Luxury timber home mimics a rocky outcropping for minimal site impact

December 18, 2020 by  
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As part of an ongoing series to promote the eco-friendly use of renewable materials, Montreal-based studio Natalie Dionne Architecture has completed the Forest House I, a low-impact luxury home that celebrates timber inside and out. Set atop an outcrop of the Canadian Shield in the forested Eastern Townships, roughly 100 kilometers southeast of Montreal , the recently completed dwelling was commissioned by a couple who had long dreamed of a home in the heart of nature. In addition to a predominately timber palette, the architects inserted large glazing and outdoor living spaces to achieve a seamless transition between the indoors and out. Though rich in natural beauty, the client’s 3-acre property posed major siting challenges in the beginning due to suboptimal orientation and the presence of many rocky outcrops. Rather than fill in the landscape with concrete, the architects took inspiration from a “particularly impractical” 3-meter-tall rock formation to devise an elevated design solution that would not only minimize site impact to the existing terrain but would also improve the home’s access to views and natural light. Related: This timber-clad cabin appears to hover over an idyllic lake landscape Wrapped in low-maintenance eastern white cedar pretreated to encourage a silvery gray patina , the linear, 215-square-meter home rises out of the landscape like a rocky outcropping that is anchored on one end atop a base where a rock once stood. The other end, which is supported by slim columns, appears to hover over the rocky cleft and culminates in a partially sheltered terrace pointing toward a moss-covered escarpment. Glazed sliding doors allow for an uninterrupted transition between the outdoor living area and indoor kitchen, dining room and living room. The couple’s bedroom suite is tucked away on the southern end of the house. A staircase leads down to the smaller ground floor, where the entrance hall and a bunkroom — capable of accommodating up to 10 guests — are located.  Views of the forest are pulled indoors by floor-to-ceiling glazing, and a variety of timber surfaces reinforce the design’s connection with nature. Solid maple was used for the kitchen islands as well as for the vanities and stairs. The built-in cabinetry is constructed from Russian plywood. The timber palette is harmoniously integrated with polished concrete floors, white gypsum walls and natural aluminum windows. + Natalie Dionne Architecture Photography by Raphaël Thibodeau via Natalie Dionne Architecture

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Luxury timber home mimics a rocky outcropping for minimal site impact

Chic geothermal-powered home embraces indoor-outdoor living

November 18, 2020 by  
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Dutch design studios  Bedaux de Brouwer  and  i29  have blurred the boundaries between indoors and out at Outside In, an aptly named 400-square-meter villa for a family of four. Completed in September 2020, the luxury home makes a verdant green patio the heart of its living area and features expansive glazing all around to take in views of the surrounding garden. In addition to bringing nature indoors visually, the home also reduces its impact on the environment with energy-efficient technologies that include geothermal energy storage, a heat pump and rooftop solar panels.  A minimalist  natural materials  palette and restrained design approach define Outside In, a single-story family home wrapped in an all-black brick facade to make the building recede into the landscape. Large integrated planters with overflowing greenery sit just outside the front of the building to further soften the home’s appearance. In contrast, the interior is dominated by white walls and light-toned wood surfaces that bounce back the daylight that floods the home. “With a purist design approach and modest materials, Bedaux de Brouwer and i29 designed a villa that has a luxurious quality, without being pretentious,” the designers explained in a press release. “The biggest quality of this house is the harmonious integration of interior and exterior to the smallest details.” Unity is also achieved indoors through the use of  custom furnishings  — from cabinetry and sliding doors to beds and wardrobes — all made from the same light-colored timber.  Related: Old train shed is transformed into a gorgeous office and restaurant in the Netherlands The  solar – and geothermal-powered home is divided into two main parts. A spacious living area houses a dining room and kitchen that wrap around a lush light-filled interior courtyard. Meanwhile, the private wing includes a master bedroom and two secondary bedrooms that face a walled-in swimming pool and garden. + Bedaux de Brouwer + i29 Images: i29 / Ewout Huibers

