Author Archives - Courtney
Illustrious Modern Apartment created by Corpo Atelier is such a feat of architecture that it borders on sculpture
By Courtney • Apr 1, 2019
In the heart of Vilamoura in Portugal, a stunningly minimalist and contemporary apartment, aptly named the Modern Apartment, was recently finished by Corpo Atelier.
Originally a little, old studio apartment, the space was renovated by the innovative design team to become a beautifully simplistic but fully equipped space that features such a clean visual appeal that its existence practically blends the lines between architecture and sculpture.
The room is very simple; it looks almost like a plain white box upon entering. The first thing that draws your eye, however, is a set of three bright yellow objects that are configured into interesting geometric shapes and placed about the room. Even before it was furnished, these shapes had such a presence to them that the otherwise empty room felt anything but.
Thanks to the bright colour pop of the yellow, the interesting presence of the shapes, and the large window that draws the eyes’ focus towards the far end of the apartment, the room feels almost limitless despite its small size. It also feels incredibly contemporary despite the fact that, if you consider them together from a wider perspective, the shapes scattered about actually resemble elements of classic architecture, like a fallen column and a plinth.
Knowing that small spaces requite surfaces and storage, designers built the shapes such that, beyond their visual functions, they can also serve as furniture. They fully expected that owners would place small trinkets on top of these and store things inside them and on parts of their irregular surfaces. This creates a blending of purpose that seems to suit the home’s contemporary feel.
For additional function, the yellow pieces also serve to delineate space slightly in a wall-less apartment. Of course, the openness of the home is part of the main point, but that doesn’t mean a bit of spatial direction and understanding isn’t valuable. In particular, the yellow pieces mark off the bedroom (which has a stunning panoramic view, the entrance hall, and the central living room.
Photos by Alexander Bogorodskiy
By Courtney • Mar 29, 2019
In the stunning residential commune of Lille Metropolis, in Hem, France, a stylish and professional couple named Vivien and Marion have worked hard to make their very own housing dreams come true. The two have spent several years transforming a stunning loft that started as merely a large empty space into a veritable piece of art.
Designed and conceptualized entirely by the couple themselves, their priorities for the loft were quite clear from the start. One of the biggest challenges was adding a satisfactory number of windows to the solid, already formed space without compromising the walls or foundation because of the materiality and how the house sits. They wanted to be entirely sure that the rooms inside the home would get enough natural light.
Secondly, they wanted to create a space where art is at the forefront. They decided to use colours, patterns, art they made themselves, and locally created pieces from artists they know to decorate the space. The effect is so eclectic and full of personality that visiting their home feels like an actual experience.
To tackle the first priority of the windows, the couple helped themselves out with natural light a little by opening the roof entirely, letting light flow in from parts of the top of the house. They did this by creating a high patio and two terraces, all off ground level, and then installed several skylights and sprawling rook windows in the rest of the ceiling that wasn’t opened up for lovely indoor-outdoor space. Now the sun can simply just shine down on- and right into- their home.
On the ground floor, the rooms of the house are quite open concept, which was intentional. That’s not to say, however, that there’s not delineation of space at all. Stylish furniture and visual art pieces have been strategically placed to make some demarkation of rooms with different functions without sacrificing any space or open-concept flow.
Near the living and dining rooms and the kitchen sits a stunning open patio on the ground floor. This opens fully into the house thanks to receding doors and allows a flood of natural light that keeps the room cool or warm, depending on the season, and allows sunlight to reach every corner of the floor. On the outdoor portion of the patio stands a beautiful olive tree that was relocated from Portugal, where it was originally planted in one of the fields on Vivien’s grandfather’s land. Now, it grows perfectly acclimatized and thriving, like a natural family heirloom.
Although the interior decor and art features of the loft house are quite bright, shiny, and new, the couple purposely chose to keep some sense of weathering in the home’s structure itself. The natural concrete that the actual house is built from was preserved as is, which was beneficial to their budget but also serves a particular contrasting aesthetic. It bears marks of wear and tear that denotes the previous lives of the building, something the owners appreciate.
Visual art isn’t the only kind of creative appreciation in the home. The couple also built themselves a stunning library, which is a favourite space for everyone living there. It houses architecture and design magazines, musical vinyls, and even some stylish vintage furniture, like the LC4 chaise lounge and the infamous Pipistrello lamp. The space is nothing short of inspirational.
The theme of classically designed and mod styled furniture extends into other rooms too, but some pieces were actually created by the couple themselves as well. Much of the art featured on the walls is their own too, or that of their family members. The bright and colourful paint pot piece, for example, was created by Vivien’s father, who was a house painter by trade.
Of course, a “loft house” couldn’t be complete without stunning spaces being created on the actual loft itself! This is where the private and intimate sectors of the house reside. The loft is home to spacious bathrooms, guest and master bedrooms, and a bright, exciting child’s room. An increased touch of warmth is added to these spaces thanks to the way pine wood has been used to cover the original concrete floors that were preserved everywhere else.
The emphasis on fresh air, open space, and sunlight continues near the private loft spaces. The master bedroom, for example, features its own small terrace where the roof opens to the high patios we mentioned before. Here, views of the whole surrounding area twinkle in the sunlight as dwellers sit above their lower patio, on which an inflatable jacuzzi lives.
Photos courtesy of the designer.
