Author Archives - Courtney
Unique and simple Rain House created by Describing Architecture Studio to blend traditional Chinese architecture and modern living
By Courtney • Jul 23, 2019
Amidst the rolling hills of ChongQing in China, creative designers at Describing Architecture Studio have recently finished a beautifully unique refurbished housing project for a small family called the Rain House.
Right from the beginning, the conceptualization of this house was rooted in the concept of memory. Designers wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to pay homage to the very hills the plot stands on, blending the house into what’s typically seen in the area in a slightly more modern way so the family can truly enjoy the breathtaking landscape.
Both when the original house was built and now in its refurbishment, designers were presented with a unique challenge that was entirely out of their control. This was the fact that increased traffic in the area presented a serious problem in continuing to build up the area and navigate the area with flow rather than jams.
The development of roads was undoubtedly a good thing for residents, as it met their travel needs in an area that was previously very rural and not necessarily easily accessed, but their presence changed the landscape just enough that the visual fabric of neighbourhoods changed in order to negotiate around and between the roads.
The roads were only the beginning of the changes to the neighbourhood, which are now evident in the amenities that are immediately present in the homes. These changes were directly correlated to a generalized increase in income of the residents in the area, increasing the presence of tap water, gas power, and Internet originally, and leading to all kinds of modern living features now.
Now that road developments and modernizations have largely slowed in the area because the neighbourhood is fully but subtly contemporary despite its ongoing traditionally inspired charm, many designers are trying to pay better tribute to the landscape itself by getting creative but respectful with their homes. Within this project, for example, teams couldn’t help feeling that the position of the sun and how it hits the land should be taken into better consideration from the beginning of their plans.
Incorporating the sun’s position into the actual plans of the home and accounting for where the light will fall aligns well with the Chinese practice of Fengshui. This practice is central to the Rain House, which features single framed stone walls, self-made hollow bricks created locally, and pre-cast slabs, just like most of the houses did when the neighbourhood really started populating more in the 1980s, for the sake of authenticity.
The original house that was transformed into the Rain House featured these as well, but with less weather proofing and modern materiality for support. It was an old three bay house full of wooden casements and windows that did not feature any inset glass. The yard was sunny in most places but also shaded by a stunning 200 year old yellow-horned tree that casts its silhouette quite far from where it sits in the sun across a small river.
Now, in the new house, only certain elements of the original structure remain, most of which have been harvested from what was still usable of what was left and aspects that have been recreated as authentically as possible. A new specific location was chosen for the house in terms of how it is oriented on the site. It provides views of the surrounding woods and farmland but still provides great access to transportation.
In terms of styling, the goal of the design was to achieve a sense of simplicity and uniqueness in one place. Part of this is rooted in the fact that designers chose to work with the uneven terrain of their plot rather than working against it, placing rooms of certain functions very intentionally. The living room, for example, has a slightly higher elevation than the bedrooms because being placed lower on the hill gives the resting spaces more privacy away from the front road, which sits higher.
The same traditional stone walls that you’d have seen in the original house in previous generations are present in this new design in the transitionary space between the new volumes that replaced the original three. Now, three larger rectangular volumes make up the bulk of the house, with two tower structures added on.
Sunlight actually plays a very large role in this house beyond just the Fengshui elements we were talking about previously. Designers also included extremely large windows (with glass this time) in places that they knew would let the most sunlight flood into the shared living spaces and provide tons of comfortable, natural light.
In contrast to the original building and its very traditional materiality, the roof of each of the large rectangular volumes is made from steel rather than wood or bricks. This was a choice for the sake of good weathering and modernizing, and also to provide contrast in shape and angle in the way that the different roofs on the home’s various volumes are tilted and the way they catch the sun.
Another much more contemporary looking element of the house is the glass wall that looks onto the south facing yard. This creates a visual blending of space between the interior common rooms and the beautiful scenery outside, as well as the immediate courtyard. Several of these panes slide like patio doors to quite literally create a blending of indoor and outdoor spaces as well. This wall also provides even more sunlight than anywhere else in the house.
Inside, the house is heavy in its stunning wooden materiality and neutral colour palette. This gives different spaces, especially the bedrooms, a sense of spa-like calm, particularly when the sun hits them and makes them gleam. This theme extends right into the centred tower, which is the tallest building and serves as an open and multi-purpose activities space, changing depending on the needs of the family in the moment.
In fact, the material choices in this home actually played one of the biggest roles in the home’s authenticity within its building process. Here, designers involved bricklayers, stonemasons, and carpenters, just like there would have been in the building of the original house, but this time they collaborate with ironworkers and welders for the more contemporary iron and steel elements.
Photos by Lian He
Stunningly contemporary vertical condo called Qalma Building completed by Carazo Arquitectura in Costa Rica
By Courtney • Jul 22, 2019
In the sunny urban centre of San Jose in Costa Rica, contemporarily minded design teams at the firm Carazo Arquitectura have recently complete a beautifully modern vertical condominium collective called the Qalma Building.
Right from conceptualization, the Qalma Building was planned as an effort to provide more housing in the area while also maintaining a generally reduced environmental footprint. The structure was completed with the preservation of its surrounding environment in mind, leaving a beautiful green space in the immediate area untouched and healthy.
The plot of land on which the building was allotted building space is actually quite heavily wooded. Design teams wanted to interrupt this lovely space as little as possible, taking up only what space was absolutely necessary and repurposing the wood from any trees that were cleared. In the end, they managed to conserve 90% of the site’s original trees.
Because they wanted to take up as little space as possible, designers opted to build generous living spaces by working vertically in the free air rather than horizontally into the naturally inhabited woodland space. This worked well physically, but team members expressed a concern for those who might feel put off by the mere fact that the building extends quite so high into the air, leaving some of the apartments towering extremely high above the ground.
To counteract this concern, designers prioritized the building of residential units that are so incredibly welcoming, comfortable, and calming, and inhabitants’ every need is met. They strove to create an atmosphere that feels explicitly relaxing, like one is retreating to a safe place in the sky rather than towering above a city.
Another priority was to include elements into the building that really make residents feel as though their quality of life is improved by living there. This is part of the reason balcony spaces and floor to ceiling windows have been made such an integral part of both the private units and common spaces. Because the building sits high above the trees, the view from each window is stunningly all-surrounding.
