Author Archives - Courtney
Angular Okada Marshall House by D’Arcy Jones Architects impresses with its sharp corners and wooden detail
By Courtney • Feb 26, 2019
Nestled in the wooded greenery of Sooke, in Canada, the stunning, Okada Marshall House was created by D’Arcy Jones Architects as a calming ocean escape that’s nothing short of intriguing.
The house is uniquely H-shaped, wrapping its exterior walls around two lovely courtyards. This creates the effect that all windows and doors face outwards, looking towards ancient ocean rocks and bright green moss. The house maintains a parapet height, varying very little in its verticality despite all of its angles and turns. A concrete element that seems to undulate actually serves to anchor the home to the rocks, which sit not far from the edge of the pacific ocean, rather than just to please visually.
With the exception of the way its thin wooden slats and pillars break up solid space, the home’s exterior appears quite solid and quiet, befitting of its water woodland location. These slats extend to create a lovely screen around certain parts of the inner courtyards, providing some privacy without blocking out sunlight or giving the area too much shade where warmth should be.
Inside, the wooden theme continues, rendering the house what designers referred to as “a comprehensive tribute to wood”. Besides the slats on the facade and making up the screen, wooden columns can be seen holding up the “dining roof” like a platform in the air, defining the far end of the outdoor courtyard areas. This also provides additional parking underneath in what feels like an inviting outdoor all-purpose “room”.
Inside and outside, facades, furnishings, and finishes are all created from wood supplied by innovative company Shou-sugi. This wood is hand charred according to ancient Japanese techniques, ensuring that it will never rot. It doesn’t even need any maintenance! These features make it the perfect choice for a damp and wooded Canadian seaside location.
The layout inside the home is just as intriguing, if not more, as the angles and sharp corners you see outside. This is because the owners requested a home without stairs! Instead, the daytime and social spaces are stretched wide to lead directly into sloping hallways that curve and lead gently from floor to floor.
These elongated halls give the house a feeling of massive expansiveness and also provide a quiet separation of space that actually cancels noise quite effectively without making rooms feel cut off from one another. In reality, the home is not actually as sprawling as it feels; it simply bears a fluid spatial organization that feels just about never-ending.
Now, the angles and curves that you’ll experience both in and outside the house are actually far from random, despite how they appear. They’re actually created to mimic and work wth the natural rocky topography of the site where the house sits! This angles windows and open spaces for a better view of Vancouver Island’s west coast, which is stunning in any season.
Despite the heavy emphasis on wood, there are some varying finishes elsewhere. The master bathroom, for example, was purposely finished in Japanese black tile in order to create a balance of light. No matter how grey the seaside skies, the outside will always appear brighter than the dark, black finished of that bathroom, letting dwellers start their day on a lighter note.
This subtle light manipulating theme extends into areas where stark white walls contrast with wooden furnishings as well. Here, light from the massive windows is tended to bounce and brighten the whole place. This, in partnership with the way the arms of the house’s H-shape encompass the courtyard in a way that keeps out morning fog, keeps the whole atmosphere feeling cozy and secure, rather than isolated or gloomy.
Photos by Sama Jim Canzian
By Courtney • Feb 25, 2019
On the water’s edge in Christchurch, New Zealand, innovative design teams at Ignite Architects recently finished a public project called the Woolston Community Library. This library is perched on an old, traditional transport route between the village or Christchurch itself and the old ferry terminal.
The aptly named Ferry Road was the home of the original Woolston Community Library, first built in 1871. After the severe earthquakes that took place in Christchurch over the course of 2010 and 2011, many buildings in the area were rebuilt, but the Woolston Community Library was one of the very last to receive its transformation.
In its transformation, designers aimed to keep the aesthetic and atmosphere of the new library in line with that of the larger area. Woolston is a working-class town with a cozy, residential feel to it that has been there seemingly since the beginning. The town used to be the epicenter of several of New Zealand’s industries, including rubber, gelatine, and glue. The library sits on the other side of residential growth from the factories that still remain there today. Designers on this project aimed to build a new version of the library that stayed authentic to the style and feel of the town and the original version.
