterbalance to steel and concrete's cool.

Functional Display ~ Pantry Style Storage

Open Storage the Unifying Element


A design challenge for this space was the inherent lack of storage. The design team conquered this feat by incorporating wood cupboard storage for restaurant supplies and wares for sale.

This functional design lends itself to the utilitarian industrial look, but also serves dual purpose in achieving a familial sense of home while the staff roots through "the panty" for just the right spice to garnish your meal.

Accommodating the Family ~ The Living Room Concept

Children's Play Area


The living room concept is evident in their dual function spaces. A section of the dining area shares the same space as a children's play area with chalkboard walls and pine cubbies full of toys.

The coldness of industrial design melts away with tot sized tables and toys, and is just the right combination to keep the children busy -  allowing mom and dad to relax, stay, and enjoy.

Portraits of Life ~ Illustrate Your Enjoyment

Italian Family Dinner


The most successful bridge between industrial and warmth is the inclusion of these oversized canvas portraits of four different people of varied age groups enjoying Italian food.

We rarely find actual portrait images in commercial spaces, and it is such a shame as these portraits capture a sense of community and belonging.

The black and white images still lend themselves to the industrial feel, but offer that connection of people and food - further branding this restaurant as good food to be enjoyed by all ages.

Also note the bright red fire hose is incorporated and emphasized in the overall design by the red table linens. So smart.

Light Fixture Love


Dear Ingo

As promised on our Facebook page yesterday … the light fixture!

Moooiis one of my all time favorite lighting fixture companies. They have a plethora of other design products, but their lighting is A-MAZ-ING.

Restaurant Design Today

Design by Concrete

The Restaurant Design Industry is facing a new challenge today as patrons and owners alike want the feel of a family-style dining but still maintain the modern and utilitarian efficiency of a commercial restaurant.

To rise to this challenge, I think we should be looking to the masters of European Design who have been successfully achieving this for years.
Stay and dine for 2 to 6 hours, bring your kids, host a meeting … but enjoy your dining experience.

Cheers to good and successful industrial design.
~ Kelly

Sources for today's post:

Design firm for Mazzo: Concrete

To learn more about Mazzo's design visit: Contract Design


Designer’s Tips: Textile Layering

Add a little pizzazz to your bedroom by layering textiles.

Although using this much pattern might be a little vivacious for some … here's a few keys to achieving this look in your own space.

Design Rule of Thumb: Visual Balance

Repeat One Textile

Using the same pattern twice in a high and low visual field will balance the entire setting.
The coverlet (low) and the headboard (high) are the same fabric providing a counterbalance for the usage of other materials.

Use Similar Patterns

The Euro shams and the sheet set are a slightly varied chain link pattern of the same size and scale. Despite their slight difference the repetition of similar pattern and color connects the center of the bed as one field.

Coordinate Style & Color

The accent pillows and the bench at the end of the bed share the same Mediterranean style. The black and cream base colors connects these two items visually, bringing your eye from the foot of the bed ~ to the head of the bed.

Create a Neutral Envelope

This room has a demure rug with solid curtains and a slightly textured wall covering.  This quiet envelope allows this bold bed be the focal point without the walls and floor vying for attention.

Moderate your Styling

Just like the envelope, when you have a screaming focal point, style the rest of the room to frame it.  All necessary items  - lighting, side tables, decorative accents, etc - take on a secondary role of subtle and sleek.

Result: a framing effect of this stunning focal point

Wishing you a productive and design inspired weekend!

~ Kelly

Images scanned from Style at Home Magazine June 2011 Issue.
Visit Style at Home for more inspiration.

Find this amazing red fabric in a similar pattern at Calico Corners.




Easy Crock-pot Pulled Pork

Why I like this Recipe:  The sauce doesn’t mask the flavor of the pork!


