a sandow media publication
volume 10, issue 1
display until 4/16/12
light show. w r i t t e n b y l eil ani m arie l abong
p h o t o g r a p h y b y bill tim m e rm a n
to say that this house in tucson’s barrio viejo neighborhood is full of good energy comes at the risk of setting a mystic tenor to this tale.
After all, such transcendental lexicon does not usually befit architecture of the cool-minimalist variety. However, when the actual structure so beautifully tributes its historic neighborhood and the magical Sonoran Desert light, traditional design vernacular may fail to capture such a special ambiance, requiring just a little help from a more ethereal level. Even architect Michael Kothke gets into the spirit: “The house has such an enigmatic quality,” he says. “Though it’s simple on the outside, you have no idea what to expect once you enter.” Indeed, the modest exterior (which was inspired by the proto-minimalism that’s characteristic of Barrio Viejo’s historic 19th-century adobe dwellings) belies the surprise inside: an L-shaped, open-sky courtyard that features a sleek saltwater lap pool inspired by the one late artist Donald Judd designed for his residence in Marfa, Texas.
architecture Michael Kothke, Kathy Hancox, HK Associates, Inc.
interior design Michael Kothke, Kathy Hancox, HK Associates, Inc.
home builder Luis Ibarra, Saavy Inc.
square feet 2,100
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“Really, the courtyard is a big aperture to frame the sky,” says Kothke. Taking the camera metaphor to heart, the man of the house regularly photographs the courtyard to capture the transformative effects of light and the weather on the space. “Wind on the pool at night reflects an incredible fire-like dance on the walls,” the homeowner says.
basic instinct One step through the slender wooden front door by Krausch Architectural Windows & Doors reveals an intimate courtyard and pool oasis. A streamlined landscape by Gardening Insights’ Greg Corman complements the ultra-minimal exterior. Double hung windows by Loewen are from RKF Architectural.
Through a tall glass enclosure, the courtyard’s natural illumination gently infuses the home’s main space, an airy 38-foot-long stretch comprising the living room, dining room and kitchen. Other radiant portals include a frosted glass door at the end of the entry corridor leading to the music room, and a thin skylight in the living room, which reveals the sun’s position by the ever-changing shadows it casts upon hocus pocus At first glance, the view of the Tucson Mountains above the kitchen cabinets—crafted by Davinci Designs—appears to be courtesy of a window, but further inspection reveals that the image, projected onto a wall, arrived there using simple periscope mechanics.
the homeowners’ collection of Native American pottery. But perhaps the most unique play on light comes courtesy of the periscope, a quirky apparatus that nods to the homeowners’ fascination with the camera obscura. It uses trickery with light and mirrors to beam a live image, captured above the roofline, of the Tucson Mountains onto a sliver of wall atop the kitchen cabinets.
wa r m f r o n t Davinci Designsâ€™ Ben Schmitt crafted the custom rift white oak cabinetry, adding warmth to the stark walls and cool concrete floor. The earthy ebony-stained American walnut dining table was also customdesigned by Schmitt. A Jasper lamp by Andrea Claire Studio in Brooklyn, New York, hangs above.
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g eo m e t ry c l a s s A skylight in the living room, which hovers above the homeowners’ collection of Native American pottery, creates shape-shifting shadows along the home’s walls. The leather Paulistano chair, designed by Paulo Mendes de Rocha, is from Design Within Reach.
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“It’s a low-tech mindbender,” says architect Kathy Hancox, who worked with Kothke on the project. “When people see the view, they forget that they’re looking at a wall, not through a window.” This mountain vista also serves as the sole piece of landscape art in the otherwise chicly bare environs. There are three primary pieces, all located in the main living area: a gray Bensen sectional, Noguchi coffee table and custom ebony-stained walnut dining table. “The interiors are very simpatico with the architecture,” Hancox notes.
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disappearing act While the courtyard walls seem to vanish into the sky, the frameless glass window wall by Columbus Glass & Screen also drops out of sight when the doors open to the living room. A glass soffit under the overhang subtly reflects the living quarters and saltwater pool by Cimarron Circle Construction Company.
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The simplicity of the décor speaks to the lady of the house’s sensibilities. “I am obsessive about order and harmony,” she says. “I have no trouble living in a minimalist setting.” To keep the design pure, woodworker Ben Schmitt crafted rift white oak cabinetry that spans the home, providing plenty of storage options to help the owners thwart clutter,
b at h i n g s u i t e The glass-enclosed shower in the master bath is as close as the homeowners could get to a true outdoor shower—one of their requests for the architects. A sink by Wetstyle in Montreal, Canada, and a Hansgrohe faucet join Corian counters from Rock n’ Counter atop the white oak vanity.
while builder and general contractor Luis Ibarra ensured the inner workings of the edifice did not become unruly. “The structure is clean and simple, but keeping the plumbing and electrical hidden was complicated,” says Ibarra. “We definitely achieved the intention, however; there isn’t a single sign of any lines or wires.” The house’s immaculate design speaks to its calling as a blank canvas. Though the aforementioned subtle nuances of light within are reserved for the homeowners, the exterior white stucco provides some fanfare for passersby, since it reflects the colors of the sky—at any given moment, the house could be pink, orange or blue. “It’s definitely of-the-desert,” says Kothke, “but at the same time, it feels very transportive.” L 250 l u x e i n t e r i o r s
p r i vat e s ec to r The shower’s frameless glass wall opens onto a small, private courtyard, exclusive to the master suite. A custom ipe drain board floor, similar in appearance to the rift white oak cabinetry throughout the rest of the home’s interior, provides texture.