Lofts can be a whole lot of fun. The problem is that they often look like the Boston loft above. That is, they lack personality.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this space. It’s airy and has good light. Plus, we love the hardwood floors. And yet, there’s no focal point, no personality. The loft lacks flare because every element in it (and there aren’t many) seems to have equal status.
In an effort to rescue this 1750 square foot box from its plain vanilla blandness, architect Stephanie Horowitz, of ZeroEnergy Design, took a number of steps to give the space more pizazz. Take a look:
One of the first things to happen was a change to the fireplace, an obvious place to start since a fireplace is a natural focal point in a home. Horowitz outfitted it in a stone veneer to provide a striking contrast to the loft’s white walls and bookshelves. She created a new stone fireplace surround, firewood box, mantel and hearth. In a daring move, the homeowners opted to remove the wood floors to expose concrete.
Here’s another view:
The kitchen was the other area of blandness that needed addressing. Instead of leaving it all white, as it had been previously, the architect opted to warm things up with a walnut wood wall made of unfinished floor tongue and groove planks from Vermont Plank Flooring. From the top of the cabinets, they wrap up the wall and across the ceiling, surrounding an existing skylight. Horizontal planks on the left add texture and depth to the room, and create a transition from the kitchen to the staircase and loft above.
Here’s another view:
And here’s a view from the kitchen over to the stairway, leading to the bedrooms above.
Across from the kitchen is the dining room. The homeowners existing walnut dining table inspired the use of the walnut in the kitchen and other areas of the loft. The homeowners also customized a light fixture by Kenneth Cobonpue.
What’s the take away from this renovation? Chiefly, even a modern, minimal loft can use some detail to inject some personality. Even if you are in pursuit of the white box aesthetic, it doesn’t hurt to inject warm, personalized architectural features, like wood paneled walls or stone veneer, to make a so-so place stand out. The right details can warm up any space and will never feel too fussy.
Imagine coming downstairs to this amazing sight every morning!
In its vast museum-like space, Cliff House by Fearon Hay Architects is an ode to the joy of each day’s fresh promise.
With limitless vistas over New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf and the volcanic island of Rangitoto, the clifftop house itself is simply a slim sliver of a glass case interposed on the scene.
The entire house can be opened up like a huge, high-ceilinged pavilion space.
The entire bottom of the glazing can be slid back to experience the sweet and fresh night air.
While the view over Auckland’s glorious Hauraki Gulf is inspirational, the house has a matter-of-fact air.
An efficient and brisk lap pool keeps its inhabitants fit and tough.
Sliding glass walls can be drawn to enclose its magnificent open-air bath room.
The studied precision of this bathroom fixture perfectly expresses the supremely elemental bathing space.
Landscaping is similarly rudimentary and unfussy.
Backlit kitchen cupboards behind full height frosted glass doors are so serene that you’d not imagine that there even is a kitchen there.
Cooking on this black marble island in this open plan space with its cool stone floor would have the feeling of a very posh barbecue.
With its raw and natural open-air design, this is a very civilized house for living closely with – and truly experiencing – nature.
The House in Yatsugatake presides like an eagle over breathtaking views of the city of Nagano spread out below it.
Up close, its sharp outline juts out like a sharp beak from the towering Yatsugatake mountains.
From within, it appears to be flying slowly over the distant mountains.
The subtle palette of the surrounding vegetation add to a suspended, dreamlike feeling, which the house nurtures with its quiet coloration.
Designed by Kidosaki Architects Studio, the very unique house is entirely glassed-in on three sides.
A glass-framed door opens to an exterior balcony that almost entirely wraps the house.
The balcony surrounds three sides of the floating structure.
The wide walking balcony completes the zen vibe of the home.
Nagano is well known for its Japanese cultural landmarks like the 7-th century temple Zenkō-ji, and the quiet interior reflects these traditions.
Japan’s traditional craftsmanship is evidenced in this door with its centered horizontal handle.
Beyond the door, black veined marble is used to continue the peaceful tranquility of the mountains in the dining room.
The construction of the house is very sculptural and elegant, with half of it simply sitting on a large structural column built into the mountainside supported with two diagonal bracing cylinders.
Kidosaki is one of the few Japanese architects who really embraces the great traditions of Japanese architectural sensibility: for example, in this detail – rather than employing the thick slab shape found in contemporary architecture – drawing a sharp point with the construction technique.
