Watch a Maine House With a 240 Annual Energy Bill

Maine designer Riley Pratt estimates that the typical energy bill because of his home is significantly less than $20 each month. And that’s including the $10 a month he pays only to have support. To put that into perspective, the average homeowner in Maine spent2,949 on energy in 2009, according to the latest data offered in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

How does Pratt achieve this at a state where temperatures regularly dip below 20 degrees in winter? By harnessing heat obtained from sunshine.

Pratt’s home, built and designed with his own coworkers at design firm GO Logic, is predicated on Passive House standards, which were created in Germany for assessing the energy efficiency of buildings.

at a Glance
Who lives here: Riley Pratt and his wife and toddler
Location: Belfast, Maine
Size: 1,500 square feet; 1 1/2 bathrooms


The home sits at a 3-acre field on a cresting hill about a mile out of Belfast, Maine. It is oriented with all the sun’s winter path in your mind to obtain the maximum warmth from it throughout those months.


A main principle of Passive House standards is a compact construction form. The goal in a cold climate is to decrease heat loss through the building’s shell, something that’s excellent for places like Maine.

It’s simple: Sun shines through the chimney, strikes a surface and warms it up. The home then traps that warmth inside with a virtually airtight design obtained through walls, a roof and even a floor that are superinsulated.

Here structural insulated panels (SIPs), made of thick foam sandwiched between 2 layers of OSB, cover a framework made of 2-by-4s. The roof is loose-fill cellulose (essentially chopped-up newspaper) to a depth of 2 feet, covered in a standing-seam roof to durability.

The exterior is fiber cement clapboard meant to reflect a conventional regional aesthetic, at a deep crimson that speaks to some common New England color palette.

The panels onto the roof in the middle are all for the solar hot-water system. A copper element within a vacuum tube absorbs heat from sunlight on cold days. The heat is exchanged and carried into the home to heat a 120-gallon hot-water tank.

Solar hot-water systems such as these cost approximately $10,000. Different tax incentives and rebates offered in numerous countries sometimes significantly offset the upfront cost to install them. Pratt says that the investment pays off in five to seven decades, based on usage.


Solar photovoltaic panels also help counter power prices. The home isn’t net zero, but it’s close. A frequent misconception is that solar photovoltaic panels directly power the home as well as the electronics inside. The sun shines and the computer works. A more prevalent setup works more like a credit system. The energy generated goes to cancel your bill as a power credit. With grid-tied systems like this, you don’t earn money generating energy rollover credits go into your account and accumulate on an yearly basis.

(Off-the-grid, standalone solar electrical systems require large batteries to store the sun’s energy once the sun is not shining. Batteries need to be replaced, they’re big, and they have a restricted number of life cycles of charge and discharge.)

Pratt points out that it’s possible for him to make the house internet zero, even though it’s not a lifestyle he would like to develop. “People play the sport,” he states. “Like hypermilers in their hybrid automobiles who never go more than 50 mph in order that they could get 100 miles a gallon at a Prius. If you don’t turn on supplemental heat rather than cook, then you can reach net zero easily. This approach isn’t for everyone. In GO Logic houses, you’re still able to live life as you would, without taking on an extreme way of life, and eat very little energy to maintain a comfortable internal environment.”


The home shell (which cost about $170 per square foot) essentially sits on a raft of polyurethane insulation beneath. A concrete slab was then put within the home envelope to help regulate the internal temperature. The slab may absorb a lot of heat before heating up, then loses it gradually, helping to regulate the internal temperature. “It states cool in the summer and stores heat in the winter,” Pratt says.

It’s essentially an airtight structure, with a ventilation system that’s constantly running. A “magic box,” as Pratt calls it, in the loft pulls fresh air in while exchanging heat that stays indoors. “Stale air goes out; new air comes from. The heat energy of the exhaust air is exchanged with that of the incoming air. The quantity of air in the home is refreshed about every two to three hours,” Pratt says.

The dining area, living area, kitchen, mudroom and powder room are on the ground floor. The kitchen is an Ikea foundation with custom ash details.


There are 3 bedrooms on the top floor. Locally sourced wood pine posts produce a hybrid- and stick-frame structure. The floor is just one layer of tongue and groove spruce.


To obtain Passive House certificate, the home had to pass a set of tests that determined how much energy it absorbs. (Just 4.750 BTUs per square foot for space heating are allowed per year.)

The certification procedure is a benchmark for energy intake, developed in Germany about 20 decades ago. It will be the standard in Europe for many building forms in the near future. In the U.S. just 13 houses have been certified to Passive House standards.


In a lot of ways the certificate is more strict than LEED certification, which is an accumulation of points made for things such as the selection of substances, the operation of the home, water conservation fixtures, the efficiency of the building shell, low-VOC paint, and careful preparation of the strategic structure and much more. (Pratt’s home is also LEED Platinum certified, the maximum rating.)

More: Architect’s Toolbox: Solar-Powered Design

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Burled Wood

Examples of burled wood are the limbs and patterns made by tree growths. Woodworkers use designs and these odd shapes for veneers and furniture.

