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unique contemporary home…

with natural and reclaimed materials on the interior and exterior

We’re putting out the mailbox on our latest project, a unique contemporary home in Burr Ridge, Illinois. We often think of modern contemporary house plans as minimalist – usually stark white and with an exploration of space and volume. This open floor plan home’s rich textures, clean lines, and colors are more notable 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.

This unique contemporary home exterior showcases characteristic reclaimed brick fired 100 years ago and repurposed from the original building. The unique contemporary home expresses texture, a range of colors, and 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 for this unique contemporary home.

While the clients and their neighbors notice the aesthetics of this modern architecture, 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, large windows make sliding glass walls to welcome natural light into this unique contemporary home. 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 design and exterior add warmth and character to what would typically be a cold expression of space.

One is a retired professional from an IT company; the other 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 that has many instruments in it. 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 softer wood. The modern design 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 loans section through a glass atrium. A 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 unique contemporary home.

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