By Courtney • Mar 28, 2019
Instead of just building a standard apartment building in the downtown core of Jiangsu, Japan, innovative designers at GPT Architectural Design opted to create the ultra modern, super stylish, and downright experiential Port Apartment Suzhou Shilu Community Project!
This fantastic new building was created using an older apartment complex as its base. The first step in the new project’s facelift was to remove the metal grilling on the facade of the original structure, as this made it look grey, old, and unwelcoming. Designers opted to cut into the newly revealed bare facade to create alcoves where plants might hang, creating 3D hanging gardens.
Another area of the original plot that was preserved as a base but changed and embellished was the courtyard in the centre of the community. This sits off a cutting edge social kitchen that is run by the Internet and features high public workspaces, blending perfectly into the outdoor leisure garden in a rather open concept way. The black and white stripes on the outer walls surrounding the courtyard create a visual effect like that of wind rippling water.
In the spaces surrounding the leisure garden, a calming, spa-like effect was created by finishing most of the atrium space with natural wood colours and light concrete accents where more solid material was required. This creates beautiful contemporary contrast while also affording the space a sense of calm typical of traditional gardens found in ancient cities.
The courtyard and atrium aren’t the only garden spaces! The building actually features a rooftop garden as well. This space has its own viewing platform for drinking in the city and even a barbecue area suitable for open-space hosting when renters have friends visit. The viewing platform is covered with a soft, white stand designed to mimic the beach, adding a sense of seaside calm to the space which is reinforced by decor accents in blues, teals, and other beach hues. This space has become quite famous around the city, since there’s no actual beach quickly accessible in the area.
One of the central priorities in building the individual apartments in the community was stellar Internet connectivity. The idea was so make the apartment’s functions efficient, new age, and cutting edge, so fantastic online connections are absolutely necessary. Most of things in the building, such as signing into the one site fitness club, shopping at the boutique retail locations nearby, and using the virtual canteen, are powered by wifi and the renter’s cell phone.
Although the apartments and the rooftop escape are accessible only to renters, the ground floor features a shopping space, more electronic vending services, and a social garden area that are fully accessible to the public. This makes it possible to socialize and have a whole day out with others without having to go far from one’s apartment at all if they don’t feel like it. It builds a sense of wider community right there in the community building!
One of the most popular things to do in the social space is to order food from the virtual food court, a 24 hour fast food delivery service run out of the buildings connection hub, and find a cozy, modern looking social pod to sit in around the public garden. The decor is undoubtedly modern but also quite wood heavy and spa-like, with stunning greenery surrounding all levels.
Besides the general public social spaces we’ve described, renters are afforded plenty of themed common escapes for time enjoyed outside their apartments. There’s the “House of Cards” area that is furnished and decorated in pure white with black outlines and artistic lighting, providing a thoroughly futuristic experience. There’s also the “rainforest inspired area that features cascading waterfall lights, wooden furnishings, greenery on every surface, and wooden details that feel somehow warm and also luxurious. Perhaps you’d prefer the simple seating designed to let renters take an unwinding break underneath a stunning sprawling tree when they first arrive back to the community after a busy day elsewhere before actually returning home.
In decorating and laying out the apartments, designers chose to gear their choices towards the young white-collar workers so typical of the surrounding urban area. They opted for fashionable Nordic aesthetics and MUJI style details to create a living space specifically for young people that feels, modern, high quality, and unique.
Inside the apartments, the Nordic influence brings a sense of fluidity to the design. Furnishings are integrated all into the main functions and each other to save on space and increase efficiency, almost to the point of qualifying as micro-living. The textures are simple, the shapes are flexible, and the details bear clear signs of local craftsmanship. The spaces are simple and practical but still charming to the point of feeling nearly luxurious despite their smaller size. This is more than made up for with the diverse common spaces the community offers right outside the apartment doors!
Photos provided by the designer.
By Courtney • Mar 27, 2019
In a small village in the North of Spain, designer and architect Jesús Castillo Oli discovered a simple, ruined structure that, though inhabitable the way it was, held a lot of potential. That reinvigoration project was how the Transformed Ruins Loft was born!
Nestled on the outskirts of Porquera de los Infantes, in a rolling green meadow, the rehabilitated home still bears the original walls and bricks that were originally discovered by the architect. He wanted to preserve as much of the history of the place as possible in order to pay homage to its little local area, where only 32 inhabitants reside.
Despite the desire to keep the old elements of the loft as an explicit part of the new house, the design team allowed for, and even embraced, a demarcation between where those stones and bricks stop and where new, more modern materials begin. This creates a stunning contrast that shows the flawless blending of contemporary housing with historical buildings and areas.
Now that is is finished, one of the most striking features of the house (besides the loft itself) is the way the windows sit in the old brick. They are large, pristine, and framed in black, designed to let as much natural sunlight into the home as possible. The way these modern fixtures nestle into the old red wall of the original ruin is nearly breathtaking and highlights the beauty of the winder glass walls in the modern part of the house as well.
Another extremely notable feature is the inner courtyard. Despite the sprawling lands around the house, which are also taken advantage of in the form of outdoor seating and lovely patios, design teams wanted to build a calmer, quieter inner space that’s still out in the fresh air but a little more private. That’s how the brick walled and sunny rock garden became a little pocket of zen in the centre of the new house.
Even inside the much more modern interior of the house, which obviously had to be built completely anew as the interior of the original was worn away, certain details blend historical and contemporary beautifully. This is perhaps best seen in the way the red bricks are left exposed inside the house as well, or maybe in the thick, reclaimed wooden beams that line the peaked ceiling.
