Tree House is a residence comprised of three pavilions positioned around a live oak tree, completed in 2014 by Matt Fajkus Architecture, located in Austin, Texas. The oak tree serves as the focal point to the exterior of the u-shaped home, helping to create a division between the public and private areas, at the same time offering views of the tree and natural surroundings. The three wings offers 2,766 square feet (257 square meters) of living space, while their positioning around the oak tree creates an outdoor living space for the homeowners and guests to congregate.
Description from the architects: Balanced shade, dappled sunlight, and tree canopy views are the basis of the 518 Sacramento Drive house design. The entry is on center with the lot’s primary Live Oak tree, and each interior space has a unique relationship to this central element.
Composed of crisply-detailed, considered materials, surfaces and finishes, the home is a balance of sophistication and restraint. The two-story massing is designed to allow for a bold yet humble street presence, while each single-story wing extends through the site, forming intimate outdoor and indoor spaces.
In plan, the home is organized into clear zones of public and private function, allowing the center courtyard with the primary tree to negotiate the connection between either realm. The layout is arranged to optimize function and experience, where each daily behavior is considered in connection with the next, resulting in a holistic and flowing composition, rather than just a collection of rooms.
The upper story is clad in stucco, articulated as a floating white box to pronounce a street presence and act as a veritable “tree house” for the children’s bedroom zone.
An integrated board formed concrete planter denotes a spatial separation between the living room and the kitchen/dining space, while still allowing connection between the overlapping realms. The skylight allows natural light to penetrate deep into the space.
The master suite is as much about its opening to the small yard as it is about the enclosed space it captures. The tongue-and-groove wood ceiling is an accent which continues to the exterior soffit, blurring the lines between inside and outside.
The courtyard around the tree terraces down to the yard, acting as a natural amphitheater for gatherings and performances within the wings of the house.
This design is carefully calibrated to allow internal views on the small lot and various amounts of direct and indirect natural light. Each space has more than one type of opening to allow for various connections to the outside and thus nature.
Massing is composed as two single-story wings which wrap the primary existing Live Oak tree on the site. The 2-story “window wall” maximizes the use of inexpensive windows which frame various views to the tree while creating a rich elevation and allowing for the harvesting of daylight to the entry zone. The upper portion of the wall tapers and folds back to allow the tree canopy to extend and grow.
Composed as a functional container for life and experience, the circulation space is intended for passage and informal activities, rather than corridors.
The courtyard design capitalizes on the dappled light from the preserved Live Oak tree, which animates exterior and interior spaces at different times through the day. Each space in the house has a special intended relationship with the tree and its perceived space.
The windows act as playful apertures which activate the courtyard space at night, showcasing the preserved Live Oak.
Casa Incubo is a modular home consisting of eight shipping containers two stories high, built as a live/work space by architect Maria Jose Trejos in Escazú, an upscale suburb of San Jose, Costa Rica. Completed in 2013, the 4,305 square foot (400 square meters) property is not only surrounded by an abundance of nature, but it also encircles it with the structure enveloping a large cedar tree. This fabulous feature represents the principle concept of the project, which is an icon of sustainability.
Description from the architects: This design was conceived as a modular concept with eight reusable 40’ High Cube containers, united by a central two-story module that serves as the unifying element for the rest of the spaces. This articulating space is highly versatile and can serve various purposes, both as a social area and workspace: the house “gets dressed and undressed” according to the activities being carried out, with options including a main room, a high- definition audiovisual reproduction space, a photography studio and a publicity studio.
The project is also a result of the “interconnection” of containers that provides an additional surface, so that with four containers, the central module achieves 95 square meters of additional space, significantly reducing the building materials needed. At the same time, one of the second-story containers can shift lightly to one side to create exterior spaces with the use of a terrace and vestibule, with a secondary access on the facade.
This project questions the need for excessively large spaces, and challenges its occupants to be efficient. The project’s first level serves as a workspace and social area, while private rooms and space for private study are developed on the second level; the exterior walkway leads to the stairs that connect with the third?floor terrace, an open living space.
