An Interview with Calvin Chen | Austin Modern Homes Tour 2016

Aside from looking and swooning over new amazing furnishings on a daily basis, I also drool and study the works of amazing architects that is shaping the feel and mood of our communities. This weekend, March 5, the Modern Homes Tour is happening again. High design is flourishing in Austin folks, thank you to innovative architecture & design brought about by visionaries & creative teams.

I caught up with Calvin Chen of Bercy Chen Studio for a quick Q & A on their featured home on the tour & what new, exciting projects are in store for them in & around Austin.

Front Exterior

1/ In your featured project for this year’s Modern Homes Tour on Townes Lane, I would imagine that the biggest challenge was building a footprint that preserved the protected root zones. Can you expound more on that & how this was achieved?

Yes, we had to work closely with the city around the CRZ. Architecturally, we wanted to optimize the massing and allow the resident to enjoy the courtyards and the mature oaks. 

interior austin modern homes tour 2016

2/ What materials were mostly used in the interior & exterior of the home to achieve the organic feel & tree-house milieu?

Lots of floor-to-ceiling glass, large multi-slide glass door to blur the inside and outside, wood floors.

3/ They say everything is bigger in Texas. How does your firm maintain the balance of building homes that are also sustainable yet with a big footprint?

We are in the service industry, we can advocate for sustainability and shrinking our footprints but ultimately the client has the final say. 

4/ How do you think the Austin building, developing & design landscape is evolving?

I think there are many local firms producing thoughtful design at a high level, the challenge is with larger scale development, sometimes they don’t have quite the same knowledge or sensitivity to the city. 

5/ What new exciting projects is your firm doing at the moment & how will it impact Austin?

We are designing 6 high tech office buildings and 4 data centers as part of the $250 million  BackYard development in Bee Cave, as well as $75 million Ethan’s View luxury town house/condo.

We recently completed phase one of Oak Creek Village (Lucero) which includes 172 units of affordable housing. We are working on renovating phase two of the project to provide housing for homeless veterans. 

We are working on a 105 room boutique hotel in East Austin, and a hotel in Tulum, Mexico. 

We are also working on a series of new homes with the emphasis on better integration with nature, for example the Becoming Forest House, which was recently exhibited in Tokyo. The house is inspired by a surrealist Rene Magritte painting.

We are also working on a house in Davenport Ranch with load-bearing limestone walls.

Back Porch ____________________________________

Thanks so much Calvin! Although my weekends usually consists of laundry & bathroom cleaning at the casa, I say, I’ll make it more exciting & inspiring this weekend. Wearing some comfortable shoes & touring with one of my gal pals, I’m ready! Here are the details:

When: March 5, 2016, 10 am to 5 pm

What: Tour these homes >>>

Buy your tickets here >>>

May your spaces scream of beauty and awe and your rooms effortlessly curated. Interior Design Austin and beyond. Design questions or dilemmas? Drop me a line! Click here >>>

An Interview with Cornerstone Architects

modern foyer austin

What are you up to this weekend? Well, for more home inspiration and ideas, the 2014 Austin Modern Homes Tour is this Saturday. Learn about new building materials, how to make the transition between outdoor and living spaces seamless and ideas on design as well. I caught up with Chris Davenport, one of the architects at Cornerstone to talk about their featured home at Ridgewood as well as the new trends in building in 2014.

1. It’s 2014! What new trends are you seeing as far as energy efficiency in building and designing a home?  

With more and more homes pushing toward the modern vocabulary, we have seen a great increase in the number of clients who long for informal, functional living.  Extra Dining and Living areas are becoming much less frequent in favor of putting the effort and resources into spaces the family actually enjoys on a daily basis.  This drive towards practical and flexible spaces inherently improves the efficiency in building and couples nicely with the new technologies and building systems that are becoming increasingly more effective.

Modern home austin cornerstone architects

2. When designing the home at Ridgewood, what was the major challenge you were dealt with and how did you solve it?  

Most of the homes in this established Austin neighborhood are conventional in their layout with a front yard, rear yard, and a house that spans across the width of the somewhat narrow but deep lot.  In our case, we wanted to be sensitive to the heat gain of a Western rear exposure and also take advantage of a potential corridor lake view to the North or Right side of the lot.  A neighbor to the West was also a concern as their residence would be clearly visible from the rear of our house and yard. A “Fishbowl” effect with neighbors viewing in from all sides was in direct opposition with our goal to establish an enjoyable outdoor / indoor entertaining space with a pool.

In response to this challenge we implemented a “Y”-Shaped floor plan that turned the view from the Major living areas to the North.   A large stone Fireplace wall was incorporated on the West side to keep windows away from the neighbor and the hot Texas sun.  The Living Room wing pushes far enough past the North side neighbor’s home that the view to the lake was captured upstairs, and a sense of a somewhat private entertaining space was created.  We also left all of the existing trees and kept the pool snug to the house to increase the sense of one’s own space.

modern kitchen austin

3.Designing on a cost-conscious budget, what are a few examples of how you are able to achieve this for the Ridgewood home?

A common strategy that we employed on the Ridgewood residence was the “bang for your buck” philosophy.  We encourage the Owner to prioritize the spaces and features that are most important to them and spend their money there.  For most clients this means choosing high end materials and fixtures in the public spaces while pulling back a little bit in the secondary bedrooms and private spaces that only close friends and family see.

The reality is that simple paint grade finishes and monotone color schemes can actually be quite sufficient in a lot of modern expressions. They take emphasis off of the walls and put it on the Owner’s furnishings and artwork.  To further reduce cost, left over granite pieces were used as counters, and cost effective porcelain or ceramic floor tile was selected rather than traditional stone.

modern bedroom austin

4. What does it mean to be a 5-star green home?  

In the case of the Ridgewood residence this meant appropriate site placement, large overhangs, thoughtful location of windows, efficient heating and cooling, good insulation, and sustainable materials and plants.  A myriad of selections and systems had to be carefully coordinated between the Architect, Owner, Interior Designer, and Builder.  We are pleased to be a part of one of the most organized and recognized green building programs in the country, and the entire team worked together to achieve the highest rating.

5.Cornerstone has a wide range of portfolio from traditional to modern projects, aside from aesthetics, feel and look; how is a modern design project different from a traditional one?  

While the traditional concerns of Function, Aesthetics, and Budget are still important, I find that my Modern clientele tend to come to the table with additional expectations that challenge the norms of the “Traditional Home”.  Whether it be incorporating the latest green technology, using space in an unconventional manner, or simply driving towards a unique artistic expression, Modern homes tend to be less based in traditional archetypes and are more a result of an explorative process to express the unique needs, character, and desires of the client and site.

modern foyer austin

This home feels so spacious and refreshing. See this home and more at this weekend’s tour!

Images by Andrew Pogue

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