Decor is kept natural, homey, and war, but with a sense of rustic luxury. The open concept layout lets sunlight hit every corner of the room and allows the view from the inner loft pass right through the glass wall, past the inner zen courtyard, and into the fields beyond the house.
Photos by Ángel Baltanás
Portugal’s GR House designed and created by Paulo Martins Arq&Design to embrace irregular geometry in architecture
By Courtney • Mar 26, 2019
If ever a piece of residential architecture could be described as a feat of design despite its constraints, that would most certainly apply to the way Paulo Martins Arq&Design conceptualized and created the unique and modern GR House.
Nestled into the unique terrain of Sever do Vouga, Portugal, the plot presented limitations to the design team before they’d even started planning the house. The space it sits on now, you see, is filled with dips, juts, and crags, giving the team a very irregular space and difficult geometric surface to work with indeed.
Between the fact that designers knew they’d have to get creative with their techniques and the reality that most buildings in the surrounding area held little architectural value in terms of design, the team decided to fully embrace the whole concept and create a home with a shape and aesthetic just as irregular and uniquely lined as the land it sits on!
This is how the exterior of the house became the modern material clad, angular structure you see today. Its lines and volumes vary widely, angling in certain placing and remaining straight on in others. The structure is primarily made of concrete and strong, locally sourced wood, giving it a solid foundation that helps it grip into the uneven terrain upon which it sits.
The nature of the location isn’t all difficult things! There’s nothing negative at all about that view, which designers made sure to situate the house towards so that every room (each of which is rich in windows and glass walls) gets the full impact of the scenery surrounding the outer edge of the plot, where it gets the most irregular.
Because the house is already such a visual in and of itself, designers chose to keep the colour scheme, both inside and out, rather neutral and calm. It’s heavy in light greys, pristine whites, and the occasional solid black detail for grounding. This is consistent from the exterior and its prevalence of concrete right down to the chairs chosen to adorn the inside social spaces.
To take advantage of the view and the fact that the house sits high on an escarpment, designers chose to include a high number of not just windows but also ceiling skylights. This lets natural sunlight hit just about every corner of the house, keeping it bright and comfortable despite all of the straight lines, harsh angles, and discreet colour palettes.
Besides its shape, one particularly unique feature of the house is that it uses primarily ramps where a more typical house might use stairs. Although this was not specifically intended for accessibility purposes, it certainly makes the house more mobility friendly for those who find stairs difficult or cannot use them.
In reality, this was partially to create a space that feels like it slowly transitions in a smooth way from one room to the other, counteracting the harsh, bumpy terrain it was built on and evening out those dips and drops in the land. No privacy is sacrificed in the way the house works on an open concept layout but the ramps certainly help with conversational and movement flow.
Photos by ITS – Ivo Tavares Studio
On Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the St Andrews Beach is a secluded seaside area that’s popular with some families despite its lack of amenities; it’s truly a natural experience that lacks the impact of busy human life. That’s precisely what attracted Austin Maynard Architects to the area, and also why they decided to keep their lovely St. Andrews Beach House as small and minimalist as possible!
Though stunning, this little beach house, which is designed to emulate an old beach shack despite its modern take on materiality and decor, is actually only five metres in radius. This makes it look less like a retreat house and more like an object nestled into the sands. It’s a modest affair, but it still provides everything you might need in a small beach shanty on a simple getaway.
Although he is Australian, the designer of this innovative little retreat used a New Zealand word as the inspiration for his concept; there, the word “bach” describes a very modest, small, and basic shed or shack. This word resonated with him because he saw how many Aussie homes and, following suit, beach homes have become huge, sprawling structures in recent years.
One the idea of building something more primitive but still livable had entered his mind, finding a suitable and similar location was the next challenge. The particular plot where the beach house now sits was selected specifically for its lack of nearby shopping and restaurants, which he acknowledges is the direct opposite of what most people would seek. There is a smart little brewery and a corner store not far off, but not much else can be seen for miles around.
The motivation behind seeking a place that offers seemingly “nothing” was to harness the beauty in what that kind of lovely natural seclusion really does have to offer. The breathtaking coastline, towering sand dunes, and nearby parkland were much better alternatives, in his mind, to shopping strips and bustling eateries.
The St Andrews Beach House is a two storey dwelling that’s entirely circular in shape on each floor, so it looks like a cylinder from the outside. This shape is to allow guests to take advantage of the remote location’s stunning views, which are 360 degree around it and worth taking in from every single angle.
The house stands on its own, blending in quite well to the wild bushes of the immediate terrain. The team’s utmost priority during their building process was to interrupt the land as little as possible, since the sandy location is quite fragile. The house respectfully integrates itself as best it can into the local nature thanks to minimalism and smart material choices.
Part of the freeing sensation of choosing a remote location was that designers didn’t have to work with any neighbouring building’s whose aesthetic their own creation might be influenced by or respond to. The two-bedroom dwelling is free to keep things simple and pleasantly wooden, inside and outside, concentrating on useful space to the point that it doesn’t even have corridors!
In addition to be rounded and subtle, the shack is also low maintenance and quite self sustaining. It is not, however, without creature comforts, particularly since the part of its whole purpose is relaxation! Rather than being entirely primitive, the shack instead feels informal, comfortably weather worn even though it’s new (thanks to the use of reclaimed materials), and blissfully private.
