Top 15 iconic Western homes

We dug into our archives to find inspiration for the 5 designers who created the Reimagined Home for Celebration Weekend 2013. Hidden in the pages were more iconic homes or moments in Western design we had to share

Past perfect

Thomas J. Story

Past perfect

The Sunset archives are a gold mine of design inspiration. The magazine practically invented the outdoor living room, featured glass walls as far back as 1946, and has done stories on the best possible way to design with sunlight for at least 60 years. For our 16th annual Celebration Weekend open house, heldin June 2013, we invited up-and-coming design talents to give rooms from the magazine’s past an update for today. Here, genius ideas from their spaces to try in your own home--plus 10 more iconic Western home design styles featured in Sunset over the years.

Inspiration: Open kitchen

Inspiration: Open kitchen

In 1981, we did a story on the new concept of the “wide-open kitchen,” featuring an island with bar seating. Seattle designer Brian Paquette took that idea further with materials and details that integrate this hardworking space into the living and dining rooms.

Reimagined kitchen

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined kitchen

Choose a showstopper. For the island, Paquette splurged on custom blue concrete tile from Kismet, which gives the kitchen a luxe lift. He offset the cost of the tile by using quartz for the countertops instead of marble, and basic Ikea cabinets.

Apply the rule of threes. “Using the same color in three completely different ways makes a room interesting,” Paquette says. Here, for instance, he repeats sapphire blue in the tile, window seat fabric, and walls.

 

Reimagined kitchen's lounge

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined kitchen's lounge

Bold needs bright. About that strong wall color: “Is it for everybody? No. Does it require lots of natural light? Yes,” Paquette says. He balanced it with white countertops, cabinets, and shelves. The clean lines of the cabinetry also quiet the color, a trick inspired by the kitchens in midcentury issues of Sunset.

Create an eat-in lounge. “You wouldn’t necessarily have a giant sofa in the kitchen, but the double-width banquette still gives people a place to relax,” Paquette says. Plus, the softness of the fabric is a counterpoint to the hardness of the other materials in the room.

Inspiration: Midcentury living room

Inspiration: Midcentury living room

In this room featured in 1958, Hemet, CA designer Morgan Satterfield (of the-brick-house.com and campprovisions.com) proves mid­­century style has staying power, especially when pieces from the era comingle with contemporary elements.

Reimagined living room

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined living room

Upgrade basics. Satterfield created a credenza-like piece by mounting Ikea kitchen cabinets about 8 inches above the floor. She topped them with plywood, and tacked leather pulls on the doors.

Tap all eras. Mix items from different periods, Satterfield says, to avoid a stiff, museum-perfect setting. Leaning toward classic colors and materials—gray, black, wood, and leather—also helps.

Define, don’t divide. The three-sided fireplace is a late-1950s concept that still works today, separating the living and dining rooms while leaving the spaces open. Satterfield updated the fireplace with a wide concrete hearth, which protects the floor from sparks and adds an industrial edge.

Inspiration: 1970s rumpus room

Inspiration: 1970s rumpus room

San Francisco blogger, consultant, and stylist Erin Hiemstra resurrected the 1970s “rumpus room” as a place for families to relax and unplug.

Reimagined den

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined den

Swap out the TV. In most dens, the television commands the attention. “I wanted to flip that on its head and put something else massive on the wall,” says Hiemstra. Her pick: a marquee-style art piece in the shape of California.

Swing low. A hammock in the corner is still a great way to signal This room is for relaxing. Hiemstra hung one end higher “so it feels more like a seat,” she says.

Double up on lounge space. “Everyone’s always fighting over the couch,” says Hiemstra. But not with this layout, thanks to a pair of deep sofas placed back to back.

Open up storage. Instead of closed-door built-ins, Hiemstra gave the room architectural interest by creating a wall of staggered cube cutouts to hold books and plants.

Reimagined home office

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined home office

A room dedicated to working at home wasn’t big back in 1978, but Hiemstra knew a no-tech space would need a wired counterpart.

“Lift” the ceiling. A little paint—just the bottom half of the wall—results in a lot of pleasing trickery. “It gives the perception of higher ceilings since there’s more white wall space,” says Hiemstra. It’s also a great technique if you don’t want to commit to one color completely.

Shine a spotlight. In rooms lacking interesting architecture, a showy overhead light fixture fills the style gap.

Work your corners. Heimstra placed the desk and chair at an angle in the corner for better flow through the narrow space. In place of a traditional desk set, she kept the workspace sophisticated by mixing a wood and brass table with a white upholstered chair.

Upscale 80s bathroom

Upscale 80s bathroom

L.A. interior designer Vanessa De Vargas used an upscale 1980s bathroom as a jumping-off point for her version, and created an enveloping bedroom to match.

Reimagined bathroom

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined bathroom

Take cues from the spa. An infinity tub (excess water drains into the tub’s ledge) turns this wet room into a retreat. A stainless steel towel warmer not only keeps terry cloth toasty, it warms the room too.

