Architects and designers serious about Pacific’s spectacular surroundings

Architects and designers serious about Pacific’s spectacular surroundings

January 26, 2013
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Views of the high desert in central Idaho are front and center in this comfortable contemporary living area featured in “West Coast Modern.”
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The clean design of the kids’ bedrooms paired with winter white and wood is accented by modern shades of purple, fuchsia and red.

It is apparent from the sensitively planned buildings showcased in the book “West Coast Modern: Architecture, Interiors & Design,” by Zahid Sardar, photography Matthew Millman, that the homeowners, designers and architects take their spectacular surroundings and sites very seriously. In this survey of modern West Coast homes, the author travels along the California and British Columbia coastlines, into the desert and prairie around Palm Springs, Calif., Idaho and Wyoming, and up into California ski mountain country and wine country, as well as a few busy cities – San Francisco, L.A. and Seattle. The common denominators of these buildings are their solid, boxy concrete and glass facades that allow floor-to-ceiling views of the outdoors. The panorama of mountains, or majestic sea, or a peaceful stretch of gorse and cactus flatlands are enjoyed from every corner of the house.

While the boxlike modern structures appear austere, the interior treatments bring a warm, human touch that is comfortable and inviting. In the high desert of central Idaho, architect Tom Kundig designed a home for artist and designer Jan Cox that had to be “hard outside and soft inside.” Concrete walls of the three-story setting stretch out to envelop a paradise garden. The living room, dining room and kitchen of the steel-frame-and-concrete structure are open-plan. Interior wood walls and floor warm up the steel. White padded seating with soft lines and curvy shapes balance the hard edges. A narrow fir staircase with sisal carpeting leads to the mezzanine bedroom above the kitchen. Skirting the mezzanine are shelves filled with books; their spines and covers add color and take on an aspect of a floating work of art. Windows, some as large as 8 feet by 11 feet, open the fortified structure on all four sides to the desert and distant mountains.

Wood and white is a natural theme for these modern interiors. It’s as if the designers were giving the eyes a rest from all that daunting beauty outside. In the snowy California ski area, where Tyrolean chalets abound, architect John Maniscalco was asked to design a modern dwelling that would fit into the surrounding forest and mountainscape. Aesthetically the house fits between old and new. The lower cedar-clad box resembles conventional hunkered-down cabins. Above sits a modern glassy box with asymmetrical bays. When viewed from outside, the interior wood-clad ceilings on this glassed-in level glow warmly.

Wood bunkbeds designed for the kids’ room repeat the square-block, linear design of the building; the white bedding and cozy textured white carpet blend seamlessly with the snowdrifts outside, while color is presented in splashes of winter cardinal red on cushions, fuchsia desk seats and a purple wall panel.

In other homes featured in the book, platform beds and sleek or rough-hewn wood-slab tables sit juxtaposed with modern, curvy furniture, modular plastic and wood seating, and rustic modern sculpture. Artwork is larger than life. Modern paintings in black and white or high color and artful vignettes keep pace with the immense spectacle of the outdoor scenery that is always in view.

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