Interior Art

The expression “burled wood” typically brings to mind that the wood grain employed in furniture in the shape of solid wood or dentures.

Mountain Log Homes of CO, Inc..

Burled wood begins as a fast paced tumor-like section of a tree, in which the wood grain is strange and the surface is either lumpy or gnarly.

SHED Design & Architecture

This wood counter has both a burled suface and a live edge, meaning the outer surface of the shrub has not been planed off and the natural outline stays.

Interior Advertising Group

A gnarly chair created in the burled wood of a tree origin is obviously exceptional.

Camber Construction

A typical right wood grain is alternately displayed beside a burled wood pattern on the staircase, creating an interesting visual pattern.

Keystone Cabinetry Inc.. Since 1984

Wood veneers are extremely thin sheets of wood shaved from expanses of lumber. Inside this kitchen several layers of the exact same pattern that is burled show up on the cupboard doors.

Michael Fullen Design Group

Wood veneer can be lean enough to be wrapped around objects without breaking, and absolute enough to permit light to pass, as with this burled wood veneer drum color.

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Salvaged and Ecofriendly Style at a Montreal Triplex

Shortly after buying a triplex at Montreal, first time homeowners Dominique Leroux and Anne-Marie McSween attended a local ecological rally which made them rethink their style approach. The two spent the next few months exploring ecofriendly design procedures, then enlisted architect Vouli Mamfredis of Studio MMA to perform the renovation, which lasted a year and comprised reusing as much leftover material as you can in the gutted interior.

Most of the salvaged original wood framing became the newest floor, while neighborhood artisans infused the rest to kitchen cabinetry, a dining room table, stair treads and much more. Even Leroux’s and McSween’s families stepped in to donate unused furniture and wood. “Everything has a story,” says Leroux.

in a Glance
Who lives here: Dominique Leroux, a software engineer, and Anne-Marie McSween, a lawyer
Location: Hochelaga-Maisoneuve district of Montreal
Size: 2,480 square feet; 1 bedroom, 2 bathrooms, 1 shower area (top 2 floors only)
Budget: $115 Canadian (roughly U.S.$113) per square foot

Esther Hershcovich

The couple resides on the two top floors while renting out the floor. On the next floor, Mamfredis eliminated walls to open up the kitchen, living and dining spaces.

The woodworking crew at Construction BFG constructed the dining table in the reclaimed basement wood. McSween’s uncle gifted the dining chairs, which are teacher’s school chairs he collected over the years.

Esther Hershcovich

The minibar counter in the kitchen is constructed from old flooring.

Bar stools: local artisan Mat-Pel; suspended lights: Le Lampiste de Beloeil; cabinet wire mesh: Richelieu

Esther Hershcovich

The corrugated metal backsplash is repurposed from the other among Manfredis’ projects, along with the homeowners repurposed countertops that a local Mountain Equipment Co-op store was getting rid of.

McSween and Leroux set up a heated floor program in both the kitchen and baths.

The concrete flooring contains a residue from aluminum lights and is covered with a green sandpaper. The floor didn’t go exactly as planned, however, and the couple ended up with a textured effect.

Esther Hershcovich

An Envirosink sink attracts graywater into a 4,500-liter (1,180-gallon) cistern under the house, that provides water for the bathrooms.

Countertop: ceramic tile, Céragrès

Esther Hershcovich

The columns used for its 9 1/2-foot ceilings are made of salvaged wood picked up in AIM Recyclage, a scrapyard at Charlemagne. The homeowners utilized Eco-Selection oil on all the exposed wood.

A little porch outside the kitchen has shade in the summer and is where they like getting breakfast.

Paint: Papier Japonais 6195-21, Sico Ecosource

Esther Hershcovich

Directly through the kitchen is a wall hiding the toaster and pantry. The couple placed their piano at a central place so that they could play with it anytime during the day.

Paint: Omelette 6093-74, Sico Ecosource

Esther Hershcovich

Leroux, along with McSween’s dad, cleaned and stripped a pallet that previously had been used for roof material and turned it into a coffee table.

The homeowners abandoned the brick vulnerable to add feel. They also left the metail rail that runs along the wall to the exterior that keeps the house from slanting.

They’re still determining whether or not to add artwork to the walls. “When you set up a piece of artwork, eventually you give up viewing it,” Leroux states. They’re considering leasing artwork from a local gallery.

Esther Hershcovich

The couple brought oak, natural wool and latex to local furniture manufacturer Meubles Re-No, who constructed this sectional couch with the materials. The item was then covered in organic hemp fabric from Rawganique, where the couple bought all their cloths in the house.

Esther Hershcovich

Leftover tiles in McSween’s parents’ renovation compose the second-floor bathroom’s counter. “We have whatever material we could from everyone,” states McSween. They used exactly the same tile in the other toilet.

Rainwater in the cistern under the house is used to flush their Caroma toilets.

The poster above the toilet was made for Leroux as a birthday present. It’s the form of a bike that was made with words which describe him.

Esther Hershcovich

The two Leroux and McSween are avid bikers, so that they expanded their main entry door to ease easier transportation of the bicycles.

