If you didn't already know, J_spy is the husband and wife team of Jason Shannon and Paola Yañez. We happen to have a friend who is a successful artist and we sometimes are jealous because he can create art whenever he wants. As an architect on the other hand, we require someone to hire us first, and then it is often more than a year before the journey is complete. So we decided to be inspired by art, and work on an aspirational house project that has no site, no budget, and is a reflection of J_spy's design goals. Along the way, we hope to share some of our ideas on the design with you.
First, we are calling this the Introverted House, meaning the house is hiding from people as it is almost entirely underground. There may be some introverted people out there that can relate to wanting a secure and somewhat isolated home base. I think there are two here at J_spy that feel that way sometimes. Maybe this idea is also related to the current state of the world news where it seems like a good idea right now to have a private refuge. The view of the house from a distance is probably influenced by Jason’s growing up in farm country where barns and silos were the most interesting architecture you can find.
There is something about an arch that is beautiful. Maybe simply the purity of the shape, maybe the way the light eases around the materials of the arch, or something that is just hard to describe. In NYC, you see pre-war buildings with brick arched windows and openings and they look as good now as they did 100 years ago. Given our love of arches, the form of this house started with the desire to have an arch and the subsequent barrel vault ceilings. Everything else came from that idea.
If only everything we built was meant to last 500 years. We do lament the throw away culture. The brownstones in Brooklyn were actually worker housing in the early 1900s and look how well they were built. So much of what is built today is of such poor quality that it won’t be around 50 years from now, let alone 500. J_spy strives for the timeless, and that means using durable materials like brick, stone, metal, and wood which will only get better with time, but of course, not to many materials at once. A space made up of a few materials is more calming to us. Maybe it is in our age of ultra stimulation, but having a quiet space is an antidote to a frenzied lifestyle.
The interior of the Introverted House is terrazzo on the floor and the ceilings, and the main room is book ended by the roman brick arch walls. Terrazzo is great because it is beautiful and durable and the slim profile of roman brick adds elegance. The neutral interior lends itself to more playful furniture and wood bookcases. Can you imagine eating dinner here? Maybe this house would be 15 million dollars to build. That is A LOT, but there are many houses that sell for that much in the world. How many have dining spaces like this? This is what J_spy means to design to an experience. We design not as an object to be viewed as sculpture, but we create spaces to be experienced.
Maybe it is OK to be cheeky, so why not have a moat outside your bedroom? We love the adjacency created here by having the pool in the central courtyard also accessible from a private patio outside the main bedroom. Perfect for a morning swim but the pool also protects the privacy of the bedroom from the entry courtyard.
In the inner, inner sanctum, we find a multipurpose room, or hobby room. As this is an aspirational design, we are showing a grand piano. Neither of us play the piano, but that is the aspirational part. This room has that soft snug feeling of hiding in under the covers in bed.
The kitchen is the heart of a home and the courtyard accessed from the kitchen is perfect for growing your own herbs and other vegetables. If anyone lives near a population of deer, you will understand the benefit of growing food in a protected courtyard. Also we would note that this house is big enough to have a separate kitchen area. Working in much smaller spaces, the great room and kitchen are often combined, but it is nice to have a dedicated space for the kitchen separate from the resting area. Easier to leave the dirty dishes in the kitchen and not notice.