Surf’s Up: Home Ideas from the Blogosphere

Three Websites Worth Your Time

1. The Slow Food movement has gained momentum as people turn toward more satisfying home-grown meals that allow families and friends to reconnect as well as eat. John Brown, Architect and Professor of Architecture at the University of Calgary started the Slow Home Movement and its website, based on similar goals embodied by the words Close (living in a walkable neighborhood that’s near where you work), Simple (living in a home that fits your life), and Light (living in a home that has less impact on the environment).  Here’s an elegant contemporary house from one of his recent postings:

frha_012_l_h-strickland-side-view

It’s designed by Raleigh, North Carolina architect Frank Harmon. I like it because it’s so site-responsive: the house becomes a nature-viewing platform somewhat closed to the road on the upper or entry side and mostly open to the forest on the downsloping side. It’s like a treehouse on the ground. And the butterfly roof allows for a soaring volume over the living area and a more intimate feeling in the bedroom zone.

sh_1-strickland-vieew-from-below

Yes this is a custom design, but the principle of responding to the site should be part of any home construction. After all, a stock plan is really just a way to jump start the design; you still need to customize it your own requirements and make it take full advantage of your lot.

A fascinating and very useful feature of the Slow Home website is the section called Design Exercises, where Brown offers brief critiques of floor plans submitted by readers. You follow his red pen and listen to his voice as he draws over the submitted plan and describes what works and what doesn’t. I found his comments full of practical advice  — for example on room organization, daylighting, and space allocation. The critiques are particularly relevant for Houseplans.com because they’re basically recommendations for how to improve, even customize, a stock plan. Things to think about as you modify your stock plan to suite your site.

dsc00110e-mar-vista-pink-v-support-house

2. On the Web you can also explore the Mar Vista Tract of 1948, near Venice Beach in Southern California, designed by architect Gregory Ain, and shown above. One of the U. S.’s first modern housing developments, this neighborhood of 52 mostly well-preserved so-called “Modernique” homes, which are comparable to the “Low-Cost Ranch House” plans by Cliff May and the architect-designed communities developed by Joseph Eichler, is worth studying for the way the compact designs connect to the outdoors, reach for natural light, and make the most of limited interior space. My friend Don Anderson of Color Design Art brought this site to my attention.

dsc00119eyellow-mar-vista-house

The plans offer lessons for anyone interested in how to maximize living on a 65- by 100-foot lot. For more about the architect and his designs, read the recent and excellent Gregory Ain: The Modern Home As Social Commentary, by Anthony Denzer (Rizzoli 2008), which expertly chronicles Ain’s important contributions to American architecture.

3. One of my favorite websites about modern design is Remodelista, founded by Julie Carlson and three friends: Janet Hall, Francesca Connolly, and Sarah Lonsdale.  The site presents a constantly evolving and always beautifully edited range of contemporary products for the home (organized generally by room, with price and manufacturer information) along with images of great current residential architecture. Their “10 Easy Pieces” is an especially compelling feature expressing the philosophy, as Julie told me, that “there  are no more than ten good products in any one product category.” One posting rounds up “Classic Modern Reading Sconces,” including these two:

tolomeo-sconce-remodelista

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I think the entire website sheds a lot of light on strong, clean, simple contemporary design.

These same principles are visible in some of our latest plans, like this one:

449-2alt2-3400-new-plan-birds-eye

It’s Plan 449-2. Onward and upward!

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