Hello again readers,
This month I am devoting my blog to Victorian architecture in its various incarnations. Today’s post focuses on a property that I am very familiar with, a historic Victorian formally located in the city of Brookline, MA. I say formally as it was lost to fire back in 2007. A photo of the original house is shown below. The house was originally built in the late 1890s as a single family home, but was converted into apartments in the years that followed as the rental rates rose in the city and subdivided rental space proved more profitable to the home’s owners. In this recreation, I have restored the home to something close to its original state but completely reworked the layout of the floors to make this historic property work for today’s lifestyles. I added a 1st floor sun room and a swimming pool to the property as well as a period garage and a pool house. I also created a rooftop widow’s walk for views of the city at night. Guests can enter the home from the front entry facing the street or if arriving by car can park out back and walk through the pool house which leads to the outdoor deck and entertaining spaces. The house has 4 bedrooms on floor 2 and an additional 2 bedrooms on the 3rd floor for a total of 6 bedrooms and 4.5 baths. This is a big house any way you slice it. When the house was built the attic was used as staff quarters and that option was preserved in the recreated home as well as there is a separate back stair spanning all floors of the house to allow servants to come and go unseen. The house has a total of 4 fireplaces as well.
Every effort was made to make the house as accurate as possible in keeping with period Victorian detailing, for example a historically accurate Victorian is painted with 5 distinct paint colors covering the exterior walls and trim. This home uses a dark green trim, a lighter green for the main body of the house, and yellow, white and red for accent trim colors. Multiple types of shingling are also a common feature. This house uses both scalloped as well as wood shingles for its exterior sheathing. The widow’s walk, walkout bay windows, stained glass, turrets and detailed fretwork are other details associated with the style. Victorian homes also had a very prescribed entry layout where one would enter a foyer from a vestibule with the foyer being of a square shape often containing a fireplace, with a stairwell off it and that stair would be illuminated by stained glass windows. I tried to maintain that text book formula for this house as well.
Every once in a while I like to revisit older projects that I created to see if there is opportunity for improving them. Back in 2014 I designed a house which I entitled a modern take on a central chimney. It was a modernist design using a chimney as the focal point of the house. While the staircase around the chimney was compelling, (see photo below) most of the house was not particularly functional and many of the spaces were downright ugly.
I reworked the design significantly integrating the separate architect’s office into the main house while giving it its own entrance. I also moved the chimney that was formally in the front entry to a corner which now acted as a symbolic guard of the front door. This new design has 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, 2 lavs and a pool house bath. A two-car attached garage is included as is an attached screened porch. The living spaces are much more airy and less dungeon-like in the new scheme. The benefits of iteration and experience.
After yesterday’s tiny house that was only 970sq ft, today I offer something a bit larger, a 2 story version of the tiny house that has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths and comes in at about double the sq ft, but is still small enough to be considered a starter house. The first floor is very similar to the first design with a couple of notable exceptions. The lone bedroom has now become an office and the laundry closet has moved upstairs into its own room. On our second floor there are 2 bedrooms, a master bedroom and a second bedroom each with its own bath. The master bedroom also opens onto a second story deck where you can enjoy the morning sun. The central light well from the tiny house is retained and extends upstairs illuminating the upstairs hallway.
After the last design which featured a large and opulent seaside palace, I figured that something at the opposite end of the spectrum was in order. Tiny houses have been popular for Millennials who lack the funds to build a typical suburban single family dwelling. So with those needs in mind, I offer for your consideration this tiny house at a mere 970sq ft. The size of good sized apt in NYC, only as a single family home. This is a one bedroom, one bath home but has a queen sized Murphy bed for visiting guests. The living and dining spaces are actually quite spacious in this house so one never feels cramped. The central light well acts to visually divide the space as well as acting as a focal point for all the spaces in the home.
Efforts were also made to visually isolate the more private spaces in the house (the bathroom and bedroom) from the public spaces. Also included is a deck off the kitchen for outdoor dining. The deck could be eliminated and the roofed deck area could easily function as a carport if desired. This is a single floor house with high 10′ ceilings which helps to create the feeling of spaciousness despite it small size. The roof could potentially be carved out to add a second floor if desired and stair access would be added via a spiral stair where the current laundry closet is located. If one did require future expansion, I will be posting a slightly less tiny home in my next post that features a second floor based on this model. Enjoy.