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Chic geothermal-powered home embraces indoor-outdoor living

A clever, garden-filled facelift revives a derelict building in Denmark

November 5, 2020 by  
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Copenhagen-based architecture firm Tegnestuen LOKAL has radically reinvented one of the “ugliest” buildings in a Frederiksberg neighborhood with an innovative facade renovation that brings residents closer to nature and each other. The project — dubbed Ørsted Gardens — is the transformation of a 1960s concrete building that was notorious for its unwelcoming and dilapidated appearance. Instead of a simple facade renovation, the architects decided to dramatically alter the building’s appearance by inserting a series of triangular glass bays that serve as semi-private decks with 50 small gardens.  What began as an ordinary facade renovation aimed at protecting the concrete balconies from water damage gradually morphed into a complete overhaul of the front facade during the design process. Instead of simply reinforcing the open balconies with glazed panels, the architects inserted triangular glass bays to create new semi-private social spaces that would encourage random meetings between residents. The addition of operable glass panels also allow the balconies to be comfortably used from spring to fall and helps to buffer the apartments from the noise of the heavily trafficked road in front of the building. Related: HHF Architects’ renovated a group of crumbling buildings to help revitalize an entire neighborhood “A central aspect of the renovation is the notion that the building should contribute positively to the experience of the street,” the architects said. “The monotonous façade of the past is broken up into smaller geometric entities creating a sense of rhythm as you pass the building signaling a residential building, comprised of many families and individuals.” In addition to introducing an attractive, geometric facade that can be appreciated from both inside the building and the street level, the architects have also infused the apartments with greenery. Each glass bay accommodates a small garden that grows across the glazed facade to blur the boundaries between inside and out. Residents are also free to use their semi-private garden plots to grow decorative plants or vegetables. + Tegnestuen LOKAL Photography by Hampus Berndtson via Tegnestuen LOKAL

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A clever, garden-filled facelift revives a derelict building in Denmark

Greenhouse-inspired home harvests rainwater for backyard garden

October 28, 2020 by  
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In the idyllic town of San Miniato in the region of Tuscany, Italy, local architecture firm  LDA.iMdA architetti associati  has completed a multifunctional home that takes inspiration from the structural technology in greenhouses. The client’s dream of growing a vegetable garden served as a major design influence for the contemporary dwelling, which features a gabled shape optimized for harvesting rainwater that can be reused for irrigating the expansive rear garden. The project, dubbed La casa nell’orto (or House in the Orchard), also incorporates eco-friendly materials such as prefabricated wood self-supporting panels and is elevated off the ground to  reduce the impact on the landscape .  Set on a long and skinny east-west plot, the House in the Orchard follows the shape of the site with its rectilinear volume that spans an area of 84 square meters. The main entrance, located on the west side of the plot, includes a short flight of steps leading up to the front door. The minimalist gabled shape, based on a child’s basic drawing of a house, was created with a lightweight frame — inspired by technology typically used for  greenhouses  — overlaid with an ecological polyolefin sheet selected for high solar reflectance. Like a greenhouse, the  gabled  volume emphasizes an indoor/outdoor connection and was constructed with large expanses of glazing. The operable glazing also promotes natural ventilation. The architects took a house-within-a-house design approach to the interior layout by inserting a smaller gabled structure that comprises the main living functions, including an  open-plan  living area, dining area and kitchen, as well as a bedroom, bathroom and storage space. An even smaller gabled volume set behind the main living structure serves as an indoor greenhouse.  Related: Kuehn Malvezzi tops a brick office building in Germany with an energy-efficient greenhouse “This project is part of the research we are investigating for: how the figurative synthesis of an architecture is often recurrent in the architect’s work, and how it can be an important element of investigation in finding answers or models for a contemporary fluid and dynamic society,” the architects explained in a press statement. The House in the Orchard was also designed with the intent of hosting events such as the StudiAperti 2019. + LDA.iMdA architetti associati Photography by MEDULLA studio

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A midcentury home receives a sensitive renovation in Montreal