1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Worcestershire
1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder (I use granulated garlic)
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
Dash Red Chili Pepper Flakes
Pinch Salt and Pepper
1 Medium Sweet Onion, Chopped
3 Pounds Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt, Trimmed of Fat. (I use whatever is cheaper)


1. Combine all ingredients except for onion and pork into crock pot. Whisk all ingredients until well blended.
2. Place pork and onions into mixture, coating both sides of meat.
3. Cook for 8 to 10 hours under "low" slow cooker setting.
4.  After meat is cooked, remove from slow cooker onto plate and break apart with fork. If meat has any bones, please discard at this time.
5. Place meat back into warm sauce to reheat.
6. Serve on hamburger buns or Kaiser Rolls.
7. Enjoy!

Serves 10-12.

Happy Friday Everyone!

~ Lori


A Rebarsaurus Sighting!

We have such wonderfully talented individuals in our office, who in turn have wonderfully talented families as well.

This post hails from Lori, our guardian at the gate of our office, and our #1 multitasking, does it all Executive Secretary.
She's off later this week to take "Rebar" here to her mom in Northern Wisconsin … which in turn throws the rest of us into a frenzy. We have trouble surviving without Lori.  I'm panicking already. *Egad.

Can't you just pack and ship Rebar to your mom?! Oh, he's 16 feet of welded rebar from nose to tail? Hmmm. Never mind.

I asked Lori to take a few pictures and give us a quick overview of how this fantastic Rebarsaurus (Rebar for short) came to be.

The Story of Rebar

Rebar was inspired by a large metal sculpture my mother saw in the yard of a pottery store up north.  She wanted to purchase it, but much to her disappointment it was not for sale.  She mentioned to my husband and son years ago that they should make one for her.  She wanted a large scale metal piece to set on her septic mound as yard art and a conversation piece, which he certainly is.  Last Christmas constructing Rebar the metal dinosaur was put into motion.

Created by my son Ryan who was 18 years old at time and anxious to practice his welding technique he learned in welding class in high school, and assisted by his dad Jeff.

Rebar's head is made from the metal of a posthole digger, eyes are giant washers, body of structural rebar rods, and his spikes are made from recycled sheet metal.

Rebar will be travelling north (finally) to his permanent home in Bayfield, WI.  I can’t wait to see all of the looks we’ll get on the highway with him on the trailer.  What fun!

~ Lori

Make sure next time you are in our office you ask Lori how she and her husband originally brought Rebar home from the shop he was created in to Lori's house. Let's just say 16 feet of metal sculpture is a doozy to transport.

In the meantime, wishing Lori, her husband, and Rebar, of course, a safe journey to his new home.

Thanks for sharing this with us Lori. What a great piece of art and amazing work by your husband and son!

~ Kelly

P.S. Lori's family is currently not taking commissions for metal sculptures, but I think they should =)


Accent Tables with a little Oomph

I am loving extreme color lately.
In your face, can't look away, unapologetic - Oh My Gosh, It Bit Me! - Color.

My color formula  …
Neutral landscape + Bold splashes of color = Maximum Color Pow

Real Living Magazine

This purple table takes my breath away. I think I need one.  As in contemplating picking up a can of Sherwin Williams' Impulsive Purple on my way home and attacking my kitchen table.

Heirloom Oak meet my purple paint.  Muwhahaha!

To feed this color addiction, I've recently discovered a company called Oomph.

They are everything chic, charming, and - oh! - what wonderful customizable color combinations.

Sticking with my table theme …

Accent Tables!

tini I stone

They are US made (which is so hard to find these days in the furniture industry) and a Green company.

tini table V

Oomph's Products: custom made tables, chic chairs and beautiful pillows.

tini II z

Did I mention they have options?

Zillions. Zillions of options and in Zebra too.

Their tag line is "always room for a little oomph". Catchy and true.

And if your tune is a little more sedate, they have colors pops with a toned down pizzazz for you as well.

tini I

But if you need Slap 'Yo Momma Color, they have options in abundance.

harbour Island side

Happy Decorating.

~ Kelly