Author Archives - Courtney
Mexican holiday home Aculco House created by PPAA Pérez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados as a private escape completely surrounded by nature
By Courtney • May 2, 2019
In a serene and tranquil rural area of Mexico, innovative designers at PPAA Pérez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados have recently completed a stunning holiday home that is designed to blend into its surroundings and provide its dwellers with as authentic and relaxing a natural experience as possible.
The house is intended to be a home away from home that feels completely disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life. The Aculco project was specifically designed to be used as a resting space, taking full advantage of the scientifically proven calming effects of natural environments. Here, those are provided by a lightly wooded area and a series of extremely impressive cliffs.
Originally, this structure was an abandoned old stone house that stood on land with absentee owners. Two brothers who were out on a climbing trip stumbled upon it by accident and fell completely in love with the area. They soon purchased the plot and home and hired this team to transform it into the holiday home it is today.
This, of course, was not before they cared for the land around the building for a number of years until they felt it was rehabilitated and ready for respectful change. Having reforested the area, they were able to replenish the natural setting to its peak lusciousness. By starting with the land and adjusting the house later, the brothers and their design team built a dialogue between the building and the land.
As the team tackled the house, they opted to interfere with its natural beauty and history as little as possible. Of course, maintenance was done to ensure that the house withstands the test of time and weathers well from here on out. Construction that did take place was done using locally sourced quarry blocks of the same kind that were there already.
These same blocks were also used to cover the floor of the house, which was a mud floor when the brothers first encountered it. Wood framing and detail and glass windows have been added, but the materiality that was already there has been largely preserved in the state it was already in, so long as that state was good and solid.
Now that the home is finished, it presents a stunning space that opens out entirely into its natural surroundings thanks to opening wooden shutters and sliding glass doors in each wall. The house is linear in shape with a bedroom that leads around a separating wall into a main living space and finally into a fully equipped kitchen.
The spaces in the homes interiors are wide open and have simple, easy flow throughout, with simple markers that delineate the rooms by their function without actually blocking them from one another in any way. This helps with air and sunlight flow as much as movement, letting the natural light from the wide open doors and the big, new windows reach every corner.
Photos by Rafael Gamo
On the Northern slope of a lake in Rinihue, Chile, is the recently finished House MP of Rinihue Lake, designed and created by Del Campo – Labbe. This house sits on a remote road that starts right at the mouth of the San Pedro River. The house bears a stunningly wooden interior that contrasts well with its darker metal facade.
Building a house on this particular plot of land was desirable because of its beauty but challenging for several reasons. The first was that the best view the land provides is to the south but the best light pours in from the north, making angles and window placements require special consideration.
The second challenge the plot presented comes in the form of its sizeable slope. Where the land slopes downward, it also features two incredibly large and extremely old oak trees. Designers chose to respect this space as much as possible, avoiding building too close to it by marking it out specifically as a place for outdoor activities and relaxation.
In addition to these special considerations related to the land, designers wanted to take the owners’ priorities into account throughout their whole process planning process as well. The owners made it known from the beginning that they wanted to designate equal space in their home’s interior for hosting guests (the public and common spaces) and for enjoying time to themselves (the private spaces).
The intention here was to give themselves a home that feels equally social and serene, with free connection between the two spaces but also enough delineation that a true sense of collective or relaxation can be achieved whenever it’s needed. The house spans 160 square metres with the private areas raised slightly, accessible by stairs both inside and outside.
From those outdoor staircases to the private spaces, owners can also access a stunning outdoor space that gives them a lovely view of greenery surrounding the house and its land. This space is a sort of covered patio that is created entirely from the same smoothed wood that the floor, walls, and most of the furnishings and surfaces are also made from.
This patio, like the house at large, is clad in dark metal on its outside, like it’s been fully wrapped in something almost protective. This overhang structure gives the patio seats a comfortable shade that can still be reached by the warmth and breeze on a pleasant summer day.
The outer stairs that don’t lead to outdoor patio spaces like the one we’ve described or outer access doors for the private space lead to the parts of the land near the ground floor that are level, making the slope easier to climb so that the leisure space near the trees can be accessed more safely.
Overall, the house is decorated in a way that’s intended to emanate warmth. This is perfectly depicted in the main living room, where mid-century inspired seating is covered in throw pillows and faux furs, surrounding my smooth wood, and situated perfectly for socializing, all centred around a fantastically rustic influenced but modernly shaped wood burning stove.
Photos by Francisco Delpiano
By Courtney • Apr 30, 2019
On the first floor of a Pombaline style building in the middle of Lisboa in Portugal, innovative architectural and design teams at SER-ra recently refreshed a stunning apartment called The Apartment in Santa Apolonia.
In its original condition, the apartments in this building had fallen entirely to the whims of time, showing great marks of wear and tear or the ways that owners from days auld had made changes according to their needs. Not that this particular apartment had been taken on by brand new owners from outside the area, it was time for a fresh start for both them and the space.
Because the apartment was being all but stripped and rebuilt in terms of materiality and aesthetic, owners and designers were quite free to establish the kind of space they pleased. They opted for one that is slightly Scandinavian inspired, with lots of clean, white surfaces and smooth wooden details and finishes.
The combination of stark and warm materials creates a stunning contrast within the space before it’s even been furnished or decorated. Character is added by cross braced wooden columns that hearken back to older styles of interior decor in the area but look more like a modern throwback against the white around them here in this context.
These crossed columns might look like they’ve been installed for support, but that’s not entirely the case. At the same, they’re not purely decorative either! These beams are demarcations of space; rather than install doors that might close off living spaces from private spaces in a small apartment meant for singular persons or those who want to share closely, these beams provide visual delineation from room to room.