The bamboo covering, or “skin,” on the northeastern facade is composed of mobile panels that protect the inner spaces from solar radiation, and can be manipulated according to the sun’s movement during the afternoon hours. This skin also creates movement on the facade.
The cedartree, which predates the project on this land, plays a very important role in the placement of the home in the lot; the home was designed so that the tree can be seen from any point of the house. Sliding bamboo panels on the west side of the house can be adjusted to provide shade during the later part of the day.
The shape of the house also responds to the weather conditions of this particular location: the central two-story module acts as a cross-ventilation lung, and the western facade is glazed to achieve natural light.
Various considerations were taken into account to minimize the house’s environmental impact, from its design and materials to its energy conservation systems. For example, materials were chosen that are renewable, reusable or recyclable, as well as durable and low-maintenance. Wood from the branches of the cedar tree was used in stairs and other furniture elements. The deck is made of wood from certified renewable sources, mixed with recycled plastic; the flooring is made of polished concrete and bamboo, among other materials.
In addition, the house has rainwater collection systems for toilets and irrigation, and is set up for solar panels; most of the doors in the home are reused container doors, its hot water is heated by the sun, the cross-ventilation eliminates the need for air conditioning, and the natural light virtually eliminates the need for electrical lighting during the day.
The use of construction containers lends a rich contrast to the design, while also reducing the environmental impact by employing an already existing element, avoiding the CO2 emissions that would have been generated by producing cement and transporting traditional construction materials to the site, not to mention a less invasive earth-moving procedure. We estimate that the use of the container reduced construction time by 20% and the total cost by approximately 20% as well.
The slanted roof above the garage, painted white to reflect the heat in the tropical environment, also contains a solar heating system for water. The home also features a rainwater collection system, particularly useful during the long rainy season.
Photos: Sergio Pucci
V9 House is a bright and airy residence that caters to the lifestyle of the homeowners, designed by VGZ Arquitectura, located in Mexico City, Mexico. The volumes of the 10,333 square foot (960 square meters) home were oriented to maximize the sunshine and views. The residence offers sustainable features such as rainwater harvesting and use of solar energy.
Description from the architect: The house is built on a fan-shaped 800 square meters plot, open to the northeast. After volumetric studies, we decided on an H scheme, rotating the north body to get the most sunlight and south aperture, and tilting the roofs to the north.
The objective was open spaces and low footprint, creating a house surrounded by gardens, where every space has natural light and fresh air during the day, opening up to the south and making the most of the views.
The program responds to client needs on three levels: basement for parking and services, first floor for social life and second floor for family life. The gardens, with an exterior kitchen and dinning space on one side and a sunset terrace with a fireplace on the other, become an important part of this family´s life.
The steel structure allowed us to have longer spans of open space and continuity on transparency, integrating the interior and exterior, while the rotated volumes result in interesting angle intersections of stone and glass with steel frames.
For the material palette, we concentrated on stone for the vertical planes and wood for the horizontal ones, creating a warm environment that sets a canvas for eclectic decoration.
Landscape and natural light were essential design instruments, while lighting plays an important role in the design intention. We used a siphon system to collect rainwater and purify it so that during rainy season there is no need for municipal water. The garden and parking use only treated water.
Electricity and hot water are generated by solar energy and the entire facade is double insulated glass with UV protection for maximum energy conservation.
Photos: Rafael Gamo
Garçonnière Marais is a contemporary bachelor pad showcasing bright and airy interiors, designed by interior architect Tatiana Nicol, located in Paris, France. Situated in the heart of Paris, this friendly apartment home features 538 square feet (50 square meters) of living space where practicality marries originality and beauty.
Description from the designer: The private rooms are ultra cozy and functional with storage optimized, taking advantage of the high ceilings. As for the living room, volumes have been optimized by painting the wood ceiling beams a clay green. A custom open plan kitchen was beautifully crafted, as well as a library and realizing that it creates a passage to access the room.
An area rug is used in the living room over the hardwood flooring to delineate the space from the rest of the home and to create a welcoming and cozy living room environment.
Photos: Courtesy of Tatiana Nicol
High Loft is a family apartment showcasing a study in the play of urban light and views, designed by Bade Stageberg Cox, located in New York City, New York. The design integrates open and screened views of the city as the living ‘décor’ of the apartment interior.
