Author Archives - Courtney
In the seaside city of Zandvoort in The Netherlands, a recreational park featuring a series of cottages that are collectively called Qurios Zandvoort recently opened thanks to some architectural expertise on the part of 2by4-architects.
Even if the unique little cottages didn’t hold quite so much stylistic and comfort based appeal, their mere location would probably be enough to pull guests in! The park is situated in a prime spot between the Formula 1 tracks, the Kennemerland national park, and Zandvoort’s most beautiful beach. It is also close to exciting cities like Haarlem and Amsterdam, but not so close that the peacefulness of its surroundings are interrupted by busy city life.
The unique location of this part attracts quite a diverse crowd, so designers wanted to avoid striving for a homogenous style of resort space for guests to stay in. After all, city dwellers looking for a peaceful escape to the beach might not have the same kind of holiday stay in mind as race track fanatics who came to see her roaring cars!
In a sprawling feat and a valiant (and rather successful) attempt to accommodate these diverse crowds, the park now boasts 100 cottages, two multi-faceted public pavilions, and a unique design that resembles that of a dune park. This mean that staying in the buildings is rather experiential as the sand shifts and flows quite literally against the sides of the dwellings and structures.
For both practicality and visual appeal, the cottages are situated on natural plateaus that all sit at different heights. This is partially to give different visitors varying views of and experiences in the natural landscape they’re visiting, but it was also an authenticity and building choice, since working with the plateaus let designers interrupt the land less in their building process.
This concept of working with the land is what influenced the choices in colour scheme, decor, and materiality. Designers wanted to create buildings that made sense with their surroundings and suited the natural atmosphere, rather than ones that contrast too heavily or stand out so much that they detract from the environment’s beauty. They chose an unpolished wood for the cottage facades, for example, that suits the rough dunes around the, so well that it almost looks like they’ve always been there. They’re slightly modern in their shape, which makes them unique, but not so contemporary as to look out of place.
Another part of making the cottages look like they’re one with the landscape was the choice not to fence them off. Of course, designers wanted to give guests lots of private space, but that applies mostly to creating interior havens. On the outside, the idea was to create a sense of limitless exploration and lack of boundaries, which fences would have counteracted.
This idea of fostering a “haven-like” atmosphere was of the utmost importance to everyone involve in the project, which is why planners chose to locate all parking offsite, outside of the park. Past the parking and through the entrance, guests encounter the visitors centre and, beyond that, nothing but gorgeous landscape free of city-life reminders.
The visitors centre is almost pavilion-like and bears a gorgeous floating style roof. In addition to providing all of the information and services guests could dream of, it also gives them a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire park first thing. Like the cottages, the visitor centre suits the natural space well thanks to the choice of black wood planks for the facade and light concrete for the interior.
Besides offering a gift shop and bike rentals to guest, this main pavilion is also on-site housing for staff! The basement boasts bedrooms and a common living room. These are entirely separate for the sake of staff privacy and, despite being right below halls for guest social functions and the like, they’re peaceful and quiet, letting staff truly feel at home and not like they never left work.
All of the buildings situated on the park were constructed, both in terms of shape and also material, with the intention of becoming naturally weathered. Designers purposefully chose materials that would withstand the test of time well in terms of endurance and damage resistance, but also things that will only look more charming with a little bit of wear and tear as far as exposure to the elements is concerned. The buildings will only begin to look more and more like they really belong.
Each of the individual cottages is designed with a different type of specific theme or experience in mind, accounting for the variety of guests that the park’s location attracts. These themes are communicated through and incorporated within details like the layout, the facade, and the interior decor of the cottages.
The “adventure cottages” are small, compact sheds with less space and modernity, intended for those who love the great outdoors and plan to spend most of their time there rather than in their accommodations. The “family cottage”, on the other hand, gives guests spacious social rooms, like the living and dining room, where many loved ones can gather. In order to keep them feeling connected to nature, however, sliding doors help these rooms open completely to the outdoors.
The “royal cottages” are all about luxurious comfort in a peaceful setting. These feature two floors, softly sprawling beds, and fully equipped large kitchen and dining rooms featuring all contemporary amenities despite the rustic setting. Finally, guests might choose the XL cottage. This space is intended for large groups of family and friends and is centred entirely around maximizing space.
Besides choosing a cottage that is tailored to their party, guests can choose specific themes and decor schemes to suit their interests as well! For example, they might consider inspirations like coffee, racing, denim, or nature. No matter the varying interiors, designers kept the cottages consistent enough to “speak the same visual language” and suit each other upon first glance, like different parts of a large family.
Photos provided by the architects.
New business site called Industrial Building created by derksen | windt architecten with practicality and sustainability in mind
By Courtney • Oct 7, 2019
In an ever-changing and always developing business park area in the city of Rzenburg in The Netherlands, the need for a brand new, fully equipped business premises has been fulfilled by innovative designers at derksen | windt architecten, who recently completed the Industrial Building.
The first goal that the design team wanted to reach in creating this building was one of sustainability and low environmental impact, both immediately and long term. They also wanted to create something unique and striking in terms of style and aesthetic, which is why they chose to work with inspirations like rhythm when it came to designing shape and proportion.
The finished result was a modern take on traditional sawtooth roof buildings that are typical to the industrial area and its history, but this time with a much more open concept, locally sourced and repurposed materials, and a larger emphasis on on allowing natural sunlight to flow into the work spaces and fill the rooms.
Even just this use of light contributes both to making the building less impactful on its environment, as well as to making it slightly more modern in its functions despite some elements looking typical of old brick industrial warehouses. Not only does the easy flow of light reduce power use, it also lifts the spirits of anyone working or visiting there, unlike some old fashioned brick buildings where the interior feels dark, closed off, and not necessarily welcoming.
In the process of choosing their materiality, designers noted that many old industrial buildings look quite temporary thanks to their bare-bones materials and unfinished aesthetic, when in actual fact they’ll often stand and serve a pivotal function in a community for years. Thinking about this was how they opted to try and establish a slightly different appearance this time around.
The materiality of this new building is much the same; it is afforded a sense of strength and businesslike functionality thanks to the use of brick, steel, and concrete. Designers made sure, however, to give the space a slightly more finished looking… well… finish! The space is minimalist and practical but it doesn’t like ramshackle and thrown together like it might soon be torn down.
Because the building is part of a small-scale business park that isn’t far from the Rotterdam ports, it’s a great potential location for all kinds of businesses. That’s why the next step of the project, following what you already see here, is to split the sprawling, open concept space into four different business units to create a functional but free flowing business park.
The fact that the space will eventually be shared by several businesses within one very open and naturally lit space, but that it also still resembles a traditional factory on the outside, creates a unique blending of several things. Not only are aesthetics between interior and exterior spaces contrasting, but the sense of modern business routine and old fashioned factory work brings new and old, contemporary and historical together. It’s a stylistic and cultural combination.
Of course, the sawtooth shape of the building does more than just hearken back to times past and reference older styles of architecture. In this particular building, the translucent tiles built into it are also an integral part of the green heating, cooling, and lighting systems. This is another specific point where history, style, function, and modernity all cross over.
Another more contemporary element that certainly wouldn’t have been found in brick industrial buildings of auld but that proves extremely useful in this building is the presence of several skylights and in-line window frames, as well as rolling doors. These appear to break down visual and occasionally physical barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces, making the building feel expansive and accessible.
