Although this is a thoroughly 21st century living room, isn’t there a hint of the suburban American ranch house of the 1960s here too?
The home in Menlo Park, California by Spiegel Aihara Workshop synthesizes the best of both eras.
A thick hallway ceiling of solid wood is balanced over a glazed walkway.
Its 21st century stone tiles gives way to a 20th century cliche; the suburban “carpet” of mowed grass.
The weighty wood ceiling is a far cry from the acoustical fibreboard ceilings of the 1960s, but is designed to achieve the same end, softening sound.
The low-slung building with its flat transitions between materials is very 60s, yet the minimalism of the wood treatment utterly updates it.
The design is not attempting to be archly retro, but simply accepting and modernizing the tradition.
But a surprise: above the kitchen a raised skylight (21st C) gives a breather from the relentless horizontality (20th C) of the ranch home, bringing cool light in to its center.
From the cool dark shaded kitchen, a view out to the garden – you can almost see the Letraset children playing in the sun.
At the far end of the wing, the bedroom has all the openness and spare grace of 21st century minimalism.
The low-slung house is oriented to offer a cool respite from the heat of Menlo Park.
On the other side of the entry wall, an archetypal walled-off slice of the new suburbs that were still a miracle in the 60s.
The car is accepted right into the home in typical ranch style.
Its cross shaped plan gives garden views out both sides of every room.
The architects have successfully re-appropriated the traditional forms of the California ranch house, but with genuine sincerity, taking the good, and honestly trying to improve on the original.
Suspended above ground like a Japanese lantern is this charming Oriental garden folly by David Jameson Architect.
The bronze, red cedar and glass tea house/meditation space appears as if by magic in the garden of an otherwise pedestrian suburban home in Betheseda, Maryland.
The family will use the space not only to delight in its beauty, meditate and enjoy a tea ceremony, but to showcase performances of music recitals.
A giant steel moment frame above the edifice suspends it in space, so that someone practicing meditation is actually floating above the world.
The smooth refinement of its red cedarwood ceiling adds to the pure focused intensity of the simple structure.
Not only does this send a reddish glow at night from the suspended “lantern” but it also clarifies the musical notes during recitals.
By day the space blends unobtrusively into the suburban garden.
But by night, the exquisite, almost magical space calls to you, compelling the resumption of meditation.
“One is funneled into a curated procession space between strands of bamboo,” says the architect; “conceived to cleanse the mind and prepare one to enter the object.”
“The visitor occupies the structure as a performer with a sense of otherworldliness.”
The exquisite refinement of the structure and the mass-produced industrial steel truss that holds it up don’t seem at odds with each other.
Both worlds, the modern industrial steel, and the beautifully finished lantern room it suspends in space are best fit for their purpose.
There is a wonderful, serene, perfect peace to this setting: a glassed in great room that opens at its center out into a precious view of the few trees beyond.
The great room is the heart of a rustic retreat in drought-stricken Texas for a young military family.
Bare bones materials like polished concrete flooring throughout and just plywood on the walls and ceiling are paired with beautiful construction design for a distinctive retreat on a budget.
Their desire was for a getaway for family and friends to escape city life – without sacrificing a hip urban edge.
In addition to a fan, outside, a tall screen overhang keeps the great room cool and breezy.
The setting houses several rainwater harvesters to wring every last drop from the parched skies.
Originally the clients were going to position the house at the top of the hill, but instead chose to set it between the only trees on the property to give it context and community.
Like these vets, the surrounding trees are survivors in this arid landscape.
A deep earthy burgundy together with the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen complement the simple plywood walls and ceiling.
A city ordinance requiring housing for 2.5 cars resulted in this shaded pavilion that the couple wanted to be designed so it could actually be used for outdoor dining.
Brushytop House was designed for this young family of four by San Antonio-based studio John Grable Architects.
A dramatic U-shaped patio encloses a pool under a square box of the moody Columbian sky.
A series of pool patios and open-air living spaces culminate in a central pool on a very grand scale in this Columbian vacation home from Arquitectura en Estudio and Natalia Heredia.
Huge garage-door style wooden shutters can open as an awning — or close the house when not in use.
