Party barn, Texas style

I spent Memorial Day weekend at my husband's family reunion out in central Texas, which is mostly ranch land.  Our gracious host, a true-bred Texan who owns and operates a cattle business out of Indian Hills Ranch, has the coolest barn I have ever seen.  On the outside, it's just a red metal building that is pretty common on ranches.  However, the inside is no ordinary barn.  This is a party barn.  It is set-up to host a big crowd and make them feel welcome.  When you step through the doors, you know you are going to have a good time. The first thing you see when you enter is a old Texas country-style saloon.  Uncle Buck had salvaged the exterior materials from the old house on the ranch, and reused them inside the barn to create multiple "rooms" for various uses.  There is the "cafe" serving as the Kitchen, the "general store" is the pantry, the "sheriff's office" is the computer room, the stable is "storage", and inside the building there is a bedroom and living room, with a bathroom for cowboys and a bathroom for cowgirls.  Isn't this simply awesome?!

I love the repurposed weathered wood siding, the stray from perfection, the relaxed ambiance created by the backdrop.  And nothing like colorful string lights to add a celebratory flair.  An homage to the ol' southern country style.  There was plenty of beer and margaritas, barbeque and chicken fried steak dinner.  What more do you need for a great reunion.

Cheers,

Sharon.

You spec me to buy that?

Over the last few months, I've been working on the designs for a spec house in Houston and another in a new development in Austin.  "Spec" is short for "speculative" and the term "spec house" refers to a custom house designed and built based on speculating what a potential buyer, looking in a particular neighborhood and price point, would want in their house.  Stick to the bare minimum, and they will buy the other house; add all the bells and whistles, and you bust your budget.  The key is to find that sweet spot and a design that people will fall in love with.  They are custom in that the design is tailored to a specific site and not repeated on other lots like production houses i.e. they are unique. The firm I work at is developing both projects, which means that we buy the land, formulate the program* and size of the house, establish the construction budget and potential market value, decide on aesthetics and architectural style - all things normally dictated by a client.  Being a full service design-build firm, we are well equipped to handle all aspects of design and construction.  These are multi-million dollar projects, so it pays to scrutinize every aspect of the house with a magnifying glass. Architectural design, interior design, landscaping, pool design - everything from the floor plan to the floor tile is laid out on paper.

To that end, the core team meets every Friday, over lunch and cookies, to review and critique the progressing design.  We are a group of four architects, an interior designer, and a real estate advisor.  We talk about intent, big picture plans, small construction details, project schedule, what inspires us, contemporary work, what was successful in past projects, what was not; we make adjustments to the plan, exterior massing, interior volumes, materials, appliance package, cabinetry design; we look at interior design selections like decorative light fixtures, tile, wall finishes.  We explore design ideas that might otherwise be restricted by a client or their budget.  Sometimes it's a "best bang for the buck" or "ROI (return on investment)" conversation.  Other times, we revisit areas of the house that we were fine with for weeks, but then someone asks a poignant question and if we don't care for the answer, we go back to the drawing board.  Since it's a collaboration between different design professionals, the process is not linear, rather we go where the conversation takes us - all over the place!

We are now at a point where everyone is happy with what we've created on paper.  We are well past the schematic design stage.  We are mostly done with design development.  I say mostly, because that's never a closed chapter!  We have a long way to go before these babies are ready to go to school though.  We've only just started the the third trimester.   We are about to get into the thick of doing construction drawings.  While the architects coordinate the engineering and put the finishing touches on the drawings and specifications, others are working on the financing,  the construction team will soft start the project by getting permits and utilities setup.  Then the builder will start preparing the site for foundation.  I'm getting ahead of myself.

Being in two distinctly different markets, the design decisions made for each project are very different in order to cater to the potential buyer's assumed taste and values.  For example, the house in The Woodlands is much more formal than the one in Austin.  While every family is different, there is a common thread of needs and desires.  A well thought out spec house would be ideal for the family that does not have the time to work with an Architect, but would appreciate a house of this calibre.  Spec projects enable us to craft our brand, which by the way, we are in the process of reinventing.  All in all, very exciting work.

Cheers,

Sharon.

