Architects’ Houses Michael Webb Princeton Architectural Press $41.69Thirty architects share their own houses in the recently published tome Architects’ Houses by AN contributor Michael Webb. Here, we share six of the diverse interiors that offer an in-depth look at what architects design when they design for themselves. Baan Naam, Venice, California, by Kulapat Yantrasast. The Thai-born architect mastered the art of concrete construction and put it to good use on the rear wall of his own house. House of the Poem of the Right Angle, Vilches, Chile, by Smiljan Radić. An espino wood sculpture by Marcela Correa hovers beneath the skylights of a house at the foot of the Andes. Tower House, Ulster County, New York,by Peter and Thomas Gluck. Living spaces are cantilevered from a stack of three bedrooms to command sweeping views over the treetops. Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis, has buried his L.A. home in a sloping corner site. NOHO, or No House, will eventually be concealed from the street by dense plantings. This Puget Sound home in Washington is where Jim Olson goes to kick his feet up on the weekends. Longbranch is a continually evolving home, and Olson recently added several new rooms to the older house.
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When Suchi Reddy, founder of New York–based Reddymade Design, was tasked with redesigning a 12,000-square-foot home in Miami Beach, Florida, she learned that the job would involve not only designing the space, but also helping the client curate an extensive contemporary art collection. Situated on Sunset Island, the home is affectionately known as the “Sweet Spot,” and Reddy’s vision was a careful balance of architecture, art, and design.
The 1939 waterfront house was built by a Cuban sugar baron in a hybrid style of Caribbean colonial and Hollywood regency. Reddy’s design transformed the estate into a comfortable contemporary home that also showcases the client’s art collection. Each space was carefully designed with that collection in mind, with additional work introduced by Reddy, including pieces by Gerhard Richter, Marina Abramovic, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Erin Shirreff, Kate Shepherd, and Barry X Ball. The architecture plays directly with the art—for example, the curving main staircase winds around a 17-foot-long light installation by artist Pae White, chosen by Reddy precisely for the space.
Throughout the six-bedroom, eight-and-a-half-bath home, each room was treated as a separate design opportunity. “Part of the challenge was that every room is fairly large, and to create intimacy and comfort within a large space can be quite a difficult task,” Reddy said. “I took a sculptural approach to designing the spaces as a response. Each room was conceived as a ‘gallery’ of sorts, with curated objects, furniture, and art.”
As would be expected of such a project, the detailing of each space is meticulous. From elaborate molding to a variety of floor finishes, every surface is considered. In some cases, Reddy worked with existing elements. “The lounge near the bar had walls with plaster palm trees—not a staple of modern design strategies,” she explained. “I decided to treat them as texture that was filled out by the curtains between them, and change the focus to the center of the room by creating a circular seating area that becomes a focal point, drawing you through the axis of the house.”
A major portion of the design was the choice of furniture. The dining room features a floating glass table designed by Poetic Lab. Another room centers around a thick telescope glass coffee table by KGBL. Colorful textiles play a key role in many of the spaces. In the living room, sculptural furniture is clad in bright African wax-print fabrics, one of Reddy’s own passions. “My Indian heritage gives me a very deep appreciation of textiles and texture,” said Reddy. “And that love informs every space, not with an Indian influence, but with a sensibility for spaces that feel sensual.”
In a Seattle neighborhood of traditional family homes, Heliotrope Architects create a modern abode using local materials
In a hip and funky part of Capitol Hill—Seattle’s answer to Brooklyn—sits one new home that is unlike the others. Amid the surrounding sea of bungalow and cottage-style homes is a new residence designed by Seattle and-Portland-based Heliotrope Architects. With its stained-cedar facade and abstract gable roof, it is contemporary yet quietly different, its boldness found in soft details, a monochromatic color palette, and honest materials.
An engineer and an artist—the former an online-retailer employee and the latter a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—initially reached out to Heliotrope for the project. The couple had big plans to create a home on an empty mid-block lot (the former cottage-style home on the lot was razed) that could house a shared art studio space and feel airy, light, and cheerful.
The interiors take inspiration from white-walled contemporary art galleries, providing a neutral backdrop to a clean, clutter-free space filled with smart furnishings and Arne Jacobsen lighting fixtures. “The approach is not indulgent,” said Heliotrope co-founder and principal Mike Mora. “It’s relatively modest.”
White-painted sheetrock adds tranquility and calmness without feeling sterile. There are Northwestern myrtlewood floors in the peripheral spaces and wood-look tile and concrete flooring (with radiant heat) in the main living areas. The kitchen features custom cabinetry and walnut butcher-block counters, and the living room has custom bookshelves, all crafted by local builder Dovetail (known for building out local Seattle eateries like Joule and Mezcaleria Oaxaca). Ample glazing and skylights bring daylight inside, valuable in a region that can have nine months of cloud cover each year.
“It’s not just a two-story box,” said Mora, explaining why they focused on keeping the house low instead of maximizing the building envelope.
There is a thoughtful balance and unity between contemporary and warm, indoor and outdoor, public and private. As Mora explained, the design relies on a checkerboard layout—a careful juxtaposition between the interior and two ground-level gardens that help distribute natural light throughout the home (there’s also a rooftop garden as well). The master suite is split between two levels: The master bedroom is on the upper floor and looks over the double-height artist studio, while the master bath downstairs includes a custom Japanese soaking tub and cedar countertops. The guest suite lies underneath the gable roof, separated from the master suite.
In the end, Heliotrope was driven by its clients’ close connection to design. “Physical objects are important to them,” said Mora. In fact, the couple is so meticulously organized that the house required just five minutes of staging before the photographer came to shoot this feature.