There might not be much to say about decor yet, before the separation into business units and settling in of company teams has occurred, but the facade adds some rhythm and depth to the space and establishes a colour scheme. Masonry skill is clear in the brick surfaces while translucent triangle portions balance out that neutrality and natural materiality with modern geometry.
Photos by Rene de Wit
By Courtney • Oct 4, 2019
Amidst the breathtaking scenery of Virunga National Park, innovative design teams at Nicholas Plewman Architects have recently finished a stunning tourist retreat called the Bisate Lodge.
In its shape, aesthetic, and materiality, the lodge has a number of distinct and very evident inspirations. The first is very natural; the beautiful rounded shapes of the volumes and much of the furniture inside were specifically built to reflect the rolling hills of Rwanda’s countryside.
As far as materiality and construction style are concerned, the lodge has another key inspiration as well. Here, designers harnessed the beauty (among other elements) of the King’s Palace at Nyanza, particularly in its thatched design. Much of the volumes’ construction is done in the traditional way but with the bolstering of modern technology. The thatching on the outside, however, is done completely authentically.
The lodge in its entirety sits nestled amongst lush growth areas adjacent to the wide open space of the Volcanoes National Park itself. The volumes weave in and out of the greenery in a way that makes them appear blended and coherent with their surroundings. This was intentional on the part of the designers, who wanted to make sure that the lodge thoroughly reflects Rwanda’s extremely organic culture.
At the same time, however, the team wanted to add more than a small hint of sophistication into the mix as well! In the finished product, this goal is apparent in every space. This is partially thanks to the unique and interesting shape of the private rooms, which are spherical. The public spaces, on the other hand, have a slightly more modernized look that’s sustainable and contrasting to their surroundings but also subtle enough to blend well with the more traditional areas from space to space.
The overall effect is a comfortable design that celebrates modern luxury and local culture all at once. This heavily influences the guest experience, as the lodge has become notorious for the way it actually offers visitors a way to bond with and get to know pieces of Rwandan custom, art, and culture in a way that’s immersive but comfortable and welcoming.
The look, shape, and style of the lodge aren’t actually the only elements that have something quite unique about them. The manner in which the volumes had to be constructed to protect the integrity of the surrounding area and park was also a little unconventional.
First, the pieces of the lodge were developed as prototypes in Cape Town, South Africa, in spaces where designers lived close by and access to space and materials was easy. Once the team had everything just as they wanted it, the final product versions of the lodge’s volumes were taken apart, sent to the chosen site in Rwanda, and reassembled there.
Since the site of the lodge is quite remote, which is part of its pleasantness and appeal, all of the systems that power it had to be quite innovatively created. They are fully incorporated into the structures and inner workings of the lodge and they also function entirely off-grid, making the whole place independently powered and self-sustaining.
All things considered, Bisate lodge is actually quite a step forward in the world of architecture, particularly within the local area in which it sits. Besides being shockingly comfortable and serene, the lodge is also a merging place for modern construction techniques, sustainable living systems, and top shelf luxury with traditional materiality and cultural consideration.
Photos by Crookes and Jackson
By Courtney • Oct 4, 2019
Along the edge of a lovely road called Peach Tree Road, in Tibet, China, a beautiful natural landscape has been transformed into the home of the Sanzee RV Self-Driving Campsite, which was conceptualized, designed, and built by CM design.
The actual plot of land that the campsite calls home sits on an embankment that was naturally formed by the twisting of the Yarlung Zangbo River. This gorgeous area is dotted with clusters of shady, beautifully sprawling willow trees and provides visitors with a 360 degree view of the breathtaking snowy mountains that completely surround the area on all sides.
Those are not, of course, the only natural elements that make the scenery around the campsite practically irresistible. The site is also home to countless ancient peach trees that range in age from 300 to 500 years old. Gesang flowers grow all around these, in amongst the various kinds and sizes of rock, as do miscanthus, different mosses, several types of ferns, and other green shrubs.
Despite sounding quite rural, the campsite is actually pretty accessible. Right not, it sits just south of the Lalin portion of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, which is soon to open and which will make the site even easier to reach for those who don’t drive. This makes it a great vacation spot for international visitors.
Right from the beginning, designers based all of their concepts on the idea of respect. More specifically, they wished to respect both the culture of the area in Tibet they were building in, as well as the natural integrity of the landscape they were building upon. They is what the close relationship between nature and architecture, which can be seen clearly in the finished product, was born from.
The utmost priority during the building process was preservation, particularly of the ancient peach trees. Where stones could be spared from their original locations, they were put to reuse in building structures and roadways so that the new elements of the site would blend in well with its stunning location, in a way that forms some kind of organic bond.
Where the structures aren’t built from the very stones that were repurposed where the natural landscape could spare them, they’re formed from steel. This gives the buildings that are accessible to the RV parking spaces strength and weather resistance, but also prevents them from clashing with or distracting from the natural surroundings, continuing that blending goal that designers upheld right from the outset.
This steel and stone combination is also what makes up the sign and gates that constitute the main entrance of the campsite, creating a sense of consistency throughout the location. The height of the entrance adds a sense of grandeur to the space in the way it mirrors the height of the trees, making it stand out without overpowering the beauty of what people really come there to see: the natural landscape.
The wall of the entrance continues around the outsides of the park, but in a way that is interesting, cohesive, and unique. This is thanks to the way designers actually incorporated natural elements on the outskirts of the park into the wall itself. In several places, for example, the newly made wall stops for a natural rock or tree, leaving it space, and then picks up again on its other side, lying flush to the edges of whatever the natural landmark is but without hurting it or interrupting its natural beauty.
The manner in which the wall incorporates natural elements has a few multi-faceted benefits besides just continuing that ongoing goal of blending the campsite into the landscape. Firstly, it saves on materials to let the wall work with these things, rather than extending it to go around them. Secondly, it creates a lovely visual effect that looks rhythmic, dynamic, and dimensional.
Walking paths that weave throughout the campsite and allow visitors to take full advantage of the beautiful location they’re staying within pay similar respect to the landscape’s elements, particularly the peach trees. Site builders avoided clearly anything in the path’s creation, weaving it around and through any parts and patches that could safely host the path instead. The direction of the path was, therefore, largely determined by things like the location of flowers, the density of trees, and the natural meandering of the river.
Even the construction of the reception centre was designed with an homage to the landscape in mind. It was created in a modular sense through the stacking of natural metal shipping containers. These were strategically placed and built up in ways and directions that suited the height of the natural stone, looked cohesive with the mountains, and simply created shaded courtyards and even a barbecue area without taking up or requiring the clearing out of anymore natural space than necessary.
Smaller details help to integrate the reception building more visually with the land as well. For example, flower pools boasting blossoms that were already native to that specific area have been built up outside and all around while steps, wherever they were required, are built from locally sourced but repurposed wood.
Following suit with everything else built on the campsite, the infinity pool that was built off the reception building, just above the edge of the Yarlung Zangbo River, was built in a way that visually reflects the beauty of the landscape and mountains, but also avoids interrupting and detracting from its more immediate natural surroundings. Its edges and stares were made, as before, from locally sourced reclaimed wood and so were the benches around it. These spaces together create a stunning vantage point for enjoying the scenery, socializing, and resting.
A short distance from the reception building but past the RV parking sits a multi-level tent camp. This was built in a way that works with the natural undulation of the land, but using an anti-corrosive wooden platform to even out the actual ground on which the tents sit, for comfort. These unique plateaus provide unparalleled views of not just the Xue Ga Ru Snow Mountain and the river, but also the vast and starry night sky.
