Thursday, August 27, 2009

Individuality in Design

A few months ago, Apartment Therapy featured the SoHo loft of Michele Varian and Brad Roberts. Michele, a world traveler and collector, describes the space as an old school rustic NYC loft meets eccentric English manor. The space has interesting arrangements of pieces that play with light and air as it reaches the inner rooms of the loft.

The organic home metabolized over 10 years, and Michele offers the following advice, "Only buy things that you LOVE and then figure out how to work them into your space. That way you are always surrounded by things that make you happy and your home will be a reflection of you and not look like anyone else's." This emphasis on less mass market appeal thus creates individuality in design.

The kitchen is primarily hand built.

A desk found at a flea market is used as a counter and breakfast bar.

View towards the kitchen and rear light source.

Glass bottles hanging over the stove create visual separation from the kitchen.
Note the pendant lamp that is mixed in and allows the bottles to glow at night!

Michele made these counters by gluing and clamping together strips of wood.
She then placed the counters on wood shelves, that are found throughout the house, and are an old stained IKEA product.

The window seat is made from leftover pieces of wood from Michele's store renovation.

The wood burning stove heats the front of the house in winter.

A drying rack is used as a dividing screen.

Why cover up great walls with huge paintings when you can use old frames to group smaller pieces together?

A repurposed wood mantel is wall mounted to serve as a dining table bench.

The exposed electrical boxes are trimmed with wood and wallpaper to blend in.

Salvaged cabinet windows installed in the hallway create a transom lite and regulate cross breezes.

A window added to the wall and a mirror reflect additional light into the bedroom.

View of the interior windows in the bedroom.

Repurposed metal doors mats allow light and air to circulate between the bedroom and main front room.
The grill work creates a mosaic pattern of light and shadow on the walls.

The dark circular disks on the wall are rubber jewelry molds.

Looking back toward the bedroom in the middle of the loft space.

The "big" room.

An old ladder serves as decoration and furniture to access the top shelves.

Photos by Jill Slater

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Light Rail's Destruction

The address appeared yesterday on Swamplot's Daily Demolition Report, but the Google Street View link just showed the side of the building, which did not look very special. The facade that faces Harrisburg, not Stiles, is very interesting though. It features an art deco canopy and clock tower! The building sold as an artist live/work/gallery just a few years ago for under $200k. Now the land is being cleared for METRO's new East End Light Rail line.

Architectural historian Stephan Fox said, "The Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Co. Building, was built in 1935 and designed by the architect Sol R. Slaughter. In the 1980s and '90s it was the residence and studio of the Houston artist William Steen, who died last year. It is illustrated in Jim Parsons and David Bush's book, Houston Deco, on page 37."

Eastwood resident Steve Parker said, "METRO pledged to save the facade of the building with the clock on it, across from Eastwood Park. They preferred to have someone else buy it and move it, but if that didn't happen, they were going to move it back on the property and reattach it behind the new setback."

Steve added, "I am very disappointed that METRO has decided to demolish an East End landmark that we had worked with them to save. They changed their mind without letting the community know. It just showed up on the demo list yesterday. Now we only have a couple of days to save it.

The neighborhood has alerted their government representatives and local preservationists.

More at Art Deco Slaughter on Harrisburg: Is METRO Taking to the Cleaners?

and Neighbors Say Metro Promised to Save a Building it Now Plans to Demolish,

and Facade Value: Saving the Skin isn’t the Same as Saving the Building. But at least it’s Something.

UPDATE (08/25/2009):
Neighbors and concerned citizens met with Houston City Council members and Metro officials today to discuss preservation options. Below are photos of the interior and roof condition.

Main gallery.

Operable skylight.

Main gallery.


Main gallery.

Roof access stair.

Skylight with roof access stair.

Inspecting the condition of the tower.


View towards downtown.

Photo by David Bush.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Objects and Memory

This home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston illustrates that an architectural antique need not be a building material or element originally. The antique can be a tool, a machine, or even a piece of a tool or machine. These objects can be randomly found or part of a family estate. Regardless of the source, the object has some memory attached to it and it is this story that instills value.

Inward looking, the home reveals little from the street. With circular openings placed at the front and side, the curious pedestrian may catch a glimpse of life inside. The owner and architect, John Zemanek, built the house from sketches in his mind that he had collected since childhood while growing up on the family farm in Fort Bend County.

The form, space, and order of the design falls somewhere between a Texas farm house and Japanese Tea House. However, the landscape, structure and furniture are accented with mysterious objects. Some are recognizable and easily comprehended, but most are not -- engaging the viewer to imagine the story behind the piece.

Walking through the front gate, visitors enter into a shaded courtyard and are greeted by the first objects...

These cylinders were part of a larger farming apparatus from the Zemanek Family farm, but now rest in peace within the home's courtyard.

At the front door, while waiting for John to answer, the visitor can ponder the other objects around.

Standing guard by the door is a piece of the engine from the family's 1923 Buick. Through the window, a mounted tracker seat also found at the farm.

On a pedestal, the family typewriter sits frozen in time.

The entry way gives view to the main axis of the house and several types of wood.

Pine floor joists were salvaged from the original home on the property and reused for flooring, cabinets, and furniture.

The side table is made of old floor joists, but the eye goes to what is sitting on the table.

Another piece from a farming apparatus is beautifully displayed as abstract art.

A walnut table, pine column, sliding cedar panels and shoji screens made by former students.

A cast iron vice attached to an exterior column with wood pegs -- a great center piece for an outdoor workshop!

A bucket of carpentry tools sits just outside the office.

Architecturally, these ordinary objects are defining a space. The pieces are communicating a story from the past and it is this dialogue that gives life to a place. Without the stories, the significance of the antiques are lost forever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bayside, a State of Mind

A few miles south of Belfast, Maine, is a tiny Victorian village of architectural antiques. The pieces are not furniture, however, but rather entire houses.

During the 1850s, the village sprung up as a Methodist camp where each church had their own campsite. In time, larger ships began arriving, delivering more people, and the temporary campsites were built into permanent structures.

The cottages are grouped around a grassy square that slopes to a pier overlooking Penobscot Bay and then spreads out to over 30 acres of charm. The gingerbread style is known as Carpenter Gothic and Bayside is one of the oldest and most intact collections of the style.

Today the hidden hamlet serves as a storybook paradise to the families that purchased these homes long ago and have been handing them down for generations. Each summer the population grows to around 300, much less than the thousands a century before. Staying in Bayside is quiet and reflective, cool and calming.

Bayside is the genuine article and its authenticity takes you back in time. Most interiors are not winterized, so the framing is still visible as the structures list, buckle, and sag. The open framing in the walls serve as shelves for books and beach treasure that begin to reveal this Bayside state of mind.

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