The Green Builder in Little Rock, AR


Home Design / Custom Build / Live in a Green World near Little Rock, AR

Posts Tagged ‘architectural material’

Wineroom excavation in the Heights

Monday, August 8th, 2011

How best to use a basement?  Make it a wineroom of course.  One client in Little Rock, Arkansas is taking full advantage of his basement to store his wine at the correct temperature and provide a relaxing place to taste it.  The house is stone, so the wineroom’s walls will be of similar mass and color.  We have played with various floor finishes such as Italian marble and brick pavers.  The grande descending stair has gone through transformations of steel and glass to castle stone.  In the end, it will all be lit with high end lighting to display bottle, stone and Chihuly.

Schematic sketches for the stair and ceiling.

Glass front cabinets display wine by fiber optic lighting in the wine tasting area.

The wine storage room is highly temperature and humidity controlled and includes a work table for opening crates.

Wine dinners

An option for a wine dining room.

Mod Backyard Garden Pavillion Remodeling

Friday, July 1st, 2011

The rental apartment behind the house does not have to be second hand architecture. Here is one design that takes the small living space of an apartment attached to the garage, and makes it into a modern garden pavilion.

This was behind my house in Houston.  Originally, the apartment was dark and dank. I wanted an architecture studio and guest house that was green and lush.  We opened up the bathroom and kitchen with floor to ceiling windows and wrapped it with a fenced garden. Now, light pours through the windows onto the shiny new materials of the bathroom and filters through the sleek kitchen into the open plan living room. On the floors we installed cork to make the space warm and soft and cozy. In the bath, we installed black tile to contrast the brightness and in the shower, we used polished river washed pebbles to massage the feet and give you more of a feeling that the bathroom is outside and spa like.

The quarters were upgraded with new privacy fences made from cedar and Brazillian cherry culls from another construction project.

The studio has cork flooring and an open plan.


The open kitchen is mostly from IKEA.

River wash pebbles line the shower floor.

Couple makes designs for sustainable living.

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Now here is a fun project. An Army barracks?  No, a prospective home. The inspiring couple behind this idea want to make all the right housing choices to utilize green ideas and educate others on how sustainable and green one’s house can be.  They have purchased a 40 foot by 80 foot Quonset Hut from SteelMasters. These can be used as airplane hangers, storage buildings, or emergency structures.  They intend to live simply and comfortably in one as their home.  The Quonset Hut will come to the site ready to be lifted in panels onto the foundation to form the structural shell of the house.  These panels are developed from the World War II units that were used throughout the war effort and are still used today.  EnergyStar has approved these structures as an exemplary building material and method.  Its galvalume finished steel shell is reflective as a radiant barrier and is made of mostly recycled material that in the end can be reused or recycled again for that cradle-to-cradle effect.

The couple has come to EcoHouse to make their simple living choices  as effective for being green as for sharp looking aesthetics.  There are many ways to use the panels to configure a home and we will be exploring several to find that perfect site placement and solar orientation.  The site is 11 acres in the Mountains of Arkansas near Russelville.  They were careful to find land with good soil for landscaping and a great view from the top of a gentle ridge.

We will be busy getting the design together and exploring systems and material choices to achieve strength, tightness, health and responsible living in their new home.  Look forward to design sketches.

Simple trim carpentry for a Craftsman Bungalow

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Door header trim detail

We are trimming out a bungalow in the Capital View neighborhood of Little Rock and want to keep the original and traditional trim style, but want to use the economical and green materials of modern construction.  The proportions of a simple trim for a window and door gives the openings their elegant appearance.  We place a 1×4 on the jamb casings, a ledge trim and a 1×6 header casing.  The change in width of material gives the doors and windows a taller look.  The edges are square to give a more strong, less frilly look. The ledge trim hides the joint between materials, and allows the eye to overlook minor imperfections in an old remodeled wall.  Trim carpenters have always sought to make the best of aethetics with the most economic means and materials.  Being green follows the same historical trend.

The difference between age-old and modern trim carpenters, besides their awesome tools, is their use of modern manufacturer’s materials to help in the process.  Instead of consuming large stands of old growth forest to harvest high grade wood to make the door jambs, smaller rapidly renewable trees are used for smaller pieces of wood that are finger joint cut and glued together.  This conservation practice is both green and economic.  The casing trim is even finer bits of wood compressed into medium density fiberboard, MDF.  It has the benefit of not warping or having knots.  It takes the intended paint very nicely.

We have installed traditional 3/4″ wood hardwoods to match the existing front rooms.  The boards are laid first, so that the trim and doors are placed precisely and level.  We will come back later, after the painters have cleaned up their mess, to sand and finish the hardwoods.  Overall, we will achieve a handsome traditional look to match the historical neighborhood, without much fuss or unnecessary expense.

