A 1920s Classic In Washington DC

June 16, 2013 | 3 comments

While visiting Washington DC a couple years ago, I spent a day exploring the Kalorama neighborhood and happened upon this house tucked away on a back street. It immediately captured my eye and I'd have to say it's one of my favorites of the many great houses I saw that day. It has that wonderful 1920s charm in its scale and materials. Details abound.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture that shows the entire front facade. This picture gives you a good idea, though, of the house's size and its many architectural details. You'll notice the brick has that sought after faded from white patina that people often attempt to replicate but can't because only time can create it.

Notice also the weathered awning over the front door and the great crunchy texture of the slate roof.

You can see the rest of the front facade in this picture. The right side is my favorite.

This full view of the right side elevation showcases its many details. The dark painted half timbering appears freshly painted and is the perfect compliment to the color palette, helping to draw out the color of the darker bricks interspersed. You can also see some of the amazing attention to detail in the brick work here.

This close up view shows that brick was used to form the cornice instead of wood. I love this detail. Why aren't more houses built this way? I'm also particularly fond of the leaded glass windows.

The right side elevation shows a couple diminutive dormers peaking out of the roof. It's tough to notice the scale of them here, but in person you notice they are on the smaller side, which adds to their charm. Notice also the mitered slate roof, a detail I always gravitate towards.

The house has a great chimney with its banding and a crown to match the cornice below the roof eaves. You can also see the dormers a bit better here. Notice they have the same mitered slate as the main roof.

Looking back through these photos reminds me that I need to get back to DC to hunt for more houses like this. I love the hunt.

It's been a long time since I blogged last and I hope that I can find some momentum to pick things back up where I left off. I still have the same passion for architecture and design, just less time to write about it. You can follow me on Instagram now, though, for more up to date mini-posts on some of my adventures to find interesting architecture, design and landscapes.


October 31, 2011 | 9 comments

Ancient yet modern, classic yet contemporary, masculine yet feminine, textural, whimsical. The adjectives go on, and so could I about fluting. I've developed a fond appreciation for all of the qualities that fluting adds to architecture and design. The pictures above and below of the Parthenon in Greece highlight both the beauty and timelessness of fluting as a pattern and element of design.

You so often hear about how critical of a role that texture plays in neutral color schemes. The texture is the visual interest that breaks things up and softens, what could otherwise be, a harsh monochromatic palette. This is brilliantly displayed in the following designs.

What better way to start off than to showcase a rather popular room in a house designed by McAlpine Tankersley. The half wall running across the back of this room has a fluted surface that adds bold texture to the palette of mostly white and creme colored furnishings. The wall is used to partition a very large room (60 feet long with 14 foot ceilings) into separate living areas. If you look closely, you'll notice the large-scale urns echo the fluting on the wall.

A room in a house designed by architect Ruard Veltman really accentuates the fluting. Notice the ceiling is fluted too, mirroring that of the fireplace wall. Fluting shows up regularly in Ruard's designs and he's quite genius about the unique ways he uses it to apply texture.

I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Ruard at an impromptu visit to his office in Charlotte (more on that later) and during our conversation he mentioned that the fluting on the fireplace wall was achieved with plaster. We didn't discuss the ceiling, but I suspect it was done with machined wood. Ruard also mentioned some other applications of fluting that he has in design. I won't spoil the surprise, we'll have to wait until the houses are built and photographed.

Notice anything else in this room? There are fire balls in the fireplace. Another design favorite.

A recent article in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles showcased the beautiful collaboration between architects Thomas Paul Bates and Jeremy Corkern of Bates Corkern Studio and designer Betsy Brown, both of which I've become quite enamored with the work of. Fluting makes a dramatic display in this mid-rise building in Birmingham. Fluted paneling is used on the walls leading to the kitchen and used to cover the cabinetry throughout the kitchen.

Both whimsical and textural, this fluted onyx tub enclosure captures your attention in a bathroom designed by architect William Hefner. I find this design to be quite creative and intriguing in a world where so many bathrooms seem the same.