Design teams also had several social priorities in mind when they started conceptualizing the organization of space within the building. Rather than simply creating individualized units with no shared flow, they opted to create several shared spaces within the building that might establish is as one that feels more like a community and less of just a residence hall.
These common spaces, which are intended to draw people out of their units and towards that stunning view, are located mostly in the highest three levels, near the very top of the structure. This positioning was intentional to incorporate the height of the building into the experience as an enjoyable element rather than something those living on lower floors shouldn’t explore.
Nature was also incorporated right into the building in a way that makes it part of the experience. Throughout the transitionary spaces and all common grounds leading from floor to floor or apartment to apartment, local greenery is included in the decor scheme, displayed in a way that contrasts beautifully against the building’s steel and concrete materiality.
The long garden boxes that are features throughout the inside and open air hallways of the building on each floor are also placed at the top, outer edge of every balcony, from ground level all the way up to the top. This not only creates a sense of fresh cohesiveness, but also makes greenery a visual part of the facade when you look at the building from a distance or from below.
The emphasis on greenery in an otherwise rather industrial chic inspired building was based on the scientifically proven health benefits that being surrounding by plants and vegetation has. Designers wanted to allow residents the chance of enjoying reduced blood pressure, lower blood levels of adrenaline, reduced anxiety, and improved concentration, among countless other wonderfully positive things.
Besides the focus on plants, the intentional choices in materiality were based on priorities rooted in strength, longevity, and anti-weathering, as well as chic, neat aesthetic. The choice to leave a lot of the steel and concrete structural elements exposed was made to present a contrast with the otherwise natural area, allowing residents to really see and experience the relationship between buildings and the land.
Photos by Fernando Alda
By Courtney • Jul 22, 2019
Outside the metropolitan area of Petrópolis in Brazil, creative designers at Rodrigo Simão Arquitetura have recently completed an absolutely dreamy family sunshine home called the House in Correas.
This stunning house was designed to be horizontal and sprawling rather than towering and tall. The intent here was to make it feel like a cozy escape, keeping everything low and nestled amongst the lush greenery in the surrounding area. Rather than being made of one monolithic volume containing many rooms, designers chose to create a number of buildings featuring separate suites; one for the owners, a married couple, and one each for a son in his 20s and a daughter just turned 30.
Inspired by prairie houses of previous decades, the house features traditional looking stone walls, steel frames, and wooden furnishings and details all around. It sits in a forested area and is flanked on all sides by lovely, lush gardens that provide each patio (of which there are several) a lovely floral view.
The first and largest suite of this impressive house features the master bedroom first and foremost. This is a stunning space centred on the idea of relaxation and meditation, with a beautiful view when the doors are flung open. This volume also features the living, dining, and playing rooms at one end and, towards the other end where a transitionary space to the other two suites sit, the volume has a fully equipped kitchen, a home theatre, and a stunning indoor-outdoor verandah.
The dining room is perhaps the first and most stunning example of the intentional materiality chosen by designers for the overall home scheme. Here, glazed but naturally coloured wood is used in a way that is nothing short of picturesque. Where the verandah begins, a beautiful home bad is covered like a pavilion and is fully equipped with its own barbecue and pizza oven.
The process of collecting the materials to build this house was an ongoing thing rather than a bulk haul. Designers began collecting local and authentic pieces of stone, reused wood, and even classic home pieces from demolitions in the area, like doors and windows. These lend a slightly rustic chic aesthetic, as though the home is a mosaic of beautiful elements that have been pieced together.
Besides the wooden and stone elements, the house deploys a calming colour of green to balance the breathtaking scenery surrounding the house. This shade is called “English green” and it creates a look that makes the areas in which it is included look as though they might have grown right up from the ground. Upon first glance they appear perhaps moss covered.
The direction in which the house and each of its suites were situated was highly dependent on the view. Designers wanted to ensure that residents and visitors truly get a chance to soap up the sight of the awe inspiring mountains looming in the distance from just about anywhere they might choose to spend time in the house or outside in the grounds.
From there, towards the other bedroom suites, the home features a fitness room under another pavilion, from which one can see a workshop and barn, two beautiful pools with naturally running water, and even a river that has always naturally flowed through the land, passing by the gardens and adding a calming trickling sound to the whole outdoor space.
Inside the guest bedroom suites, beautiful sliding wooden doors lead right into the sleeping area, each of which features a colour scheme of bright pops against neutral and coherently green backgrounds. These spaces are quite spa-like, set aside like their own little home pavilions where visitors might seek solace and thorough rest.
Perhaps one of our favourite features on the entire plot is the use of stone in the yard to create stunning decorative paths and walkways. These move in lovely patterns across and through the lush, green grass, occasionally leading to matching stone staircases that account for changes in terrain across softly sloping hills.
Photos by Andre Nazareth
By Courtney • Jul 19, 2019
Amidst the lush trees of Nova Ponente in Italy, innovative designers at bergmeisterwolf architekten has finished building the Fan Forest Houses; a collection of buildings that, as the name suggests, fan across the landscape to provide a unique home.
In total, the collective is made up of three separate house buildings that look and function cohesively to form a residential ensemble. The homes are built and situated very intentionally on the landscape according to, and in order to account for, the crags of rock and crops of plants that exist on a mountainside.
Because the homes are built on a landscape that seems to constantly shift, each one of the buildings is afforded a unique view. Similarly, the lines and appearances of the homes’ exteriors all differ depending on where on the mountain peaks you’re standing and looking up on them from. This is all thanks to quickly differing points of elevation.
For the sake of solidity and endurance against weather, each of the three homes in the collective is built slightly elevated on a concrete slab. The effect of this is to make the homes appear as though they are sort of floating ever so slightly, hovering subtly above the natural topography surrounding them.
Each of the homes has a beautiful wooden gabled structure that suits the landscape well. In fact, the colour palette and materiality are so appropriate that the houses actually seem to blend right into the forest even as they float above it. The houses are pleasantly dark, just like the natural wood and rock surrounding them.
As the houses splay outwards on the land to form their compound, the trees seem to swallow them in a way that’s more comforting than intimidating or dark. There is a natural sense of homeliness, as though one who has come here to escape is really being given space to breathe and absorb all the benefits that nature has to offer.
