Skirt + Rock House is a modest bungalow design by MCK Architects, perched on a hill overlooking Vaucluse House, an historic garden estate located in the harbourside suburb of Vaucluse, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The clients were equally modest, simply needing more space for their family and a better connection to the garden, sunlight and air. The architects initial response was to maintain as much of the house as we could, but the new program required the removal of rear rooms for a larger living area, and the tiled roof to provide first floor accommodation. The introduction of new form and textures are responsive to the existing bungalow.
The existing gardens contained two large eucalyptus that greet you on your rise up the hill, and a large rock that sat in the hill to the rear of the house, which became our focal and pivotal natural element in the new composition.
With the underlying philosophy of relative modesty, the new form is setback, maintaining existing amenity enjoyed by neighbors. First floor accommodation is concealed in the black roof form, providing a recessive appearance from the street, nestling into the landscape, and being undemanding, unlike close neighbors.
When arriving at the house you walk up through the garden to the door at the lower entrance level. Rising to the main living level of the house you experience the union of old and new, arriving in the central void that contains kitchen and lounge, opening onto outdoor dining, pond and garden areas. A connection to the old formal dining area and front verandah, with period detailing meeting new, again blurs the distinction between the architectural periods.
We arrived at the double height central void early in the design, as it allowed access to desired sunlight, air and connection to the landscape, with our ‘rock’ becoming a feature in the lounge room. The shingled roof contains the void and envelops a parent’s suite and gallery library/study. It rests on two legs at opposite corners of the building allowing possibility of a clear opening to the garden and pond at this level. It opens like an eye to the sky and trees folding and undulating along the perimeter of the plan. When describing this form to the client, and the experience one might feel standing in the lounge room looking out, the analogy of a skirt was used and then stuck, hence skirt and rock.
The planning is centered around the living space, with the teenager quarters discreetly located behind the kitchen, with a central staircase leading to the parents. A living room to the lower level doubles as guest room and teenage retreat, with it’s own external sitting area. All rooms look onto the garden and have plenty of sunlight and natural ventilation.
Photos: Richard Glover
Building an interior courtyard design into your home, spaces defined by walls on four sides, draws natural light and air of the outdoors into the center of your residence. These spaces may seem unnecessary with front and back yards, but they offer a Zen like quality that can bring a tremendous amount of pleasure to the homeowner. Having an interior courtyard in your home can filter sunlight into areas of the home that may not otherwise have natural light. In conjunction with well-planned landscaping, this area can seem like a private oasis protected from neighbors with a patch of ground and some sky that allows you a connection to the outdoors. We have gathered together a collection of inspiring examples of interior courtyards that may make them essential in your next renovation project!
If you are looking for further inspiration on bringing the outdoors into your home, have a look at one of our past articles, 60 Most sensational sunroom design inspirations.
