Articles and Essays

Books and Special Projects


A Lot in a Lot

A Bay Area landscape designer works her yard like a jigsaw puzzle, packing a bevy of distinctive destinations into a steep and diminutive plot.

Until a few years ago, Loretta Gargan had spent her entire career as a landscape designer creating outdoor havens for other people, without a proper yard to call her own. But don’t feel sorry for her: She never felt deprived. “I’ve always interpreted a feeling of nature wherever I am, no matter the context,” she says. “Even putting big branches in a vase or arranging rocks—that’s enough to make me happy. It’s not about the space; it’s about envisioning what you can do with what you have.” (Read More…)

Open Estate

In this Brussels mansion, nothing has a price tag, but almost everything is for sale. Here, two design experts curate their fantasy house.

In 2010, Ike Udechuku and Kathryn Smith moved into a neoclassical house in the Saint-Gilles district and set out to create what Udechuku calls “a gallery of the living experience.” Several times a year, they partner with European galleries in presenting rare and choice furniture, objects, and art in their home. They live with the items they borrow­—eating breakfast at a one-of-a-kind Danish dining table, sipping wine on an iconic sofa—and welcome collectors and visitors into their home to experience (and purchase) design icons in situ. “These pieces are intended (Read More…)

Mix Master

Both a gallery and a residence, an Antwerp home redefines the boundaries between public and private, art and interior design.

Veerle Wenes has always been interested in hybrid creations, in the blending of disciplines. When she was invited in 2009 to cocurate an exhibition at Belgium’s Musée des Arts Contemporains, she opted to display “very well-known artists alongside unknown designers.” The resulting show was a revelation for her. “Design and art and architecture have had a bad relationship for much of the past 50 or 60 years,” says Wenes. “There was a time in the art deco period where they combined more easily.” (Read More…)

Quito Parts

Seeking a way to blend architecture into the natural environment, a pair of Ecuador-based designers invents a new modular building system.

Prefab construction is often compared to building with Legos. In the case of the Pentimento House, located on the outskirts of Quito, the metaphor is unusually apt. Overlooking the Ilaló volcano and Andes mountain range, Pentimento comprises hundreds of identical stacked concrete modules. As in a Lego model, the blocks simultaneously form “the structural and formal systems of the house,” as architect Jose María Sáez puts it, as well as both the interior and exterior walls. Thanks to the region’s mild climate, there’s no need for insulation, and “you don’t have to build in a perfect way,” says Sáez. “It’s like Adam and Eve, working in paradise. (Read More…)

New Frontiers

An airy addition on the back of a historic house in Boise is a model of sensitive renovation, seamlessly melding new and old.

After nine years spent renting apartments in Boston and Chicago, Dan and Dana Zuckerman moved to Boise, Idaho, Dan’s hometown, in 2008. Drawn by the prospect of purchasing a historic home where they could raise their three kids, and by a unique job opportunity for Dan, an oncologist, the couple forewent the allure of a turnkey house in favor of a 1910 American foursquare that needed (Read More…)

Alberta Aerie

Edmonton architect Vivian Manasc’s 19th-story rooftop penthouse is a bright spot—and a model green building—in a city where downtown living is rare.

A 2011 visit to the New Cambridge Lofts building in Edmonton, Alberta, started out as purely business for architect Vivian Manasc. Her firm, Manasc Isaac Architects, had been hired to do a technical evaluation of the former office building–turned–condo complex. But while looking for heat leaks on the roof, things (Read More…)

The Real Cost of Rip-Offs

Knockoff furnishings may be cheap, but for the design industry, they come with a heavy price.

Here’s how a designer makes money: One day she dreams up a chair. She spends months developing the concept, selecting materials, devising the exact curve of the arm, the dip of the back. Satisfied with the piece, she works with a manufacturer to produce it. The manufacturer refines the design, invests in tooling to build it, promotes it, and gets it (Read More…)

Process: Ruché Sofa

On a walk through Ligne Roset’s factory near Lyon, France, we track the multitude of steps, hands, and hours required to craft this very refined couch.

From the exterior, Ligne Roset’s complex in Briord, France, is little to look at, just workaday cement- and-metal factories near the base of the Alps. But once you step inside, the operation bursts into colorful life, with dozens of workers hefting gigantic bolts of fabric, manning robotic sewing machines, and operating (Read More…)

A Simple Plan

A Marmol Radziner–designed prefab house, trucked onto a remote Northern California site, takes the pain out of the construction process.

Bill and Abbie Burton have experienced their share of construction drama. The Solana Beach, California– based landscape architects have been working together for 25 years, overhauling landscapes and buildings alike. So when the time came to build a vacation house on the 330-acre oak-speckled woodland they purchased in Mendocino County (Read More…)

An Epic Plot

Architect Steve Bull designed a high-impact, low-maintenance home for a pair of intrepid clients in Alaska, but that was only the beginning of the adventure.

Working as ER doctors at a hospital in eastern Anchorage, Alaska, Tanya Leinicke and Rick Navitsky are accustomed to high-pressure situations, like ministering to the aftereffects of moose stompings and bear maulings. So when two stressful events intersected at the same moment in the couple’s life—a political revolution in Nepal jeopardized their adoption of a son just as the design and con­struc­tion of their 2,100-square-foot house ramped up—they handled the situation with an uncommon meas­ure of grace and perspective. Four years later, the couple (Read More…)