The building’s design has three main areas: a stunning outdoor courtyard, the main library, and a diversely used community hall. Where a driveway used to sit, a pedestrian street has been established in order to connect the main road to the brand new carpark. There is also a pedestrian street connecting the library to a daycare centre, making the whole space even more useful for modern urban families.
In direct reference to the original building, the new library is made from clean red brick, like much or the current and remaining local architecture of Christchurch is. This new building’s facade, however, is a slightly more modern take on traditional craftsmanship in that it features intermittent protruding bricks for awesome visual detail. These designers made sure to source all their bricks locally, solely from brick manufacturers in the South Island of New Zealand.
The outer courtyard presents a stunning blend of asymmetric brick, exposed steel beams rising high over the benches, and a timber canopy that’s referential of the historic buildings still left in the area. Rather than being fully exposed, the seating area there is shaded by a singular Japanese maple, which extends its branches out from where it’s planted in the centre of the courtyard.
The two main internal spaces of the library are more diverse than they first appear. This is thanks to the way folding glazed doors are featured along the longest walls of each, allowing them to be section off from or opened onto each other and the courtyard. This creates a fantastic blending of indoor and outdoor space and gives group using the library for different things more flexibility.
Natural materials like brick, timber, and concrete follow you through the doors of the library and into its main spaces, but visitors experience more contrast here. That’s thanks to the bright pops of colour featured in the kids’ area! Even the regular adult sections bear some pops of their own thanks to wall art provided by local artists whose work reflects Woolston’s industrial history in vivid detail.
Perhaps the most diversely equipped space in itself, even before you move the walls around, is the community hall area. It’s an open room that featured peg-boards, its own AV system, and spring floors, making it great for events and community gatherings of all kinds. The hall even has its own accessible and fully equipped kitchen, as well as large, clean bathrooms.
Overall, the building is truly unique for the way in which designers managed to simultaneously pay homage to the history of both the site and the wider area while also keeping the project itself quite cost-effective despite meeting the community’s public hall and resource centre needs. The involvement of personality-filled style and employment of local craftsmen in the building and decor processes were a fantastic added bonus!
Photos by Stephen Goodenough
By Courtney • Feb 22, 2019
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy New York City streets in The Bronx, Concourse House boasts a stunning escape directed at children and their imaginations. Created by Michael K. Chen Architecture, The Children’s Library is designed to feel like its own little world, built like a colourful pod where kids can slip into fact and fantasy and learn about the world around them without feeling the pressures of it for at least a little while.
Concourse House was already a fantastic building and initiative even before this lovely little library was built. The House is a home for women and children that aims to provide women with young children under the age of nine a safe place in which to transition from homelessness. The shelter was established in 1991 and, since then, has been working tirelessly to try and eliminate homelessness in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The shelter’s emphasis lies in safety, stability, and access to social services and programming that will help women who seek space there successfully transition into more permanent living circumstances, rather than just receiving temporary reprieve from life on the streets. Besides addressing the practical and functional aspects of escaping homelessness, however, Concourse House tries to provide the families under its roof with access to information and learning resources. That’s where the concept to build a Children’s Library came from; kids deserve access to knowledge just as much as adults do.
The new Children’s Library is part of a shift towards increasing educational programs. Besides just providing books that kids in these difficult circumstances might find helpful or enjoyable, teams working on the project aimed to create an actual immersive space geared specifically towards not just reading but experiencing the joys and benefits of books and reading. That’s why the space includes quiet reading alcoves and areas fit for various kinds of events surrounding books and learning.
The comfortable, safe, and calm feeling of the space was inspired by the relationship between reading and the cognitive development and emotional wellbeing of children. Designers wanted to provide a room that inspired a hunger for knowledge and a passion for exploration, rather than created an intimidating space that might feel like yet another institution. They chose unique colour combinations and shapes that feel playful and engaging in order to appeal to kids specifically.
Particular attention was paid to how designers might keep the space well lit and safe but also prevent it from feeling isolated and small. This is why the shelves are brightly illuminated and the external wall is made from a screen of wooden dowels. The rest of the House’s regular library and resource centre can be seen but the space is still a comfortable little world of its own. Kids can even write on the walls when they’re feeling creative thanks to the inclusion of erasable surfacing!