In fact, the emphasis on openness and freedom of flow in this apartment were so important that flexibility and transparency were listed as the top priorities. Even so, everyone involved understood that sometimes privacy is absolutely necessary, so sliding doors between the living room and bedroom are installed, left to recede into the wall more often than not.
On top of being flexible, the space is also very bright. This is helped along by the presence of not just sizeable windows but also glass doors leading to a small private balcony. This little outdoor space ensures that the apartment gets enough fresh air and natural light and, despite the fact that the apartment is only one floor up from the ground floor, it provides a lovely urban view of the buildings surrounding its inner space.
Photos by emontenegro / architectural photography
Stilted V|M House created by WINTERI Arquitectura to overlook the water just beyond its grassy slope
By Courtney • Apr 29, 2019
At the basin of a lake and high up on wooden stilts, the V|M House, a house designed and built by WINTERI Arquitectura, provides a relaxing space specifically intended for relaxing escape and meditation.
The house is located in El Totoral in Chile, on the edges of Lake Llanquihue. It perches respectfully and light on a large slope lush with greenery and surrounded by agricultural fields that have a long history of generous crops behind them. The area isn’t actively producing crops anymore, but it still has a sense of farming charm about it; many of the original warehouses have been preserved where they’ve always stood.
The warehouses in the distance of the house do more than just contribute to the character of the area. They also hearken back to the history of the local land beyond its involvement in farming and crops. They also serve as a staunch reminder of the colonization of the area. In less melancholy terms, they contribute depth to V|M House’s view of the lake below it and the volcanoes by the horizon beyond.
In building the base structure of this house, designers wanted to work with the state and natural curvature of the land wherever possible, rather than building into or against it. This is how the raised and stilted form of its base was conceptualized. The house sits aloft on a metallic post and platform structure that provides stability and comfort to its inhabitants but also prevents it from interrupting the land with its foundation. In short, the raised end accounts for the land’s slope.
Regarding its interior functions, the house has two volumes. The lower floor is dedicated to daily life, shared spaces, and all the common activities of a regular family and their friends or guests. On the upper level, however, you’ll encounter calmer, more private spaces that are geared towards escaping busy routines, reaching a state of true relaxation, and facilitating meditation before sleep or starting one’s day.
In order to contribute to the home’s sense of relaxation and escape, designers wanted to maximize on the level of calming views and natural sunlight might be gathered into the house itself from any room or direction. This goal played a huge role in determining how the house is situated and where the windows sit. Good orientation was paramount in its design.
For the home’s exterior, designers provided a bit of weather-proofing by encasing it in corrugated zinc. This facade gives the home a strength and durability required for the weather in the area, but it also helps to camouflage the house a little more successfully into its surrounding environment. This metallic finish is paired with beautiful cypress wood, matching it to its environment even more effectively.
The interior scheme is heavy on wood as well. These are also light in tone because designers deliberately used locally sourced manio and cypress woods. These materials enhance the landscape, provide strength to the house, and contribute to the home’s decorative nature.
Outside, surrounding the end of the home that just out onto posts over the slop of the land, the house features a lovely porch that turns into a wrapping deck. The windows all along this section of the house light particularly the upper meditation volume in a breathtaking way while the deck itself provides nearly unparalleled views of the environment just outside the home’s doors.
Photos by Sofia Mezzano
1960s social housing project Virginia House reinvented by 2712 asociados to mirror the neighbourhood’s economic growth
By Courtney • Apr 26, 2019
Located in Vitacura, Chile, the Virginia House update was recently completed by 271 asociados to ensure that the structure, which has stood in the neighbourhood since the 1960s, keeps up with the impressive economic growth of its surrounding area.
Standing proud in a social housing neighbourhood, the building was originally constructed using prefabricated panels of concrete and saddle roofs featuring large wooden trusses. Since it was build, however, the area of the city it calls home as undergone continuous change for the better, leaving Virginia House as one of the only dwellings left in its original condition.
Upon decided to update the space, contractors carefully considered how they might expand Virginia House. They opted a horizontal expansion that adjoins the eastern and western edges of the building’s plot, and then moved on to plans for a vertical expansion. The latter part they chose to do in light steel to avoid adding more heavy wood and concrete to the already extremely solid aesthetic of the structure.
Despite their desire to expand, design teams also made explicit efforts to maintain space in the front and back of the newly updated structure. This gives dwellers simple access to parking on the back side of the building and makes room for a wide, stunning garden around the other side, offsetting the heavy city look that was there previously.
Inside the building, interior rooms were redesigned holding feelings of expansiveness and access to natural light as the utmost important priorities. Part of this open concept aspect is achieved through the way double story vertical spaces are included in the main social rooms, connecting the two levels of the house visually. A light, open step staircase connects the two floors physically, with light wood keeping colour schemes just as airy as the atmosphere the stairs are situated in.
The besides opening up the main social spaces for more natural lighting from large surrounding windows, the empty vertical space we’ve described also helps communicate the different volumes of the house to visitors. It articulates the rooms of the first floor, presenting them in a nice, blended way that gives dwellers free movement while also setting the upstairs rooms off to one side above, giving them an increased sense of privacy or intimacy.
Throughout the entire house, materials have been chosen and blended together strategically to give a good variance or texture within a relatively neutral but pleasantly friendly colour scheme. Light woods used in surfaces and panelling contrast well with black steel braces and frames, while bright yellow doors throughout the whole space give things a personality-filled pop of colour.
Besides being cheerful and sunny, the house’s update is also energy efficient. Windows are featured liberally, but only towards the north side, whereas the west side of the house is more closed off. This enables good passive heat control and works in partnership with strategically placed ventilators that help regulate the temperature based on where the sunlight falls most.
