Author Archives - Stefan
Amidst the hustle and bustle of busy Chicago streets stands a new townhouse with a modern and yet reclaimed aesthetic. Thanks to impressive thinking and insight from moss Design, Cortez Street House stands high, providing new clients a place to both run their shop and live comfortably with their family, each in healthy balance.
The building that the house sits in now was originally a slightly out-of-place two story masonry building nestled amongst more traditional looking family homes. Because it was already a structure that possessed its own shop space on the ground floor, it made the perfect site for this collaborating team for two reasons; first, because this is the kind of “odd” building that these architects specializing in giving a new lease on life to, and second because the new owners actually run a store and needed a new retail space of their own as well.
Most likely a butcher shop originally, the ground floor already boasted several features before renovation that designers decided to keep because they could prove useful for the new clients. These features included a large cooler that is now used for its intended purpose but also as a de facto divider between retail and living spaces. To maximize the large space afforded to the ground floor around the building, designers chose to add a cantilevered extension at the back where they established a beautiful master bedroom and bathroom. Sure, it’s on the same floor as the store, but creative layouts and space management help maintain a good work-life balance even so.
On its upper floor, the house features a second bedroom, a second bathroom, and a private outdoor deck. Extending all the way up from the ground floor, large windows provide lovely natural light. At the same time, the edges of the newly built extension serve more than one purpose. Firstly, they provide shade on days that might otherwise get a little too hot. Beyond that, they actually collect rain water for use in the garden!
If you think the rain collection edges are awesome, wait until you read what else these designers added. In order to make the house even more green and sustainable, the team actually built a Corten siding and VaproShield drainage system within the siding of the house’s exterior walls, allowing even more water collection and protecting the house from potentially damaging moisture build-up.
Besides enabling fantastic run-off and water collection, this kind of siding also bears a natural rust colour that complements the Chicago Common style brick of the main building fantastically. The aesthetic is at once stylishly weathered looking and more traditionally expired despite being brand new. The two materials in combination make the outside a focal point of natural looking materials and warm hues on the otherwise slightly industrial looking street.
As we mentioned, the new owners put the original retail space on the ground floor to great immediate use as their very own corner store. This hearkens back to a historical tradition in Chicago itself where corner stores were essential to neighbourhoods and owners did, in fact, live behind and above their stores. Now, locals appreciate a slightly modernized version of that tradition that has an authentic feel thanks to the way designers kept several original features in place in their renovation.
Photos by Carmen Troesser
AXEL Hotel designed by El Equipo Creativo in Madrid to give guests a different visual experience in every room
By Stefan • Feb 15, 2019
Perched amidst the busy streets of Madrid, Spain, sits a new hotel that’s specifically designed to give its guests even more of an awesome escape than usual. That’s all thanks to the way unique thinkers at El Equipo Creativo chose layouts, themes, and decor schemes that differ in every room, making each space you enter feel like a complete transformation!
AXEL Hotel sits in the heart of a trending area called El Barrio de las Letras. Here, it pulls from various cultural and style references with the aim of giving its visitors a visual experience that’s nothing short of “explosive”. Originally, the goal of drastically swapping aesthetics between rooms was to create an overnight spot where guests can breathe out, feel free, and simply have fun in a way that is tactile and attracts all different kinds of people with varying tastes. Designers wanted to make sure people could enjoy their private rooms and the public spaces in the hotel alike!
A lot of the fun textures, patterns, and colours combinations one encounters in the AXEL hotel are actually a lot more than just fun; they’re really also historical references! This is evident in the way the rooms’ decor schemes, furnishings, and features display styles typical of all different eras in time from across the world. This emphasis on history contrasts fantastically with the fact that the hotel sits in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the country.
The building itself is also a historical piece. The hotel was build in a renovated 19th century building that has long been a part of the street’s architectural fabric, so designers aimed to conserve many of the most interesting original elements. These things include the already lavishly decorated ceilings, some of the intensely coloured walls (as was fashionable at the time the building was first built), and most of the clearly baroque details.
At the same time as they wanted to preserve historical architectural details, designers were intent on weaving in a sense of Madrid’s social and customary culture into the new hotel’s aesthetic as well. This desire accounts for the presence of details clearly influence by or depicting bull fighting, and the mantilla garment typically worn by local women who lived a gypsy lifestyle.
As if a fiery aesthetic that’s rich in culture and history wasn’t enough, the hotel actually has a message and positive social impact as an undercurrent for its business as well. This lies in the fact that the AXEL hotel chain was originally designed specifically with LGBTQIA communities in mind. The intention in creating a space with the queer community in mind was to establish positive venues based on freedom, welcoming of sexual diversity, and prioritizing of love and acceptance.
As one travels through a hotel, they experience a sort of diversion and dialogue all at once. There is, of course, cohesiveness in the overarching sense of wild acceptance, but there’s also a communication establish in the way moving from room to room tells a sort of stylistically historical story. At the same time, the aesthetics of each space are so wildly different that moving from one place to another feels like a completely different place than where you’ve just been. This is achieved primarily by the use of eclectic colours, materials, and textures all in unique combinations.
At the same time as the hotel’s decor references history and culture, it also weaves some elements of popular culture into its fabric! This can be seen on the walls of various common areas, which boast pop art and cinematographic or musical posters. The goal here was to create a festive and carefree atmosphere for guests immediately upon walking through the doors. Guests will also encounter neon lights, eclectic word art, literary references, and nods or winks to various plays.
