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These sculptural cast-concrete planters caught our eye as being perfect when presented in a massive row poolside at a Zaha Hadid-designed beach house. The tallest version of these is 45 inches (about 110 centimeters) high, an impressive presence even without plants. We’d imagine these will look spectacular used to display a bunch of tall dry grasses or branches, outdoors or in. The planters, made by Phoenix, Arizona-based Kornegay Designs, are called the Quartz Series.
The company has no inventory, as each planter is made to order. Custom colors shown in the image are azurite, citrine, topaz and amethyst. We also like Kornegay’s beautifully rounded Dune Series planters. - Tuija Seipell
Casa no Geres, designed by Porto-based Correia/Ragazzi Aquitectos, has received its fair share of international awards and exposure, but we cannot help but show it off one more time. This is the first project by Gracia Correia and her new Italian partner, Roberto Ragazzi. It is a bold statement that hides nothing.
This is also a house that is easy to love from certain perspectives and from others; it looks quite unsuitable for its surroundings. From some angles, the house seems like an accident, some kind of a mishap with transportation containers and building materials. One part of the building is buried inside the hill while another sticks out over the river. It appears about to teeter off the hill at any moment, just waiting to land in its final resting place in the river.
The owners, Mica and Eduardo Pinto Ferreira, have been Correia's clients for more than a decade, and gave her carte blanche to create their dream house on the 5,000 square-meter site by the Cevado river - as long as no trees were cut and the 60 square-meter house (maximum allowed footprint for the site) was made of concrete. The house is located in Peneda-Geras National Park, along the Spanish border in northern Portugal, so the environment and its inviolability were crucial and the rules strict.
But looking out from the inside, the awesome beauty of the home becomes apparent. The simplicity of the structure, the openness of the views and the calm balance of the elements seems to speak the same language as the bleak surroundings. Nature has a way of being beautiful even when it is not, and this house knows that secret.
The warmth and proper scale of the building become even clearer when the illuminated house is viewed at night. It may look like it landed from some other planet, but it appears to be right at home now. - Tuija Seipell
photos from Nelson Garrido
Reflection of Mineral is a 480-square-foot (about 45 square meters) residence located in downtown Tokyo’s Nakano ward. Designed by architect Yasuhiro Yamashita Reflection of Mineral has received wide architecture and design media attention and numerous international awards.
Depending on viewpoint, the house looks like a bulky camper van about to take off. Or it seems to be the result of a giant’s frustrated attempt to fashion a house from a square box. Realizing that the site is too small and the wrong shape for his house, the giant just stuffed the house into the site by force. The whimsy of this beautiful residence is a big part of its charm. At the same time, the house is also an elegant expression of modern Japanese minimalism, and an example of brilliant use of a sparse site, a requirement in the tight space of downtown Tokyo.
Also beautiful is the way in which the interior appointments — the lines of the bathtub, the curves of the waste bins, the wavy length of the utilitarian shelves — respond to the lines of the building. This makes the interior seem larger and much less boxy than one would assume from the outside.
Yasuhiro Ymashita who was born in Kagoshima in 1960. He established Atelier Tekuto in Tokyo in 1991. - Tuija Seipell
Math professor Dr. James Stewart, who is also a former violinist with the Hamilton Symphony Orchestra near Toronto, Ontario, has made millions writing calculus textbooks. When he decided to spend most of his fortune on a residence, he could have used any architect anywhere in the world.
Instead of an international star, he selected the then-relatively unknown pair, Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe of Shim Sutcliffe to create his residence in a ravine in the posh Toronto neighborhood of Rosedale.
Stewart was not looking to build just a residence, though. He also wanted a private concert hall and lots of curves. Other than that, he gave the architects unprecedented and probably never-to-be-repeated freedom. No schedule, and no design restrictions.
A decade after the initial discussions with Shim and Sutcliffe, the $24 million US, 18,000-square-foot Integral House was completed. It does, indeed, have a multitude of seductive curves, massive amounts of floor to ceiling glass and a spectacular staircase. And, Dr. Stewart now gives concerts and throws parties and costume balls in his 150-seat concert hall.
The house exudes a patina, a classic semi-Scandinavian simplicity that makes it seem older, more established and mature than a brash, brand-new house. There’s a lovely sense of dynamism as well, as if the building were in motion, rolling along ever so slowly, or perhaps just coming to stillness after a long architectural journey.
The fantastic staircase is really a commissioned work of art, a collaboration between the architects, glass artist Mimi Gellman, and structural engineer David Bowick. It is constructed of hand-blown blue glass rectangles that are supported by cast bronze clips and stainless steel cables.
The house has already been on the Architectural Digest annual Toronto tour and it has become a part of the city’s must-see architecture. In a Wall Street Journal article, Glenn D. Lowry, director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, was quoted as saying: "I think it's one of the most important private houses built in North America in a long time. Tuija Seipell
Photographs by Jim Dow, Ed Burtynsky & Bob Gundu
Architects Anton Žižek and Marjan Poboljšaj, both of whom graduated in 1997, are being noticed consistently at European events and competitions for their progressive design work — from interior design and furniture concepts to architecture. They are the founders of Superform, based in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
Recently, Superform created an interesting retreat for a private client by combining two existing buildings in the town of Ljubno ob Savinji, 70 kilometers from the capital.
The first house that resembles the traditional buildings of the valley is monolithic and introverted and contains the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Its main materials are wood and stone.
Housing the living room, dining room and a large hall, the second house resembles a boat anchored in the green bay and is more extroverted, open an modern than the first. Its materials are glass, steel, Rheinzink and wood. The combined structure looks bold, yet agrees with its environment and looks entirely livable. Not an easy feat to achieve. - Tuija Seipell
How about adding some shockingly bright neon color to a vase made of the iconic Limoges porcelain and shaped in the classic tapered vase form? That is what French company La Tête Au Cube has done in accordance with their mission to be “slightly offbeat and completely off the wall.”
The clay comes from the Limoges area where the famous hard-paste porcelain has been manufactured since 1771. The “fluo vases” are also made in Limoges, hand-crafted and therefore each slightly different. Currently available in green, orange, yellow and graphite.
Jérôme Fischbach and Thierry Galloni d’Istria who established La Tête Au Cube in 2005 promise a neon pink fluo porcelain plate early in 2011. You can buy these beauties on their site and in selected stores in France.
Zuster is a Melbourne-based Australian furniture brand, operated by four sisters with Dutch heritage, hence the name Zuster, Dutch for "sister."
The sisters are all directly involved, contributing different strengths: Wilhelmina McCarroll is the designer, Meika Behrendorff handles sales and events, Katrina Myers is in charge of manufacturing and logistics, and Fleur Bouw management/pr.
As daughters of Melbourne craftsman and homebuilder, Meyer Sibbel, the sisters come to the Dutch design sensibility, European style and impeccable craftsmanship by blood.
For the past 15 years, the Zuster sisters have created hand-made, bespoke, contemporary European wooden furniture for both residential and commercial clients. The clean lines, perfect detailing, purity of design and focus on the qualities of wood make their furniture timeless and adaptable to changing requirements and environments.