Esther Hershcovich

The metalwork on the stair rail is by Soudure René Thibault. The wood stair treads are made from the cellar framing.

Esther Hershcovich

The next floor includes the master bedroom, the master bath, a living market and this shared office space with a sizable library. The wood used for its shelves was recycled three occasions: It was originally used for a garage then a chicken coop.

A large built-in desk hugs the vulnerable columns. Two vibrant hammocks with suspended lighting hang nearby Leroux’s guitar set.

Esther Hershcovich

Before the couple’s buying the house, their similar programs were a bit of a nuisance. “We had been biking back from functioning and running for the shower first,” Leroux states.

To repair the problem, a large shower area in the center of the next floor includes two showerheads. A light dome brings in natural light, and the frosted glass on the sliding barn door is made of the home’s old windows. The metal metal is in exactly the same masonry job employed from the kitchen.

Esther Hershcovich

On the opposite side of the top floor is an open, sun-filled area with doors resulting in the master bedroom and master bath. A futon opens up for visiting guests.

Esther Hershcovich

Mat-Pel crafted the mattress and side tables according to Leroux’s layout.

Esther Hershcovich

“You always need to hang your clothes on the doorknob, so that I left a strip of wood with doorknobs,” Leroux states. He made the piece from leftover scraps of wood and recycled porcelain doorknobs from ÉcoRéno.

The curtain holder was made with curved electricity pipes.

Esther Hershcovich

A massive piece of frosted glass repurposed from a porch doorway brings in additional light to your toilet.

Paint: Arôme de tabac 6074-63, Sico Ecosource

Esther Hershcovich

Sliding doors throughout the house maximize space.

Esther Hershcovich

Throughout the renovation the homeowners opened up access to the roof by adding a stairway.

Esther Hershcovich

The stairway leads to the 11- by 20-foot rooftop deck with views of Montreal and the Olympic Stadium. An herb garden includes thyme and chives.

Esther Hershcovich

The architectural structure of the greystone was retained intact. The only viewable change is the contemporary doorway to the next floor.

See more photographs of the home

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Fantastic Lakes Gardener's April Checklist

Fantastic Lakes gardeners are nearly giddy with all the things to see and do in April. The garden bursts into bloom, the garden facilities open with cool-season annuals beckoning and gardening starts in earnest.

Barbara Pintozzi

Welcome April Blooms

The larger bulbs take centre stage from the backyard in April, starting with daffodils, such as these sturdy Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’. They shrug off the April snow. Planting daffodils with early-, mid- and late-season blossoms extends the series.

Daffodils provide the most bang for your buck, as they are poisonous and mammals do not consume them, and they reunite reliably. They may be rejuvenated by dividing crowded clumps.

Barbara Pintozzi

When it would not be spring without large tulips, that the small-species tulips, such as this Tulipa humilis var. Violacea, are much more perennial. Like larger tulips, little species require protection from deer, squirrels and rabbits.

Minor bulbs squill (Scilla siberica), grape hyacinth (Muscari sp) along with attractiveness of the snow (Chionodoxa sp) make good companions for larger bulbs.

Barbara Pintozzi

Woody plants start blooming in April, beginning with forsythia (revealed) and continuing with flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp) and the native serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis).

Forsythias look best in their natural form. There is no need to shear them to keep size when there are many good dwarf cultivars available to fit in the smallest backyard without pruning.

Barbara Pintozzi

Some woody plants have blossoms that cologne the April backyard, including Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) and celebrity magnolia (Magnolia stellata), revealed.

Frosts and freezes can harm the delicate blossoms of magnolias, therefore be careful to site them at a safe location.

Barbara Pintozzi

Cherish Woodland Natives

Now is the perfect time to visit your nearest wooded area, be it a park, arboretum, botanical garden or character place, to visit woodland wildflowers in their glory.

Native spring ephemerals sprout and bloom beneath trees before they leaf out, for instance, tiny trout lily (Erythronium albidum), a species related to the showy exotic dog-tooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis), which also blossoms in April.

Barbara Pintozzi

The larger native bluebells (Mertensia virginica) bloom a sea of blue, then vanish. To prevent holes in the garden left by vanished spring ephemerals, plant hostas in front of them. The hostas will leaf out following the blooming display has ended.

Barbara Pintozzi

Native wildflowers (Thalictrum thalictroides, aka Anemonella thalictroides) are not emphemeral under moist conditions and may rebloom in fall in partial color.

Similarly, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blossoms in April, and its foliage may persist into fall to turn butter yellow under suitably moist conditions.

Barbara Pintozzi

The Egyptian hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. Obtusa) blossoms against the dark reddish old leaves prior to the green foliage emerges. In moist areas, skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) create their appearance.

These wildflowers can be good garden plants if you plant them in areas in your backyard that fit their preferred habitat.

See more Great Lakes native plants

Barbara Pintozzi

Remember April Garden Tasks

Sow cool-season annuals and edibles.
It’s time to sow cool-season annuals and plants, such as this ‘Merlot’lettuce (Latuca sativa), spinach(Spinacia oleracea), kale(Brassica oleracea) and peas(Pisum sativum). All these cool-season edibles can be sown in containers for an earlier crop.