Photos by Zhi Xia
By Courtney • Oct 3, 2019
In a beautiful green setting that adds tranquility to the busy streets of Shanxi, China, innovative designers at Sangu Design have recently completed the Cheng Dong Building, a peaceful and multi-faceted public space that was, once upon a time, a simple public toilet in a park.
From the outset of the updating project, the antique building was destined to become something a little more meaningful. Design teams wanted to create a space that people might actually wish to spend time in, drawing them out the lovely green area outside and letting them experience architecture rather than just barely registering it as they pass in and out.
They did this by prioritizing the value of art all throughout the process. This is not to say that they covered the new space in art, but rather than the way it was built, its layout, the furnishing and materiality choices, and the way the shapes in the new space seem to undulate and move were all deeply inspired by visual beauty and artistic elements.
Because it sits in a park that is located in a city, the building is intentionally designed to contrast with its very urban backdrop. Designers wanted to create a space that might feel like a moment of respite from the fast-paced and ever changing nature of modern city life. They also wanted to provide visitors with somewhere that they might cross the generation gap; the building is intended for all people to be able to enjoy spending time there together.
They tried to hit this mark by making a space that is undoubtedly modern and updated from the original little building that stood there, but that also avoids being over equipped with unnecessary features that might turn some people off from using the space or finding a level of comfort there.
With these values in mind, the space became geared towards human connection rather intentionally. It is meant for socializing, meeting friends, and exchanging knowledge in a way that is direct, face to face, and not just learned through the Internet or using devices. The space is like a haven for passing on stories and experiences.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a completely unplugged or technology free space. It is actually full equipped with modern conveniences and also a nice place for one to, say, study alone using their devices. The designers’ goals were simply to create an experience that, while modern and useful, doesn’t contribute to an overuse of technology and an overwhelming of information.
This building is actually part of an ongoing effort by many different design firms in cities across the world to establish good human connection in everyday routine by creating beautiful, peaceful, and experiential spaces where one wouldn’t necessarily think to enjoy themselves. The logic is that, by creating spots that feel friendly, inclusive, connected, and calming in everyday places like parks, public toilets, and train stations, cities can help foster improved social attitudes and experiences in a way that’s subtle and passive but effective.
For this specific project, designers were also very cognizant of the fact that they were transforming an antique structure within an ancient city. The little green area where it sits might look urban now and be very high traffic, but it still bears a particular history and cultural context. That’s why the team also wanted to create something that makes sense in the space and doesn’t clash.
Designers visited the original spot and found an homage to ancient Chinese architecture and a sense of harmony between the building and its surroundings. As the project was already not permitted to completely dismantle the original foundation m they opted to work with certain key pieces of what was already there, preserving elements like the foundation and sidewalk and incorporating them into the new design.
The team then got creative with the new aspects they built, planning an unconventional design that still bore details of ancient local architecture and prioritized natural, local materiality rather than introducing completely foreign materials that might make the new building look very out of context.
The building was kept purposely low to the ground in order to let visitors’ attention wander to the ancient wall surrounding the park, rather than detracting from it. Off a main corridor, the space is now separated into three distinct rooms: the restroom, the coffee room, and the reading room. Each is geared towards modern convenience and comfort without being unnecessarily technological.
The corridor that leads to each space is quite open concept, inviting, and accessible. In fact, the original walkway that has run through the park for many generations was actually allowed to run right through the new building so that people may wander in and out very easily at whim. Here, you’ll even find a pet watering area because the designers really meant it when they said all are welcome.
Although the sense of space in the building is free-flowing and easy, the separate rooms, which have distinctly different functions, don’t interfere with each other. The reading room is a place for quiet and rest, while the coffee room is gear more towards group socializing and refreshment. The convenience of an easily accessible bathroom makes this place a good resting spot for busy tourists and a nice meeting spot for residents of nearby buildings looking to meet friends or exercise their pets.
The space is actually entirely accessible in terms of ability as well. Only one step is included in the building, near the coffee room, but all rooms can still be accessed easily by those using mobility devices of different kinds. On the doors throughout the building, handles are placed at all different heights to accommodate people of all different heights. They are even specifically cut in terms of their shape to make them easier for people who are holding drinks to open.
In addition to being quite open concept, each room also feels quite free of barriers thanks to large windows and glass walls all around the outside. These let natural sunlight flow in during the day and make the plants and greenery outside feel like a part of the indoor space as well. The heavy use of natural wood in the interior feels cohesive with the environment through the big windows.
Photos by Xiao Tan
By Courtney • Oct 3, 2019
On a beautiful street in Morelia, Mexico that is lined with blossoming Jacaranda trees, teams at Emilio Alvarez Abouchard Arquitectura have created the Avenida Central Building that will soon house a developing dermatological care centre. The building is named for the street it actually sits on, which many residents of Morelia claim is the most beautiful street in the whole city. Besides the gorgeous Jacaranda trees that line it on either side, adding colour and whimsy with their blossoms, the street also adds an avant-garde looking sense of urbanism to the cityscape that is very visually pleasing and unique.
Originally developed in the 1960s, the neighbourhood that Avenida Central runs through is called Chapultepec Norte. It lies only 3km east of Morelia’s downtown core, making it accessible to all the perks of downtown living but just removed enough to provide a much more relaxing atmosphere.
The aesthetic of the buildings is different from those that are built right downtown as well. There, structures have a sense of historical architecture and colonial urbanism typical of the very core of many Mexican cities. These are, after all, most often the epicentres around which the city was first built and then developed outwardly from. Out near Avenida, there is a shift towards slightly more modern looking architecture, but without disregarding local style and tradition entirely.
Part of what sets the street apart is its heavy emphasis on thickly green landscape and plant life, as well as its uniquely wide sidewalks. The presence of so many parks and so much green space and the literal physical extra space for non-vehicle travel make the area ideal for bikes, pedestrians, and pets. The over all atmosphere is safe, welcoming, and refreshing.
For the designers of the Avenida Central Building, which is mixed-use, building along this street was an opportunity to combine the atmosphere we’ve just described and local culture and style into a visual representation, like an homage paid through architecture. They wanted to ensure that the new structure be modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly as well.
The building sits on a well sized, square shaped plot that lines up flush against those wonderfully wide sidewalks we mentioned. The very linear nature of the space they had to work with leant itself well to creating a similarly linear building that is simple and clean looking with good delineation of space, without looking too harsh and starkly contemporary.
On the bottom storey, two recessed spaces on the large sides of the building make room for parking that extends around the back, where it doesn’t interrupt the flow or atmosphere of the street, as well as a beautiful outdoor terrace that can be used by clients, staff, visitors, or respectful passers by on sunny days.
The two upper levels of the building are where The Dermatology Centre will eventually live within the building. This program chose the space for its gorgeous emphasis on natural light, which flows freely through expansive windows and glass walls and illuminates the interior throughout the day in a way that’s less jarring than fluorescent lighting.
The very top level of the building is a U-shaped rooftop terrace that provides stunning views of the Morelia skyline. This view includes the pink limestone cathedral towers in the distance, which were built in the 1700s. The street on which the building sits surrounds it with greenery and the sun shines down on a lovely outdoor seating space that contributes to how the glass walls already make the whole structure feel almost boundary-less.
