Posts tagged with "Residential Architecture":

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Pedro&Juana’s Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss show off their new apartment in Mexico City

This article appears in AN Interior's sixth edition—if you're not a subscriber, there's still time to buy it on newsstands! See our list of stores here.

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.”

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Iconic José Oubrerie-designed Miller House hits the market

One of Kentucky’s most iconic homes is now on the market. The Miller House, designed by Le Corbusier protégé José Oubrerie, is listed for $550,000. That price is nearly half of what the home was sold for in 2008, making this a tempting bargain. Located in Lexington, Kentucky, the single-family home is noted for the complex way in which the interior spaces interact. Held together in a monolithic concrete frame, the home is comprised of three separate dwellings. This allows for family members to each have their own space while living in the same house. The original clients were an older couple, who wanted a home where their grown children could come and stay. Critics have often cited this as a commentary on the role of architecture in mediating family relationships. The house’s suburban setting seems to only exaggerate this point. Completed in 1991, the Miller House is filled with intricate detailing. Woodwork, steel, and concrete are mixed freely throughout, with bright pops of color being used in surprising ways. Nothing in the house seems typical. Its 5,000 square feet are sliced and divided into rooms, lofted spaces, bridges, balconies, and atria. The nine-square grid plan the house is based on is nearly completely illegible thanks to all of these unconventional meetings of space and material. The house has nothing of the austerity so often associated with modernism, despite its very clear modernist pedigree. José Oubrerie was part of Le Corbusier’s studio in the early 1960s. Since then, he has held numerous faculty and administrative roles at different universities. In the late 1980s, he was dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design. In the 1990s he taught and was chair of the architecture department at the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University. He has also taught at the New York Institute of Technology, Columbia University, The Cooper Union, the Polytechnic University of Milan, and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beux-Arts. Currently he is a visiting professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The listing also includes a virtual tour of the entire house that is well worth checking out.
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Made to maximize views of L.A., this hillside house builds on midcentury modern traditions

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.

Resources

Structural Engineering: Eric McCullum Engineering 310-944-0898

Metal Siding: The Tin Shop 323-263-4893 Framing: Amir Hassan, ACG Construction, Inc. 650-345-2082
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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson reinterprets the chalet for Lake Tahoe

San Francisco–based architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) have completed work on the Mountainside Stellar Residences and Townhomes, a ski-in, ski-out complex of residences and townhomes located on the slopes of Northstar, an upscale community located beside Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border.

The project, designed in partnership with developers West Partners and Mountainside Partners, consists of six detached residences and 11 clustered townhomes, each designed to maximize views of the surrounding landscape and to operate on a year-round basis. The homes represent an attempt by the firm to reinterpret the upscale ski chalet for a contemporary area and are designed with sustainability and technology at their forefront and are built to achieve LEED Gold certification.

Located amid a grove of Jeffrey pine and Douglas fir trees, the detached residences are themselves clustered on a compact site overlooking ski slopes and a mountainside lift, with the homes visually grouped together by their mirrored floor plan configurations. Each 3,400-square-foot structure is entered from above and features a double-height, upper-level great room living area topped by a large, wood-clad roof overhang. The overhang shields an outdoor loggia that extends from the indoor living areas and is supported by a simply articulated post-and-beam assembly. A black-stained cedar wood shingled wall separates the living wing of each home from the bedroom areas, one of which is a master suite. That suite is cantilevered slightly over the ski slope and is wrapped on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls. All of this rests above a blonde cedar wood siding-wrapped base containing two smaller bedrooms, a guest master suite, and a media and entertainment room.

