Zinc-clad Wisconsin Field Home

In the northeast region of Wisconsin, a professional oncologist and amateur astronomer of Lithuanian descent wanted a vacation home that would connect him to the elements. Set on a 16-acre farm near the small town of Ellington, this 5,000 square foot home is essentially a large box clad in galvanized zinc and dramatic rolled-metal siding. Designed by internationally renowned Wendell Burnette Architects of Phoenix, Arizona, this creative home offers privacy, efficiency, and an intimate connection to nature in a spectacular setting.

“In the distance, the house is a stoic structure in the landscape, an object of utility that only reveals its purpose up close.” – Wendell Burnette Architects

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To realize their meticulous, efficient design, Brunette needed the involvement of quality commercial builder. It required commercial construction techniques rather than standard residential building methods. Miron Construction, the biggest contractor in Wisconsin, took the job and carried out the project expertly. This was only the second home they company had ever constructed. And although the end result was a high-end, luxury home, it was relatively inexpensive to build due to careful choices by the architects and builders.

Set on one of the highest points of a 16-acre farm in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley, the 5,000 square foot home is surrounded by a sea of apple, pear, and plum orchards and fields of seasonal crops such as corn, soybean, wheat, oats, and, occasionally, pumpkins. The seemingly simplistic home takes the form of a single box. The two-story metallic structure is visible from afar, though its purpose is only revealed up close. Its back is set against an existing mature tree line, buffering the harsh northwest winter winds. Large windows on the south and east walls of the home open up to the warmth of the sun and capture views of the crop field and bird sanctuary beyond.  

“Its apparent simplicity is articulated by specific moments of experience. These encompass notions of the house as a tunable instrument – to connect to – and – be responsive to – our environment.” – Wendell Burnette Architects

This residence was inspired by its agrarian setting and took cues from the other built structures in the landscape – including grain silos, dairy barns, and tool sheds. The home’s zinc galvanized metal skin was influenced by the cladding of neighboring grain silos and a silo ladder leads to a hidden rooftop observatory whose geometry radiates to the heavens.

“Wendell Burnette Architects’ design philosophy is grounded in listening and distilling the very essence of a project to create highly specific architecture that is at once functional and poetic.” – Wendell Burnette Architects

The home is rectangular in plan with a staircase dividing the interior into two halves. The first floor holds a bedroom, bathroom, and media room on the eastern portion, while a large garage and pottery studio occupy the western half. The layout swaps on the second story, with the eastern side of the home containing the more open spaces. The shared kitchen, living, and dining area flow into a sheltered terrace at the end of the building. This open space houses a sunken pit that fronts an open fireplace – used to efficiently warm the home in winter. The opposite side of the second story holds a variety of rooms arranged around the master suite, including a gym, library, gallery, and guest bathroom.

All the materials were utilized in their existing standard dimensions and were chosen for a distinct and natural feel. A neutral color and material palette built a sense of calm and peace into the structure.

“I am interested in the notion of economy, of using standard products to achieve elegance in unexpected, different ways.” – Wendell Burnette

White limestone masonry from nearby quarries is used as gravel on the drive and entranceway. The main door is made of cedar. Walls and ceilings are mill-finished, oiled steel. In the kitchen, American black walnut cabinetry contrasts with a northern blockwork wall. Dark grey and simple black concrete flooring serve as the perfect balance to the walls of glass that show off bright blue sky and fields of green as far as the eye can see. And the rooftop observatory was designed as a silvery wooden oasis with only a thin metal railing on one edge.

(All Photographs by Bill Timmerman)

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Name Of HomeField House

Design Architects: Wendell Burnette Architects
Contractor: Miron Construction
Structural Engineer: Rudow + Berry
Electrical Engineer: Harwood Engineering
Mechanical Engineer: Thelen Engineering
Civil Engineer: Point of Beginning
Lighting Design: Daryll Gregg
Landscape Design: Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture


Desert House of Earth and Light

Los Angeles-based architect Marwan Al-Sayed drew inspiration from his childhood in Morocco and extensive travels through Northern Africa for this one-of-a-kind home. The House of Earth and Light in Phoenix, Arizona is a clever play on light, shadow, and natural materials and forms. The residence is built to be suitable for the harsh desert climate and offer dramatic views.

Just minutes from the urban core of Phoenix, the home is on a flat and low site that feels private and secluded. The design and siting of the home opens it up to dramatic views of the nearby Squaw Peak Mountains in the north and distant eastward views to Camelback Mountain. A shallow dry steam bed bisects the residential site, creating a natural desert oasis. The cool and quiet place attracts small birds, jackrabbits, and encourages the growth of desert trees.