Description from the architects: Our clients were interested in a space they could re-shape to meet the needs of their family of four. Several aspects of the building were appealing to them – the building’s history, its distinctive cast iron structure, and the volume of space afforded by the apartment’s 13-foot high ceilings. The design prioritizes views of the city, light and connectedness between spaces over private, compartmentalized rooms.
The living room occupies an apse at the corner of the building (highlighted on the building’s exterior with a golden dome) offering oblique views of the city. The living room furnishings reinforce the geometry of the space through a curved-back sofa, a spiraling pendant light fixture, and an octagonal carpet.
Custom metal shelves and perforated screens frame space and filter light, articulating discrete program areas while allowing the spaces to feel spacious and connected. The screens’ vertical elements are powder-coated steel to appear thin and weightless. The horizontal shelves are walnut to relate to the palette of flooring and custom cabinetry, and the perforated screens are a custom pattern that echo decorative motifs on the cast iron columns.
Faceted translucent glass screens operate in a similar way at the children’s bedrooms, allowing changing natural light into the bedroom hallway and producing a sense of a secondary exposure in the bedrooms while preserving their acoustic privacy.
Photos: Andy Ryan
Amwaj Villa is a contemporary three level home recently built for a family by interiors and design consultants firm Moriq, located on Amwaj Island, Bahrain. The plot encompasses 690 square meters and the total built area is comprised of 778 square meters/8,371 square feet.
Description from the designers: The owners wanted a modern, contemporary styled home with strong emphasis on interior architecture and strong interior/exterior connections.
The home was planned on 3 levels with just the living levels and kitchen plus dining on the lower floor. A well equipped gym with steam and sauna were planned on the rear side. Two bedrooms with a non dedicated home theatre comprises the mid level.
Difference of levels and double heights perk up the interiors. Large floor to ceiling glasses connect the outside with the inside.
Specks of colours were used in furniture and artifacts only keeping the basic canvas neutral (in greys and whites). Grey white traventino were used as floors. Walls were in shades of greys and ceiling were pristine white. Distressed wallpapers were used on strategic walls.
A custom designed chimney is the centre of attraction in the dining area. A large scaled log of wood was used as the grab bar for the staircase. Skylights bring in a lot of natural light.
Old reclaimed doors as used as interior elements. Every room has visual and physical access to the outside.
Furniture is from Italian brands. Rugs and lamps are all hand picked. As mentioned earlier the emphasis was more on scale, proportions and integration rather than on decoration. The final look is simple and uncluttered both in architecture and interior.
Master suite with multi dress rooms and multi toilets is planned on the last level. All three levels are connected by means of a staircase and a lift.
Photos: Courtesy of Moriq
Originally built in 1954 on a gently upsloping lot bordered by a creek, its most distinctive site feature is an old wooden bridge over the creek and the rock walls which carve paths through the site.
The client was interested in maintaining the residence’s historic character while updating it for today’s living standards and code requirements. This required adding more natural light with larger windows and skylights as well as adding a partial second story for a master suite.
Maintaining the wood exterior and mullion patterns of the existing windows settles the addition into the landscape as an example of a very light effect to a sensitive site.
Photos: Jeff Zaruba
The Cumberland Townhouse has been designed by Ensemble Architecture, located on a park block in the neighborhood of Fort Greene in Brooklyn, New York. The house was in a dilapidated state when the owner’s purchased the building; the rear wall was falling down and water had been entering the building for several years.
The house was completely transformed with a new rear wall and a two-story addition at the rear of the house. The addition is open to the living room above and is connected through interior steel and glass windows that mimic the two-story, exterior windows.
The doors at the garden open completely to create a seamless connection between the kitchen / dining level and the garden. Vines are planted in recessed planters along the two story party walls in the dining room–the room was designed with the idea of being an indoor-outdoor space where the garden melds with the interior spaces.
The vines will cover the double-story party walls and will add an organic quality to all of the spaces that the dining room connects. The top of the addition is a private master bedroom balcony.
Photos: Courtesy of Ensemble Architecture
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