Photo Sources: 1. HAHN Design, 2. Guz Architects, 3. Ong & Ong, 4. Russell Builders Inc., 5. Linebox Studio, 6. Nuevo Estilo, 7. Max Brunner, 8. Ehrlich Architects, 9. MESH Architectures, 10. Ikea Family Live Magazine, 11. Real Estate AU, 12. Flickr, 13. Bourne Blue Architecture, 14. Koch Architects, 15. Robeson Design, 16. Ron Neal Lighting Design, 17. Cornerstone Architects, 18. Studio Aiko, 19. Raymond Jungles Inc., 20. South Coast Architects, 21. Pinterest, 22. Studio Mumbai Architects, 23. MMTRA visualization, 24. Sennikoff Architects, 25. Alexandre Parent Photography, 26. SG Livingpod, 27. South Coast Architects, 28. Kappe + DU Architects, 29. Artisan Builds, 30. Dirk Denison Architects, 31. Elle Decor, 32. The Front Door Architecture, 33. John Maniscalco Architecture, 34. Vanguard Studio Inc., 35. Allen Associates, 36. Spinnaker Development, 37. Elevation Architectural Studios, 38. Celebrity Communities, 39. Conrad Design Group, 40. Spinnaker Development, 41. Sutton Suzuki Architects, 42. Window World, 43. Jarosz Architect, 44. Laidlaw Schultz Architects, 45. Cornerstone Architects, 46. Pacific Western Painting, 47. Celebrity Communities, 48. Thompson Custom Homes, 49. Antonio Martins Interior Design, 50. Celebrity Communities, 51. Sennikoff Architects, 52. FormLA Landscaping, 53. Fratantoni Luxury Estates, 54. Harrison Design Associates, 55. MVN Arquitectos, 56. Secret Gardens, 57. Inspired Property Designs, 58. Falling Waters Landscape
H House features a modern glass facade designed by Wiel Arets Architects, situated in a leafy area of suburban Maastricht, The Netherlands, just south of the city’s center. The homeowner’s are a dancer and an actor, who are also landscape architects, locating the 3,229 square foot (300 square meters) home within an existing formal garden that the owners had cultivated over the years. Composed of two concrete floor slabs wrapped in an all glass skin that varies in shades of opacity–from transparent to opaque–the interior is organized so that it assumes the characteristics of a single, open, loft-like space. The two exceptions to this completely open living situation are the contiguous volume of the upper story bathroom, which cantilevers over the terrace entry off the kitchen below, and that of the front entry, which projects from the main volume to create a roof terrace.
The house’s staircase is suspended from the first level so that it does not touch the ground floor; its lower portion is composed of movable units that also function as storage for the ground floor kitchen and living space. Small rectangular columns support the house’s concrete slabs.
The owners are able to reconfigure their interior spaces, due to the numerous curtains–whose tracks are recessed within the floor slabs–and the lower components of the staircase; ephemerally defining rooms reflective of the seasonal changes within the surrounding formal garden.
Photos: João Morgado
The Seacombe Grove House is a minimalistic two-storey residence that has been designed by B.E Architecture in Melbourne, Australia. The siting response for this project was to have neither a front or back garden, but rather a continuous green outdoor space around the building. This space is visually and physically accessible from all lower level living rooms through continuous floor to ceiling glass. The whole of the ground floor is within a protected courtyard garden, contained by a continuous high fence, enabling the entire area (excepting pedestrian and car entry points) to be private and usable.
The ground floor living areas are separated into two distinct zones – day / summer areas facing north and west are integrated with the pool, garden and covered outdoor eating areas, while the night / winter areas face east and south. Separation between these zones is achieved by the placement of a two level void and stair. This element of vertical movement and effective slice in the plan is not revealed until entry into the dwelling. This element provides separation at the upper level between master bedroom and the children’s bedroom and laundry facilities.
The selection of materials consciously addressed their ability to span the life of the building – natural and aged materials such as bluestone temper the “newness” of the project, and will temper its age in the future. The bluestone cladding is cut in 4 differing widths and a random stacked pattern is utilized to accentuate the horizontality of the building, while the black charred timber screens and fences contrast the stone in their vertical arrangement. The bluestone is employed as an antidote to the prevalence of acrylic render and its flat plasticity and immediacy. While being a material that is quarried, cut and textured and thus rich, it is also an amazing local material that gives a real, subtle texture and color to the building, creating a patina that will age with grace.
Large spotted gum pergolas that project out from under the upper level enhance usable outdoor areas. These pergolas of black of stained spotted gum have glazed roofs and operable walls, and also serve to ground the floating bluestone form above.
With the ground floor having continuous glazing, the upper level is contrasted with expressive stone walls with deep apertures that protect the occupant from the nearby major road. These apertures and associated upper level courtyards provide internal privacy to the dwelling.