Make certain the soil is workable prior to digging. To determine whether the soil is workable, gather a small amount into a ball in your hand. If it breaks apart easily, digging might start. If, however, the soil remains in a bulge, working it would harm its construction, and compacted soil hinders a plant’s ability to grow.

Barbara Pintozzi

Plant spring annuals in containers. If a trip to the backyard makes you unable to await the soil to be workable, plant spring annuals, such as pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) and Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus, revealed), wallflowers (Erysium), inventory (Matthiolia longipetala) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) in containers.

Once the soil is workable, perennials from the backyard can be added to the containers for a season-long screen.

Barbara Pintozzi

Welcome Wildlife

Butterflies create their first appearance in April, such as this painted woman on squill (Scilla siberica). Leave bare tiny areas of somewhat depressed soil from the backyard where butterflies can drink from mud puddles. Permit some native violets (Viola sororia) to remain in the yard for frittilary butterflies to use as host crops.

Migrating hummingbirds reach the Fantastic Lakes in April. Hang out feeders for them now.
Put plain sugar from the feeders; do not use anything with red dye in it, which may harm them. Change the nectar every three or four times in cool weather and every day after temperatures reach the 80s. Don’t forget to hang the claws at precisely the exact same location each year so that the hummingbirds can discover them.Clean nest boxes for other birds and provide nonsynthetic lint, string or hair in netting bags for birds to use as nesting materials.

Take time to observe the backyard and its occupants every day: Things change so quickly in April, you can almost see the crops growing.

More ways to bring wildlife into your backyard

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Belt Line

In architecture a belt line is a horizontal exterior trim element which wraps around a building. The belt line helps organize a home layout’s outside into zones and creates a reference line for the placement of windows and other architectural elements.

While a belt line could supply a rigid visual arrangement to an exterior layout, it may also be lively with various colours, measurements and placements.

A useful way to consider a belt line is it is the exterior equivalent of an interior seat rail or plate rail.

Architect, duo Dickinson

A belt line or two assists organize the exterior layout by dividing it into horizontal layers. The belt lines also provide a reference point for the placement of windows, which can be sometimes hung from a belt line and sometimes sit on the belt line.

Brennan + Company Architects

Occasionally a belt line could be interrupted by an important architectural element. Unlike many other windows which are suspended in the belt line in this photo, the big and special window breaks the belt line, bringing emphasis to itself and its own dominance.

LLC, K Architectural Design

By dividing an outside elevation into horizontal layers, then a belt line creates opportunities to utilize multiple exterior finish materials, colours and textures.

Adding a dominant vertical element a belt line proceeds through provides a way to weave exterior design elements together. And aligning the belt line along with other architectural elements, like a decrease roof fascia, can visually raise an upper level, providing it more existence.

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Access: 12 Bathroom Windows That Reveal Only the Views

Although the toilet is the most private room in a house, it’s lacking if it doesn’t have a window. Ideally a toilet window has a view and offers solitude, which may seem impossible but that can be achieved through different means (size and location of windows, coverings, orientation of this window and wall, articulation of exterior elements). This ideabook presents some baths with big windows which look upon enclosed courtyards or pocket gardens. These little exterior spaces, such as the internal courtyards I’ve championed before, create connections between outside and inside which are controlled enough to maintain ample solitude.

Renzo J Nakata Architects

This is the toilet that sparked me to find different examples and compose this ideabook. There’s a cohesion to the interior and outside spaces which is undeniable: the method by which in which the window fits above the bathtub and how the concrete-block-lined courtyard is all about precisely the same size as the bathtub. There’s solitude in the concrete wall, but somebody soaking in the bathtub still sees green above it and facing it.

Notice the track from the ceiling for a curtain in the shower, a way of preserving privacy in that alcove.

A pocket garden adjoining to the toilet also permits direct access, as this semiroofed space illustrates. The wood lining the walls shows how significant these surfaces are. Some folks might like the grey concrete of the prior case, for how plants pop from it, but others might prefer the colour and texture of wood.

Dirk Denison Architects

1 project with a profusion of little courtyards, a few of them serving baths, is that this dwelling in Marin County, California, designed by Chicago’s Dirk Denison Architects. The single-story, barrier-free plan has about 10 outdoor spaces of varying dimensions. Here we are taking a look at the master bathroom and its own pocket garden, which isn’t an inner courtyard, thus the wood fencing. (A shower and toilet on the other side of this mirror are also a part of the master bath.)

Although this house is a new construction, a toilet with a large view can be a part of a renovation. With the right fencing and plant (bamboo in this case), a wall can be opened and a private oasis generated just outdoors.

Dirk Denison Architects

An inner courtyard elsewhere in the house serves another toilet.

Dirk Denison Architects

Along with an enclosed, glass-walled shower in a different part of the house gives the feeling of showering outdoors but with the extreme privacy.