Perhaps the most unique part of the building was how designers strove to make it entirely universally accessible. Part of this was building an elevator tower in the centre that provides easy access to every floor, and to every room from there. Rather than installing something boring and industrial, however, they made this central column from glass blocks, which lets sunlight travel through into the centre during the day. At night, the lift tower’s lights come on and can be seen through the glass blocks from the street. This central feature has been dubbed “la tour de verre”.
Photos by Saint Gobain
By Courtney • Oct 2, 2019
On the outskirts of Boedo in Argentina, creative design teams at Estudio Yama recently completed a renovation and updating project on a classically shaped home called PH José Mármol House.
In cities surrounding the area, a particular shape and style of home is quite typical to Argentinian culture. This is the “casa chorizo” that is often found not just in Boedo, but all the way across certain parts of the country. It’s even characteristic of Buenos Aires, which was one of the first places homes in this style were built. This is the shape and architectural style PH José Mármol House bore originally before its renovation.
The casa chorizo style is one that most contemporary housing parameters challenge. Residents aren’t necessarily interested anymore in the way this style of home, which is left over from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, bears predictably distributed, concretely consecutive rooms that are connected but also lacking in natural sunlight and airflow.
Moving away from a casa chorizo layout was part of what prompted the owner’s desire for a transformation. In fact, like many of these older houses throughout Boedo, this one has actually undergone two different renovations; one to make it better accommodate the needs of a young family and one to change it stylistically, aesthetically, and atmospherically.
Initially, the primary point of this transformation project was actually much simpler and more specified. Owners mainly wanted the design team to find and transform or create a space within the property for a new yoga studio to be built. They wanted a home studio in which the residents themselves could unwind and the owner might even teach some classes.
Once designers had seen and analyzed the space, however, they quickly saw a complete renovation and redesign opportunity that they wanted to take, so they made a much more ambitious proposal than the original plan to the owners. Taking a risk, designers pitched the idea of a transformation that would change the look and function of the whole house thanks to only a few strategic changes.
Firstly, designers set their sites on the outer courtyard. A simple renovation to this space enabled them to improve and open up the rooms situated around it, creating an easier flow from space to space on the inside, as well as a much more effective breaking down of barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces. These changes counteract that darker, more closed off layout typical of the casa chorizo style we told you about earlier on.
In the centre top of the house, the yoga studio was designed and installed, but designers by no means wanted to limit it to being a space that might only be used for one thing. Instead, the yoga studio was design as a flexible room and multi-purpose space with a natural light filled, welcoming atmosphere, decent temperature control, and a good amount of space. Floor to ceiling glass walls invite sunlight throughout the day, but the windows can be covered for privacy or shade thanks to micro-perforated sheet blinds.
The house also received an aesthetic and decor makeover as well, keeping in the theme of lightening things up and making them feel more free-flowing and expanded. After the space came together physically, rooms were also made to feel cohesive through the use of common natural materials and neutral colours all throughout the house. Some visual patterning was added in the form of things like accent tiles and mats to keep things interesting, but over all the new scheme is fresh and very calm.
Photos by Javier Augustin Rojas
By Courtney • Sep 30, 2019
In a quiet neighbourhood in the urban area of Dobříš, a city in the Czech Republic, innovative architectural teams at boq architekti have recently finished a housing project called Cube in a Cube that is named for the unique nature of its actual shape and construction.
From the street, what visitors see is an outer “layer” of the house. This is a simply shaped cubic frame made from pieces of naturally finished wood that hang suspended between metal supports running along the bottoms and tops of the boards. The process of developing this particular structural project was dubbed “Za Vetrnikem Dobris” throughout its creation.
The purpose of the boards was multi-faceted. Firstly, designers wanted to create a house (which eventually became a series of houses within a cohesively designed neighbourhood) that had a clear identity and style. The goal was to create the buildings to be simplistically eye catching, standing out for their minimalist shape and natural materiality in order to catch people’s eye.
Secondly, the purpose of the boards around the house was to give dwellers an opportunity to enjoy the view of the landscape surrounding the neighbourhood. Designers wanted to ensure that people might seek a new vantage point to enjoy that view from nearly anywhere around the circumference of the house, gazing out in any direction from the home as a base. The view is clearly visible through the angled slats in a way that builds a cohesiveness with the shade of the natural wood and the land beyond.
Additionally, designers wanted to provide the home with a sense of privacy. Although the house doesn’t necessarily sit as close to other buildings as, say, a tightly packed downtown city dwelling might, the team still wanted to create a sense of escape for the residents, letting them enjoy outdoor spaces without feeling watched. The spaces between the wooden slats let them see beyond the boundaries of the plot while also protecting them from public eyes so they might feel relaxed and at home.
Finally, the wooden frame around the house (which is also cubic behind the boards, hence the home’s name) was built with a very intentional materiality. Although the neighbourhood is part of an urban landscape, it is not devoid of nature and a nice view. The natural wood of the frame helps make the house blend into its natural surroundings ever so slightly rather than detracting from the greenery.
Right now, the whole cubic project consists of three different semi-detached houses. The first was such a success of design, function, and aesthetic that the project was expanded into an entire residential compound, which will have additional stages in the future. Six more units are planned as part of ongoing development efforts on the outskirts of Dobris City.
Inside the house, an airy entryway leads to a cloakroom. Just beyond that, a guest bathroom is paired with a nice, bright lower level room that might be used as either a guest bedroom or a study for those who work from home. Moving past these, guests encounter the central social spaces of the home, closer to the back of the house.
The home’s primary social spaces are shared and open concept. Rather than being closed off from one another, the living room, kitchen, and dining room all have a free flow of movement between them, constituting them as a sort of central hub for family activity and daily routine.
Moving upwards, guests encounter two wings. The first is for the children or visitors, consisting of two bedrooms and a bathroom. Further down the hall is a separate wing intended for parents. This has a master bedroom with its own walk-in closet and dressing room and en suite bathroom. The spaces on this floor hit the mark well between privacy and open concept living.
In addition to working in concepts of open concept layouts, designers also wanted to break down barriers between inside and outside spaces. This is why there is some kind of sliding door patio access to an outdoor courtyard or activities area in every room on the ground floor, while every single room on the upper floor has direct access to a terrace or balcony of its own.
The outdoor spaces are just about as multi-faceted as the home’s wooden facade. Some areas are garden spaces with storage for tools. Some spots feature patio furniture and are intended for socializing or quiet moments in the sun. Others, like the spot with the gymnastics inspired rings, are dedicated to physical activity and movement. The goal is to provide residents with a few but also give them privacy, all while encouraging them to enjoy the fresh air whenever possible.
Photos by Alexandra Timpau
Estúdio BG + LVPN Arquitetura create fluid, contemporary new office space for Silveriro Lawyers in Brazil
By Courtney • Sep 26, 2019
In the bustling urban area of Porto Alegre in Brazil, innovative public space designers at Estúdio BG + LVPN Arquitetura have recently complete an office overhaul for leading firm Silveiro Lawyers.
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From the very beginning of this office renovation’s conception, the main inspiration for its style, shape, and even its core energy was the idea of fluidity. Designers and executives alike wanted to create a space that fosters the fluid flow of energy, information, communication, and ideas, but also that has a fluid sense of style and atmosphere, making all who are present very comfortable.