The craftsman's obsessive attention to detail is reflected in each piece: subtle shadow lines, seamless timber butterfly handles, carefully matched grains that showcase the wood and work with the proportions of the piece.
There's also folkloric whimsy in some of the turned-wood pieces, especially in the stout little side tables that look like squat candlesticks, and in the tall, spindly candlestick-like corners of an otherwise clean-lined bed. Both items are part of Zuster's newest collection, Sabrina.
Mention TCH for a 10% discount on all orders until 31st Oct, 2011
When restoring this traditional Victorian terrace house — now known as the Skylight House — in Sydney, Australia, the architects and designers at Chenchow Little had to leave the street façade intact because the house is part of a conservation streetscape.
But the ornate, white exterior now hides a beautiful, minimalist dwelling that includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a new kitchen.
Flipping the typical Victorian terrace-house floor plan around, the designers placed the secondary bedrooms on the ground floor and the living rooms on the top floor. The living areas gained access to natural light via the new series of south-facing skylights, and to views across Parramatta River thanks to strategically placed windows.
Right beside the stairs leading from the relocated living room to the new kitchen, is a new central courtyard that encircles an existing mature banksia tree.
The materials and colors are minimalist and pure: raw concrete, glass, white walls and spotted gum hardwood.
The interior design by Janice Chenchow of Chenchow Little, veers toward mid-century modernist with several Scandinavian and Italian pieces including a Woodnotes’ hand-tufted wool "Sammal" carpet (Finnish for "moss") carpet in the color "Ice." We also love the lighting choices, especially "Parentesi" designed by Achille Castiglioni & Pio Manzuʻ for FLOS.
Project architects, husband and wife, Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little, established their Sydney-based firm in 2004.
The Skylight House won the Australian Institute of Architects, NSW Chapter Award 2011 Residential Architecture Award for Alterations and Additions. - Tuija Seipell
Bridle Road Residence in Cape Town, South Africa, is a beautiful example of a sizeable structure that does not impose itself onto the landscape at the base of Table Mountain.
The single-family residence does not look massive or overly grand, but instead exudes a classic elegance with Scandinavian/Japanese lightness, precision and scale. The proportions and division of the walls and windows — including the “picture windows” overlooking the Cape Town harbor — create an openness without the feel of exposure.
Interior and exterior spaces are integrated seamlessly, which adds to the sense of site appropriateness — that this building belongs to this site.
The architecture is by Cape Town’s Antonio Zaninovic, known for his ability to let the landscape lead the architectural solutions. The Santiago, Chile-born, Zaninovic graduated from the University of Chile’s School of Architecture in 2000 and spent five years at Steven Harris Architects in New York before establishing his own practice in 2005 with Madrid, Spain-born architect, Ana Corrochano.
The interiors of the residence are by Lucien Rees of New York City-based Rees Roberts + Partners and the landscape by David Kelly of Rees Roberts + Partners.
The building and site feature several sustainable solutions including the self-cleaning outdoor pool, natural cross-ventilation, use of earth temperature as climactic moderator, use of heat-repelling glass, and maximal use of local materials such as poured finish concrete and balau wood.
The house and its landscape won an American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2010 Honor Award in the Residential Design category, - Tuija Seipell
Loft Hamburg, located in a restored building in Winterhude district of Hamburg, is a private 118 square-meter residence designed by Graft. The focal point of the high-ceilinged and otherwise white space is a large pod paneled with walnut. The pod contains the residence’s kitchen and bathroom, hides its central heating, cooling and plumbing, and even provides some cupboards and bookshelves. The owner was looking to use a wide variety of materials, and the walnut pod contrasts beautifully with the soft fabrics, leather and natural stone used elsewhere in the loft.
Graft is an architecture, urban planning and design company established in 1998 in Los Angeles by German architects (,) Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz, Thomas Willemeit and Gregor Hoheisel, all now in their early forties.
Their Berlin office opened in 2001, and Beijing office in 2004. Alejandra Lillo joined Graft as the fifth partner in Los Angeles in 2007. - Tuija Seipell.
A tactile sense of texture, a romantic play of light, and a reverence of natural beauty are all evident in this graceful, angular villa that seems monumental yet inviting. It brings up memories of hikes up a mountain on Crete where the white ruins of an ancient chapel cling onto the cliffs. But these ruins are on an entirely different island and they are brand new.
With its two main blocks at 90-degree angles, the Plus House appears from above to form an almost complete cross or a plus-sign. The opulent weekend villa juts out of a mountainside in a popular holiday area known for its hot springs, in Shizuoka Prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The architects of this stunning beauty are husband and wife, Masahiro (36) and Mao (33) Harada, who founded Mount Fuji Architects Studio in 2004. Both are avid mountaineers — so much so that they named their company after the country’s highest and most admired mountain, also located in the Shizuoka Prefecture.
Plus House shows off their talents at being bold but not grandiose, and at involving the surrounding nature in delicate detail but without giving up the individuality and presence of the building.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the deceptively simple two-level concrete structure has private rooms and a bath on the lower level, and salon and kitchen on the upper. The water for the bedrooms and bath comes directly from a natural hot spring. The exterior is clad entirely in white water-polished marble with surface texture changing gradually toward the outer tips of the blocks from rough to mirror-smooth. The interior is also covered in white marble that reflects the blue light from the south (ocean) and green light from the west (forest). - Tuija Seipell
Photographs - Ken'ichi Suzuki
Villa Veth is a modern, customized villa, a private residence for a family of four. It is situated on a large parcel of land by a forest near the idyllic town of Hattem in the eastern part of the Netherlands.
Although the structure from some angles resembles today’s favorite and by now highly overused form – long, narrow boxes situated at odd angles – the design of this villa manages to avoid that cliché by locating only one floor above ground. The result is a classic, modern residence that functions well for the family inhabiting it, yet looks like it could have existed since the 1950s.
The ground floor and principal living area of the two-storey residence is divided into two. On one side are the master bedroom and two kids’ bedrooms -- all with separate bathrooms -- plus two small studios.
The other half –the south-facing side -- of the floor plan is taken up by an open-concept living area that includes the kitchen, dining and living spaces. One wall of the living area is constructed of frameless curved glass, enabling a seamless connection with the outdoors.
In addition, this space opens up to a vast, unadorned terrace or platform, part of which is covered and equipped with floor heating. The first floor also includes a small separate play and TV-room, a laundry and a tiny powder room.
The total floor surface area of the residence is 475 square meters (about 5,113 square feet). 123DV is an architectural firm that specializes in modern villas and supervises the entire construction process. Tuija Seipell
The bucolic setting of this lovely private refuge is located in a tiny hamlet in the Flemish district of Belgium, about 10 kilometers from the country’s third-largest city of Gent. Gent-based architecture studio Wim Goes Architectuur designed the beautiful extension to this residence. The wooden addition sits above a new wine cellar and extends partly over the pond.
The natural, graying wood, the green vegetation and the blue sky and pond create a harmonious balance, accented by the slim vertical lines of the largest surfaces. Goes’s signature style combines intentional, unpretentious simplicity with functional clarity, and results in stark beauty with Japanese-Finnish undertones.
