The House in Frogs Hollow is a country retreat designed by Williamson Chong Architects, located on a long slope of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Georgian Bay, in Grey Highlands, Ontario, Canada. The property is a collection of eroded clay hills and protected watershed zones blanketed with a dense field of hawthorn and native grasses. It is not picturesque, but tough and rather impenetrable.
The clients, who gather at the property throughout the year, are avid cyclists who spent months on the 100 acre property prior to construction cutting in discreet mountain biking trails and learning the paths of the horses and snowmobiles as they emerge from the community over the seasons. Because of their connection to the landscape, a primary site strategy was to resist the inclination to build on the top of the hills where one could survey the property in its entirety and instead carve out a building area at the base of the hillside.
The 2,000 square foot house is not the final destination, but a stopping place within their network of activity. Carved into the landscape, the muscular tectonic of the long concrete wall figuratively clears the site for building while bridging the natural and tempered environments. The concrete has a toughness that mirrors the landscape, providing protection from the prevailing winter winds. During the summer months the wall provides patio shade, creating pools of cooler air that are passively drawn through the house.
Entry is at the west end of the concrete wall and into a service bar containing the stair, kitchen, office, bike workshop, storage room, and mechanical room. This functional zone serves as a backdrop to the glassed in living area that opens on three sides to an extended view of the rolling landscape.
The first and second floors are connected by a figured stair enclosure. This digitally fabricated element is designed to filter light from the clerestory volume above. At the ground floor it carves into the area below its upper run to gather more space at the entry and allow for a seating area.
The second level hovers above the concrete wall and living space. It contains the bedrooms, bathrooms, and family room in a tight wrapper of customized ship lap siding. Designed as an undulating rhythm of varying widths, thin boards are CNC milled to a shallow depth while wider boards are milled with deep striations, casting long shadows that track the sun as it moves around the house. The siding is stained with a linseed oil based iron oxide pigment that requires reapplication only once every 15 years.
The house’s connection to the land is reinforced not only in its architectural form, but also in its environmental footprint. The house is heated with radiant floor loops that supplement the passive winter heat gain from south facing windows. In addition, there is no mechanical cooling. Instead, the stair tower and operable windows facilitate passive ventilation that draw cool air through the house from shaded exterior areas. Natural materials and pigments were used throughout and a small square footage was maintained to further reduce construction costs and keep future energy consumption to a minimum.
Photos: Bob Gundu
Four Barns Farm is an incredible weekend retreat built for a family to getaway from their fast pace life in New York City by Gleicher Design, located in Millbrook, a bucolic town tucked into the rolling landscape of the Hudson Valley, New York. The home is just an hour and a half’s drive from the city but worlds away from its frenzied lifestyle. These picturesque barns are nestled on the rolling hills of a 40-acre estate that was formerly owned by the composer Marvin Hamlish. Once a dairy farm, this exceptional piece of land dating to 1839 had an antique farmhouse and four substantial barns. Although the barns were in disrepair, the clients had a vision and their dream was to create a wonderful family compound, using the barns for gathering spaces and guest suites.
It was no easy task, with one of the barns having to be literally lifted off its foundation and gently set back down again. The barns surround a common courtyard, complimented by stone walls, a duck pond, a country farmhouse, and a small potting shed. All four barns and environs have been sensitively renovated and equipped with modern amenities, but in keeping with their historic character.
Local artisans were employed to create needed metal works, stone walls, fireplaces, and historic wood windows, antique hand hewn timber framing members and oak and pine plank flooring were reworked for their new uses. The barns now house a guesthouse, screening room, artist studio, garage, and bunk barn for teens and young adults.
Filling the “barn” with light also was critical to create the inviting spaces, so the architect grouped several windows together at the gable ends to flood the space with light.
