Author Archives - Courtney
Villa Helios by SWA Architects is a stunning vacation rental destination in Turks and Caicos with a view that’s practically out of this world
By Courtney • Apr 9, 2019
Along the stunning tropical beaches of Turks and Caicos, as part of the Long Bay Beach Club, the breathtaking retreat Villa Helios was recently completed by SWA Architects. Its beautiful blend of indoor and outdoor spaces and turquoise hues highlight the view so well that onlookers can hardly believe it’s real.
Whether you’re taking a relaxing bath, eating dinner with your family, or lounging on the beach recliners that sit right outside the villa’s doors, the stunning view of shockingly bright, clear waters is never far away. In fact, that was the whole point of the house when designers began conceptualizing it! With a view so perfect so close by, there should be just about no point where you can’t soak it up, even if you’ve gone inside for the night.
Besides just giving you access to the lovely oceanside, this villa also gives you the option of swimming in a private pool. This pool makes it easier to keep little ones close by where you can keep an eye on them while they swim, enjoy some private family time, or take a quick, relaxing dip before you call it day (without getting sand between your toes again).
In order to accentuate the stunning turquoise and blue shades of the water and sky sitting right outside the window, interior decorators finishing off the villa decided to bring those colours inside as well. In every room of the house, small and large details and features can be found bearing the same bright hues as the view just beyond the windows.
The effect of this ongoing colour scheme is profound, creating a cohesiveness throughout the whole building and its surrounding area that feels complete, whole, and uplifting, since it’s such a cheerful colour. The continuity between the view and the decor really makes it feel like the lovely outside area has joined you inside too.
Because the villa is designed for vacation time, relaxation, and bonding, there are plenty of social space to choose from, depending on the time of day. A quiet night in might be spent in the media room, while dinner or snacks might be served at the large dining table or barstool style kitchen seating. If the weather is fine late into the night (which is almost always is), a big patio seating area lets you and all your guests appreciate the view of the water from sun up to sun down.
Besides the pops of turquoise and blue, the villa’s colour scheme is quite natural and neutral, making the bright shades in the details stand out even more. Most surfaces are a pristine, gleaming white that creates a lovely contrast with the teal hues, while other transitionally coloured pieces are made from a lovely reclaimed wood with a natural finish.
The emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces is so thorough in this heavenly villa that even the bedrooms feature large doors that can be fully thrown open to the seaside breezes, as though the wall has disappeared. In each room, the bed is oriented towards the windows and balconies so that you wake up to that stunning view that attracted you to Turks and Caicos in the first place the moment you open your eyes each morning.
Photos by Provo Pictures
By Courtney • Apr 8, 2019
If you’re the kind of person for whom colour takes an unconventionally large priority for in your life, then we have a feeling you’re going to positively adore this breathtaking Bahamian getaway designed by New York based creative Trish Becker. Chatterbox House is a stunning pastel palace that gives its street a bit of mod but also vintage inspired colonial personality.
Nestled onto the coast of Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, Chatterbox House looks like a small but grand, stately cottage was designed by someone who loves unicorns. Some of the finer details might be white or wood finish, but most of the interior decor is mint and pastel pink. In fact, this lovely colour scheme is so pervasive in the house’s identity that it’s even reflected in the exterior of the house itself!
Located in the heart of Dunmore Town, the original cottage was first built in the 1800s, which is where it gets its classic, slightly more traditional Bahamian charm. In fact, similar cottages can be seen elsewhere on the street that Chatterbox House calls home. Because most of the changes that took place were subtle updates and changes in decor, a lot of the classic architectural style that’s so authentic to the island remains, which is part of the building’s glory.
When Becker decided to restore the old house, she had no doubt that the best way to give it a facelift was to add a little more contemporary personality to its already existing charm. Her and her team chose to do so through colours, patterns, and textures! This exciting blend of visual makes the house a Caribbean getaway that’s more than a little notorious, especially in the local area.
While the inside of the house has a classic wooden element that’s full of traditional Bahamian charm the outside is a bit more like a dreamland. The entire base exterior of the house is a soft, cheerful pink that’s even lighter than bubblegum, while the shutters and some trim details are a lovely mint that stands out against the pink very well and picks up tones in the blue sky and water on the horizon.
The house is abundant in social spaces (because how could you not host guests when you’re living in a place that’s so dreamy?), but perhaps the best one is the stunning white wood deck that’s a detailed recreation of the original. Porch portion of the outer deck features a bamboo mini bar and a fully equipped seating area with low tables and patterned cushion clad chairs.
From there, you can take visitors up to the first rooftop deck, where several sunny day beds lie in wait for those hours you might spend soaking up rays. Near the half-door, a ladder extends upwards one more floor to a crow’s nest style rooftop spot that’s like a prime relaxation destination with the best view around.