Photos: Trevor Mein, Peter Clarke
Casa Alma Desnuda is a stunning private villa in Guadalajara, Mexico surrounded by a lush natural environment that is an oasis of serenity for the owner. Design Less Hajj was entrusted for the interior design of this fabulous project which showcases stylish design details. The design team drew liberally from the Minotti catalog, as seen throughout this incredible modern property. The interiors can only be described as modern, sleek and meticulously designed, down to every detail. The tropical landscape makes being outside of the home very enjoyable for the homeowners, especially when entertaining guests.
A neutral color palette helps to not detract from the lush tropical greenery that surrounds this incredible home.
Photos: Courtesy of Minotti SpA
Nestled in a premier Montecito, California location rests this sophisticated property that captures the essence of the area’s indoor/outdoor living while stylishly providing every modern luxury. Extensively renovated in 2013 by noted real-estate design and construction company, Becker Studios, Casa Allende enjoys new systems and architecturally significant design elements throughout the spacious 3,600 square feet. On a quiet cul-de-sac off East Mountain Drive, impressive entry gates reveal a circular drive and a generous motor court surrounded by abundant olive trees and stone-lined succulent gardens. Wood doors open to the outdoor foyer, a lovely courtyard bathed in sunlight.
The original entry reveals the large windows of the home’s central great room, encompassing both living and dining spaces. Outfitted with the finest in low-maintenance materials to uphold the home’s natural character, a beamed ceiling, driftwood ash Oak floors and a sleek gas fireplace adorn the living room. The adjoining dining room enjoys a pitched ceiling and views of the vibrant entry courtyard. The open floor plan continues with a fluid transition into the designer eat-in kitchen. In keeping with the crisp and clean design, the kitchen’s generous center island and breakfast bar is finished with Spanish limestone, while combed basalt adorns the backsplash. Wired for extensive audio and video capabilities, the space perfectly doubles as a media room.
This masterfully renovated hacienda has been designed to uphold Montecito’s luxurious standards while basking in a coveted outdoor lifestyle, listed for sale at $4,695,000, from here.
This photo shows what the kitchen looked like before renovations began.
Wide-plank oak flooring has been used throughout the home, imported Spanish stone countertops in the kitchen.
Off the kitchen, natural light fills a spacious bedroom where French windows open to gardens and a separate entrance allows private access for guests. Through a set of lovely archways, the opposite wing of the home provides privacy for two bedroom suites, each enjoying baths with Lagos Azul limestone floors, an additional powder room, and the sumptuous master suite (pictured above). Designed to emulate the true relaxation of an ultra-luxury spa, the master suite enjoys French doors opening to a stone terrace overlooking the property’s enchanting gardens.
Designed to emulate the true relaxation of an ultra-luxury spa, the master suite enjoys French doors opening to a stone terrace overlooking the property’s enchanting gardens. The master bath is a peaceful refuge adorned in marble, with a pitched ceiling and walk-in shower, while a private outdoor bath is a heavenly escape. A large walk-in closet completes the impressive master suite.
An outdoor soaking tub is tucked in a very private space.
Iron and glass doors open completely flush to allow for idyllic indoor/outdoor living. Beneath a repurposed vine-covered trellis, an inviting herringbone brick terrace and stone fireplace overlooks the property’s pool and lush landscape of lawns and gardens.
The property’s grounds have been mindfully landscaped to take full advantage of Montecito’s idyllic climate. Lush lawns and gardens of succulents line an expansive brick terrace, which surrounds the 18-by-40-foot swimmer’s pool and a separate spa providing abundant seating and endless entertaining possibilities. Permitted for additional guest quarters, the property is plumed and wired for an approximately 650 square foot pool cabana with a bedroom, full bath, and kitchenette.
Sandy Koepke is a Los Angeles, California based designer who creates stunning outdoor rooms for her clients for entertaining, dining and the pure enjoyment of being immersed in nature along with beautiful interiors that are timeless design that radiates warm and comfortable family environments. “Sunlight. Space. Sophisticated comfort. These are the elements I incorporate into every home and garden design. Yet each project is as individual as the clients — compatible with the specific site and architecture, and reflecting their own style and needs.”