Speaking of energy efficiency, even the wooden cladding you see on the home’s exterior is actually a ventilated wall system! It both gives the home an elegant outer finish and stops loss of heat from the home’s exterior on colder days. The overall effect is cost effective and quite sophisticated looking.
In short, the updated house communicates much more cohesively with its surrounding neighbourhood visually than it did before the designers’ intervention, providing dwellers with a space that’s both sustainable and fitting of its immediate urban context!
Photos by Pablo Casals Aguirre
By Courtney • Apr 25, 2019
In the city of Tuzla, in Turkey’s Tepeören Region, a beautiful new apartment project was recently completed in a lovely modern complex by theCATwork. The newest interior dwelling, which was updated from the original 1990s space, is perfectly sized for a small family. It is also the stuff dreams are made of for those who adore marble finishes!
The complex itself is comprised of approximately 100 different spaces constructed within impressive looking light steel buildings. The way the clean, white marble interiors contrast with the outer steel frames of the building itself are nothing short of breathtaking. Inside, conceptions of where certain rooms and functions should sit in the average house have been handled flexibly, giving the space a bit of a sense of unconventionality.
For example, rather than establishing the kitchen as the central functioning room of the ground floor, like you’d see in most homes, designs chose to create an open concept, free-flowing, and flexibly functional space that allows dwellers to drift easily between the drawing room and dinner area, which are connected entirely. Rather than creating a lack of delineation, this space builds a sense of cohesiveness between the home’s rooms.
Despite the emphasis on open spaces in some rooms of A 620, there is clear, effective delineation of space and function elsewhere. The drawing room is the perfect example of what we mean! Here, a lovely atrium is separated from a social lounge room by a beautiful raise fireplace, creating a difference in space even though the rooms are not closed off from one another.
This sense of lovely finishes, cohesive aesthetics, and free flowing space doesn’t just exist within the walls of the home; it actually extends into the outdoor spaces as well. The veranda, which sits off the social living areas, is a semi-open space with a barbecue station and swimming pool. The doors leading to this space open fully wide, giving the indoor areas amazing natural light and allowing the indoor and outdoor spaces to be melded together as one on warm days.
The materials used to build this home were selected carefully and chosen based on their natural qualities. Obviously breathtaking grey marble was a huge feature, but light wood and darker granite are also alternated in certain spaces to give a sense of balance and grounding and give the marble something to stand out against so its beauty shines even more.
To keep things looking homey but modern, designers purposely changed aesthetics in certain rooms to really delineate personal spaces and add a pop of personality depending on who will dwell there. This is evident sweetly in the use of pastel pink in a little girl’s bedroom; aesthetics from the rest of the house can be seen but her own style is prominent as well.
Despite the emphasis on natural light, which is abundant in A 602, designers also chose to include several unique and modern looking light fixtures in all kinds of places; as wall mounts, ceiling pendants, and even under some stairs. This keeps extra light bounding off the pristine marble in a way that is subtle and glamorous.
Photos by Altkat Photography
Angular House GM in Chile designed by EXTCO to work with the local topography, instead of against it
By Courtney • Apr 24, 2019
In the rolling rural area of Puerto Varas, Chile, the stunning House GM, which is just as angular and decorative as it is solid and comfortable, was recently completed by cutting edge design teams at EXTCO.
Technically, the area that the house actually sits in is part of a city. Because it sits on the outskirts, however, the atmosphere is a little more rural and country inspired, which is part of the reason for the home’s unique shape and foundation. The land rolls and dips in several places but designers wanted to build something that interrupted the natural habitats there as little as possible, so they chose a structure that works with the landscape instead of digging into it.
The shape and materiality of House GM was also chosen in part to account for the fact that it is located in an area know for being quite rainy and humid in terms of climate for most of the year. This particular spot also typically experiences high winds, so there was quite a large need for a solid foundation and strong material choices. Making these decisions as also influenced by the fact that the project had a relatively low budget and required cost efficient choices wherever possible.
To keep the house level across uneven land, it was built raised slightly on stilts, like a wooden deck but all throughout. In some places the stilts are very short and the house sits low to the ground, while in others it looks as though it is raised very high up. This keeps the interior floors and the deck space surrounding the outside of the exterior even for walking on and furnishing, while letting the land slope below the only available spot to fit an entire house relatively uninterrupted.
In this way, the structure of the house provides quite a lot of visual appeal without even really trying to be decorative. So does the way floor to ceiling windows are featured in each end of the house to keep it well and naturally lit with sunlight, but decks and those same windows are simultaneously shaded from wind and rain by large alcove style overhands in the peaked roof.
The way the roof itself peaks upward, standing so tall in its solid frame made of reclaimed local wood throughout the interior and exterior, is more than just nice to look at; it’s also an homage to the typical architectural style of the area. Designers added a few extra, super fun touches to the outside to make it stand out, though. For example, a kids’ slide hooks to the edge of the deck at one end, letting dwellers slid down from the raised portion of the house rather than just using the stairs. These neat, modern details create a cool contrast with the seemingly rural wooden style and cultural shape of the rest of the house.
Because the house was built for a busy young family, the layout of its interior was pegged as needing free flow and open spaces that are good for moving between rooms, communicating, and bonding. The light shades (primarily white and light, natural wooden colours) of the interior decor scheme contrast well with the darker wood of the facade outside, making the rooms feel like and airy in combination with those lovely big windows we mentioned earlier. This helps the atmosphere stay cheerful during long, grey days of rain during certain seasons.
At the same time as the light interior benefits the family, the dark exterior does as well! In certain places, black plates have been place to absorb as much heat as possible from the day’s sunlight in order to keep the house’s temperature regulated as well as possible, making the house more green and less reliant on mechanical heating and cooling systems.