In order to make the new barn weather-tight, the architects created a thick sandwich wall, which allowed for a blanket of insulation as well as space to hide ductwork. The hand-chiseled ancient beams were kept exposed to allow for a strong architectural design element in the space. Although the ceiling soars to 35 feet, the interiors were brought to a more human scale by introducing reclaimed horizontal oak boards to the lower portion of the interior wall and a reclaimed vertical oak board to the top portion.
Naturalistic landscaping completes the picture with new stone fences, a circular fire pit and bucolic meadows.
To maintain a cohesive look between the structures, the architect introduced the same siding, roofing and foundation materials and architectural design elements to each barn. A gravel courtyard in the center of the barns offers an outdoor common space for guests to gather when the weather cooperates.
Photos: Courtesy of Gleicher Design
Designed by Sarmento Melo Architecture this country weekend retreat is located in the region of Macacos, in the district of São Sebastiao das Águas Claras, Nova Lima – Minas Gerais, Brazil. This 3,013 square foot (280 square meters) house was idealized by the owners to be a place to getaway for the weekend, a meeting place for leisure with their large family and many friends.
The house is inserted into an extremely steep terrain privileged but surrounded with stunning views to the Atlantic Forest and the sea to the mountains of Minas, architects Ana Cristina Faria and Maria Flávia Melo were guided by the demands of family, developing a project to be built in stages, and idealized a complex guest house, recreation area and main house (still not completed yet), exploiting and enhancing existing natural features. Thus, an implementation was adopted against the views of the mountains and forests, the longitudinal field, in order to minimize the movement of the earth, despite the steep terrain, buildings without plans and movement between buildings and recreational area that is basically in the same ground level without this, significant changes were made to the topography.
The architects proposed volumetric architectural and constructive simplicity: a large vertical plane (wall) and visually defines constructive orientation of the main building - longitudinal and east to west; orders the gabled roof in just simple cuts and without defined sectors - in front of the “wall” is the recreational sector and private spaces; behind and across the sectors of service and support are located. Therefore, the layout of the rooms is simple, logical and orderly. The same architectural elements defined and ordered the small guest house: the social area in front and behind the “wall” above average level (sitting on floor) are the suite and bathroom. Ceramic tiles in opposite directions cover these two blocks.
Looking to create a cozy and rustic atmosphere, at about the same time thinking of an appropriate and functional contemporary home in time, the architects proposed the use of hand-carved wood to encase entire structural systems and the bulk of buildings, doorways and windows, stairs and other minor details like shelves, counters , main furniture and cabinets. For this reason, during the work , which was closely followed by the architects, they hired a team of skilled workers in building with wood, from southern Bahia and staying for months at the store, making a neat job work. This wooden structure, for example, are not apparent screws or tools: the whole system is done through sockets, slots, and internal plates junction, following the constructivist tradition of old coffee and cocoa plantations within Brazil and buildings without interior architects.
Being a weekend house, the recreational area was intended as the main attraction of the constructed set. The large swimming pool in L, vinyl coated, is located in the center of the buildings and in front of the view: it converges playroom, gourmet space, sauna and guest house. Its largest is for swimming and jumping, but the minor axis of the pool, with a depth of 50 cm, integrates with sauna and spa with a grill, which was designed primarily for adult relaxation.
From the wood structural system, the sealing elements explicit intention of developing their views in the house, as well as attention on the thermal comfort: the sunny traditional masonry facades are brick clay Massif (more heat) and revoked painted, but all the extra length of the front facades of buildings, oriented to the south (hence no sun in Brazil), and facing the mountains, is sealed in glass drawing in its immediate surroundings and the distant landscape.
Reinforcing the proposed initial concepts, all other details and finishing and coating materials were designed with the aim of fostering and practicality, tradition and modernity. In itself, the wood continues to be used as the lining of all environments, including railings, and floor heating the room and every residence as intimate TV room and loft. In kitchen areas, large slabs of black granite were the option for strength and easy cleaning. In the bathrooms, floors adopted hydraulic tiles, rescuing the tradition of building the start of the twentieth century. The walls of wetlands mixed in glass inserts and gypsum, contemporary coatings harmonized constructively with materials of more rustic character.Large living and leisure areas, internal and external, are rustic but contemporary.
