Unless you’re planning on attending a holiday-themed jingle bell home tour, the 2015 modern home tour season is all but wrapped up. I attended the Austin AIA tour, and the AIA Dallas tour this past weekend. If you’ve ever been to both, you may have noticed a few differences. I certainly did see some interesting works of architecture, and a few that I was less interested in [some due to stylistic preferences, some for other reasons I won’t divulge] but here, in no particular order, are some of my observations.
Yes, the spirit of Keep Austin Weird is alive and well even in the recent modern homes. There were some Austin houses that fit very well into the genre of contemporary and modern architecture, and there were a few that were definitely quirky, full of color, and certainly suited to the particular owners rather than the mainstream public. Dallas’ homes in comparison were more formal representations of modernist architecture. Neither city had a better style in my opinion, just different.
Large picture windows were a feature in nearly every home at least once or twice. We architects seem to keep pushing the limits of window systems in order to achieve ever-larger windows. With energy codes the way they are in most cities, windows that used to be plate glass in the 1960’s and 70’s are now insulated glazing units which offer much higher thermal efficiency and sound proofing. Downside? One, they are heavy and you definitely don’t want to have to deal with a broken unit in the future. Two, to achieve the sizes desired you can’t just run down to your local home improvement store and pick a few up.
These windows are often custom-made by project, even adapting commercial window systems to the residential market. A few years back I worked on a commercial project in Denver that featured some of the western USA’s largest windows [between Chicago and LA] that measured about 10′-6″ wide by about 18′-0″ tall. And they weighed something like 2,200 pounds each. The glazier (the company providing and installing the glass) had to find a specialized suction “gripper” to manage to pick these glass units and set them into their heavy-duty stainless steel-clad aluminum frames.
Counter top materials ran the gamut this year – I saw a bevy of choices from stainless steel to granite and soapstone to solid-surface materials (the man-made products like Silestone and Caesarstone). All have their pluses and minuses. I’m a fan of choosing a material appropriate for the application and appropriate for the owner – some people will undertake the yearly sealing and maintenance granite requires, others may be better off with a solid-surface top which requires less maintenance. The one thing that struck me was this dark gray Silestone (pictured above) was the counter material in 3 or maybe even 4 of the 7 Dallas tour homes. I found that percentage a bit interesting – did I miss out on the last run of this product or a great sale??
The final trend I’ll cover before this post goes on for too long was something I found very interesting – several houses in both cities added loft-like spaces above children’s bedrooms accessed by custom ladders. It’s a smart use of space that would otherwise be attic space, and most of these homes already had plenty of attic. Some of the lofts were an extension of the bedroom – perhaps used by the resident child as a play area or study loft. One home in each city took the concept a step beyond the ordinary and connected one bedroom’s loft to the loft from another bedroom over their bathrooms – giving the kids a secret passage of sorts to transit between siblings’ rooms. Due to space restrictions the touring public wasn’t able to get into these lofts, but I think the feature was certainly well-planned and will be well-used by the owners.
Missed out on 2015 modern home tours? Start watching your local AIA component’s website in 2016 for tour date announcements!
This post was originally written before re-branding as Eckxstudio for Modern Architecture at the end of 2017.
At Eckxstudio for Modern Architecture, we design unique and stunning projects, individually crafted for our clients’ lives. We’re passionate about listening to your needs, wants and desires as inspiration to design the dream home you’ll never want to leave.