Reimagined bedroom

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined bedroom

Pick a dramatic headboard. In any bedroom, eyes go right to the bed. De Vargas capitalized on that with a curvaceous red headboard. The shape is traditional, but the color and smooth finish (notice: no tufting) give it modern sleekness.

 

Inspiration: Midcentury outdoor space

Inspiration: Midcentury outdoor space

Sunset’s garden stories have always covered more than just plant plans, San Francisco garden designer Daniel Nolan says. “It’s been about how people interact with their garden.” He tapped that legacy, embodied in this 1950 outdoor space, for his reimagined garden.

Reimagined garden

Thomas J. Story

Reimagined garden

Step up the firepit. “Fireplaces are natural congregating areas and give a focus to a garden,” Nolan says. He created a geometric, slate blue version, against which the white wire furniture pops.

Make it a group effort. “Repetition of plants lets other materials stand out,” Nolan says. The glaze on the containers, the texture of the decomposed gravel, and the copper-colored sculpture have more impact when plants like aeonium, aloe, and Agave angustifolia are repeated and grown in clusters.

Import plants from Down Under. Nolan chose a few plants originally from the Southern Hemisphere; they adapt well to coastal climates in the West. Astelia offers “a striking, silvery texture” year-round, he says. Grevillea blooms on and off all year, but the plant is still dramatic when it’s not flowering.

Plant a gallery. Staghorn ferns and sphagnum moss lashed to plywood with fishing line are a tongue-in-cheek nod to mounted antlers.

 

Plus: 10 more iconic homes

Plus: 10 more iconic homes

Open-plan living begins

We take the “great room”—a no-barriers room with the kitchen, dining, and living room all within four walls—for granted now, but when we featured it in 1955, the “studio room” was a revolutionary concept. As our lives became more suburban and more casual, the walls separating spaces to prep meals, eat, entertain, and relax came down.

Solar adobes in New Mexico

Solar adobes in New Mexico

Architects in the 1970s re-embraced the adobe, the ancient building material long used to help temper the sun’s heat in the southwest and Mexico. When we featured it in 1978, we noted the thick walls kept the interiors at a comfortable 70 degrees, regardless of the temperature outdoors.

The home office arrives

Norman A. Plate

The home office arrives

It’s the early ‘90s and the personal computer is just beginning to land on the desks of forward-thinking innovators—including many of our readers. This 1993 home office marks the beginning of fitting tech into our homes in a graceful way.

More: 25 creative home offices

Farmhouse revival

Michael Skott

Farmhouse revival

Long before “modern farmhouse” became the most coveted interior style, homes were built to resemble that icon of agricultural living: the barn. This winner of our 1993 Western Home Awards embraced the raw-wood exterior of its progenitor, but added expansive windows and dormers to make it clear: Very stylish people live here.

A cabin without rough edges

David Wakely

A cabin without rough edges

This small Walden, Colorado, home expands on the idea of a one-room cabin with a space-smart structure composed of two squares boxes under an ample barn-gable roof. The ground floor holds the kitchen, living, and dining rooms. The master bedroom and bathroom make up the top (and smaller) floor. The stone fireplace and patio reflect the rugged terrain.  The cabin felt like such a step forward, we honored it with Sunset’s 2008 Western Home Awards.

A glass house that’s fire-ready

A glass house that’s fire-ready

A glass house makes perfect sense in the Santa Ynez mountains, where every direction offers an incredible view. But the statement-making part of this home isn’t its walls of glass (we showed an example of that in our pages as early as 1946)--it’s the way this home was constructed of steel and concrete to protect it from the wildfires that often ravage the range.

More: 13 amazing homes with a view

Life on the water

Thomas J. Story

Life on the water

You can’t live in the West without having a love affair with water. Houseboat neighborhoods are bubbling up almost anywhere there’s a dock, and those who live there measure their days by the tide rather than the sun. The small-space efficiency of these homes hold lessons for land-dwellers, too.

More: Life and style on a modern houseboat

Green pre-fab

Bill Timmerman

Green pre-fab

This student-led building project borrowed from the architectural tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright to create a pre-fab home prototype. The one-bedroom uses solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and gray water collection to reduce waste and energy consumption. Finally, this is green design that feels like home.

More: Top green home designs in the West

Cargotecture’s first sighting

Jack Parsons Photography

Cargotecture’s first sighting

In early 2010, this pre-fab home fabricated largely from repurposed shipping cargo containers, was built in the Mojave Desert. It heralded a bold reimagining of reuse in architecture. We followed the lead, letting readers tour a home contained in a single shipping container during 2011’s Celebration Weekend.

More: The Cargotecture movement

Going up

Lisa Romerein

Going up

The sprawling ranch home will always be the West’s signature, but in space-strapped big cities, the need for small footprints (only 680 square feet in this case) means building up. Not to say multiples stories means wasted space and excess square footage: The 1,500 in this house feel more expansive because of the sliding doors and opaque paneled exterior that let light in.

More: 10 resourceful small-home design ideas

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