On their facades, the houses feature black-brown slats that engulf the walls and continue all the way up to cover the roof as well, giving them a monotone and slightly monolithic look. Several spaces, like the large cantilevered terrace, allow the indoor spaces in each building to blend almost seamlessly with the abundant outside space provided by the surrounding forest.
Adding to their almost otherworldly appearance and the interesting way they use space is the fact that the home’s main entrance, which is located in the largest volume of the three, is covered for privacy. Even more interestingly, the front door is actually accessed by a wooden bridge leading from the wooded land into the foyer.
The first thing most people notice upon passing off the wooden bridge and through the door is the way the roof’s shape can be seen from the underside, letting dwellers and guests actually experience its unique shape. The way the common space extends upward to the topmost point and mirrors the fan-like shape visitors saw outside as they approached the house makes the shared and living spaces feel even more generous than they truly already are.
From each balcony and floor to ceiling window, one can see the way the buildings appear to grow right out of the landscape and spread out, allowing the woods and the plants and animals they’re home to spread between the volumes of the house nearly uninterrupted.
To connect the different units of the home, which are not actually entirely separate from each other the way they might look at first glance, designers built more wooden bridges. These are raised from the ground, contributing to the sense that, from a distance, the volumes of the home seem to float.
The effect on the inner spaces of being separated and connect by these bridges is one of cohesiveness and yet privacy. No one feels cut off from any other space or person, but each person there can still seek calm, peaceful solitude and quiet whenever necessary.
Inside, the palette is much lighter in shade even though the materiality remains much the same. From floor to ceiling, almost the entire interior of the home, especially in the private spaces and sleeping rooms, is wooden. A pleasant light wood keeps the rooms bright in partnership with all those lovely, high windows. This creates a stunning contrast with the dark wood of the exterior.
Furnishings have been intentionally chosen to suit and look cohesive with the materiality and style of the rest of the home. Pieces are neutral, interesting to look at but now flashy, and stylish without being showy.
Photographs by Gustav Willeit
Wellington’s Ostrich House completed by Parsonson Architects as a hybrid country-city living experience
By Courtney • Jul 18, 2019
On a hill outside of New Zealand’s notable city of Wellington, Parsonson Architects have recently finished a residential project that blends the beauty of living in the country with the convenience of living right on the edges of an urban space. The uniquely shaped Ostrich House sits atop a hill of its own and provides a comfortable escape for a young family.
Photos by Paul McCredie
By Courtney • Jul 18, 2019
Nestled onto the top of a hill that overlooks the sparkling waters of Lake Minnetonka, design teams at Nor-Son recently custom built a beautifully traditional home with a contemporary twist. Appropriately dubbed the Modern Dutch Colonial, this impressive residential structure is notorious to the small town residents in Orono, Minnesota.
Despite its clearly classic and perhaps even old fashioned influences, this beautiful houses offers all of the amenities of modern living and more, both in terms of function and the fine details of the style. The overall shape and grand features of the home might be overtly Dutch colonial but certain things, like the bright shining copper gutters and the over-sized linear windows that flood the interiors with light, really make a modern impact.
On the main level of the home is an open concept common space that’s perfect for relaxing, sharing family time, and hosting guests. Free flowing movement is a primary element between the living room and the kitchen, but a butler’s pantry does create one area of partition to hide some elements of preparation from guests, as is custom in formal older houses.
Along the outer walls of this open floor plan are several sliding glass doors that span the entire vertical space from floor to ceiling. When opened, these lead to a patio and pool area, opening one whole side of the room to the sun and fresh air and creating a connection between inner and outer spaces that feels almost seamless.
On the outside of the house, perhaps one of the most attention grabbing features is the column of windows that stem from ground level all the way up the house to the roof. It sits right in the centre if the house, providing a hint of the comfort and style inside. The rectangular column shape is maybe the first hint of the modern twist that designers laced in with the more classic Dutch Colonial influences.
Inside, a grand living room looks rather stately but also comforting, a perfect place to both bond and host guests. A beautiful fireplace sits central, a clear focal point of the room, providing warmth in the winter and simple traditional style throughout the summer when it’s not being used.
Other areas of the house align more closely with the modern side of its lifestyle. The fully equipped and brand new laundry room, for example, hints at a sense of contemporary convenience. Even here, and elsewhere (like around the home bar, for example), however, there are clear countryside influences in things like X-frame doors and wooden trim.
One room stands out in particular as a slight deviation from both of the clearest style influences blended elsewhere in the house. This is a guest bathroom where graphic green and gold wallpaper grabs the attention of anyone who passes it immediately, while gold taps and details and an ornate gilt framed mirror create a cohesive, if kitschy, aesthetic. Grand looking pendant lights with bulbs that almost resemble gems hang above the sink.
To the side of the living room and kitchen lie a set of glass sliding doors that help flood the common spaces with natural light. These doors not only help blend indoor and outdoor spaces in a way that feels comfortable and nearly seamless, but they also give simple access out to a stunning patio and outdoor seating area.
Beyond this seating area, which is furnished with comfortable chairs that look modern in terms of their shape and style but rustic in their materiality, lies a stunning and sizeable swimming pool. This separates the raised stone patio from a rolling lawn, nearby which the family often enjoys dinners at a full patio dining table on warm summer evenings.
Photos by Scott Amundson Photography
Irresistible Watercolour Beach Home created by Geoff Chick & Associates as a holiday home with a dreamlike layout and colour palette
By Courtney • Jul 17, 2019
In the sunny dales of South Florida, iconic designers at Geoff Chick & Associates have built a stunning coast cottage that looks every bit the kind of serene escape a family might seek out to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and unwind somewhere that is truly calming.
The Watercolour Beach Home is aptly named for its unique use of colour and materiality, particularly in its interiors. In its details, shapes, and accents, the home already has a very coastal inspired aesthetic, but that’s undoubtedly driven home by the way the home grounds itself in a monochrome way in clean shades of white and cream, but then features pops of bright teal.
Those attention grabbing teal details don’t just happen in one room; it’s a theme that actually flows from space to space, extending throughout the entire house. Whether it’s a throw pillow, a simple blanket, a duvet, or a painting, a person walking through the house will absolutely find some kind of teal element in every single room.
