Thursday, April 18, 2019

Summer Houses by the Sea: The Shingle Style

Just in time for summer Rizzoli has a new, soon-to-be-released book about the ubiquitous beach house: Summer Houses by the Sea: The Shingle Style by Bret Morgan.  Of course I have to lead this post with the most famous house featured in the book, Grey Gardens, which recently sold.
What makes this book different from others on the same subject is not only the never-before-published, full-page photographs to drool over but FLOORPLANS for many of the houses! I know that will draw some attention from ArchitectDesign readers!
Not all of the houses featured are turn of the last century either, with many new builds and even some modern projects such as this sinuous house built for a scientist, seen above, in Seal Harbor by architect Peter Forbes. I love the little 'labs' on the roof.
 My favorite of the featured houses though has to be the gambrel roofed Mallinckrodt Cottage from 1898, seen above, in Jamestown, RI. Notice the charming views from the living room windows below.  If one has to be indoors at a beach house you may as well have water views (including views of other houses!) and a fireplace.
The sweeping screened porch of Rosserne, below, in Northeast Harbor isn't so bad either! Nap time on that chaise longue perhaps?
I think Summer Houses by the Sea: The Shingle Style is the perfect addition to any design library as the definitive grouping of the style: definitely check this one out!
All images © Bret Morgan

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Before & After: Modern renovation by Tim Brown Architecture

I think most bloggers get an annoying amount of junk email from publicists, but every once in awhile one sees something so special it speaks to you and you want to share it with your readers.  This was the case when this renovation project by architect Tim Brown from Austin Texas landed in my inbox.
While this may not necessarily be the type of thing I normally feature here on ArchitectDesign, I think good design comes in all shapes and sizes. It's not all classical all the time but rather architecture is a formula to fix all problems and appropriateness is key.  The most surprising thing about this project is just how little it took to take a really awful suburban house and turn it into something special.
When the clients found the house it was the most unfriendly looking facade you could ever find.  However using the good bones hidden under poor decisions the architect was able to make this nothing-burger of a house really shine through minor re-organization of spaces and new finishes.  That's what a good architect can do for you, particularly in a renovation like this, make what you already have work and work well!
We always tell clients to look beyond what is there now and think about what it can be. Maybe the golden rule of real estate (location location location) is the motivating factor or perhaps other fundamental qualities of the house are appealing. In this case the mid-century design translated well into a friendlier contemporary  home.
Stepping inside right way the changes are drastic but minimal.  Changing out the private courtyard which obscured the front door into an open and friendly entry is welcoming.  Re-configuring the stair still allows for the rest of the house to feel private (and points you closer to the kitchen for midnight snacks!)
In this before shot you can see how the stairs previously dumped you into the entry landing -and the home depot doors did not fit the style of the house.
I imagine furring in the ceiling beams not only created a clean aesthetic for the double height living room but allowed for insulation.
The reconfiguration continued with the flipping of the kitchen and former dining room space off the living room. Now the dining table enjoys views of the pool deck (more on that later) while the kitchen stays central to the space. Yes, this is the same room!
The new contemporary stair railing fits nicely with the mid-century vibe while the Ann Sacks tiles lining the stair stringer are also a fun nod to the past.
A wall of storage separates the dining from the living room; the verticals are another mid-century design detail. Now the house is full of light and views of the backyard.
I believe most families today live at their kitchen island and this one has center stage in the new kitchen.
 The den tucked behind the dining room allows for privacy during game day or movie night.
The existing mid-century clerestory windows work well in the new contemporary bathrooms. I'm always intrigued by these 'wet rooms' within bathrooms. Here you see the tub inside the shower enclosure; it feels so convenient and easy to use.
While the front of the house was nicely cleaned up, the back of the house really shines now with a new cantilevered roof  which expands the living footprint of the house. I can imagine spending a lot of time back here!
 Previously the back of the house was a design afterthought - who would want to spend time there?
You can take or leave the swimming pool (ok, actually take!) but the cute dog stays for sure. Save the best for last!
Many thanks to Tim Brown architecture for sharing this lovely renovation with us; if you don't like what you have, you can always get what you like with the imagination of an architect or designer!
All photos courtesy of Leonid Frumanski and Tim Brown architecture

Friday, March 1, 2019

Save a Landmark (and stay in one too!)

One of the great charities of Great Britain (and beyond) is the Landmark Trust. While we all talk about restoring significant old houses they are out there doing the hard work to the most vulnerable properties. Many times they restore structures that are seen as beyond saving that don't necessarily  make any sense financially but how do you put a pricetag on our cultural heritage? The best part is most are available to rent for your vacations after restoration!
Later this summer for my birthday I'm actually renting the small folly shown in these pictures. For 4 days I'll be calling this miniature chateau home as I travel around the countryside visiting stately homes!
However, when the Trust acquired the house in 1982 it was in the state seen above; a total reconstruction!  Read more about the restoration HERE if interested.  The funds raised by the Trust through donations, holiday rentals, and different events helps to fund these restorations. 
Currently they are running a lottery promotion to raise funds to save Fairburn tower- each ticket enters you to win one of 7 prizes; money towards your own rentals! Buy your tickets for the raffle HERE by May 17, 2019.   As you can see below the tower really needs major work in order to survive.
In a few short years the tower will be a lovely, habitable house again that you can rent for your family for an unforgettable vacation!
The standards of the Trust are extremely high as seen here by the charming interiors of the Chateau. I can't wait to call this home!
Not all of the rentals are this small, many are full houses and even castles for all of your family and friends and at great rates I might add. 
Next vacation (or holiday given the country in which they mostly operate) consider renting your own castle and put your money where your mouth is regarding historic preservation. Visit The Landmark Trust HERE.
all pictures courtesy of The Landmark Trust