On the ground floor, you’ll find the public spaces, like the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The shack is also equipped with a laundry to make longer stays comfortable. Within the tube of the main building, on the outer border, sits an open deck area that doesn’t protrude at all from the main structure, at all. Instead, it nestles into the outer surface of the house so that the verandah space feels like a blend of indoor and outdoor elements.
To get from one floor to the other, the house features a centra spiral staircase that leads right up the middle to the second floor, where you’ll find the bedroom and bathroom space. Rather than being separated into traditional bedrooms, the area is like an open concept bunk room that is still afforded privacy between adult and kids’ areas by thick curtains that can be easily drawn or pulled back.
The goal was to keep things casual and relaxed, so the spacious bedroom floor features some open, nearly empty spots that also function as extra entertainment and games room spaces when guests visit. If too many guests arrive, the sand outside is soft and lovely and the weather is warm, so the owners frequently encourage visitors to pitch a tent outside under the night’s sky.
In terms of sustainability, the house is quite efficient and low maintenance once more. It features passive solar panels that fit subtly into the shape and design, eliminating the need for fossil fuels and gas to power any part of it. Outside, a cylindrical concrete water tank collects rain water during the wet season, which is used to water the garden and flush toilets.
Photos by Derek Salwell
Argentinain GZ House created by by Además arquitectura to provide two families with a stunningly modern weekend house
By Courtney • Mar 23, 2019
Amidst the rolling grasses of a luxurious country club in Guernica, Argentina, the freshly completed GZ House was created by Además arquitectura in order to give two young families a beautiful, relaxing weekend space in which to escape the busy demands of daily life.
Because the families are close friends, common areas and shared social spaces were listed as a priority from conception. The public parts of the house were created with the intention of fostering a simple, continuous, and easily flowing atmosphere where people might drift in and out, join conversation, or simply sit in each other’s company.
Several social spaces exist outside the house as well, just to make sure that warm days and sunshine are fully taken advantage of. A lovely swimming pool with a poolside porch and patio provide lots of seating space, for example. Big doors can be swung wide open from the ground level so that the concept of free flowing movement between all of the different social spaces continues uninterrupted.
The porch isn’t the only place where sunlight is prioritized. Large windows in just about every room also let natural light bathe the corners of the lower and upper floors alike. This works in partnership with the natural materiality of the house to create a rather calming atmosphere that’s almost introspective.
Perhaps the most unique part of the house is the “inner patio”, which is an expansive outdoor space to the side of the pool that passes under an overhang of the home’s top floor. This gives the families a space in which to enjoy meals, read a book, and so on in the pleasant breeze of the outdoors, but shades them from the often harsh and hot Argentinian sun.
Because several doors and windows of the house open onto this patio, the shady overhang actually also has a cooling effect on the main social areas of the house. The dining room, for example, is placed such that when the windows are opened, it gets a cool breeze and even some cooler air in from the shaded patio, which helps create indoor air circulation on hot days.
This particular spot for air circulation helps keep the bedrooms cool as well! The patio is located alongside a long promenade on the back side of the ground floor above which all of the bedrooms are arranged. This placement means that the private spaces are intimate but still easily accessible to the social spaces and outdoor spaces for true open concept and free flowing format. The shade from below keeps the entire space around the bedrooms cool, which keeps them cooler in turn.
Of course, to benefit from all that cool air, the bedrooms need a slightly open concept too. That’s why their stunning balconies and sliding glass doors running all along that long promenade we mentioned are so important. The bedrooms sit high in the unique looking upper floor structure of the house, drawing the public eye from all around thanks to the modern, cubic shape.
Despite the fact that the house is very modern looking indeed, its materiality is actually quite simple. The structure was created primarily using concrete, dark grey plaster, and corrugated metal sheets, keep things shady and cool just like that indoor-outdoor patio we’ve raved so much about.
Photos by Gonzalo Viramonte
Montreal home La Cardinale renovated by L. McComber to bring it back to life after years of young kids and extensions
By Courtney • Mar 22, 2019
In the Ville-Saint-Laurent neighbourhood of Montreal, Canada, innovative designers at L. McComber recently completed heavy renovations on a semi-detached Tudor home called La Cardinale, bringing it back to life after years of loving wear and tear.
Originally built in the 1950s, the house was long a home for young families with many children. It underwent several extensions without update to the old, main house, limiting the light that enters from outside and causing a disconnect in aesthetic and materiality. Once the children of the final owners had grown up and begun lives elsewhere, the decision was made to give the space a completely new look.
From the start, efforts were made to preserve some of the original Tudor charm that came with the house itself. Sure, updating and a facelift were necessary, but elements of the facade were untouched and already stunning, so it was agreed that they would be kept despite other structural and aesthetic changes taking place elsewhere.
First, old, slightly more clumsy extensions were removed from where they blocked sunlight entirely from entering the back of the house. New extensions were rebuilt, but they were strategically place to extend where they might connected already existing parts of the original building, rather than sticking so far out the back that the sunlight and yard disappeared.
Materiality was considered heavily in this process; original elements like plaster, stone, and red brick were kept but black geometric metal framing near windows and black sheet metal cladding were added to improve curability or energy efficiency. They contrast well with the light grey walls elsewhere, creating a sense of added modernity to the more classic facade. In certain places, pops of more contemporary colour were painted for personality.