Where there isn’t teal, there is greenery included in each of the aforementioned rooms, adding an additional colour pop to each space in a way that’s more natural and subtle. This not only adds another shade to the room against all that pretty cream and white, but it also creates a spa-like sense of nature throughout the house, bonding the interior experience a little with the home’s beautiful surroundings.
Those shades of cream we’ve raved about so much aren’t only present in the living and private spaces inside the home. The same cream neutral shades actually encapsulate the entire exterior of the house as well, making it at once stand out against and also not interrupt the greenery and coastline surrounding the plot on which the house stands.
Light, naturally finished wood also plays a huge roll in establishing the coastline inspired aesthetic and light backdrop colour scheme. It’s featured across the floor, on most tabletops, in several side furnishings, and even across the ceiling between white painted cross beams. The effect quite closely resembles driftwood, making the house look cleanly rustic even in its luxury.
Amidst its many bedrooms, ranging from spacious master to impressive guest, are several kids’ bedrooms built for not only the kids of the owning family, but also their friends and young relatives, since this is a vacation home. Designers continued their work with wood by building shelf style bunkbeds hat are inset right into the wall. Interesting wicker basket chairs add a slightly contemporary shape to the room to keep things friendly for the kids’ space.
The beautiful watercolour inspired house has several novelties for the adults living there as well, and not just for the kids! Down a set of wooden topped stairs, visitors can find a glass encased wine cellar that is not only well organized and impressively stocked, but even temperature controlled to ensure the perfect flavour when each bottle is opened.
The house also offers a whole plethora of beautiful balconies, giving every person in the house a place to relax in peace, alone or together, outside in the sun. Being elevated on the top floor and placed all around the front and back of the house provides several different stunning views of the seaside countryside surrounding the whole plot.
Finally, the house offers an ultimate sunny afternoon spot around the back in the form of a poolside that feels like a private getaway. The raised wooden deck features couch style point swings and sprawling day beds, some in warm sunlight and some under a shady pergola. Each one gives stunning access to the sparkling waters of a large pool.
Photos provided by designer.
Playful Chatterbox House by de la Guardia Victoria Architects & Urbanists, Inc. uses pink and turquoise to create colour pops in a perfect seaside home
By Courtney • Jul 16, 2019
Along the stunning coastline of Harbour Island in the Bahamas, forward thinking designers at de la Guardia Victoria Architects & Urbanists, Inc. have recently refurbished an old beach cottage with bright colours and beachy furniture in order to create the gorgeous Chatterbox House.
Located near the beaches of a little island village called Dunmore Town, the original building was a cottage that was first build in the late 1800s. It was the picture of old world Bahamian charm, but it was also in desperate need of some refurbishment when designers came across it.
Since they were already updating its actual structure, teams opted to update the style and atmosphere of the cottage ever so slightly as well. While they absolutely wanted to say authentic to the original history and classic integrity of the old house, preserving as much of it as they could, they also wanted to add a quirky sense of contemporary cheer to the space.
Once the three storey house, with its expansive front porch and rooftop terrace, was structurally sound once more and ready to be inhabited anew, designers decided to decorate it with an undoubted sense of Caribbean influence but with an even more colourful twist than usual. A colour scheme heavy in light pink and bright turquoise was chosen, with several contrasting shades featured in fun, visually loud patterned pieces like hanging art and throw blankets.
One particularly neat and surprisingly authentic detail is the tile inlay that adorns the front porch. Although it looks shining and new, it was actually a feature of the original house that has simply been redone in a precise reproduction of the first, which was damaged after years of seaside weathering.
The riles aren’t the only interesting thing about the porch, of course. Besides the fact that the beloved colour scheme follows visitors out into this open air seating area, there’s also the novelty of a comfortable and unique looking porch swing! A similar outdoor seating space exists at the top of the house as well, on a small, wooden rooftop terrace. Here, a full airy lounge area is afforded a beautiful view of the surrounding town and waterline.
Inside the house, the bedrooms are afforded stunning views as well. The master bedroom and both guests sleeping areas have large, breathtaking windows on each wall, giving dwellers an almost 360 degree view all around as they move through the house from room to room.
Perhaps the absolute best view in the house, however, is above even the terrace we described with the outdoor escape style seating. Near the barn-style door that leads to the terrace, there’s actually a wooden staircase that leads to a “bird’s nest” at the very top of the house, giving visitors an actual 360 view without the interruption of window frames!
From the street, Chatterbox House presents an irresistibly fun sight that stands out from and yet, thanks to its whimsy and brightness, also somehow suits the beachy surroundings amidst which it is nestled.
Photos by Annie Schlecter
By Courtney • Jul 16, 2019
In a quiet, sunny neighbourhood in São Paulo, Brazil, creative design teams from Studio Arthur Casas have recently completed a beautifully contemporary and nearly open air vacation home for a family of four with adult kids. The beautifully rectangular JY House stands high above a golf course with impressive gravity.
The home’s nearly blockish contemporary shape isn’t actually the only very interesting thing about the way the house is built. Rather than being one monolithic piece, the house is actually divided into two connected but distinct volumes that are slightly displayed from one another on the hill the house was erected on.
The first volume, which sits a little lower down on the hill towards the golf course, houses all of the home’s common areas. This part of the house includes social areas like the foyer, living room, family room, and kitchen, which are almost entirely blended with an outdoor porch area that feels more like yet another room.
This impressive blending of spaces is possible thanks to a fully retractable glass wall that provides a beautiful window view when it’s closed and a feeling of boundary-less living when it’s slid fully open. For privacy, a decorative screen wall with a swooping curved shape is built where the eye line from the golf course might otherwise see right into the home. This feature avoids making the home feel closed off, as it has no sealed edges and looks more like a piece of art than an actual room boundary.
In the higher volume of the house one finds the private and sleeping spaces which, despite still being fresh and quite open air, are built like more sheltered suites. They are decorated and positioned to be afforded a beautiful view of the golf course down the hill but they’re also intentionally more closed off to make them feel like each person’s own little escape.
