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Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Oyster House Wins Affordable Housing Contest


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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Sometimes you come across the best little gems when you least expect it. Reading The Cape Cod Times the other day and learned about the contest winners of an affordable housing design competition held by the Cape Cod Modern Trust and other partners. Learn more about the competition.

Out of 120 entries, this 700-square foot, year-round house won. It has a pentagon-shaped footprint and one bedroom. The design team CxMxD included Christopher Lee, Mengyi Fan and Dungjai Pungauthaikan. The home costs $108,000 to build but that cost goes down as the number of houses increases.

From the winning entry:

Oyster House sets a new standard for entry-level housing in Wellfleet, Cape Cod. Developable land in Cape Cod is at a premium since much of the open space is now protected natural landscape. By building smaller, Oyster House achieves more density with less impact on Cape Cod’s precious landscape. Oyster House uses less; less energy, less building material, less building area. Simultaneously, the house does more. Its pentagonal plan makes for easy siting in multiple orientations, maximizing privacy, permitting views, and responding to the sun’s path through the southern sky. While the proposed project is situated on 91 Point Point Way, the house is conceived of as a repeatable unit that can be deployed across multiple sites in the town of Wellfleet.

This area has such a rich history of artist and writer’s colonies, as well as cutting-edge, mid-century modern architecture that tread lightly on the land, that the competition and winning design is very fitting.

All renderings via


Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Field Trip: The Olson House


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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In Cushing, Maine, on a peninsula that just out into the awe-strikingly beautiful St. George’s River sits the Olson House. This house was made most famous by Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” which is part of MoMA’s permanent collection. Wyeth and his wife Betsy  became close friends with the owners and Wyeth went on to use an upstairs room as a studio. The Olson House is owned by The Farnsworth Museum, a gem of a smaller art museum in Rockland Maine. Admission to the Farnsworth gets you a pass to visit The Olson House as well, which is about a 20 minute drive from the museum.

photo by Becky Harris

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth

Betsy Wyeth described the house as “looming up like a weathered ship stranded on a hilltop.

photo by Becky Harris

Today patina style and rustic are very popular, and this old home is just so beautiful you realize it could never be replicated, but it serves as wonderful vernacular inspiration. Its simplicity and wonderful proportions makes it almost modern:

photo by Becky Harris

Its charm comes from a number of things, from the variation on the boards to the old glass used in the windows:

photo by Becky Harris

To the rusty hinges on the doors:

photo by Becky Harris

To the oil lamp inside the window:

photo by Becky Harris

Of course, the bucolic fields of wildflowers, evergreen forests and saltwater river nearby don’t hurt either:

photo by Becky Harris

If you’re ever anywhere near Thomaston, Maine (about two hours north of Portland), I highly recommend a visit.

Learn more information about The Olson House’s hours, admission and directions (watch out very carefully for signs, there’s a turn or two that’s easy to miss)


Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

5 Spectacular Bridge Houses


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

The idea of a home spanning a valley, creek, crevasse, what have you, is fascinating to me. While we’re all familiar with the jutting cantilever  over the falls at Fallingwater, there are other ways to span flowing waters and valleys. Intrepid architects have attempted this with different styles combined with feats of engineering, creating bridge houses. Here’s a look at some of the most stunning examples around today.

photo by Sam Noonan

This Bridge House is by Max Pritchard Architect, built in 2008. This home is located in Adelaide, Australia and spans a winter creek that babbles along well beneath its floors.

photo by Sam Noonan

photo by Christiaan de Bruijne

This villa in the Dutch Achterhoek was designed by 123DV Architecture and completed in 2011, and is totally self sustainable. Its long horizontal lines suit the park around it.

Taking a step back in time to a mid-century precedent bridge house – this is the Warner House, built in 1958 in New Canaan, Connecticut. I believe I featured it years ago when it was on the market and it was featured on the Modern House Notes blog. The home was designed by John M. Johansen.

Photo via Studio Green Landscape Architecture

This architect of this beautiful home, Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, decided to place this house in a valley instead of on a hilltop in Marin County, California, fitting into the landscape yet contrasting with it via its strong lines and Corten steel panels that will patina over time. The house, completed in 2005, has elegant heft yet treads lightly on the land. The surrounding landscape is by Studio Green Landscape Architecture. Winter creeks travel underneath the home seasonally.

photo by Curt Clayton

Architect Wilfred John Oskar designed this stunning bridge house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it was completed in 2008. The modern structure makes the most of the views of the surrounding bucolic landscape and natural light.

photo by Curt Clayton

Would you live in a bridge house? If so, where would your ideal location for it be?


Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Game of Thrones Style


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

Have you been bitten by the Game of Thrones bug? It took me two seasons before I decided to jump in, but then I binged on both seasons over a very lazy weekend. I was like Fred and Carrie and Battlestar Galactica on Portlandia. Thank goodness there weren’t more episodes available, or I would have lost my job and all sense of personal hygiene.

As a big chair fanatic, I have to wonder why everyone wants this very uncomfortable chair made out of swords so badly. It certainly does not look childproof or tetanus proof or impale your buttocks-proof. However, the sets and locations on the show are absolutely mind-blowing, and always make me wonder just how expensive each episode is to produce. Here’s a look at some high GoT style.

Luxurious bedding. The upper crust in GoT enjoys featherbeds, silk canopies, ornate fringe, fur throws, dmask and gilded details. Much better than those who live in Fleabottom.

Fancy game boards. War strategies include using intricately carved pieces in a medieval version of Risk. Dark gothic castles provide dungeons and turrets.

Uninviting man caves. The men of the Night’s Watch live at the edge, an edge provided by one heck of a wall in the very chilly north.

Tent city. Travel lodging runs the gamut, but those who are privileged are more into glamping.

Caves and classical Greek columns combined. Scary people worship the Lord of the Light inside at the firepit.

Forts. Even the strongest fortifications will not protect slave owners from dragons.

Family pride through design. Your house’s crest is of the utmost importance. People respect and fear houses represented by lions and direwolves much more than ones represented by a golden rose. Something to keep in mind if you’re designing a family crest.

Do you like to geek out every Sunday night to Game of Thrones? Please let me know I’m not alone and leave a comment!

All photos via


Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Eero Saarinen’s Greatest Hits


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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I am so excited for Museum of Design Atlanta’s upcoming Eero Saarinen exhibit – it starts this Sunday April 14th and will run through June 30, 2013. For those of you who won’t be in Atlanta during that time, I thought we could do a post on Saarinen here to let you enjoy his work too. Here’s a quick peek at a fe of his greatest hits:

The Miller House, Columbus, Indiana 1957: Now owned and maintained by The Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Miller House is open for tours. If you visit, be sure to pay attention the landscape by Daniel Urban Kiley; it’s one of the most spectacular modern gardens in the U.S. and the interior fun provided by Alexander Girard. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to plan ahead if you’re planning a trip to the modern-architecture rich Columbus! You can buy them here.

photos via The Indianapolis Museum of Art

The TWA Terminal at JFK 1962: The last time I was in this building, it was leaky and there was a bird flying around, but this architecture was all about the Jet Age, back when flying was glamorous and exciting:

photo by Ezra Stoller

John Deere Headquarters, Moline, Illinois 1964: After catching the eye of John Deere’s president, William Hewitt with his designs, Saarinen designed the striking headquarters for the company. The project is a wonderful example of modern architecture living in harmony with its surroundings:

photo via

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis 1965: One of the most iconic structures (at 630 feet high, it’s also the tallest monument) in the U.S. is also by Saarinen. Again, he teamed up with Dan Kiley to complete the landscape. Isn’t this picture crazy? It gives me vertico just thinking about it, and it also makes me miss my erector set!

Saarinen’s furniture designs continue to be some of the most popular examples of mid-century modern style today.

He designed the Womb Chair (1964) at the behest of his good pal Florence Knoll, who wanted a chair she could curl up in. If one wants to stretch out in it, the matching ottoman is a great addition.

Of course, his tulip table, a.k.a. Knoll Saarinen Table (1956), is one of the most iconic pieces of furniture from the mid-century modern period. Saarinen was not fond of legs and wanted a cleaner look when it came to kitchen and dining areas. “The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world,” he said. “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again.”

For a typical kitchen table with four legs plus four chairs, Saarinen decreased “the slum of legs” from 20 legs to 5 pedestals. Not too shabby!

For those of you in Atlanta during the next few months, be sure to check out MODA’s Eero Saarinen exhibit!


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