Perhaps the most beautiful part of The Children’s Library, besides the visual appeal of the space itself, is that it was completely almost entirely thanks to pro-bono work and kind financial and material donations. Something about this makes the library feel collaborative, inspiring, and very welcoming indeed.
Photos by Alan Tansey
On the edge of Lake Constance in Öhningen, Germany, the ultra modern looking and appropriately named Black House was finished by Benjamin Heller + Freier Architekt in early 2017. This impressive structure might look a tad imposing on the outside, but inside it’s anything but uncomfortable.
Standing out amongst the average architecture in its small village, the Black House differs from anything you’ll see in nearby neighbourhoods and anything you might encounter if you journey towards the close-by national border into Switzerland. The conspicuous building has become a sort of marker of where the village starts thanks to its easily recognizable look in the distance.
In fact, the shape of the building was actually specifically intended to mimic the look of a traditional, hand cut boundary stone. It features differing angles, geometric shapes, and a dark facade that is constant over the entire structure from foundation to roof. Despite its all black appearance, the various angles of different surfaces reflect the sun differently throughout the day, making the colour appear quite multi-dimensional.
Inside, the home’s rooms are organized in a way that is sensical and establishes a comforting sense of flow. First, you’ll encounter public or common spaces intended for socializing before moving onto semi-public spaces that might be used more by family rather than visitors, and then finally onto private spaces like bedrooms and bathroom suites. This gives the dwelling a lovely sense of camaraderie but also provides family members with calm, safe spaces to retreat to.
Within the rooms described above, materials, layouts, and heights vary from room to room. Some spaces are starkly white, others are a little darker and warmer because they heavily feature black finishes, and more still featured a lovely amount of dark and light wood, making parts of the house seem a little more traditional to a German village. Room heights vary too, making the journey through the house exciting and visually interesting.
Although some of its outer angles might seem random, the orientation of the Black House itself was actually chosen very carefully. It faces particular directions from particular rooms to ensure that a beautiful view of the landscape and nearby water is visible at all times. The emphasis on stunning windows makes these view almost panoramic.
Photos by Benjamin Heller
By Courtney • Feb 21, 2019
Occupying a spacious plot in the midst of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a stunning dwelling called MMS House was recently completed by Pascali Semerdjian Arquitetos to harness the beauty of texture and shape, all in one unique place.
First, designers decided they wanted to use the house as an opportunity to blend reinforced concrete with the shine of metallic structures. Because they were working on a time constraint, however, this basic theme soon also became the overall decor scheme and materials plan as well! Rather than meticulously planning out a firm and cohesive aesthetic, teams and owners opted to let loose, get creative, and blend shapes and finishes in ways that catch the eye and make people feel at home but also interested.
The house is divided into four floors that make functional sense from bottom to top, like you’re going on a journey as you move from space to space. While the basement level acts as a sort of service sector, bearing storage, laundry, and so on, the ground floor and top floor are reserved for social and communal spaces (family based on the top and hosting based on the ground). This saves the third floor, sandwiched comfortably in the middle of the house, for private sector areas like bedrooms and bathroom suites.
Throughout the house, you’ll find several entertainment rooms, both interior and exterior. Stylishly weather bricks serve as a border for a rooftop patio while nearly retro looking metal furniture adorns a ground floor patio that kitchen and living spaces can be opened right onto thanks to a retracting glass wall. The presence of glass in large windows and balcony or patio doors is also a running theme, keeping the house bright and cheerful no matter what floor you’re occupying at any given time.
The eclectic nature of the tropical garden in the backyard does more than just provide tranquility and privacy; it actually inspired the eclectic nature of the inside decor scheme too. Wood, stone, metal, textured fabrics, and bright, shapely art adorn each room, particularly in the common and social spaces, giving the whole place a sense of modern style without tying it down to a particular discernible theme. There is a sense of fluidity rather than strict uniform.
Although there’s a huge present of colour inside the home’s walls, the actual facade of the structure itself is quite neutral and pleasantly subtle. This is a positive thing because it blends the building into its tree and garden laden surroundings quite well, making the whole plot feel cohesive and sensical rather than looking as though a city house has simply been plopped in the miffle of a green glade.
