It’s not often that an architect gets to choose the perfect site as part of the design process.
Given just that opportunity, the Brazilian firm Studio Arthur Casas Chose this idyllic place between the mountain and the ocean in Rio de Janeiro to site a home for an old friend.
Set in Rio’s almost fairy-tale landscape, Casa AL was clad in traditional plaster and local stone.
The architect was sure he could design to take full advantage of the views despite the very steep site.
The view is just breathtaking, so the architect aligned all the living areas to make the most of that.
So the house spans three storeys in the front to accommodate the steep site.
“We chose the land together so, for me, it was clear that in the end we would count on the scenery,” said Arthur Casas.
The stone middle storey, built out from ground level at the rear, opens out to a raised terrace with panoramic views.
At the rear of this middle floor, a peaceful secluded courtyard hosts an entrance from the hillside.
The glass panels slide open and disappear into the sidewalls to allow the living room to extend out to the terrace and swimming pool.
A stone wall hides the entrance bridge onto the middle floor and the secluded garden courtyard below.
A grassy roof topping the middle stone floor becomes a garden for the timber-clad small third storey housing just a master bedroom and home office.
This timber third storey appears as if balanced on the stone walls of the entrance courtyard.
Where stone is used, it forms both the interior and exterior wall.
Guest bedrooms on the ground floor open out onto the strip of garden landscaped to frame the stunning sea view.
Brazilian Teak, an extremely resistant timber, is chosen for use in interior furnishings and is hardy enough for outdoor use as well.
The utmost in minimalist luxury, the bathroom features a glass wall dividing wet from dry areas.
A truly unique home, that combines a magical site with a design that simply makes the most of it.
Australian firm Dunn & Hillam created a home that is self sufficient in energy and water, with solar panels on the roof supplying electricity, and banked in a battery rather than connected to the distant grid.
The clients love the desert, its vast views, and its warmth.
The butterfly roof is for draining the maximum amount of rainwater to the tanks below.
As well as natural steel and natural concrete blocks, part of the exterior is compressed fiber-cement boards that need no maintenance.
Fiber-cement boards are well-equpped to handle the UV attack from the sun.
Altogether, a very practical home that truly makes the best of living in such a challenging – and rewarding – climate.
August is the month in which half the world takes to the road. Planes, trains and automobiles are one way of getting around, and so are RVs. It is that last mode of travel, combining living and moving, that’s got us thinking about tiny houses, since trailers, campers and motor homes are nothing other than tiny little houses on wheels.
With the tiny house movement sweeping the country as a way to keep mortgage, utility and other living costs down, and with so many of us traveling around in campers these days, we’ve decided to look at three of the coolest tiny little houses out there. One is actually mobile. Two aren’t. All take care of the little details to make the spaces not only simple, but comfortable.
The tiny house below comes from the Tennessee Tiny Homes, and it’s quite sleek. Check it out:
Above, you get an overall view of the living room, replete with entertainment center, and a full-fledged but tiny kitchen. Who says you can’t have style and polish in just a few square feet? Below, another view of the living room. Notice there’s room for artwork on the walls, and shelving. The couch turns to a bed when needed.
A view of the kitchen with granite countertops.
And there’s even a bathroom:
An exterior view:
And here’s another tiny home, two-story, done up in Japanese style. An exterior shot:
The upstairs is outfitted with tatami mats.
Here’s a view of both the upper and lower level:
And another view. The space is warm, welcoming, natural, and represents great Japanese style!
Here’s the ladder to the upper level:
And there’s even a Japanese style soaking tub:
And finally, here’s a tiny house with an open, loft-like feel. An exterior view:
The living room:
And there’s even a wood-burning stove:
More of the kitchen:
And another view of the living room. Totally comfortable!
A sublimely simple plan informs the Dog Trot House by Dunn & Hillam Architects.
The brief: to design a holiday home for a family, that would have the informality of a campsite.
They wanted everything they loved about camping except the need to pack up at the end of every holiday.
The name comes from the design, houses divided into two free standing structures with an open passageway between to connect them.
The idea is that the open, shaded passageway in the center is a place a dog can trot on days when it’s hot.
The dogtrot passageway between the public and the private spaces is shaded by the overhanging roof.
You can almost smell the hot dry air of the campsite perfumed by Pines and Eucalyptus.
There is something of the public campsite’s great room in the anonymous materials and deadpan design.
The simple but hardwearing materials palette includes locally sourced hardwood, fibre cement boards and concrete.
The lean anonymity of these materials verges on the mundane.
A no-nonsence big commercial kitchen seats ten easily.
“The Dogtrot House is a permanent campsite,” say the architects. “It celebrates the frugality and elegance of shelter, it is a house for the carrying out of family life in the elements, it is a house that is everything you need and nothing you didn’t. It is humble, poetic and without pretence.”
We’ve talked about exterior renovations that provide a big return on your investment. Replacing tired siding, drafty old windows, garage doors that have seen better days, are all relatively inexpensive ways to dramatically improve the look (and value) of your home.
So what are the best renovations to improve the value and look of the interior of your home? The answers may surprise you, as they do not involve major upscale kitchen remodels, or wiring your home for stereo in every room. Instead, simple very visible projects are the big winner here. Think easy renovations that change your first impression of a home. Because they don’t cost much money, you will easily recoup your cost, versus spending $100,000 on a kitchen remodel that no buyer is willing to pay for.
Quick tip: choose projects that are in keeping with the character of your home, and don’t over-improve far beyond what similar homes in your neighborhood offer. Although upgrading plumbing and electrical work may be essential to the functionality of your home, don’t expect buyers to reward you financially for all that effort. (They already expect the electricity and plumbing to work!) For them, the bonus comes in feeling good in a space, and knowing there is no need to spend any extra time or money on cosmetic work.
Here are 5 winning projects for upgrading your home’s value at a relatively low cost:
1). Upgrade the flooring. If you have worn and buckled hardwood floors, have the floors refinished for a big payback. If your home is outfitted with dirty and worn carpeting, consider installing hardwood or tile. If you can’t afford that, at least upgrade the carpeting.
2. Replace kitchen cabinet fronts.
Believe it or not, a major upscale kitchen remodel is not necessarily a good investment. You’re better off improving the look of your kitchen in very simple ways, such as repainting chipped cabinets or replacing cabinet fronts altogether. Buyers may not be willing to pay for too fancy upgrades, such as wine coolers, or the fanciest, top of the line refrigerator. They will, however, appreciate clean and bright cabinetry that makes a kitchen feel fresh and new.
3. Paint the walls.
And speaking of fresh and new, a fresh coat of paint is one of the simplest, most inexpensive projects you can do, but it has a major impact on the look and feel of your home. What color should you choose? While designer colors go in and out of style, almost everyone appreciates a light, bright white.
4. Replace Kitchen Countertops.
No, you don’t have to do a top-to-bottom kitchen remodel. Sometimes, it’s enough to replaced dated or chipped countertops with something a little nicer for a big return on your investment!
5. Install New Kitchen Appliances.
It’s one of the simplest things you can do in a kitchen, since it requires no actual work! Replacing old, dated appliances with something new is extremely attractive to home buyers, as it suggests at least a few years of worry-free use. And when new appliances are good-looking as well, they can help an older kitchen feel fresher.
So you see, renovating your home both for yourself, and profit, can actually be much simpler than you may have thought!