Bubbles and Bromeliads
Summer’s end prompts one last grasp for outdoor recreation, say for this seductive, round stainless steel spa deftly set into a boulder-strewn backyard slope.
Thanks to the simple clarity of the design — a smoothly turned curve set into upper and lower decks that stair-step down the hill — it becomes an integral part of the landscape (unlike so many prefabricated spas that resemble huge plastic tub toys full of bubbling hot water). Rectangular versions can also become focal points instead of eyesores.
This one edges a patio close to the house and doubles as a garden seat.
Here the clear green-blue water stands out against the burnished steel of the spa and the red-brown of the wood deck, to make a serene reflecting pool when not in use (examples and photos courtesy Diamond Spas). Though custom-designed, these modern spas are less expensive than adding a pool, fit smaller spaces, and allow for year-round use.
Rapunzel was a Ranger — and More
Small towers — with a room at the top for reading, sleeping, or just looking out – have been seductive since well before Rapunzel was asked to let down her hair. There’s just something very appealing about having your own retreat at least one story up with a commanding view across the landscape — especially to architects. Of course it helps to have a way in and out that doesn’t involve a lot of “product.” Montana architect Jeff Shelden of Prairie Wind Architecture designed a tower (Plan 547-1) as a weekend getaway, and patterned it after fire lookouts in national forests, complete with a walk-around balcony.
San Francisco Architect Lewis Butler ( of Butler/Armsden Architects, has designed a getaway for his parents in California’s Central Valley that harks back to 19th and early 20th century water towers, as well as early work by William Wurster.
Much of the interior of the tower is occupied by the soaring master bedroom (a circular stair in one corner winds up to the lookout). The kitchen/living space is in the shed roofed section at the base.
An equally seductive tower house by Andersson-Wise Architects overlooks Lake Travis near Austin, Texas.
Each of the lower two floors has a bedroom with a dramatic corner window. At the top is a kitchenette and dining terrace where I think every meal must
begin with a toast to Lake Travis (images courtesy Andersson Wise Architects). Arthur Andersson was a design partner of the late Charles Moore, who was one of the architects of Sea Ranch and other modern regionally evocative designs and founder of distinguished firms across the country. Moore’s Quarry Road House, also in Austin, is a magic cabinet of design ideas in its own right and can be visited by appointment.
At Houseplans.com we have several tower plans, including Plan 64-225,
which includes two bedrooms on the ground floor, kitchen-dining in the middle, and living room at the top. Tower Studio Plan 479-6, by Peter Brachvogel and Stella Carosso, mentioned previously, is shown here included in a larger house.
Using a small tower element to define some aspect of a larger house or compound is a clever idea. It can help define an entry or organize a composition. I have even seen a very elegant modern house that included two towers diagonally opposite each other, designed for an artist and an architect — a sort of Romeo and Juliet approach but with a happy ending. Maybe Rapunzel can find a compatible Prince architect someday.