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Olson Kundig Live-Work Studio in Spain

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Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects has designed the live-work home of a photographer and his family in the Spanish coastal town of Sitges.

In Studio Sitges, Tom Kundig pursues his macho signature; large scale, raw concrete and rusty Corten steel.

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The entrance in rusted Corten steel offers a large — or a normal size — entrance.

A huge door pivots on its center while a smaller door pivots inside it.

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The inventive and macho door captures the casual energy of this cosmopolitan beach town thirty minutes from Barcelona, and just three blocks from the Mediterranean sea.

Kundig adopts his industrial bohemian material palette, avoiding the cloying local traditions of stucco and tiled roofs.

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But a peek through the giant door reveals a reinterpretation of a more local tradition; windows framed in the small black muntins that represented the technical limitations of glass technology in the fourteenth century.

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The difference is that these sweet traditional muntin windows are floor-to ceiling walls of glazing and, like the front door, pivot out on giant hinges.

The master bedroom cantilevers out over the garden patio.

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Indoor or outdoor dining is an option in the balmy climate, under a cantilevered guest suite.

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Down a concrete driving ramp underground are two huge double-height raw concrete spaces designed for the client’s large scale photography studio.

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Each detail shows the tough, no nonsense Olson Kundig design signature.

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The house is designed vertically with four floors.

Spare furniture in the double height spaces includes restored teak tables and comfortable and unpretentious leather armchairs.

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A Magnificent Porch Renovation on Fire Island

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NYC architecture firm Bromley Caldari Architects razed the original front of a small house facing the beach on Fire Island and rebuilt it as a double-height cube containing an air space with hefty framing timbers.

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Inside the big macho rough-framed porch is a more delicate internal porch-like space – its delicate bleached color palette suggesting driftwood and pearly shells.

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Beyond that, an open plan great room for cooking, eating, reading, talking and hanging out, is also now completely open to the seascape in front of the house.

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At the far end is the kitchen, where a side wall of numerous small windows now establish its casually beachly bona fides.

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The magnificent renovation is of an unambitious little vacation house; a small, dark box divided into a front and back by a bearing wall/fireplace, with two bedrooms at each end.

Now it is nearly transparent.

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Approaching the original back of the house, you can now see the great room and out through the new porch front to catch a glimpse of the sea.

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A short barefoot walk at the back of the house now takes you to a painting studio.

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What were dark bedrooms at the back have been clad in warm timber and filled with light from a full height parade of windows behind a big soft white bed.

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The back yard is now an invitation to paint in the circular studio or lazily lap in its sweet sun-drenched pool.

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The site is a wooded, narrow lot on the Great South Bay in the resort community of Fire Island Pines.

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Like vacation homes in many now popular beach resorts, the original cottage didn’t do justice to the glorious scenery.

Now it does.

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When Busy Design Works – Arty House with a Staccato Rhythm

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There is a tremendous amount of graphic interest in extensive trellis work in this single family renovation by John Grable Architects.

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The busy dappling of a retained old oak tree is repeated in shadows on the pool and in an abundance of little trellis outcroppings.

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All the arbors and overhangs have the effect of filtering the light and reducing solar gain.

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Building on the clients’ and the architect’s shared love of ecologically informed design, heritage oak trees were protected during construction and entirely preserved.

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The house is sustainable; powered by solar roof panels, running LED lighting and harvesting grey water for gardening.

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The addition is as naturally cross-ventilated as possible in the humid heat of San Antonio, Texas, with entire walls that can be opened up to the breeze.

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The new construction was built completely on existing foundations.

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Soaring windows in steel framed glass are placed on a steel truss supported by wood-concrete pillar-walls.

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The spare use of these three industrial materials informs the aesthetic of the artistic home, which succeeds in balancing innovative technologies with traditional time-proven structural techniques.

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The exciting new space was initiated by the renovation of an existing 1948 ranch style building underneath.

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All that remains of the original single storey building is now dedicated to the simple ground floor bedrooms.

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The new space is both one and two storeys, creating light-filled open spaces dedicated to the social areas of the house, both indoors and outdoors.

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An industrial steel tray becomes an artistic and practical outdoor fire pit.

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The master bathroom is part of the original house – beautified with a facade of lovely translucent glass tiles and a translucent sink and carefully selected hanging LED lighting.

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With the toilet separated from the shower area by a translucent green glass, the pure zen-like spaces are intriguingly daylit only from above by skylights.

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A huge open and artistic fireplace has a glass hearth bringing light down into the small dark existing house (possibly over the bathroom sink?)

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Wood from the demolition was extensively recycled and reused.

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Not only is the new addition sustainable, but it is an artistically crafted series of naturally beautiful spaces.

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Operatic Beauty of Modern Singapore Mansion

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Cooling pools top a first floor in the latest glorious Singapore dwelling from the always brilliant Guz Architects.

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The luxurious three story house offers a stunning and impressive showcase of intelligent solutions to the issues of constrained property space and close neighbors.