More specifically, the space was built with the intention of putting fluid working practices, like collaboration and mobile workspaces that fit different scenarios, into action in a way that simultaneously reflects the fluidity of working practices and lifestyles in contemporary life.
The very basic sense of something being “fluid” is visually apparent immediately upon entering the office. Even before you’ve passed through the welcoming area with the reception desk and waiting room, you’ll already have witnessed several structures, furnishings, shapes, and details that put the word into practice. The desk, for example, curves smoothly across its front without sacrificing flat and effective working space on the top, while the walls around and behind it undulate in smooth waves behind it, leading smoothly further into the office.
As part of the goals in fluidity, executives asked designers to make a space that feels as though it’s not limited to modular places and closed off rooms. Instead, they wanted to concentrate on flowing lines and continuity that flows easily through the whole office in a way that makes sense in terms of organization, function, and interactive flow.
One of the most unique aspects of the space is the emphasis on knowledge and learning within the fluid inspiration! This is embodied in the presence of an extensive library that permeates the entire office, traveling through it on waving, softly curved shelves that follow the path through from the lobby and inward, from space to space.
The chosen theme and atmosphere is actually so prevalent throughout the office that you’d be hard pressed to find a sharp right angle just about anywhere. Even the staircase was designed in a sculpturesque fashion, adopting a rounded shape all the way up that feels balanced between the lightness of its curves and the weight of its wooden materiality.
The very wood that you see in the staircase is actually another key element of the whole wider space as well; the wood is present right from the welcome lobby and on into every other aspect of the space in the walls, bookshelves, and custom and luxury furniture pieces. The combination of fluid lines and naturally stained wood gives the place a sense of organic comfort.
In order to make the shine of the wood really stand out in all its glory, designers chose to combine it primarily with white surfaces and details to really give it sensical contrast. The wood is able to pop without enveloping the space or making it feel too dark and rustic. The sense of modernity is preserved and things remain light and fresh looking.
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In terms of the furnishings specifically, designers opted to complement the combination of wood and white materiality with a sightly mod aesthetic, choosing pieces that look specifically like what you might have seen in modern homes and leading offices. This adds a sense of style and charm to the impressive and reassuring presence of knowledge sharing.
Photos by Cristiano Brauce
By Courtney • Sep 24, 2019
Located on a stunning country road, in a “ribbon” of houses in Everdingen, The Netherlands, creative designers at Walden Studio have recently completed a beautifully modern rustic addition called the House Extension Along the Dike, intended to give a young family a little more space and better views of the beautiful pastures behind their home.
Near Utrecht is a beautiful river called the Lekt. It is on the banks of this river that a stunning old house was originally built along a row of others in 1910. Now, however, the house is owned by a young and still-growing family who needs a little more space than the house had to offer.
The house is situated outside of the winter dikes, meaning that is only safeguarded on its sides by a lower summer dike. These water variances, of course, influenced and determined certain choices in the building of the original home, as well as in how the new extension might be built.
The first houses built in the area measured a modest 70 square metres, making them a perfectly comfortable home for two. When the new owners’ family began expanding beyond two, however, they realized that they’d fallen too far in love with the stunning floodplains around their house, as well as the gorgeously friendly atmosphere to leave.
That’s why they decided to stay and simply adapt their little house to accommodate their new clan! They wished to do so, however, in away that would respect the integrity and history of the original house, rather than interfering with or overpowering it.
From the outset, the owners wished to expand two rooms and also add two. They wished to increase the size of their already existing dining room as well as their living room. Besides that, they also wished to add an extra bedroom and bathroom on the first floor of the little house.
Because of the beautiful natural land that the house sits on and next to, there were several environmental limitations that the designers and construction teams had to work with. For example, the maximum possible width that the extension could possibly be was only four metres because a very important natural reserve exists just past the home’s borders and respecting that was crucial.
On top of that, designers also wanted to leave “flood space”, or a slight border of land around the house between the solid land and the marshy areas around the dikes below the house in order to protect the house from flooding. This space acts as a buffer between the potential rising waters and the foundation of the house. Accounting for this space determined a very small available area in which to create the addition.
Although this little house sits in a “ribbon” of homes that are arranged along the main road like a strip, there are several openings between the houses that were intentional in their original conception. Even decades ago, architects valued the scenery around the neighbourhood so much that they knew it was integral to keep the houses from pressing up against one another in order to give the inhabitants of each one the space to take advantage of their beautiful setting.
The designers of this new extension took inspiration from the setup of this row of houses and opted to include open spaces that show off the view within the house itself. This accounts for the inclusion of large glass windows and sliding glass doors. The intent here is to provide a seamless feeling experience between the bright, cheerful feeling inside and the stunning outdoors, which the owners wanted to let their young children enjoy whenever possible.
Another unique element of this extension that sets it apart ever so slightly without interrupting the rest of the neighbourhood’s visual aesthetic is the fact that it was built on columns. This makes the extension look as though it is floating above the dike slightly, which the designers hoped would add a sense of extra suspense to the overall visual.
Putting the extension on columns also created a lovely sheltered area underneath. This provides a small patio like space where the family can enjoy an outdoor area with some cool shade and protection fro, the sun. At the same time, the jaunty asymmetrical gable roof stretches towards the sky and accentuates the view of the stunning floodplains.
The roof is actually more than just an angular structure meant for modern style. In reality, designers included it as a nod to the shape of historical barns of the local region, re-incorporating a bit of rustic charm that makes even more sense in the immediate context and environment,
In the interest of preserving as much of the original house as possible in its first form, since it was good and whole outside of the need for more space, designers used the existing stairwell as a base for anchoring it to the side of the home. At the top, they added a skylight that helps keep this previously slightly dark space bright and cheerful, making things feel even more open.
On the outside of the house, you’ll notice a charmingly dark facade that suits the environment rather than making the structure appear too dark. This is black pine wood that actually did come from the old barns in the region that we mentioned before. These reclaimed pieces get their colour from tar that is applied to protect the wood and increase its durability against weathering.
The reclaimed wood isn’t the only sustainably sourced material that went into the building of this extension. Pieces of the wooden frame and the steel columns and beams of the “table” it was placed upon to make the shady overhang are also locally reclaimed. Inside the walls, renewable materials like flax insulation and accoya wood window frames have been used. On the underside of the extension, where a roof over the patio has been created, naturally stained Douglas-fir planks make things feel durable and cozy at once.
Inside, the spaces within the extension vary ever so slightly from the rest of the original house. The older spaces are slightly more historically inspired in their details and furnishings, while the new rooms are cleanly detailed and a little more fresh and minimalist looking. They are styled with a materiality that suits the rest of the house for cohesiveness, but designers didn’t hide the refreshed, updated nature of the spaces. Instead, they let them shine, seeking beauty in the contrast and how the space marks the lovely little village as one that’s still ideal for raising families in decades after the neighbourhood was built.
Photos provided by the architects.
By Courtney • Sep 20, 2019
In the midst of the beautifully sunny wooded areas in Keowee Springs in South Carolina, innovative design and architectural teams at Dillard-Jones Builders have recently finished a grand and comfortable luxury family retreat called Rustic Home!
More specifically, this beautiful home is located in a small, quiet community called The Cliffs. It is a spacious building comprised of two storeys and it was specifically designed with the prioritization of outdoor living experiences, guest entertaining, and family bonding in mind, as well as seeking out the calming peace of nature.
