Art of glass

In this renovated Victorian row house, a double-height Mondrianesque window transforms the rambling garden into a living work of art
Story by: Anthony Coates
View of the architectural plans. design, diagram, floor plan, font, plan, product, product design, schematic, structure, white
View of the architectural plans.

Piet Mondrian, the celebrated Dutch painter, is said to have gazed out his apartment window and exclaimed, "Trees! How ghastly!"

How ironic then that architect Paul Florian has chosen to use a glass interpretation of Mondrian's most famous paintings to showcase the greenery of a Chicago garden. Florian's window is not just a portal to the garden, but a work of art in its own right although he maintains its most important function is to admit light.

"A lack of light was central to most of the shortcomings of this home. Following a renovation in the 1950s, the house had a minimalist aesthetic that was somewhat cold. The first thing we did was remove an internal wall, opening the kitchen to the light. Then we brought the first floor back from the window 1.5m, allowing more light into the lower level," he says.

The staircase used to run across and down beside the window, but removing a section of floor allowed space to insert a cantilevered industrial staircase, which promotes a linear journey through the house.


Florain has installed a glass floor panel, the apartment, ceiling, door, floor, flooring, hardwood, home, interior design, property, real estate, room, wall, window, wood flooring, orange, brown
Florain has installed a glass floor panel, the same thickness as the balustrade, to allow light into the kitchen.

Florian chose to use industrial elements throughout, favouring the recurrence of materials as a means of linking spaces.

"The Burlington stone set at the foot of the staircase, for example, is repeated at the base of the fireplace, along with the steel used in the staircase itself. The same thickness of glass is evident in the balustrade, the shelves, and in the floor linking living room and kitchen," he says.

The Mondrianesque window framework is almost a story in itself. The composition of rippled and clear glass reflects the way the owners interact with the view of the garden.

"If you look at the way the pane in the top right-hand corner is rippled, you'll likely notice it protects the owners from the most unsightly part of the view the wires and railings on the street. The design is such that the window must be viewed as a whole, hence the upper-level glass balustrade. Clear glass frames sections of the garden, while the rippled glass was chosen to obscure vision, but not light," says Florian.

The bridge is boldly defined with a dark apartment, architecture, ceiling, daylighting, estate, floor, home, house, interior design, real estate, stairs, wall, wood, gray, red
The bridge is boldly defined with a dark metal railing, emphasising the vertical movement of the internal spaces, while providing a visaul counterpoint to the spiral staircase that links the three levels of the house.

The bridge is the central link of the house and its interaction with the spiral staircase is all important. The spiral staircase is one existing feature that remained largely untouched.

"We liked the spiral staircase. The previous architect had used it to drop light into the lower areas. We framed it with dark metal edging and railings to accentuate its place as the vertical centre of the building," he says.

The adjacent kitchen has clerestory windows only centimetres above the level of the road. Bleached white oak flooring, chartreuse cabinetry and white walls further lighten the room. Having already opened the kitchen up to the garden, the designers also specified heavily veined marble for the benchtops, which mirrors the movement and patterns of the trees in the garden.

Jun 03, 2009

Credit list

Interior designer
Jorge Romero, Jorge Romero Design
Structural engineer
Flooring
Stairs and railings
Michael Pietanza, European Ornamental Iron Work; Burlington Stone from Belstone
Fireplace surround
Michael Pietanza, European Ornamental Iron Work; Burlington Stone from Belstone
Benchtop
Honed white marble from Acme Marble & Granite Company
Oven and cooktop
Thermador
Refrigeration
Builder
Sylvester Construction
Kitchen designer and manufacturer
Aaron Wilson, Arclinea Chicago
Window system
Service Glass
Lighting
Morr Sharp Associates; Tech Lighting
Cabinetry
Lacquered wood
Splashback
Back-painted glass and stainless steel
Ventilation
Gaggenau
Dishwasher
Bosch 4303
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