Home Design Find - Interior Design, Architecture, Modern Furniture - Part 3
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A Traditional and Serene Japanese Garden Space in Busy Fujieda

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An almost invisible house that seems to disappear into the sky represents an increasingly typical new Japanese design vernacular, building on ancient traditions.

This one is from mA-style Architects.

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A courtyard entirely surrounds the house, distilling nature into a controlled artifice that plays out light and shadow on the surrounding walls.

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The surrounding wall is suspended about two feet above ground.

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Rough rocks transit under the surrounding suspended wall, blur the boundary from both sides.

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Very controlled naturescapes are very engrained in Japanese architecture.

A long tradition of minimalist interiors have a peculiarly Japanese quality of calm.

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Sliding panel doors to access nature are a traditional intervention moderating the transition between the indoors and outdoors.

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But these new walled off courtyard houses update these Japanese traditions to find a way to bring composure in a frantic and congested modern world.

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By surrounding the house with daylight inside its walled enclosure, composure is reached.

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With daylight on both sides, the kitchen and living space feels abundant and livable.

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Is the bathroom outdoors?

The lighting suggests so, as does the encounter with real, uncompromising nature in these large rocks extending further out than than the wall.

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Large rocks continuing beneath the hanging wall create the sense that you are outdoors.

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As does a glass roof above the sink – giving you the sense of leaving the main house roof.

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Indeed, a closeup of the intriguing bathroom section shows that the sink is up against the perimeter wall.

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Viewed from the minimal kitchen, it feels outside.

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A table against the perimeter (right) off the tatami mat sleeping room – which gets rolled up during the day – is also a daytime study off the living room.

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Although the design solution looks super modern, it actually builds on ancient Japanese traditions.

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This new form of Japanese architecture increasingly takes account of the extremes of congested living, and finds resolution by retreating behind a blank wall.

But by suspending the wall, they emlarge the apparent space within, so instead of feeling claustrophobic, the walled space is quite pleasant.

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Design Trend: Tired of Granite? Try a Glass Countertop!

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Visit a few new kitchen remodels these days and you’ll quickly notice they have one thing in common: granite countertops. In fact, the look, which you’ll see everywhere from luxury model homes to modest rentals and mobile homes, has become so ubiquitous that it’s also  become, frankly, boring.  So if you’re about to remodel your kitchen and you’re looking for a look that is a little less run-of-the-mill, we’ve got a suggestion for you. Try glass!

Check out how great glass countertops look in two kitchens, above and below, by CGD Glass Countertops. The first glass countertop incorporates an opaque, frosted look. It is sleekly minimal, extremely elegant, and it makes a statement without looking desperate.  The second glass kitchen countertop, below, uses more texture and sheen for a splashier look, suggestive of water. A glass backsplash lends added punch.

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Glass has a lot of advantages compared to many other materials. It’s easy to maintain, is not porous, is hygenic, and stain resistant too! That means, unlike a porous stone like marble and granite that needs to be resealed from time to time, you’ll never have to worry about wine stains, tomato sauce or water marks. And though you might think of glass as a delicate material prone to cracks, chips and breaking, it turns out that glass is highly durable, equivalent to the strength of marble and granite. And if, by chance, you should accidentally sit a hot pan on your counter, you won’t have to worry about scorching, burning, or melting. The only other product that compares in durability is quartz.  And here’s another major plus: glass kitchen countertops are easy to customize. For example, CGD Glass Countertops allows you to choose between glass types (aqua clear glass or ultra clear glass) as well as  nearly a dozen types of texture (sandstorm, pixel, linear, to name a few) and nearly 50 different colors. You can often get a more varied look with glass than you could get with stone. Below, see two examples. The first appears to be “Sky Blue” in a “Melting Ice” finish, which is backlit for a little more drama.

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The second look is a very smooth and polished and appears to be back painted Dark Beige, with nearly a metallic look:

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The amount of variation in looks is pretty amazing, isn’t it? And just because we’ve only looked at kitchens so far, don’t think that glass countertops are limited to the kitchen. You can use them on any counter, from kitchen islands, bars and tables, to bathrooms. Below are two bathroom looks. The first, a textured green glass is suggestive of a refreshing dip in Caribbean waters, not a bad way to be greeted every morning!

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And below, the turquoise blue of this glass bathroom countertop is like taking a dip in a pool!

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Finally, there’s another major advantage to glass: Unlike granite and marble, which involves carving a limited resource out of the earth, glass is a recyclable, sustainable material. If you should ever change your countertop, you can take satisfaction in knowing that it will not be headed to a landfill. So not only will a glass countertop help you stand out from the crowd, but you can also feel good about doing your part for the planet. That makes glass a “clear” winner!

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Earthy Luxury in a Dutch Afrikkaans Bush Escape

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INK Design Lab created this glamourous neo-primitive resort in South Africa’s northernmost province of Limpopo.

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The exterior manages to hint of both an immigrant Dutch ancestry and an indigenous African design vernacular.

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Set in 12,000 acres of wilderness, the intriguing boutique hotel houses up to 26 visitors at a time.

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Every detail is earthy and primitive, yet with an air of comfort and luxurious welcome.

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Curves easily define all of the spaces, public and private, without strain.

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The most surprising example: a well appointed library.

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Perhaps because each guest room is centered on a fabulous oval or circular soaking tub, all the curved spaces never seem strained or at odds with the furniture.