In this residential structure, Goes created an elegant facade that encompasses both visual and structural grace. The facade is created from slim strips of wood (only 6 x 8 centimeters in cross-section) selected for the straightness of the growth rings in each piece of wood. And although the wood will still warp slightly in the rain and sun, this does not pose a structural problem because the facade does not need to bear wind load -- the wind will blow right through the strips. The only structural load the wood strips must carry is the vertical load of the roof.
Wim Goes is an award-winning architect, born in 1969 in Ghent. He established Wim Goes Architectuur in 1997. The firm’s work includes private, public and retail projects, ranging from the stunning Yohji Yamamoto flagship store in a neoclassic building in Antwerp, to museum, office and design environments. This year, he was chosen as one of the 40 under 40 European Architects by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. - Tuija Seipell.
This may not be your idea of a home but it is bold and fun, and it has certainly attracted wide media attention. The 8,500 square-foot Casa Son Vida is a cooperation between three powerhouses: Luxury residential developer Cosmopolitan Estates, eclectic Dutch designer and founder of Mooi, Marcel Wanders,, and award-winning Los Angeles, Switzerland and Hong Kong-based tecARCHITECTURE.
Casa Son Vida is located in the Balearic Islands off Spain, on the Island of Mallorca, where humans have lived since 6000–4000 BC and where more recently, tourists have over-crowded every beach. But Casa Son Vida avoids the touristy kitsch and aims much higher. It is in the exclusive Son Vida community, just 15 minutes from the capital of Palma.
Casa Son Vida is in fact a reno of a 1960s Mediterranean villa, but it has been turned into an fantastic, sprawling luxury residence, designed to attract the young, discerning and bold, who are confident and design-savvy enough to know what they are looking at.
The handiwork of Marcel Wanders is evident everywhere in the Casa that looks a bit like an unruly movie set with its dino-bone exterior staircase, and various bits and pieces that remind you of Tomorrowland, Mickey Mouse, Finding Nemo and, of course, Alice in Wonderland.
With its retro synthetic vibe, the house clashes happily with its lush surroundings, but the interior, in its white-dominant serenity is much less startling, although fun and unexpected detail is found in every space. There is absolutely nothing ordinary in this house. Everything is customized, every aspect considered a million times. It is a great example or considered chaos.
This is the first of six villas planned for the Platinum Estates development by the just less than a year-old Cosmopolitan Estates. The eclectic plans for the remaining villas reveal a series of large residences, radically different from each other. Casa Son Vida is currently not for sale but the other five are. Dream on. Tuija Seipell
A skillfully created illusion of scale and mass allows this large residence and office settle in its stark environment on the Swiss banks of Lake Geneva, off the Route de Lausanne.
Cape Town, South Africa-based SAOTA -- Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects designed this residence for a prestigious African client. The interior was created by SAOTA’s interior design and decor division, Antoni Associates. The project was completed in January 2010.
The demanding triangular, sloping site inspired a stunning design. The dramatic main house features rounded cubes and triangular masses that form an L-shaped living space. The impressive compound’s two buildings are linked underground by a spa, sauna, pool, garages, office and cinema. Jerusalem marble on all floors ties together the interior spaces while feature walls of marble, stainless steel and glass characterize specific rooms.
The sweeping and expansive interiors open up to a variety of outdoor spaces. Intimate and grand exist in harmony as both the interior and exterior exude calm and cool. There’s a sense of luxurious leisure and a connection between inside and outside that is part of the Afro-European aesthetic SAOTA understands so well.
SAOTA is a well-established architectural partnership of South African architects Stefan Antoni, Philip Olmesdahl and Greg Truen. Their international and local projects are characterized by understated luxury and airy clarity.
The company’s interior design arm, Antoni Associates, is led by Mark Rielly and Vanessa Weissenstein, and associates Ashleigh Gilmore and Jon Case. Antoni Associates creates exclusive interiors in South Africa and internationally in cities such as Paris, Moscow, London and Geneva. - Tuija Seipell
The dark, gamine profile of this chair channels black-and-white photographs of prim Scandinavian living rooms of the early-to-mid 60s. Mother in a dress and pearls, Dad holding a pipe and wearing a cardigan knitted by Mother. Children in neckties and hair bows. Shiny and skinny-legged teak table surrounded by equally slim, dark-wood chairs.
This delicate chair is not named Bambi but DC09, which, in turn, reminds us of Alvar Aalto’s Artek and his product numbering. The chair’s thin seat and straight, slim legs disguise a deer-like strength and agility, allowing the wood to hug the body and the chair, elegantly, to take up minimum visual space.
DC09 comes from Milan-based Inoda+Sveje Design Studio, established in Copenhagen in 2000 by Osaka-born Kyoko Inoda and Danish Nils Sveje. Japanese Miyazaki Isu manufactures this chair in teak, ash or Indonesian rose wood. - Tuija Seipel
It seems that every day we come across yet another beautiful example of elegant use of wood and, more often than not, the architects and designers turn out to be Aussies! Watch out Scandinavians and Japanese!
Stephen O’Connor and Annick Houle, partners at O’Connor and Houle Architecture, are responsible for designing this stunning residence in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, Australia. The Pirates Bay House is an L-shaped, one-storey, 200 square-meter (2152 sq. ft.) home for the two architects themselves and their twins.
Because this is an assignment they can fully control, the partners were able to indulge in all of their favorite features, They value slow life and harmony with nature. They also emphasize the various ways in which the residents interact with their living environment – the play of light on the walls and through windows and doorways, the feel of materials and textures, the breezes and airflow throughout the building, and of course, the views and vistas at different times of the day and during different seasons.
The optimal use of sunlight, rainwater and other natural resources, and the selection of landscaping features and native plants that require minimal maintenance or watering, are all part of the owners’ quest for sustainable living. Non-toxic materials, low-energy appliances, recycled timbers were also selected for the same reason.
The result is an elegant, minimalist house that makes us think of self-sufficient Finnish summer houses with no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, yet with all the pleasure. - Bill Tikos
Not your typical weekend cottage, LM Guest House in Dutchess County, New York, is a study in minimalist elegance. The 2,000 square-foot (approx. 187 Square meter) house was designed by New York-based Desai/Chia Architects on the private client’s working farm that had no existing buildings.
What must have been a rather sizeable budget gave Desai/Chia Architects’ founders, husband and wife Arjun Desai and Katherine Chia, an opportunity to create an updated interpretation of the iconic Farnsworth House, that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1951 in Illinois.
Although Farnsworth House was considered by some at the time to be cold and characterless, an aquarium or a pavilion rather than a dwelling, it has held its place steadily as a superior example of understated sophistication and as a timeless expression of van der Rohe’s desire to create balance and discourse between the indoors and the outdoors.
Similarly, the LM Guest House allows the residents an expansive view of the landscape by framing it with the triple-pane glass windows that are 20 feet wide and more than 10 feet high.
And although the LM Guest House is deceptively simple in appearance, it is a marvel of engineering and sustainable features. Geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floors, natural ventilation, motorized solar shades, photovoltaic panels and rainwater harvesting for irrigation, are just some of the examples of how this modern retreat attempts to fit in with the surrounding nature rather than conquer or harm it.