The townhomes, each roughly 2,200 square feet in size, cascade down a gentle slope, except here, instead of having shifts in facade geometry indicate different aspects of program within a single home, the townhomes shift in geometry as ownership changes from one unit to the next. The clusters of paired townhomes—with the odd, eleventh townhome existing as a freestanding structure— are each topped by one of two halves of a thickened, sloping gabled roof plane. These roofs extend beyond the exterior walls of each unit and are wrapped in the same blonde cedar wood as the single-family homes. The roof planes turn down along the shared party wall between the units, giving each side a more individualized expression and massing. Like the detached homes, the townhouse units also feature groundfloor outdoor spaces that connect to an interior great-room configuration, except that here, bedrooms are located on the floor above. Each structure is clad in the same mix of blonde, gray, and black cedar planks.

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Douglas fir and careful detailing fill this Michigan retreat designed by Wheeler Kearns

Along the shores of southwest Michigan’s Upper Jeptha Lake sits one family’s home away from home. Created in an ongoing collaboration between the owners and Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns since the 1990s, the retreat is a cluster of four small buildings. The relationship between Wheeler Kearns and the client goes well beyond this single project—their long history of building together in Chicago created a rapport that is exercised here.

Based around an existing cottage that Wheeler Kearns remodeled, the Upper Jeptha Lake Retreat is defined as much by its interior spaces as the spaces in between the structures. Enclosing a yard and pool, two outbuildings and a forest provide an intimate entertainment area. These multiple outdoor spaces can be used for family dining or large group events.   

The latest addition to the project completes the campus as a year-round multi-generational getaway.

One of the two new buildings is a guesthouse for two families. The 960-square-foot structure includes two bedroom suites, a small kitchen, and a communal area. An intimate loft space sleeps two with 360-degree views of the forest and lake—a grandkids’ paradise. Covered patios allow for more private or group eating. The second building houses an exercise room, garage, and a patio for grilling. A small boathouse sits at the water’s edge.

Each structure’s form is reminiscent of the other, but they were not designed to perfectly match. Instead they are tied together with carefully curated material and detail palettes. The entire campus is painted in a cool gray that recalls the bark of surrounding beech trees. In contrast to the calm exteriors, the interiors are rich and warm. Douglas fir is used from veneered plywood to wide planks, and lines most surfaces. Hidden appliances and efficient layouts make the most of small spaces. Interior furnishings throughout the sunlit space, such as bright fabrics and classic modern pieces, were chosen by interiors firm RDK Design.

“The clients are very involved,” explained Wheeler Kearns principal Mark Weber. “They would give us programmatic elements, but would allow us to compose the best scheme for the site.” The result is a retreat specifically catered to the needs of multiple generations of a family coming together away from the city bustle.

Resources

Windows Eagle Window

Lighting “Munkegaard LED” Louis Poulsen

“The Egg” Holophane

“BeveLED mini” USAI

Faucets Hansgrohe

Toilets and sinks Kohler

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2016 Best of Design Award for Residential > Single Unit: Underhill by Bates Masi + Architects

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you. 2016 Best of Design Award for Residential > Single Unit: Underhill Architect: Bates Masi + Architects Location: Matinecock, NY

When the clients chose to leave New York City for the suburbs, they wanted their new lifestyle to retain a strong sense of community. Inspired by the tenants of simplicity, humility, and inner focus espoused by the Quaker history of the surrounding community, the house is characterized by a series of modest gabled structures, each of which turn inward toward a central courtyard. The surrounding plantings, metal ceilings, oak floors, and ceiling boards radiate outward from each central courtyard to further emphasize this geometry.

Contractor Qualico Contracting Corporation

Landscape Architect TL Studio Landscape Architecture Wine Storage, Refrigerator, and Freezer Sub-Zero Gas Range Wolf Kitchen Sink Franke

Honorable Mention, Residential > Single Unit: Wythe Corner House

Architect: Young Projects Location: Brooklyn, NY

Behind the perforated and corrugated zinc of its exterior, this renovation of a 1900s Williamsburg townhouse radically remakes the interior to create a double-height living room and a hovering addition that allows for parking underneath.

