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Self-designed homes by architects: A laboratory of limitless design ideas

Everyone has their own idea of their ultimate dream home. But when the person designing that dream home is also a professional architect, it’s probably not surprising that magic often happens.

The London house designed two hundred years ago by neo-classical architect Sir John Soane is one such home – and is still so popular it was turned into a museum.

Magic is also what occurred when legendary architect Frank Gehry – designer of dozens of spectacular buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – designed and built his own residence in Santa Monica, California.

Gehry’s self-designed home “overturned all expectations,” according to British architect Edwin Heathcoate in the Financial Times. “The existing Dutch-colonial-style dwelling was transformed into an ad hoc masterpiece” that even today still inspires legions of architecture students and fans of good design.

Any architect’s self-designed home can be special that way because it’s a chance to try new things. Self-designed homes often serve as a crucible for radical, boundary-pushing design and are often “a laboratory for ideas,” Heathcoate says.

Here’s a showcase of some of the most interesting self-designed homes by architects over the past few years.

Gehry Residence (USA)

Gehry’s original home was first built in 1978 and renovated in the early 1990s. It’s a bold mix of glass, plywood, chain-link fencing, corrugated metal, and other materials enveloping the original Dutch Colonial house that predated Gehry’s ownership of the property.

A few years ago, however, Gehry realized the original residence wouldn’t be able to accommodate the 92-year-old, Toronto-born architect and his wife. They required an elevator, for one thing, plus space for possible live-in help. So he built a new house – his “once-in-a-lifetime house,” according to Architectural Digest – with an ocean view.

The new Gehry house features Douglas fir beams, gabled roofs, and glass panes jutting out at various angles. Gehry’s son, Sam Gehry, led the design, which includes one wing highlighted by living areas and the kitchen, and a second wing that includes a gym and music room.

River House (Australia)

Built in Melbourne alongside the Yarra River, River House by Simon Pole sits in a natural spot just three miles from the city and includes a swimming pool, basketball court, and boat deck. The three-storey home’s terraced levels are built on a 30-degree slope, while the home’s facade combines black cypress and slim dark timber slats with 5.8-metre high operable glazing for brilliant natural light.

River House includes unique materials such as the aforementioned black cypress, along with bluestone and black steel. It even has a covered bridge attachment to a separate guest house nicknamed the Treehouse.

Wuehrer House (USA)

Architect Jerome Engelking wanted to create a natural vacation retreat for his growing family on Long Island, N.Y. So he built Wuehrer House, a stunning glass house with the entire perimeter made of RAICO THERM+ H-I timber curtain walls fabricated by Unicel Architectural. These load-bearing timber curtain walls are uniquely designed to support all roof loads, providing a visual impression of a house made almost entirely of glass.

RAICO sealing technology can be mounted on any timber or derivative timber product and includes an invisible wooden connector system and a three-level drainage system. These timber curtain walls are also supremely flexible: They can be installed in any steel, concrete, or timber structure.

The glass house now resides organically in the wooded clearing with a lawn area as a back yard and a carefully positioned retaining wall protecting the front façade. From the interior, occupants are surrounded by glass walls, bringing nature inside. Vertical cedar slats ensure adjustable privacy and provide brilliant natural daylighting and heat control.

Ceiba House (Mexico)

Ceiba House is a 1930s neocolonial renovated in 2013 by architect Jorge Ramirez. The 290 sq. m. house features some of the original forms and elements of the original construction, while including new elements such as a yoga room with outdoor access (adjacent to a pond and garden) and a spiral staircase beside a large indoor ceiba tree.

Ceiba House sits in the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes, known for its neocolonial architecture – a design element retained by the construction by including throwback features like mud-brick walls and crumbling render.

Le Pedrera (Uruguay)

Le Pedrera was designed and built by Argentinian architect Alejandro Sticotti as a coastal holiday home, from unique materials including textured, board-marked concrete walls, floss, and ceilings left exposed throughout the dwelling’s private spaces. Upper walls viewed from street level feature weathered wood cladding.

Sticotti’s wife, Mercedes, designed the home’s interior, including tactile wooden floors, ceilings, and furniture. A five-minute walk from the beach, much of the home’s first floor features floor-to-ceiling glass windows combined with wooden details, stone, and metallic features, and pale white tiles.

Elevate your dream home with Unicel Architectural

Unicel Architectural’s timber curtain walls, aluminum skylights, solariums, and Vision Control insulating glass units with advanced louver technology are often specified by top architects to help add natural light and refine the design of residential projects in both the U.S. and Canada.

Indeed, just as we helped architect Jerome Engelking make his dream of a glass house in the woods a reality, we can do the same for your dream home. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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