Photos by Ricardo Bassetti
By Courtney • Feb 21, 2019
In the city of Juiz de Fora, in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, innovative design company Ateliê de Arquitetura Líquida recently completed an office transformation for nutritional company Loja Alimentar. This company provides nutritional supplements and natural food products to hospitals and the general public alike, concentrating on authenticity, ethical ingredients and production, and clean eating.
Originally, the two streams of product within the company were distinct from each other and the building of this office was the first step in sort of amalgamating the running of the two under one head. As a result, designers helped figure out the best way to brand and communicate the goals or two different target markets in the same physical space when clients visit for meetings.
The first part of the storefront and office space (this unique spot functions as both) is dedicated to products aimed at hospitals. Stark white finishes are featured heavily here, mimicking the medical atmosphere that hospital working clients might be used to. At the same time, more neutral finishes like wood and even a splash of colour here and there is included to keep things from looking too clinical and divergent from what the brand itself offers and represents.
Across the space, clients walk themselves through a transition from medically influenced atmospheres to the roots of where the company started; whole and natural foods and supplement products. A visual and material transition happens here as the white elements in the decor and furnishings become less and less and the wooden finishes take their place.
Besides establishing a dual aesthetic that suits each of the companies markets alike, designers aimed to maximize storage and make organized used of every single space available. This is evident in the lovely recessed shelving units visible on almost every wall. Designers chose to make these from a blend of metal and woodworking, using local raw materials wherever possible according to whichever suited each side of the store best.
Of course, colour and material wasn’t the only area of decor the team concentrated on. They also sought to create a sort of personalized mosaic that communicates the goals and focus of the brand by creating custom stickers affixed to white tiles on one accent wall. This whole section boasts the company’s signature colours, looking like an art piece and a branded display all at once.
Despite the element of medical sphere targeting, Atelier really did want to keep their space warm and friendly feeling. Two primary elements helped with this. Firstly, the wooden veneer traveling from the floor, up the walls, and straight across the ceiling served to warm the space up by leaps and bounds. Additionally, great lighting to highlight the products was provided by clean, white LED lights set right into the shelves, rather than shining down from the ceiling and making the whole space at large look a little too blinding.
Besides the storefront, the building bears some more private working spaces as well. Across the division of public and private, you’ll find a pantry, meeting room, office spaces for business workings, a private staff toilet, and storage. The aesthetic and decor choices follow the same schemes as you see in the public storefront, creating a sense of consistency between the two aspects of the business. Just in case this blended sense between the two becomes distracting on a given day, however, a set of recessed sliding doors can be pulled shut to create a sort of makeshift wall.
Photos by Bruno Meneghitti
By Courtney • Feb 20, 2019
In the peaceful forests of Karuizawa, Japan, innovative company KIAS recently completed the stunning Four Leaves villa to give owners and their friend and family a natural escape that provides maximum relaxation amongst the natural fragrant greenery.
The villa might only sit 150km away from the bustling streets of Tokyo, but to visit its tranquil setting is to feel like you’re entering a whole new world. Designers specifically faced different areas of the house at slightly variously angled orientations in order to harness the best light and scenery all the way around the building, no matter which room you’re sitting in.
On the brighter side of the house, designers built the living and dining spaces so that social areas might stay light and cheerful as long as possible for family bonding and friend hosting. This doesn’t mean, however, that the private spaces on the other side of the house are dark or dull. Instead, the master bedroom and bathroom to the west get a lovely glow through the leaves with the increased privacy of the forest cover.
Instead of making space for the house in the forest, design teams opted to work with what was already there and fit the home into the landscape. For this reason, the structure of the house is made up of three semi-distinct volumes that are connected by sunny hallways filled with windows.
To give the house character and style and blend it in with the stunning landscape around the building, designers built the roofs of each volume with a breathtaking curved quality that appears to swoop towards the ground and then up to the sky. Rather than building straight across for the inner ceilings, designers allowed the stunning curved beams of the roof to show through, making the rooms inside vary in height beautifully at different points, following the fluid motion of the roofs outside.