Photos by Annie Schlechter
In the stunningly sunny city centre of Ponte de Sor in Portugal a wonderfully contemporary building that’s modern in both its aesthetic and functionality was recently completed by Nuno Piedade Alexandre to serve as the brand new Elderly Care Centre.
When the proposal was originally put forth, the challenge was to create a building that will present something new but also blend well and have a good connection with the wider complex in which it sits. Inside, the goal was to provide as many bedrooms as possible without sacrificing too much space or getting in the way of the patients wellbeing as top priority.
The finished building features 10 double rooms and four individual rooms, each one fully equipped with en suite bathroom facilities for ease and privacy. Designers aimed to make the bedrooms and all patient spaces as spacious as possible without wasting any space, because space efficiency was also high on the list of priorities as well.
By fitting the rooms comfortably and sensibly into a building that’s perfectly tailored for the available space near the residence’s main building (this particular part of the Centre is a contemporary extension), designers aimed to provide an experience within that space that’s user focused. By this, we mean that the person themselves and what they need becomes to whole purpose of the room.
This is achieved in part through dematerialization. Of course, we don’t mean that no creature comforts are provided! Rather, a calming and serene sort of minimalism is the style followed throughout the rooms. At the same time, decorative elements are not foregone. This is evident even in the building’s impressive exterior.
You see, the facade of the Centre is distorted and made to look geometric and interesting thanks to the way the rooms are allowed every so slightly to extent past the boundaries of the walls where the windows are located. The overall effect from the outside is almost sculptural, rendering the new Centre a sort of landmark in the town thanks to its eye catching nature.
As part of its indoor minimalism, the rooms inside the building are purposely positioned to capture as much of the lovely outdoor view beyond them as possible. This is something the large windows and their angled protrusions helps with as well. The goal here was to bring vast amounts of sunny, natural daylight into each room for when patients aren’t able to actually go out and experience it beyond their beds on a given day.
These same windows are really the key to the designers’ goals of facilitating communication between the building and its surrounding space and landscape. It might sit closer to the other buildings its patients need access to, making it a functional urban setting, but it also provides wonderfully framed views of the sprawling trees in its yard so no one resting in its beds has to struggle to enjoy nature.
Photos by João Morgado
Mitsuhiro Shoji completes the stunning two-level Modern Wooden Apartment amidst the bustling city skyline of Shanghai
By Courtney • Apr 4, 2019
In the heart of busy Shanghai in China, Mitsuhiro Shoji recently completed the stunning and surprisingly serene Modern Wooden Apartment for a young family with an active, bustling lifestyle.
The first thing visitors usually notice about this innovative residence is its size. Simply put, the apartment is very small! In fact, if takes up only 47 square metres, which is a feat even for the more space efficient standards typical of city life in Shanghai.
The main concept that designers worked with in the making of this apartment was that they wanted to build maximum subtle and space efficient storage into the walls and available spaces in order to make a small home feel a sense of spatial richness through lack of clutter.
To make this happen, designers had most of the furniture included in the photos custom made for the space in order to get the dimensions that would work best. This and their carefully selected materiality helped them build an aesthetic that feels carefree and sophisticated all at once.
The primary materials the designers chose were primitive. They stuck to quite natural feeling things like bamboo, iron, and laminated wood. This incorporates some element of the traditional in with the very contemporary city feel of the apartment’s layout. This is actually a combination that is quite typical or urban spaces in Shanghai, but Modern Wooden Apartment takes that atmosphere to an impressive new height.
In the main living spaces, you’ll find wood used heavily. One of the most noticeable pieces (besides the stunning cut wood dining table) is the retracting kitchen door that gives the dining room some privacy and delineation. This is made from slats of wood that slide right into the wall when you want to keep the space open.
Despite its very small space, the innovative little apartment actually features two levels. The first floor is home to the communal, social, and hosting areas while the upper floor features a bedroom and tatami room. Although the company is based in China, they chose to work with the family’s heritage and follow traditional Japanese culture by including the tatami room, which is actually quite typical in the area.
The stunning tatami room, which sits to the side of the master bedroom, might be used to host guests, conduct tea ceremonies, or serve as a sort of home religious altar.
Photos by Kenta Hasegawa
Design teams at Debaixo do Bloco create a stunning art gallery in Sao Paulo entirely from neat concrete blocks
By Courtney • Apr 3, 2019
In the midst of busy city life in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the breathtakingly serene and beautiful Concrete Block Art Gallery was recently completed by Debaixo do Bloco to provide visitors with a calming space in which to enjoy art, greenery, and literature in peace.
The building in which the gallery is housed occupies a surprisingly narrow plot for how much wonder it features inside. The whole space where the structure was built is only 13 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. The concrete of its facade creates a sense of communication between the gallery and its urban street setting but its texture also makes it stand out rather than blending entirely.
