Launch Slideshow

Big glass doors and an overhang of solar panels make up the guesthouse's front elevation.

Roots Rock

Roots Rock

  • Big glass doors and an overhang of solar panels make up the guesthouse's front elevation.

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    Big glass doors and an overhang of solar panels make up the guesthouse's front elevation.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    Mod Cott
    RADA 2010 – Custom Home 3,000 Square Feet or Less / Grand Award
    Architect: Mell Lawrence Architects, Austin, Texas; Builder: Classic Constructors, Marble Falls, Texas; Photography: Mell Lawrence

    This Texas guesthouse and weekend retreat juxtaposes rough-edged elements and polished precision. Big glass doors and an overhang of solar panels make up the front elevation.
  • Raw, site-gathered juniper branches and standing-seam metal clad the back of the building.

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    Raw, site-gathered juniper branches and standing-seam metal clad the back of the building.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    Raw, site-gathered juniper branches and standing-seam metal clad the back of the building.

  • The rocky, rugged landscape directly influenced the guesthouse's design.

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    The rocky, rugged landscape directly influenced the guesthouse's design.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    The rocky, rugged landscape directly influenced the guesthouse's design.

  • At night, a central light fixture casts shadow lines around the loft-like interiors.

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    At night, a central light fixture casts shadow lines around the loft-like interiors.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    At night, a central light fixture casts shadow lines around the loft-like interiors.

  • In keeping with the project's simple, elemental aesthetic, a halved steel pipe creates a gutter connecting the roof to the rainwater tank.

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    In keeping with the project's simple, elemental aesthetic, a halved steel pipe creates a gutter connecting the roof to the rainwater tank.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    In keeping with the project's simple, elemental aesthetic, a halved steel pipe creates a gutter connecting the roof to the rainwater tank.

  • Interior fir detailng adds a warm elegance to the space.

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    Interior fir detailng adds a warm elegance to the space.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    Interior fir detailng adds a warm elegance to the space.

  • A metal plinth forms a small staircase landing.

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    A metal plinth forms a small staircase landing.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    A metal plinth forms a small staircase landing.

  • The project takes in expansive views of a lake to the south.

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    The project takes in expansive views of a lake to the south.

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    Mell Lawrence FAIA

    The project takes in expansive views of a lake to the south.

  • The guesthouse's bath.

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    The guesthouse's bath.

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    Jacob Termansen

    The guesthouse's bath.

  • The project's first floor plan.

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    The project's first floor plan.

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    Courtesy Mell Lawrence Architects

    The project's first floor plan.

  • The guesthouse's bath.

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    The guesthouse's bath.

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    Courtesy Mell Lawrence Architects

    The guesthouse's bath.

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    Operable windows and high ceilings encourage natural ventilation in the main living area.
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    The extensive interior use of knotty pine-much of it reclaimed-creates a warm, casual look.
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    The home's three shotgun pavilions are staggered so that each one receives ample views, natural light, and breezes.
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    Glass-walled walkways connect the pavilions. Delicate-looking steel supports for the roofs supply structural strength without adding bulk.
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    Paul Warchol

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    Paul Warchol

    A shed roof translates into a sloping, wood-lined ceiling inside. Exposed trusses keep the scale of the main living spaces from feeling overwhelming.
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    Carney Architects

    The floor plan.
  • The main house includes a public zone with a pitched roof and a porch on either end.

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    The main house includes a public zone with a pitched roof and a porch on either end.

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    David Lake

    LC Ranch
    RADA 2010 – Custom Home 3,000 Square Feet or Less / Merit Award
    Architect: Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio; Builder: Yellowstone Traditions, Bozeman, Mont.; Photography: David Lake


    The major precedents for this Montana getaway were classic wooden barns and the sod houses of the Great Plains pioneers. The main house includes a public zone with a pitched roof and porches at both ends.
  • David Lake, FAIA likens the kitchen to a mess hall: "Several people can be in there cooking."

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    David Lake, FAIA likens the kitchen to a mess hall: "Several people can be in there cooking."

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    David Lake

    David Lake, FAIA, likens the kitchen to a mess hall: "Several people can be in there cooking."

  • Like the sleeping wing, a nearby guesthouse/garage (seen to the left of the main house) also burrows into the land.

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    Like the sleeping wing, a nearby guesthouse/garage (seen to the left of the main house) also burrows into the land.

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    David Lake

    Like the sleeping wing, a nearby guesthouse/garage (seen to the left of the main house) also burrows into the land.