At the other side of the house, where guest bedrooms and bathrooms lie, as well as some storage space, the house is absolutely more closed off. This is the part of the house that faces the street. It presents an impressive facade in its rectangular shape made of metal and stone, with a cobbled walk up from the drive, but it masks the relaxing spaces just behind.
In the upper floor’s master suites, an antechamber sits off to one side. This is a multi-purpose space that, depending on their needs, the owners might use in different ways; say, as an office or a private, intimately sized living room, for example. Past the bedrooms suites, the upper floor volume is also home to a fully equipped gym, as well as a games room.
One of the biggest challenges designers face in building this house was the way it inherently had to account for the slope on which it sits. They chose to use tactics that worked with the hill, rather than building against or cutting into it. Supporting inverted beams make each of the home’s volumes more solid by spanning the space between the floors.
The facade, which provides shade when the building is slid fully and solidly closed, was actually originally chosen by designers in order to meet the owner’s goals of building a house that differentiates itself in style from the rest of the dwellings in the neighbourhood in a big but pleasing way. It is made from grey leaded aluminum that is easy to maintain.
The the outdoor spaces, which were a huge priority to everyone involved, two extremely unique features set the house into a league of its own. The first is the way the roof of the lower level is situated right below the upper floor’s open wall, stretching across like a raised lawn thanks to the way it’s actually covered in lush green grass.
The second fantastic novelty feature is the gleaming swimming pool. This sits at the bottom of the house, down in the main yard where it can easily be accessed from the shared public and common spaces. The pool’s position makes the open-air structure of these spaces even more enticing.
Photos by Fernando Guerrera
1926 Georgian Revival house transformed by Sarah Bartholomew Designs from a childhood home to a dream escape for a grown family
By Courtney • Jul 15, 2019
In a beautifully sprawling neighbourhood in Nashville, Tennessee, experts at Sarah Bartholomew Designs have recently refurbished an old house called the 1926 Georgian Revival for a family that has lived there for many years indeed with one primary goal in mind- to transform it from a childhood home into a dream home fit for an adult family.
Within this transformation, it was incredibly important to both owners and designers that the original style and integrity of the old home despite the modernizations being made. That doesn’t mean, however, that they didn’t still make the place look quite contemporary, particularly thanks to their choices in colour and patterning.
Designers chose intentionally cheerful, bright, and eye catching shades and hues for the decorative elements of the home, set against creamy, neutral backgrounds. At the same time, an emphasis on fantastic, visually textured patterns partners up with those bright colours to really add some modern personality to the mix.
The kitchen is a perfect example of the way traditional shapes and neutral base colours preserve the classic style of the house while brighter colours add a modern pop to the space. We adore the way the bright blue topped stools and matching pendant light fixtures, which resemble old lanterns in their shape, create a stunning blend of contemporary and vintage within the room.
Moving through to the dining room, the location of the colour pops shift. This is to say that, rather than neutral walls and bright furniture, this room has simple, creamy furniture and bright walls! This is all thanks to visually exciting patterned wallpaper that involves intricate designs featuring the same blue you saw in the kitchen, just for a bit of cohesiveness.
In some spaces, design teams actually chose to use the owners’ own stunning belongings, which have been carefully chosen and accumulated over the years, as inspiration for some of the rooms, since the aesthetic fit the classic shapes and architecture so well. Their large collection of porcelain vases, for example, informed the way some of the transitionary hallways were decorated in terms of their patterning.
In other rooms, the blue that’s continued so heavily throughout the house is pared back slightly in order to let another colour take centre stage. The formal living room is the perfect example of what we mean! Here, a bright green throw pillow and coordinated piece of wall art, as well as several other details, create a whole different modern and classic aesthetic blend.
Elsewhere in the house, that same pretty eggshell blue continues from space to space, standing out or lying back in different ways depending on which other shades are present. A daughter’s bedroom, for example, features that blue with an exciting bright pink in the details, while an office and hallway feature the blue set against a cheerful, sunny yellow.
The outside of the house is perhaps the most traditional looking aspect of the house in terms of what was preserved. Having been refurbished entirely to counteract years of weathering, the house still features its original columns and entryway canopy, on top of which a stunning balcony stems off the spacious master bedroom.
The contrast between the beautifully traditional brickwork on the home’s exterior and its clearly maintained architectural shape with the bright, playful patterns and colours make the space feel dynamic and full of life.
Photos by Traditional Home Magazine
Stunningly modular Stray Bird Boutique Hotel created by STUDIO QI for a relaxing but cutting edge oasis experience
By Courtney • Jul 15, 2019
In the stunning rural greenery of Ningxia, China, innovative designers at STUDIO QI have recently completed and opened a stunningly conceptual and beautifully laid out escape called the Stray Bird Boutique Hotel.
This wonderfully modern boutique hotel sits in a sort of countryside oasis that is nestled right between the Yellow River and the Tengger Desert. This unique spot lies in the heart of China’s Ningxia Autonomous Region; a rare spot of greenery and flowing waters before the sand and sun take over the landscape.
The site of the hotel itself is an actual blossom orchard, which runs all along the horizon where the scenery changes and the desert beings to stretch in the distance. Since the location of the plot is so unique already, designers opted to follow suit and create an equally unconventional staying experience that somehow also still suits and jives with its green surroundings.
The main goal of the design team became to challenge the typical architecture in the remote, sparsely populated area in order to create something incredibly airy and open feeling. They took great inspiration from ideas of transparency, letting a contemporary sense of minimalism provide breathtaking views that allow one to feel like their newly sought out private space is one with the surrounding landscape.
The hotel is made up of several separate volumes dotted closely enough to one another to avoid feeling isolated or cut off, but far enough from one another so as to feel private despite their openness. Each small respite space is made from a pre-fabricated frame that was brought in and erected on site in order to interrupt the topography as little as possible and preserve it.
Despite the simple, pre-fab frame of each little building, the interiors of the units are nothing short of sophisticated. The details and finishes are sleek and modern looking, equipped with full amenities, but also subdued enough to allow one’s concentration to lie fully with the beauty of what lies outside.
Part of what makes the outdoor areas so easy to appreciate and connect with from within each of these lovely little escapes is the Low-E glass curtain wall technology that is installed in three sides of each. This lets the walls fold back entirely as though they have been opened by curtains, creating a stunning blending of interior and outdoor spaces, as though fresh air is limitless.