Complementing the architectural design project was the outside landscaping by landscapers Thiers Mattos and Flávia Rennó and outdoor lighting by Mônica Rohlfs. In landscaping, the exuberance of Brazilian flora species was valued. The vast gardens of bromeliads, palms, swords of San Jorge, among others. Apart from their beauty, species are suited to the local climate, are resistant to strong sun by day and cool nights in the mountainous region of Macacos. In lighting, lights were directed to large flat walls and vegetation, buildings and enhances the pool, but does not hide the pleasure of seeing the wonderful sky that can be viewed here.
Photos: Gustavo Xavier
This Southampton beach house is a luxury summer retreat that has been designed by New York based studio Alexander Gorlin Architects, situated in Southampton, New York. This two story modern home was completed in 2008, built with European limestone and African hardwood. The 12,000 square foot home is located in the East End of the Hamptons and takes full advantage of its position between the bay and the ocean by offering sweeping views of the water. Entering the house, one is greeted by a dramatic cantilevered room on the upper floor that extends 20 feet over a patio. With an emphasis on entertaining, the house comprises three master bedrooms, three guest suites, staff quarters, an outdoor pool and a rooftop terrace.
Photos: Courtesy of Alexander Gorlin Architects
Watch Hill House is a modern weekend retreat designed to frame its landscape by Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, nestled on a secluded plot of land in the coastal village of Watch Hill, Westerly, Rhode Island. When a lively family of five considered building this three storey weekend home to serve as a hub for their extensive network of family and friends, they selected a 3.5 acre site fronting a nature preserve. A visitor to the site first encounters the slender pool house, which introduces the recurring palette of cedar, copper, and slate. On the main 5,200 square foot house, cedar “straps” of horizontal siding rotate individually to become lighting-filtering railings, or fold in to create programmed porches. A journey across the site unfolds as a conversation between openness and constructed site lines.
A restrained materials palette was used on the exterior, which was inspired by the landscape. “Since the site is wooded and wild, we used natural materials like cedar and slate instead of synthetic siding,” states the architect. The facade was treated like a piece of millwork and spent nearly six months working with the contractor to come up with the pattern of the shiplapped boards.
In the stairwell, floor-to-ceiling glass walls showcase the outdoors. “As you move up and down the stairs you have a view in all directions. As you move off that axis into the rooms, the view is carefully framed,” states the architects.
Floor-to-ceiling glass was used for the mater bedroom, which leads onto a deck. “We wanted a place that just drew us up like a magnet,” states the homeowner about creating her dream home. “The house’s design, comfort, and style certainly achieves that.”
Photos: Chris Cooper Photographer
The Ranchero is a modern ski cabin designed by CAST Architecture nestled at the edge of a subalpine meadow in the small community of Mazama in Washington State’s the upper Methow Valley. The Ranchero is a base camp for a family of four, offering year round outdoor adventure and a social hub for gatherings of friends and family. The architects responded with a simple, rugged design that is responsive to the environment and low on maintenance, letting the family focus on the outdoors. The open plan home offers 1,600 square feet of living space plus 800 square feet of covered outdoor space.
The deep veranda, over-sized entry and ski wax room provide family and guests a functional landing zone between activities.
A view from the south shows how the house is split into two components linked by a single sloped roofline. To the right is the 1,400-square-foot main house, and on the left is a 200-square-foot sauna. The sauna area includes a covered wooden shed and a wax room for preparing skis in the winter.
A simple material pallet focuses on highly durable, low maintenance solutions such as Cor-ten steel siding, aluminum clad windows and a concrete skirt that protects the structure’s base during the winter snowpack and spring snowmelt cycle.
With a spine that is aligned along an east west axis, the home is designed to take advantage of passive solar heat gain in the winter while minimizing solar heat gain in the summer.
