The Walnut Residence, designed by Modal Design, is located in Venice, California, a beachside community characterized by small lots, an eclectic mix of architecture and a unique blend of personality. This is a low-maintenance, multi-generational home for the principal architects parents, his family, his brother’s children and their many pets. While the tight square footage of the lot and an existing tree constrained the organizational possibilities of the home, the connection to the community, the need for privacy and security, and interest in natural lighting, offered endless possibilities. The 2,700 square foot, three bedroom, single family residence draws upon the site and context for inspiration with a highly efficient layout and indoor-0utdoor connections.
The home is carefully sited to preserve an old-growth pine in the rear yard, which provides generous shade to the main living space and serves as an organizational hub for the exterior program. An exterior Cor-ten wrapper juxtaposes the order and tidiness of the interior and offers a dynamic expression of the client’s tastes and character and lends an almost sculptural quality to the structure. To minimize the building’s impact, efficient design practices and sustainable systems are used throughout.
On the first floor, an open plan flows from living to kitchen to outdoors in one linear motion. Concrete floors, dark-colored furniture and large open spaces negate any need for delicate care, instantly putting everyone at ease.
There kitchen features ample storage areas along the 70-foot long walnut wall-slash-cabinet. The refrigerator, kitchen items and other goods easily disappear into the wall when not in use. The nonporous, stain-, scratch- and heat-resistant Caesarstone countertops make for easy cleanup.
Trex was used on the deck outside, made from recycled plastic and waste wood. The deck is weather-resistant and will never need painting or staining.
The office offers generous views of the backyard, pool and Jacuzzi.
The Cor-ten steel curtain punched with holes keeps the home’s sense of privacy while allowing copious amounts of light to shine through to the interior.
The circular cutouts are re-purposed into a staircase balustrade that adds an artistic element to the home.
The quality of light changes all throughout the year. During the winter, the shadows created by the circles climb up the entire wall of a room; during the summer, they only reach up to the floor. The panels also have a cooling effect, shading the rooms from the sun’s hot rays.
The stone pine tree reveals itself from the backyard looking over the Venice neighborhood. Its canopy stretches over the first floor of the home and can be glimpsed by the skylights placed strategically above the living area.
Before the family purchased this property, it was in the sorriest of states. It was home to a rundown 1920s dwelling piled high with trash and on its last legs. “We walked in for a minute and had to walk back out to get a breath of air then walk back in. It was really thick and moldy—really bad,” states the homeowner of walking through the original home.
Photos: Benny Chan
Built on the property of a larger home in Phoenix, Arizona, The Construction Zone turned a former horse barn into a modern steel and glass guest suite. Other than some basic structure, though, the home has been done over so thoroughly that it’s hard to tell that it’s not an entirely new construction. Most of the surface of the house is done in glass window walls, leading out onto a large patio with space for entertaining. This allows the house to be used while not occupied as an impromptu living space for hosting guests, with direct access to the property’s amenities. The remaining architecture of the house is mostly concrete in form, dividing each room and providing support for the roof. The photo above shows a path from the main house leading to the guest house.
View of the patio, bocce ball court and guest house. Adaptive reuse of a former horse barn into a modern glass and steel guest suite.
Inside, the floorplan is completely open, with only a single formal interior doorway (leading into the bathroom). The entire house is sectioned into four areas, allowing maximum usage of its 1,425 square feet of floorspace. A combination of built-in features and decor cues define each open-form room within the glass and concrete walls, allowing free flow between areas without a loss of identity for each. The glass wall from the front is limited to half-height at the rear, giving plenty of natural light without compromising on privacy. The home is very open and airy in feel, but still provides practical lodgings for a visiting couple.
View of the interior kitchenette and dining.
View of the bedroom details featuring custom steel windows and doors fabricated by the architects.
View of the open hall between the interior spaces. Cast in place concrete walls from the former stalls separate the living spaces.
View of the bath with marble tile and mirror from Customatic.
View of the exterior fire feature custom fabricated by the architects.
View of the east entry featuring steel entry door custom fabricated by the architects.
Photos: Bill Timmerman
Portland Hilltop House is a single-family home with a simple, long bar plan designed by Olson Kundig Architects and situated in Portland, Oregon. Although primarily wood frame construction, many structural steel elements are contained within its design features. The two-story home features a rhythmical spacing of floor-to-ceiling windows providing a rigorous proportion and rhythm along the south elevation. Views across the main axis – from the courtyard to the south-facing balconies – provide a strong connection to the outdoors. A lantern-like entry vestibule surrounded by windows is covered by a large thin steel plate canopy that appears to float above it, welcoming visitors to the house from the motor court.