The property’s landscaping follows the same philosophy. Native plants frame the views and provide privacy while also managing storm water run-off. The bluestone slabs excavated from the site are used in the outdoor seating, pathways and terrace. Indoors, in addition to glass, the main materials include American white oak that is used for sliding panels, floors, ceilings and built-in furniture. - Tuija Seipell
We have offered a few special products for sale on our site before and we are now excited to continue this by bringing to you this super sexy light made of wood.
The American Oak veneer shade has a big presence — 40 inches (101.1 cm) in diameter and 27.5 inches (70 cm) in height — yet it seems to float serenely in the air. The shade adds a warm Scandinavian glow to you decor in any room at home, and it looks great in the office, too, over a conference table or above a seating area. Bulb and fittings are customized to your geographic location, so you should have no problem setting it up.
You can order it here and pay by PayPal. (for bulk orders, send us an email)
This six-floor, 15,500-square-foot warehouse built in 1915 in TriBeCa does not match everyone’s idea of a perfect family home. Mixed Greens gallery owner Paige West, her husband and their three sons thought otherwise. They summoned their many-time design magician Ghislaine Viñas to create their most imaginative project yet while Peter Guthrie handled the renovation of the actual structure.
This is the kind of home where you imagine Willy Wonka to live, or some other out-there character who throws crazy dinner parties that are talked about months afterwards. West’s family occupies the top four floors that are capped by a green roof. The lower two levels are taken up by a guest duplex that is not your typical guest house either. It includes, among other surprises, a two-storey climbing wall.
The old frame has been restored in a subdued style leaving a suitable background a lots of room for the wild interiors. Most of the time, one is not quite sure what one is looking at. It is a delightful, colorful and slightly mad mix of styles, colors, art and props, reminding us of a few hotels - including Hotel Fox in Copenhagen - where each room is decorated by a different artist.
A chandelier made of ping-pong balls, a self portrait by chocolate artist Vik Muniz and a pair of sheep sculptures grazing on a fuzzy green carpet are just some of the crazy details in this home, that according to the designer and owners, was also designed to be easy to care for and live in for a family with young kids. One thing is certain; the kids will not describe their home as ordinary or boring. - Tuija Seipell.
This residence was completed in January this year, yet it exudes a classic, modernist elegance that will ensure it will look just as timeless 50 years from now. Located in Buenos Aires, the “L House” by architect Mathias Klotz and associate architect Edgar Minond is the main residence of a small family.
Although this could be categorized as yet another grouping of concrete boxes representing the tiresome trend that just does not seem to want to die, this residence avoids all of the pitfalls most of such houses fall into.
In contrast to the stacked-concrete-boxes syndrome, not one section of this residence sticks out over anything, nor jut in an odd angle. No vanity ideas, no statement characteristics, no ego trip.
The house looks unpretentious and serene. All of its parts belong together and, loveliest of all, the structure appears to have sat on the site for some time. Simply put, it belongs. It all works.
European modernist sensitivities are apparent both inside and out. The use of wood, glass, steel, concrete and travertine limestone creates a coherent composition of materials and allows light and shadow to complete the decorative touches.
Without being too severe or controlled, this residence is composed of order. Some angles offer a Japanese or Scandinavian vista, as the indoor and outdoor spaces interact harmoniously.
This kind of simplicity is difficult to achieve and therefore it is so rare.
The architect, Mathias Klotz, was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, in 1965. He is one of Chile’s best known architects whose work includes private residences, hospitality and public buildings. In 2001, he received the Borromini Prize for Altamira School in Santiago de Chile. - Tuija Seipell
The excellent photography of this residence is by Roland Halbe of Stuttgart, Germany given to TCH exclusively.
This residence in the Pavilniai Regional Park, near the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, is one of those that we just have to point out, although it is neither brand-new nor unfamiliar to many readers.
The confident combination of history and modern needs of an upscale family was achieved by the architectural firm G. Natkevicius & Partners.
Located by in the valley of river Vilnia that gave the city its name, the park and the city have a rich history with the oldest written records dating back to 1323. The Puckoriu escarpment in the park has rare rock formations from the Ice Age. A large munitions factory on the site dates back to the 17th century.
It seems that in Vilnius private residents can buy pieces of such storied land, and when the current owner of the site - a banker and collector of antique books - bought it, a single bright-yellow building stood on it. On further examination, the owners found out that the building was part of the cannon foundry and it was built of valuable, historic Vilnius-made bricks.
The yellow house itself was not as big as the four-member family wanted their home to be, so they decided to build their new home of glass and erect it around the historic brick house. The exposed brick adds a tactile sexy feel and softens the potentially cold atmosphere of the glass structure. A sensuous curved opening, cut for the staircase that is outside the brick house, adds another focal point that works beautifully with the square elements around it.
The owners' antique library is now in the basement of the old brick house, the kids' rooms are on the ground floor, the master bedroom on the top floor. The other functions - living, dining, cooking, baths, garages - are all within the new glass structure. As a stunning bonus to the historically sensitive solution, the residents enjoy an amazing 360-degree view of the park. Sigh. - Tuija Seipell
Susanne Nobis has the enviable privilege of living in this gorgeous, tranquil house in Berg by Lake Starnberg (Starnberger See), a popular southern Bavarian recreation area for the residents of the nearby city of Munich.
As both the client and the designer, engineer/architect Nobis designed the home and office for her own four-member family and for her architectural practice.
It is a beautifully minimalist, modern take on a traditional twin wooden boathouse, popular by the lake. While the boathouses are on stilts over the water, Nobis’s house is on 60-centimeter high illuminated legs.
This gives the house its wonderful, impermanent, hovering feel but it was in fact a necessity in this location where the ground water rises very high. This also meant that everything must fit in the space above ground — no basement or cellar possible.
The structure, mainly of wood and glass, includes two separate but connected houses. House one includes living, eating and cooking functions on the ground floor, and the “gallery” above it.
In the second house, two offices and guest room are on the ground floor, bedrooms and bathrooms above it.
Nobis’s goals were to provide ample views of the lake, to let as much natural light in as possible and to not interfere with the surrounding nature or old trees.
She also wanted to use materials sparingly and economically, and to reduce everything to its essential beauty, purpose and function. Shelving and stairs of metal and wood, open storage, minimal furniture — all give the house its clarity and lightness.
The structure is long and narrow, but thanks to the use of glass and wooden slats, it appears almost transparent.
Nobis says that in essence, the house is nothing more than a shelter from the climate, a space where one can move as freely as possible. We envyingly agree. - Tuija Seipell.
Photography by Roland Halbe.
Aaaahhhhhh… Relaxing and breathing deeply. It may not come as a surprise to anyone that this would be our reaction this exquisitely refurbished residence, located in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most exclusive neighborhoods.
It has so many of the features we love. The structure seems to belong to the site. The indoor spaces connect with the outdoors, and the subtle surface textures and materials showcase the art and the mid-century modernist vibe of the furnishings.
There is visual room to breathe, to see. There’s space to enjoy the art, distance to appreciate the gardens.