In the interest of building communication between vastly varied spaces and telling a story even as styles diverge, guests might notice a common detail between all of the different rooms and atmospheres if they look very carefully. That’s because designers actually chose to include some kind of small gold detail that’s only just noticeable in every single room, no matter its theme or scheme. This cohesive detail is small, but it creates a sense of blending rather than things just appearing random or haphazard.
Besides its fancy social lobbies and common rooms and its thoroughly energetic looking suites, the AXEL Hotel also boasts several carefree and cheerful feeling restaurants, as well as its own club. Each of these spaces follows the same philosophy of acceptance and diversity as the rest of the hotel, making them playful and friendly to spend time in.
Photos by the architect.
Family House in Kaunas built by Architectural Bureau G.Natkevicius & Partners to take advantage of stunning quarry view
By Stefan • Feb 14, 2019
In the city of Kaunas, in the heart of Lithuania, sits the lovely and unique looking Lampedis quarry. Now, the shores of a quarry might not sound like the usual location for a sprawling family home, but that’s precisely where the firm forward-thinking firm Architectural Bureau G.Natkevicius & Partners chose to build the beautiful Family House.
This stunning three-bedroom house sits on a plot that was hand picked by the clients with the specific intention of face the water and enjoying the unique shoreline that the quarry offers. Because the shore was such a focus in their minds, designers chose to make it a primary focus in the house’s structure and orientation as well.
To start out, designers based their structural choices on the principle of “screen architecture”. On the backside of the house, you’ll find walls built almost entirely from glass, allowing a stunning view of the water to be absorbed from quite literally any room in the house. Rather than over complicating things, teams chose to keep the rest of the house around these views quite simple, so as not to detract from the landscape’s natural beauty.
To reach these design goals, designers chose to build a simple but graceful facade that features depth impression and lots of detail. The lines of the house are steadfast but neat and pleasing. The recessed windows and other areas make a regular shape look like an interesting object peeking out of the horizon. Architects played with angles too, building certain areas and cornices that were inspired by the shape of a horse’s blinders. This directs all attention to the glass, which once again puts the house’s view in central focus.
The angled cornices you see in these photos serve a practical purpose as well! Their extending edges are stylish but they also separate visible living spaces inside the home from the view line of neighbouring plots and other homes. Additionally, they extended sections protect the glass (which is hardy, but a little extra safety never hurts) from excess sunlight, inclement weather, and so on. They even give the first floors terrace a bit of extra shade on hot days!
Although it’s all connected, the building looks as though it’s separated into different volumes. Each of these has a neat, clean, structured aesthetic that’s quite visually satisfying. Overall, there are three segments that make up the full house. These are the main rectangle on the first floor and two slightly smaller rectangles sitting on the second floor. You might notice two protruding sections that look like rooms extending from the house; these are the master bedroom on the front side, which is visually balanced by the library at the back.
As you’ll notice, the whole exterior of the house is covered in copper tin. This catches the sun and, in partnership with the shining glass, makes the house appear bright and nearly glowing. This brightness is continued inside, where social and private rooms alike are kept cheerfully bright by the large windows. These windows are situated such that a nearly panoramic view of the water is established, but at the same time the surrounding buildings are excluded from the picture, making it feel like the house and the water are the only things around for miles.
Besides being stunning, the structure of the house was also chosen to cater to unique functional needs based on the client’s unique lifestyle. These owners breed dogs as an occupation, so having lots of fluid space was quite necessary. Designers achieved this by including a whole block on the first floor specifically intended for keeping dogs where they can live comfortably. Visitors will notice that this particular volume sits higher than the others, keeping it from feeling crowded and giving it extra natural light.
Overall, the house provides a wonderful sense of blending between humans, animals, nature, and architecture.
Photos by Leonas Garbačiauskas
Diversely structured Girassol Building built by Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados to provide fluid, changeable workspaces
By Stefan • Feb 14, 2019
The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, in the area of Pinheiros, has recently become home to an innovative new office building that practically defies physics. Thanks to Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados, the stunning Girassol Building, a commercial and office space with a very unique layout indeed, is one of the first of its kind in the country!
This building is located on a steeply hilled stretch of land in the Vila Madalena neighbourhood. The goal of the building was to provide a versatile work and collaboration space that would not only suit but could also actively adapt to the needs of a company’s employees. Designers achieved this by building office that might be divided into smaller areas one moment and then opened and merged into larger, more fluid spaces the next.
One the outside, the building looks just as interesting as its functions on the inside. This is thanks to visible large slabs that are supported on each side by impressive pillars, almost like an old temple but more cubic. Visitors enter the building into a central area that acts as a sort of “nucleus” from which different rooms can be accessed, giving the whole place a sense of free flowing movement or circulation.
Throughout the three floors of the building, workspaces can be not only changed in their size but also easily rotated in the furnishing layouts and decorum to face different ways. This helps improve ventilation and maximize sunlight in each room. If a working group would be better served seated facing towards or away from the large, sunny windows, they can easily shift how they please!
In keeping with the concept of being fluid and open, the entire frame of the building is composed of pristine, crystal clear floor to ceiling glass. Employees and visitors also have access to a small balcony to enjoy some fresh air on breaks. On the outside of this balcony, a special set of shade-like doors as fastened to make sure that those inside have the option of less sun and increased privacy when necessary. These doors feature perforated plates that establish a screen effect without making the office inside feel closed off.
On the very top floor, another feature makes the building even more unique. Here, the roof is constructed with thermo-acoustic tiles which help illuminate the core of the building. This happens when light enters the glass covered wood, brightening not only the rooms below it, but also the centre of each floor and a lovely garden that separates the front and back of the top floor itself.
