Sometimes strict rules and regulations, including size restrictions, spur innovative architectural inspiration.
Moor, Baker & Associates Architects, P.A. got the opportunity to apply out-of-the-box solutions when the firm was commissioned to design a single-family house for a client in the Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. New Urbanist community of Windsor in Vero Beach, Florida.
The client’s ambitious agenda for a five-bedroom house in the allotted space of only 4,900 square feet proved the prime catalyst for the compact, yet expansive-looking design that features a pair of matching wings.
Although the community of Windsor prescribes asymmetrical massing, this house, which is in the middle of the block and terminates the long axial view into the South Village, simply begged for symmetry, says architect Peter D. Moor, a principal of the Vero Beach-based firm, adding that permission to design it that way was graciously granted.
“Palladio would be very proud—he would be clapping in his grave because of the rigorous symmetry,” Moor says, adding that the community, which is modeled after St. Augustine, Florida, typically requires a side-yard design scheme.
The residence, which faces the street and is on an axially symmetrical plan, is entered through a carriage house that is flanked by a pair of gated garages for golf carts in addition to garages for two cars.
“It’s always a challenge in our work to make the automobile part of the ‘delight’ aspect of the famous Vitruvian triad,” Moor says, adding that the community’s rules require the vehicles to be tucked out of sight.
A graveled walkway leads through the carriage house, which has two guest bedrooms upstairs, to a central, open-air courtyard that’s defined by eight buttonwood trees and four two-story walls. Designed for relaxation as well as al fresco dining, it has two showers—one for dogs and one for their humans—in symmetrical spaces.
As are all those on the first story, the tall doors and windows are steel. Second-story windows and doors, however, are made of wood.
“Marrying the dense New Urbanist planning to a more formal ‘country garden’ scheme was also inspired by the open space beyond the rear yard garden, which includes a pond, a fairway, and woods beyond,” says architect Chris Baker, a principal in the firm.
To satisfy the client’s desire for a minimalist, sophisticated year-round house, the team scaled back the trim and created sculptural elements made of stucco or cement.
“All of the details are functional,” Baker says.
The bathroom walls, the subtle sculptural splays that shelter the upper-floor windows, the massive floor-to-ceiling fireplace in the two-story main living space, the swimming pool surround, and the hood in the kitchen are stucco. The floors throughout the house are what Baker calls “out-of-the-truck” polished concrete.
One of the more dramatic elements is the stucco spiral staircase that gracefully climbs to the guest rooms. This feat of craftsmanship—thin slats of wood were applied to a form to create the undulating shape—was the product of three dictates: minimal space, a small budget, and building code rules.
“We were required to have a landing every 12 feet,” Moor says, “so we created a monumental platform at the bottom.”
The team, Moor adds, “used the lemon of the code to create lemonade,” not only on the staircase but also on the back porch. “Arches are not allowed, but we created swag-like brackets and set them back three feet to get around this,” Moor says.
Moor and Baker reveled in the rigor of the rules, not all of which they found restrictive. “There’s one really cool rule that says that every rectangle on the elevation has to be taller than it is wide,” Moor says delightedly. “If you want to let more light in, you don’t go wider, you go taller.”
Baker notes that it is this proportion of spaces and tall windows and doors that are “the stars of the show.”
Moor adds that the other “star” is the craftsmanship. “Without the artisans, who understand that stucco and cement are like liquid art, this residence could not have happened,” he says.
To stay within budget, the interior walls of the residence are made of drywall. “There’s no crown molding, which is part of the minimalistic aesthetic the client desired,” Baker says. “The baseboards are thin, understated, and inexpensive.”
The only ornamentation is in the main living space, whose walls are clad in dropped shiplap planking, which typically is used for exterior siding. “It’s a subtle gesture to bring the outdoors in,” Moor says, adding that the firm has used the technique in several of its residential projects. “It references a beach cottage, and it’s practical and beautiful.”
Baker adds that the fact that it’s wrapped around the columns of the room “brings a deeper appreciation of the form.”
It was the client, Baker and Moor say, who gave them the license to come up with such a satisfying design.
Moor, Baker & Associates Architects, P.A. has designed several other houses in the community, and that work is what caught the client’s eye.
“We had an unencumbered feeling that allowed us to stretch out,” Moor says. “The client noticed how we used masonry as a way to express our ideas and how we explored its use within the stringent rules of the community.”
Moor, Baker & Associates Architects, P.A. www.moorarch.com
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