Crisp white aluminum ceiling panels reflect light into the home and help blur the line between the indoors and outdoors.
The plan emphasizes simplicity, abundant natural light and a strong connection to the surrounding peaks and adjacent aspen grove. The public wing features an open floor plan with an expansive patio that sets the stage for relaxation and socializing. The corridor beyond the kitchen leads to the three bedrooms as well as the bathrooms, laundry and a small office.
Made from low-maintenance, paint-free aluminum panels, the white ceilings reflect sunlight into the home to make the interior brighter and less reliant on artificial lighting throughout the day.
The furnishings throughout the house pick up on the ruggedness of the architecture as well as the character of the landscape. Mild steel and integrally colored fiber cement panels clad the interior walls for a durable, paint free finish.
Peeling of steel also occurs at the entry, creating a shelf for keys, wallets, hats and so forth.
Low VOC finishes, concrete floors, and a heat recovery ventilator insure clean and healthy air.
Many of the unique details that take advantage of the materials are very subtle. In one corner of the kitchen, for example, the steel peels up to hold chalk for writing notes or drawings pictures on the wall.
The home features regionally crafted custom finish details, casework and furnishings throughout.
The private wing offers a master suite with an extra day bed, a ship’s berth inspired bunkroom, and peaceful getaway nooks.
Built at a modest scale with super insulated walls and ceilings, energy efficient windows and systems, the home is intended to minimize energy consumption.
A balance of rugged materials, a simple plan and clean lines help focus this mountain retreat on the place, people and adventures.
Photos: Courtesy of CAST Architecture
JH Modern is a contemporary mountain retreat for a couple from Texas designed by Pearson Design Group, situated in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The owners, one a physician turned entrepreneur and the other an oncologist, wanted a house that took full advantage of the outdoors. After having visited the area eight years ago, they had decided that this is where they wanted to be. With the Teton Range to the west and the Gros Ventre Range to the east, it’s hard to avoid having a spectacular view. In 2011, the couple purchased a five-acre lot for $1.2 million, turning it over to Montana-based Pearson Design Group whose firm had a 5,400-square-foot home built and furnished for them in just 16 months, for about $4 million. General requests by the homeowners included wanting the home to blend with the outside. “We wanted to be able to leave the doors open, and walk in and out. And have living areas outside,” states the owners.
In place of a formal entry hall, the architects substituted an outdoor room.
The outdoor room features an outdoor fireplace, something that comes in handy when the weather is frigid and the snow is knee-deep, as it is in Wyoming during the winter. There are also sliding barn doors, in case it gets too windy. The entry features the best view of the whole house.
The furnishings were chosen to withstand the elements, but the owners do bring the cushions and the pendant light in when they’re not here.
On the floor below the bison heads on the wall is a panel of chevron-patterned French oak set into poured concrete.
Each of the fireplaces is anchored with a slab of Two Dot stone.
In a corner of the living room is a New York Chair from Alchemy Collections; the vintage arrows were found on Etsy.
In one of the bathrooms, a Siena Tamburo Vessel sink from Stone Forest sits on a counter of Claro walnut.
The solid walnut kitchen cabinetry was custom made, with Shift knobs by Ted Boerner for Rocky Mountain Hardware.
The hand-cut plywood letters in the kitchen are from Gregory Morris’s Etsy shop, SlippinSouthern.
The black walnut slab kitchen table is surrounded by Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs from Design Within Reach. The hanging fixture was made by IronGlass Lighting.
The black walnut staircase has LED lights mounted beneath each riser to illuminate the way at night.
In the master bedroom is a custom-designed Claro walnut bed. Over the shagreen-covered Sorin Dresser from Made Goods hangs “A Calf in Between,” by Craig Spankie. The antler chandelier is by Frank Long.
A fuzzy Cortina chair from Refuge sits beside a Modo desk lamp by Jason Miller for Roll & Hill.