DeForest Architects

With bodily connections between baths and outside spaces via doors, like this glass slider, it is logical to continue architectural features between the spaces. The wood slats in this case are a really nice touch, tying the spaces together and providing an armature for shelves for soap and other things.

Eduarda Correa Arquitetura & Interiores

Based upon the climate, the connection between inside and outside can be even blurrier, such like this particular shower and bathtub sharing an outside space in Brazil. A courtyard such as this could also be enclosed in the elements (a glass or plastic roof above the structure) to allow it to be usable in different climates.

Cornerstone Architects

As mentioned already, a pocket garden can function a toilet as part of a renovation. 1 natural material choice is bamboo, a grass that grows like crazy and screens quite nicely.

Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects LLP

This bathroom is comparable to previous ones with the outside space from the shower, but in addition, it features a skylight, another way of making a view (of the sky) and bringing in light.

Swatt | Miers Architects

Sometimes a skylight might be the only means to open up a toilet. In these cases location and size are significant. This one sits beneath the shower, projecting light down the wall and enabling glances upward when one soaks in the bathtub.

Architects Magnus

But if shaping an outdoor space or inner courtyard isn’t feasible, there is the option of using special surfaces to maintain privacy and give the look of character. This bathroom has resin glazing using a bud pattern for the exterior; around the other hand is planted bamboo, therefore real nature and its own picture coincide.

Dorman Architects

Last is a bathroom in Ireland where the window perfectly serves the adjoining tub. In this case solitude results from careful framing and sizing of the window.

Dorman Architects

And this is the opinion from this window, a beautiful scene to soak in while soaking.

Share your key view: Do you have a mini garden opinion off your tub? We’d love to see a photo.

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HVAC Exposed! 20 Suggestions for Daring Ductwork

After something shunned and banished to crawl spaces and attics, exposed ductwork is on the increase for a design element — and as an energy-efficient alternative. Naturally, those contemplating vaulted ceilings or raising headroom within their home will need to consider what’s hidden above. Fantastic thing savvy designers understand how to generate a simple, utilitarian feature pack a major design punch. Playing size, shape, angles and color enables exposed systems to operate in almost any space.

Designer Cavin Costello of The Ranch Mine in Phoenix uses the approach when remodeling older houses without attic space. In sweltering cities in which temperatures frequently blow beyond 110 degrees, installing ductwork on roofs and piping cool air through the oven-like atmosphere doesn’t make sense in terms of energy efficiency. “You put the ducts in the envelope of the house, also it helps it keep cool,” Costello says. “It is more efficient. You don’t even have to add insulation at the top of them. It cuts down on cost like that, too.”

Here’s to maximum exposure.

The Ranch Mine

Regardless of the challenge of 8-foot-high ceilings, Costello needed to proceed with exposed ducts within this Phoenix-area home, because the midcentury house didn’t have attic space. The only other feasible option was to operate the machine on the roof — not effective in a scorching-hot city, nor aesthetically pleasing.

The Ranch Mine

To lower prices in another project, Costello went with an off-the-shelf-type duct. To make it unique, however — rather than remove from the wooden support beam — he split the system into two smaller vents rather than having one big one.

Peter A. Sellar – Architectural Photographer

Smart ductwork can solve cognitive difficulties, too. A towering ceiling becomes mediated by exposed beams and symmetrical ductwork here.

Elad Gonen

Sleek and minimalist, this magnificent duct is a powerful decor statement all its own.

Domiteaux + Baggett Architects, PLLC

Likewise, this simple design is an eye-pleasing element in a contemporary dining area.


Even the simplest models can work miracles. Here, room-spanning ductwork enlightens a modern design wrapped in rustic timber.

Ryan Duebber Architect, LLC

The exposure system works in areas with low ceilings. In this basement lounge area, a jet-black duct system adds depth to an otherwise closed-in area.

Thom Filicia Inc..

Painting the vulnerable system here pares it down, making way for textural impact in line with the diverse decor.

Momoko Morton

On the flip side, the big, rectangular duct here takes the bold and edgy decor one step farther.

Rad Design Inc

Getting creative with angles allows this system at a Toronto loft dazzle. The tube cascades from a bedroom to the living and kitchen spaces, paralleling the stairs path.

Nicholas Moriarty Interiors

Slick exposed metal causes a fashionable stir within this masculine scheme.

In wood-happy spaces, big shimmering metal accents help divide the material palette.

Elad Gonen

But don’t feel confined to metal. Consider painting ductwork to complement different components.

Angela Todd Designs, Portland, OR

The ceiling is a superb place for incorporating comparison, too. Although this kitchen says urban nation, the ceiling screams modern industrial.

Gus Duffy AIA

A duct run across a wall rather than down the centre adds play while allowing the exposed rafters steal the show .

Charleston Home + Design Mag

Exposed ducts allow ceilings being erase impeded by homeowners. Here it started up a head-turning stability of lines.

Jane Kim Design

Tucked away in gorgeous wood rafters, this system offers a welcome piece of surprise.

Exposed ducts don’t have to be confined to only open living spaces. This small and subtle one is a slam dunk in this bedroom.