This upper garden isn’t the only lovely green space within the Girassol building. At the very bottom, way down in the basement, another uncovered garden is rooted, covered by an artistic looking glass panel that lets the lush, stunning greenery down below stay visible to floors above. It’s like a perfect finishing touch!
Photos by Tony Chen
By Stefan • Feb 13, 2019
In the heart of busy Padalarang, in Indonesia, a stunningly modern but extremely comfortable dwelling dubbed PJ House has been created the innovative by Rakata Studio to give owners all the amenities of contemporary life while also still providing the comfort and escape of a vacation home, no matter what day of the week it is.
Within this project, teams aimed to bring home the feeling of relaxation and vacation-level calm through the actual design of the home and not just its decor schemes. The home is located in a quiet exclusive residential area of Padalarang called Kota Baru Parahyangan, which assisted in the team’s ability to create an “escape” kind of feeling; sure, it’s in the heart of the city, but it’s still afforded a plot that feels a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of bust streets.
Harnessing the beauty of tropically influenced Indonesian living, PJ House is surrounded by nature and even features a small lake as the focal point of its backyard, removing the atmosphere of its grounds even further from its accessible city location. Designers purposely built the house so that a calming lake view was a huge priority.
Inside the house, however, modern decor makes the place look nothing short of glamorous and creates beautiful contrast with the natural features outside. At the same time, stone and marble textures and finishes throughout the home’s surfaces bring a touch of that natural theme right into the main living and social spaces as well.
While the shining white stone and marble serve to make things look neat, clean, and bright, contrasting wood finishes were chosen to create a warm and cozy feeling. A similar aesthetic contrast is created on the outside of the house regarding its shape and structure. The house is box-shaped with a flat roof, which makes it look modern, sleek, and simple, but it’s also surrounded by trees and nature, which seems cohesive thanks to the black outer details that ground it into its habitat.
Inside the house, a foyer greets visitors with illuminated artwork and a reflecting pool. Extending from there, a lovely courtyard garden, which features a vertical garden wall as a focal point, leads you simply from public to private areas of the house. Besides looking lovely, this garden also establishes a sort of private barrier between visual spaces in the house and the outside world.
The house’s structure itself is quite unique in its openness. In several places, the interior and exterior spaces are blended well by openings that lead out towards the larger garden and the swimming pool. Even the staircase is quite open concept; it’s a hanging style stair made of wood and marble, extending towards the family bedrooms.
The final point in the home’s openness is the sleek, clear, entirely glass walls that separate some spaces between inner and outer areas. Naturally, some delineation is required to create a sense of belonging, but designers still really wanted to avoid making the house feel closed off. This is why partitions between the living and dining rooms are made of pristine glass, extending all the way from floor to ceiling. As a result, these spaces feel larger, more open, and more in tune with the nature outside.
Photos by Mario Wibowo
By Stefan • Feb 13, 2019
In the centre of a Taiwanese street featuring primarily neat, white houses, one homeowner has hired innovative designers to create a home for her that reflects her personality and love for bright colours instead! La Casa de Cathy was created by A’Lentil Design in Neihu, Taipei with the intention of turning a simple home into a happy haven.
Designers could tell the owner and her husband were exciting, eclectic people the moment they met. That’s why they took inspiration from their clients themselves in order to create as fantastic a space as possible, drawing on their love for bold patterns, bright colours, and fun shapes. Designers chose to work freely with colours and materials, making whatever matches they pleased rather than following any strict theme or scheme.
The effect of this wild colour “matching” technique (that purposely doesn’t really match at all) was to create a space that feels vibrant, energetic, and full of imagination. Even amidst what other people might view as colour “chaos”, however, the home somehow feels harmonious in itself. It’s special because it truly reflects and thoroughly belongs to the people living there.
The original home contained two bedrooms, two living rooms, and two bathrooms, but designers had other layouts in mind. After verifying that the owners had no plans to grow their family, they opted to open up some of the spaces and re-allocate the floor plans and rooms to better suit the new owners’ lifestyle. Knocking out a wall and replacing it with a kitchen island, for example, created a cohesive eating, sitting, and storage area that’s neat and simple.
In contrast, designers and their clients chose to keep two separate bedrooms, just in case guests come to visit. In the master bedroom, red and green shades clash beautifully in a way that’s unexpected but entirely pleasant. Light is also a huge emphasis in the bedrooms, making the spaces appear larger and even brighter than they already are.
A similar tactic was taken with the bathrooms; designers kept them distinct but repositions the features inside, re-angling the toilets, sinks, and so on in order to take better advantage of space. As it did in the bedrooms and kitchen-dining area, this repositioning also helps open up the room and make it feel larger and more pleasant to use.
In order to balance all the colour and pattern happening in the house, designers actually did choose one or two elements that serve to ground the spaces and create some pleasant balance. White and light coloured woods are used because they complement every colour in the diverse scheme and some spots of black help achieve a sort of visual anchor here and there.
Overall, the effect of the layout changes, the playful shapes and materials, and the changes in hue throughout the house blends together to make the owners feel at home in a space that was not just custom designed for them, but specifically created to match their very essence. Guests enjoy it too because the aesthetic is outside the norm, making it a cheerful experience for all!