Honorable Mention, Residential > Single Unit: Fox Hall

Architect: BarlisWedlick Architects Location: Hudson Valley, NY

This simple, barn-inspired structure is the centerpiece of a sustainable compound that includes a rehabilitated barn, a natural pool, and a three-story screened tower with a wood-burning sauna.

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2016 Best of Design Award for Interior > Residential: Clinton Hill Courtyard House by O’Neill McVoy Architects

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you. 2016 Best of Design Award for Interior > Residential: Clinton Hill Courtyard House Architect: O’Neill McVoy Architects Location: Brooklyn, NY

To turn this dark and narrow historic carriage house into an open, inviting home for a young family, O’Neill McVoy Architects created two light volumes within the structure that would bring sun and nature into the center of the house. The first, cut from the second floor, illuminates the master bedroom, library, and living area below, while the second creates a central garden on the first floor. White-stained plywood accents and a perforated stairwell help create a feeling of expansiveness within the home.

Structural Engineer Robert Silman Associates

Contractor Harper Design Build Stairwell Fabrication B Fabrication Glass Courtyard Enclosure Duratherm Windows Skylights Wasco Skylights and Supreme Skylights

Honorable Mention, Interior > Residential: 2902 at the W Residences

Architects: Page with Furman + Keil Architects Location: Austin, TX

Inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s interest in color and materiality and his fascination with vertical edges, the team sought to create a series of intimate spaces that flow into one another with a pared-down aesthetic, muted tones, and luxurious materials.

Honorable Mention, Interior > Residential: Garrison Residence

Architects: Patrick Tighe Architecture Location: Redondo Beach, CA

Located one block from the Pacific Ocean, this three-story house has a simple massing punctuated with articulated openings that frame views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.

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A very ’70s artist’s loft is transformed into an elegant home for a growing Manhattan family

Except for the rarified homes of the rich and famous (or just plain rich), “spacious” is a relative term in New York real estate. Finding enough space for a growing family can be a challenge, so many choose to stay in place and maximize the square footage they have, any way they can.

For a loft on Jane Street, on a prime West Village corner, one family commissioned Architecture in Formation (AiF) to design a space that was warm, refined, and practical, and that took advantage of the 13-foot ceilings to compensate for comparatively little floor space.

”Before our renovation, the space was this classic hodgepodge 1970s artist’s studio that featured all the horrible tropes from that period,” said principal Matthew Bremer. The family needed room for more members, and once the ’70s touches were removed, the pre-war, former manufacturing building offered plenty of flexibility for a mutable layout with ample storage.

“The space is a celebration of storage and display, and articulates the positive relationship between the two—it’s 95 percent storage, five percent display,” Bremer said. The overall design stems from the white-accented arched living room window, which floods common areas with sunlight. Steel columns and beams are accented by raw brick and semi-industrial touches, like the dining room light switches, while teal counter-height chairs and a dark blue island add a subtle warmth that complements the lacquered cabinets. The family actually cooks (“unlike some of my Manhattan clients”) and entertains, so kitchen appliances and fixtures are top-of-the-line functionally, not just showpieces.

Taking advantage of the soaring ceilings, the architects were able to create a lofted mezzanine space—for sleeping, storage, or studying—above the bathrooms and closets that is accessed from a ship’s ladder in the master bedroom. The transition from public to private space is grounded by a pocket door between the master bedroom that allows the space to merge with the main living areas, if desired. At the ground level, the apartment is scaled to children, as well as four-legged family members—there are dog bowls built into the kitchen island. From every angle, the 1,500-square-foot home expresses coolness and subtle contrast in an extraordinary volume.

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AN Exclusive: See Naho Kubota’s stunning photos of Young Projects’ masterclass in materials

Receiving light from all four sides of a Manhattan dwelling is a chance that seldom comes along. So Bryan Young, principal-in-charge of New York studio Young Projects, took full advantage with the Gerken Residence. Occupying the 13th and 14th floors of a historic cast-iron Tribeca building, the apartment’s 1,500-square-foot rooftop offers downtown views—notably of Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street—while its roughly 6,000 interior square feet host a lush cutout courtyard and a collection of private, yet fluidly connected spaces.