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Comfort and serenity imbue a soak in the contemporary bathtub in the glorious natural setting.

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Intricately carved double doors (with more circular designs carved into them!) lead to a completely circular free standing soaking tub in this circular room.

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In another, a richly polished mahogany floor and earthy plaster walls play against a refreshing contemporary oval bathrub.

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After a day exploring the Savannah, how magical would be the comfort and charm of this earthy retreat.

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The sheer romance of a canopy bed with gauzy white curtains would offer refuge and repair to pamper battered senses.

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You’d even return to a roaring fire that perfectly offsets the dreamy canopy bed in the distant African bushlands.

A study in contrasts.

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Design Dilemma: Passively-cooled homes

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In many Mediterranean climes, it has been the norm for centuries to build homes that stay cool even under a hot, boiling sun. Thick stone walls, small windows, wooden shutters, cool tile floors and windows placed on the northern side of homes have been time-tested ways of keeping a home in a hot climate cool. In fact you’ll find in most warm climates that builders have learned how to enhance the coolness of homes. In the Southern United States, for example, wide porches, tall windows, and high ceilings have been used to keep the temps down.

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Above, a wide porch helps shield windows from direct sunlight. A screened in porch provides optimal ventilation, without worry about invading insects from open windows. Ceiling fans keep breezes moving. Ceilings are high, allowing plenty of room for hot air to rise.

In the Southwest, thermal mass in the envelope (adobe brick walls) provides a buffer against the intense summer sun, similar to the thick stone walls seen in the Mediterranean.  See below:

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In more temperate climates, a mix of these strategies works best. Including:

  • Cutting down on direct sunlight in warm months
  • Drawing warm air out of the interior
  • Tightening a home’s envelope to keep heat from infiltrating
  • Designing spaces that keep the air cool in the “occupied zone”

For example, the two houses pictured at the beginning of this post are from the “From the Ground Up” competition. They are passive houses using very tight envelopes and heat-recovery units. The upper floors sport openings that allow the interior to act like one big chimney. The pop-up that caps the house has a south-facing window that heats up this zone, helping to draw warm air up and out of the house.

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For those not yet willing to stray too far from traditional forms of architecture, a “ranch-style” home oriented with the length from east to west can successfully work for passive cooling and heating. This design minimizes the home’s direct gain from the summer sun while maximizing its winter solar exposure.

Thermal zoning is important to getting a passively-cooled home to work properly. Living spaces should be placed in an area of the home where they will be cool or warm depending on the time of year. In hot climates, main living areas should be clustered along the cooler north and east sides of a home. Buffer zones like garages or porches should be placed on the home’s west side to protect interior living spaces from gaining too much heat.

The north-facing living room in the Australian home below attempts to work just that kind of magic.

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Another important component of a passively cooled home is the windows. Think carefully about where the dominant summer wind comes from, so you can use the prevailing breezes to your advantage. You should also give some thought to the type of window. Casement, jalousie, and awning windows can act as air scoops, channeling breezes into a home. Windows placed on opposite sides of the house aid in cross-ventilation, routing air through the home instead of letting it stagnate.

In addition, basics like insulation and a reflective roof can help out quite a bit.

If you’re smart about your home’s design, it can be surprisingly easy to survive the summers without air-conditioning. Your home will stay naturally cool with maybe only a bit of help from ceiling fans. You’ll stay comfortable, help save the planet and save a few bucks at the same time!

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Swahili Traditions Blend Harmoniously with Art Deco in Kenya

 

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A traditional Swahili house is scattered along a natural clearing in the coastal forest of Lamu in Kenya by Urko Sanchez Architects.

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The client, Fernando Torres, wanted a house that would be in contact with nature.

He had a passion for architecture, and for Swahili traditional construction.

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He needed a home that could host family gatherings but feel equally comfortable when he was alone.

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The result, an outdoor pavillion on on sandy ground, reflects the client’s love of Swahili traditional construction and craftsmanship, as well as his enjoyment of outdoor living close to nature.

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He wanted to preserve the forest as much as possible, so the house winds along within in a small natural clearing.

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A series of curved exterior planters that extend inwards to become the smooth and cool concrete floor repeat the curved footprint of the outdoor “house”.

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Cool breezes supply natural ventilation.

Construction had a low impact because only local materials were used.

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The high arch of the traditional makuti roof effectively keeps out the bright sunlight and is also a good thermal insulator.

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In Swahilli architecture this kind of makuti roof is used as a separate structure over the roof of the house or detached as a temporary construction.

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Electricity to run the fans and lights is supplied by a solar power system out of sight.

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Rustic and lovely hand-shaped concrete sinks define the inside bathroom, but it is far from rudimentary.

Dignified Art Deco details like the lighting and the plaster decorations on the wall seem oddly fitting.

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Outside the shower room an al fresco bathtub in the same hand-shaped blond coral stone concrete makes bathing a natural delight in the midst of the forest clearing, for the grandchildren, or for Fernando when he is alone.

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Another outdoor bathroom offers a rustic privacy for visiting family members

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A sense of Kenya’s colonial past infuses the architecture.

Local craftsmen were used to create all of the intricate handiwork.

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There is a seriousness to the incongruity of placing chandeliers in such a rustic natural setting.

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The house could easily seem incongruous, with two such contrasting styles; urbane Art Deco played against the rustic Swahili.

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Yet there’s nothing self consciously whimsical about the mixture of the highly civilized and the rustic traditions of Swahili construction.

It works.