Sandy has a BFA from the University of Nebraska and an MFA from Arizona State University. She developed her incredible design style from living in sunny Southern California. Her style is fun and relaxed, combining the best ingredients in imaginative ways; creating seamless transitions from indoors to out. Twinkling layers of vintage lighting and masses of succulents in California pottery and salvaged containers add charm and color to her outdoor living environments.
“I love the design process: the attention to detail, partnership with my clients and collaboration with architects, contractors and artisans. Most of all, I love turning ordinary spaces into beautiful places that welcome you home. Timeless and effortless….a light-filled and light-hearted approach to interior and garden design.” Sandy’s work has been featured in national shelter magazines, design books and on HGTV.
Photos: Courtesy of Sandy Koepke
Villa Pearl is a charming blue-shuttered Provençal villa that enjoys a privileged location right on the edge of St. Tropez, yet is privately tucked away in the countryside amidst surrounding vineyards. The two story villa offers five lovely guest bedrooms, three with en-suite bathrooms. Shaded by olive trees and sweet-scented Mediterranean pines and surrounded by vineyards, the garden makes a tranquil and calming escape from the world. A covered terrace runs the length of the house, shading outdoor living and dining areas. The large pool is set in the private garden and provides lounging areas under over-sized umbrellas.
Indoors, the main floor hosts ample living areas as well as the open plan, fully equipped kitchen and dining area, elegantly furnished in a classic style. Light and airy, the living areas open directly to the terrace and outdoor living spaces. A cozy fireplace provides warmth on chillier evenings. The main floor also provides two of the bedrooms, a playroom, TV room, a convenient powder room and the laundry room. The roomy master bedroom is on the upper level, includes a sitting area, and opens to the balcony. The master bedroom hosts an en-suite bathroom. Two further double bedrooms are on the upper level and share an ample bathroom. A one bedroom staff quarter is also onsite.
An oasis of calm and tranquility, Villa Pearl is roomy, bright, and secluded, while remaining close to the culture, dining venues, nightlife and beaches of famed St. Tropez. Prices range from $4,668 – $6,785 per night or $29,567 per week, sleeping up to ten people, from here.
With a love for gardening and a desire to capitalize on the commanding views, the clients came to Laidlaw Schultz Architects with a request to create a home in the beautiful community of Cameo Highlands in Corona del Mar, California where the line between indoors and out is blurred. The design solution centers on the creation of two distinctive outdoor spaces. The first is an entry courtyard with an emphasis on activity space – some shielded while others open to the sky; the second is a series of lower terraces on the downhill side of the lot, with views towards the Pacific Ocean. A quiet veranda overlooks the terraces, which are dedicated to gardening.
The project’s strict budget yielded a creative solution of exterior materials developed around a simple screening wall composed of horizontal and vertical lpe planks, and smooth exterior plaster with a standing-seam roof capping the composition.
Internally, where possible, walls were removed to capitalize on views; and a composition of textured elements, both smooth and rough, are juxtaposed to add a richness often lacking in modern homes.
This luxury property is situated in the enclave of Smithcliffs, an exclusive and secluded gated community along the coastline of Laguna Beach, California. The masterpiece was designed by Mark Singer Architects and built by Prestige Builders, celebrating the open floor plan of contemporary style. The main house features close to 5,300 square feet, while the pool house features close to 700 square feet. The main house has a second floor dedicated to the master suite, and media room. The first floor has three bedrooms all en-suite and a flowing open floor plan that features details which received critical acclaim. The property is spread over three lots totaling close to 27,000 square feet. The grounds create the ambiance of living in a resort and include a large pool, spa, a quarter basketball court, and lush landscaping.
Photos: Courtesy of Prestige Builders