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Filtering by Tag: the distinctive home

details made distinctive

Emily Oster

Selecting an example for this section of the book is somewhat difficult as Eck states "the best way to think about details is to not think about them at all"(Eck, 181). Or rather the details cannot be separated from the whole design - the siting, floor plan and exterior. I would say it slightly differently in that details are not distinct thoughts or design intentions but rather natural outcomes or expressions of what the house is about or rather is. This is why beautiful details often go unnoticed - they just work so perfectly with their surroundings its as if they aren't even really there. So instead of featuring one house with its own particular set of details, I decided it would make more sense to feature one architect that approaches details in this way with artful results. 

Rick Joy is the principal of Rick Joy Architects in Tucson, Arizona. The firm is small and works largely on private houses typically in desert regions. I wish I could say more about their work, however, they do not have a website and their is limited information available online. As such I will let the images largely speak for themselves.

Probably my favorite project of Joy's is Woodstock Farm in Vermont. The ideas and building form are simple and the details of the projects are really pretty amazing.

More indicative to the majority of Joy's work in the desert, the Ventana Canyon House was built in 2007 in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains overlooking the city of Tucson. The focus of the house is the view outward with no detail left unresolved. 

This brings us to the end of the series. I hope you have enjoyed it!  

resource review: the distinctive home - part 4

Emily Oster


The final key element to a distinctive home is the details. For Eck, the details are what become the "essence of a home" (Eck, 181). However, the chapter is not about what size crown molding to use or how to design built-ins but rather how to think about details. Eck explains that "In a sense, the best way to think about details is not to think about them at all. Instead, look at them first in relation to the whole house" (Eck, 181). This is to say details should always be in support of the whole house - the site, floor plan, and exterior - and not disparate elements that become an after thought. 

New Construction: 
1. The first principle for creating distinctive details is to acknowledge the "power of materials" (Eck, 183). Each detail whether it be a door or casing is made out of something and the "stronger the connection between the material and the role of the particular detail, the more powerful the result" (Eck, 183). It is also important to consider that details "tend to work best when they are designed so that the natural qualities of the material are revealed in some way" (Eck, 183).
2. Details both on the interior and exterior need to work together. They should unify a home's design while also be those special elements that give a house character. 
3. Think about how exterior trim can create a "rhythm and continuity" to the facade of your home. For example, "houses with little trim tend to emphasize the house as a whole (a unifying feature in itself), while houses with a lot of trim tend to emphasize its parts" (Eck, 186). 
4. Consider using a similar type of trim for the baseboard and window and door casings. This will often save you money and be another way to unify spaces. 
5. Eck urges that particular attention be paid to the "defining edges" of a house - "the areas between the ground and the wall and the wall and the roof" (Eck, 189). Treatment of these areas are significant as they greatly determine how your house sits on the site. For example, a treatment of stone between the wall and the ground will make your house feel rooted to the earth - solid. While a white banding of trim might make it appear like it was floating above it. 
6. Particular details like doors, brackets and columns, and rails can act like "punctuation marks in a sentence. They can clarify parts of a house, join some parts together, even exclaim one portion over another " (Eck, 197). 
7. For Eck, there are three interior details that can really make a difference - stairs, fireplaces and built-ins. Stairs are somewhat different than other details in the amount of use they get and that they are seen from so many different angles - below, above, up close, far away. It is therefore important to view them as a three dimensional space and not just a flat, purely aesthetic component. Fireplaces are perhaps the most symbolic of all details in that the hearth takes on the figurative representation of the house. In Eck's practice, he uses only Rumford fireplaces, a design developed by Sir Benjamin Thompson in the eighteenth century. This design calls for a much larger but shallower opening allowing more heat to be sent back into the room. It also requires larger flues and chimneys. Built-ins can be one of the most costly details (Eck shares that in his first 1,200 square foot home, he allocated 10% of the total budget to cabinets). However, they are often the most effective in tying diverse parts of a room together. 
8. Some details are distinctive simply because they are not common. Exposed timbers, trellises and pergolas, and niches are a few examples and "like all good details thoughtfully considered, they can add another layer of interest" (Eck, 211). 

Purchasing a Home: 
Since this chapter is about a way of thinking about details rather than the details themselves, all the points apply in the sense that they are things to be considered when looking at a potential home. Finish work can also be very telling with regards to the sort of quality and craftsmanship that went into the construction of a home. When touring a house, take notice of the details and think about what needs to be added (or subtracted) and the potential costs of those types of improvements. Remember details can be very costly but also very significant.

Modifying a Home: 
Again, all points apply in that this chapter is about a way of thinking. Details are a great way to update your home and while often costly they can completely change the look and feel of a space. Updating your front door or constructing a custom mantle for your fireplace are just two examples of relatively low cost but high impact improvements. 

Check out tomorrow's post for a home with distinctive details and for the last installment of this series!

an exterior made distinctive

Emily Oster

I selected this contemporary renovation by Hufft Projects because it hits on all of Eck's key points of what makes a distinctive "public face". 

1. I am not sure if the homeowners actual call their home this but the architect calls this house "Modern with Ranch". The name reveals one of the main design intentions in that a concerted effort was made not to completely raze the original home but rather to "conserve what elements could be worked with" and to add on where needed.

original house via  Hufft Projects

original house via Hufft Projects

2-4. The scale and massing of this house is particularly well done in that it successful combines a single story home with a two story addition. For me, the proportion is spot on with the second story appearing almost exactly a third taller than the rest of the house. Color is used to reinforce the massing strategy in that the new addition is clad in a red stained cedar while the first story brick is painted a dark gray.

design by  Hufft Projects  image via  Contemporist

design by Hufft Projects image via Contemporist

5. Details are of particular importance with this project in that they are used to bring the new and old together.
6. On the front side of the house, the windows of both the original house and the addition are kept the same size creating one cohesive composition. While on the back side, visual interest is created by introducing a more varied composition of void to solid. 

design by  Hufft Projects

design by Hufft Projects

7. As previously mentioned, the horizontal cedar cladding and the painted gray brick work in unison to highlight the different volumes while also helping  to keep the addition from appearing too tall. If the cladding had been placed vertically the two materials and colors would not work nearly as well together.
8. See above.
9. The approach to the roof design is simple and appears effortless. The original roof which has a relatively large surface area and is by original design a dominate element in the exterior facade is left unchallenged by the addition which has no visible roof. 
10. The entry of this home is well thought out with slats of cedar that begin vertical wrapping horizontally to create a canopy over the main entry and continuing across and up to frame the second story of the addition. 


design by  Hufft Projects  image via  Contemporist

design by Hufft Projects image via Contemporist

11. In this case the back chimney with a fireplace becomes the center of outdoor entertainment - clearly not a neglected element. 
12. This house does not have any defined porches or decks, however, the landscaping with concrete platforms and pavers create outdoor spaces that feel integrated with the indoor spaces of the home.