  • The temperature of the bedrooms is moderated by the sleeping wing's sod roof.

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    The temperature of the bedrooms is moderated by the sleeping wing's sod roof.

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    David Lake

    The temperature of the bedrooms is moderated by the sleeping wing's sod roof.

  • The floorplan of the main house.

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    The floorplan of the main house.

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    Courtesy Lake|Flato Architects

    The floor plan of the main house.

  • Sliding doors of weathering steel can be closed over the glass walls on cold nights and during inclement weather.

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    Sliding doors of weathering steel can be closed over the glass walls on cold nights and during inclement weather.

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    David Lake

    Sliding doors of weathering steel can be closed over the glass walls on cold nights and during inclement weather.

  • The master bedroom sits as far away from the public areas as possible, ensuring peace and quiet.

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    The master bedroom sits as far away from the public areas as possible, ensuring peace and quiet.

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    David Lake

    The master bedroom sits as far away from the public areas as possible, ensuring peace and quiet.

  • The site plan showing the main house and guesthouse/garage.

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    The site plan showing the main house and guesthouse/garage.

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    Courtesy Lake|Flato Architects

    The site plan showing the main house and guesthouse/garage.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    Salvage Beauty
    Custom Home November/December 2011
    Architect: Bonstra | Haresign Architects, Washington, D.C.; Builder: Timberbuilt Construction, Flint Hill, Va.; Photography: Anice Hoachlander / Hoachlander Davis Photography 

    The Hazel River Cabin in Rappahannock County, Va., consists of a 1794 log cabin, its 1856 clapboard addition, and a larger, 1840 log cabin that was moved from another site.
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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    Cedar shakes cover the roofs of the cabins, while standing seam metal tops the addition and porch.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    A close-up of the 1794 cabin, where the logs were carefully preserved and re-chinked.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    The remaining second level of the 1840 cabin overlooks the home's main living space.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    New windows in the main living area maximize views of Old Rag Mountain and the Hazel River.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    A new kitchen adds a bit of color to the interiors.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    A granite-floored connecting piece links the kitchen to the dining room, which occupies the 1856 addition.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    The view from the second floor of the 1840 cabin into the upstairs study.

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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis Photography

    In the master bedroom, a modern built-in headboard and steel railings contrast with historic log walls.

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    Courtesy Bonstra | Haresign Architects

    "Before" and "after" floorplans of the Hazel River Cabin.

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    Anice Hoachlander

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    Anice Hoachlander

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    Paul Warchol

    Jackson Wine Silo
    CHDA 2007 – Accessory Building / Grand Award
    Architect: Carney Architects, Jackson, Wyo.; Builder: Bontecou Construction, Jackson; Photography: Paul Warchol

    The owner of this accessory building in Jackson, Wyo., lives in a flood plain, where cellars are inadvisable. A wine “silo” keeps his vintages safely above the water table, while complementing the log construction of the adjacent studio.
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    Paul Warchol

    A circular stairway of reclaimed wood occupies the center of the structure.

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    Carney Architects

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    David Duncan Livingston

    Napa Weekend House
    CHDA 2005 – Accessory Building / Merit Award
    Architect: Dahlin Group Architecture Planning, San Ramon, Calif.; Builder: R.H. Hess Development, Napa, Calif.; Photography: David Duncan Livingston

    The shell of this cleverly designed 996-square-foot Napa Valley, Calif., weekend home and guest house resembles the outbuildings of the region's many wineries.
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    David Duncan Livingston

    Light and airy details ensure a subtly elegant interior where nothing makes a statement or stands out, says architect Mario Aiello. The detailing disappears into the background, creating an overall impression of simplicity and comfort.

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    Dahlin Group Architecture Planning

City meets country. High meets low. There’s a lot of energy to be captured by cross-pollenating seemingly disparate architectural strains. Low-road rural buildings, with their utilitarian forms and tough, practical materials, offer modern architects an especially rich store of imagery with which to enliven their work. This collection of projects includes a contemporary renovation that incorporates two historic log cabins and new work that draws inspiration from such rural archetypes as the ranch shed, shotgun house, barn, and farm silo.

The pioneers, farmers, and ranchers who developed these vernacular types embraced simplicity for practical, rather than aesthetic or theoretical reasons. But the result was buildings whose directness of purpose, honesty of form, and expression of structure resonate strongly with the modernist approach. The lessons they teach, about economy, durability, comfort, and modesty, are as valuable today as they ever were.