Speaking of bathrooms, designer Betsy Brown used fluted wood on the cantilevered vanity in the master bath in her home that she renovated with the help of Bates Corkern Studio. Clearly these folks need to keep collaborating. Their teaming yields great design.

As a side note, I discovered that Betsy's house will be on a home tour in Birmingham in December. I will not be missing that. A road trip to Birmingham for some architectural tourism is way overdue.

Fluting can be applied to not just wood and plaster, but metal too as seen in this kitchen designed by Pursley Architecture. Keeping the stainless steel flat wouldn't have been nearly as visually striking as this fluted design.

Another fluted design by Ken Pursley in the form of a demilune vanity. Look closely and you can get a larger view of the vanity in the reflection of the mirror. The heather gray wood is a perfect complement to the gray veining of the marble.

The distinct island in the foreground of this kitchen features a fluted surface along the top and down the sides of the base. It's hard to see this detail, but if you look closely, you'll see the shadows cast by the concave grooves. Architecture by Ruard Veltman.

Fluting is often used in furniture design too, as illustrated in this beautiful room by Melanie Turner. The Barbara Barry table between the tufted chairs features a fluted band. Despite the limited color in this room's palette, it shines because of the textural variety among the tufting, fluting and hide upholstery. Photo via Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, May 2005 by Erica George Dines.

Another style of fluting in furniture design is highlighted in the band around the top of this table. Design by Haynes Roberts.

Coming full circle, a picture of Bobby McAlpine's former personal residence features a fluted side table. The table looked to me to be an architectural fragment of a piece of a stone doric column. I could only imagine how heavy that might be. Greg Tankersley informed me, however, that this table was made of cast concrete and designed by their firm.

Apparently, there were several tables made of the cast concrete. I have noticed the table showing up in a number of McAlpine Tankersley designs, including the former office shown above. My understanding is that a collaboration with Elegant Earth is underway to produce similar designs from concrete.

A more organic, and one might say contemporary, design by Bradley Hughes showcases yet another visually striking example of fluting in furniture design. Evocative of the natural beauty of trees, it hearkens back to what Vitruvius described as being the inspiration for fluting in classical architecture. The unique table is fashioned out of concrete and can be customized in color and dimension.

I'll conclude this post with one of the most unique examples of fluting that I've come across. The sofa pictured above sits along a common area overlooking a firepit at Alys Beach in Florida. The sofa was crafted from concrete and stone. Notice the fluted band of stone along the bottom of the sofa. It lends the appearance of a slipcover. The bolster pillows made of out of stone were also particularly interesting.

When I browsed through my photo collection looking for pictures for this post I realized how prolific fluting is in furniture design. It shows up everywhere from paneling, to banding, to lamp bodies and more. I particularly like how something so old and classic is constantly being reinvented and reinterpreted in new ways. A design that is truly timeless.

Thank you to the architects who graciously provided me with photos for this post.

A Stone French Manor In Lake Forest

February 11, 2011 | 40 comments

Before a recent trip to Chicago I had seen an estate listing in Architectural Digest for a house in Lake Forest, Illinois that I was intrigued by. It stood out to me because it was white and English in style, both of which I have an affinity for. Having never been to (or even heard of) Lake Forrest, I did a little research and discovered that Lake Forest would be full of the classic architecture that I love. So, when I got to Chicago I made it a point to visit Lake Forest, a short trip north of the city.

With some creative Googling I was able to find the house (sans address) I had seen in Architectural Digest. The house was interesting, but it looked better in print than it looked in person. All was not lost though. I discovered the house featured here while touring the general area. And what a house it is!

The house is mostly hidden from the street, but I was able to catch enough of a glimpse driving by that I knew I had to stop and check it out. I thoroughly enjoy poking around construction sites, especially those of houses with architectural interest and integrity. While the house is quite large, no detail was overlooked and nothing felt out of scale as things often do with big houses. This house is built with only the finest materials: stone, limestone, slate, copper and steel windows.

I've arranged the photos in this post in clockwise sequence so you can do the same walking tour that I did.

Getting started, you can see above that the front entrance had not been constructed yet. I'm imagining a limestone door surround must have been on the plan. Anything else wouldn't be right.