Photos by Chi Shou Wang
Generation Gain, designed and built by Architectural Farm, gives multi-generation family an idyllic, comfortable Irish home
By Stefan • Feb 12, 2019
The Generation Gain house, which is a redesigned and renovation project recently completed by Architectural Farm in Ireland, was created with a unique family structure in mind. You see, rather than accommodating the average family consisting of two parents and a few children, this home was built specifically for a family that spans three different generations aiming to live together under one roof!
This project was one of renovation and extension in its natural. To increase available space, an addition was made to the rear of a semi-detached house from the 1930s. The space was redesigned to house a 3-generation family that includes several elderly individuals and several children, so its structure was reframed and redone with their needs in mind.
One of the first things designer noticed upon visiting the original house was how incredibly under-utilized many of the ground floor rooms were. This was because of poor connection areas between rooms, so opening up the areas between spaces, particularly as one moves through the house towards the south-facing garden, was one of the first things to be addressed.
Sleeping and bathroom spaces were also quite heavily re-evaluated in their design and structure. Builders aimed to create a semi-independent area for the family’s older generations in order to give them privacy but keep them from feeling secluded or unable to seek assistance if needed.
Additionally, a new family room was added to the back of the house with the intention of providing all three of the family’s generations with a large and comfortable space to share, socialize, and engage with each other in. Besides just engaging with each other, this space was also designed to create increased interaction with the house’s garden thanks to its open concept doors.
Perhaps the biggest reconfiguration that happened on the ground level of the home was the removal of most internal partitions that stood in the original house. The only structured partition that was re-inserted after the addition was made to the back near the garden was one closer to the front of the home. This was designed to create an independent room that might be used a spare bedroom without interrupting the flow elsewhere on that level.
Besides the structural changes, several smaller details or specific spaces were included in the new design in order to give the family’s generations various contexts and spaces to spend time with each other in. These spots include the covered back patio that the living room opens onto, a comfortably sprawling window seat that gets a lot of sunlight, and a heated stove area that’s perfect for reading together during the winter.
Just like the family itself, this unique home harmoniously blends older aspects of the house with seamless additions and new pieces, creating a space that’s cohesive, comfortable, and wonderful.
Photos by Ste Murray
Outdoor Care Retreat designed by Norwegian group Snøhetta provides visitors with natural, peaceful healing space
By Stefan • Feb 12, 2019
In the lush forests of Norway, outside the city of Oslo, design and building teams at the prestigious Snøhetta group have built the stunning Outdoor Care Retreat in order to provide those who visit its location with a natural and calming experience where they fully relax and heal from the stresses of daily city life. The structure itself appears to lean towards not just the beautiful trees, but also the bubbling sound of the Sognsvann creek. This bolsters the peaceful aesthetic of the entire space, both inside and out of the retreat itself.
Despite its apparently remote location, this retreat itself actually sits only a hundred meters down the road from Norway’s largest hospital, Rikshospitalet, which is the Oslo University Hospital. The retreat was originally built as part of a collaboration between two of the hospital’s important branches; the Department of Psychomatics and CL-Child Psychiatry.
The space is most often used in two primary ways. Firstly, many patients stay there as a quiet, semi-private place to enjoy low pressure treatment and quiet contemplation of different kinds. Secondly, many patients use the retreat as a welcoming, comfortable place to spend time with friends and relatives away from more intimidating hospital settings.
The retreats cabins are actually open to any patient connected to the hospital for their treatments or care. The retreat is not, for example, reserved for individuals who fall only into certain disease groups (even though reservations for the rooms are managed through a booking system, similarly to a leisure retreat).
In contrast to the monumental size of the main hospital, this affiliated retreat is a mere 35 square metres of space made primarily of natural materials. The buildings of the retreat itself were purposely built by designs to mimic the playfully haphazard construction of wooden stick cabins that children might make during an afternoon playing in the woods.
The purposely asymmetrically designed buildings that make up the retreat are formed as though they’re made of skewed building blocks. This includes the much larger main structure, which is expected to turn grey with time and weathering. This was purposeful too, designed to help the building begin to blend in with its beautifully natural surroundings as though it’s part of the landscape itself as well.
Because Snohetta has long made an overt commitment to creating only socially sustainable designs, particularly when building public spaces, the retreat’s cabins are entirely accessibly for users of wheelchairs and other kinds of mobility devices. The angled entrance, which is made of black zinc, is even large enough to fit whole hospital beds if necessary!
Inside, the cabin features a main room, a slightly smaller room that is most commonly used for treatment and conversation time, and a sizeable bathroom. The interiors are clad entirely in stained oak which gives a comfortable sense that the outdoors have been brought right inside. Natural colours and materials aren’t the only feature, though. In the empty movement space, colourful and uniquely shaped pillows are available to be stacked and moved around freely. This is intended to give children the chance to build forts, climb stacks, or simply lie down and enjoy a view of the trees and sky through the main room’s circular ceiling window.
Should visitors wish to actually physically open the space to nature even more than large glass windows, natural materials, and skylights already do, those windows can slide open fully. This allows damp, calming forest smells and the sounds of trickling water to wander right into the cabin, which is particularly refreshing on warm days that feature a breeze.
This cabin retreat might be a fully integrated space that operates as part of the main hospital’s campus, but its slightly more remote location allows it to feel like a place all its own. The natural aesthetics and open air spaces feel almost magical and give visitors of all ages and experiences a safe, calm place to simply breathe.
Photos by Ivar Kvaal
Vietnamese Lan House, conceptualized by H2, stunningly blends business and home life in open, plant-filled space
By Stefan • Feb 11, 2019
Nestled into the heart of Vietnam’s Vung Tau Province, the Lan House, a recent design completed by innovative company H2, provides a family with a space that allows them to both live comfortably and conduct business easily, each in perfect harmony with the other.