And set within a small residential enclave of architectural distinctive modern houses, including several Frank Lloyd Wright homes, this new home demanded a unique aesthetic. It is within this environment that Marwan Al-Sayed of Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. Architecture + Design, infused characteristics from the ancient North African desert architecture and the splendor of the Sahara desert into this modern home.

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The House of Earth and Light was designed for its desert climate. It is composed of heavy archaic desert walls with an ethereal and luminous lightweight fabric. The home has custom designed trusses which accommodate an innovative three layer translucent fabric roof. The steel roof captures the abundance of light offered by the desert, while also mitigating its harsh climate impact and providing extensive shade for the residents. Solid earthbound walls, the “gossamer-like roof” and lightweight metal trusses lend the home a modern and elegant feel, almost as though it is a futuristic tent sitting out in the desert.

“The tension between heavy and light, mass and space, creates an environment in which the roof acts like a “sky-painting”, constantly filtering light and shadow.” – Marwan Al-Sayed

Al-Sayed brought the desert oasis formed by the wash into direct relation with the home. He designed a ventilated glass and steel bridge spanning the desert wash, anchored by monolithic walls forming the two main volumes of the home. The home has solid earth walls composed of an innovative mix of earth and Portland cement. This mix was poured into forms similar to concrete, creating massive, thick walls.

Inside, the home has a clean and modern aesthetic. The natural materials that are found in the construction of the home are repeated throughout the interior. Walls of raw concrete are set against polished concrete floors. Rough metal finishes and exposed structural elements complete the effect. The home is sparsely furnished, allowing the geometric architecture and plays on light and shadow to take center stage.

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(Photographs courtesy of  Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. Architecture + Design)

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Name Of Home: House of Earth + Light

Design Architects: Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. Architecture + Design

Location: Phoenix, AZ, US

A Contemporary Interpretation of a Palladian Villa

On a lush, subtropical South Louisiana island 130 miles from New Orleans, the descendants of Mr. E.A. McIlhenny, famous for his Tabasco pepper sauce, built a gorgeous house high on a hilltop. Set on Avery Island – home to Tabasco Sauce and less than 200 inhabitants, many of whom are family members of the popular product’s founder – this house celebrates the natural paradise that surrounds it. Lee Ledbetter, arguably one of the best architects in New Orleans, designed this AIA award-winning home.

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Rustic Wood and Steel Home and Guest House

In a quaint ski town near some of the country’s most popular national parks, Ward + Blake Architects created a rustic family home and accompanying guest house. Located on 3 ½ acres of open prairie land in Jackson, Wyoming, the buildings share the same vocabulary of material, scale, and orientation. Clad in salvaged wood and weathered steel, the buildings feature sweeping views of the surrounding prairies and mountains. The charming, rural residence received a Gold Award at the International Design Awards.

For this active family with 3 ½ acres of open prairie land in idyllic Jackson, they wanted a home that would celebrate the natural surroundings, allow family and friends to visit, and offer space for family gatherings. To accomplish their goals, they turned to Tom Ward of Ward + Blake Architects, a Jackson-based firm established in 1996. A Wyoming native, Ward understands the local land and lifestyle and knows how to design a home that works in unity with both.  

“Ward + Blake believes that architecture should respond to its particular place and be a natural partner with the environment.” – Ward+Blake Architects

Set on a flat parcel of land, the property offers views to the Grand Teton Range to the north and sleeping Indian Peak to the south-west. And it sits directly in the migratory path of the native elk herd, so disturbing the land as little as possible, while creating space to take advantage of these natural resources and setting was necessary.

The main home and guest house were treated as a suite sharing common materials and geometric components. Each has pitched roofs and share the same salvaged wood on the exterior and hand-fabricated weathering steel cladding. The steel cladding is divided into panels, reflecting the functions of the floor plan to give rhythm and cadence to the façade. The lack of protective finish on the steel promotes serendipitous corrosion, creating a constantly changing mottled façade, ranging from orange to a deep brownish purple. And surrounding the home are a series of wooden decks, including one with a hot tub.

The main home is angled for broad vistas. The interior architecture is subservient to the views. The entrance is situated so that once the large wooden front door is opened, the distant mountains are framed by a large expanse of glass on the opposite wall. The single-story home is divided into two wings. A gently curved “gallery” leads to bedrooms and a common room in the eastern portion. The western half holds a master suite and the open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area with fantastic views of the Gros Ventre Mountain Range. The open plan, along with towering, wood ceilings, emphasizes the connection to the outdoors and floods the space with natural light.