Inside, the most eye-catching element is a polished stainless-steel screen found on the main floor. Divided into segments, it can be moved from one side of the building to the other, creating a partition across the space. Cuts made in the twisted, shimmering steel create a visually semipermeable membrane. Subsequently, guests can have restricted or open views depending on the position of the screen: It provides more privacy and opacity when viewed from the elevator entry, while it is more open and transparent when viewed from the living room.

This divider, Young explained, is one of four key spatial elements that organize the program on the 14th floor residence. Three of these—the fireplace, the courtyard, and the screen—can be found arranged around the fourth element, described by Young as the “plaster core,” a sensuously textured volume that houses the back-of-house programmatic elements and allows the rest of the apartment to be more open.

The defining feature of the core, however, is its surface. At first glance it appears to be draped in a frozen, CNC-milled curtain, but upon closer inspection it becomes clear that the material is handmade plaster. With no indication of joinery, the surface’s exquisite hand-detailing of serrated and curvaceous forms, augmented by light and shadow, produce a slightly strange effect, one Young describes as “tectonically unclear.”

Like many research projects in the office, the concept was born from a series of questions about the possibilities of new materials and the process of making.

Young emphasized that the final product is not pulled plaster, but rather an arrangement of plaster casts. To create the effect, Young said, six “master molds” were created using a variation on the traditional technique used to make crown moldings. Here, a custom designed profile, or “knife” and “horse” were moved back and forth laterally, pulled along the length of the custom designed rail to form the plaster in three dimensions. Done by hand, the technique produced casts where serrated edges peeled away in an S-shape, giving way to a contrasting smooth surface. These were then used to create the six master molds, which were used to make the casts that clad the core.

To ensure the monolithic quality Young desired, each cast rose to the same height on either side, allowing them to join in a vertically arranged running bond. “There is a continuity and discontinuity that is rationalized across the entire surface,” said Young. He added that the analog, hands-on method contributed to the sense of material ambiguity that the plaster creates. “It was interesting for us to take a centuries-old technique and rethink the manner in which that process is defined.”

The plaster allows the core’s interior facade to respond to the surrounding spatial elements. More dramatic, “aggressive” casts were employed on the volume’s double-height spaces, most notably by the stairway, which is exposed to direct sunlight, while less articulated, “softer” casts were distributed elsewhere.

The courtyard or “glass core” lies opposite the plaster core and bathes it and the stairwell in light.

“As you move around the house, what initially reads as a negative element starts to read as a positive volume,” Young said of the courtyard. Working with landscape design firm Future Green Studio, it is filled with vegetation that hangs from the rooftop. Young intends for this visual connection to strengthen over time as the greenery piles over, offering a rare dose of thriving interior vegetation in an urban apartment.

The spatial organization of an interior courtyard juxtaposed with a solid, materially ambiguous interior wall gives the projects its raison d’être: The courtyard’s plants glow with light, questioning familiar notions of interior and exterior, much like the transformation of plaster gives new characteristics and life to seemingly familiar materials, taking all of it almost into the realm of the unreal.

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Dan Wood and Amale Andraos of WORKac renovate their own New York apartment

In 2004, Dan Wood and Amale Andraos bought a floor-through one-bedroom apartment in a recently completed building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The couple are partners in work as well as life. They are the founders of Work Architecture Company (WORKac), an award-winning New York firm whose credits include a master plan for the New Holland Island Cultural Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wieden+Kennedy’s New York offices, the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, and the Edible Schoolyard at P.S. 216 in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Andraos is also dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

At first the apartment suited them perfectly; for one thing, it was a short walk to their office on Rivington Street. And in 2010, when their daughter Ayah was born, they were able to make room for baby. But in 2012, when Wood and Andraos found out that a second child was on the way, they knew they would have to move, especially since the apartment had only one bathroom. Happily fate intervened: Just after their son Kamil was born, the duplex apartment on the floor above became available.