The decor scheme on the inside matches the atmosphere of the whole house quite seamlessly. Neutral colours, clean glass lines and natural concrete or stone finished, and a beautifully reflective water feature further blend the home into the landscape in a way that brings the peaceful sun and breeze right through the doors and into the living spaces. This is bolstered by the fact that floor to ceiling patio doors open wide, like a retracting wall, inviting a pleasant blending of inner and outer spaces that makes the whole house feel fresh.
Photos by Norihito Yamauchi
By Courtney • Feb 20, 2019
In the Chinese streets of Tangshan City, the Greentown Tangsham Blue Bay Town Life Experience Hall was created by GOA to blend luxury living areas with access to upscale commercial settings and fresh, new community settings and spaces.
Beside what the Hall actually has to offer, part of its draw comes from its architectural design and exterior decor schemes. Between the swooping arches and the wonderfully reflective water features out front, the building has a lot of draw and appeal before you even get inside. Triangles are a huge theme over all, both in the plot of land the hall sits on and in the shape of the hall and some of its peaked corners.
When designers first started considering how the building should look and be constructed, they decided they wanted to combine the concept of building a unique city landmark with the idea of following neo-Chinese styles. That’s where the eye catching multi-layered structural concept you see in the final product came from; it was the perfect shape and concept to combine accessible public space and contemporary urban life.
Besides simply looking pretty, the reflecting pool out front actually serves a spatial purpose in terms of space division. It is placed to create a sort of frontal courtyard space that is also a buffer between the regular city streets and the more elegant experience inside. The water is like a transitional area guiding visitors into the quieter zone inside.
Within its awesome structure, the building is split into three main “volumes” according to function. The largest of the three spaces, which faces the main city road, features a living space where units may be rented temporarily for different long or short term lengths. Perks of renting here include access to a specialty catering service and an activity centre that where several different community events take place per week.
The second volume, closer to the main entrance of the overall hall, feature the life experience hall. This space is used as a sales department. Even today it is still in its early stages of functioning and will eventually feature luxury shops, giving those who rent in the hall and those who visit right off the street outside an upscale shopping experience.
Finally, a third volume features services surrounding resources for more active living requirements. These include a supermarket, a restaurant, a fitness room, and a physical examination centre, among other services. The goal in this volume was to provide things that might be essential services for people living in the area but that also might be conveniently placed for those walking by not expecting to find such full service shops in that area of town.
From the entrance to the back end of the hall, lovely transitional spaces are situated between shops, activity spaces, and services. These spaces are designed to give visitors a break from their usual urban surroundings, letting them relax in courtyards that are lush with greenery between fantastic umbrella shaped arches that swoop over lovely social benches.
Photos by Yilong Zhao
By Courtney • Feb 19, 2019
In a busy but pleasantly suburban neighbourhood in Singapore, design teams at ONG&ONG Pte Ltd recently finished a multi-generational family housing project that uses a combination of sleek, modern lines and materials with wide open, nature filled spaces to meet all of the family’s needs.
37FC-House sits on a plot that has always been residential but that was cleared shortly before building began. Previously, the comfortably secluded spot of land featured an old semi-detached house. Upon purchasing, the new owners decided that a stand-alone structure would be much better for their family, since several generations of them live together at once. In order to maximize the space they could give the family without sprawling to close to the edges of the plot and thereby sacrificing all outdoor space, designers opted to build vertically instead. That’s why the new house has four floors!
On the ground floor, the style and aesthetic of the house are evident before you’ve even gone through the door thanks to the way granite tiles line the edges of the driveway. These balance well visually with the light concrete and mirror style glass that reaches floor to ceiling in the home’s outer facade. To add a comfortable, natural element, the house also features teak wood quite consistently both inside and out, particularly where storage spaces are discreetly added in each room.
Social and service rooms, like the kitchen, are featured right up front, making guests feel at home and part of the home’s running the moment they enter. Right from the front to the back of the house on this floor, grey finishes are balanced by lovely glass walls that pull back entirely to blend clean, modern indoor spaces with with the sunlight and greenery of the front and back yards, which are quite lush with local plant life.
Nestled amidst the garden at the back of the house, which the kitchen and living rooms can be fully opened too, sits a Sukabumi-tiled pool. This body of water is decorative and practical, smaller inside to make it more of a lap pool than a swimming pool but still enjoyable and relaxing. Rather than just serving as a space of leisure, this pool also acts as a barrier between the house and the sounds of the road that run behind the back yard. More lush greenery helps here as well, affording the yard more quiet and peaceful privacy.
