For an Architect, wrapping up a project is always a bittersweet moment. There is the joy and elation you feel for witnessing a project come to life that you have poured your heart and soul into … and then the void that comes when you realize that the time has come for this project to no longer be an on-going part of your life.
The modern cabin I have been working on for the last two years has arrived at that moment when the contractors have pulled all their equipment off site in preparation for the Owners to take possession. As I was about to head to the airport, I took the picture above with my phone fully aware that this would be the last time that this cabin was still “mine” but content in the knowledge that my clients will breathe life into it and evolve this from “our project” and into “their home”.
I am always sad when this time comes.
I had written something else that I was going to publish today, but in a moment of melancholy weakness, I realized that I wanted to talk about this cabin. I found myself flipping through the entire history of project photos for this project, sort of like a Father looking at pictures of his child growing up. Since I wanted to leave something behind for my clients, I decided to make them a whole bunch of magnets since I know that they will need them in order to fulfill the design concepts for the fair amount of metal we’ve incorporated into this project (Interior Steel Wall Panels and Steel/Walnut Benches).
Going through all those photos did not make me feel better.
In the end, I decided that I would simply show some of the photos I took last week when I was preparing my close-out documentation. These aren’t edited, and they don’t tell a complete story – they are just some of the spaces that I like and was able to capture with my camera.
This is the elevation that you see when you drive up – sorta. I’ve actually walked to the far edge of the turnaround and I’m off the view line from the driveway. The truth is that the trees block your view of the cabin until you are almost upon it. At some point, prior to the end of the summer, the driveway will be graded and gravel will be placed for the trafficable surface.
This is the approach to the front door. The owner seems to know everything there is to know about the native plants in this area, and I happen to know that she is looking forward to working out how this front approach will be landscaped. From an architectural standpoint, the pass-thru space to the right of the front door isn’t just for visual architectural trickery. This space was left open to make sure that the visitors walking up to the front door could see all the way through to the lake beyond, it creates a covered terrace so that you can be outside and protected from the elements, and it helps channel the breeze off the lake through this area … which is important because the mosquitoes up here in the summertime are no joke.
If I was a better photographer, you would see the lake beyond in this shot. What you can see in this image is the 3/4″ piece of sandblasted plate steel at the entry. Please take a moment to enjoy the steel cantilevering out to provide protection should any snow decide to slide off the roof this next Winter.
Another angle to allow you to enjoy that steel …
Something else that might be worth noting is the placement of the exterior sconces (and this was definitely something the owner pointed out). If you look closely, you’ll see that the lights are not placed immediately adjacent to the exterior doors. All points of entry are basically air locks (meaning there is another door just inside the exterior building envelope) in an attempt to minimize the bugs that make their way into the house. If you put the lights right next to the doors … you bring the bugs right next to the doors making it far more likely that some will try and sneak in on you.
Mosquitoes = Bad
This is the covered terrace. Plenty of room for a picnic table and seating around the fireplace. Only two of those columns are required structurally, but the rest do have a purpose … to store, stack, and protect the firewood. I wanted them spaced irregularly, have some that are slightly off vertical, and include columns that are of varying diameters, with the idea that they will visually disappear into the tree trunks of the woods beyond. I will tell you that it works exceedingly well and I am very happy with how they turned out.
This is actually a view that few people will ever see, that is unless you are the neighbor. Here’s a different view for context from the last trip I took to the project back in April –
During the winter, this elevation becomes better exposed – I am actually walking on the neighbor’s property in my attempt to take this picture. During the summer? These trees are leafed out and you can’t see much.
As I emerge from the woods (what I refer to as “the kill zone” because of the mosquitoes) the lakeside elevation starts to present itself. This elevation is all about the view towards the lake.
Within a short amount of time – I would guess before the end of summer, this entire area will be landscaped and have wild grasses growing. For this picture, I am standing on the top step coming up from the lake which we wanted to center align with the covered terrace. There are trees all along the shoreline except for the spot where the stairs come through … which is why we wanted them to have a relationship with the covered terrace to help maintain the breeze. The lack of trees in this area creates a natural funnel through which the lake breeze can make it through to the terrace.