Within each serene unit, the interior spaces are quite open concept in terms of their physicality. In terms of their function, however, they are organized according to three different actions: sitting, standing, and sleeping. Since the whole focus of the hotel is relaxation and seeking peace, the actions of sitting and sleeping are regarded as being the most important, so these are the actions that are most catered to within each unit.
In order to facilitate maximum relaxation, designers placed spaces for sitting and sleeping in each of the four corners of the units, nearest the large windows and retracting walls for maximum sunlight, fresh air, and access to nature. Other functions of the space, or the parts that require standing and things other than relaxation, are compartmentalized to the centre of the room, facilitating easy flow of space and energy.
This is quite opposite to how most retreats and hotels are built. Normally, the most private spaces, like the sleeping quarters, are removed from view and kept on the most private side. Here, designers have moved the resting areas to the edges on purpose, giving them clear paths to the outdoors, and prioritizing visual and open air connections to nature.
The units are not, of course, completely devoid of privacy. On their back walls, where they face each other most directly and would therefore lend the most view to others staying at the boutique hotel, each one features a playful looking perforated wall. This allows semi-privacy in that onlookers cannot see into the unit, but guests are still afforded the natural play of light and shadow as the sun moves across the property.
Across these perforated back walls, designers created beautifully painted themes in subdued colours that look like shadows and light play in and of themselves. Each unit features a different theme, ranging from pear trees to the birds the hotel is named after. The images create a sort of nature inspired backdrop to the peace being sought inside.
Photos by Qingshan Wu
By Courtney • Jul 12, 2019
In the rolling countryside in upstate New York, design teams at Chango & Co. have recently completed a stunning family getaway modelled after the farmhouses of auld, but with the interior decor and amenities of a modern country home. The aptly named Country Farmhouse stands out modestly but beautifully in the residential fabric of Dutchess County!
The home is notorious for its beauty amongst the residents of Amenia, the little country town it actually nestles on the border of. It was built for a family of only four, but with the intention of hosting family and friends whenever possible in mind. Designers wanted to make sure the country home had a clear sense of its relaxed location, while also feeling comfortably modern.
Because the family has two children, who they very much allowed an active involvement in choosing certain elements of the home, designers made the choice to create spaces the specifically cater to adults or kids, allowing the rest of the house to be blended spaces where the two generations can come together.
Of course, the house does bear an undeniably farmhouse influenced atmosphere, with clear elements of the aesthetic throughout just about every room. This rings true from the wooden X-frame detailing in the front door right to the table legs in the dining room and elsewhere. Carlisle style hardwood flooring spreads across each storey, adding a sense of rustic warmth with its ever so slightly uneven planking.
The walls contribute to both the farmhouse aesthetic and the concentration on visual texture as well. In rooms where statement wallpapers haven’t been chosen for a slightly more modern pop of colour, V-groove cladding is featured on the walls, giving the appearance of old fashioned boarding like you’d have seen in a working farmhouse in the area earlier in the century.
In the common spaces where the adults mainly occupy their time, a calming neural palette has been selected to carry on the sense that this is a serene place where people can truly relax. Natural materiality follows the palette’s suit, contrasting beautifully with the gleaming metal of things like the kitchen appliances.
In the rooms intended for the children, however, natural aesthetics take a back seat! Here, pops of colour own the space and help create an atmosphere that’s playful and full of cheer. Eye catching wallpapers have been chosen to take the colour palettes and visual textures to a whole new level.
From the shared spaces where the family might spend time together or with guests, floor-to-ceiling glass doors provide the family with a seamless feeling connection between the indoors and outdoors. This lets visitors go from a formal living room with a stone and reclaimed wood fireplace and surround straight out onto a lovely patio where the same wood that was featured in the reclaimed reclaimed ceiling beams is then mirrored in the beams outside as well.
The furnishings in the outdoor spaces follow suit of those inside; natural in materiality but with a touch of modernity when it comes to shape. The rounded porch swing with a cutout looking seat is a perfect example. The view from here is one of countryside bliss and rolling lawns where the kids can enjoy time outside of their colour popping indoor spaces.
Despite the fact that the home is supposed to be an escape, designers also wanted to make sure that all possible responsibilities and needs the family might have can be met by the space. This is why they built a homework space near the children’s bedrooms. When it’s not being used for school work, it’s a great hangout space away from the hustle and bustle of adult life.
Photos by Sarah Elliot
By Courtney • Jul 11, 2019
In the midst of the Stockholm archipelago, design and architectural teams at Tham & Videgård Arkitekter have recently completed a small but magical escape called the Summerhouse.
Located in Norrtälje SO, Sweden, the house sits at the centre of a remote island. It is small but intentionally so, built to make sense for its very unique context. Part of the reason it makes sense with the land is that it is made primarily with resources that could be either found in the directly local area or transported extremely easily.
This is, of course, due to the fact that the island, like all islands, is difficult to access in terms of transportation. Not being able to access the building site by car or truck presented several unique challenges to the design and construction teams, but the ways they found to work around those limitations are part of what gives the house its charm.
The small house is built around a central hub, which is a large multi-purpose room laid out to be the primary social space. With the living room in the dead centre, a corner is reserved for a fully functional but space efficient kitchen and small seating area. Different areas around the edges of the room have been built to look out of floor to ceiling glass walled alcoves from different directions, each one offering a view of the surrounding island from a differing vantage point.
All around the edges of the central room, designers built four small sleeping rooms. Two of these are sleeping rooms, which are conservative in space and designed purely for rest and repose, as the focus of the house is truly centred on the communal spaces. The other two rooms are a storage and a bathroom. Each of the four rooms sits at one of the four corners of the main space.
Besides the full window walls we’ve already described, light enters the central part of the home through a sizeable sky light, as well as several glazed niches throughout the house and in the sleeping spaces. The aim here was to create a sense that the great view outside the home’s walls is accessible from all angles, all the way around the house.
To one side, sliding glass doors have been built into the wall not only for light, but also to blend indoor and outdoor spaces. Visitors can travel from the interior of the home through to a small covered terrace where outdoor dinners often take place, then further into the yard. These spaces, in combination, create a sort of transitionary experience.