Custom Home of the WeekGiven the many visitors the homeowners expect, especially due to its Jackson’s positioning as a gateway to national parks, they requested a separate and comfortable space to house them. So Ward + Blake Architects designed a second structure that would provide enough space for guests, worked with the client’s lifestyles, and looked and felt harmonious with the main structure.

It was positioned to create a semi-courtyard at the front entrance of the main house, giving a physical connection to the two structures. The guest house compliments the main residence in material, orientation, and shape. The same material palette was used, as was the spatial organization within. It holds two “monastic” bedrooms, as well as its own open-plan kitchen, dining area, office space, and living room to make the most of the limited space. Vertical-grain Douglas fir cabinetry helps to demarcate the spatial transitions, giving a sense of seamlessness to the flow of the main space.

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(Photographs from Ward Blake Architects)

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Name Of Home: Safir Residence

Design Architects: Ward + Blake Architects

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Other Photos

Custom Home of the Week

Modern Dogtrot in the South Carolina

This South Carolina home is a modern nod to the traditional southern dogtrot house. Custom designed for a couple by the award-winning Frederick + Frederick Architects, the home is perfectly suited for all weather conditions in Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina, an old Lowcountry town in Beaufort County, situated between Hilton Head Island and Interstate 95. Consisting of a main residence and a carriage house – this property is designed to connect its residents to the peaceful surroundings. It was recognized with a 2010 SC AIA Robert Mills Residential Design Merit Award.

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Zen-Like Home on the Water

This week’s custom home spotlight is a unique, modern home on a peaceful waterfront property in Belvedere, California – a small town just north of San Francisco that is situated on two islands. Heidi Richardson, of Mill Valley’s Richardson Architects, designed her clients a private, zen-like abode. The home offers exceptional views of the water, mountains, and Golden Gate Bridge and provides the peace and tranquility that her clients were searching for. Continue reading “Zen-Like Home on the Water”

Askew Roof & Outdoor Living in Venice Beach

This week’s custom home spotlight looks at an eclectic contemporary home in Los Angeles’ Venice Beach. Designed by local award-winning Electric Bowery design and architecture studio, this inventive home emphasizes geometric shapes, indoor/outdoor living, and a warm, natural palette. The Amoroso Residence is a unique, modern home that playfully pays homage to the area’s predominantly Arts and Crafts buildings. Continue reading “Askew Roof & Outdoor Living in Venice Beach”

Seneca Road House

This edition of Custom Home Magazine’s ‘Home of the Week’ is another groundbreaking design by Chicago’s award-winning Searl Lamaster Howe Architects. Located in Venice, Florida, this LEED for Homes platinum level residence represents the epitome of practical green home design. Surrounded by nature, this modern, sculptural home is bright and full of light, with a comfortable floor plan and retreat-like atmosphere. Continue reading “Seneca Road House”

Classic Home with a Modern Twist

This edition of Custom Home of the Week showcases a one-of-a-kind masterpiece in Evanston, IL. A rare new build in a historic Chicago suburb, the home blends in despite its modern lines and Mediterranean influences. Designed for newlyweds by the renowned architect Greg Howe, of Chicago’s award-winning Searl Lamaster Howe Architects, this home is traditional in spirit but streamlined in design. The asymmetric home made from a mix of wood, stucco, and metal artfully incorporates treasures the owners have collected throughout the world, while remaining distinctly contemporary with a focus on light, shape, and form. It was recognized with an AIA Chicago Citation of Merit. Continue reading “Classic Home with a Modern Twist”

10 Common Architectural Styles for Your Custom Home

Building a custom home gives you complete control over every aspect of the design. There are dozens of architectural styles to base your custom home on, from historical approaches to modern interpretations. Look around the country and you will see nearly countless options. In the northeast, Colonial and Cape Cod style homes dominate neighborhoods, whereas you are more likely to see arts and craft cottages and ranches out west, and Greek revival homes down south. The beauty of creating your own custom home is that you can pick a style that matches your tastes and needs.

There are many considerations that go into what will work best for your home. Some climates are better suited for certain home designs, whether because the typical roof pitch is appropriate for a snowy winter or because the style’s quintessential courtyard offers those in sunny climates to enjoy indoor/outdoor living. You also want to consider the surrounding landscape and neighboring buildings when picking a dominant architectural style for your custom home. Work closely with your architect to find the perfect style for your custom home. A good architect can even mix and match aspects from styles that appeal to you.  

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