Victoria Garden Mews - Fine Homebuilding

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Victoria Garden Mews

comments (0) July 16th, 2012 in Project Gallery, 2013 HOUSES Awards Gallery         Pin It
pszurp pszurp, member
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Click To Enlarge Photo: Photo A "Ceiling"

Victoria Mews Santa Barbara

Three couples created a communal residential property that will serve them into retirement. They designed and built the multi-dwelling compound with space for four families on a third of an acre in Santa Barbara, Calif. When completed late 2010, the complex earned a preliminary Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Lead­ership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes program, boasting a score of 118 out of a 136 max. It is, to date, the highest ranking for any residential project ever. The building envelop was designed by Thompson Naylor Architects.

My client and friends Devon Hartman and Mary Beierle asked me to help them through the design of their 1st floor unit, Mary's basement sculpture studio & the common entry stair space. The 3 story building is designed in a Mediterranean Style architecture; however the clients wanted their unit to have an open floor plan and modern detailing.  Mary being a sculptural artist felt strongly that the unit needed to have rich texture & details that would complement their eclectic art collection.  Devon a residential builder for over 40 years had plenty of ideas and a desire for unique details.

Being the first floor unit they weren't privy to the mountain & ocean views that the other upper floor units have. We needed to take full advantage of the native drought tolerant  landscaped grounds to overlook and open out to. The main room is 40'X18" which includes the kitchen, dining room and living room. The expansive space ends with a floor to ceiling arched window unit. We wanted this window to be a special space to curl up and read a book with views into the garden. I kept referring back to images of Louis Sullivan's decorative art tile patterns as a way to frame the window. After hunting and being unable to find a tile that captured the essence of the idea; One day the artist in Mary said "the neck with it" I will make the tiles.  She may have later regretted the tedious process of making each tile to the custom sizes, but what turned out is a remarkable art piece.  The master bedroom has a 15' barn door that allows it to be closed off from the living space if they have company, but for everyday use it is left open to share the master bedroom's natural light and garden views with the rest of the living space.

Devon repeatedly asked me to "add a bit of frosting" to the ceiling. Frosting? Crown molding, Buex Art plaster reliefs, tin ceiling panels. NO, NO, NO. Looking thru an old sketch book from my college studies in Rome; I was inspired by Piazza Campidoglio by Michelangelo. The ceiling relief was achieved by laser cutting the pattern out of 5/8" thick mdf board and applying it to the drywall ceiling. All the seams were filled and then the ceiling was painted. A specialty drywall bead allowed us to create a 1" thick drywall soffit to hide a LED tape light that washes the ceiling with light while casting dramatic shadows over the pattern.  

The basement of the building was designed to provide a place for the buildings 9000 cubic foot Site Water Collection Cistern, tenant storage and a Ceramic Sculpture Studio for Mary. Creating an art studio in a dark basement didn't appear extremely inviting to Mary, but we came up with any idea to push the basement out past the first floor footprint and create a large skylight. This skylight would also become their first floor outdoor patio. The detailing, engineering, and installation were quite challenging, but the studio is flooded with light and the clear glass creates a dramatic view from below as well as from above.


posted in: Project Gallery, 2013 HOUSES Awards Gallery, 2013, Energy-Smart, New Construction, Retirement Home


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