It lacks all of the typical design-magazine photo-session set-ups; the painfully over-staged vignettes, the overly sterile designer look. There is no ego or bravado, just ease and style. This is cool without trying to be cool; dramatic without all the drama.
This is that confident, mature style that is so difficult to achieve and impossible to fake.
The white, colonial-style house has good bones to start with: unobtrusive scale and proportions, spectacular site with access to views, natural building materials.
It is also surrounded by sublime mature gardens originally designed by the late Roberto Burle Marx, the designer of the Copacabana Beach Promenade with its distinctive, black-and-white Portuguese geometric wave pattern.
But the already great structure of this house was improved by a recent, complete overhaul by Brazilian architect Gisele Taranto.
The 1,500 square-meter (about 16145 square feet) house consists of two blocks. The larger block is the main family residence, the smaller one accommodates staff rooms, laundry, garage, home theater and the spa that is directly connected with the outside pool and patio area.
Taranto retained this division of functions, but rearranged most of the rooms and built two additional spaces on top of the existing ones: a home office with a roof-top garden on top of the residence, and an additional two-bedroom apartment for staff on top of the other block.
To provide better access to the outside, new, much larger windows and sliding glass doors were created. Wooden exterior slat screens and a wide canopy all around the house were built to provide protection from the extreme sunlight and heavy rains of the area.
High-quality natural materials, such as corten steel, limestone, marble and peroba do campo wood are used throughout, but they remain as a subtle background for the art and furnishings.
In this project, Taranto collaborated once again with Brazilian lighting designer Maneco Quinderé and landscape designer Gilberto Elkins. Tuija Seipell
These minimalist, slightly retro — and dare-we-say cute – lamps come from New Zealand. They are the result of cooperation between veteran craftsman Douglas Snelling and his artist daughter Rebecca Snelling.
They established their company, Workroom, in 2008 and its collection currently includes tables, stools and lamps. In 2010, Rebecca and her partner Paul Dowie opened a physical retail store Douglas + Bec on St. Mary’s Road in Ponsonby, Auckland. It sells not just Workroom pieces but also others that fit their sensibilities of natural raw materials, clean lines and craftsmanship. Douglas + Bec sells also online. - Tuija Seipell
Shrouded House is a discreetly opulent residence for a young, design-aware family of four (plus a Labrador retriever) in Toorak, considered the most prestigious neighborhood in Melbourne, Australia.
Inarc Architects was in charge of the architecture and interiors of the project, completed in February, with Allison Pye Interiors consulting on the interior design and furnishings.
The 13-room residence consists of the 850 square-meter (9,150 sq. ft) main house plus the 300 square-meter (3,330 sq. ft) basement, and the 70 square-meter (753 sq. ft) poolside cabana. The previous house and the earlier landscaping on the site were demolished. The new landscaping replaces most of the removed trees, and responds to the needs of the new house and its residents.
The project gained its moniker Shrouded House from the main feature: the effective screening of the slightly twisting and turning exterior from the adjoining properties and the street by bronze aluminum battens. Used throughout the exterior, the battens give the structure its homogenous coloring and its sense of lightness.
Bronze, steel and glass give the residence its contemporary sculptural presence yet they also allow light and clouds play on, reflect and penetrate the structure, which makes the entire building appear smaller and less monolithic. The effective use of these materials also helps connect the exterior to the interior spaces.
As the structure is also broken up into smaller-scale components, the sizeable house does not appear overly imposing or grandiose.
The interior is open, warm and light-filled with white, sandstone and oak surfaces linking the spaces together.
We love the understated way in which the designers have interpreted the family’s needs of privacy, warmth and openness through timeless, understated architecture. - Tuija Seipell
The Italian wallpaper company Wall & Decò is known for creating exquisite, large-scale mural-like wallpapers that define a room. They are widely used in hotels and restaurants, and for private residences by interior designers.
In April at the Fluorisalone 2012 in Milan, Wall & Decò introduced a new wallpaper system designed for the outdoors.
Their OUT - Outdoor Unconventional Textures - system is a three-part covering that allows for incredible photographic reproductions and large-scale graphic designs to be applied onto outside walls. The system consists of an adhesive, a technical fabric and a finishing treatment.
The designs introduced in Milan included a Bauhaus look, a black-and-white OP pattern, tile-initiations and even military camouflage. We believe this is an idea that has staying power, and that it will expand and improve as feedback from early users comes in. - Tuija Seipell
White Animal Life (WAL) tableware, a collection created by Amsterdam-based interior designer Emilie Kröner, attracted attention, for example, at this year’s New York and Milan Design Weeks.
The collection includes a rhino and hippo oil-and-vinegar set, elephants as salt and pepper shakers, a flamingo carafe, leopard napkin holders, and a crocodile serving dish perfect for candy, olives or asparagus.
In all, White Animal Life is a decidedly ill-functioning set of curiosities for the table. Or, if that is too harsh a description, at least Kröner puts form and beauty bravely ahead of function.
Playfully, she has modelled the white beasts on 17th and 18th –century tureens and other serving dishes that were created and displayed as curiosities and conversation pieces at lavish dinner parties. WAL is Kröner’s first foray into product design. We look forward to more. - Tuija Seipell
When we first saw the images of Villa SSK by Takeshi Hirobe Architects, we had mixed feelings. On one hand, the house is made of wood which usually helps us become interested, and it does afford the inhabitants many beautiful vistas.
On the other, the structure seemed somewhat out of place among its very plain-looking neighbours, and we could not shake the feeling that it was slightly Darth Vaderish, dropped from beyond the Outer Rim.
But the longer we looked, the more we liked this villa by Tokyo Bay. It reads like a thoroughfare between the mountain and the sea. The vistas are clear and beautiful from many angles, and each viewpoint is different. By combining rigid timber veneer walls and truss arches, the tunnel-like space is achieved without almost no right-angle walls, all of which adds to the feel of the unexpected.
The residence includes spacious living, dining and kitchen areas, a bathroom overlooking the ocean, and one guest room. It also boasts a special room that can be used to display the owner’s beloved car.
What we like most is the way the tiled central courtyard functions as an outdoor living room, where the owners’ dogs can play and where larger parties can be held. Water also flows into the courtyard to create a pond. The bathroom, with its round tub, has possibly the best view in the house.
When the residence is lit at night, the impression from both the inside and outside is that of lightness and tranquility. Great qualities for a home. - Tuija Seipell (Photos: Koichi Torimura)
We love the global cool design sensibility of Casamidy products. It is firm that combines that design sensibility with a deep respect for traditional craftsmanship. All products are designed by the founders, husband-and-wife team Anne-Marie Midy and Jorge Almada, and manufactured by more than 40 artisans, artists and craftspeople in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico.
The materials – iron, leather, tin, blown glass, wood – are turned into timeless and distinctive furniture and furnishings- seating, tables, shelving, lighting, headboards, mirrors and other accessories. The team has created customized pieces for numerous interior design firms in Europe and the U.S.
Midy is a French born graphic designer who worked for Martha Stewart Living. She met the Mexican-born Almada when both were studying design in the U.S. They moved to San Miguel De Allende and established Casamidy in 1998. They currently reside in Brussels where they also have a showroom for Casamidy with weekly deliveries to London and Paris. - Tuija Seipell.