This is a brutal photograph but I like it for what it represents. The steps down from the covered terrace are oversized and elongated edge-to-edge to the terrace so that they can act as “stadium seating” for people watching the lake, sitting out in the evening looking at stars, or watching the kids play in the yard. Also, if you look closely, there is a door just to the left of this picture (there is a sheet of paper taped to the window warning of certain death if you walk in without taking off your shoes or putting on blue booties). This is an important door because it is the main point of entrance to the cabin. While there clearly needs to be a front door, few people will actually use it – the door under the covered terrace will be the point of all activity coming and going once people actually arrive on site.
One of the featured elements of this cabin is the centrally organized stairway that runs through the middle of the house. It acts as an orienting device, helps delineate the main living area, and controls the arrival point to a 36′ wide panorama of the view towards the lake that is unveiled when someone arrives upon landing at the top of the stairs.
We covered the stairwell wall in 41″ square sheets of 1/8″ plate steel to provide some visual interest, but the objective was to protect the wall from guests hauling stuff up and down stairs and possibly marring the wall. I can tell you that every time I’ve been in this cabin since the steel panels were installed, at least one worker has told me how amazingly cool they are … it’s just not something that you see very often and people tend to take notice of those sorts of things.
This is where you arrive when you hit the top of the stair landing. I am standing in what will be the main Living room and I am looking down the panoramic window towards the dining room (underneath the Poulsen PH5 light fixture).
This is a closer look at the cabinetry and wood burning stove located adjacent to the Living room. The hearth and the wall behind are more of the 1/8″ thick plate steel, and the cabinetry is clear finished walnut with a white Caesarstone countertop. The wood stove is a Wittus ‘Twin Fire’ which utilizes a unique double-chamber combustion system for a 93% efficient burn rate. That basically means (hyperbole alert) that you can set a few twigs on fire they will burn for a week …
Moving to the other end of the room, I am now in the Dining room looking back towards the Living room. For those of you who might be wondering about how I patterned the windows, I can tell you that it these are Marlin windows and there are four 8′-0″ x 5′-6″ tall units joined together, and that each unit has a 54″ wide fixed panel and a 42″ wide sliding window panel. We could have gone with larger non-operational windows, but this cabin does not have a forced air system (no air-conditioning), so we had to rely on arranging the windows throughout the house so that on warm days, the owner’s can slide a few units open and create a cross breeze. While I was up there, we put the window arrangement to the test and I can confirm that you can create a substantial and extremely pleasant flow of air throughout the house.
The light quality in these spaces is amazing and I really haven’t done it justice with my photography. Even looking at the images above – there aren’t any lights on, and this is what you get. This is the kitchen – pretty straightforward, efficient, and clean. I particularly like the window between the upper and lower windows, as well as the fact that there is an operable sliding window behind the sink.
Because I know someone will ask a question about the desktop computer sitting on the kitchen island if I don’t explain it, we are very busy in the office right now and I brought someone from my office with me on this trip in an effort to keep them busy. While I returned back to Dallas on Saturday, they are still there to coordinate some final moving parts. There isn’t a whole lot for them to do so we brought along a desktop system so he could work on another project of mine and I could provide guidance and oversight while I was working on the closeout process for this cabin. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
That’s right, I included some pictures of a bathroom in this post because I really like this space. It’s roomy without being too large, the light quality is terrific, there’s an operable window in this space, and I love the blue linoleum we put on the floor. I will credit the owner with wanting the linoleum – she is familiar with the product and enjoys how it feels on her feet – but I was happy when she responded favorably to the blue that we picked out. It provides just the right amount of color to the space and plays nicely with the gray tile we used.
This is actually the view out the main window towards the lake. It’s a remarkable view and this is why the main living spaces are elevated to the upper floor. From this perch, you can watch eagles soaring as the sun is setting … I’ve been looking at this view for almost two years now and I still find it remarkable.
And here is the view from the lake … it took going out in a kayak to make this happen, but I think it was worth it.
So there it is … my farewell post to this project. I like these clients a great deal and I know that they’ll want me to make the journey North with my wife and daughter to come visit them once they’ve moved in – which we will do. This will not be the last time I see this project, but my time as the caregiver is just about over. The nature of my relationship with these folks and this project will evolve into something other than what it is now. In my mind, this cabin is pulling way down the street looking back at me in the rearview mirror as I wave goodbye.