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Blue Heron’s Modern Desert Design in Las Vegas

See 2 homes from the award-winning design-build firm that were highlighted at this year’s AIA conference

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

A panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip — the Sin City equivalent of an ocean view — reveals itself inside the great room of this luxe hillside home. The dramatic design of the custom home takes its cue from the nearby Strip’s entertainment, casino and hotel spaces. Sliding walls of glass disappear at the touch of a button and fully retract within adjacent walls. The interior space flows seamlessly onto an exterior terrace.

 

This is the Topaz, one of two Blue Heron homes showcased at this year’s American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture, which took place in Las Vegas on June 5-7. Along with other conference participants, I toured both homes during the annual architecture and design event. The tour gave us an inside look at how the design-build firm combines cutting-edge design and construction to create modern luxury homes that emphasize energy-efficient, technology-driven elements. We’ll walk you through it and another of Blue Heron’s homes here.

 

Blue Heron's Topaz home in Las Vegas

The great room and kitchen of Blue Heron’s Topaz home features expansive family living and entertaining areas. The glittering Las Vegas skyline is seen through the large windows in the background.

 

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The Beauty of Subtle Sustainable Architecture

See how 4 earth-friendly design approaches find harmony with nature

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” — Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Homeowners and designers continue to be inspired to design houses that are more “earth-friendly.” Our approach often focuses on energy efficiency, as we use enhanced insulating materials and install advanced heating and cooling systems. We add solar panels to rooftops and build wind farms to generate electricity.

 

Sustainable design can also celebrate natural beauty. Let’s explore some approaches to designing houses that wear their sustainable features in harmony with the architecture and broader landscape.

 

subtle sustainable architecture

Woodland Retreat by Flavin Architects; photograph by Nat Rea. The north side of this house is set into the ground via a berm planted with native grasses and small trees. The quiet colors of the house help it blend into the landscape.

 

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John Lautner’s Organic Architecture in the Desert

Inspiration abounds in the architect’s restored modernist compound near Palm Springs

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

Set incongruously in the Southern California desert on a street lined with modest ranch-style homes, the Lautner Compound is a cluster of four attached homes with undulating steel and concrete roofs partially set down into the earth. The dwellings are ingeniously nested together, achieving privacy and connection to the desert while occupying a surprisingly small footprint.

 

For years, the buildings were known to fans of midcentury architect John Lautner as the only surviving multifamily project he designed, but they were otherwise overlooked and neglected as nearby Palm Springs became justly famous for its modern houses. 

 

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the current owners, the compound has been restored and updated, and it was featured in Palm Springs’ Modernism Week this year. Read on to learn more about the design and renovation of this iconic cluster of buildings.

 

Lautner Compoud by Dan Chavkin

The buildings of the Lautner Compound, shown here after the renovation to restore their original appearance. Photo by Dan Chavkin

 

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Soaring Above the Desert: Albert Frey’s Cree House Reborn

See the architect-designed home, newly renovated and open for the first time at Palm Springs’ 2019 Modernism Week

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

For years, curious travelers driving on State Route 111 through Southern California’s Coachella Valley marveled at the dramatic profile of a hillside home, its massive stone chimney and deck perched high above the desert floor. This was all that most people ever saw of Albert Frey’s 1955 Cree House, as it remained closed to the public for most of its existence.

 

During 2019 Modernism Week, held in Palm Springs on February 14-24, visitors finally got to tour this midcentury gem, wrapping up a more than yearlong restoration. Read on to see more of “The Forgotten Frey” and learn about its inception, innovative design and recent renovation.

 

Albert Frey's Cree House

View of the Cree House from Highway 111, with the afternoon sun backlighting the deck. Photos by Colin Flavin except where noted.

 

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William Krisel’s Twin Palms: A Modern American Dream

This innovative Palm Springs housing development turns 60 this year. See why it’s as relevant as ever.

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

The year 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the completion of architect William Krisel’s crowning achievement: Twin Palms, a subdivision of 90 homes on the south side of Palm Springs, in the California desert. The project was the perfect marriage between a progressive builder and a master architect, both intent on creating a new type of residential development that appealed to the burgeoning middle class after World War II. “It was the end result of everything I wanted to do,” Krisel said.