As we head to the left, the detail you immediately notice is how extensively limestone was used as an accent to the fieldstone facade. The window surrounds, the quoins, the X-motif in the railing and if you look closely, the horizontal banding. Given this blog's moniker, I'm sure it comes as no surprise how much I like all of the limestone.

The portion of the structure with the hipped roof in the middle of the photo is a 2 car garage with an entrance on the other side. The structure on the left in the distance is an additional 3 car detached garage as you'll see in the next photo.

Moving along you get a good glimpse of the detached garage. The single bay on the left of this picture is constructed as a small turret. I enjoyed the diminutive dormers and the polish they added to what is typically a utilitarian structure. No expense was being spared at this house.

I'm not sure what the structure in the middle of this picture is. It's detached from the garage and the main house. Perhaps it's an office or chapel of sorts. If you click this photo to enlarge it, you can get a good glimpse at the beautiful slate roof. You can also see the interesting scale of the structure. The roofline comes down quite low. I find the scale to be intriguing. Almost like it's a playhouse for children and scaled down more to a smaller person.

Jumping back to the slate roof, if you pay close attention, you'll notice the clean joints where the opposing sides come together. Typically there is a top cap used at the joint, but here the joints come together to form a sharp edge. I especially like that clean look and the effect it has on a roof's appearance. I have been told it's more expensive to construct that way.

Here you can see that the main house's furthest most wing mirrors the scale of the structure we just looked at. I'm tall and could probably easily hop up on the roof at it's lowest point here. Looking at the small windows that are very close to the ground, I wonder if they are purely decorative or are low to perhaps let light into a stairwell leading to a basement. I didn't really think of that when I was at the house so I didn't investigate. Plus the house was locked so I couldn't venture inside.

As we turn the corner, the rear facade begins to reveal itself. The back of the house was given as much or more attention to detail as the front. Notice that the limestone accents weren't reserved for just the front of the house as they so often are to save money.

A better view of the back of the house begins to show my personal favorite detail: the decorative limestone window surrounds. Enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see the intricate detail of the surround in the center of this picture.

Here you can see the rest of the rear facade. The 3 windows behind the scaffolding are steel, another personal favorite.

A close up picture reveals the contemporary look of the steel windows. Look carefully and you'll see the beautiful detailing of the limestone surrounding the steel windows and doors. Perfection.

As we start to make our way back around to the front of the house, you can see the interesting window surround detail was applied on the side of the house too. I don't recall what the area on the inside of the large wall was. It was still under construction obviously, but I'm thinking some sort of patio now.

I just had to show a close up of one of the limestone window surrounds. I was so mesmerized by them. I especially like that the surrounds are flush with the fieldstone facade. Nice and clean, a tailored appearance.

This photo also affords a good view of the horizontal banding. I was quite enamored with that too. I like the way it breaks up a large facade and makes things feel not so overwhelming.

I also couldn't help but include this photo of a large swath of pachysandra (another favorite) that is presumably original to the property. I'm glad the team building the house recognized the beauty of the existing landscape and preserved it instead of just clearing everything away and starting over out of convenience.

I'll conclude the walking tour with a view from the house into the backyard. As you can see, it's quite a large lot - 3 acres or more I'd guess. I can envision a beautiful pool going in with lush landscaping surrounding it. Amazing.

I'll have to schedule another trip to Chicago just so I can see how the house came out. I'm especially curious about the front door and surround. I have a penchant for limestone door surrounds and have to think that something very tasteful was selected to compliment the rest of the house.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. I've had this house in mind for a post for some time, but am just now getting time to put it together. Despite my lack of posts lately I've really had architecture and design on the brain alot. My excitement for houses never seems to wane.

UPDATE: See the 5th comment down by Anonymous for some history on the house. It turns out that this isn't a completely new build and the original house had pedigree.

** Don't forget that you can click the photos to enlarge them. Most of the photos I include in my posts are much larger in size than they are displayed in the post.