In the event that a chilly day means the black insulation plates aren’t enough, the family can gather around the central wood burning stove that sits in the middle of the primary social space. Besides looking fantastically decorative in a sort of locally rustic way (you might notice the lumber piled on the deck to keep the stove running adding a particular character to the outdoor space as well), this piece also heats the inside from the centre outward whenever necessary.
Photos by Marcos Zegers
Classic examples of traditional Scandinavian architecture styles in apartments across the world get raving acclaim worldwide
By Courtney • Apr 23, 2019
Across the world, stunning Scandinavian style influenced apartments have been garnering praise for their layout and decor. Innovative designs in new cities have been harnessing lovely traditional techniques and pieces in order to create apartments and living spaces that are charming, comfortable, and nothing short of stunning.
Although there are hundreds of apartments across the world that might fall into this unique category, three in particular stand out as shining examples of Scandinavian architecture and decor located in other countries. While an apartment in Vietnam employs typical Scandinavian colour schemes like pops of teal mixed with deep browns, another located in Poland interprets the same style through darker colours blended seamlessly with natural wood tones. A third space keeps that classic wooden element in place but replaces the bright and dark colour hues with brushes of soft greys and blush pink, for a modern take on the style.
The first apartment that beautifully exemplifies Scandinavian influenced styles in international spaces is this on in Vietnam, designed and created by Puzzle Studio.
Here, stunning pops of bright, jewel toned teal contrast starkly and beautifully with rich brown shades and finishes, adding dept to the space in a way that’s very typical of Scandinavian inspired home decor techniques. Geometric shapes are also paramount to the style and this is incorporated here in the form of several uniquely shaped coffee tables.
Straight-edged geometry isn’t the only shaping typical of a Scandinavian home, however. Many contain rounded, circular, and spherical shapes instead of or alongside those angular pieces. This particular apartment features both themes, as you can see in the circle pattern backsplash in the kitchen or the elliptically shaped wall sign that’s been hung for a bit of whimsical detail.
To take the element of rounded shapes and lovely curved lines even further, designers included several stunning arched panels that make up a decorative screen as you move towards the dining room. Rather than contrasting, for once, these complement a lovely modern chandelier that hangs over the dining set and features spherical glass globe shades that mimic the shape of the table.
That arched shape concept extends from the dining room and flows down the hallway in the form of pretty alcoved entryways from room to room. Similarly to how the chandelier lights the arching table, now some wall cupboard lighting gives a warm glow to alcoves and spaces elsewhere while also providing mod looking storage.
In the kitchen, the warmer shades in the fantastically visual backsplash are highlighted by the warmer tone of the kitchen cupboards. Contrasting light and dark tones is, of course, are another central tenet of Scandinavian style, and this space is a fantastic example of those. White shelving units provide storage along the full height of the room but also created balance with the darker base cupboards we mentioned previously, both making the backsplash pattern pop.
Sitting right between the actual cooking space of the kitchen and the lounge where the colour pops draw the eye is a casual island that is often used as a breakfast spot. This space features high bar stools that are very mod looking and convenient, but is also home to a wonderfully bright teal shelving unit. This piece gives a sort of decorative transition between the kitchen and living room, blending teal tones in before you get to the bulk of the accents or the place where they phase out.
This next stunning apartment was a collaboration between several different designers, furnished with their most recent works created in the proper decorative style to suit the aesthetic. Located in The Ukraine, it was put together by entirely local teams who wanted to showcase their work but all sought to work with minimalism as their core concept besides Scandinavian style.
In this home, Scandinavian influence is primarily seen and felt in the way that colours, textures, and lighting are played with and contrasted throughout each room. Created for a young, female professional, the space was designed to be efficient and well organized but still youthful and a little bit whimsical. The multicoloured sofa, in stunning soft greys and blush pinks, is the perfect example of pieces that were chosen to hit this balance.
An opening of space also took place within this apartments renovation as well, which makes even the layout a little more typical of truly Scandinavian styles. Rather than a thin, closed off hallway, a more open space now exists that enables freer flower from room to room without sacrificing privacy. This also makes the living room feel more spacious!
To add some extra pops of colour, that same stunning blush pink that you see in the mixed hue couch is mimicked throughout the house in decor and accessorizing. A wonderfully modern looking accent chair, for example, sits perfectly placed to visually divide the entryway from the living room while still remaining a key element of the seating area. It is, of course, entirely upholstered in that same dusty pink we love so much!
To keep the heavy versus light and colours versus neutral contrast alive, since its so pivotal to the Scandinavian style, we’re in love with the way darker grey lead columns define the living room area, with that grey mimicked elsewhere in several lattice appliques and veneer panels throughout the apartment, like in the decorative but functional shelving unit used to house some stunning greenery that contributes to how the place feels light and lively.
The third apartment in this feature is the stunning Scandinavian Apartment by Karolina Wekko, located in bustling city centre of Warsaw, Poland. This space plays with shape, texture, and visual pattern in myriad interesting ways, keeping that deep Scandinavian wood element all through the rooms
Although the primary feature of the living room, which is the focus of the social space, is a very dark section of wall near the sofa, a light paintwork piece has been included directly across from that, in the kitchen, for balance. This contrast wall is a mosaic effect granite piece in the kitchen that is repeated again in the bathrooms for continuity. Although the kitchen and living rooms are different spaces in terms of functionality, the open concept floor plan lets them communicate.
One of the first things that will draw your eye when you walk in is the stunningly sculptural Shell chair by design Branca Lisboa. This is, in fact, the centrepiece that much of the apartment was designed around. Around it are several multipurpose furnishings that are quite innovative indeed, including a narrow bench near the TV that can support media consoles or be used as extra seating when guests come to visit.