In fact, greenery plays a huge role in the decor and atmosphere of the entire house overall. Pretty green spaces are actually built into each of the four floors in different ways, right from the front to the back of the house. Even in spots where there are no plants potted or set inside, long glass windows make the space feel green by showcasing the trees that flank the length of the house outside.
Unlike most houses, the second floor of the house is actually larger than the ground floor! This floor is primarily constructed of concrete and is rectangular in shape. This floor is where the bedrooms in the house lie, ended on each side with stunning sunny spaces that primarily serve just to give a quiet seating area with a good view of the garden and its greenery. The bedrooms are simply and calming, with the master featuring a walk-in closet and its own bathroom. Two other family bedrooms overlook the pool area, which catches the sun prettily in the afternoons.
Flanking the two floors we’ve already discussed are the basement at the bottom and the attic up on top. Each of these is accessible thanks to a black steel staircase that is clean and simple in its line but also somehow has a sculpture-like quality to it thanks to the contrast of glass banisters and smooth wooden stairs.
In the basement, you’ll find an artistic looking multi-media room that features a glass section in the wall that actually looks into the blue waters of the pool on the ground floor. In the attic, on the other hand, you’ll encounter a lovely attic skylight that allows light to flood the staircase and cascade down the centre to all the other floors. The attic also features a guest bedroom with its very own greenery element and small water feature.
As with most new homes in the area, 37FC-House bears a reduced carbon footprint. This is thanks to the inclusion of strong roof-mounted solar panels that reduce energy consumption, as well as a system that links lighting controls to a smartphone app, making lights even easier to turn off when they’re not necessary. This house is the perfect example of what’s become known as a “smart home”.
Photos by Derek Swalwell
By Courtney • Feb 19, 2019
Thanks to creative design and architectural teams at Suppose Design Office, Airbnb Tokyo’s head office officially has a new home on one of the busiest streets in Shinjuku, Japan. With its combined goals of created productive and functional workspaces that are also enjoyable, and tying in the company’s philosophy of being able to “belong anywhere”, the team really established a space with distinct personality.
In conceptualizing their space, even before they began building, designers decided to aim for making a space that feels a bit like a neighbourhood. From the friendly reception area that greets both guests and employees every day, to the break areas that are inspired by cheerful outdoor cafes, to the wooden paths that lead from meeting room to meeting room, the entire atmosphere is simple, fluid, and comfortable to be in.
Rather than simply establishing the floor plan and layout themselves as a design company, this team actually decided to get employees of their client company actively involved. To do this, they interviewed actual Airbnb Tokyo employees to get their take. From here, they chose what kinds of communal work tables, adjustable desks, project tables, and private or semi-private phone booths would be included. This makes for a space that the people working there feel truly comfortable in.
In terms of the actual productivity spaces, one of the primary features of the office is the Engawa, or the elevated platform in the centre of the office. This features tatami mats that are inspired by traditional Japanese culture, once again working on that theme of belonging wherever you are. In this space, employees are encouraged to remove their shoes, sit cross legged on their cushion, and face the spectacular view the platform affords them.
In adapting an already existing building to an office group that wanted a more diverse space, one of the biggest challenges was dealing with the very low ceiling that’s typical of Japanese architecture in that area. Rather than trying to build an entire new ceiling, which wasn’t possible, designers created the illusion of a higher ceiling by painting it black and dropping the lights a little lower, as though the space behind and above the lights extends much higher up.
As with all Airbnb offices, certain elements are inspired by different iconic cities that the company has well known listings in. In the case of the Tokyo office, several meeting rooms were actually themed after different cities, including Barcelona, Prague, and Tiajuana. This truly harnesses the sense of traveling the world but finding yourself able to work in any “city”.
Photos by Studio Periphery
By Courtney • Feb 18, 2019
In the rolling hills of St Helena, USA, a stunningly wooden home dubbed Zinfandel was recently finished by Field Architecture. The dwelling is aptly named for its location on a breathtaking vineyard and the whole plot and project gives off a sense of luxury that perfectly blends with natural, homey relaxation.