One of the main structures that enables a seamless indoor-outdoor living style is a sprawling upper floor balcony with a beautiful view, the floor of which creates a lovely, shady covered patio underneath. These areas each offer space to store supplies for all kinds of outdoor activities, as well as comfortable lounge spaces fit for the owning family and any guests they might also be hosting.
Whether you’re spending time on the top or bottom floor, you’ll notice that each one has a stunning view thanks to the slight elevation of the plot the house was built on. These lovely outdoor spaces overlook the lakeside setting that was the original draw for designers and owners alike, letting guests see a boat dock and invitingly clear waters below. The whole scene is very picturesque indeed!
Inside the house, the living and social spaces are just as sprawling and comfortable as the outdoor ones, but with an added sense of warmth and luxury. The goal was to blend a rustic sense of style with all of the modern amenities of modern living in a way that feels cohesive and makes sense, rather than making a jarring or nonsensical contrast throughout the house. The finished product is rustic chic but also elegant in a way that creates a rather soothing atmosphere.
Just like the outdoor living spaces, the home’s interiors are afforded lakeside view that are nothing short of breathtaking. In nearly every room, large windows made from glazed, UV resistant glass (which stops the home from heating up too much) provide all kinds of cheerful natural light but also positively idyllic views of Lake Keowee’s beauty.
Around the other side of the house from the covered patio, another covered outdoor lounge area that’s even more specifically designed for relaxation sprawls luxuriously outward. This bluestone space is covered with large area rugs to add comfort and warmth and define its borders. To one side, a full outdoor dining set incorporates even more of the family’s daily routine into their impressive outdoor space and brings even more draw to hosting guests for dinner.
Throughout the social spaces and also in the private and guest bedrooms, vaulted ceilings sit high above all the furnishings and create a sense of increased spaciousness than the home’s impressive square footage actually already offers. The furniture choices, which alternate between wooden, grand, and very stately looking and more rustic and homey things like vintage wicker chairs, build a sense of comfort and variance.
Both inside and outside, fireplaces play a large role in the comfort the home provides. These beautiful central pieces become the focus of several lounge spaces, creating cozy central hubs that help the seating areas surrounding them withstand more seasons than they might if they didn’t feature an extra heating source. These also add another sense of rustic grandeur.
Two primary elements of the home in both the bedrooms and social spaces contribute to the irresistible blending of indoor and outdoor spaces. These are the consistent inclusion of stonework on all of the walls throughout the inner spaces and that facade alike, as well as the presence of large sliding doors that retract to remove physical barriers between the inner home and the fresh rural air on warm days.
Photos by Inspiro 8
Stocker Hoesterey Montenegro Architects creates modern art inspired Striking Contemporary Home in Texas
By Courtney • Sep 18, 2019
In a lush suburban neighbourhood in Dallas, Texas, creative design and construction teams at Stocker Hoesterey Montenegro Architects recently completed a beautiful rustic modern home inspired by art and the beautiful natural area surrounding it. The house was dubbed Striking Contemporary Home for its unique shape!
The house puts a particular unique spin on the idea of “rustic chic” in the way it unconventionally combines style and materiality. Each room and the home’s structure itself was created using strikingly contemporary shapes and layouts, but also done so using organic, natural, and raw materials, which builds a relationship with the land and grounds the space in that whole concept of rustic living.
The home also puts a huge emphasis on the idea of blended indoor-outdoor living experiences. Because the home’s chosen plot is lucky enough to have a stunning natural setting, designers wanted to ensure that the family living there gets to enjoy it as thoroughly as possible. Large glass walls and expansive windows break down visual barriers between interior and exterior spaces, while several sliding glass doors actually physically open most of the rooms onto beautiful decks, balconies, and patios.
These seamless elements in combination with the fact that the main social rooms feature gorgeous soaring ceilings makes the home feel even more spacious that its generous square footage already accounts for. The presence of stone in the mantels and structural details, as well as natural wood elements in the beams and furnishings, ties in the beautiful view outside the large windows, once again visually blending the home’s inner features into its surrounding environment.
All of this, of course, takes place in a home that has quite a modern cubic shape to it. This shape and the presence of polished and stained concrete floors (which is a natural material but looks high end with this shining finish) creates a modern vein throughout the rooms that the more natural and rustic influenced elements contrast with and stand out against beautifully.
In addition to being stylishly appealing, the home’s materiality is also unique in the way it was gathered and sourced for building. Rather than importing fabricated and synthetic goods or using only things they procured elsewhere, design teams did their best to use locally sourced natural goods and reclaimed things wherever possible, keeping things in the immediate area.
The layout of the home was another intentional element designed for the comfort and bonding of the family. Besides keeping colour and decor schemes consistent, the way physical and visual spaces flow fluidly into each other gives the sense a comfortable atmosphere of connectivity and accessibility. Here and there, pops of colour in the form of the very kinds of art pieces that inspired the modern aspects of the home’s shape briefly pull a pleasant, interesting focus as one passes from room to room.
No matter where in the house you choose to sit, a stunning amount of sunlight can reach just about every corner in a way that’s cheerful and uplifting. The high quality UV resistance of the glazed glass windows and doors stops the rooms from heating up too much, but the open concept of the spaces lets the light spill through the house beautifully.
Perhaps our favourite feature of the house is the pool. Rather than just building a standard shape and size of pool like you’re probably used to seeing in friends’ backyards, designers opted to make this one resemble more of a water feature, giving it a stone border and unique steps at once end leading either into the main pool or a hot tub and relaxing spa section. The pool is built into a lovely deck area that has plenty of seating for hosting guests.
Photos by Nathan Schroder Photography
By Courtney • Sep 17, 2019
Located on a stunningly green and natural camp property on the edges of Truckee, California, creative designers at Sandbox Studio have recently completed a gorgeous ranch style home called the Cozy Farmhouse.
The home sits prominently at one end of a quiet cul-de-sac in the quiet greenery of Martis Camp. It spans a total of 5,414 square feet and boasts five bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, and panoramic views of the valley that can be seen from nearly any room in the house.
The house was conceptualized and designed for a young family that still has intentions of growing and expanding. This influenced the size, but also the aesthetic and atmosphere as well. By going with a comfortably rustic and traditional farmhouse style, the family hoped to build a sense of coziness, spirit, and appreciation for family bonding and nature for their kids as they grow.
The mountain setting in which the house is built actually influences just about every aspect of the home’s style, layout, and function. The view and atmosphere is simply so naturally exquisite that designers and owners alike wanted to harness its beauty, comfort, and everything else it has to offer as extensively as possible. That’s why the house clearly prioritizes a blending of indoor and outdoor spaces, both visually and physically, so highly.
In all rooms, gorgeous high windows extend from floor to ceiling, giving nearly uninterrupted views of the surrounding scenery and giving each room plenty of natural sunlight. In most rooms, these windows are accompanied by full height glass sliding doors that work like a moving wall, physically breaking down barriers between indoor living spaces and the fresh air and outdoor living spaces.
Part of the home’s biggest draw is actually the extensive outdoor living space it offers. Designers wanted to be sure that the family really could take full advantage of their gorgeous chosen setting. They built a full BBQ space, a sunken hot tub in the sprawling wooden deck, and a fire table surrounded by lounge seats that are perfect for hosting guests on warm evenings.
