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.
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 quite easily charmed. Or, perhaps more truthfully: When certain elements exist we are highly likely to take a second look.
Give us beautiful use of wood, minimalist approach, classic lines, incorporation of nature in design, and we are intrigued.
And, if you can add that elusive ‘something,’ that special stroke of genius that makes your design unique, delightful, quirky, even weird, and we will really take a really good look.
The Tree Snake House in Pedra Salgadas by Luís Rebelo de Andrade and Tiago Rebelo de Andrade fits the bill perfectly.
The Lisbon-based architect duo has worked in the spa town of Pedras Salgadas in northern Portugal for some time, creating an Eco-Resort in the park. The resort huts are little eco-lodges made of modular systems and built on stilts.
The two Tree Snake Houses have many of the same characteristics and the architects worked with the Modular System Company to come up with innovative ways to create the feel of a tree house.
Each Tree Snake House has a studio, a bathroom and a kitchen.
The architects are working on additional versions of the Tree Snake House for different environments and climates, including mountainside, riverbank, urban and sand. They expect those to be available to purchase to the general public.
So, we suggest you start saving up for your own Snake House now. We certainly have been snake-charmed and can picture our office in one of them one day! - Tuija Seipell
Photographer: Ricardo Oliveira Alves for TCH
See also Treelife by TCH
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.
It helps to have a strong understanding of dramatic interiors when tackling the potentially intimidating task of restoring a massive, 17th century Amsterdam canal residence AND re-imagining it as a functioning modern residence for a busy, fun- and art-loving four-member family.
Interior architects Sigrid van Kleef (38) and René van der Leest (40) of Amsterdam’s Studio R U I M had what it took to strike that seemingly impossible balance: Their background in theatre and opera set and costume design, as well as in restoration and interior design of contemporary homes.
Their priority was to respect and celebrate the heritage and character of the Herengracht canal house built originally in 1666 for a successful Amsterdam merchant, Abraham Muyssart.
Equally important was to not make the residence feel like a museum but instead, allow it to express the current residents’ own lifestyle and interests, of which photography was a significant one.
The resulting 400 square-meter home includes three living rooms, five bedrooms, two kitchens, two bathrooms and a 200 square meter garden.
One of our favourite features is the massive, black ornamental steel frame in the living room ceiling. It speaks the visual language of centuries-old mouldings yet makes a bold contemporary statement and creates a lovely contrast to the daintier visual elements in the space.
We love the use of wood: panelling, staircases, exposed in ceilings and in framing. The kitchen is a particularly cool combination of traditional and modern. The walls are dominated by vast restored paintings depicting views of the river Vecht and framed in their original wood frames.
Countering this are the super-modern counters, bench and especially the custom-designed (by Studio RUIM) industrial-scale copper light fixtures.
All this juxtaposing is a demanding balancing act but RUIM has managed to tie it all together with a bold sense of drama, yet they have also induced a feeling of fun, lightness, serenity and comfort avoiding the trying-too-hard, melodramatic solutions that would have been easier and predictable. - Tuija Seipell.
Photography: Daniel Nicolas
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
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
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 order and minimalism in buildings. New, freshly planned, pristine and perfect are great attributes for new structures, yet we also find ourselves drawn to things that aren’t so flawless. Recycled, repurposed, previously loved, salvaged. Buildings that have a previous life carry a character that brand-new ones just cannot master.
When old structures are preserved and lovingly restored, we gain in so many ways. Not only do we preserve materials that would otherwise end up in the waste stream, we also respect the heritage of each building, and add to the character of the surrounding area. Sadly, restoring the old is often more costly than building anew, yet we believe that more and more people and companies will continue to do it.
We see combinations of materials that would probably not end up side by side if the opportunity to do something radical didn’t present itself in the often impossibly complex demands of creating livable space from the old and unlivable.
We see solutions to gain more space – add height, increase the number of rooms, expand the footprint - that would never be used in a new structure. Creative ideas that do not really follow any known rules of style, yet produce a unique, cool style of its own.
Combining existing structures with a linking new segment is also gaining popularity. The resulting combos are often unexpected, fun and practical as well.
Often, there is a need to add light – larger windows and more openness in general – to older structures that have tiny openings due to the cost of (or unavailability) of window glass, or the cost and labour-intensity of heating.
In some cases, a new superstructure combines a disparate group of existing buildings and makes the entire cluster seem coherent and cosy.
Mimicking or echoing, yet distinctly differing from existing materials, colours, shapes and styles forms is also an elegant way to create a harmonious and elegant new style.
And, then of course, there are the rather mad, but delightfully so, mix-and-match ideas that make a point of not trying to fit in.
Whatever the result, we will be keeping an eye on these New Again structures because we know it is a trend that will keep growing. - Tuija Seipell
If you have seen cool examples of this, please let us know.
Image 1 - Refurbishment of west tower in Huesca City, Spain
Image 2 - Shoreham Street, Sheffield, UK
Image 3 - Brighton College, UK
Image 4 - Health Centre for Elderly People
Image 5 - Casa He - Italy
Image 6 & 7 - Convent of Sant Francesc in Santpedor, Spain.
Image 8 & 9 - Wolzak Farmhouse
Located in Bellevue Hill, one of the most affluent suburbs of Sydney, this elegantly renovated residence merges the heritage of the building with contemporary minimalism in a way that is not easy to achieve.
Sydney-based Luigi Rosselli Architects in charge of re-imagining the Victorian bones of the building. They have done it lovingly by adding a new wing that includes a kitchen and family room on the ground floor and a study and staff quarters above it.
What we like especially is the eye-catching new three-storey staircase that links the old and new segments. It seems like a perfect signature of the bygone period yet manages to look completely cool and modern.
We also love the whitewashed walls, the wide oak floorboards and the elegant use of marble in the bathroom. The cool lighting installation (by Lindsey Adelman) above the staircase, and the cozy yet roomy vaulted-ceilinged attic are both features that respect the old structure but in a fresh manner.
In these images, it is also tough to ignore the lovely display furnishings brought together by Alexandra Donohoe of Decus (also of Sydney).
During the renovation, the building’s heating system was also completely overhauled and it now operates a geothermal air conditioning and heating system. - Tuija Seipell
Photographer: Justin Alexander