All around the pavilion-style residence, these wooden exterior shutters are designed to close by bi-folding, as in the bedrooms — or they can slide closed as giant movable walls.
This means that the vacation retreat can be fully closed up when the clients are away.
By contrast, when used as a vacation retreat, the house is barely enclosed; just a series of dramatic open pavilion spaces.
This openness suits the tropical hot and dry climate high above sea level in the Columbian mountains.
The dining is al fresco, as is all life in this secluded mountain idyll.
But even here, daylight floods down into the shower.
From inside this fully open pavilion-style bedroom, there are sweeping views out across the mountains.
Full height sliding walls open to a sudden framed view to the mountains when receiving guests –
– but render the house a mysterious fortress when closed.
The stately modular plan opens the house completely open on the front to the mountain view, while completely closing it off where it faces the approaching road to the back.
It is not just a beautiful layout though.
The striking textural palette comprises whitened concrete, semi-pervious cobblestone parking and a rich red cedar wood.
In the frozen depths of winter with temperatures hovering far below freezing, it’s natural to begin thinking of better alternatives to keeping the house warm. Most of us live with forced hot air, steam radiators or heat pumps. And yes, these can certainly do the job. But there’s another option out there that you probably haven’t considered: radiant floor heat.
Radiant floor heat has been around a long time. The Ancient Romans used hot water pipes to warm floors, and it’s been the preferred heating system in Europe since the 1970s. It involves either electric heating coils or water-heated tubing that snakes under your home’s floors. The heat from the floor warms everything it touches and radiates throughout the room from the ground up. What makes radiant heat particularly delicious is the fact that you can slip out of bed every morning, allowing your bare feet to touch hardwood floors or tile flooring that is comfy and warm.
Comfort wise, one of the major advantages of radiant heat is that temperatures throughout a room remain constant compared to standard forced-air systems, where the warm air rises, cools and then falls to the floor. Another huge advantage is that radiant systems are generally much cheaper to operate than standard furnaces. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, radiant systems can cut your heating bill by 25 to 50 percent. But there are other advantages as well. Radiant floor heating is silent heat, with no loud air ducts to interfere with conversation or pleasant silence. Radiant floor heating can also be a boon to those with allergies, as blown air can create more dust mites. Plus, radiant heat can use many energy sources, from solar to oil to a gas-heated water heater.
If you’re thinking about getting a radiant heating system here are a few facts you should know:
1) New homes are the best candidates. That’s because retrofitting an older home with this type of system calls for a lot of muss and fuss. It will mean ripping up your existing flooring, which is never a pleasant or easy undertaking.
2) Between electric and hydronic systems, hydronic is usually the way to go. It’s usually not cost-effective to opt for electric heating coils, unless you plan to retro only one room in your home.
3) It will cost you more to install up front. A forced-air system for a 2,000 square foot (610 square meter) home will cost about $3,800 to $4,500. A hydronic radiant floor heating unit with a boiler will run $7,000 to $13,000. On the other hand, you will quickly earn that money back in reduced energy costs. Plus, radiant systems usually last much longer than standard furnaces. Chances are you will never need to replace it during your life in a home.
4) There are two types of installations, wet or dry. Wet installs layer either a slab of concrete beneath the subfloor or a thin sheet of concrete between the subfloor and the surface. Dry installs place the tubes directly beneath the subfloor during construction, without the concrete on top. The flooring surface — hardwoods, tile or carpeting, goes on top of the subfloor and picks up heat directly from the tubes. Wet installs take longer to heat up and need to run longer. Dry installs are less expensive, but operate at higher temperatures. The reason is simple as this — think how long concrete retains heat compared to wood, which heats up quickly and cools quickly.
5) Electric radiant heating can be great when retrofitting. Giant plastic mats containing coils warmed by resistance wires act sort of like a giant electric blanket hidden under your floor. Electric RHF works best with floors made of ceramic tile, but it can be used with most types of flooring. It works best in small rooms like bathrooms where the surface area is small.
True, radiant floor heating may be more of a project than many of us are willing to take on in renovating an older home, but it’s certainly a great option for anyone who is building a new home or an addition. In the long run, it’s cheaper and more efficient than other forms of heating, and also more comfortable.
Definitely something worth considering in the dark days of winter!