Zinfandel house was created specifically for a young couple who wanted a break from city life. When they found the old vineyard, which is nestled not far from Napa Valley, they simply couldn’t pass up the Mayacama view and they knew that’s where they wanted to settle and grow their family. That’s why designers opted to make them a home that suits both small family evenings and large social gatherings without feeling either crowded or isolated; it’ll suit the family’s needs no matter how it grows and changes.
Because they had the space to work with, enveloped in rolling fields there on the valley floor, designers created the home like a series of small, connected buildings. Rather than feeling too divided, however, they organized it so that the rooms and their functions make perfect, comfortable sense as you move through the house upon entering. The house is flanked on each side by beautifully towering trees and the central courtyard, which gets the most sun, features a lovely pool that’s impressively modern compared to the wooden structures, establishing a fantastic contrast in aesthetic.
Materially, the house communicates well with the land. The timber and metal put into it were primarily local, giving the structure a neutral colour that suits the mountainous scenery around the valley. The history of the original site is preserved in both this aesthetic and the fact that the property still boasts the very same barn that was first built there decades ago, giving the plot a sense of authenticity.
Far from making the inside feel heavy or dark because of all the wood, designers created a home that’s full of natural valley sunlight thanks to an emphasis on skylights and large, view-giving windows. The roof in which the skylights are set is a singular slab of thing metal that peaks gently in the middle, mimicking the shape of the mountain peaks all around in the distance.
The decor scheme on the inside follows the same ongoing trend of balancing perfectly somewhere between modern and repurposed or traditional looking. Wooden furnishings and finishes play visually against silver, metals, and uniquely shaped lighting, fixtures, and details. In the summer, patio doors can be thrown wide open to abolish boundaries between the sunny inside of the living and family spaces and the breathtaking vineyard outside the home’s walls.
Photos by Joe Fletcher
By Courtney • Feb 18, 2019
In renovating the stunning Restaurante Teide, a staple in its neighbourhood in Valencia, Spain, design teams at Horma had one primary goal; they aimed to renew an old family tradition in order to give it a modern new feel that will help it last.
The Teide restaurant is the kind of family business that has been passed down from generation to generation. Throughout all that time, they never lost the sense of the core values they’ve always operated the business according to: well-being, proximity to the community, tradition, and quality. The only thing left that needed a little bit of rejuvenation was the pace itself.
As a result, design teams decided to try and develop a concept that feels more contemporary but also a little more timeless and fresh, without losing the elegance the restaurant has always maintained. Like many businesses in Spain, the restaurant features a cafe up front, but for many years the cafe space actually kind of masked the restaurant, which lies to the back. One of the biggest changes was that designers decided to bring a clear sense of the restaurant right up to the main entrance so it doesn’t get missed.
Even though designers wanted to bring the restaurant to the front of the visual space a little more, they still used colours, materials, and visuals to create some kind of separation of space and mood at the same time. The idea of was to make the two parts of the business communicate in a cohesive way while still provided a little bit of differentiation, since a cafe and a restaurant have very different moods.
In the restaurant space, which received a bit more of a transformation than the cafe, an emphasis was put on natural elements that might make the space feel comfortable and welcoming. This was achieved through the inclusion of stone flooring, and polished walnut furnishings. Teams added colour by setting everything against a backdrop of sea blue walls, helping to establish and elegant environment that’s a little more timeless than the previous look.
Within the update, designers aimed to tie the sense of local community into the look of the restaurant a little more. For that reason, they opted to source all of their stone and wood locally, feeding back into their local economy in a great way. These materials are evident all over, but particularly in the low separation wall that still provides some division between the cafe and restaurant spaces.
Outside, a series of locally styled luminaries provide a little light in the evenings for the patio area. There’s also a huge emphasis on vegetation and the inclusion of local greenery, creating a sense of tranquility and social calm. Because these plants are dotted throughout the cafe and restaurant spaces as well, a lovely atmosphere or harmony business-wide.
Photos by Mariela Apollonio
By Courtney • Feb 15, 2019
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 Courtney • 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 Courtney • 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 Courtney • 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 Courtney • 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