Inside, the new extensions enabled designers to build a much more open concept layout where previous, older extensions had actually broken up the house a little and created more walls. This theme continues outside now as well, as a brand new black deck extends the kitchen right into the yard when the lovely, large glass door is opened entirely.
Despite the main living spaces and the yard making for a nearly entirely open plan ground floor, some delineation of space still exists so that the home feels sensical and organized. The large kitchen island is a great example of this; it marks a change in function from room to room without cutting off conversation and social time.
Between both floors of the house, unnecessarily filled space has been opened up to create a double-height open area above the living and social spaces below. This makes the whole house feel opened out but without losing the privacy of the intimate areas above. Instead of being fully closed off, a simple corridor along one side of the double-height space leads to the master bedroom and its ensuite bathroom.
This corridor is actually quite an experience to walk down because it’s fully opened, making it feel like you’re traveling across a bridge to reach the deep, relaxing bath. On one side of this corridor the owners are afforded a view of the lovely backyard from big, clear windows. On the other side, they can see right down into the main social areas.
Although the grand and rather rich looking exterior of the house was largely preserved for traditional style, the inside of the house now looks much more simplistic and neatly pleasant in terms of colour and materiality. It’s clean, white overarching palette is minimalist but elegant, like much of the decor, while floors, cabinets, and other details provide a sense of warmth thanks to their stained red oak panelling. A subtle sense of contemporary sophistication comes through in the black and white marbling of the countertops and bathroom finishes.
Photos by Raphaël Thibodeau
By Courtney • Mar 21, 2019
On a spacious plot of luscious green land in Bansberia, India, Abin Design Studio has recently completed a design intervention project in order to create the ultra contemporary and extremely unique House of Sweeping Shadows.
Originally, the plot contained a smaller structure already existing on the land, but the rest of the property was largely empty and unused. It bore a small, two story structure and a little mad-made ponds, but these weren’t being taken advantage of. Clients and designers alike decided that keeping the existing structures was a good idea, but that creating extensions to link them and build an unparalleled leisure zone was the best strategy. Establishing an impressive contemporary look was of the utmost importance to both parties.
First, they tackled the outdoor elements. The old brick lined pond, for example, was turned into a lovely swimming pool. The empty two-storey structure, on the other hand, now houses a gym, changing rooms for the pool area, and an innovative media lounge for when the owners host guests. The whole building has a lovely view out over the pool and surrounding grassy area.
Not far from the pool sits an outdoor leisure sector of a different kind; here you’ll find a barbeque station, a sunken seating area that recesses into the patio and gets lots of sun, and even a small aviary that draws huge, beautiful contrast with both the hard concrete spaces nearby and the softer, greener spaces to one side. The whole yard is an open area hub for entertainment and calm.
Regarding the original residence, the idea of keeping the existing structure was good but that didn’t mean it couldn’t receive a facelift! Designers opted to give its unremarkable facade a makeover by encasing it with a self-supporting metal screen structure that’s very modern in its shape and construction. The light metal used only required minimal anchoring to the building, meaning it was low impact on the original structure, particularly for the massive change it provided.
Thanks to the dreamy way it curves around the house, this metal screen facade casts interesting shadows on both the outdoor spaces below and the interior spaces behind its slats. These shadows change, particularly inside, as the day wears on and the sun’s angle moves. The spaces between the frames are large enough that they don’t inhibit the lovely view but small enough that they afford open-air verandahs on the inside some calm privacy.
The contemporary style that was so pivotal to the plan continues on the inside. Mod inspired furniture sits on a bright, daring red floor while the rest of the home’s surfaces stay rather neat and white. Air flow inside the home is breezy and pleasant thanks to the open facade near the verandahs, as is the level of natural light in the main living spaces.
Overall, the level of contrast in colour, materiality, and contemporary versus natural spaces achieves a careful balance in aesthetic and function that makes the whole area feel quite serene. The house is more than just visually impressive; it’s an entire experience.
Photos by Ravi Kanade
By Courtney • Mar 20, 2019
Amidst the calming trees and sunny breezes of Karuizawa, Japan, creative designers at Shigeru Ban Architects have overhauled an already existing retreat to create a brand new, totally transformed boutique resort called Shishi-Iwa House!
This resort is a social enterprise inspired by the need for restorative escapes from busy urban life for working professionals. It is a 10-room building that provides privacy, community, and access to nature and reinforces relationships with the self, human connection, architecture, and the world around us.
Shishi-Iwa House is also intended to embrace the idea of social hospitality, which makes it quite a different experience from staying in the average hotel or resort. By enabling easier, quieter, and simpler bonding in accessible, calm spaces, the retreat aims to allow for reflection and bonding, restore energy, and spark new ways of thinking during one’s stay.
The space and structure itself is also inspiring to look at, and quite visually stimulating. The architecture embraces curves and smooth lines, with an undulating roof that seems to flow visually with the forest around it. The building itself was erected with the careful goal of disturbing as few trees around it as possible which actually resulted in architects developing a brand new technique.
The building is quite open concept, blending indoor and outdoor spaces purposely and explicitly. Between this and the fact that most building materials are natural looking, reclaimed, and locally sourced, there’s a feeling that the retreat hardly interrupts the nature it sits in at all. Windows, patios and balconies, and openings are prioritized and strategically placed in each room to make sure that guests have a stunning view no matter where they’re unwinding, but the social spaces give the absolute best view of the garden.