Not only is this Bernardo Bader designed private home beautiful and elegant in its deceptive simplicity, it is also a great example of how to use resources to their fullest. Haus am Moor is a private residence with an attached studio, located in Krumbach area of Lower Austria.
For some of us, the exterior of the house brings back images of Scandinavian barns in their hulking, windowless, untreated beauty that weathers perfectly in the harsh climate till the barns appear to be part of the landscape.
Bader took some of his cues from the traditional stone-and-wood –structured Bregenzerwald house that also speak a minimalist visual language and use local materials beautifully.
For Haus am Moor Bader and his team used a concrete core and wood from the owner’s own forest. Every part of the the 60 spruce, fir and elm trees was used to construct walls, floors, ceilings, doors and furniture. During the construction, the building team unearthed clay in the depth of one meter. This clay was pressed to form bricks that were air dried on-site and used for the floor structure under the wood slats.
The house is heated with the central wood-burning hearth, and with geothermal heat pump.
Of course, we love the overall minimalist approach evident throughout the house both inside and out. But what we love specifically is the way daylight plays among the wooden slats, and the way the lit windows glow at night. Beautiful. Tuija Seipell
Imagine the renovation dilemmas. A huge penthouse of a converted 1930s office building in TriBeCa, New York, is to be turned into a functioning home for a family with three teenagers.
In fact, we can not quite imagine the issues that faced Steven Harris Architects when the family showed up, literally, at the doorstep of the celebrated architect and asked if he’d like to work on their home. Harris said yes and proceeded to make his magic.
The scale of the apartment is huge and the freedom from budget constraints allowed for some spectacular solutions.
Harris’s work is often distinguished by clarity and light, by the use of glass, by the maximization of views and, above all, bold solutions. All of those are evident in this project.
What emerged as a result of the TriBeCa Penthouse project, is a multi-level (27th and 28th floors) nearly 8,000 square-foot (743 square meter) family-friendly residence that includes self-contained guest quarters and a new glass-and-teak-beam rooftop pavilion that functions as a recreation room.
The most frequently used areas of the apartment – kitchen, master bedroom, rooftop gym, even the laundry room – have the best views, including those of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and many of the city’s significant landmarks.
The double-height living area on the lower floor boasts an 18-foot high window with the view of the Woolworth Building. The room gained its height by necessity because adding the rooftop pavilion took the condominium conversion over its allowable floor area ratio. The team solved this problem by cutting off part of the lower-level ceiling, thus creating the double-height living area.
Harris’s team replaced the existing 70 double-hung windows with single-panel tilt-and-turn versions, and used glass in dividers and doors where-ever possible. The window panes were limited to 61⁄2 by 91⁄2 feet in size because of the size of the building’s freight elevator.
Early on, when the owners and architect realized they were looking at a substantially dramatic remodeling but the owners did not want to move out of the building, the family bought a couple of other apartments in the same building for temporary residence – and had them renovated before move-in, too. Those two apartments are now for sale.
One of our favourites in this apartment are the stairs. They are made of ¾-inch-thick steel plates wrapped in leather. The stairs appear to float in space and take up almost no visual room yet they are also stunning eye-catchers. Stairway to heaven, indeed, or at least toward it. - Tuija Seipell.
Project architect: Eliot Lee
Photograpy: Scott Frances/OTTO
This is what we call breathing room! A room in which one can breathe. Where the sea breeze moves freely. Where the scent of the ocean is ever-present. And the best part? It is not in a deserted island far, far away, but in an urban setting.
This 300-plus year-old house is located in the ancient port city of Jaffa, the oldest part of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality in Israel.
The gorgeous renovation is by the Tel Aviv-based Pitsou Kedem Architects, already well known for their minimalist approach to architecture and design.
The single owner of the house asked the designers to maximize the sea view while keeping the historical feel of the building intact. The project team - Pitsou Kedem, Irene Goldberg and Raz Melamed - has achieved this beautifully.
The residence consists of a 100 square meter (1,076 sq.ft) living area (living, dining and kitchen) plus an additional 80 square meters (861 sq.ft) that includes the master bed room, a study and a guest room.
Our main attraction points in this cool sanctuary are the gorgeous arches, the exposed texture of the old stone, the subdued colour pattern, and the lovely balance between the old and the new. It looks so easy and natural, but it is very tough to achieve such poise.
There is an overall sense of peace and harmony that is a luxury in itself. Breathtakingly lovely. We are seriously envious of the owner. Tuija Seipell
Design team: pitsou kedem, Irene Goldberg, Raz Melamed
Photographer: Amit Geron
We are scratching our heads, searching for new words to describe the attraction we have for buildings such as the Limantos residence by Fernanda Marques Arquitetos Associados.
The one-family residence of 820 square meters (8,826 sq.ft) is built on three levels on a steep 780 square-meter (8,395 sq.ft.) plot in the upscale neighbourhood of Cidade Jardim (Garden City) in the West Zone of São Paulo, Brazil.
What is it that so appeals to us in this? Yes, it is the clean, classic lines, the Miesian harmony between nature and the indoors, the understated elegance of less is more.
It is also the achievement of open-space opulence without pretentious pomposity. It is the complete lack of unnecessary ornamentation. Balance. Harmony. Air to breathe.
Maybe it is that the building just seems to belong. Like waves on the beach or mountains in the skyline, the building occupies its space as if it were meant to be there.
To avoid sounding overly pompous ourselves, let’s just say that we wouldn’t mind living in this house.
The house consists 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, concrete and steel, Marques created a timeless house in the spirit of Mies van der Rohe who was the architect’s inspiration for this project.
The elegant, white spiral staircase, resembling the inside of a shell or a curled strip of paper, is our favourite detail of this beautiful house. - Tuija Seipell.
Balance. So difficult achieve as it requires the designer, architect and owner to know just where to stop – what is just enough but not too stark; what is just perfect for the building, for the space and most important, for the residents.
Andy Martin Architects has succeeded in balancing the angular and the circular forms beautifully in this large five-bedroom double-fronted mews residence, Mews 04, in London's Hyde Park.
The biggest alteration Martin competed for this residence was to replace the timber-framed faux Victorian-style conservator form the 80s with a beautiful three-waved, sine-curved glass structure.
The form language of this new conservatory was then elegantly repeated throughout the house allowing maximum natural light into each space and fitting the client’s existing furnishings in with the new and customized pieces.
Bronze, marble and oak are materials that fit perfectly with the classical styling of the residents’ original pieces.
From the rounded topiary at the entrance to the curved marble bath tub, the beautiful curved form brings sophisticated harmony to the entire residence. - Tuija Seipell.
At first glance, the K House designed by Sydney-based Chenchow Little appears slightly dark and brooding. No windows or inviting embellishments, only angular planes of concrete and wooden slats.
But as soon as we see the view from the garden, the dwelling starts to appear like a protective burrow, a safe hideaway, an intriguing living space.
And when we later read about the clients’ brief, we knew the architects had achieved exactly what the client – a privacy-conscious family of two adults and two children – had wished for.