The interior and exterior of the house are actually built from the same material at its base, despite their quite different looks. On the outside walls and the rood, the wooden slats are covered in a black slate bitumen that is standard for the area. On the inside, however, the rooms are surrounded walls to ceiling in natural looking sawn wood panels painted in a pleasant light grey.
At present, furniture in the home is understated and quite minimalist. Some of it provides a subtle pop of colour while other pieces give the room some interesting shape in a house that is otherwise quite cubic.
Photos by Lindman Photography
By Courtney • Jul 10, 2019
In the quiet green spaces of Charlotte, in North Carolina, Fusterio Design recently finished the large and impressive Traditional Home to provide a family with a comfortable living space that hearkens back to classic and somewhat old fashioned architectural and lifestyle elements typical of the local area.
In total, Traditional Home encompasses 3,694 square feet on an expansive plot of green land right outside the city. In addition to beautiful shared spaces for the family to bond and host guests in, the home boasts four large bedrooms and three bathrooms throughout the house.
One of the most interesting aspects of the house is the way design teams intentionally chose to create a notable contrast between the home’s exterior and the style inside. From the street, the building is a striking example of traditional local architecture, and much of that continues inside, but a shift towards modern shapes, materials, and furnishings is visible the moment one enters the front door.
One constant example of traditional materiality all throughout the house is the heavy featuring of white oak. It can be seen in cupboards, decor detailing, trim, and all across the floors throughout the house. These wooden elements contrast beautifully with high end lighting choices, cleanly modern looking tiles, and contemporary plumbing features.
To match the white oak featured all over but withstand changes in weather, the bulk of the home’s exterior is built from brick that has also been painted a clean, stark white. These bricks contrast further with even more wood in the form of cedar columns and a pleasantly naturally stained cedar porch.
Although it is intentionally styled along an old fashioned, not-quite-rustic aesthetic, the kitchen is possibly the most obviously modern looking room in the house. Here, brand new appliances made from gleaming stainless steel play off shining white marble countertops. Decor elements and continued wooden details, however, keep a sense of the traditional ever present for cohesiveness.
Despite the fact that the layout of the home follows a more classic sense of room building, with more delineation between common spaces than you might find in very modern looking open concept spaces, the house still manages to feel open and airy, rather than closed off or uninviting.
This is partially due to the colour choices (white is absolutely the dominant shade throughout all rooms), but also the design choice to prioritize large, gorgeous windows. Every room features beautiful casings and glazed panes, many that extend clear from floor to ceiling. This is just one example of the kind of incredible attention to detail that went into designing and building the house.
At the heart of the home is a grand looking living room where the bulk of the family’s bonding time is spent. In this room, beautifully old fashioned style furniture is arranged comfortably around a stately looking fireplace, close to which designers built a set of impressive French doors. These lead to a shaded and very pleasant covered deck at the back of the house.
The covered deck is built more like a fully equipped outdoor living space rather than simply a patio where people might spend a few minutes. For example, the family regularly eats dinner out there on warm days. The house already boasts two different dining rooms as well, one formal and one informal, giving the owners flexibility of where to dine depending on the occasion.
Besides the double dining room situation, the house boasts several other spots where classic looking decor and styling gives off a traditional feel even though the concept of the space is actually quite contemporary. The mud room is a great example, as is the “zero entry” shower, which resembles its own open concept room!
Overall, the colour scheme house-wide is very light, which is part of what keeps things feeling so light and airy. That’s not to stay, however, that the rooms feel to monochrome of that they’re not dynamic! In each space, darker features like cabinets or siding ground the room while gold decor pieces keep things interesting and slightly upscale.
Photos by Charlotte Imagery
By Courtney • Jul 10, 2019
On the edges of Austin, Texas, design and construction teams at Cornerstone Architects recently finished and impressively expansive and bright dwelling called the Gorgeous Mediterranean Home.
This home was heavily inspired by the architecture and lifestyles of homes in the sunny Mediterranean. Nestled onto a stunning plot in the neighbourhood of Rollingwood, the home was erected from an older structure that had become run down and dilapidated before the plot was sold.
Despite the inhabitable building, however, the land was still of top quality. One of its biggest draws was actually a cluster of mature live oak trees, which were the first thing that caught the new owner’s attention. In fact, the team held these trees in such high esteem that their placement and the path of their roots largely determined the layout and situation of the home itself.
Besides working with the primary goal of not disturbing the trees, designers were also tasked with incorporating several of the new owner’s architectural fascinations. This resulted in an aesthetic that is at once quite traditionally Mediterranean in its shapes and proportions, but that also has a clean looking elegance to it that’s slightly more modern and personalized.
In every single room of the house, natural light was made a high priority. Rooms were built with an open concept layout to encourage the easy flow of sunlight from the windows and all throughout the spaces, and between them as well. The owner desired every room, right from the public spaces straight through to the private areas to be, in his words, “awash” in light.
Besides letting light flow from space to space, the open concept layout of the home also also facilitates good airflow and free movement of people and things from space to space. The goal here was to create a harmonious feeling from one space to the next, making the home feel cohesive and sensical; comfortable to be in but easy to use.
We’ve already mentioned how the large, impressive windows allow the free flow of natural light, but they serve another purpose within the house as well. Designers intended these to work in partnership with several sets of sliding and disappearing doors to create a sense of blended space between the home’s interior and its outdoor spaces.
On the other side of the biggest glass wall sits a sunny lanai that provides a breathtaking view of the very oak trees that attracted the new owner to the plot in the first place. Indeed, the way that this outdoor space situates those who sit there, where they can relax underneath the trees’ shady branches, makes one feel as though they are part of the natural scenery swaying in the soft breeze.
Beyond the kitchen, which the glass wall sidelines, visitors will also find a grand but very cozy great room. This flows easily into a library that boasts its own breakfast nook, as well as several nooks for quiet reading or sitting and socializing with friends. All of these rooms roll into one another intentionally, without any harsh transitions between them, and each features, of course, its own iteration of that same stunning oak tree view.
Photos by Buff Strickland
By Courtney • Jul 9, 2019
If there ever was a space that perfectly combined elements of vintage, rustic, stylish, weathered, and colour popping, then it’s absolutely the recently made over Acorn Falls Cottage by Ballard Design.