September 11, 2020 by  
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Local practice Salem Architecture has recently renovated the Maison Ave Courcelette, a stately, midcentury home with an improved indoor/outdoor connection in the heart of Montreal. Originally constructed in 1947, the house was built with beautiful attention to detail and sculptural, rounded openings — elements that both the architect, Jad Salem, and the owner wanted to preserve and highlight. The resulting transformation achieves those goals while generously opening up the interior to the large exterior courtyard and bringing an abundance of natural light indoors. Located in the residential borough of Outremont, the Maison Ave Courcelette project connects to a large backyard and is surrounded by many mature trees around the perimeter of the site. To improve the relationship between the home and the outdoors, the architects opened up the rear, south-facing facade with large sliding glass doors. The stones of the facade that were replaced by the new glazing were kept for use in a possible house extension. The new cladding on a portion of the rear facade is made up of vertically oriented timber elements that complement the original stone of the house and serve as an openwork sidewall for privacy from the neighbors while allowing natural light to filter through. Related: Transformed midcentury modern home focuses on sustainability To protect the house from unwanted solar gain in the south, the architects created covered outdoor terraces as well as a retractable canopy for comfortable use of an entertaining space with a sunken seating area and a fire pit next to the pool. “The landscaping, in separate areas, offers owners the opportunity to enjoy the backyard while having a variety of experiences and atmospheres,” the architects noted. New windows have also been added to other parts of the home to bring in additional daylight. Inside, original midcentury building elements have been elegantly enhanced. The architects added new arched openings that follow the configurations of the existing arched windows to elevate the sculptural feel of the home. The railing of the central curved staircase — a major focal point — has been kept minimal so as not to detract attention from the staircase’s sculptural shape and the rounded openings in the ceilings. The original wood floor has also been maintained in some rooms while materials for the new floors were carefully selected to complement existing finishes. + Salem Architecture Photography by Phil Bernard via Salem Architecture

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A midcentury home receives a sensitive renovation in Montreal

Sustainable teak home blends into the Costa Rican hills

August 19, 2020 by  
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San Jose-based Studio Saxe has completed Tres Amores, a contemporary family home that takes in spectacular ocean and mountain views in Costa Rica. Nestled on the hilltops in the town of Nosara, the luxury home was designed to blend in with its lush surroundings through its staggered massing and natural materials palette, which includes exterior cladding of charred teak wood with black-framed windows. The home also takes full advantage of its beautiful surroundings with an emphasis on indoor/ outdoor living via floor-to-ceiling glazing and sheltered outdoor patios. In response to the seismic conditions and constrained footprint of the site, the architects created a lightweight steel structure that was pre-cut offsite and then quickly assembled onsite. The structure is wrapped in sustainably sourced teak wood cladding that was charred for longevity and finished with natural oils. The dark exterior takes cues from the landscape.  Related: Luxury prefab Costa Rican home features dramatic wing-like roof Covering an area of approximately 515 square meters, Tres Amores is spread out across two staggered floors topped with extended horizontal roof planes that shield the interiors from the sun. The living spaces located on the lower floor connect to the private bedrooms above via a light-filled stairwell with full-height glazing that frames views of the ocean. The interior decor is kept minimalist so as not to detract from the landscape views. As with all of Studio Saxe’s projects, special design consideration was given to sustainability and site conditions. Tres Amores’ bioclimatic design was informed by site studies that include wind patterns, sun exposure and temperature data. The home further minimizes energy use with solar hot water heaters and water recycling through filters and state-of-the-art treatment plant systems. The architects said, “This design is a clear reflection of an approach to design that combines high tech preemptive design with low tech construction methods.” + Studio Saxe Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Sustainable teak home blends into the Costa Rican hills