* A "program" refers loosely to the scope of the project; more particularly to the list of indoor and outdoor spaces that would be ideal in a building project.

Custom residences on Kiawah Island, SC - House Tour

Kiawah Island in South Carolina is a private barrier island surrounded by the ocean and vast salt marshes, known for its golf courses and multi-million dollar mansions.  I had the opportunity to tour some fabulous custom homes (designed by architects) during the AIA CRAN 2014 symposium and would like to share my pictures in a series of posts.  Alas, the pictures are not that great as they were taken in a hurry with my phone.  Not to mention, it was a cloudy rainy day, not ideal for great photography.  Better pictures are available on the architect's websites, which I will link to, but, this here is first person experience with candid shots. Respect for nature takes a whole new meaning when you have to design an environmentally sensitive building set in a delicate ecosystem with abundant wildlife and challenging soil conditions, lowcountry coastal climate, and flooding.   Being in a high risk coastal flood zone, all the houses are on raised foundation pilings, with the conditioned main floor almost a story above the approach walkway, the lowest floor serving as "enclosed" garage and storage that is "allowed" to flood, i.e. the houses are not on stilts.  Worthy to note here, the Architectural Review Board design and construction guidelines are 80 pages long.  So no, you won't see stilt houses on this island!

House by Architect Chris Rose

I loved this contemporary house designed by Architect Christopher Rose.  The simple floor plan layout was overshadowed by strong architectural features and a material palette that suggested warmth and comfort.

Chris Rose

The front facade and the stairs leading up to the unassuming entry; no grandiose door, no porch, no statement, simply enter.  The exterior color palette is meant to blend in with the surroundings.

Chris Rose

Nice vignette there at the entry foyer.  Most of the interior walls are finished with an earthy seagrass wallpaper, and trimmed with Douglas Fir - baseboards, window and door casing, accent frieze trim, beams.

Chris Rose

This industrial steel stair leads you up to the upper floor with the secondary bedrooms.  Isn't that beautiful - a piece of art built into the architecture of the house.

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It looks like a spine.  Unfortunately, it is *not* the spine of the house.  There's a missed concept!

Chris Rose

A cozy TV viewing area under the airy open stairway.  No need for a closet under this stair.

Chris Rose

I can't get over how cool this stair is.

Chris Rose

If you are interested in the detail - thick wood stair tread over 1/4" bent steel plate, cut to shape, welded to a steel tube center stringer, finished with a layered brush stroke, for an industrial looking sculptural stair that meets code.

Chris Rose

Chris Rose

Moving on, upstairs to a hallway.  The steel structure of the house is exposed to the interior, but the industrial look is balanced by the earthy wallpaper and natural wood trim and ceilings, for a soft contemporary aesthetic.

Chris Rose

Smooth cold steel, natural warm wood trim and wrapped beams, and textured seagrass wall covering - the perfect blend of materials.

Chris Rose

Dark wood floors contrast with light walls and warm wood ceilings.

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Overlook from the upstairs hall into the two-story living room below, with the tall stone fireplace and windows from floor to ceiling.  There's the architect Christopher Rose.

Chris Rose

Kids bunk beds, looking up into a skylight.

Chris Rose

Painted wood trim flush with the gyp-board and a neat shadow line created by a reveal separating the two materials.

Chris Rose

Extra long (double faucet) wall mount sink in a simple bathroom for the kids.

Chris Rose

The pool and deck in the back overlooking one of the many ponds in Kiawah.

Chris Rose

You can get a sense of the structural grid from the exterior.  The beams visible at the ceiling inside follow through to the exterior to support the deep roof overhang with steel brackets anchoring them to the steel columns.

Chris Rose

Outdoor shower mounted on the exterior wall of the lowest floor.  You can see the gaps between the siding to allow flooding of the lowest floor.  The mesh screen behind keeps the enclosed area relatively bug free and crap free in a flood.

Chris Rose

View from inside the garage looking out.

Chris Rose

Close-up picture of the wall on the lowest floor that is liable to flood - unfinished stud walls with mesh screen and exterior siding with gaps.

Hope you enjoyed this post.  Again, apologies for the fuzzy pictures.

Cheers,

Sharon.