Located in Highlands, North Carolina, this mountain home is positively infused with colour in a way that follows contemporary decor trends at the exact same time as it harnesses natural and rustic aesthetics to suit the woodland surroundings designers nestled it comfortably into.
Originally built in the early 1900s, the cottage has long been an historic vacation spot, with countless families renting it out over the years to enjoy the mountain air and benefit from a relaxing escape while still remaining close enough to the town of Highlands to be convenient and not isolated.
Missy Woolf, an iconic designer famous for her cottage renovations, is responsible for the slightly modernized but still undoubtedly weathered vintage chic aesthetic of the newly overhauled cottage. Her aim was to preserve as much of the building’s original charm as possible while still giving it an update that looks and feels fresh and perhaps even luxurious, in a grounded sort of way.
This mixed atmosphere was achieved partially through the use of a combination of furnishing choices ranging from high end and designer to locally made artisan pieces that are natural in their materiality. Local artwork is also a large part of the cottage’s revamping, giving it a newfound charm and character while still tying it to its place right there on the mountain.
Besides these design choices, the element of the newly redone house that is perhaps the most important is the way the space now plays with colour, particularly turquoise. Besides being very trendy in fashion and design right now, turquoise is a colour that invokes calm, cheeriness, and an upbeat attitude. In the particular muted shade you see in these photos, however, it stirs the same feelings but suits the landscape without seeming to scream too bright against all that natural wood and rock.
To incorporate the use of so much turquoise into the house more thoroughly rather than just having the exterior and a few painted pieces bear all the weight of eye catching on their own, we appreciate the way the designer chose to balance the colour with other fun, colourful fabrics that contribute to the sense of having a “pop” where there isn’t just natural wood and plain white.
On the porch, which features a failing made entirely from branches, a shaded but warm and comfortable seating area has been built. The cottage still has its original layout, which is slightly more traditional than the open concept homes you see more commonly now that usually feature blended indoor-outdoor spaces, so the establishment of a good, solid outdoor place to sit combats the cottage feeling closed off from its beautiful outdoor surroundings.
White and turquoise follow you throughout the house, from the wicker swing seats on the porch, through the kitchen and living room and on into the bedrooms. Rather than using precisely the same muted turquoise as you see on the cottage’s fashionably faded exterior, however, you’ll notice that some pieces feature a deeper shade of the colour, bordering almost into teal. This grounds the aesthetic and makes it feel more dynamic.
The kitchen and its accompanying dining room are perhaps the part of the house that feature the most delicious blend of rustic and modern. All of the essentials and amenities are modern and gleaming new, but the use of reclaimed local wood is still heavy in many large features, like the island and the high bar style table, keeping that rustic feel that’s so essential to a mountain cottage.
Of course, the kitchen isn’t the only place that boasts impressive rustic features built in natural materials. We’re also in awe at how much we adore the way the fireplace in the central living room look as thought it has been pieced together right there in the heart of the home, stone by stone. In the winter, this becomes one of the coziest places to gather with loved ones.
Of course, the outside of the cottage is a wonderful space to enjoy as well, beyond just the deck and porch swings! Designers also incorporated a firepit area nestled in the leaves on the lawn, with a safe place to relax in large wooden chairs while the embers glow and the kids roast marshmallows.
Photos by Sarah Ingram
By Courtney • Jul 9, 2019
In the Mueang Udon Thani District of Thailand, innovators at TOUCH Architect have created a unique coffee experience that was conceptualized as a way to make the most of small urban spaces where no other business might successfully run. That’s how the Option Coffee Bar came about!
This little coffee shop is located in the inner city area of Udon Thani. Despite its small square footage, it can be accessed directly from the main street, which still makes it a prime business spot that other companies might not have taken advantage of so successfully. All together, the little space has three main functions: a cafe, a restaurant, and a bar.
Rather than being split up into different sections for these three functions, the whole spaces works within itself as a timeshare might. In the mornings, the spot is a cafe, bakery, and health food restaurant and store. The afternoons become less about coffee and baked goods and more about serving full nutritious lunches, while the evenings add a full craft beer menu to the repertoire.
The timesharing functions of the space presented designers with unique challenges in terms of organization and layout, but they handled them magnificently and with max efficiency. Besides being built to suit all of the different functions it features, the coffee shop was also built in a fluid, open concept way that is diverse and allows constant evolution of function.
There are two floors in the building. The first boasts the cafe and a counter bar, which see the most traffic in the mornings. On the second floor, referred to as the mezzanine, one finds only customer seats, but these are spaces intentionally created to suit studying and socializing, depending on the time of day, and customer needs.
What really makes the mezzanine floor unique is the fact that most of the seating provided is free floating and without defined form, rather than being arranged in booths and rows of tables. This lets customers organize it however their social groups require, depending on why they’re visiting and during which part of the day.
Filling the mezzanine with loose furniture serves another purpose too! This lets staff clear the space out entirely every once in a while to host events, like temporary art showcases. Once the chairs are removed, the upper floor becomes the idea party space, giving serving staff and those ordering a slightly removed area for clearer communication away from the party.
From the outside, the coffee shop looks like a simple, quite unassuming white box. This was intentional because designers wanted to create a contrast between the new business and the otherwise tall, grey urban context of the street. Besides that, keeping the shop’s exterior minimalist and light shifts focus to the artists elements on the inside without distraction.
The colour scheme inside the building is another way in which designs kept things interesting and contrasting without drawing so much attention that customer attention is drawn away from the artistic displays or even each other. The entire colour scheme of the furnishings have been kept to black and white so that they contrast well within themselves but draw little attention from the people visiting and things taking place in the space at any given moment.
At night, when owners want to draw attention inside the building and towards certain places, they have the built-in ability to play with light. Already, a translucent visual “void” exists in the front facade of the building. This is built of clear-colour polycarbonate, which manipulates the natural light coming into the building from either the sun or the streetlights.
At night, staff can turn on a series of multi-coloured interior lights when they open the bar. At this point, light flows out of the translucent void in the facade, drawing more attention from the street and intriguing the public so that they come in, visit, and see whatever art might be on display.
Photographs by Metipat Prommomate