The main level includes living areas, an office, and a master suite. From the main level, the landscape slopes down to expose a lower level with a media room, pool room, and guest quarters, as well as a 100-foot library stretching along the entire north wall. The master suite angles away from the rest of the house, taking in the best views and seemingly hanging in the trees.
The architects applied an industrial aesthetic to the family room. Blackened-steel panels sheathe the fireplace wall; a concrete slab forms a minimalist hearth. The furnishings and rug echo the colors and forms of Kundig’s architecture.
Photos: Tim Bies Photography
The Promenade Residence is a luxury waterfront property that has been designed by Bayden Goddard Design Architects (BGD Architects), situated on an exclusive residential street in Queensland, Australia. This dream home was designed for a family of four with the brief to achieve ideal spaces for work, rest and play. The internal planning required a clever balance to achieve a house of private spaces with maximized outlooks to the Surfers Paradise skyline. Corten steel screens wrap the first floor bedrooms providing a veil for the bedroom spaces facing the river and the road.
The approach to the house, presents a structured and grounded design, balanced by the delicate screen pattern and soft landscaping. At night, the house transforms to a glowing lantern, welcoming guests for the views to come. Entry via the side arbour gradually opens upon a generous internal courtyard which looks through the main living area, framing the city skyline.
A major design feature was the inclusion of a luxury two storey space to the waterfront edge with custom double storey sliding doors. This enables views to be brought right into the heart of the house and across the internal courtyard to the street front rooms. Each layer of glazing and the waterfront screens can be pulled back almost out of sight to allow the house to breath effortlessly all day long. Louvered glazing has been utilized throughout the home to promote cross ventilation via natural breezes. The indoor / outdoor waterfront room, provides a multifunctional extension that capitalizes on the property locale and climate conditions.
The external finishes including recycled timber, corten steel and polished concrete provide a low maintenance and contemporary solution. The internal finishes compliment the external color palette and provide a practical and beautiful aesthetic.
Underground water tanks, solar hot water and LED lighting were incorporated to ensure efficient living for the owners and reduced environmental impact.
Wentworth Road House is a contemporary suburban home that was completed in 2012, by Edward Szewczyk Architects in Vaucluse, Sydney, Australia. This house takes full advantage of being on the sunny side of the street. Where sun access and vistas to Sydney Harbour are the same you have to embrace it. Three levels of the building topped with a roof terrace create dramatic composition above the street that is controlled by interplay of horizontal elements. Unusually for houses in the surrounding suburb, part of the outdoor functions are in the street frontage and above the street, rather than being hidden behind high fences. The Ground Floor is partially suspended. Connecting garden stairs and terraces are sandstone slabs lightly supported to emphasize position elevated above the ground levels.
The composition of the rear garden is controlled by the dominant presence of an old gum tree providing protected habitat for birds and with its form displaying beautiful shapes and colors of the trunk. The main Family Area at the ground floor level is positioned to benefit from both: distant northern views towards the harbor and intimate views to the gumtree. With the change of lighting, the distant views dominate during the daytime and intimacy of the gumtree takes over in the evenings.
External sandstone slabs change internally to much finer sandstone for the floor and coarse sandstone of wall cladding relates to the entry point. Timber used internally counterbalances stone finishes, slick metal cladding to Master Bedroom and solid steel plates to roof terrace. The building displays large transparency, while maintaining sufficient mass to provide feeling of sound shelter. Simplicity of spaces is enriched by fine detailing of timber and steel elements.
Photos: Justin Alexander
House Boz is a spacious and luxurious residence designed by Nico van der Meulen Architects situated on a hill within a secluded nature estate in Pretoria, South Africa. The clients requested that this stunning contemporary four bedroom house had an emphasis placed on the design of the living rooms. Ensuring that the magnificent views were optimized was of utmost importance and the design of this 8,288 square foot (770 square meters) house responds well not only to the client’s requirements but also to the context of the site.
The concept of a bush lodge arose from the vastness of the site and the natural setting of the stand within the estate. Werner van der Meulen of Nico van der Meulen Architects was inspired to design a house that resembled a bush lodge in the way it responds to nature and its immediate surroundings. Translating this concept into a contemporary home was almost effortless thanks to the location, orientation and natural beauty of the site.
Phia van der meulen and the M Square Lifestyle Design team strategically linked spaces through their use of various natural materials in the interior spaces. The design exposes the truth of the materials by using them in their purest form such as incorporating in situ-concrete, quartzite cladding and rusted mild steel in the design.
Regardt van der Meulen’s original steel sculptures were chosen for the project, as they fitted perfectly with the steel theme of the project.