In the dining room, that same Scandinavian idea of light and dark contrasts continues in the way dark chairs surround a lighter wood table. The space is further lightened by a long, full length mirror that catches natural sunlight from the picturesque windows and reflects it even further, making the space feel very bright indeed and causes it to feel perhaps a little bigger than it really is.
Smaller decorative details are paramount to the space as well. Around the kitchen, where a dark island contrasts with light cupboards, you’ll also find an impressively lush number of lovely green plants to make the space feel lively, and several light and somewhat delicate decorative elements, like a hoop pendant in fine gold in the bedroom that plays off the bigger, bolder shapes of the contemporary furniture.
This apartment truly is a case of all things in balance!
Photos provided by the designer.
By Courtney • Apr 22, 2019
Every once in a while, a home that is quite correctly named comes onto the market and impresses everyone with its accuracy, but none are quite so aptly dubbed as the truly sunny and ever cheerful Sunny Apartment, recently completed by Svoya Studio. This space prioritizes sunlight as it plays off colour pops and stunning patterns and lets the beauty of natural light work its magic in every space available.
In the construction of this apartment, sunlight was literally the muse of the designers. The warmth provided by it as it streams through the massive, pristine windows even played into the way the heating systems work. In fact, designers actually originally referred to their plans for this apartment’s layout as Miracle Morning, that’s how big a priority the sunlight was!
Stemming from the idea that the morning is the most special time of day, designers made sure to situated windows and rooms so that sunlight is able to hit just about any corner of the apartment. Even in places where the light can’t directly reach from the windows, like the small entrance hall, some solution has been found; here, it’s a stunning hanging mirror ball that catches an edge of light and reflects it down the hall off its mirrored surfaces!
Traveling from that hall and down to the private areas, you’ll follow along a concrete hallway that, in its own polished shine, also carries light quite well. These floors mimic the cityscape right outside the windows, making the space feel urban and modern despite its whimsical concentration on sunshine. At the end of the hall, a sprawling master bedroom features a beed in front of a beautifully decorative partition, all facing towards huge picture windows that, once again, showcase the morning’s first light.
Throughout the rest of the apartment, including in the kids’ room, the colours of a sunrise and the warm hues of dawn are dotted throughout the apartment in the form of decorative pieces. The sofa, for example, is upholstered in a breathtaking sunrise orange that draws the eye immediately, which is lovely since that same sofa actually divides space between the lounger and the kitchen and dining areas. Pristine white cushions rest atop the orange fabric for contrast, playing off the matching bright white of the kitchen cupboards in order to tie the open concept space together and as it’s divided by function.
To play on the sunlight themes, interior decorators made sure to include all kinds of plant life as they completed the apartment. They chose plants that thrive in sunny indoor spaces, so the greenery is lush and vibrant even though you’re sitting several floors up in the middle of a city. Between the bright natural light and these, it’s as though the plants are breathing life into the room.
These plants also service to soften up the more industrial and city inspired parts of the urban living setting. A concrete column in the middle, for example, looks less harsh thanks to the way a planter sits next to it, with leaves fanning out against the concrete.
Plants and bright pops of colour aren’t the only elements that work with the concrete to keep things urban but cozy and homey. Wood is a large component of the space as well! For example, wood effect cabinets to the side of the kitchen, which contrast well with the main white cupboards, add a little warmth to the space. All of the apartment’s doors and some panels down the hallway are made from a matching wood, creating a sense of natural continuity.
Photos provided by the designer.
By Courtney • Apr 19, 2019
On a quiet, rural street in Belgium, STAARC ingenieurs en architecten has completed a unique housing project that was designed to give a young family lots of space despite their limited land plot by using open concepts and working vertically!
Besides concentrating on providing the owners and their kids with open but cozy spaces, designers also aimed to build them a house that is affordable up front thanks to materiality, but also affordable down the road thanks to energy efficiency. Careful plans were laid and that precise goal was achieved, much to everyone’s delight!
Because the area of land that was most suitable to build the house on within the family’s plot was quite small, it was paramount that designers work carefully with the space they did have to make something quite space efficient and compact. To make this happen, they created a dynamic structure that feels spacious thanks to its open concept but that also takes up a small square footage thanks to the way it grows vertically rather than sprawling wide.
This open concept layout does more than just help the space seem a little bigger and free flowing! Lack of solid barriers between rooms and spaces means that airflow is simpler, which in turn means that the entire house is easier and more affordable to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. Besides that, it means all rooms have lovely views out the windows, which can be seen from basically anywhere in the house!
The primary technique for making the house feel open and breathable was to build all of the private rooms around a central open space that extends from the ground floor all the way upwards to the very top ceiling above the second floor. Close rooms like washrooms and bedrooms are arranged around the outside of this open space like a border, so no privacy is lost despite the fact that so much open social and bonding space exists.
To achieve this wide open structure in the centre but still build a vertically extending house, split levels were employed! This breaks down traditional boundaries between different rooms and floors and lets sunlight and sound use space that might otherwise be unnecessarily filled or wasted. The act of climbing the ladder-like stairs and walking the ramp from one split level of the upstairs space to the other, passing the empty area in between, feels almost like you’re in a treehouse!
Within this very open house, there’s actually quite a careful system of insulation in place to make sure it’s not actually left open to the elements of the seasonal weather. A great deal of attention was paid to air sealing and air tightness, particularly where things like the sprawling windows we just described were installed. An air-to-water heat pump also provides floor heating, while solar panels on the roof put the cherry on top of the energy efficient cake.
You’ll notice an emphasis on natural materials the moment you walk through the door; this comes partially in the form of light wooden details and is partially created by the concrete floors that give things an ever so slight industrial feel without sacrificing a homey atmosphere.