In the master bathroom, Ronbow round ceramic sinks with Purist fixtures from Kohler sit on Calacatta marble counters. The Bella Modern Pendant Light is from Niche.
A custom-made cabinet in the master bedroom has Brut Pendant pulls by Ted Boerner for Rocky Mountain Hardware.
Mr. Pearson said he thought of the house as “an extension of the landscape.” He added, “A mountain home is part of something much grander.”
Eagle’s Nest is a striking Mediterranean summer house that was completed in 2010, designed by Sinas Architects, situated on Serifos Island, Greece. Serifos perhaps, is one of the last Cycladic islands that has only recently started to develop. Some call it “wild and inhospitable.” For the few faithful who visit it consistently, this “roughness” is the key element that made them fall in love with it.
On the south side of Serifos, near the lovely beach of Kalo Ampeli is an area known as “Chomatovouni”. Here steep slopes, cliffs and rock formations dominate the scenery. Within this seemingly inhospitable landscape only the eagle could build its nest.
The house has a total size of 2,152 square feet (200 square meters) and is spread over three levels. The main house, with three dormitories, is located at the lower level. The house is accessed through the backside, through a staircase that seems to cut through the building, to lead visitors to the main terrace, a balcony with unobstructed views of the sea, the bay of Kalo Ampeli and the picturesque island Garbis. Another terrace has been created that adjoins with the kitchen on the west side of the building.
The main guest house has been placed on the top of the main house. It includes its own bathroom, kitchen and fireplace. This way the guest has complete privacy and access to the view.
Finally, a small cell like building, the “keli”, also a guesthouse, is positioned completely independently at the highest level of the complex.
The peculiar shape of the house serves two needs: on the one hand it creates multiple terraces protected from the sun and the winds of the Aegean and the on the other it breaks the volume of the building into individual smaller and irregular ones. The basic building material is stone that came entirely from the excavations. Stone in combination with the color of mortar achieves a color corresponding to the landscape. Thus the building is fully and naturally integrated in its surroundings.
Outside, the house combines all the structural elements of the island such as stone, ground, the reeds, wood with its natural colors, creating a traditional atmosphere. Internally cool white was selected as the dominant color and a modern aesthetic. The floors, all of which are smooth industrial, invite you to walk barefoot and forget the need for shoes.
One week of isolation in this house will certainly function as the lotus to the crew of Ulysses and make you forget all your ties with the city and need to return to civilization!
Photos: Nikos Stefanis
Lakeside Retreat is a relaxed weekend getaway designed by Lake|Flato Architects, on a compact sloping site along Horseshoe Bay, Texas. The design of the residence was informed by its compact sloping site, close proximity to neighbors, and direct waterfront access. Aided by the fall of the terrain, the house’s one-story profile from the street conceals a transparent two-story lake facade opening to the primary views. Cantilevered porches offset the bermed structure of the main house with a lighter, floating tree house effect. The southern screened porch, coupled with landscaping, offers protective privacy from neighbors while permitting cooling breezes and daylight.
The composite palette includes hardy materials such as native Texas Lueders limestone, cedar, and steel; simple, brightly painted interior surfaces and millwork; and individual expression demonstrated through custom-designed hardware, fixtures, and furnishings.
Contributing to the casual atmosphere and occupant comfort are right-sized spaces for both large and small gatherings, modern efficiencies such as the lake-based geothermal HVAC system, and the family’s commitment to outdoor living and dining embodied in the lofty screened porch.
The abundant use of native materials and passive and active design strategies has led to the award of LEED certification.
Photos: Frank Ooms Photography
San Marino Island House is a 1930s art deco home with a recent modern addition by Robert Kaner Interior Design, located just outside of South Beach in Miami, Floria. The residence is re-conceived as a weekend and vacation home and is designed to provide for either a calm and restful stay or for a high energy collection of people and activity.
Photos: Courtesy of Robert Kaner Interior Design