 

William Krisel’s Twin Palms

William Krisel sits in front of a home he designed in the Twin Palms neighborhood. Photo by James Schnepf for Palm Springs Modern Living.

 

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Midcentury Marvel: Is That a Pool in the Living Room?

Step inside the Raymond Loewy house, a modernist hideaway in the California desert designed by architect Albert Frey

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

The Raymond Loewy house in Palm Springs, California, designed by Albert Frey for the celebrated industrial designer in 1946, isn’t what you might expect of a home created for a celebrity client. Instead of a large, lavish house, Frey’s design is pint-size, built with low-cost materials and beautifully integrated into the landscape, an innovative approach that continues to be relevant.

 

The house punches above its weight by making a seamless connection between the home’s interior, the exterior courtyard and the desert beyond. Frey’s approach to design, so different from the Spanish-style homes popular at the time, helped create a new style of architecture called Desert Modern.

 

Albert Frey’s Raymond Lowey Residence

The backyard pool merges with the living room of the Raymond Loewy House. Photo by David A. Lee

 

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Celebrate Rudolph Schindler’s Kings Road House

This Southern California modernist home, which marks its 95th birthday this year, is still a game changer

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

Rudolph Schindler’s Kings Road House in West Hollywood, California, remains an inspiration 95 years after it was completed: In his first built project, Schindler was able to design one of the word’s first truly modern houses and integrate it into its environment in a way that hadn’t been seen. As architectural critic and historian Reyner Banham wrote in 1971, “Schindler designed a house as if there had never been houses before.”

 

Rudolph Schindler’s Kings Road House

Seen from the garden of the Kings Road House is Schindler’s studio, right, and that of wife Pauline, center. Photo by Joshua White

 

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How to Select the Right Exterior Finishes for Your Modern House

When choosing your new home’s exterior finishes, consider location, maintenance, and natural aging

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

Creating a home of lasting value is top of mind for those building a new house. For most of us, our home is our largest investment, so of course we want to see our hard-earned dollars protected. Homeowners building a modern house want an innovative design, but not at the cost of it looking dated in a few years.

 

Aesthetics and initial cost must be balanced with maintenance. When researching the materials and finishes for your new home, understand the level of maintenance that different materials require, and the time and expense entailed. Choose materials that don’t require more upkeep than you can undertake. Here are examples from new homes and iconic vintage homes that get the exterior finish right.

 

select the right exterior finishes for your modern house

Walter Gropius' personal home in Lincoln, Massachusetts

 

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Adding More of a Good Thing to a Midcentury Modern Home

Here’s how to add space and still keep the spirit of a vintage home

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

I love how midcentury homes often fit beautifully into their neighborhoods. Many are only a single story, with low-pitch roofs and subdued color palettes. The homes also tend to be small and are often in need of enlarging to accommodate contemporary households. Fortunately, designers have come a long way from the 1970s and ‘80s, when midcentury was out of fashion and additions often disregarded the original house design.

 

What is the best approach to making an addition to a midcentury home, while keeping the spirit of the original home intact? Should the addition harmonize or contrast with the existing home? Should the addition be placed out of sight from the street or be a new focal point? There is no right answer; it depends on the character of the original house and your own design personality. From the Pacific Northwest to Cape Cod, here are some creative approaches to adding on to a midcentury home.

 

add space and still keep the spirit of a vintage home

Mid-Century Modern Addition, Truro, MA by Hammer Architects

 

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Diamond in the Rough: Albert Frey’s Desert Masterpiece

Walk with us through the architect’s iconic Palm Springs home — boulder and all — and find out how it came to be

 

Colin Flavin | Houzz Contributor

 

I went to Palm Springs in February expecting to enjoy the exuberant midcentury homes on display for Modernism Week. What really caught my eye was something very different: a modest house perched on a rocky slope on the outskirts of town, designed by architect Albert Frey.

 

Albert Frey's Desert Masterpiece

A giant boulder original to the site separates the home’s living and dining areas from the bedroom. Photo from Dan Chavkin

 

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