Long before he moved into the building, Dutch architect Felix Claus admired 51 rue Raynouard, an apartment block in Paris designed and built in 1932 by Auguste Perret. “It’s the sheer abundance with which limited materials are used here that first struck me,” Claus says. “The wall-to-wall French oak paneling, combined with materials that were ahead of their time—columns made not from marble but from stone-blasted concrete, the extraordinary round plaster ceiling inset, and the fiber-wood paneling...”
A prefabricated off-the-grid vacation home in eastern Washington provides not just a getaway, but lessons in learning to be one with the land. The 820-square-foot, two-story home was built from solid cross-laminated timber panels and sheets of unfinished raw steel, all manufactured offsite. The wooden bedroom, like much of the house, is outfitted with only the basics.
A private and escapist enclave, the house that architects Annick Houle and Stephen O’Connor have created for themselves on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, sits in complete contrast to the family’s period Victorian house back in Melbourne. “This house is really about getting back to basics,” says Houle. The materials chosen for the house tie in with the rugged, rural setting. Tallowwood, a native eucalyptus, was used for the decking and also for the internal flooring and wall paneling, including in the master bathroom.
A new home at Sea Ranch, a half-century-old enclave of rugged modernist houses on the Northern California coast, captures the spirit of its surroundings. Its spaces flow into each other under an angled ceiling made of richly hued plywood—which, architect Judith Sheine says, makes the interiors “warm, warm, warm.” On the sidewalls, everything above the datum line is covered in the same plywood; everything below is concrete, with grooves and pits that seem appropriate to the rugged surroundings.
A modernist cabin in British Columbian ski country is the perfect retreat for a family of outdoor adventurers. The cabin was not intended for peace and quiet. “They wanted a home that was designed to accommodate a lot of people,” the architect says. The residents, who live in Calgary, frequently entertain, and with 16 beds, bunks, and twin-bed-wide window seats, there is no shortage of places to sleep.
On Puget Sound, activist and filmmaker Anna Hoover collaborated with Les Eerkes, a principal at Olson Kundig Architects, on a 693-square-foot studio in the woods. Using freecycled materials and a six-footed foundation to rein in construction costs, Hoover and Eerkes created a distinctive structure that treads lightly on the land. In the sleeping loft, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the fir canopy of the surrounding forest. A door next to the bed drops down, opening the room to its surroundings.
Architect Christoph Kaiser turned a dismantled grain silo, purchased online from a Kansas farmer, into a cozy studio in Phoenix, Arizona. The 190-square-foot space is outfitted with a highly customized interior that serves as a comfortable home for him and his wife. Scrap walnut plank flooring purchased on Craigslist for $350 accounted for most of the interior wood, including the sleeping loft.
When architect Nick Martin was hired to rework an art curator’s Hamptons property into a Zen-like getaway from the big city, he took an appropriately holistic view. It’s the beach house that’s got it all: green technology; passive solar design; rich materials; an expansive feeling, despite a petite half-acre corner lot; and a design concept that references its humble beginnings as an off-the-rack kit house. Martin Architects designed a bed in white oak for the neutral master bedroom.
Custom woodwork and an open interior define a 520-square-foot backyard retreat for a busy family. Strips of white-oak flooring line the interior of the studio, created by designer Jeff Vincent and PATH Architecture. PATH partnered with local woodworkers Benjamin Klebba and Bren Reis to build furniture and cabinetry into the walls. A couch slides out on hidden casters and transforms into a full-size bed where guests can sleep.
An entreprenurial pair of Belgian brothers land in one of Texas's few bohemian oases, become property owners, and find that sharing a house in adulthood isn't half bad. What they built is a beautiful combination of functional architecture and modern aesthetics that is as much a sculptural showcase as a functional home. During construction, Thomas Bercy, one of the brothers, and his architectural partner Calvin Chen used sealed cabinet-grade birch plywood for the interior walls and ceilings.
Australian firm Clare Cousins Architects proves urban living and functional family homes are not mutually exclusive. The firm smartly (and inexpensively) reimagined an 800-square-foot apartment to provide more than enough space for a young family. The new floor plan maximizes social areas and minimizes sleeping spaces through the creation of “micro” bedrooms that fit a single bed. The rooms were sectioned off with full-height, pine plywood joinery — a nod to Shigeru Ban’s Furniture House.
Avid outdoors enthusiasts, a couple was looking to build a modest year-round retreat in Washington’s Cascade Mountains near the region's hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Located in the Methow Valley near Winthrop, Washington, the area can reach thirty degrees below zero in winter, and up to 110 degrees in summer. Balance Associates worked to create an 850-square-foot cabin with commanding views that's well-adapted to the region. The bedroom is outfitted with plywood, used throughout the home for interior surfacing for the warm tones it provided.