The Urns Of Washington DC

November 7, 2010 | 24 comments

A couple months back this house in Washington DC was featured on the Things That Inspire blog and I became immediately enthralled with it. So much so that I began to forward the picture of the house around to friends and family to share it with them and to announce that I had to see it in person. I followed up the emails with a Delta ticket purchase - I was serious about an in person visit and wanted to do so before the weather turned. I wanted to get pictures while all of the landscaping was at its peak. Winter pictures wouldn't be the same.

It may seem impetuous to jump on a plane to see a house from a blog, but I find myself more and more compelled to do just that when there are some new (to me) places to do some architectural tourism. I lived in DC about 10 years ago, but that was before my architecture and design interest took off so I hadn't explored all of the rich architecture the city has to offer. After seeing many interesting houses on the Things That Inspire and Architect Design blogs, I knew I'd have plenty to enjoy while there.

When I got to DC I took several pictures of the house and it was nothing short of spectacular. However, it was a sun-drenched morning so most of my pictures are over saturated with light and don't do the house justice. All was not lost though. In touring the neighborhood surrounding this house I came across a common thread amongst many of the houses: they incorporate urns in their design. I found that particularly interesting and took numerous photos of the various urns. I've always liked urns in architecture and design and I see them regularly in Atlanta. The urns in DC were a bit different though. I'd say more formal. That's natural, I guess, given the formality of the city and the residences they adorn. Many of the residences in this post are for foreign dignitaries.

Several of the urns I saw were used as finials on iron railings. I really liked this element. Here you can see multiple urn finials at the house I based my trip on. Another excellent detail is the iron scrolls at either end of the railing. They weren't visible in Holly's photo and were a pleasant surprise when I arrived in person. They remind me of the scrolls regularly seen in McAlpine's designs - often for suspending a copper lantern.

Anyone following the Things That Inspire blog will notice several details about this house that have recently been featured on that blog. For example, the blue stone that covers all of the walk ways, the limestone door surround, and the painted brick. Everything about this house was executed to perfection. The materials, the landscape, the color palette, etc. I'd love to know who was involved in the design.

Another house featuring urn finials on the iron railing. The urn design is similar but different from the urns at the first house.

A close up photo illustrates the beauty of this distinguished detail. I like the low sheen of this iron. The closer to matte black, the better in my opinion. I'd have to say this is my favorite urn finial of all that I saw on my trip.

This French-style mansion has been featured on both the Things That Inspire and Architect Design blogs. Notice the large scale urns. They're quite impressive in person. Pictures don't do the size and scale of this home justice.

Urns were decorated across the top of this house. I thought it was a unique location for them.

Another finial urn on an iron railing. This one is a bit taller and skinnier than the others. The "neck" at the top is also longer. It's interesting to note the differences in each urn, especially given that so many railings have them in the neighborhood.

Limestone urns perch above this grand entrance. There is so much to say about this entrance. The urns are only one detail of the amazing composition. The fluted columns that are round and then become square at the top. The rounded, paneled door. Which, by the way, I'm quite a fan of rounded doors in this type of configuration. They seem to soften the otherwise hard feeling of all the limestone.

The finial urns make another appearance on the balcony railing of this house. I thought the pattern of the railing was interesting with the oval shapes. It looked very French to me.

Clearly the distinct scroll stands out most here, however, the commonplace finial urn is there too. Seeing so many of these finial urns makes me wonder how design standards like this come to be. If I had seen one or two railings with the urns, I would probably have dismissed it. But because I saw them over and over on house after house, there must be something to it. I don't recall ever seeing any finial urns on iron railings in Atlanta so I don't think it's a universal design pattern, but something more locale-specific. Perhaps Stefan from the Architect Design blog can comment. He's a DC-based architect.

Last, but not least. While this house is not located in DC, I couldn't help but include it in this post because of its finial urns on the stair columns. When I saw these urns I was quite taken with them. Such a great detail. For more of this house, see my Perfect English post.

I'll certainly have to make another trip to investigate other neighborhoods in Washington DC. I only scratched the surface as I spent most of my time in Kalorma this time around. Until next time...

** Don't forget that you can click the photos to enlarge them. Most of the photos I include in my posts are much larger in size than they are displayed in the post.