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Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss, of Mexico City–based Pedro&Juana, met in 2005 while attending SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture). The pair then spent about four years at Jorge Pardo Sculpture (JPS) in L.A. They launched Pedro&Juana in 2012, after moving to Mexico City from Mérida, Mexico, where Pardo had been building a hacienda. In the years since, the firm has developed a series of architecture- and furniture-driven designs, including installations for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), 2016 Design Miami showcase, and an upcoming design for the Commons, a multiuse engagement space at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In all of their projects, they furnish public areas with furniture of their own design, imbuing utilitarian spaces with a joyful energy and effervescent wit. Those sensibilities—and some of those furniture pieces—are fully realized throughout the pair’s recently renovated, 1,200-square foot Mexico City apartment.
“We kind of just did it the way we wanted to,” Ruiz Galindo said, describing the radical renovations the pair made to their fanciful apartment in the city’s Colonia Juárez neighborhood. The residence is located in a two-story, 176-unit neoclassical building built in 1913 as housing for the administrative staff of a local tobacco company called El Buen Tono.
The apartment had a long history of deferred maintenance and disjointed alterations that allowed the designers to reprogram the spaces as they saw fit. “We eradicated hallways and, typologically speaking, went back in time,” Reuss said. The flip was simple: Service areas were consolidated and modernized in the front of the apartment, while bedrooms were moved to the back. The unit’s two patio spaces were revamped too, with one receiving a wooden deck and the other a masonry floor. The wooden deck sits above an open basement level designed to passively cool the unit. To access the basement, Ruiz Galindo and Reuss added a new spiral staircase made from salvaged wooden beams left over from the construction. “That basement can be a problem. In our neighborhood the city sinks between 10 and 15 centimeters every year,” Reuss said, explaining Colonia Juárez’s extra-porous subterranean landscape. When it rains, the apartment’s basement sometimes floods as a result.
The main bedroom’s floor was replaced. There, the designers painted the new floors white to match the walls and ceilings of the room. A low, wide bed fills a space shared with a rocking chair and a lamp prototype leftover from their days at JPS. A nearby bathroom is decorated with brick checkerboard floors and a colorful array of citrus-hued tiles. The kitchen, simply articulated and looking out over the masonry floor courtyard, features built-in cabinetry and wooden countertops. Water damage from semi-seasonal flooding left the original pine floors in the dining room rotted through, so Ruiz Galindo and Reuss replaced them. The new pine floors match the casework, everything a crisp hue of light golden brown. Deeply recessed French doors cut into the exterior masonry walls of the room, opening out onto a shared courtyard. The doors, studded with divided lights and paneling, like the wide sweeps of crown molding above, echo the Beaux Arts provenance of the building.
The rest is a mix of contemporary objects and hand-me-downs: utilitarian bracketed bookshelves, prototype chairs and leftover lamps from the CAB installation, a pair of cabriole-leg chairs upholstered in yak wool. Stacks of tiny objects abound too, including groupings of the firm’s Maceta ceramic pot, a stackable vessel made of inverted, symmetrical cones of clay. These objects, Reuss said, are “the residues and leftover prototypes, extras that [over time] started to populate our house.”
Given Los Angeles–based architects Unruh Boyer’s expertise rehabilitating iconic midcentury modern homes, it is easy to see that the firm’s Rome House, perched on the hills of Los Angeles’s Glassell Park neighborhood, follows in the tradition of L.A.’s visionary residences.
Except that rather than designing an object to be admired from the valleys below, Unruh Boyer has designed a home that revolves around experiencing the outdoors from within the house. The 2,400-square-foot residence is designed around a collection of viewsheds that are used to anchor rooms to the city and nature beyond. These views can be accessed directly via the 320 square feet of balconies or simply through visual connections made from large casement and picture windows.
Not that the structure isn’t nice to look at itself. Partners Trish Boyer and Antony Unruh spent the last few years crafting this comfortable hillside residence. Clad in patterned, bronze-colored bonderized metal and punched openings suited perfectly to Boyer and Unruh’s tastes, the property is actually a speculative development—a problematic condition. “Basically, we designed the home we would want for ourselves, however, the unintended consequence is that it is difficult to part with.”
The home’s spaces flow into one another in a familiar arrangement: A street-side garage is flanked by a front door that leads to an entry foyer and kitchen with an expansive, airy living room located just beyond, a few steps below the kitchen level. The kitchen, outfitted with utilitarian IKEA cabinets and Carrera marble countertops, opens out onto a side porch and terrace that leads down the sloping site. Floors in the kitchen-adjacent dining room are made up of rough-cut pieces of black slate, with a triumphal hearth separating the kitchen and living room with built-in wood shelving. The living room culminates in a pair of 7-by-10-foot barn-style exterior glass doors that open out onto a wraparound deck overlooking a terraced hillside planted with succulents and pepper trees.
The rest of the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home unfolds on the floor above, accessed by a stylized staircase made of Glulam construction. That floor is made up of a divisible two-bedroom configuration on one side that features a large, sliding room divider—an ode to the late, midcentury architect Gregory Ain, whose office Unruh Boyer currently uses as its own. The architects envision the space being used as either a pair of bedrooms or as a bedroom and office suite. Floors throughout the level are constructed out of glossy oriented-strand board. The master bedroom on the opposite side of the second floor features built-in closets and a large picture window overlooking the outstretched hills of Northeast Los Angeles.
Structural Engineering: Eric McCullum Engineering 310-944-0898Metal Siding: The Tin Shop 323-263-4893 Framing: Amir Hassan, ACG Construction, Inc. 650-345-2082