Spacecrafting / Architectural Photography

Subtle changes in size and form may draw the eyes together numerous blank lines.

Sandvold Blanda Architecture + Interiors LLC

A crisp corner-hugging layout instills the sophisticated vibe of this TV room.

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Must-Know Modern Home: Villa Savoye

In the 1920s Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, 1887–1965) developed his influential Five Points Toward a New Architecture through Posts in the journal L’Esprit Nouveau and a series of residential commissions. These culminated in 1931 with the conclusion of the Villa Savoye outside Paris, which is thought to be one of the most important buildings — residential or otherwise — of the modern movement.

The home encapsulates all his Five Points — “the supports, the roof gardens, the free design of the ground plan, the flat window, and the free design of the facade,” in Le Corbusier’s words. And in its manipulation of abstract kind that breaks from historic precedents, it influenced many generations of architects. Here’s a tour of the must-know modern home.

Villa Savoye at a Glance
Year built: 1931
Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Location: Poissy, France
Visiting info: Individual and group tours available
Size: 1,340 square feet

More: 10 Must-Know Modern Homes

This country villa for Pierre and Emilie Savoye is located about 20 miles west of Paris, in what was a rural area in the time of its structure. Le Corbusier (who worked for 2 years along with his cousin Pierre with this and other endeavors) took the simple commission and turned it into a definite understanding of his Five Points manifesto. At the villa he shows how much expressive possible can be obtained using his or her theory.

The design can also be seen as the articulation of structure’s three primary components: flat slabs (flooring), vertical piers (structural columns) and walls (particularly facades). Lance LaVine, in his book Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture, parallels Le Corbusier’s search for meaning in these components with physicists’ turn-of-the-century discoveries of character’s constituent components: electrons, protons and neutrons.

Technology, as used in science and engineering, was a big influence on Le Corbusier, and the Villa Savoye further embodies his idea of the home as a “machine for living” — an expression he coined. Nevertheless that is always balanced by his view of the home as a machine to move you emotionally; it could be argued that this hall accomplishes.

Development encircled the villa at the decades since it had been finished, however, the building’s designation as a French national monument in the 1960s has allowed a lot of its first character to be maintained (and of course that it saved the building from ruin following the household left handed it circa World War II, and it was subsequently used for, among other things, a hay barn). The trees to the south east of the square building are pretty much exactly the exact same now as when the building was complete, though the open vista to the north and west was closed in by trees which help block the college and other buildings on those sides.

The trees on the south guaranteed that the loved ones and visitors (coming by automobile, no doubt) would experience the home in an opening after passing through the trees. As we will see, this promenade architecturale (a path strictly defined by the structure) continues into the home itself. Le Corbusier had written concerning the strategy to the Parthenon in Athens; Villa Savoye is a modern update to the therapy of strategy.

Le Corbusier had written that “the home must not have a front … it has to open out to the four horizons” Nonetheless, the south facade has become the most rear-like, stemming from the way in which the ground floor is not shining in the middle, and since the roof enclosure is only barely visible. The strategy shown here — the main approach — only hints at what the villa provides.

Among the most distinctive areas of the ground floor is that the porte cochere that wraps three sides of the building. Le Corbusier’s embrace of the automobile hauled (no pun intended) the plan, so the distance between the pilotis (slender columns) and outside wall is wide enough for a vehicle to pass through.

On north side of the building, the ground-floor walls become semicircular, based on the turning radius of an auto. Among those Savoye family’s three cars (one for each member of the wealthy household) could then stop in the entry in the middle of the semicircle, before the chauffeur would continue on around the west to park it at the three-car garage.

This north altitude is certainly more sculptural than the south side, and it also clearly occupies all the Five Points: The piano nobile (second floor) is lifted above the ground on an grid of pilotis; the walls of the floor are free from those columns; upstairs, a lengthy ribbon window extends from corner to corner; the window sits in the front of the columns, demonstrating the free facade; the curved walls in the roof specify 1 side of the roof garden.

Among the subtly intriguing characteristics of the design (covered at length in LaVine’s book) is how the structure appears regular but in fact changes in the grid when required. This view of the entrance from just beyond the pilotis shows why: The centre column is aligned with the doorway behind it, meaning that when the structure were at a regular grid, a column could land just behind the doorway, blocking entrance to the home.

So Corbusier doubled up the columns in 1 direction (left to right in the photograph) and altered them in the other direction; the paired columns and linking column are visible behind the glass round the entry door. This structural flexibility comes from utilizing concrete for those columns, beams and slabs. The material readily allows such manipulations.

However, this frees up and changing of those columns (what LaVine calls conditional structure, versus the exterior’s rationalstructure) doesn’t merely serve front doorway; it allows for a fundamental ramp which extends out of the ground floor all the way to the roof. This view of the entrance hall shows what the loved ones and visitors were faced with: the ramp onto one side, the spiral stair onto the other, and a washbasin placed on a column in between. (Beyond would be the maids’ rooms and the laundry room.)