Rather than separating spaces by function too heavily, designers chose to create each guest room as an actual meditation room in and of itself. Those on the ground floor open onto their own private gardens while those on the upper floors have private balconies or terraces. Social spaces are calming too, but they’re easily accessible to everyone and designed for interaction.
While relaxation is undoubtedly a priority, a particular atmosphere and aesthetic were carefully built by designers as well. Materials and furnishings were curated with intention, created a retreat that also feels sophisticated and intellectual. This is partially due to the innovation of some of the furnishings, where stunning high quality pieces are created from simple materials like cardboard, making them affordable and eco-friendly.
Last, but certainly not least, the retreat puts a huge emphasis on art. Several stunning original pieces are displayed from master painters and sculptors from different areas, from both local artists and renowned names in the wider Japanese scene.
Photos by Hiroyuki Hirai
Along the bustling city streets of Bucharest, Romania, a number of different homes and dwellings in various architectural styles can be found, depending on the neighbourhood. Along Occidentului Street, which is fairly typical for the city, one might see a combination of villas, post-war structures, or wagon-houses that have stood for many years.
Recently, some local designers aimed to build a new apartment building but, rather than letting it stick out and attract attention, they used shocking precision to help it blend in perfectly with the more traditional buildings around it! To the trained eye it might look a little more contemporary and have a bit less wear and tear, but overall it suits the street shockingly well.
The apartment building at Occidentului 40 was created by ADNBA using a technique that helped them compose the facade and its interior apartments from blocks, as thought they’ve been stacked. Rather than solely taking into consideration how their own finished product will look, the design team decided to account for the context around their project as well.
By this, we mean that they attempted to make their new building blend and mesh with the rest of the street, looking similarly to the buildings that are already there so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow and fabric of the space it was freshly built in. The level of detail that went into this goal, right down to the colour scheme, is very impressive indeed.
On the inside, the apartments are calm, wooden, and comfortable with all kinds of amenities typical of a modern, updated rental space. The goal wasn’t to actually create a home that seemed old or outdated in its practicality, but rather simply to match the aesthetic and style of the building faces in the local area in a way that is smooth and cohesive.
Photos by Laurian Ghinitoiu
Industrial Style Architect’s House created by Nadine Engelbrecht in South Africa using a barn as inspiration
By Courtney • Mar 19, 2019
On the outskirts of the city of Pretoria in South Africa, designer and architect Nadine Engelbrecht has built a sprawling, borderline luxury dwelling called Industrial Style Architect’s House. Despite its clear urban and industrial influences, the house actually has an unexpected inspiration behind it: an old barn!
The lead architect on site actually designed this lovely home for her parents using the kind of small barn that would have stood on their childhood farms as the basis for the new house’s shape and structure. Despite that rustic motivation, the overall aesthetic choice and materiality is far more industrial influenced than farmhouse themed, making for an extremely interesting and visually beautiful contrast.
The central portion of the house, made primarily of black steel and glass that lets in plenty of natural life, is the clearest portion bearing barn-like inspiration. Wings for additional living space are built off of each side, one part of which includes a loft with a stunning view and a unique layout.
In the long central space, you’ll find a reception room with a high cathedral style ceiling that peaks in the centre above. This entire space is bright and naturally lit, heavy in windows and glass doors, and quite breathtaking in its clearly industrial simplicity. At the far end, where doors open onto a patio and lawn, is the large family dining table, where things stay the brightest.
The parts of the house that aren’t made from glass and black metals are kept a little more natural and slightly more rustic feeling, without feeling very “farmhouse chic” like you might expect a home inspired by a barn to be. Instead, design teams used concrete, exposed brick, and exposed carpentry made with reclaimed wood.
Moving from the well lit reception hall and dining room into the kitchen, you’ll find a continuation of these material contrasts, as well the way windows are a huge priority. Here, a stunning wooden island acts as a central hub of the kitchen space, while a large, wooden trap door leads down into a temperature controlled wine cellar. This door closes flat into the floor but still stands out as a nearly decorative piece because it’s the only other part of the house besides the shape that explicitly looks like it might have been part of a barn once upon a time.
On the second floor of the kitchen volume to the side of the sunny hall you’ll find guest bedrooms and the master suite. The colour palettes here are simple, pleasant, and minimalist, comprised mostly of neutral shades and cream tones. Although each bedroom has a clear priority in windows and bright, natural light, the master suite is really the room that takes this concept further on the top floors.
At the end of the master bed, where you’d first look when you wake up in the morning, stand a stunning set of floor to ceiling windows. These can be covered by a horizontally sliding shade to reduce the light they let in or left open so you can gaze upon the nearly-rural view of grasses and trees beyond the property. Besides this breathtaking view, the room’s decor is quite pleasantly simple in a way that is classy and sophisticated.
On the top floor of the volume built on the other side of the reception hall, sitting high above a comfortable but stylish living room and social seating area, is an activities space. This bright, wide open room features art, gallery lighting, and bean bag chairs for reading. The family often uses it for entertainment or hobbies and creative endeavours.
Photos by Marsel Roothman
By Courtney • Mar 19, 2019
In the heart of the stunning city of Barcelona, Spain, design and architecture teams at META Studio recently completed a stunning residential project in which they transformed an old textile factory into a unique and breathtaking loft home!
