Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tandem Houses Full of Ideas

Parallelisms

I just toured two brand new roughly 1,500 sq. ft. houses that demonstrate strong lessons in making small spaces live large and offer a compelling paradigm for  multigenerational living. Sold within a few hours of going on the market  — part of the “Facebook frenzy” that has turned San Francisco real estate into breakfast-lunch-and-dinner-at-Tiffany’s — the houses were designed by architect Jim Zack, whose design-build firm Zack DeVito specializes in infill developments. Jim explains: “This little courtyard compound consists Continue reading

The Make It Right Houses in New Orleans


Looking Up in the Lower Ninth Ward

While in New Orleans last week on a design jury, I checked the progress of rebuilding in the Katrina-devastated Lower Ninth Ward. It’s several miles east of the French Quarter and Downtown, and just across the canal that connects Lake Pontchartrain with the Mississippi. You can immediately see some of the area’s

Map Lower 9nth Ward

disadvantages: it’s low land level and general sense of being isolated: only connected to central New Orleans by two small bridges; and there’s a high

Flood wallconcrete flood wall between the neighborhood and the banks of the canal (map courtesy NOLA Beez). From the west you still see swaths of empty lots, but now near Route 39, along Deslonde and Tenneessee Streets, a remarkable new neighborhood is emerging thanks to herculean community efforts spurred by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, which has brought in big name architects like Frank Gehry and Japan’s Shigeru Ban and big names like President Bill Clinton and his Global Initiative — not to mention Brad himself. It is very exciting

Three Make It Right homes

to see  how much progress has been made. The Make It Right Foundation even offers a self guided tour. The houses are raised off the ground — some high

Concordia Architects

enough for a carport, as shown in the example above by Concordia Architects. There are a few designs that look more sculptural than functional (though community input was the starting point for everything) but I was impressed with how successful most of the houses seemed to be: with livable covered porches for

Billes Partners

natural ventilation in New Orlean’s humid climate, front stoops for hanging out, roof slopes designed for solar panels, among many other features — the house above is by Billes Partners. I was also impressed with the pattern book approach some houses exhibited — in other words I saw the same plan built in different ways: rotated or flipped depending on desired porch orientation, for example. This approach recalls how many American towns developed — with stock plans being adapted to different lots and site conditions. Some locals don’t yet appreciate what is happening here (I am thinking of the two taxi drivers I spoke too — not very scientific I realize!) and prefer the new row houses in the 

IMG_5215

Musicians Village in the Upper Ninth, a laudable project of the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, which I also toured. These houses (shown above) update the old New Orleans shotgun house and they do look neighborly — the smaller lots put the houses closer together for a more immediate sense of community, though I thought some of the porches looked minimal. I can see how the more 

website street view

architecturally ambitious Make It Right houses — as shown here again in a long street view — are not for everyone. They are more experimental, for example, turning the top floor into one large outdoor living room, and to my eye that makes them especially compelling. Bravo to the Brads and Bills who are helping revive a community that builds on the past while looking to the future (all Lower Ninth Ward photos courtesy Make It Right.org).

For more on contemporary infill home plans visit Time To Build blog.

Reaching for Reclaimed Wood

Going with the Grain

Spring is about reinvention, which makes me think about reclaimed wood. I am reminded  of the timbers reclaimed from urban forests that the remarkable Zen priest Paul Discoe mills and then shapes into furniture like his Tenon Bench,

Paul Discoe, tenon bench, redwood IMG_4597where the joint becomes a simple but sculptural gesture of connection and  Continue reading

New Ranch House, New Fire Pits

Lining Up with the View

Houseplans.com’s architect Nicholas Lee recently gave me a tour of his most recent design, a contemporary 4 bedroom ranch house built on a 2+ acre site in Sonoma, California. As you can see, the single story house is long and

carriger exterior view

linear and offers views east to the Mayacamas Range and west to Sonoma Mountain. The newly planted rows of saplings and sweet peas reinforce the farmhouse/ranch house esthetic.  Huge picture windows flanking the fireplace  Continue reading

Walking On Wine: Mondavi Floor Boards

It’s All in the Oak

At the Home Builder Show in Las Vegas I met winemaker Rob Mondavi, Jr. (grandson of the legendary founder of Napa’s Mondavi Winery) and his wife Lydia, who are launching a new venture in partnership with Georgia-based Authentic Reclaimed Pine Floors this spring. The name of the product is “Barrel Reserve,” which refers not to a chardonnay blend, but to the wood that might have encased it. The limited edition interior wood floor collection is made from Continue reading

Road Testing Your New Home

Try Before You Buy or Build!

Syndicated Washington Post real estate columnist Katherine Salant recently gave an insightful talk to our Houseplans.com office about how she “road-tested” two developer homes. This is a splendid idea — contemporary cultural anthropology in action, and it reprises a field work technique she developed in Nepal while living with families and village architecture.  She lived with a family at Libertyville, Illinois, in the new School Street community of row houses. And she  spent several days and nights in the model unit of a townhouse development in Mosaic District, near Washington, D. C. Her revelations are fascinating.

At School Street, she found that there was a strong sense of community even though the development was very new; that every owner wanted his or her own Continue reading

2014 New American Home in Las Vegas

Suite Upgrades

The 2014 New American Home demonstration house in Henderson, Nevada, sponsored by Builder magazine, debuted during the big home builder show (IBS) in Las Vegas last month. I expected over-the-topness. At 7,440 sq. ft. — including a three-room master suite, “VIP” guest suite, in-law “carriage suite,” casita-office, outdoor bar and grill, lap pool, and extensive roof decks — it wasn’t as

TNAH exterior large 1-27-2014

as lavish as some, but did not disappoint. Design-wise, it’s “Desert Modern.” Aging in place was a priority — hence the secondary ground floor master suite and an elevator to the “carriage suite.”As I have mentioned before, despite the name, Continue reading