The architects bought the unit on the spot and immediately set to work conjuring ways to connect the apartments. The options felt overwhelming: Where would they put the front door? Where should they install the connecting staircase? The questions piled up. “It was one of the trickiest things we’ve ever worked on,” said Wood, explaining that they don’t do much residential work. They consulted with everyone from structural engineers to real estate agents, making sure that the new combined space would be saleable if they ever wanted to move.

The final design suits the family’s needs perfectly. The entrance, their original front door, opens into what they call the “extra room”—a space that has become a playground for the children. They were even able to add a small gym by taking out a closet. To compensate for the lost storage, they added a space under the new stairs, which are installed at the back of the first floor. The newly expanded kitchen—the cabinets are pushed back two feet—opens into the dining and living area. The couple dropped the kitchen ceiling six inches to make room for wiring and conduits. The result provides a strong visual contrast with the airy dining and living room.

The second floor presented a tougher problem. It was built with pretext plank flooring, which they removed to install a new floor—a tricky feat considering that part of the planks extended into the other apartment on the floor. Because of plumbing lines, the master bath had to be sited where the old apartment’s kitchen used to be. A spacious master suite takes up the rest of the second floor. The third level contains two children’s bedrooms and a bath.

The couple made several structural improvements. “The building was put up fast and cheap,” said Wood, “it was really slapdash.” They decided to replace all the windows, something they had to get permission from the condominium’s board to do.

The renovation took nine months, and the family lived there through the entire project, something architects routinely advise clients against. “When they took the floor out upstairs, we all lived in the old living room,” Wood explained. That meant that bedtime was 7:30 p.m.—for everyone. Forget watching television. When that ordeal was over, they decamped and moved upstairs, but had no kitchen. Wood and Andraos did dishes in the shower.

Wood admits that they were neither the best architects nor the best clients. “We did things that I’d never allow a client to do,” he said. For example, to save money the duo had opted for a ten-foot stair stringer as opposed to an eight-foot one. “But,” said Wood, “When I saw it, it looked so ugly that I had it ripped out. I would have never allowed a client to do that.”

Now that the renovation is a distant memory, the couple is reveling in their three-bedroom, three-bath apartment. “We put so much love into the project,” he said. “It’s a godsend.”

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Alterstudio Architecture transforms a bland condominium with a few materials expertly writ large

How do you make a 2,000-square-foot condominium feel Texan but not trite? That was the problem Alterstudio Architecture’s Kevin Alter had to solve for his client, who purchased a home in a Four Seasons residential development on Lady Bird Lake, one of the most scenic spots in Austin. Alter and his partners, Ernesto Cragnolino and Tim Whitehill, met the challenge by using classic materials—wood and steel—in artful, unexpected ways.

After much research and brainstorming, the architects hit on the idea of centering the design around seven giant Claro walnut slabs that they had found through a supplier in Sacramento, California, that harvests and mills only locally found dead trees (Claro walnut is a seriously endangered plant species). In the home, the slabs are deftly employed as seating and tabletops, and as a headboard in the master bedroom—where the client had wanted the largest possible slab used. But the one the architects located was too big for the freight elevator. So before placing the order, the team created a full-scale mock-up, which was lifted on top of the cab, through the hoist-way, to make sure that the actual wood could be hauled up to the condo.

In addition to the slabs, walnut is used throughout the space, with the occasional contrast of milled steel, which is used for the base of the bar because, said Alter, “everyone sitting at a bar is always kicking it.” The architects employed local woodworker Mark Macek to create the hand-milled walnut strips that form the screens used throughout the space and the wide-plank walnut floors. The wood furniture was custom designed and made by Atlanta-area craftsman Marco Bogazzi. “I’m interested in having things made exceptionally well,” said Alter.