In Barcelona’s Gracia district, nestled into the urban, slightly industrial setting, sits the Textile Factory Loft, a project that a pair of the local company’s architects did for themselves and currently reside in. When they originally came across the factory, it wasn’t much more than an empty space with a solid frame for structure, but they saw nothing but potential.
When the main architects, a married couple, bought the textile factory in 2013, it was being used by a painter as a storage and studio space. Despite some natural wear and tear and the need for a good dusting, it was in quite good condition and the high ceilings, which would provide space for a floor of regular heigh and a small loft space, pretty much made the decision for them.
Besides the fantastic space the building offered, the couple were also beyond intrigued by the backstory of its life as a textiles factory before it became a studio and eventually their home. A building with a bit of history always makes for a more interesting project, after all!
The factory was built in the early 1900s when most factories in Catalonia were textile based. Dubbed Frabrica Grober, it was taken over about 20 years ago after its doors closed by artists looking for creative spaces. Over time, the area became primarily residential, so the loft actually isn’t the only commercial-turned-residential property in the neighbourhood.
Despite the open look of the current ground floor, which has a lovely flow, privacy was actually one of the biggest priorities when the loft was redesigned. This is why the public, social, and “day space” is all located in the double height areas downstairs, while the upstairs area is saved exclusively for more intimate spaces; in this case, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The sleeping area in this loft is afforded a little extra privacy on top of the division in floors because, before you reach it on your journey upstairs, you’re greeted by a small library that sits on the mezzanine. Besides being a relaxing space, the library serves as a sort of barrier between the day space and the quiet upstairs sleep haven in the loft itself.
In terms of decor, the designers chose subtle, natural palettes that suited the materiality and made the space feel cozy rather than cramped where the low ceiling swoops over the loft to make room for the high ceiling in the day space. For example, industrial black metal brace beams are contrasted and balanced with wooden ones inset into the ceilings.
Believe it or not, the loft isn’t actually the highest point in the home! on the rooftop, accessed through a subtle staircase in the further top corner of the home, is a red tiled rooftop patio with a lovely, sunny seating area. This space gets a fantastic breeze and gives visitors a lovely view of the surrounding city.
Photos by Lluis Carbonell
By Courtney • Mar 18, 2019
In the heart of Paris, France, innovative designer and architect Vincent Eschalier has finished a stunning residential loft project that involved transforming an old industrial factory into a stunning home that let the team play with shapes and visuals in a way that contrasts elements of old and new.
Modernized French Loft, which stands tall in the X th arrondissement of the city, was rehabilitated from an old factory originally built and working in the late nineteenth century, when the area underwent an industrial boom. Now, instead of heavy machinery and busy workers, the old building accommodates 17 lofts in total, ranging in size.
The one that caught our eye in particular, which is Eschalier’s own, is situated on the third and highest floor of the original factory building. Being his personal space, this is where many of the architects talents can be seen in the most detail, as he was free to work in his most preferred styles, rather than prioritizing client needs and expectations.
In his loft, Eschalier included industrial influenced elements to stay true to the building’s history, but contrasted them beautifully with natural wooden details, contemporary shapes, and pops of colour. The most notable industrial feature is, quite obviously, the stunning black metal winding staircase in the very centre of the apartment.
Flanked on either side by two matching metal columns, that are both decorative and functional, the staircause leads from the main living space of the apartment up into the loft area. This is where the master bedroom, which is conservative in size but stunning, and a lovely, sunny private roof terrace can be accessed.
The black metal of the staircase is repeated in several angular art pieces hanging throughout the house, as well as some modern lighting options. Not much artificial light is needed, however, because stunning skylights in the ceiling let natural sunlight reach just about every corner of the apartment.
Rather than just sticking to black, white, and natural wood, Eschalier added some colour to the neatly detailed space in the form of carefully chosen accent pieces. The best example of this is the bright, concentrated splash of orange in the living room, found in the carpet, the vintage chairs, the wall art, and the lamp shade.
Overall, the loft has a stunning sense of cohesiveness and harmony between all things old and new. It’s a standup example of how contemporary refurbishments can harness modern interior decor inside without disturbing historical facades, and while also still paying homage to architectural histories!
Photos by Joan Bracco
By Courtney • Mar 18, 2019
In the area that was, once upon a time, the small village around Brazil’s Canoas train station, a 19th century home was recently and very carefully restored and transformed into a stunning gallery by local design teams at Kiefer Arquitetos.
Casa dos Rosa, or Rosa House, as the building has always been named, is one of the last standing remnants of the area’s original municipality and architecture. Before the cities in the bustling region or Porto Alegre grew up around it, this little house was quite isolated because the surrounding village it was originally a part of was entirely demolished.
Rosa House was saved this levelling thanks to the mayor of the village, who had it deemed a cultural property by transferring it to municipal powers before the go-ahead for demolition was given. Now that is has been restored, this lovely house, originally built in 1874, serves as inspiration for similar restoration projects in the area, such as museums and theatres. Each one is an attempt to preserve history and cultural heritage in the region. Around the house, a little collection of these sites has cropped up, making for a stunning cultural afternoon walk through the park they’re all centred around.
During the transformation process, particular care was taken to make sure as many traditional aspects of the house were preserved as possible. While some additions and upkeep changes were made to create a stronger frame and ensure that the new place will last and wear well, drastic changes were avoided in order to keep the building authentic.