Outside, a red brick exterior provides character similar to that of a farmhouse of one of the traditional cottages of the area, but with a heightened, modern twist. Red isn’t the only colour pop the house is afforded; bright green tiles, fittings, and details can be found throughout the home in all different rooms, from the ground floor to the upper bathroom. This creates a consistent theme and ties the different rooms together in a way that feels cohesive.
Photos by Bam Track
By Courtney • Apr 18, 2019
In the bustling urban area of downtown Chicago, Perkins+Will has recently completed a workspace renovation for the Skender Construction Offices that’s designed to inspire its employees to work a little differently than they might be used to!
Compared to their old space, these new offices are much more community-oriented. They have a much more open layout throughout the entire office space, fostering an easier time working together amongst employees when necessary. Project partners can find a common area or a secluded corner to discuss their work in or industry associates and clients can meet with experts in interesting, less traditional places that the regular “stuffy office” might not offer.
Besides just renovating an older space, the company actually moved their office as well, meaning the entire area around the office is also new to their staff. Of course, this requires a touch of adjustment, but it mostly signals a fresh start in their vibrant new workplace. This move was part of the ongoing positive evolution that Skender sees for their company and its employees.
To start, designers actually met with company leaders and their employees and let the people who will be using the space at ground level weigh in about what kinds of changes they wanted to see and how their needs might be met even better than they are already. This discussion process gave company representatives at all level some small hand in the office’s new redesign.
The central feature of the new space is a sort of workplace social hub at the heart of the office. This is where staff, from their private work areas, are easily and quickly connected to a thoroughly collaborative environment with plenty of space for different groups to work in at once.
Extending off that central space are three smaller but still spacious and very diverse spaces that might be used for a number of multifaceted purposes. These range from group meetings, break time, private moments, or simply a change of scenery. Sometimes industry events and town hall meetings are even held in the new meeting rooms at Skender. At any given point, the new spaces might house up to 600 people quite comfortably.
Lighting and decor play a huge role in the atmosphere of the office as well. Large windows provide natural light but interestingly shaped and clean, white LED lights are placed throughout the office for function and decor as well. The furniture, which is quite decorative, hits somewhere between homey and mod, giving employees a day to day change of scenery but also a sense of familiar comfort.
Because the office is so unique in its open concept and collaborative tenets and layout, several industry and client related tours have actually been requested and lead since its completed. This has allowed an increased networking opportunity for all professionals involved while also letting the companies show off their fantastic new space.
Photos by Hall + Merrick Photographers
Publishing house IMQ Editorial created by KLM Arquitectos reflects its multifaceted neighbourhood and diverse urban setting
By Courtney • Apr 17, 2019
In the city centre of Buenos Aires, Argentina, innovative design teams at KLM Arquitectos have recently renovated the publishing house IMQ Editorial, giving it a modernized feel much more suited to its urban location and diverse neighbourhood.
Though wildly successful, this publishing house is small and specialized. It primarily publishes kids’ books that have some kind of scientific content! The functional needs of the company are quite simple, which worked well with the slight limitations of small urban office spaces typical to the area. Besides a reception area and some small offices, the company also needed a reading area, a kitchen, some meeting rooms, and an accessible terrace for staff and industry client use.
The update for the publishing house was a long time coming but was perfectly timed, as the mixed-use neighbourhood it currently sits in has hit a period of transformation and change. The streets surrounding it are home to light industrial warehouses, diverse housing types, commercial spaces, and even some mechanical repair shops.
On the exterior, the building is a concrete cube that has been hollowed out to provide the publishing space on the inside. Rather than looking cold, however, the light concrete picks up the sun and looks stylishly industrial. It stands quite high, which designers took full advantage of on the inside, organizing offices and workspaces between three separate floors.
To keep things bright and feeling airy, an empty column of space extends up the centre of the entire building, with the offices placed around it like a border on each floor. This space spans from the ground floor all the way up to the ceiling, with a staircase winding upwards in the same fashion from floor to floor as well. The cubic shape you see on the outside is preserved here.
On the inside, the decor scheme doesn’t have much relationship with the streetscape outside its walls. That’s okay, though, because the effect is a transformational one! Rather than seeing urban textures and styles reflected in the interiors, you experience a shift into light woods, white surfaces, shining glass, and natural light bathing all of it thoroughly. The effect is comforting and quite playful, particularly in contrast to the slightly more stern exterior facade.
The very materiality of the interior decor scheme creates contrast with the bustling city outside the building’s doors as well! Nearly all materials you’ll find inside are very natural (and were even sourced and reclaimed locally), so the atmosphere inside contrasts well with the industrial street life just a few feet away on the sidewalk.
Photos by Javier Agustin Rojas
Mississippi’s Gator House created by emerymcclure architecture to emulate owners’ childhood summers by the river
By Courtney • Apr 16, 2019
Have you ever had fond memories of a beautiful summertime getaway that you remember visiting and adoring as a child but that you haven’t been back to since? Well, that’s exactly the kind of nostalgia that motivated emerymcclure architecture‘s latest dream home project in Mississippi!
The Gator House is a stunning, sprawling Southern ranch style house that is modelled after the riverside escapes that the owners’ remember spending their childhood summers running along. Located in a slightly remote location off a busy state highway, the house was created alongside a false river that happened to present the perfect site for building.
In reality, the “little river” that Gator House sits along is actually part of an oxbow lake that was created naturally by the uneven flow of the much larger Mississippi River. This serene piece of waterfront lies in a skinny inlet in the river bank, surrounded by cypress trees that are at least 100 years old.
From the road leading up to Gator House down to the little lake, a slope steeps quite sharply towards the water. This slope is why one end of Gator House, which is a long, narrow building, stands on stilts! This way, designers were able to build with the natural terrain rather than cutting into it, while also keeping the floors of the house even and flat for comfortable living.