The outside deck isn’t the only space that offers a lot of opportunity for hosting and entertainment! Inside, ample space has been included for guests, social gatherings, and family bonding time as well. Spare bedrooms, kids’ bunk rooms, and plenty of cozy seating space are plentiful. The house also boasts a media room for movie nights and an indoor gym. The master bedroom even has its own indoor-outdoor shower, taking that blurring of spaces and boundaries we mentioned earlier to a whole new level.
The inclusion of modern amenities is something that helps with the whole blended nature of the house itself. Sure, it has a rustic atmosphere and a more traditional materiality, but owners still wanted to provide their kids with all the cutting edge amenities of modern living. The finish result is, therefore, comfortable and accommodating almost to the point of decadence; an undoubted forever home that the couple will eventually retire to permanently.
Photos by Vance Fox Photography
By Courtney • Sep 16, 2019
In a quiet neighbourhood in the suburbs of Kyoto, Japan, innovative design teams at 07BEACH recently completed a beautifully wooden and naturally peaceful feeling residential project called House in Kyoto.
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The house was not only built but also completely conceptualized from the beginning for a couple and their three small kids. Although the house is surrounded on all sides by other houses in its residential neighbourhood, designers worked to create an inner space that feels all its own. Rather than feeling isolated, however, it feels quiet and relaxing, like a retreat.
Besides a peaceful home that would provide the family with a safe, calming space in which to live their lives and recharge from their busy days, the owners’ requests were few and simple. As the planning process progressed, more desires and home goals became clear, like an open concept floor plan and lots of space for the kids to move in.
This added goal was what really influenced the blueprints for the house in the end. In fact, it’s what responsible for the complete open main interior chamber. By placing the living room in the very centre of the house and making it double height so that most spaces are easily accessible to one another if one tries, without sacrificing all privacy, designers created a space that’s ideal for keeping an eye on kids (but also family bonding, movement around the house, and energy flow).
Besides the wide open layout of the house itself, the most notable aspect of this home is absolutely the fact that there’s a tree growing right in the middle! This feature was multi-purpose. The first reason for including the tree was for aesthetic and energy purposes; the green leaves add a colour pop to the otherwise primarily natural wood scheme and the overall presence of the tree helps establish an almost spa-like atmosphere in the primary room and anywhere with a view into it.
The other reason for putting a tree smack in the middle of the house was actually slightly more practical. Rather, it was a practical way around the limitations presented by the plot of land the house was built on. You see, the only place large enough for a parking area to be built was at the front of the plot. By the time this was completed and the rest of the house was built to a satisfactory size behind it, very little space for a garden (which was one of the owners’ late arising desires) was left.
Instead of leaving the house devoid of plant life in the absence of a garden, or simply including many plants in the decor scheme, design teams opted to treat the very centre of the main interior room like a courtyard. They even included skylights and plenty of natural lighting through large windows at the top of the house, ensuring that beautiful sunlight pours down over the tree in the very centre of the house.
This kind of natural lighting actually helps keep the home a little more energy efficient than the average dwelling as well, rendering the house green in some of its functions and systems. Green systems and a green tree, which the family expects to grow in the middle along with the family in order to create a very real bond between the members and nature, really drives home the whole natural feeling theme that reaches into every corner of the house.
Of course, just by looking at the house, one can tell that materiality is quite important to the over all integrity and atmosphere of the house. The clearly notable presence of natural wood is actually where designers took the opportunity to get creative in blending aesthetics. Here, the modern structure of the very squared house meets the traditional Japanese style of homes, which fit with the family’s own history. Most wooden aspects of the home are of the classic architectural style that has been seen in the area for centuries.
Since relaxation and peace are paramount elements of the whole home’s experience, we doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that even the bathroom placement, with its sprawling bath tub, was intentional and geared towards building a spa-like atmosphere. The idea behind placing the bathroom in the centre was that its placement in combination with the big windows that give a high up view of neighbouring trees gives off an “open air” feeling, as though one is perhaps bathing outside in a nice breeze and sunshine.
Photos by Yosuke Ohtake
By Courtney • Sep 13, 2019
Amidst the dips and mountains of a rocky area called Paradise Valley in Arizona, Creative design teams at Kendle Design Collaborative recently put the finishing touches on an expansive, angular house called Rammed Earth Home.
This home was born from the unique goal of combining modern, almost minimalist architectural and decor styles with a celebration of the awesome natural environment surrounds it. Through creative shapes and organic materiality, design teams were able to create a stunning blend of elements that, thanks to a breaking down of borders and colour palettes that mirror the valleys and mountains, pay tribute to the very ground on which the structure was built.
The house itself spans 6,100 square feet and every last inch of it is inspired by the rolling desert around it. The materials used in the building process itself were sourced locally, letting things that are actually indigenous to the land provide dwellers and guests with not just home comforts and amenities, but also unparalleled mountain views.
True to its name, the walls of the house are actually made of layered rammed earth in combination with metal, concrete, and glazed glass. The large number of expansive windows, sliding glass doors, and transparent walls helps break down visual and physical barriers between the home’s interior and the natural environment around it. At the same time as the home almost feels like a cohesive part of the beautiful desert, the glass walls also allow it to stay bathed in cheerful uplifting natural sunlight for most of the day (without overheating, thanks to UV resistant glass coatings).
Upon approaching the house, the most notable feature is clearly its roof. This angular structure, which appears to float above the house, is a canopy roof. The underside of this roof is made of a tectonic-like plates which are inspired by both the local geology and how the rocks historically formed, as well as how the monsoon clouds form in certain seasons.
Besides just looking decorative and interesting, almost sculpture-like, the canopy roof actually serves several practical uses as well. The angle at which each part sits provides weather resistance against the occasionally harsh desert climate changes. It also provides shade to certain outdoor living spaces, giving those lounging there a bit of protection from the hot afternoon sun.
The roof is also a place where, in the owner’s goal of harnessing both coziness and grandeur within the house, grandeur briefly takes centre stage to welcome guests. The roof’s structure rises dramatically towards the mountains in a way that’s almost as breathtaking as the natural view in how it mirrors the rocks, crags, and cliffs themselves.
Both in and outside of the house, designers made the choice to conceal all lighting, figures, and mechanical devices smoothly within the walls, ceilings, and built-in structures unless they were chosen and included to be purely decorative within themselves. This allows the shape and form of the roof, facade, and interiors, as well as the materials used in building, to remain the focus.
Another notable element of the structure lies in the way several interior living spaces are arranged carefully around a central outdoor atrium. This lets daylight and fresh air (when walls, doors, and windows are opened) to pass simply and easily from room to room, providing maximum comfort.
In fact, light was intentionally considered within the design of each room and in the placement of the swimming pool. Designers wanted to harness the beauty of how it might bounce off reflective surfaces and water, light dark corners, and change the look of certain spaces as shadows move about the house during the day’s progression. The entire pool area, for example, is dynamic but also remains zen-like throughout the day.
From the modern, almost minimalist bathrooms to the home office, this home is so clearly inspired by and blended into its surroundings that the overall sense is one of pleasant cohesiveness. Despite its contemporary nature, no warmth or coziness is lost in the home’s interior; in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Photos by Alexander Vertikoff
By Courtney • Sep 12, 2019
Along the shoes of a beautiful seaside setting in Vietnam, creative design teams at Nemo Studio have recently finished a beautiful housing project called Bienhouse for a leading rental company in the area.
More specifically, the beautiful new property is located in Ha Long Bay. Originally, the house was built and finished in an unfurnished way, as all houses for the company, Vinhomes, are. On the outside, this house is grand, modern, and stunning, but it does bear a brand recognizable resemblance to many of their other properties in the area.