Hello again readers.
This month I am featuring my grandest and most ornate house to date, which I am naming the peninsula palace. This house was situated on a point overlooking the ocean on 3 sides. This house has it all; every feature, every detail, every desire that you could possibly want in a dream house by the sea. The design was developed using the shape of Max Bill’s Ulm stool to layout the different spaces in the house. While there is nothing about this house that evokes Bill’s work or the Bauhaus style, the simplicity of Bill’s stool ended up serving as an excellent driver for the design and layout of the rooms. The house is inherently symmetrical which gives it its pleasing shape and facade. Some might be reminded of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda with its 4 porticoes. The house features a 1st floor master suite, a paneled study, a formal dining room, an eat-in kitchen, a large living room, and a grand foyer with a total of 6 fireplaces in the house. Upstairs are 4 good sized bedrooms each with its own bath centered around a grand rotunda lit by a large cupola. There is a 3 car garage, a pool house, and a tea house with a unique elliptical window that is connected to the main house via a gracious loggia. All these buildings are located around the swimming pool with its eternal flame overlooking the sea. A set of stairs descend down to the ocean with a small boat dock for sea-faring guests arriving by boat. The house uses all of the land on the peninsula to its full advantage, yet still kept enough space open for a sunken water garden on the North side of the house which one can gaze at from the tub in the master bath. Below are renderings of the different spaces inside and around the house.
It’s March and time for another update. Today I am featuring a design based on the idea of overlapping, specifically the overlapping of roofs. Typically roofs are not overlapped on residences, one only sees this detail executed on concert halls or perhaps in a modernist church (see the Meyer Jubilee church below). On this house the main gable is built up with multiple roofs layered on top of one another acting to visually draw the eye upwards. From the side view this roof overlapping has the opposite effect to show the building degrading. Either way the overlapping roofs create an interesting effect on the inside of the house within the master bedroom creating an implied enclosure to the bed area. Speaking of bedrooms, the house has 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths with a separate pool house and an observatory for astronomy lovers. An in-ground swimming pool and tennis court round out the feature list for this house.
The main living hall takes advantage of the steeply pitched roof with soaring ceilings, while a portion of the room was kept at a more modest height creating a more intimate spot for tv viewing.
The living room features a 5′ W1 Hale wooden clock as the focal point for the space along with a wall of windows looking out onto the pool deck just outside. Check out my image gallery below for photos of the different spaces within this coastal farmhouse with its overlapping roofs.
For more information on wooden clocks, check out Rick Hale’s website. The URL is below.
The fourth house in this week’s new houses for 2018 is a design that I created after pondering Max Bill’s Ulm Stool. The stool, a project Bill created at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany was unique for its simplicity. Despite having only 4 pieces, the stool could be transformed into multiple objects depending on how it was positioned. Using the bracket shape of the stool, I created a house with wings and walls that mimicked that shape. The house was aligned on two parallel central axis both passing through the chimneys in the design, resulting in a highly symmetrical and ordered layout. The house has a strong German influence echoing the work of both Mies and Spear. Features include an in-ground pool with pool house, an outdoor pergola covered dining area with firepit, a master suite with his and hers dressing rooms, a guest bedroom with bath, a separate staff apartment with its own entrance, a 3-car garage, his and hers offices, a kitchen with pantry and a Miesian tea house situated at the end of mall.
The third house in on our series to start the new year is a 3-floor art deco town house. I was inspired by this Rolex wristwatch, the Cellini Prince and its art deco styling. The Rolex Prince was originally produced in the 1930s and kept with the styling of that era. Rolex created a re-issue of their Prince line in 2005 which remained in production until 2015. While the watch was never a best seller it was a standout for its design qualities. In addition to its deco lines, the watch’s concentric circles on the dial reminded me of the lines created in the sand in many Japanese zen gardens.
Fusing both the Japanese and art deco influences I was able to create a 3-story townhouse befitting a stylish city family. The ground floor has a 1-car garage plus additional off-street parking for guests. Upon entering the glass block lined foyer you are greeted by a hall that leads to the kitchen and dining room. The kitchen/dr open onto the rear yard with its own patio and a small yard. Floor 2 has a study/library, the main 2-story living room, a billiards room with its own wet bar, and a lav. The top floor contain the master suite, 2 bedrooms, a laundry, and an additional bath. An elevator was also installed to ferry food from the kitchen to the entertaining spaces on the second floor. See the image gallery for photos and plans.