Approaching the stand via a long driveway, you are afforded the opportunity to appreciate the design from a distance before actually getting close enough to appreciate its spaces. The striking square and rectangular forms are strategically positioned to capture your attention while the rusted steel boxes and stone-cladded walls aid in camouflaging the house creating a sense of unity between building and site.
The stretched screen walls seem to want to reach beyond their borders while floating steel boxes are gracefully suspended in mid air. The prominent east-west and north-south axes link and connect all the spaces while this point of collision and interception of the axes becomes the center of the home and it is here where we find the living room and covered patio. Thanks to the views being orientated towards North, the entire Northern facade has the ability to open up and live out onto the expansive views thus also naturally lighting and heating the house in winter, while carefully designed overhangs and brise-soleil keep the summer sum out.
The entrance hall positioned between the double garages is distinctively located alongside a partially covered atrium that gently introduces you to several views through the house as you’re welcomed in. The koi pond introduces water as you approach the front door while various podiums add depth and dimension to this space. An elevated sculpture podium and interlocking planters bring this atrium to life. At the same time it makes it possible to sleep with open doors as it is impossible to get into the atrium once the Mentis grating gate to the driveway is locked.
Every design decision communicates and reinforces the concept, as can be seen in the selection of materials used and the way the internal spaces relate to the outdoors. Limiting the choice of materials to predominately natural materials and earthy colors, it is evident that even the smallest of details make reference to the concept in a very unique way. Initially the site revealed itself as a mound of quartzite rock which was excavated and hand cut for the gabion walls and the stone cladding used throughout the house.
The double volume entrance hall is framed by a back-lit perforated skin of scaffolding boards bolted to a wall, creating the perfect backdrop for the sculptural looking concrete staircase with steel inlays and the sculpture under it by Regardt van der Meulen.
The interiors feature linear and monolithic forms that complement the architect’s vision for this house. Many of the functional elements were designed to become beautiful features that visually connect the spaces and create links throughout the house rather than just remaining purely functional. An example of this would be the way the staircase relates to the aluminum ceiling which features in both the main living room as well as in the main bedroom.
The selection of furniture pieces once again continued this theme where splashes of orange were used in the living room making reference to the orange seen in the rusted metal cladding. The overall charcoal color range used in this house complements the shades of grey found in the off shutter concrete walls.
The kitchen overlooks the lanai and garden while the frameless folding doors create an invisible threshold between the inside and out. These doors, when completely open, allow for the kitchen and dining room to overflow onto the lanai and bar, making entertaining effortless and enabling adults to keep an eye on children in the pool, a mere meter away.
The lanai with a sunken jacuzzi is snugly positioned between the pool on one side and a stone-cladded wall on the west which screens the afternoon sun to ensure the lanai’s temperature remains moderate. It is these design decisions that truly set this house apart from the rest.
All four en suite bedrooms are situated on the first floor with all of the bedrooms having their own private balcony. The three children’s bedrooms are situated on the western wing of the house while the main bedroom is located on the eastern wing. A suspended walkway with steel sheeting as floor tiles, overlooking the atrium links the two wings and creates a sense of privacy for the main bedroom.
Challenges arose during the construction process; however Nico van der Meulen Architects clearly pushed the boundaries on this design. This house prides itself in its design for luxury indoor/outdoor living in the heart of nature where internal spaces effortlessly expand beyond their often invisible borders to a world of beauty outside.
The variety and combination of textures used in this design create a synergy in this home which makes it truly unique.
Photos: Courtesy of Nico van der Meulen Architects
West Seattle Residence is a modern house comprised of concrete, glass, and steel, designed by Lawrence Architecture, situated in the West Seattle district of Seattle, Washington. The 3,800-square-foot house sits on top of a steep hill looking westward with dramatic views of Puget Sound. It’s essentially a loft-like glass curtain wall pavilion that sits on top of an opaque and rectilinear podium next to a similarly massed 925 square foot detached garage. A road runs along the rear of the house on its opaque east side, where the main entry is. Parallel to this road is a tall concrete wall up to twenty-four feet high that shields the house and a side patio for privacy. This wall then extends to the garage and living space unit next door where the client’s parents often stay when they’re visiting, blocking views into the main house’s master bedroom and keeping family at a comfortable distance. “They didn’t want to have to put up blinds,” Lawrence says.
The wall is also the organizing element for the circulation including the stairs with cantilevered steel treads. Supported on steel frames and triangular steel trusses, the roof swoops over the concrete wall capping the pavilion. Eight by sixteen foot sections of the curtain wall pivot for ventilation.
The house’s roof is its most engaging and formal feature. Lawrence describes the arcing shell as “springing over” the house from the rear privacy wall. The garage and loft apartment building has a similar curved roof. Both create a dynamic formal tension with the largely rectilinear buildings below.