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Rooftop lawns create large outdoor recreation spaces at high levels — while blocking views to the neighboring houses.

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Vegetation edging these green roof lawns also helps to create privacy from the smaller surrounding single-story homes.

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A key feature is a vast stairway in glass, creating the sense of a very open glass house, seen here across a courtyard from atop the first floor green roof.

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This stairway-cum-art gallery is enclosed in an astonishing three stories of glass.

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All the rooftop lawns provide outdoor green views and a sense of connection to nature that supersede the view of neighboring houses that would otherwise dominate sight lines.

The staggered rooftop lawns and pool create the sense of ground level – but it is a ground level suspended above the neighbors.

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Only one neighbor’s house can be seen in the distance far below.

Even from this highest point, privacy isn’t compromised nearly as much as you might expect, because these all-glass walls only border the walkway – art gallery.

An astonishing and elegant solution from Guz Architects.

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Design Dilemma: Preparing for the Entertaining Season

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It’s that time of year again, when the festivities move indoors and increase in number.  Are you prepared? Whether you love to entertain or you’re a bit shy about doing so, it definitely helps to be organized. Your goal: to enjoy throwing a party as much as you enjoy attending one! In order for that to happen, it helps to plan ahead. Once you’ve gotten a few bashes under your belt, you’ll become an expert at knowing what you need to do and when, and throwing parties becomes easier and easier.  So here are a few quick pointers to ease you through the entertainment season:

 

1) Stock up in advance. Make an investment in party items that you can use again and again. Essential elements to keep on hand in your home include:

For a party atmosphere:

Tea lights and candles are important for creating a mood. Vases with flowers add a touch of elegance. Lights on dimmers or low wattage bulbs are critical. A go-to music playlist for a quiet dinner and a more lively party is also important. Once you’ve got these essential items on hand, you’ll always be prepared, whether it’s an impromptu dinner party or a large holiday bash. You’ll know that you can set the scene at a moment’s notice, which definitely reduces stress levels.

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For the table:

You need a good set of wine glasses, cocktail glasses and water glasses. Be sure you’ve got wine and bottle openers and ice buckets.  When it comes to glasses, its best to invest in several sets, enough so that you can host at least a dinner party for 12. When parties get larger than that, you’ll probably want to switch to plastic glasses. If you love to throw dinner parties you should invest in enough tableware for at least a party of 12. Yes, you can do paper or plastic plates for larger bashes, but it will definitely up the elegance factor if you can offer real glasses and china for guests on special occasions. If you’re into cloth napkins, make sure you have enough. If you prefer paper, invest in the heavier weight premium napkins.  And, by the way, just because you offer real plates and glasses doesn’t mean they have to be your best china and crystal like the exquisitely elegant table below.

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You can create a wonderfully creative table with mismatched plates and mason jars as glasses! Just have fun with it and let your imagination run wild.

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2) Think ahead to guest comfort. Invest in an extra set of folding chairs if you don’t have enough normal chairs to get you through the night. They will come in handy again and again. Scope out a coat rack or a bed that can serve as a place to put jackets (same for shoes if you ask that guests remove them.) Make sure there are guest towels in the bathroom as well as extra toilet paper that guests can access if it runs low.

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3) If you’re not a big cook, it’s possible that you may fall short on serving dishes adequate enough to get you through a dinner party. Invest in the following items and you’ll never have to worry how to serve the soup or slice the cake at Thankgiving.

  • Boards, platters and trays, which can be used for everything from appetizers to desserts.
  • Serving bowls in various sizes, not only for side dishes, but also for peanuts, olives and other pre-dinner snacks.
  • Large serving spoons
  • Lidded soup tureen and ladle
  • Large salad bowl and tongs
  • Several trivets, to protect your table
  • A nesting set of classic white oven-to-table casserole dishes
  • Cake stands — for cake and other desserts, fruit or appetizers

4) Shop ahead and make lists for food preparation.  Your goal is to avoid that last-minute pressed and harried feeling. Devise your menu at least a week ahead of your gathering and do as much shopping early on as you can. Think through festivities from cheese plate and cocktails straight through to after dinner drinks and desserts. You can ease the burden of food preparation by:

  • Hosting a potluck. Ask your guests to bring in their favorite dishes to make the cost and time burden a little less. Potlucks up the novelty factor as well.
  • Cooking casserole dishes ahead of time. Large one dish meals can really cut down on time and cost. Good ideas: lasagna and similar substantial casseroles and chili are perfect, as they can be made a day or two ahead of time, and they only get better for it.
  • Taking advantage of catering and dishes available at your local grocery store or favorite  restaurant. Maybe you don’t have the time to slow roast a pig to create your favorite pulled pork dish. But you can certainly order it from your favorite barbecue restaurant. Don’t feel bad if you opt for catering. If you choose your caterer well and you fill out the offerings with some signature cocktails and a really special dessert, your guests will not complain.

Good luck this holiday season!