Gator House was designed as a sort of camp house for spending hot summer days in. The owners’ frequently spend weekends there and make visits during fishing season, staying for long periods of just a few days, depending on their schedule. Their space is fully equipped for permanent living but simple enough to clean and care for that it’s also the perfect place for mini stay-cations and bonding with family during special times, like an escape from everyday life.
Since the whole point of the lovely house is to emulate summers spent outdoors, doing things like camping, the house has been built with quite an open concept structure so that as much fresh air and sunshine can be sought as possible. A long deck, for example, provides a semi-outdoor social space where people can draw back the walls entirely for a warm breeze but also seek some shade from the hot Southern sun.
Indoor and outdoor bonding spaces like this are dotted all throughout the ground floor and all around the completely wrapping deck space. Inside, bedrooms featuring bunk beds and lots of room for guests can be found, decorated in a comforting, homey way. These things are part of what make Gator House the perfect summer retreat with family and friends.
Photos by James Osbourne IV
By Courtney • Apr 15, 2019
Under the sunny skies of Haifa, Israel, the stunning indoor-outdoor residential retreat called House F was recently finished by A.M.N Architecture. The primary goal with this lovely, sunny project was to created a modern, simplistic space that has all the amenities of contemporary living while still harnessing the beauty of an outdoor space on a warm, sunny day.
Though quite minimalist in its lines, colours schemes and shapes, House F is not the kind of home that is so modern that it sacrifices comfort. Instead, it uses light and wide open spaces, along with the occasional unique shape to contrast its modern straight lines, to create a blended experience that draws attention and makes fresh air and enjoyment of private greenery part of the experience.
Possibly the most noticeable thing about the space is the emphasis on windows. In every room of the house, floor to ceiling windows lets natural sunlight dazzle just about every corner (but, thanks to modern glass finishes and good air flow, without heating the place up beyond comfort). Because of the open concept layout in most of the house, this light can spill through from room to room, flowing just as easily as movement or conversation does between spaces.
This sense of easy flow and blended space carries on past just the borders of the house itself; in more than one place, walls actually slide back almost entirely to transform interior spots into an indoor-outdoor experience, allowing natural light to travel even further!
On the ground floor, for example, a stunning social seating area off to the side of the kitchen turns into a veritable patio when the floor to ceiling glass doors are recessed back to make it feel as though the wall has disappeared and the room extends right into the gorgeous yard by the poolside.
Despite all this wide open space and visibility, House F doesn’t actually rob dwellers or intimate spaces or private experiences either. Instead, easy to use shades are installed with most windows and glass walls and bedrooms are well equipped with pristine white doors despite the open concept layout elsewhere. Designers understood that, even in a place where the goal is shared space and blended rooms, sometimes a little alone time is important.
Besides being open, modern, and well lit, House F is also energy efficient! A lot of the temperate regulation and air flow takes place naturally as features like the indoor-outdoor patio are used during daily life routines. Opening the glass walls releases how air and allows a rush of cool air and ongoing circulation. Designers also built a perfectly angled shade structure into the facade of the house on the South side to hide some of the biggest windows from the sun’s direct rays during the hottest part of the day without really sacrificing any of that beloved sunlight.
During other parts of the year, the smart glass windows keep the inner spaces a little more heated while solar panels run what systems must be used. These various features reduce the frequency with which heating and air conditioning must be used, while the panels reduce the need for electrical power use in the house overall. It’s a truly green space!
House F might look extremely modern, but many of the materials used to create it are actually quite natural and more in tune with the outdoor space surrounding it than its actual modern aesthetic. For example, natural concrete is used to make up many primary features of the structure, such as the entrance and the stairs, while other parts of the home are finished in lovely stained wood to create a contrast. Most furnishings are made with reclaimed white oak, finishing off the natural colour scheme quite nicely.
Photos by Uzi Porat
Distinguished new private law firm offices completed by Studio Thelma Epstein in Sao Paulo for a practice that values sophistication
By Courtney • Apr 12, 2019
In the downtown corporate area of Sao Paulo, Brazil, highly respected and innovated design and architectural teams at Studio Thelma Epstein recently completed a high-end private space for a notable law firm. This office space provides more than just an effective working environment for its employees; it’s also a fantastic example of places that provide an experience of sophisticated professionalism to its clients and cohorts as well.
This office had a head start in its pomp and circumstance because it’s actually located in one of the most distinguished corporate buildings in the whole city of Sao Paulo. The designers and client alike, however, aimed to make this particular space stand out compared to the other stunning offices around it rather than just relying on the default sophistication that the space already provided.
This goal was achieved by elaborating on the distinguished details that already existed, resulting in an atmosphere and aesthetic that looks high end and contemporary but also sober and serious, as though you can sense immediately upon walking through the door that expectations and standards in this place are high. This aligns perfectly with the values and reputation of the law firm itself.
Visual esteem wasn’t the only goal in building these magnificent offices. They also needed to provide employees with everything they need day to day amidst the glamour. This priority accounts for the spacious social and meeting rooms, the high windows allowing for lots of natural light, the quiet private office spaces, and the unique lighting fixtures that add a particular luminosity to the space in partnership with the windows.
Overall, the effect here was to created a fully functional, hardworking office that has a generalized sense of refinement in the subtle details so as to almost look slightly understated. What you might not notice just by looking at the office is that the space is also a highly developed tech project. The entire workspace, for example, features automation which controls efficient, energy saving heating and cooling systems, controls al LED lights, connects and enables video conferencing capabilities, and runs network devices. The goal here was to make things as user friendly but high tech and efficient as possible and the setup is actually quite cutting edge.
