written by:
March 5, 2013
Originally published in Indoor Outdoor
In Arlington, Virginia, architecture firm Höweler + Yoon contends with spatial and budgetary constraints to carve a microcourtyard, complete with Japanese maples and a cascading concrete fountain, in just 200 square feet.

Höweler + Yoon squeezed high-design landscape elements, like a fountain and built-in seating, into a small 15-by-13-foot space.

1 / 11

Meejin and her parents selected plants—water hyacinth to float in the water. Metal channels guide water from tier to tier.

2 / 11

Red Head fountain grass and Aoba Jo and Beni Ubi Gohon dwarf Japanese maples—from the Merrifield Garden Center surround the fountain. “The house I grew up in had a similar maple tree,” says Meejin. “It grows slowly over time, and it was one of the special trees that we had on our property.” Eventually, the fountain will hold koi. In the event that either of Meejin’s parents, Hannah or Jason, needs a wheelchair later in life, the firm created a side walkway with a gentle slope. The path is lined with Silver Lake quartzite flagstone pavers Hannah selected from the Charles Luck Stone Center.

3 / 11

A detail of the interlocking concrete tubs.

4 / 11
Perforated metal fence in Arlington, Virginia

An aluminum water-jet cut fence divides separates the house from its neighbors."My favorite part of the courtyard," says Höweler. He and Meejin took one sheet of metal and cut it down the middle in a zig-zag pattern. "It produces a 'screen' look and creates beautiful shadows. I like that it is materially efficient—there is zero waste of material since both sides of the sheet are used."

5 / 11

The house, shown here from the street, was designed for two full-time residents and to accommodate visiting children and grandchildren. Its name—the 10 Degree House—comes from the roof's angle.

6 / 11

Japanese joinery is an interest of Höweler + Yoon. "One of my exercises is to have students make a Japanese joint. The idea is that a void can kind of become a lock or an intersection to fit two pieces together," says Meejin. "There's something very strong about certain wedge Japanese joints. The courtyard wasn't intended to look like one—it just happened."

7 / 11

Yoon designed the house as a place where her parents could retire so she kept the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom on one level. She added a walk-out basement that her parents can rent out or use for a live-in caretaker. The lot is much narrower than most parcels so the house is built almost flush with the property line. The roof rises at an angle of 10 degrees, which is house the project got its name.

8 / 11

To adhere to a limited budget, Höweler + Yoon used basic materials throughout—slate, concrete, wood, cement board—but splurged on a marble countertop in the kitchen. "Because the house and millwork was so neutral to room could take a bit more richness," says Yoon. From within the combined living/kitchen/dining area, one only sees the microcourtyard outside.

9 / 11

Here's the living room. "It's a really wonderful thing to be able to design a house for your parents," says Yoon. "It was a very personal an intimate process."

10 / 11

Tall celings help the house feel more spacious. The house is designed for two full-time residents and to accommodate their visiting children and grandchildren. A bedroom is located just past the second floor overlook.

11 / 11
howeler yoon garden

Höweler + Yoon squeezed high-design landscape elements, like a fountain and built-in seating, into a small 15-by-13-foot space.

Boston architects Eric Höweler and Meejin Yoon are internationally renowned for their pioneering architectural and urban design projects, but in their recent concept for Meejin’s parents, Hannah and Jason Yoon, the vanguard couple took a more restrained tack. “It’s a simple house, with a few flourishes,” says Höweler, “less exotic, more practical, a little funky.” One embellishment is a small courtyard, born of restrictions imposed by budget, a narrow site, and strict zoning laws.

To maximize square footage and adhere to setback regulations, Höweler and Yoon planted the house dead center in the parcel, leaving little room for outdoor space. Riffing on a courtyard—“one of our ongoing interests, or obsessions,” says Höweler—the duo designed an inlet that satisfies Hannah and Jason’s desire for a meditative bit of greenery with a water feature.

howeler yoon garden concrete fountain

Meejin and her parents selected plants—water hyacinth to float in the water. Metal channels guide water from tier to tier.

“In every project, we try to do one thing that’s handmade, a custom design where the only way we could afford to do it is if we did it ourselves,” says Meejin. They rolled up their sleeves and, with the help of Meejin’s brother and David Costanza, a former student and employee, spent two weeks building the formwork to mold the concrete for the fountain. They found a local supplier who custom-colored the cast concrete a shade darker than the house’s CertainTeed–clad facade. Stainless steel channels guide water through the three-tiered design; benches topped with ipe provide a place to sit. Dwarf Japanese maples, wild grasses, and white beach pebbles from Sumatra break up the otherwise gray palette. “It’s small but we wanted it to feel like a very designed outdoor landscape,” says Meejin of the thoughtfully selected and affordable details that make the whole garden feel far greater than the sum of its parts.

howeler yoon garden courtyard

Red Head fountain grass and Aoba Jo and Beni Ubi Gohon dwarf Japanese maples—from the Merrifield Garden Center surround the fountain. “The house I grew up in had a similar maple tree,” says Meejin. “It grows slowly over time, and it was one of the special trees that we had on our property.” Eventually, the fountain will hold koi. In the event that either of Meejin’s parents, Hannah or Jason, needs a wheelchair later in life, the firm created a side walkway with a gentle slope. The path is lined with Silver Lake quartzite flagstone pavers Hannah selected from the Charles Luck Stone Center.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016