Volume 27, Issue 1 - January/February 2013

My Space
A One-of-a-Kind Renovation Gives Homeowners a New View
by Ellen Rogers

Dorothy Gale said it best … with words we’ve all uttered thousands of times: “there’s no place like home.” There’s just something about it--your home, your kitchen, your windows. You build your life in your home; you live there for years. It’s yours. Then … you move … for a new job, a fresh start or perhaps to be closer to family.

Family is what brought Dr. Jose and Ann Bal, a retired couple from Rhode Island, to California. They soon learned, though, that finding the perfect new home isn’t always simple. How long would it take before they could walk in the door and think, “there’s no place like home?” It took a long search, architectural ingenuity and lots of glass.

According to Alex Terry, a partner with his brother Ivan in the Berkeley, Calif.-based Terry and Terry Architecture, the Bal’s wish list wasn’t extensive: they wanted a solid single-story home. As avid gardeners, they wanted a nice lot that would allow them to enjoy the outdoors and their gardens while having a connection to their home. But in California’s Silicone Valley area, even a small home on a small lot doesn’t come cheap. After many long searches, the homeowners found a property they liked, but it was in a state of disrepair. That’s when they turned to the architectural team of Terry and Terry.

“The idea was to focus inward toward the garden,” says Terry. “Having a connection from the common space to the garden was key.” This, he explains, was somewhat of a challenge as they had to connect the garden to the house in a relatively tight lot. The result, however, brings the garden into that central area, and through the use of natural materials they were able to create transparency and a visual connection.

Room with a View
To gain that open, transparent, connection, glass was an essential component. Terry says he and his brother often incorporate glazing elements into their projects.

“Depending on the setting, we want to maximize the windows and keep a clean and simple [aesthetic],” says Terry. “We use large pieces and openings, sliding doors, etc. In this particular project we went a step further and used curved glass, fabricated by California Glass Bending, for one area in the corner.”

Also for this project, he says the homeowners were open to the extensive glass usage, unique among residential projects.

“We explained that by using the glass … we could provide transparency and sun exposure,” says Terry. “We came up with the initial schematic and they were happy with it.”

He adds that while using glass allowed them to bring in light and transparency, it’s also an economical product, considering the performance benefits it can offer.

“When you [look at glass] from the insulating/thermal standpoint, it’s a great material,” says Terry, adding, “and with insulating glass and low-E it helps even further. Laminates can help with thermal properties, too.”

For this home, architects selected Fleetwood USA Windows and Doors to provide the sliding doors and windows. Some of the glazing in the home was also supplied by Hartung Glass Industries.

In addition to the curved glass, there were other unique elements. For instance, the home incorporates a corner sliding door that pockets directly into the concrete wall.

“Also, in the front bedroom we added a new steel bay window seat that worked well,” he says.

As for the project installation, Terry says he and his brother worked closely with Timberline Construction, the general contractor. The brothers also have experience with building construction and fabrication, which they say has allowed them to be able to provide first-hand knowledge of the relationship among concept, construction and project realization.

“My brother and I have done some custom work, fabricating steel [and other work] that has involved glazing,” says Terry, explaining that it’s not unusual for them to get involved in a project such as this one.

In addition to the exterior, there are also a number of glazing elements inside. In the kitchen, for example, there is an obscure, fixed lite behind the stove that helps bring in light, and is also easy to clean.

“It works well, there, and provides a nice glow of light,” says Terry. “We also added a skylight there, which also helps balance light.” In addition, they added a glass shower enclosure in the bathroom and a skylight above it to bring in more light. The skylights were supplied by Tru Frame.

Piece by Piece
Reconstructing an existing building isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, Terry says the whole puzzle was complicated.

“You just have to piece it out into sections,” he says. “It helps to have [work] pre-planned and templated. It was a long process … everything had to be figured out in advance.”

He says they were fortunate to have had a client that was so open to the ideas and allowed them to take the lead.

“They liked what we were doing and let us go, so long as we stayed within the budget. It was a process … we went through the details with them. Renderings and images are always a little abstract, but the homeowners had trust in us and then in the process as they started to see it [come together].”

Now, with the homeowners fully moved in, Terry says the details and intent of the design are even more apparent, brought to life each day as they live and enjoy their own, unique home (ruby slippers not included).

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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