In the entryway of the office, stunning wooden side panels that perfectly frame natural and artificial light in one place and let it spill into the hallway entices visitor attention immediately. Natural stone adds a luxurious touch in the floor and around the bases of the walls and leading up to the walnut and marble reception desk, with state of the art inlaid lighting glowing along the whole walk from the elevators.
That same walnut element that keeps things looking a little bit understated in a calm, classy way continues into the main office space, where it can be noted in the details of the meeting rooms, CEO offices, and lounge areas. Glass partitions between these spaces allow light to flow and spaces to feel open even in a context where privacy and quiet work spaces are often necessary.
Despite the clear concentration on efficient and high class workspaces, there is an emphasis on break and social time as well. There is, for example, a coffee break balcony near the full functional kitchen that employees and visitors alike are encouraged to use for some entertainment and relaxation to keep them concentrated well and feeling good during the workday.
Even the bathrooms in this office bear a strong sense of sophistication and subtle high end drama. In fact, a client once compared them to those one might find in a designer boutique hotel! The monochromatic palette that adorns the rest of the space continues into this private area, creating a sense of cohesion.
Photos by Filippo Bamberghi
Stunning South Korean home Yongin Dongsanjae built by Lee.haan.architects around a beautiful private garden
By Courtney • Apr 11, 2019
Standing on a unique site in Yongin, South Korea, the Yongin Dongsanjae home by Lee.haan.architects was recently created around the kind of private garden so beautiful you can hardly believe it’s real. What’s even better is that the house itself is breathtaking too!
The house stands in a city, but it’s lucky enough to be located on a plot that has the buffer of larger, quiet, and quite lovely apartment buildings on each side. This affords is a slightly quieter and more private location than most city dwellings have, giving it a sort of buffer on one side where a lovely green space of its own can be enjoyed.
This brand new house was built for a busy, social couple in their 50s who have two grown up children. Hosting friends, family, and guests is a big part of their lifestyle and that was heavily kept in mind during design and conceptualization. Among other priorities were a free flowing layout, lots of natural light, and, of course, fantastic outdoor space.
To account for the fact that the house is surrounded by other buildings on three of its four sides, designers chose to arrange this new dwelling in an L-shape, thereby creating private space in the centre that can be enjoyed like a private oasis in the back and middle. The garden that was established in that space opens towards the already existing green space that runs along the open side. This makes it feel bigger without sacrificing any of the privacy that makes it feel like its own little getaway. A stunning cherry blossom tree grows in the centre, giving the green space some focus.
On the ground floor of the house, the living room and kitchen blend with each other, delineated by furniture and function rather by walls that cut off sound and visuals. This space also opens out fully into the garden thanks to a set of floor to ceiling retratcing glass walls that keep the space bright and cheerful even on gloomy days. Even the staircase leading up to the private rooms feels open, thanks to it awesomely modern “floating” style.
On the second floor, besides large bedrooms, you’ll find a private upper terrace that sits tucked away from neighbours’ eyes thanks to the way designers kind of tucked it into the hallway’s space. This terrace gives additional laters to the very indoor-outdoor theme throughout the house and provides a lovely view of the neigbouthood past the house’s sloping roof. A skylight in the corridor works with more floor to ceiling windows to provide the whole upper floor with as much light as the ground floor.
In term of materiality, the house is made primarily of stone and wood for durability. The exterior will weather the changes in climate well throughout the year but the house still has a calming, natural sense to it thanks to these materials, despite its quite modern features. Both the stone and the wood have been left with quite a bit of their natural texture purposely for a homey, friendly atmosphere.
Photos by Youngchae Park
House by The Forest by cakov+partners is a natural wood and concrete haven outside historical Prague
By Courtney • Apr 10, 2019
Just outside the limits of the stunningly historical city of Prague, in the Czech Republic, sits a newly finished house that blends well with and fully takes in the beauty of its forest surroundings. The appropriately named House by The Forest is the latest residential creating from cakov+partners.
The small, rural area that the house actually stands in is a charming town called Ostružná. This house was built for a young family whose ideal living situation was to have direct contact with the landscape and a relationship with their natural surroundings. The first floor is constructed using brick tiling that is typical of the country houses in the area, but it’s placed on a visible concrete base for some slightly more modern looking but still natural stability.
The house, though stunning, was actually created on quite a strict budget, since the family is quite young. Even so, designers worked with their clients to achieve a space with beauty, functionality, and longevity. The house, though spacious, was kept quite small compared to the plot of land it sits on, giving the family plenty of outdoor room to enjoy together.
Another huge priority in the building of this house was natural light and windows. Slats in the walls are filled with crystal clear windows all around the home’s border and the living, kitchen, and dining room even features floor to ceiling glass doors that slide open all the way and further blend this open concept social space with the fresh air and yard outside.
Because the plot is at the end of the village, the family is afforded a decent closeness to neighbours but quite a lot of rural space and privacy. It is set back from the street and blinds aren’t necessarily always used because the area beyond the plot’s limits is a seemingly boundless stretch of nature. This house, made primarily of concrete and wood, rises up from the landscape without seeming to interrupt it harshly.
Between the quite, natural location, the big windows, and the wonderfully green view, just about every room in the house is afforded a quiet sense of serenity, like you’re alone with nature for miles around (even though civilization is quite accessible in case of an emergency). The way the house is situated lets the big windows bathe just about any corner in natural light, even on a gloomy day.
Despite the fact that the house is built with such hefty, durable materials to ensure that its care is low maintenance, it’s not without its whimsical aspects. The stunning window bench topped with a comfortable cushion is the perfect example of what we mean. It sits nestled in a particularly sunny corner of the main living space with a perfect green view outside, a great spot for catching a nap or reading a book. Nearby, some modern and unique ceiling lights are mounted for those rare days when the sun isn’t doing the trick.
Photos by Metodiy Monev