Ramp or stair, each means of vertical circulation makes turns since it rises to provide people glimpses of different parts of the home and the environment. Both wind up on the next floor in a hallway near the large living room and the equally generous terrace to its south. A glass wall adjacent to the ramp opens to the patio and shows the outside ramp that heads up to the roof garden.

Before heading to the living space, let’s take a brief detour to the bedrooms. Here’s the bedroom at the southeast corner of the home. (Floor plans are found at the end of the ideabook.) While it shows how well the ribbon windows frame the surrounding landscape, this view is also interesting as it illustrates how Corbusier used color across the inside (and even the outside, given that the ground floor walls have been painted green, and the renowned International Style display and book of 1932 explain the roof enclosure as “blue and rose,” though since its recovery those walls are white). What’s more, the wall using a round corner on the side is in fact created by the bathtub in the adjoining bathroom bumping into the bedroom.

Access to the master bedroom happens through a corridor along with the master bath. This view in the bedroom shows how the two spaces are connected by an undulating bench in tile which echoes Corbusier’s famous chaise longue (observable in the entrance hall photograph and the following photograph, of the living room).

This famed view of a famed bathroom illustrates the open plan which Corbusier encouraged as one of his Five Points, even though it does it in a subtle way. Like any place at the villa, the columns don’t relate to surrounding walls; remember the columns sitting just outside the semicircular glass walls on the floor. The columns are freestanding, removed from the walls, even if by only about a foot.

The room is a large space that is generous by the standards of today. It can really be seen as a progenitor of today’s large “living areas.” Here we’re looking from before the kitchen. The foreground space could be utilized as the dining area; the fireplace suggests a split between the living room.

The expansion of the flat window in the living room to the patio gives cohesion to the outside (first picture), but in addition, it provides a constant framing of the surrounding landscape, no matter whether one is inside or outside.

The living room is connected to the patio through a huge sliding glass wall which faces south. This exposure means lots of sunlight enters the living room and the patio, in which a concrete table provides for outdoor dining.

A good deal of the design begins to fall into place once we step outside onto the patio. Here the skies — gone since we entered the porte cochere– reenters the image. The home can be seen as a tripartite layering of knowledge and meaning: The ground floor is a sheltered connection to ground which also helps boost the living spaces above it ; the next floor is your enclosed national realm that is protected from the elements nevertheless frames the trees and other environment throughout the ribbon windows; the roof connects one to the skies and a larger context visible beyond the trees.

That opinion beyond the trees is the main reason for a north-facing window which Corbusier cut into an enclosure which provides some privacy and a feeling of containment on the roof. This frame (which would not have appeared at a building in 1931) sends one’s gaze far in the space. It’s the culmination of the promenade architecturale that goes out of the automobile to the ramp (or stair) which zigzags together with the interior and exterior spaces. It’s an experience well worth getting, and thankfully this house’s national monument designation allows that.

Boyer, M. Christine. Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres. Princeton Architectural Press, 2011. Centre des Monuments Nationaux
Conrads, Ulrich, ed. Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. MIT Press, 1994 (first published in 1964).Frampton, Kenneth. Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century. Abrams, 2002. Hitchcok, Henry-Russell and Johnson, Philip. The International Style. W. W. Norton, 1995. (Originally published in 1932.)
Le Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. Dover, 1986. (Originally printed as Vers une Architecture at 1923.)
LaVine, Lance. Mechanics and Meaning in Architecture. University of Minnesota Press, 2001. Park, Steven. Le Corbusier Redrawn: The Houses. Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.

More: 10 Must-Know Modern Homes

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Have Your Open Kitchen and Close It Off

Allow me to say up front that at the great debate on open versus closed kitchens, I am firmly onto the open-plan team. I’ve helped dozens of layout clients tear down walls and open kitchens up to adjoining spaces, and demo day always brings enormous smiles as the homeowners obtain their first glimpse of what the newly opened-up kitchen is going to look and feel like.

However, after years of living with kitchens that are open, I realize there are many detractors amongst us. There are individuals who entertain and cook often and do not particularly like to have their own kitchen mess in open view of their guests. Some would rather not smell their dinner through the home long after it has been prepared and eaten. I propose that you can have your open-plan kitchen but use some suggestions to shut it off to conceal a mess, or to keep your guests from underfoot as you prepare your own feast.

Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc

Give Yourself Options

Consider installing a large sliding barn door or 2, to allow you the flexibility of having a spacious or closed kitchen. You can keep it available for everyday use — to delight in the open, expansive feel and circulation of light — while using the choice to close those doors if you want to keep children, pets out or visitors, or to conceal the prep mess while entertaining.

K.Marshall Design Inc..

Close off the part of the kitchen which sees the most action — like the area close to the primary sink or range. You can keep the rest of the kitchen, which perhaps doesn’t get overly cluttered, open and accessible to all.

diSalvo Interiors

If you want to have the ability to shut off the kitchen but still want to have an open atmosphere and light, put in a door made of a translucent material. You can close it to block out cooking scents or sounds without feeling entirely closed off from the rest of the home.

Allen Construction

These folding doors above the island are a brilliant way to produce a hybrid open-closed kitchen.