The owner of this unique house worked with designs to divide the house into two theoretical parts; the body and soul. In practicality, these parts are the ground floor, on which the family’s rice business functions and flourishes, and the second floor, where they love together in peace and privacy. The ground floor becomes a semi-public space because it’s here that the facade of the house runs along the bustling street, allowing customers to pop in and out as their needs arise. At the same time, the family’s private quarters above stay just that; private, quite, and calm.
Despite the fact that most living functions are located all together on the second floor fo the home, the space feels far from cramped or limited. The floor holds all the necessary pieces a family would need to live comfortably and with space. The private parts of the house are located further to the back, away from the busy, dusty street filled with the activity of the business space below. Designers created some delineation upstairs using ventilation bricks, closing the space off for privacy without making it feel entirely shut in.
Immediately upon entering the upper living quarters, you’ll encounter a stunning indoor garden designed to make the space feel bright and breathable. Beyond this, the floor also features a kitchen, dining room, living room, and a restroom with its own laundry space. Smaller version of the main inner garden spill over into each of these rooms, continuing the theme of fresh greenery throughout.
Past the common living spaces nearer the front of the structure, two spacious bedrooms, each with their own restroom, rest at the back of the upper floor, with a large terrace connecting them on the far side. This allows for privacy or social space, as dwellers choose.
Throughout both floors, greenery-filled, cushion clad nooks and seating areas can be found throughout the house. This keeps the entire building feeling social and lively without sacrificing family spaces. At the front facade of the building things feel closed because of the closed off, cube-like brick structure featured all up the front, but towards the back, things open up considerably for a much airier experience. To really drive home how spacious this place remains despite the inclusion of a whole business on the ground floor, three entire generations of family live comfortably together in this space!
Within their central tenet of valuing the “body and soul” of the house, designers also worked with the owner to uphold their appreciation for religion and the passing of time. Homages to the owner’s Catholicism can be seen throughout the decor steam, in several stylish statement pieces. At the same time, several aspects of the original house outlived the renovation untouched in order to preserve the fact that this space in its first iteration was actually also the owner’s childhood home once upon a time!
Photos by Quang Dam
By Stefan • Feb 11, 2019
Smack in the middle of the bustling city of Amsterdam, in The Netherlands, a towering residential project called Frans Halsstraat has been built by Cantero Architecture to show off classic styles of historical Dutch architecture, but this time blended in unique ways with slightly more modern aesthetics.
Originally, this building was an old, more traditional set of homes and apartments. Standing tall in the stylish but older neighbourhood of Pijp, right in the centre of Amsterdam, the building was recently renovated to provide a series of more modern residential units that still boast some of the more historical styles in perfect harmony with updated features.
Typically, Dutch architecture has been characterized over time by spaces that are both deep and narrow, which is where the common local concept of a “through-flat” evolved from. In this type of apartment, a home can have two main sides that are connected through the middle to the front and back of the building. This gives designers two different opportunities to relate inner spaces aesthetically and physically to the exterior of the building on each side!
In this case (since this building does feature classic through-flats), the front “compartment” of the units faces a calm, narrow public street where the public of the country’s capital city mills by. On the other side, each unit is afforded a view of a magnificent interior courtyard out the back of the building, featuring a stunning private garden with nice social seating for residents and visitors.
In the particular apartment you see in the photos, designers had to do a bit of spacial organizing before they could really get into the swing of things with the renovation. They first wanted to evaluate how they might make better use of the existing rooms on that floor before changing the space too drastically. They also wanted to examine whether they might integrate some clever storage space into certain living areas to give dwellers more places to put their belongings in order to reduce clutter.
Besides great use of space, building a strong connection between interior and exterior areas was paramount for the design team. They wanted to capture the wonderful view the unit was afforded and bring that inside for the owners enjoyment as much as possible. This was achieved in the form of stunning windows that really serve to open the home up to natural light.
Now that the renovation is completed, most rooms in the house appear to revolve around or be organized according to the “oak heart” of the house. This “heart” is a big, shared walk-in closet that provides unparalleled storage and communicates a visual and spatial separation between two main bedrooms and more social or public rooms of the house.
The wooden closet piece is almost like an experience in itself. When you step into it, you feel as though you’re in a completely separate, entirely wooden structure, the aesthetic of which is only interrupted by natural light flooding in from overhead. Both the inside and outside of this central wooden structure feature storage cubbies and spots, some of which the owners described as “hidden and unexpected”.
Also down the centre of the core is a metal-framed glass corridor. This is where the entrances to the different rooms in the home lie, making one’s movement throughout the unit feel almost entirely continuous. There is also a section where the space you’re walking through appears to open entirely to the outdoors despite actually being enclose, blending interiors and exteriors once more.
Even the colour contrasts happening within the space appear to open things up a little bit. The way that stark white walls play against dark flooring visually creates space and makes rooms feel more limitless. Designers also played with texture in most rooms, alternating between natural oak furniture and sophisticated matte black or brushed bronzed details and surfaces.
The final touches were added in the bathroom, of all place, but the thought process actually makes a lot of sense! This is where designers wanted residents to be able to relax, concentrate on self care, and seek a sense of wholeness and calm. In the bathroom, you’ll see warm wood featured alongside blue ceramic tiles, while natural lava stone basins add a peaceful element like the kind you might expect in a spa!