The second in our series of houses for the new year I entitled the Popup Camera House. I fashioned it after an early 90s Polaroid instant camera where the 2nd floor would appear to be able to fold down into the 1st floor similar to a traveling camper roof.
An alternate name for this property is the not so simple house. Although the house’s footprint is a simple box with few lines and even fewer fenestration details, it makes up for this simplicity by being very complicated to construct. Unlike most houses, the second story walls don’t align with the walls below it on two of the house’s four sides, so the upper story must be supported by beams and columns that runs the length of the house to properly support the second story. Reducing the footprint of the upper floor allows for strip roof lighting to be installed above the first floor running the length of the living room as well as in the 1st floor lav. Light washes down the 1st floor walls providing a soft and indirect lighting to the home’s inhabitants. (see photo below)
I opted for this indirect lighting approach as this house was designed for a high density locale where houses may have minimal or no setbacks between a neighbor’s property and the owner would prefer to keep windows facing the neighbors to a minimum. Another key feature is the inclusion of a walled garden. The garden provides a visual focal point for the home’s interior when exterior views are absent. The house has 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with the option of a 3rd bedroom on the second floor if desired. Other spaces include a sunken hearth, a dining room, library, separate office, mud room, eat-in kitchen with pantry, 2nd floor laundry, and a one car garage. I also designed a small shed for bike storage or tools. There is a small patio off the living room which descends to a sunken firepit with a water feature. These outdoor spaces make the most of limited yard space. Given the urban environment, I also designed a neighborhood park on the adjacent property to create some recreation space for the neighborhood’s children.
To start 2018 on the right foot I am planing a week’s worth of updates featuring brand new designs for you to enjoy. The first project in the series fuses my interest in mechanics/watchmaking with architecture resulting in this modernist masterpiece which I am entitling the Record Player House. Looking at the elevation one will recognize different elements from a record player: from the speed control dial, to the toner arm, the stylus, and even the central spindle represented by the circular study. The above mentioned study rotates on an axis just like a record and even has its own deck that serves the dual purpose of a entry portico. The study’s deck will jump into action when the glass study door is opened traveling into position and then locking into place allowing the owner to leave the safety of the study and re-live that iconic scene from Titanic. In addition to the rotating study, the record player house has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 2 lavs along with fireplaces in the great room and on the screen porch. Other features include a shallow lap pool accessible from all of the bedrooms and an enclosed tennis court that the master bedroom overlooks. The fun continues on the 3rd floor with a home theater, tap room and wine cellar (or wine attic in this case). Parking for 2 cars is available in the garage located underneath the pool.
What was really memorable about this design was the engineering required to make the different mechanical elements come alive. I designed the drive train mechanism for the rotating study based on my interest in mechanical watches. The way that the study rotated perfectly mimicked the functional spec for a mechanical chronograph (start, stop,and reset). I wanted the study to rotate smoothly with no jerkiness upon engaging the drive train, so I opted to follow the design used in many high-end mechanical chronographs which use a column wheel with a vertical clutch system. The vertical clutch and column wheel design was 1st implemented in the Pierce chronograph in the 1940s, but was later improved and incorporated into the Venus 178 movements used in the 1960s era Breitling chronographs. The vertical clutch and column wheel provide very precise and tactile engagement of the chronograph feature on a wristwatch (as there is no meshing of gears in this design) and I wanted that fluidity for my study drive train as well. A recent visit to the American Clock and Watch Museum in New Briton, CT also informed my understanding of how clocks and clock gearing worked. Studying photos from the Pierce chronograph, the Venus movement and the current Breitling B01 chronograph caliber I was able to create a gear systems to turn the study and make the deck travel. Below is an exploded axon of the different parts in the study’s drive train so you can better understand how it all works together.
I also designed a retractable sunshade for the pooldeck that drops down into the garage when not in use. The mechanics for the sunshade was even more complicated then the study involving 3 pages of notes and diagramming required before I even attempted to model it.