This is because of the stunning precast concrete that makes up the building’s exterior detailing. A sort of textured geometric stacking pattern results, framed perfectly on all sides and up top (where a beautiful rooftop garden sits) by luscious greenery, which balances the concrete in a truly beautiful way.
Originally tasked with the challenge of create a new space for the gallery, which was being moved from another location at the time, designers aimed to make the fresh spot look like the pieces are being displayed comfortably in someone’s home. This is part of the reason they decided to split the art between two main levels and include lots of seating from which people can appreciate the works.
Besides the two main floors, the new gallery also features the rooftop garden terrace we mentioned before, a free space that gets diverse use, a bathroom with its own miniature indoor-outdoor garden, and an office that might be turned into a cafe sometime in the future.
Starting where the awesomely geometric concrete facade ends, the building is clad with cobogos. These are a type of structure concrete wall with beautifully shaped cut outs that give a space a bit of privacy and delineation in their decorative standing without making it feel cut off from the outside world. This lets sunlight into the gallery in a way that is actually quite reminiscient of the local architecture.
Insides, a staircase leads up the centre of the gallery from the ground floor to the second. These stairs are made with plaques supported by a central beam. At the top of the staircase, the beam serves as a spot for displaying additional artwork amidst its cheerful yellow screen feature.
Throughout the whole space, large windows let natural light perfectly highlight the art hung carefully on almost every inch of the walls. These windows also establish a stunning sense of communication between the peaceful interior and the city street outside. Around both floors, visitors experience a strongly established colour scheme made primarily of yellow, grey, and black.
This colour scheme stretches from the ground floor all the way up to the stunning terrace at the top, broken only by the green of the luscious plants all around and the colours in the paintings. Those paintings and frames themselves are hung with extreme care; they’re suspended on chains rather than hooks or nails so they can be displayed at all different heights without damaging the art or the walls.
Photos by Joana França
By Courtney • Apr 2, 2019
The beauty of the stunningly fresh looking and very newly finished Oasis Apartment by Lim + Lu might sit partially in its lovely aesthetic, but it’s also largely due to the story of its origins. You see, this impressive new home in Hong Kong, China, was refurbished from an abandoned apartment that was left empty to age and deteriorate.
Taking up 1,200 square feet, the apartment is now a peaceful, lovely haven that looks like the kind of place you might take a vacation in, which is even more wild to think about when you consider that is sat uncared for in the quarry bay neighbourhood for over 15 years before the new designers transformed it.
Originally owned by a man who spent nearly his whole life in the apartment itself, it was abandoned when he suddenly traveled away from Hong Kong, leaving everything behind in its place and never returning. About a year ago, designers visited the site and noticed how it looks as though time had simply been standing still the moment you walked through the door. They remarked to each other that the outdated but incredibly authentic scene inside was reminiscent of an old Wong Kar Wai movie.
In the newly transformed apartment, designers chose to keep a few original elements untouched in order to give the home a sense of unmatched character. Primarily, visitors might notice a series of old concrete beams visibly covered in chipped orange and green paint. These were preserved in their original condition from the abandoned apartment to give it some detailing that simple cannot be replicated in modern spaces in quite the same rustically kitschy way.
The shades of orange and green, long faded over time, create a lovely visual contrast with the pristinely new white walls. They also complement the warm, neutral palette of the wooden walls and details, which are made of oak, and play off the various brass accents that are found in nearly every room throughout the apartment.
In terms of its layout, the apartment is quite open and contemporary. Designers opted for a mixture of materials to offset the fact that they intended to keep some old painted concrete anyways. Now, besides that, the apartment features the oak and brass we already mentioned and also a heavy element of marble. The goal here was to mix old and new through materiality.
Besides wanting to simply make the apartment look nice, designers adored the idea that the home’s story and the act of keeping a few elements in their original condition almost made the very concept of time part of the material palette. The team and the new owners alike found this incredibly poetic.
Outside, the owners are afforded several lovely views of the apartment’s surrounding urban area. In order to give owners something besides a cityscape to look at, however, designers aimed to make the interior of the apartment artistic enough that it might feel like a view as well; one private to the owners’ enjoyment.
This is part of why clear elements of nature have been incorporated into the apartment in lovely ways. Greenery helps to make the home feel a little more like an escape from busy life, taking one’s mind off the hustle and bustle of the city. It also gives the apartment a fresh atmosphere that feels at once clean and sophisticated.
In the places where the most greenery is present, designers opted to include a few additional materials, just to really drive that sense of nature home. Here, in addition to the warm oak you see elsewhere, visitors encounter volcanic slate and woven wicker as well, giving parts of the apartment the peaceful island feel that begot its name.
Photos courtesy of the designer.
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