The house is located on the edge of Sydney Harbour (Vaucluse) overlooking the city skyline and the Harbour bridge. The northern edge – and the sun bathed side - of the site faces a public pedestrian walkway. To provide extreme privacy yet allow maximum sun exposure and openness to the views and the rear garden, the architects created a protective masonry shell and built an internal lining of untreated gum timber that will weather over time.
The internal views are light-filled and airy with none of the darkness or broodiness of the first-impression.
The total floor area of the residence (including decks) is 533 square meters (5.735 sq. ft). The site area is 788 square meters (8,250 sq.ft).
In their 10 years in business, Chenchow Little founders, Australians Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little have become known for bold and distinctive residential projects. They are becoming one of our favorites, too. - Tuija Seipell
If we had only one word to describe this residence, we’d use harmony. If we’d have just two, we’d use harmony and elegance. Luckily, we can use many more, and timeless is a third word that comes to mind immediately.
Architects Geert Bosch and Annemariken Hilberlink of Berlicum, Netherlands-based HILBERINKBOSCH architects designed this timeless gem for a couple whose children have already left the house.
The villa is located in Utrechtse Heuvelrug, a municipality in the Dutch province of Utrecht.
The key to the harmonious elegance of the house is the way it sits on its site. The pine-forested site has a height difference of six meters – a unique feature in the predominantly flat Dutch landscape. As requested by the clients, the architects took full advantage of the location.
As a result, the house appears to have been on this plot for a long time. It belongs here as it responds seamlessly to its surroundings.
The architects pick up even more elegance points through the timeless style of the building itself. Three masters inspired the refined grace: Frank Lloyd Wright for his mastery with natural scenery, Mies van der Rohe for the open and transparent plan, and Peter Zumthor for his brilliance with tactile materials.
The entire color scheme of the residence stems from the surrounding nature. The dunes inspired the color of the concrete, and the beige, orange and green hues of pine trees are reflected in the bricks.
The same seamless color scheme continues indoors where the forest and dunes seem to be just as present as they are outside. The owners love art and theatre, and their home is designed to be a perfect showcase for both. This is true especially in the double-height entrance area.
Let’s add a few more adjectives, just to prove how much we love this villa. Graceful. Chic. Cool. - Tuija Seipell
For someone born in 1977, Mexico-born and educated architect Manuel Cervantes Céspedes has scooped up his fair share of accolades. With his team at CC Arquitectos, he has completed both residential and commercial project that deserve attention.
One residential project in particular, El Mirador, located in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, and completed in 2013, has remained in our minds as an impeccable example of how to create elegant balance.
In this mountaintop residence, the architect and interior designers – as well as the owners – have resisted bravely the temptation to add just that annoying bit of attention-demanding “interest” - a contrasting dash of colour or a contemporary piece of furniture or art in a completely unrelated genre.
We admit that when we first saw the images way back then, we fell in love with the free-ranging horses. Then we admired the use of reclaimed railway ties as logs for the walls and then we were intrigued by the mirror-like pond at the entrance that also functions as a drinking fountain for the horses.
In the end, all of these features are essential parts of the balanced whole: A natural theme that is not disrupted.
There isn’t a single material or colour, inside or out, that breaks the theme, yet the house does not look or feel over-themed or over-designed.
The structure is a combination of steel and wood, and local stone is used extensively throughout.
The residence itself is a one-bedroom plan and takes up only about 550 square meters (5,920 sq.ft) and includes a kitchen and a large family room that connects to the outside terrace.
In El Mirador, Manuel Cervantes Céspedes’s team included José Luis Heredia Alvarez, Rafael Rivera Sanchiz and Javier Claverie. - Tuija Seipell.
Photos © Rafael Gamo
Villa Moos by Lake Constance (Bodensee) at the northern foot of the Alps draws our attention with its building-block appearance and foreboding façade.
And yet, surprisingly, with these almost semi-brutalist intentions, the look of heaviness does not follow.
Instead, there’s a delightful mood of lightness, almost of semi-permanence. It seems as if the entire structure could be a fold-up affair made of exceptionally strong origami paper or very light sheets of card board, ready for packing up and carting elsewhere. But as we know metal and glass are the main components, we must admire the architects’ ability to balance the scales so that the end result is harmonious.
With a sparse set of key ideas, the German architecture firm Biehler Weith Associated has managed to create a rather classy and serene vacation home for the owner whose sleek speed boats and antique race cars fit right in with the cool residence. - Tuija Seipell.
Images by Brigida Gonzalez
Build a massive house made of concrete in the middle of a grove of 130 beautiful protected old oak trees and you have an ugly disaster in your hands.
This scenario sounds likely but it was elegantly avoided in the Oak Pass Main House that Walker Workshop designed for a private client in Beverly Hills, California.
The house sits on a 3.5-acre site at the rim of a canyon, which is why the fantastic views were the main consideration of the house plan.
The ornate oak trees provide a contrast for the hard edges of the low-lying house - a delicate balance not easily achieved.
The use of glass allows for views and vistas over and through the house and makes the mass of the house seem much smaller than it is.
Structural concrete is the main building material as it lets large spans of space to flow into each other without columns or supports.
All of this leads to a calm harmony between the site and the elegant minimalist house.
The 8,000 square-foot (743 sq.m.) single-family residence includes four bedrooms on the lower level beneath the green grassy roof, two kitchens, a dining room, a living room, an office, a 900-bottle wine room, an exercise room, a media room, four bathrooms and a powder room, a foyer and an art gallery courtyard plus a garage.
A 75-foot lap pool with infinity edges on three of four sides, bisects the house.
This large residence is on the same property with the much written-about Oak Pass Guest House that Walker Workshop completed in 2013. - Tuija Seipell.
A confident black margin drawn on a crisp sheet of pristine, white paper anchors everything on that sheet and divides it decisively into sections. But it leaves everything else free and open; to be decided later, to be filled in - perhaps in writing or with drawings or other media.
That same feeling of order and balance - and also of rejuvenating freedom - permeates this Olivier Dwek-designed residence on the island of Zante. Zante, also known as Zakynthos, is one of the Ionian Islands that also include Kefalonia, Ithaca, Corfu and Paxi along the western coastline of central Greece.
The elegant dwelling sits confidently on the ocean-side ledge of the island, overlooking the neighbouring island of Kefalonia (or Cephalonia).
The British-born, Brussels-based, 45-year-old architect Dwek is a master of the pure, clean line.
In the Zante residence, the first level includes an entrance hall, outdoor dining room, kitchen, living room, patio, swimming pool, terraces and a bedroom. The large master bedroom is located on the second level.
All windows look over the steep hillside and face the beautiful vista of Kefalonia.
There is so much we love about this project. Obviously we are drawn to the elegant minimalist white-and-black scheme, the efficient, open floor plan, the overall openness, the refined proportions, and the complete lack of gimmicks or unnecessary enhancements.
And we always love a structure that leaves room to breathe, see, hear and experience the surroundings.
But in this particular house, our favourite feature is the black margin. We see them in the frames for the windows and sliding doors, the edges of marble counter tops, the play of light and shadow on the white surfaces.