Photos by Luuk Smits
Concrete House MC2 created by Gastón Castellano to stand out strongly without interrupting the surrounding landscape
By Stefan • Feb 8, 2019
Besides the structure itself, perhaps the best feature of the House MC2 land plot is the sprawling carob tree in the centre of the yard. This tree was native to the land, so designers opted to work around it and incorporate it into the layout of the new building project, disturbing it as little as possible. Designers aimed to wrap the house around the tree’s natural space while still building closely enough to it that a cohesiveness is created between the two.
The house itself is built in two primary volumes in order to account for the space the carob tree needed. The first volume sits at the ground level and houses the public or common areas of the house, where visitors might be entertained. Keeping these rooms on street level was intentional for giving the house sensical flow. The perpendicular orientation of this floor was intentional as well, making it a sort of dividing wall between the private yard and where the plot beings at the street.
The second volume, which sits up top in the concrete building, is where the private areas of the house are located. While the ground floor volume is quite open concept, with openness due to wooden slatted screens leading into the yard, the private areas up top are much more closed in. Even so, they remind quite bright and calm in their atmosphere thanks to emphasis on lovely windows and some skylights.
Because the building itself is made of such heavy materials, designers put some concentration into making sure a cohesion between inner and outer areas existed in full bloom, complete with greenery and plants throughout. One of the loveliest features that falls into the vein is the screened off area that serves as a patio when open on warm days and a sun room when it’s closed off in colder weather.
Besides atmosphere, designers also put a lot of emphasis on incorporating entertainment right into the home by building certain spaces specifically intended for hosting, socializing, or hobby time. The basement, for example, is noise insulated for music and recording. There is also a fully equipped entertainment room for movies and television and a wine cellar to give owner lots of options when guests come over.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about the concrete nature of this home but, believe it or not, it actually had a practical and functional goal as well as a stylistic one. Thanks to its solid materials and shape, the house is actually anti-seismic, making it safer in the event of an earthquake. By default, the house is also lower maintenance, which is a perk for new owners.
Photos by Gonzalo Viramonte
By Stefan • Feb 8, 2019
In the quietly developing urban area of a small Portuguese village, contemporary design and architecture company Gonçalo Duarte Pacheco has built the gorgeously sprawling SP House to stand out amongst the local buildings of Salir do Porto.
The house sits close to the wonderfully mesmerizing Bay of Sao Matinho do Porto, affording it breathtaking views from all sides and any room. Thanks to its plot on the outer fringes of the village, the house also benefits from the slightly more peaceful atmosphere of the rolling orchards that lie to the south of the residential spaces.
Because it leads down towards the rolling orchards we’ve already mentioned, the land plot of this house itself also slopes and varies. In fact, one end has a height difference of 3m to the other. Rather than trying to work against this unique terrain, designers opted to work with it instead. They did this by dividing the house into two main levels, each with its own volumes; one upstairs and three downstairs on the ground level.
Besides featuring the public and common spaces of the house, the lower floor also boasts two impressive outdoor spaces that are perfect for hosting guests, including a lovely swimming pool on the side of the house that gets more sun. These are levelled to a certain extent to keep the pool and patios functionally even but they still blend well into the terrain.
Leading up from the ground level into the private volume that houses the bedrooms, you’ll find a smooth, gently sloping ramp that acts like a bridge from the bottom of the plot’s slope to the top. Breaking off from this bridge, you’ll also find the spot that gives main access to the street, where cars can pull in and drive slowly downward to access the parking. You’ll also find another outdoor space in the form of a sunny terrace.
Besides the slopes and bridges, perhaps the most notable part of the house’s layout is the inclusion of clear glass. SP House is rife with picturesque, sprawling windows, terrace fences built from glass, and skylights that help keep the inside of the house just as bright and well lit as the stark white finishes you’ll see all throughout.
Photos by the architects.
Panache building created by Maison Edouard François as a stunning example of uniquely conceptual vertical living
By Stefan • Feb 7, 2019
In the incredibly unique city of Grenoble, France, design teams at the innovative company Maison Edouard François recently created the unique and stylishly industrial looking high rise apartment building called Panache. Within their exploration of vertical rising, these designers created a sense of spatial evenness and fairness that’s almost unparalleled in the buildings surrounding Panache.
All together, Panache contains eleven apartments and six differently levelled terraces. These sit staggered at the top of the building, affording those who sit on them all different views of the city depending on which way they’re angled and which side of the building they’re oriented towards.
In the building process of this project, one of the main challenges was figuring out how to effectively power and heat a building so thin and tall, which isn’t typical for the area. They also wanted to be careful with the layout of each apartment because, even though the primary concept was vertical living, teams wanted to avoid sacrificing living space as much as possible.
Part of this was done by creating a sense of cohesive blending between indoor and outdoor space thanks to personal balconies, which give a sunny outdoor space on top of the common terraces. Opening the balconies provides effective air circulation and cooling properties throughout the units but, at the same time, will maintain a high level of nice, natural light when the doors have to be closed off for warmth in the winter.
Inside the apartments, designers opted to created spaces that, despite not feeling closed off or closed in, still have some distinction within themselves when it comes to division of public and private space. This is why all of the social, hosting, and bonding rooms sit closer to the balcony, where the energy and focus of the house really draws people, while the private spaces sit slightly further away and more removed, where some peace and quiet can be sought.
