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natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior

natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior

We’re putting out the mailbox on our latest project, a custom home in Burr Ridge, Illinois. While we often think of modern contemporary homes as minimalist – usually all white and with an exploration of space and volume – what’s more notable about this one are the rich textures and colors because of the materials, lighting and even sound considerations. The natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior suit the clients’ tastes and create unique transitions between rooms.

To start, the exterior showcases Chicago’s characteristic reclaimed brick, fired 100 years ago and repurposed from the original building. The house expresses texture and a range of color, as well as interesting use of vertical and horizontal orientations. Around the side, harvested poplar bark from Spruce Pine, North Carolina (Barkhouse.com) went into the making of the shakes. Because of lichen and other natural growth on the trees, each shake also showcases a progression of textures and colors. When exposed to rain, the appearance alters. This is a special effect brought to the home by a living, natural material.

Natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior offer a ‘distressed’ style, also out-of-the-ordinary for a modern home. Yet we introduced other, more refined materials for a uniform appearance.

While the clients and their neighbors notice these aesthetics, the roof’s details remain unseen. Most of the roof is flat with some angling at the standing metal seams. The entire exterior showcases interesting contrasts – lots of linear patterns among the brick, metal and even the shakes.

Lastly, big panels of sliding glass walls welcome natural light indoors. Sunlight plays a major role in the client’s living experience. And, just as the materials offer a study in contrasts, so, too, the two people who live there express themselves as individuals in unique ways. Natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior play a role in adding warmth and character to what would typically be a cold expression of space.

One is a retired professional from an IT company; the other is a nuclear physicist who plays french horn in a brass quintet. In the major space that would otherwise be a great room, we’ve created a music room. It is the heart of the home. An extraordinarily unique space, it has few, if any, right angles. Glass walls, high ceilings, oblique angles – we had to work hard to omit those right angles. We even brought in an acoustician. The expert advised window walls and window covers, which are automated window treatments placed just a little bit off the glass.
Acoustic ceiling clouds absorb sound: Fractured plates break the plane of the ceiling, which is articulated at different angles for sound and strategic lighting purposes. Few light fixtures are visible in the room, yet a great amount of light reflects through the “cloud.” The client’s french horn playing also radiates through the room.

There’s yet another way in which materials distinguish this residence, and that’s to differentiate spaces. Guests enter on a lowered area, finished in a hard limestone tile. Then comes a transition to a more refined area, therefore done in a softer wood. The stairs are made of glass and the treads glow on a steel stringer.

Elsewhere, ramps, instead of steps, create transitions from one part of the house to another. Each ramp, or bridge (because that is what they are based on), is made from wooden plank, of a much darker wood to create a dramatic accent. Gaps between the planks allow a peek at the stone floor beneath. Some ramps transition down to the powder rooms, others to the lower entrance level. From my perspective, I always think of function first. So these ramps lend accessibility and still create a flowing effect.

For the main rooms, the spaces feel elevated and intentional. Yet, a “hovering,” white space would feel uncomfortable. That’s why we stained the ceilings with a wood treatment; the color contrast defines and differentiates each space from those around it. Yet the treatments unite the natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior.

The last room on the main floor is the office that takes full advantage of the natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior. We took extra care to transition from the personal spaces to this professional one. The room is annexed, a satellite space twisted away from the rest of the house. Even on the interior we used the brick to bring the outside in. A bridge takes the couple from the residential to the business section through a glass atrium. Yet again, well-chosen material provides a sense of purpose – of function – inspiring the office to be used as an office and the rest of the house to be used as a home.

To learn more specifics about the project and view construction photos, and animations, visit the “private residence – Burr Ridge, IL” project page.

About Mark Benner