Craftsman wood carpentry details

Remodeling a home I designed and built years ago

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

There are not many modern homes out there.  When commercial clients of mine asked me about buying a modern home, I told them about one I had designed and built years earlier for some other clients.  The old clients were moving and needed to sell.  Everyone was happy.  Old clients moved out.  New clients moved in and bought new furniture.  Happy everyone was, until the second child came along.  Now they needed more room.  This will be one of those strange happenstances when I get to remodel one of my original designs.

You can see photographs of the original design on my website. In fact, the home occupies the left most spot on this blog’s titleblock.  It has wood siding, cement stucco and concrete block exterior.  In its nature, the house is simple in its construction, complex in its inter relationships, and rich in garden views on a tight lot.  To change the balance of the forms posed a deep challenge to me.  I love a challenge.

I closed in the porches that the clients have never used and made the master bedroom and guest room larger.  Windows span the entire height from floor to ceiling to view the garden and the courtyard with similar panes as used in the living room.  Drywall ceilings are removed to expose wood trusses and mechanical systems.  Siding and cmu finishes are brought into the rooms to give the feeling that they are outside rooms, but the finish materials are upgraded to match the luxurious feel of the inside: siding goes from pine to walnut, concrete block goes to travatine tile in a running bond.  Floor finishes are upgraded and lighting is upgraded.  Overall, the rooms become more open and polished.

This is still a study of possible finishes.  We have much to develop in terms of selection and budget, but I am glad that the design is coming together.  View the presentation animation on youtube.

When designing a home in Little Rock, Arkansas, perhaps select local Ozark stone.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Stone is a powerful material to use on both the exterior of your home as well as the interior. It recalls castles and tide walls, but remains touchable and warm. On this fireplace wall, there are many uses of stone that give depth and functionality to the room.

When selecting an appropriate stone material for your home, determine what style or feeling you want. Each stone choice evokes a particular place. When designing, remodeling or building a home in Little Rock, Arkansas, perhaps select a local stone, such as Ozark brown or blue stone. This fireplace is made of stacks of real Ozark stone. The colors were varied to give the maximum color range. The individual stones were selected to blend and contrast for visually effect.

The roughness of the stone wall was selected to enhance the acoustic properties of the room. A rough wall like this breaks up noise reflection, since sound waves refract differently off the various planes and surfaces, in the same way that the curved ceiling varies the reflection of sound waves and prevents the repetition of echos from reinforcing themselves as they do in a rectangular room. This living room was designed for acoustics. It houses a grand piano for the owner, a pianist with sharp ears for how architecture can affect sound.

One popular installation technique for stone today is a dry stack. Like a stone fence on the side of a pasture or field is the dry stacking by the farmer to use the stone he finds in his field, it avoids the use of mortar to hold the stone together. The natural stacking has a great deal of shadow and interest. These walls tend to be thick to compensate for their inability to handle heights. To get this effect and the height, the mortar could be deeply recessed and the individual stone each cantelevers a bit so as to not show mortar in the joints. The effect is expensive. Its growing popularity on developers’ houses and even shopping centers is a result of the development of precast concrete pieces that look like stone. This method is not used here, because we wanted the real mass and texture of actual stone in such an intimate room. The mortar is colored to match the grey base colors and allow the stone to show off its highlights.

The lintel is the dark beam of stone that spans above the firepit opening. It is also Ozark Blue stone, and reminds you that the stone is heavy and load bearing and must use ancient techniques to be constructed. (Ok, I’ll be honest. There is a steel lintel as well behind it, attached to the concrete block structure.)

I could have cantelevered the lintel beam out or added another mantel of stone, but chose instead to use a contrasting wood for the mantel to relate to the curved wood beams of the room. The mantel is a very special wood from a store called African Odyssey, a name that resonates with the themes of the house. This wood is from South Africa where it was first cut and shaped to be a railroad tie on the African railroads. When that railroad was removed, the ties were used by shippers as ballast to fill their empty ships for the ships’ return voyages. The ties ended up in a port warehouse in Houston, Texas, where an appreciative carpenter refinished them into wonderful beams, tables, and flooring. We took the longest raw tie beam they had and installed it as the mantel. Not only does the rich wood visually work well with the Ozark stone, but it gives the Owners a wonderful story to tell.

The hearth is flush with the floor and is covered in flat flame cut slate slabs that match the Ozark stone colors. The walls of the living room are more formal and black, though they have a silver blue sheen to it. From the floor to the top of the sliding doors, the African silver slate is matt finished, giving it depth and shadow between the wood and glass opening and setting the fireplace off as the major color, while above the doors, the same African silver slate is glossy sheened to give the wondows and height of the living room more sparkle and light. I chose to diferentiate the finishes on the black slate as a detail that the Owner’s and guests would notice only on reflection or second visits. A designer must not give away all his design’s secrets at first glance. The texture of stone or the sheen of the tile should be discovered by exploration. The real miracle of the design is how the light hits it at different times of the day and even different seasons. Without the material’s textures to capture the light, those subtle differences in light may tragically have gone unnoticed.