Because the apartments are on the smaller side (despite being fully equipped and not quite little enough to qualify them as micro-living spaces), the terraces really were marketed by designers as additional living spaces akin to being second homes. That’s one of the many reasons that the view from up at the top of the building is so pivotal. Few things in the area are as beautiful as the looming image of the Belledonne mountain chain in the distance.
Photos by Sergio Grazia and Luc Boegly
In the spirit of upcycling to preserve historical buildings and traditional styles, California based design company Walker Warner transformed an old barn and expanded on its space using entirely local upcycled oak salvaged from buildings and structured in the immediate area.
Located in Northern California, this large, authentically rustic house consists of various gabled sections supported on the inside to resist the weather but carefully wrapped in reclaimed wood from all over the local area. Known as the Portola Valley Barn, the house is built on a four acre property with more than enough space for its main house (which is the part that was transformed from an original old house), the newly built guest quarters, and a back space with an office and space for entertainment and relaxation with family and friends.
The house is nestled in the centre of a grove of trees, in a natural clearing that didn’t require building teams to clear anything at all. Within this clearing fits each volume of the house and a sunny terrace built off the edge of a beautifully green stretch of lawn. Both the main seat (which is subtly luxurious and even features its own home theatre) and the guest house turn onto this lawn for some easily shared time outdoors between owners and visitors.
Although the design teams wanted to give the new owners a contemporary family space filled with modern amenities, they still wanted to pay homage to the rustic aesthetic and down home atmospheres of the area. That’s why they kept the look and materials of the structures authentic, using stylishly weathered features and giving the buildings a tin roof. The reclaimed oak we’ve referred to is featured all across the outsides, having been harvested in part from old Kentucky barns. Teams alternated this with ebonised mahogany and standing-seam metal that was painted to resemble zinc.
Inside the house, you’ll find a great contrast. Designers chose to built a crisp, clean feeling, modern aesthetic in the rooms to create a transitional experience as you move inwards from the rustic yards. White walls and polished surfaces gleam neatly while large, clean glass windows and walls showcase the scenic terrain and provide a view. This also keeps the house bright through long periods of the day.
Besides the great room, which features a large TV and entertainment system because it was specifically built with the intention of throwing charity events and hosting large family gatherings, the house also features a pool table and a garage that houses a vintage roadster. Entertainment is a surprisingly large priority for a house that, at first glance, looks like a barn! Outside, a stunning concentration on plants and greenery takes centre stage, including local species from the area as well as California lilacs, coffee berry, and strawberry trees.
Photos by Matthew Millman
Stunning La Dacha Mountain Refuge built from blackened wood for rustic mountain atmosphere in Chilean Andes
By Stefan • Feb 6, 2019
In the mountainous area of Las Tancas, in Nevados de Chillan, a Chilean home design and architectural studio called Del Rio Arquitectos Asociados has built a wonderfully tall V-shaped cabin retreat home called La Dacha Mountain Refuge.
In order to get just the right mountainside feel to the home’s aesthetic and atmosphere, designers opted to wrap the subtly luxurious cabin’s exterior walls in charred wood. Far from making the place look too dark or closed off, however, the team ensured that this look was broken up enough to stay light using large glazed windows that give dwellers breathtaking views of the rugged terrain and stunning natural surroundings right outside.
Las Trancas, the lovely little ski town that the Refuge sits on the edge of, is nestled in the heart of a mountainous area that boasts a number of active stratovolcanoes. The multi-story cabin sits below these, jutting gently from a slope and blending quite well into the natural scenery of the area. Looking at the seemingly simple cottage, you might not guess that it was built with several internal water and energy systems that make it run more eco-friendly than the average home.
The development of these systems, which include high-thermal efficiency, stemmed from the fact that this cabin was a site-specific design. This means that teams developed the whole concept, layout, and so on with that very plot in mind, as opposed to some scenarios where the plot is found afterwards and simply used as a site for a previously conceptualized design.
The loosely V-shaped cabin spans an area of 140 square metres within a half-hectare plot of land that is generously studded with trees. Designers specifically oriented the cabin to take advantage of the sun for as long as possible on its path over the mountains. This helps keep the outdoor areas and sports by the window quite warm, but the main energy efficient warmth in the refuge comes from a thermal core and a high insulated perimeter.
Masking this outer insulation are the purposely blackened wooden planks we mentioned earlier. These planks are long cuts of pine that have been charred using a traditional Japanese method called shou sugi ban. Burning the wood in this way is more than just aesthetic; it also helps to increase its resistance to natural weathering, insects, and decay typical of wooden buildings.
The cabin’s exterior walls are clad in pine planks that are charred using the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban. Burning the wood helps increase its resistance to insects and decay. This makes the cabin quite low maintenance to stay in and care for, all while also helping it blend beautifully into its location and natural terrain.
Contrary to the style of many houses, the private zones of this house (like bedrooms and bathroom suites) are situated on the bottom floor of the house, while the public and common space areas where dwellers might entertain guests are located up top. The main entrance to the cabin is located in a sort of middle floor space, which is accessed from outside by a charming wooden bridge.
On the same level as the main entrance, before you’d move on to the bedrooms or the kitchen, living, and dining room, is a small transitional space. Here, you’ll find a wood-burning masonry stove (also known as a kachelofen). This stove helps safely store heat in the thick, insulated walls, generating a whole day’s worth of warmth from a single load of wood.
The use of this stove is quite innovative, despite looking simply traditional and cute. It’s actually an ancient housewarming technique from Europe that is making its way more commonly into certain places in Southern Chile as an eco-friendly response to crucial issues like pollution and high wood consumption.