With expansive views over the vineyard and the valley beyond it, a monastic stone and steel residence by Aidlin Darling Design is a 2013 NDA award winner.
This is a house built with walls of stone, built the way stone buildings have been built since ancient time.
Huge stones flank the space both inside and out, and are grounded by richly patina’d timber floorboards.
Yet the very old building technique is adroitly married to the most elegant of contemporary construction – like these sleek center-swung glass doors.
The design quietly reciprocates the complexities of the site, capturing a serene spirit of place.
“The visual, tactile and acoustic qualities of each material contribute to a mnemonic mapping of the house and its landscape,” say the architects.
The velvety carpet repeats the grid of the oiled wooden screen doors.
The muted greys of the soft grey weathered wood in the chairs prepares the eye for the much richer woods in the table and the screen.
There is a boldly stated contrast between the dry rough-hewn stone and the reflective glossiness of glass and water.
Light is further used to enhance this textural feast, raking across the rough stone walls, and echoing off the smooth stone floors.
Sonoma’s vineyard proprietors embrace a certain fustiness, where dark interiors are contrasted against the vineyard’s hot sun.
The design asthetic resists noisy or trendy decoration.
The house is staged accordingly; earthy but tasteful, and never loud.
While the home’s meticulously choreographed arrival sequence strives to achieve modesty…
… in its totality, this is a rich feast for the sense of touch.
In many parts of the country, the day of the lawn has passed. That’s because too many of us are experiencing extreme drought. We can no longer count on unlimited quantities of water to supply our daily needs, much less the needs of our lawn. In other cases, we may have plenty of water, but no time or will to mow each week. And thus, coming into vogue are lawn alternatives. After all, we still want green. We still want pretty. In some cases, we still want a patch of space for the kids to play. And there are several options out there for those who want all that, but not heavy maintenance. Take a look at these ground coverings if you’re looking to ditch the lawnmower:
Sedges are plants with grasslike leaves that grow in clumps. They come in a wide variety of sizes and textures and grow in all types of soils and USDA hardiness zones. The sweet thing about this planting: You can leave a sedge completely unmowed for a taller, more meadow-like look, or break out the mower a few times a year if you want a lawn feeling. Sedges also are a good choice if you have children, since they can handle light foot traffic. For best results, mow your sedge lawn in the spring to remove any winter burn, and let the seeds drop after they have finished flowering to allow for the sedge to fill in more thickly. Plant it in spring or fall, or even in the winter in a very warm climate.
Mondo Grass, otherwise known as Ophiopogon japonicus, grows up to 6 inches tall in zones 5 to 9. You can also opt for dwarf mondo grass, which is just 2 inches tall, and never mow again. If you choose regular mondo grass, mow it annually in late winter to keep it filled in and healthy. Mondo Grass, like Sedges, can handle light foot traffic.
If water isn’t your problem, you might think about moss instead of traditional grass. Moss grows in moist, shady areas and acidic soil. Because it does not grow tall, it completely eliminates the need to mow. It needs no fertilizer and very little water once it’s established, but it does not handle heavy foot traffic well. If you want to walk through it daily, plan to add a flagstone walkway to avoid damaging your lawn. Depending on the variety, moss is adapted to zones 4 to 10. It’s best to plant it in the spring after the last frost and you can count on it taking about a year to fill out.
Clover or Trifolium repens, has that very natural, meadow-like look. It is a member of the legume family and grows abundantly in sun to partial shade. A big plus of this plant is that it requires no fertilizer and can survive in a wide range of soils, although it is best adapted to zones 5 to 8. Although it can withstand a bit of foot traffic, it’s not great for those with small children or dogs who are looking for a ground cover that will stand up to playing and running. Sow seeds in the spring after nighttime temperatures are consistently higher than 40 degrees. Keep the soil moist until the clover germinates (sprouts).
We all know myrtle but we may not know dwarf myrtle. This plant is a low-growing evergreen shrub that, left to it’s own devices will grow up to 2 feet tall. However, you do have the option to shear down to about one foot. It takes full sun and, once it’s got growing, is drought tolerant. This covering works best for those in milder climates (zones 8 to 9b) and in areas with drought or low-desert regions. It’s got cute little white flowers in the spring, an added bonus, but will not stand up to foot traffic.
As you can see, there’s no need to spend every weekend mowing. With a little research you can come up with a beautiful, practical alternative to your lawn!