In this case, it’s the interior that really sets the home apart and brings out the character of the place itself and the influence of the area surrounding it. Now that new tenants have moved in and added their own personal touches, the character of the home shines even more brightly and some of the best features are really showcased.
Of course, one of the very best things that the house has to offer is a stunning, broad view of the beach and its surrounding magnificent landscape. This view can be enjoyed from countless windows in the house and also from a lovely rooftop deck that provides plenty of fresh air and a veritable boat show of the boardwalk and yacht activity just a short way from the house.
Inside the house, the design is clean, neutral, and neat. The spa-like palette was chosen very intentionally in an attempt to make the atmosphere inside the house just as centred on relaxation as the one outside on the beach. The shapes and dimensions of the furnishings, structures, storage spaces, and so on, were created with calculation and great consideration because, at the same time as designers wanted the house to feel like a retreat, they also wanted it to be optimally arranged, organized, and efficient, minimizing clutter and making sense in order to reduce daily stress.
Another very intentional choice was the placement of large windows and big sliding doors that feel as though a barrier between the interior and the stunning beaches outside is being removed. The purpose of these many openings was to let residents feel as though they have access to the beach from essentially anywhere in the house.
For those places where beach access simply wasn’t possible, designers wanted to at least build a thoroughly beach atmosphere within the home, but not the stereotypically kitschy kind you’ve probably seen before. They aimed for more of an upscale, calming atmosphere communicated primarily through fluid shape and natural materiality. This theme continues through bedrooms, bathrooms, corridors, and even simple stairways, extending right from the entryway all the way up to the rooftop.
Executives also wanted to keep the house feeling light, airy, and even more spacious than its generous square footage already grants, which is a central theme that they try to keep throughout all of their different properties. This is why designers chose to create an artistic looking steel staircase in the very centre of the house with a sizeable open space void around it, creating a highlight space that really feels like a focus. The uniquely curving shape and bright red colour of the staircase really draws the attention of guests, which is sensical in the space because those stairs allow access to so many important areas.
If we had to choose an area in the house that we thought designers might have prioritized the most, we’d say the bedrooms were treated as the most important! They were created with the most possible space they could possibly be allotted within the home’s overall square footage, but they were also intentionally made with a softer sense of structure, line, and style.
The bedrooms are where the spa-like sense we mentioned before really hits home. The furniture chosen is curving, natural looking, and extremely comfortable despite also being stylish. The materials were chosen intentionally for their organize nature and matching warm neutral tones and other details, like the rugs and curtains, were opted for to match that aesthetic.
If you ask us, easily the best part of the bedroom space is the master bedroom’s impressive concrete tub. Because it is polished and green in colour, it almost looks like it’s made of jade, making it resemble something you might have found in the royal quarters of an old castle. It ties into the rest of the house cohesively even as it stands out because designers included other decor pieces and details made from concrete and potteries elsewhere in the house as well.
At the vert top of the house, of course, is the stunning fifth floor patio. This was intended for family bonding, social gatherings, or peaceful solitary reading time in the fresh air. The space is set up well for groups or those looking to enjoy a bit of outdoor time alone and, no matter one’s company, it’s the perfect place to enjoy those beautiful beach sunrises and sunsets.
Photos by Vu Ngoc Ha
By Courtney • Sep 12, 2019
In the heart of the city in Toronto, Canada, innovative designers and architectural teams at Kilogram Studio have recently completed the repurposing of a beautiful historical space as a retail spot called the Down the Rabbit Hole Store.
The first step in the project was to strip down the space that was already there. The intention of this was to reveal and showcase the beautiful 100 year old masonry walls and copper plumbing systems that were hiding behind a rather bland plaster walling. This exposed aesthetic brings the authentic history of the building much more to the forefront in the new space.
Despite the fact that this spot was already being used as a retail space before and is being renovated to serve as the same thing now, the nature of the project is still slightly unique in that the use is dual-purpose. Rather than housing a singular company, the space is actually now a co-location shared by a plant shop and a cold-pressed juice store all at once.
This means that the space had to meet some unique goals in order to satisfy the needs and requirements of both halves of the store. Within that, teams installed millwork fixtures, overhauled interior finishes, swapped out lighting, constructed a new storefront, and even did a little bit of landscaping. The overall goal, besides meeting functional requirements, was to create a space that fits the brand and identity of both clients, each of which melds and meshes well with the other.
The typical layout for retail spaces in the small downtown store spots of Toronto is often narrow, long, and a little bit dark. designers for this project, however, wanted to flip that around, brighten things up, and re-imagine it. To do so, they used Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole, from the classic Lewis Carroll story Alice in Wonderland, as their inspiration.
The store and the layout of the building is actually more of an experience than the average retail space already just thanks to the building and how it sits. Rather than having the classic street level storefront and immediate entrance combination that’s typical in most areas, this space features a small frontage leading to a laneway that leads to a rear garden that’s removed from the sidewalk level.
In this way, the choices and designers of store owners subverted the regular customer experience. This is actually indicative of a small and slow but very presence shift by small local businesses to actually get away from the classic storefront all together, reducing competition for space and taking advantage of newer and unique spaces by paying more attention to alternative opportunities just like laneway networks.
The fact that the store lies at the end of a laneway worked perfectly with the designers’ and owners’ fantasties and their Wonderland inspiration. The idea was to create an enticing little display at the street mouth of the laneway, leaving the actual storefront to emerge along the journey away from the sidewalk like a destination at the end, drawing customers into the space out of sheer curiosity if not actual desire for the quality product.
The Victorian-era brick building in which the store sits contributes to the old fashioned but intriguing Wonderland fantasy as well. The old brick facade along Queen West is patterned with natural visual texture and repetition but with the occasional contrastingly coloured brick or inconsistency that looks natural, interesting, and authentic to the building’s history.
The entrance to the retail space is a little bit tucked away, but not in a way that hides the store from customers and makes it hard to find. Instead, taking the path up is part of the experience. The garden outside, which meshes well with the plant store at the end of the lane, lets people pause for a moment in appreciation even as it draws people inside. There is even a lovely shaded bench here where people and their dogs are welcome to relax before visiting the store or when they come out with a juice.
The way the new store was renovated ties once more into the green world in how sustainable it is. Large inset doors take advantage of sun, shade, and breezes and create a fantastic cross-ventilation that reduces the need for powered heating and cooling systems for at least parts of the year (besides during Canada’s harsh winters).
Inside the space itself, the design was specifically conceptualized to address the needs of a food-based and a plant-based business. In fact, attention was paid to these requirements all throughout, with designers fully integrating those needs into the space overall. The teams opted to do what they could to deconstruct the spatial division between customers and staff, weaving the shop and the community that is fosters together so it’s more like a space to be enjoyed and less like a service place.
In every element possible, locally reclaimed, natural, and sustainable materials were chosen. This is true for the structures that actually makeup up the store’s layout, the furnishings, and just about every detail incorporated. This is part of what reflects and ingrains both clients’ ethos and values throughout the customer space and experience.
The space inside is fluid and accessible. The plants and drinks available for purchase are simply to reach and peruse but are also displayed in a way that makes them look like part of the decor scheme. The space feels fresh and new but at once somehow homey and old fashioned, perfectly paying tribute to the fact that the building itself has been standing in that spot for literally 100 years.
Photos by Scott Norsworthy