The outside of the cabin isn’t the only aspect of it that has a welcoming, rustic feel! Inside, you’ll find wonderfully earthy tones as well as stunningly natural materials that once again reflect the beautiful terrain outside the cabin’s walls. These include stone and wood in kinds that are native to the local region.
By Stefan • Feb 6, 2019
Bragança Paulista in Brazil is officially the home of a new kind of housing put forward by innovative design and architectural businesses like Belluzzo Martinhao Arquitetos. Their latest project, called Quinta da Baroneza House, is the starting point for an ongoing goal to take advantage of what stunning natural landscapes have to offer while disturbing the terrain, plant life, and surrounding eco-system as little as possible.
In this case, the natural topography of the chosen plot slopes slightly down the street. Designers solved this by building a monolithic volume that extends as the ground slopes, rather than trying to tear up and change the ground to match their design’s needs. This gave them the opportunity to actually use the slope to their advantage in order to create not only a lower level garage, but even a bit of extra space for a home sauna and spa!
In building the house itself, this team kept several central tenets as their primary goals. They opted to communicate a contemporary style by working with clean, straight lines wherever possible. They also aimed to integrate the various environments the home would contain in order to establish cohesiveness, as well as to pay homage to the natural topography around the finished house by carefully choosing pure, local materials.
In a lovely transitional move, designers chose to line the path to the house’s main entrance with stone cobbles featuring lush green grass between them. This path leads you to a social entrance near the lower garage. From there, guests are greeted with a pleasant pergola and walk through nice wooden doors into the living room, which is furnished intentionally with cozy couches and plenty of seating space intended to encourage bonding with family and friends.
The living room isn’t the only social space in the house! Designers also provided owners with a gorgeously sunny balcony that is integrated fully into the indoor spaces thanks to recessed doors, as opposed to look like it was slapped onto the side of the house like an afterthought. The intention of featuring the living room, balcony, and pool on the same level was to increase the dynamic way in which family and guests might spend time together.
To get to more intimate areas of the house, you’ll travel down a long corridor made entirely of glass that is supported and protected by aluminum slats. Regardless of the weather outside, the journey down this panoramic hallway is stunning. At the end, you’ll find four identical bedroom suites which all face the pool. Past those, a master suite with its own exclusive balcony faces a view of the skyline below the street’s slope that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Although designers put a lot of emphasis on entertaining friends, family, and guests with their wide open social spaces, they also understood that sometimes different members in a family want to spend time or entertain themselves in different ways. That’s why you’ll find an additional private living room and even a home theatre featured in the private wing of the house, past the bedroom suites.
Drifting back out to the home’s more private sector will take you to the kitchen if you move past the impressive living room we discussed earlier. The kitchen is actually quite large, but it’s closed off for the privacy of a resident kitchen staff hired on when owners entertain guests, giving the employees their own more stress free place to work without interruption. The kitchen is spacious, fully and professionally equipped, and even has a nice view of a lovely enclosed garden, giving it great light and ventilation. Guests and family members can access the garden directly from the living room rather than traveling through the kitchen space while people are working away.
Photos by Mariana Orsi
Modern, eye catching Ox’s House created by Leo Romano Arquitetura to push the boundaries of shape and colour
By Stefan • Feb 5, 2019
Located in Goiania, Brazil is a fantastic new project called “Casa do Boi”, or Ox’s House. Recently completed by Leo Romano Arquitetura, the house sits in a stunning valley where the custom tiled panel all along the greeting side catches the eye of anyone who passes it.
The goal in building this unique looking house was two-fold. Firstly, the owners wanted a house that would have as little impact on the land as possible, so designers decided to take that an extra step and make a space that not only revered the land but also incorporated it and blended with it as much as possible.
On the ground floor of the house, social rooms greet visitors with interestingly shaped furniture pieces, fun use of colour, and lots of space for people to sit together and bond in conversation or eat. Perhaps the best part of these spaces, however, is that each one opens alone one wall thanks to huge glass windows and doors, letting the breeze flow in and making the lush green plants outside feel like part of the inner decor as well.
In fact, the greenery (both local and introduced) actually does spill into the house itself; many plants are featured between the dining room and the kitchen. They also dot the balcony and make the swimming pool, which reflects the sun right outside one of the glass doors off the main social space, feel more like a relaxing lake than a man-made water feature.
The house brings local customs and tradition into its decor scheme in two ways besides just native flora and fauna. Many of the stylish and unique looking furniture pieces you see in just about any room were made by local Brazilian artists in styles typical of the region. There’s also a huge presence of wood in the furnishings and finishes and all of this wood was actually sources locally and repurposed by designers throughout the home on both levels.
Throughout the house, you’ll find works by local artists featuring bright colours and angles that play with the angles of the unique furniture to make the whole place feel lively and eclectic. Even the outside of the house features art! The tiled outer facade we mentioned previously, for example, was inspired by the work of Athos Bulcao. Designers began creating the pattern using a sketch of a stylized ox for inspiration (hence the home’s name) but deconstructed the shape of that original image as they conceptualized it, leaving things a little more interesting and abstract.
Because designers incorporated so much colour into the space, the atmosphere is an interesting combination of simultaneously being able to blend cohesively with the surrounding natural area but also visually stand out from it in a really bold way. This is thanks to the use of almost exclusively primary colours against natural finishes and furnishings, making the pieces still catch eyes and make sense when the doors and walls of the house are thrown open so that people can see the brightest standout pieces even from the yard, patio, or poolside.
Photos by Edgar Cesar