Green-roofed CLT home opens up to a dreamlike garden in Germany

August 10, 2020 by  
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Near Hannover, Germany, Bremen-based treehouse specialist and architecture practice Baumraum has completed the Green Dwelling, a green-roofed , cross-laminated timber home built to achieve a strong fusion between the landscape and the built environment. Located on a large 2,000-square-meter site, the house takes inspiration from its lush surroundings, which include an adjacent forest and a dreamy garden developed by perennial specialist Petra Pelz. Natural materials define both the interior and exterior palettes, while large glazed windows strengthen the connection between the indoors and out. The Green Dwelling was created for young clients who wanted a new home that neighbored their parents’ existing residence. When the clients first contacted Baumraum, the conversation began with talk of building a treehouse that then evolved into a commission for the design of a new house in addition to the treehouse. The overarching design goal was to create “an oasis in the green” filled with natural light, ecological construction and strong visual and physical connections with nature.  Related: Sigurd Larsen completes a luxurious, treetop hotel cabin in a Danish forest The resulting home features a Z-shaped floor plan that begins with a garage, side rooms and entrance area at the front of the house, then transitions to a spacious living room with an open kitchen. The layout culminates with a guest room, bathroom, sauna area and bedroom in the rear. Large windows installed in each room provide garden views. The entire structure was built from cross-laminated timber and the natural, untreated larch surfaces were deliberately left visible throughout almost all of the interior. A lush green roof tops the home. On the western border of the property, the architects have also added the Tree House Green Dwelling, a treehouse perched atop an oak tree that serves as a year-round retreat and playground. Three flights of stairs lead up to the treehouse’s 4-meter-tall terrace and the square treehouse cabin , which rises to a height of almost 6 meters. Highly reflective stainless steel wraps around the facade to render the building almost invisible in the landscape. + Baumraum Photography by Ferdinand Graf Luckner via Baumraum

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Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone

June 15, 2020 by  
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This stunning 4,585 square foot home in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico exemplifies sustainable  indoor-outdoor living  at its finest. In 2018, architecture firm FabrikG completed the home, which is located in an off-grid community about five and a half miles from downtown San Jose del Cabo on the East Cape hillside. It was constructed using  rammed earth  with locally-sourced stone and designed with passive solar principles. Paired with unobstructed ocean views and abundant outdoor spaces, Hawk Nest House creates a balanced harmony with the natural surroundings. The home’s east side consists of three rammed earth volumes situated around an outdoor common area, with a walkway leading to the property’s best sea views. A tile vaulted roof covers the living room, and the kitchen’s arched entrance is also made of rammed earth. A small patio off the kitchen offers even more ocean views. In addition to the  solar panels , which provide enough power to sustain the entire property, designers also included a water treatment plant to reuse water for irrigation when needed. Related: Mexican winery built from recycled wood and rammed earth blends into the valley landscape The main living quarters are located in the house’s right wing, connected with a wooden walkway. There are two master bedrooms, plus two bathrooms surrounding a patio with an outdoor shower, tub and local  stone walls. Apart from the main house, there is also a garage, a rammed earth guest house and a small, vaulted meditation room. The owner, an artist, has a studio situated on the northeast end of the property. For the landscaping, native desert plants on the patios and outside property require little to no irrigation.  According to the architects, this type of construction using rammed earth and traditional local stone masonry is advantageous in arid climates. The thermal mass of the thick earth walls regulates temperatures throughout the day and night, while the openness of the house encourages cross-ventilation . Unique elements are found throughout the home, including windows accented with sustainably-sourced and naturally-treated wood, and exterior walls treated with charred wood and coated in natural oil (a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban).  + FabrikG Via ArchDaily Images via FabrikG

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Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone

Airy Santa Monica Canyon home embraces views of nature and art

May 27, 2020 by  
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Reclaimed materials, a world-class art collection and an indoor/outdoor lifestyle combine in this recently completed Los Angeles residence designed by Santa Monica-based firm  Conner + Perry Architects . Built for  Los Angeles natives, this luxurious four-bedroom family home with large windows and a natural material palette was thoughtfully inserted into a wooded Santa Monica Canyon. Salvaged materials taken from the old existing home on-site and felled wood found on the property have been repurposed into beautiful focal elements for the house, such as the grand entry doors and outdoor furniture.  Designed to embrace the “quintessential California indoor/outdoor experience,” the two-story Santa Monica Canyon home opens up with fully pocketing glass exterior walls to a central courtyard with a pool and outdoor shower. Extended canopy-like cantilevered eaves protect from the sun. The charred wood ( Shou Sugi Ban ) siding, copper, exposed steel and concrete materials that wrap the home’s exterior were selected for their organic nature and their low-maintenance, climate-compatible qualities.  To pay homage to the history of the site, which was used as a Forestry Service test station for Eucalyptus tree testing in the 1910s and 1920s, the architects  salvaged  much of the original 1940s cabin that once occupied the property. Related: New Santa Monica City Services Building will produce more energy than it uses The home interior takes cues from nature and includes a mix of massangis gray  limestone  and French oak used for the floors, weathered brass, blackened steel elements and a variety of marble and tiles. The warm yet restrained palette also provides a neutral backdrop for the clients’ world-class art collection; the interior floor plan was designed to frame views of either the art pieces or landscape views. “Each of them has described the house as having a magical or mystical quality, allowing light in at the right moments, as well as the shadows of the trees , and a calming mirroring effect,” Kristopher Conner, Conner + Perry Architects co-founder, said. + Conner + Perry Architects Images by Taiyo Watanabe

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Airy Santa Monica Canyon home embraces views of nature and art

Italy’s Relaunch Decree helps homeowners install solar photovoltaic systems for free

May 27, 2020 by  
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Italy has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is attempting to jump-start its economy through the Relaunch Decree, a revitalization package of 55 billion euros ($60 billion) that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet passed earlier this month. The stimulus includes tax breaks for clean energy projects and renovations; Italian homeowners are offered free rooftop installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through the Relaunch Decree. To help Italy recover from the coronavirus-induced recession, incentives — like tax credits for homeowners pivoting toward energy efficient home improvement projects — are offered. According to Ernst & Young’s Global Tax News , “Individuals can offset 110% of qualified building renovation and energy efficiency costs incurred between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2021 against their tax liabilities in five equal installments (up to certain thresholds).” Related: First home solar pavement installed on a driveway PV Magazine explained that the bonus is “for building-renovation projects from 65% to 110% and a jump in support for PV installations and storage systems associated with such renovation projects, from 50% of costs to 110%.” Any solar photovoltaic installations for the next year-and-a-half will be subsidized. Only a few weeks ago, Green Tech Media warned that Italy’s subsidy-free solar sector had stalled due to the pandemic, placing many projects on hold. While the solar industry is no stranger to vicissitude cycles, the pandemic added unexpected variables. “For the sector, the Relaunch Decree is certainly a great opportunity for the spread of photovoltaics on the roofs of Italian homes,” said Paolo Rocco Viscontini, president of PV association Italia Solare. Italy’s investment incentives for solar should come as no surprise, since Statista describes Italy as “the leading country worldwide for electricity consumption covered by solar PV.” Since the early 2000s, Italy has been a strong proponent of solar installations. In 2017, it unveiled its National Energy Strategy — a 10-year plan to decarbonize, expand renewable energy and promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. As of early 2020, Italy is second only to Germany in the photovoltaic sector, with solar power as the country’s preferred renewable energy source. In 2019, Italy had a 69% increase in solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2018. That growth was deemed “the most substantial recorded in Italy” by PV Europe with a grand total of 56,590 new solar power system installations in 2019, of which 50,653 were residential. While COVID-19 dampened photovoltaic growth for Italy’s first quarter of 2020, many nonetheless hope that the Relaunch Decree’s incentives can support a swift restart of the solar PV sector. Tom Heggarty, principal solar analyst for global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said , “Solar [projects are] pretty quick to develop and construct. So once we start to see restrictions lifted, the industry should, theoretically, be in a good place to bounce back quite quickly.” Via EY Global Tax News , PV Magazine , Green Tech Media , Statista and PV Europe Image via Giorgio Trovato

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