Things that designers did freely adjust included some landscape design in the old yard, the entry way (which needed restoration), the addition of a stunning glazed porch, and the expansion of a public social area on the ground floor. These things were completed with delicacy and using materials that are traditional, reclaimed, and locally sourced.
Inside the house, it was safe to make more contemporary choices, which established a stunning contrast in aesthetic between the rooms and the historical exterior facade. An elevator was installed between the first and second floors to keep the cultural property accessible.
To avoid changing the original structure too much, features like a cafe and a reception area for the whole little historical site were built in an extension right next to Rosa House. From here, a canopy was built that connects there to the museum, the future theatre, and a stairway to the park.
Overall, the goal of preserving the old while building the new was more than just achieved; it was done with beauty. Now, a sense of harmony and coexistence exudes from Rosa House and its new and historical counterparts alike.
Photos by Mário Fontanive
Net Marketing Offices created in Tokyo by DRAFT Inc. as a comfortable work environment for employees of a rapidly growing company
By Courtney • Mar 15, 2019
Net Marketing Offices, located in Tokyo, Japan and recently created by DRAFT Inc., are a shining example of design techniques in fostering productive, comfortable work spaces that prioritize employee experience, making their work day more enjoyable and benefitting their work ethic.
In this space specifically, designers and clients went out of their way to establish an explicit work and leisure balance. Perhaps the clearest example of this was their inclusion of an in-office relaxation spa that employees are encouraged to use as they need! This space even offers licensed acupuncture. Between that and the way the office presents versatile and creative options for workspace depending on one’s style, as well as easy access to calming natural light, makes working in this office feel a lot less like… well, work.
Net Marketing is a company that hit its stride and grew very rapidly indeed, which is part of the reason designers and clients wanted to incorporate an element of relaxation into the average fast paced work day. The work spaces of the office are divided across two separate floors, with a third floor above that hosting a space specifically designed to help employees unwind and refresh when necessary. Each person might choose where they feel best working that day.
The open space on the third floor is a versatile one. Some might use it as a quiet break area, but many others visit the space for personal working time or group work. The office occasionally hosts events there as well. In the event that an employee feels as though they need further relaxation to benefit their productivity, they can seek out the office’s acupuncture services or even use the spa area to take a short nap. Health and wellness are an explicit priority here.
Because the nature of the work done in the office requires a high instance of group work, designers aimed to created a space where meetings, large or small, can be conducted easily, comfortably, and efficiently. Communication was a huge priority as well. This is why the team established a layout that enables employees to switch simply and freely between places, working styles, and atmospheres.
In addition to their own personal desks, employees in this office are provided with and free to use a number of other work spots, such as sofas, modern seats in nooks and corners, and standing counters. This setup also lets people easily interact with each other, enabling a free flow of information between them and making for smoother group processes. Of course, in such a free space, there is always a sense of respecting each other’s work styles and need for quiet or conversation, letting people collaborate better but also opt out of engagement when necessary.
In order to let as much natural light reach as many of the office’s rooms and corners as possible, designers chose to divide what spaces are delineated using glass partitions rather than opaque walls. This allows sunlight to travel from room to room as the day goes on. Rather than framing these partitions with harsh black lines, the team opted for brown and neutral shades in their supports to make things feel more casual and less hardened and industrial.
To bolster the use of quite natural materials in the space (you’ll notice heavy accents of wood and mortar, for example, plant life has also been incorporated into the office’s decor scheme and aesthetic. Besides being proven to improve prolonged indoor experiences, greenery helps amp up that casual, spa influenced theme and sense of comfortability.
Photos by Katsuhiro Aoki
Sydney’s Raine & Horne Offices by PMG Group designed to encourage employees to embrace new ways of working
By Courtney • Mar 15, 2019
In the heart of Sydney, Australia, innovative designers PMG Group have created a fantastic office space for the real estate company Raine & Horne as part of an initiative to encourage their employees to embrace new ways of working.
From the outside of the project’s plans, one of the primary goals was to bring employees out of their offices and into more open spaces in order to facilitate a more flowing, collaborative work environment that cubicle style offices simply aren’t built for. Besides that, the team wanted to create a space that blends company history and a familiar, trusted brand with bright, modern spaces and aesthetics.
Upon entering, visitors can already tell that the office is bright and fun. Natural light reaches every corner and highlights a wall of prints featuring historical moments in local real estate, showcasing to clients that the business evolves quickly with the market but still knows its roots. Nearby, a lovely and casual deck area is available for staff and clients to enjoy in their spare time.
In keeping with the natural light and the way it brightens up the space, designers chose to incorporate a lot of greenery into areas of the office. These are dotted around the more formal workspaces and the slightly more casual meeting areas, including the window seating, break booths, and tiered group seating. Many different kinds of group meeting spaces are available depending on what the employees need for the task at hand.
In the areas that are actually designed for more private work, the colour scheme is neutral and natural in a way that is quite calming. This contrasts well with the pops of colour you’ll find in more public areas of the office. Wooden elements and reclaimed timber add a sense of warmth and familiarity. Some spaces have received a more dramatic update than others; the bathroom, for example, was once compared by an employee to the one at “grandma’s house” and now it’s one of the most modern spaces in the place.
The emphasis on keeping an historical aspect in the space continues beyond just the entrance in a beautiful way. Printed graphics, artifacts, and local memorabilia dot the social spaces and line the walls near the tiered seating, private work zone, and throughout several meeting rooms.
Photos by Oliver Ford Photography