Because correcting awkward levels in the ceiling would have been too costly, the architects turned to wallpaper to draw attention away from them—jute grasscloth from Twenty2 in the bedroom, Samui Sunrise from Eskayel in the living room.

The client, who also has a home in Dallas and one in Colorado, had hired the firm because he was impressed with its long list of architectural awards. This particular job did not require major architectural moves—no spaces were reconfigured—but the team did change all the surfaces, even the plasterboard walls. It was the first time they had worked on interiors only—an experience Alter had long desired. “I’m tired of other people messing up our architecture,” he said. Besides, he added, he liked the selection process; “it was like playing with all the things I’ve liked over the years.”

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Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club hides this super-customized, space-savvy apartment

Philip Parker had the chance to do what most designers only dream about: create a totally designed living space. The dwelling in question, a 520-square-foot one-bedroom apartment—originally finished in typical developer style, with pedestrian wood floors and plasterboard walls—sits at the top of Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club, a 1930 landmark art deco building by architects Starrett & Van Vleck. The building was converted into condominiums proffering spectacular views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty in 2005.

Though the client, a global business traveler who logs close to a million miles per year, wasn’t happy with the interiors, he wanted only a few things out of the space, including an office and a conference room that could seat six, furnished with screen, projector, and whiteboard. “It was going to be fun,” Parker said, who thinks a lot about tight spaces and how to connect things. The owner’s brother recommended the architect; Parker had recently completed a loft for him that he described as “a bit like a boat in its woodwork.”

The project, begun sometime in 2007, wasn’t finished until 2015 because so much custom work was involved. (Although two years into the project, the space was livable.) Parker had all the walls torn out and completely reorganized the space. While the south- and west-facing windows provide gobsmacking vistas, they also are flooded with sun—sometimes too much. To solve the problem, Parker devised a louver system constructed out of milled white Corian slats meticulously glued together. The louvers block and focus the light in multiple directions thanks to their three variable edges, which add another level of control. “It’s like a brise-soleil,” he explained. Parker added blackout shades to transform daytime into night for the traveler whose journeys often take him across several time zones.

Nothing in the apartment was left untouched. “I did everything, including the copper pipe from the roof,” Parker said. He explained that every surface has something behind it, with panels concealing either storage or machines.

The floor is now stone. “We debated about whether it should be matte or glossy,” said the architect, who added that it wound up being a bit shinier than he would have liked. He was happy to compromise, however, because “I had an incredibly agreeable, fantastic client. He was engaged but not meddlesome.”

All the wall surfaces—clad in rich walnut—fold, pivot, and slide, revealing complete perimeter storage. The double bed, which folds down via gas spring pistons, and the desk, which folds up, can’t be open at the same time, a conscious decision of the architect. “You need lots of breathing room. In the smallest apartment you need to make some element as large as possible,” he says. The desk is a triumph of engineering and took years of trial and error to complete. In fact, it was the last piece of the intricate puzzle to be finished. It is made completely of carbon fiber and contains no structural foam, which was accomplished by corrugating the table’s underside to provide the needed strength. It’s also extremely lightweight—8.5 pounds (less than a gallon of water)—making it possible for a child or an elderly person to lift it without effort.

The conference table, another Parker design, has a steel base with six interlocking legs. Its top is marble and is surrounded by six Rollingframe conference chairs chosen by the client.

The requested projection screen is on the wall behind the table. Parker placed the bathroom (in which he managed to fit a 68-inch-long bathtub) and commodious galley kitchen along the north wall of the apartment, creating simple, functional spaces in a strict minimalist style. Mirrors in the bathroom artfully reflect the amazing views. Small halogen spots from Tech Lighting provide the illumination throughout the entire space.

The architect titled the project “Communicating Surfaces.” From the look of the finished space, the client and his colleagues must be having good conversations.