An interior and exterior fireplace on the north side connects the house to its patio.
Several wood flourishes warm the inside and outside of the house. Douglas fir is used on the underside of the roof and on the ceiling of the kitchen. The opaque facades of the building are covered in metal panels. Inside, the floors are terrazzo and many of the walls are raw concrete. A steel slab floating stair adds more cool, industrial sophistication.
The house sits on a long, rectilinear podium that contains four bedrooms, a family room, bathrooms, and a media library, occupying the daylight basement level. Upstairs, the main level is an open plan, loft-like living room and kitchen, bathed in light and air through the curtain wall’s operable windows and steel structure. The top level of the house contains the master bedroom and bath. There is additional living space above the garage accessible via stair or future elevator.
The stair has demountable guardrails which are normally in place but were removed for the photographs.
Photos: Benjamin Benschneider
A House in the Woods is a certified LEED Silver house designed by William Reue Architecture, located on a densely forested lot at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, New York. Nestled on 8.5 acres, the 4,800 square foot residence is the result of the studied relationship between two opposing geometries – a long sculptural wall clad in weathering steel and a mass of stratified bluestone that appears to have emerged from the boulder-strewn earth. Locally-sourced materials and strategic siting stitch the house into the natural world while contributing to its sustainability for the modern one.
The design for A House in the Woods was grounded in the owner’s desire to build an artful home that responded to her values of order, beauty, and environmental stewardship. The structure’s uncomplicated geometry is enriched by the boldness of its materials, resulting in a balanced composition that is both sensuous and refined. The house is a personal refuge that takes its design cues from the colors and textures of the natural landscape.
The site boundary is defined by a series of Norway spruces, the singular element guiding visitors to the secluded entrance. The curved Cor-Ten wall is heroic, yet pragmatically justified as it carves a modest entry court that amplifies the sound of the stream running parallel to the house. The wall also operates as a spine that organizes the interior spaces into a series of cinematic portals to the landscape. The character of the minimalist interior is profoundly impacted by the changes of the wooded site from season to season.
The high performance thermal envelope consists of 14 inch thick Structural Insulated Panels and quadruple-pane windows constructed with FSC-certified wood. The house employs a direct-exchange geothermal heating system, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), rainwater harvesting system, and many other sustainable building technologies. With a HERS Index of 44, A House in the Woods is over 55% more energy efficient than a typical new home. The project was certified LEED-Silver in February 2013.
Photos: Steve Freihon
Limantos Residence is a contemporary glass and steel dwelling designed by architect Fernanda Marques in the upscale neighborhood of Cidade Jardim (Garden City) in the West Zone of São Paulo, Brazil. The single family residence consists of 8,826 square feet (820 square meters) of living space, spread out over three levels on a steep 8,395 square foot (780 square meters) plot. The house is comprised of 13 rooms: living, dining, kitchen, mezzanine, kids’ playroom, three bedroom suites, powder room, two staff suites, plus laundry and garage. The family engaged Fernanda Marques to create a home – both the architecture and interior are by Marques – that functions well as an everyday residence for the active family, but also lends itself to frequent entertaining. Marques achieved a beautiful balance between maximum transparency and privacy, and managed to insert the building into a challenging plot while preserving the existing trees. Using glass, steel, and concrete, Marques created a timeless house in the spirit of Mies van der Rohe who was the architect’s inspiration for this project.
Photos: Fernando Guerra
House in Kitakamakura is a unique modern house comprised of glass, steel and concrete, designed by Suppose Design Office, situated in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan. The residence was built on an uneven site in the outskirts of Kita Kamakura. The architects devised a plan to create an appealing living space by building directly over the uneven land. From an architectural standpoint, with an upper and lower level, the influence of the footing and other aspects caused too many uncertainties in the support of the retaining wall. So the architects proposed to set concrete shafts slightly away from the wall and create a steel frame between the shafts in order to insure the safety of the living space and the site at the same time.
This also helps to keep the excavation which accompanies construction work on uneven sites to a minimum. In addition, the space between the two levels which is created by the shafts and the retaining wall can be used as a garden. Many kinds of natural spaces can be created, such as a Japanese Garden, Bath Terrace, or Green Garden. The concrete will create a quiet, enclosed space, while an open space is created by the steel framework. Through these — two structural forms you can feel connected to the surrounding nature in this wonderful living space.
With just a few techniques we can overturn the stereotypes associated with this type of site. What was once viewed- as a site with poor building conditions can be changed into land with great possibilities. Rather than looking at the negative side, we would like to continue searching for these possibilities by accepting all — that these sites have to offer.
Photos: Toshiyuki Yano from Nacasa&Partners Inc.