Bushman Dreyfus Architects

Visually Close It Away

That really is a cool option for a contemporary loft space. Metal mesh drapes installed on a monitor allow the kitchen to go from open to closed. The kitchen still has an open feel, but the drape can disguise any kitchen messes. It certainly discourages visitors from getting in the way while someone is elbow deep in meal prep, too.

Gast Architects

This kitchen combines closed and open in a means which allows the chef to still be a part of the party. A peninsula limits the circulation of traffic to the kitchen also creates more space for working cooking magic. Upper cabinets add to the partially enclosed effect.

Laidlaw Schultz architects

Raise Your Isle

If it’s not so much children or guests circulating to your kitchen area that disturbs you, but more a necessity to disguise meal-prep messes, consider increasing the far end of your island. It provides visitors a nice place to perch at as you work in the sink or cooktop, too.

Suyama Peterson Deguchi

Viewed from outside the kitchen, a raised island will obstruct the view to the kitchen work surfaces.

Loop Design

Insert a Half Wall

This kitchen opens to the adjacent dining area, but a half wall provides some separation. Additionally, it hides most of the work surfaces in the kitchen from perspective. This setup means someone can easily mingle together and serve guests without having the remains of their meal prep on full screen.

Vent the Smells

when you have an open-plan kitchen and cook often, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to put in a high quality, properly powered venting hood which vents to the outside. A recirculating blower simply will not cut it ; you need to receive the cooking smells up and out of your home.

Here is a guide to selecting and installing the correct vent hood to your kitchen.

Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects

Invest in Quieter Appliances

you desire your port hood to efficiently eliminate kitchen odors within a spacious kitchen, and you also want it to be quiet. Some port hoods and dishwashers are so loud when they are running, it’s like you are hanging out on a aircraft carrier once you are close to them. Great sound-dampened appliances are going to cost you more, but they’re worth it if you are dedicated to an open-plan concept and do not want to listen to excess blower sound.

Inform us : Can you prefer an open or closed kitchen? What are your tips for making it work for you?

See more kitchen design guides on

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Dreaming in Colour: 8 Magnificent Gray Bedrooms

Last week we looked at dramatic black bedrooms, so let us go several notches lighter this week and investigate the numerous shades of gray for bedrooms. I really like gray for its flexibility. You can go dark or light, warm or cool, and set the neutral with almost any other color. Cool grays appear fantastic combined with warm wood tones, or go for a warmer gray and add a few black, white or metallic accents for a clean, sophisticated vibe.

Read on for a sampling of stunning gray-clad bedrooms on , along with suggestions for pulling together your very own gray-hued room.


This trendy gray wall color gets heated up well by the rich wood tones in the room. Touches of apple green and white around out this pleasingly modern palette.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Englewood Cliffs out of Benjamin Moore.

Chantel Elshout Design Consultancy

Add immediate elegance to your bedroom with grey walls. It is a great pick for showing off decorative white-painted trim because of the contrast it offers. Of course, a dark hue could eat up a great deal of light in the area and look somewhat apartment. Counteract by adding sparkling elements to the room, like the stunning chandelier found here.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get the Appearance with Down Pipe out of Farrow & Ball.

Kat Alves Photography

Here is another example of utilizing gray to set off intriguing architectural details — a dramatic sloped ceiling. A medium gray like this won’t compete with other colours, including artwork. But it offers just enough shade to help break up the walls in the ceiling.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Carolina Gull from Pratt & Lambert.

Vicente Burin Architects

Conversely, you can leave the walls white, or another light hue, and add gray to the ceiling. This makes a more intimate vibe, perfect for a bedroom.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Gray Stone out of Pittsburgh Paints.

i3 design group

So dark it is almost black, that this profound gray is a very dramatic choice. To keep your bedroom out of feeling gloomy or cave-like, it can help to have a minumum of one big window that brings in abundant sunlight. White linens also brighten the space and appear crisp and clean against the darkened walls.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Five O’Clock Shadow out of Kelly-Moore Paints.

j&o studio

Utilize a bold or dark shade to create a focal point in the room, like about the headboard wall. It produces a wonderful background for art art and fabrics. Your accent wall will stand out, if you keep the remaining walls and ceiling light-hued.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Sealskin out of Sherwin-Williams.

Chris Snook

Not a lover of walls? On the lookout for something lighter and thicker? It is OK, you can still go gray. I find that gray is among those few colors that is gratifying no matter how dark or light you go. Even the lightest shades won’t ever read as pastel or thin and one-note. This super-soft gray adds a layer of color and contrast to the soothing bedroom.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar appearance with Paddlewheel Grey out of Glidden.

Anders Adelfang

My favorite shades of light gray possess a bit of green or blue. They are a nice “new neutral” option to white, white, beige or authentic gray. The hint of watery green or blue gives them a calm vibe that is ideal for a bedroom.

Jennifer Ott Design

Get a similar look with Chapel Spire out of Mythic Paint.

Inform us : Can you go gray in your bedroom? Are you a lover of dark and dramatic or soft and serene?

Just for fun (and color swatches): 50 Colors of Gray

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