These margins border and outline the life inside and outside, and they define the scenery and direct the viewer to the incredible surrounding beauty. - Tuija Seipell.
We had forgotten how beautiful grey concrete can be until we saw what Ezequiel Farca had done with a 1970s residence in Mexico City.
At the same time, we were also reminded of how much we love Farca’s elegant work in general.
To start with, the Barrancas House in Mexico City had a lot going for it before Farca came along.
It is located on a sloped property so that the four levels of the house, from basement all the way to the top, or second, floor, are all in fact on ground level.
In addition, the site overlooks a great wooded area with grown trees and greenery. The house had good bones that Farca and team members Cristina Grappin and Fernanda de la Mora preserved and then took to a new level of cool, modern comfort.
The 720 square-meter (7,750 sq ft) house is a family residence. Keeping that in mind Farca maximized the exposure to the views and daylight by opening up the rooms with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the woods. He also knocked down interior walls and replaced some with sliding screens and hidden doors and providing bay windows that open fully . All of these give the family members the option of creating specific spaces for their changing needs.
Much of the furniture was also custom-designed by Farca’s team for the Barrancas residence.
The new luxury amenities of the house now include a home theater, a wine cellar, a gym and two large terraces. Our favourite luxury features are the chic long pool on the topmost level and the skillful use of greenery both inside the residence and outside in the new garden.
The landscape was designed with plants that adjust to the local climate, with green roof and green walls, it also has a solar energy system and a automatized water saving system.
Marble, stone and wood dominate the interior, with earthy tones and neutral colours throughout. The interior flows seamlessly together with the exterior and all of that gives the sensation of expanded, unblocked freedom.
Ezequiel Farca and his team have achieved that tough-to-define and even tougher to accomplish harmony where the old and new coexist, where the exterior and interior belong together and where the meticulous design work does not honk its own horn but instead, stays stylishly in the background where it belongs. - Tuija Seipell.
Photography: Jaime Navarro, Roland Halbe
Spectacular scenery – and sheep – are the first things that come to mind for most of us when we think of New Zealand.
For an architect, spectacular scenery is always both a challenge and an opportunity.
This was very much the situation for David Ponting, founder of Ponting Fitzgerald (in 1998) of Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand, when he saw the site for what his affluent client hoped would be a “sanctuary.”
The site was breathtaking with unbelievable views of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand, and the mountains beyond.
Rocky, powerful terrain. Strong visual lines. Subdued color scheme. Nothing dainty or traditionally cozy was going to work. This site had a strong, powerful presence of its own.
Ponting and his client settled on a simple, yet very demanding, brief: Let the land speak. With a sensitivity that Ponting later described as having an “element of divination,” he allowed the site to express itself.
Rather than coming to the site with a preconceived set of shoulds and musts and limiting ideas, the architects kept walking the site. They eventually ‘divined’ a beautiful solution that speaks the same language as the site.
They realised that there were two separate locations on the site, each with its own distinct natural forms, each ‘asking for a building.’
They granted the wishes and created two low-profile structures, one as the master dwelling, the other – the larger one - as the guest wing.
When viewed from above, from the entrance way and parking area, each looks like a low-lying bird wing. Not imposing or interrupting, but somehow belonging in the landscape.
The breathtaking beauty of the structures comes from the strong elements: glass and stone, and polished, board-formed and in-situ poured concrete, with reflecting ponds and skylights adding an element of wonder – all in the service of letting the land speak, none standing in between the viewer and the view. The scenery is literally part of the interior, especially in the guest wing that is more open and grandiose than the slightly more private and inward-looking master house.
In the master dwelling, the windows at one end look into cut bedrock, with snow-capped mountains beyond. At the other end, on the rocky hillside, the view at times includes those famous New Zealand wild sheep that occasionally wander by.
If there ever was a project where the brief has actually become reality, this is it. The land has spoken, and was heard well. We are awaiting an invitation to the guest wing. And should it ever arrive, we may never leave. - Tuija Seipell.
Images by Simon Devitt
If you are like us and just cannot tolerate another rustic retreat or another architect-trying-too-hard-to-be-cool stack of oblong concrete-and-glass boxes, there’s always the chance that you’ll run across a classic.
A brand-new residence that has all the characteristic of a timeless beauty. A low-profile building that really fits its surroundings. A stylish home where the outdoors is the key feature.
The Alterstudio team that included Kevin Alter, Ernesto Cragnolino, Tim Whitehill, Matt Slusarek, Jessica Connolly and Joanna Hartman garnered quite a few awards and accolades with this project when it was completed, and its confident design will stand the test of time for decades to come.
Located in a grove of mature oak trees and overlooking the 200 acre Bright Leaf Preserve and the Colorado River, the house takes full advantage of the exquisite natural setting.
The 5,900-square-foot (550 square meter) house for a family of four has three relatively small bedrooms plus a separate guest suite, as it puts all of its energy into making the most of the public/family areas with living, kitchen and dining rooms lined up along the glass wall that overlooks the huge patio, the gorgeous pool and the view beyond.
We also love the garden in its all-green colour palette and low-profile planted areas. Of course, this residence also has many of the other features that we are drawn to: Smart use of wood and other natural materials, unpretentious and minimalist forms and colours, plus a nice mid-century modernist overall air.
This is one of those dwellings where you feel you can really breathe freely. There’s room for the eye to roam, yet the scale is human. Perfect. - Tuija Seipell.
Architecturally alarming things could be expected when a movie mogul of big-budget action movies based on over-the-top special effects assigns his mega-million Los Angeles villa project to a globally recognized architect whose work includes a fantastical master plan for a place called Ice Cream City in Overtown, Florida.
Luckily, movie man Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) and architect Chad Oppenheim have many other things in common besides far-reaching imaginations.
Bay’s much-praised and publicized 30,00 square-foot (2,787 square-meter) crash and party pad (his actual home is in Miami, Florida) is elegant, minimalist and modern, reflecting as much Bay’s reverence and appreciation of good architecture as it does Oppenheim’s incredible ability to conjure elegant, iconic buildings.
Bay sold his previous L.A. house in 2009, and paid $10.9 million for a mid-century house on a five-acre lot on Bel Air Road. He caused a disapproving uproar by tearing the house down as it was considered somewhat important, even by L.A. standards. It was designed in 1951 by Burton Schutt with interiors by Billy Haines, and was for decades home to socialite Marion Jorgensen and steel magnate Earle Jorgensen (close friends with the Ronald Reagans).
To replace this house, he selected Chad Oppenheim’s concept residence whose renderings had been up on Oppenheim’s website for a long time, just waiting for the right client.
The three-story house has a 50-seat movie theater designed by Jeff Cooper, a movie prop museum, parking for several cars, a spa and several bedrooms, plus two master bedroom modules that hover above the rest of the building with incredible views of Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
An infinity pool along the cliff edge emphasizes the exquisite plan that allows the structure to sit in the hillside site as if it had always been there.
The project team was led by Chad Oppenheim with Oppenheim’s V.P. of Operations, Carl Romer, as the project manager. Also involved were L.A. architecture firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Stenfors Associate Architects, as well as interior designer Lorraine Letendre and decorator Lynda Murray. - Tuija Seipell.