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Exotic aesthetic

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This house by Swatt Miers Architects has a Pacific feel

Exotic aesthetic

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Reflection pools at the entry, followed by a double-height arrival volume with soaring feature walls and a dramatic glass bridge – this may all sound like walking into a five-star hotel, but imagine coming home to it on a daily basis.

For this large, contemporary house, architects Robert Swatt and Steven Stept were asked to create just such an aesthetic. The owners also wanted the residence to have a casual, barefoot feel with strong indoor-outdoor connections – much like a vacation destination, says Swatt.

"Shaped in part by the lie of the land, and to optimize views of a giant oak and a picturesque valley, the design evolved into a simple L shape with two wings. Connecting the wings is a voluminous great room, rather like the lobby in a large hotel," says Swatt.

The choice of siding reflects the layout of the horizontally oriented residence. The two wings are clad in white stucco, providing counterpoints to the central mahogany-clad form that comprises the great room.

Formal entry into the house is via a path of stepping stones that crosses a reflection pond. This creates a dramatic approach and leads to a pivoting entry door in solid mahogany.

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Steven Stept says that once inside, family and guests experience a two-story volume pierced by a floating glass bridge that connects the wings at the upper level.

"With ceilings and two walls finished in Honduran mahogany, and other walls in floor-to-ceiling glass, the space calls to mind the indoor-outdoor lobbies of resort hotels in the South Pacific," says Swatt. "Another exciting aspect of the great room is a suspended mahogany box at one end, which houses the library. As with the bridge, this sculptural element encourages an observer to read and so appreciate the expansive volume.

"Suspending the library within the space has the added advantage of lowering the ceiling height over the dining table and chairs, creating a sense of intimacy in this area," says the architect. "Similarly, the sitting area is two steps down from the surrounding floor, so that it feels almost like a conversation pit, despite the size of the greater space."

The interior layout provides a degree of separation between adults and children. One wing includes the kitchen and family room on the first floor, with children's bedrooms located on the upper level. The other wing has an office, media room and guest suite at the lower level, with the master suite on the level above.

"The glass bridge connects the hall to the children's rooms with the hallway to the master suite. There is also a side stair that runs from the children's spaces down to the kitchen," says Stept. "Accessed by glass doors from the living and dining areas, the media room, and the kitchen and family rooms, the rear of the house is designed for family living, with expansive terraces, lawn play areas, a patio and a large swimming pool."

"However, besides a strategic layout that provides a feeling of easy connection and separation, it is the material palette that brings about the relaxed ambiance that the owners asked for," says Swatt. "A feature wall at the end of the great room and most of the floor is finished in a custom-blend terrazzo stone. Cool under foot and easy to maintain, the stone anchors the building visually, while the cantilevered wings, a long skylight that runs congruently with the bridge, and the soaring central volume all contribute a light, almost flyaway aesthetic."

First published date: 01 February 2013

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