Monday, January 14, 2019

The most elegant house in Washington: The Octagon House

I've begun a love affair: with a house.  While I have lived in Washington now for nearly 17 years I had never visited the Octagon House despite always hearing about it from friends. Oh I'll visit someday was my thought. Well one rainy Saturday this past fall I visited and fell in love.
Not only is the house open for free to the public, you typically have it to yourself to explore at your own pace (which I love). I promptly set up a later tour for our Mid-Atlantic branch of the ICAA with the help of a friend.
While the crisp details are certainly elegant, the true beauty lies in the plan (as always, click the image to see in more detail). While the site was rural AND waterfront when the house was built in 1799, early in Washington's history, the house is exceedingly urban. The architect, William Thornton, must have foreseen the city that would grow surrounding the house based on L'Enfant's plan.
Colonel John Tayloe III had the house built on the advice of his friend George Washington as his winter in-town residence and it remained as his families primary residence until 1855 at the death of his wife. The neighborhood was no longer fashionable and his children rented the house out; first as a girl's school, then to the Federal government as Naval offices, until it finally was a tenement. In 1898 the AIA stepped in (American Institute of Architects) to rent the house as their headquarters and in 1902 purchased the property. It is still owned and lovingly cared for by the AIA.
Let's step into the foyer shall we? All of the paint colors were matched to their 1810 appearance with help from Benjamin Moore and these colors are all available for purchase.  The entry hall is 'Daytona Peach #079' for example. 
The most striking feature of the round entry are a pair of English stoves flanking entry into the stairhall which feature neoclassic urns.
 Notice how even the doors match the curve of the walls -a lovely detail.
While we so often think of checkerboard floor tiles having to precisely match, the variation in the darker squares, made up of different marbles, is really soft and lovely.
The living room features the original moldings and Coade stone fireplace although the chandelier dates to the 1930s. The mantel was painted because when it arrived on site because the top shelf was missing. It was replaced in wood to match the stone mantel below. The wall colors in this room are not accurate as originally the room held wallpaper, although no one knows what it looked like!
The mirrors flanking the fireplace were original to the family and are original to the house. All of the other furnishings throughout the house are period but not original to the Tayloe family.
The central stairhall stands between the living and dining rooms (see plans above) but more on this later.
On the opposite side of the stairhall is the dining room. The lovely thing about the orientation of the house is that all rooms are bathed in natural light throughout the day.
The dining room also features an original Coade stone mantel. The green paint color is original to 1810 and is BM #480 Lily Pad, and #AF-475 Lush. 
The brass hearth fenders are kept beautifully polished. All of the brasses would have been regularly polished to reflect the candlelight.
Stepping back into the stairhall notice the ivory "mortgage button" in the elegant newel. Of course the myth of this decorative feature is more interesting than actuality. There was no mortgage on this house when it was built!
Heading up to the family quarters on the 2nd floor notice the curved walls continue. I love the sunny yellow paint colors - BM #319 Dalila.
This rather elegant jib door leads to one of many closets. This closet probably held the beds of the slaves who slept outside the doorways of the master bedroom.
The round room on top of the entry is the main family sitting room known as the Treaty Room. After the war of 1812 when the White House was burned by the British (in 1814), the Octagon House briefly served as the president's residence for President Madison and his wife Dolly.  It was in this room that the president ratified the Treaty of Ghent which ended the war. The original table sits in the entry foyer of the house while this exact replica lets you take a closer look.
I love the simple wood mantels here on the 2nd floor.
Looking towards the rear you can see the stair going up to the 3rd floor where the children's bedrooms were (the Tayloe's had 15 children!) as well as an odd extension to a closet so that the stair and house appeared taller than they actually are: Sneaky!
However the best part of these houses in my opinion are the behind the scenes spaces.  Adjacent to the elegant main stair is a rather clever triangular staircase that allows for more discreet access throughout the house and entry into the basement servants quarters.
The basement is actually quite bright with tall ceilings and large windows thanks to the service moat surrounding the house.
The central hall in the basement once held a round well for drinking and washing - you can see where it was in the round pattern in the brick. This area of Washington has always been marshy and the basement was always damp and battling water.  The AIA undertook massive measures a few years ago to help prevent moisture from rising through the house and this floor was relaid.
As part of this work the original plaster had fallen off the brick bearing walls which absorbed water from the earth.  While the brick dries out (over a few years) they are leaving the brick and stone exposed before re-plastering to its original appearance. That is a bread oven to the right of the main cooking fireplace and an early brick coal range to the left.
I love the brick wine storage shelves seen above. Similar arched brick shelves also exist at Homewood House in Baltimore of the same date which we toured this fall with the ICAA.
Returning outside you can see the brick walls which surround the service yard.  The yard now contains the main AIA building finished in 1973 which surrounds, but respects by distance, the Octagon House. Notice the wall and chimney with oddly no windows (this is the wall of the dining room) making the house feel more like a townhouse; Possibly for future expansion that never occurred?  I find it really surprising that while the city developed this property wasn't sold for development of townhouses adjoining the main house which would have fit nicely against these blank walls.
I highly encourage everyone to visit the Octagon House museum, open to the public free of charge Thursday through Saturday from 1-4, and otherwise by appointment.  Group visits can be arranged, refer to their website here https://architectsfoundation.org/octagon-museum.
All photos my own with the exception of the first shot by Robert Tarasovich. Plans and drawings for HABS on wikicommons.