Shades of Nature: Settling (quietly) into the Landscape

April 30, 2012


I love working with exterior color. But most of  my projects are in the environs of the city and leafy (but dense) suburbs of Washington, D.C. (though I did have fun with a remote consult in Alaska a few years ago).  I would love to help design a house in some truly spectacular setting– like  the desert in New Mexico or something on the craggy coast of Maine. When choosing an exterior palette, I always take into consideration (first and foremost), the architecture of the dwelling. Then I look to its context– how the building is situated on a lot and what surrounds it.  Most buildings, especially houses, should settle quietly into the landscape.

I wanted to share a few examples of  structures that do this beautifully. Most of these buildings have been designed by very talented architects, for whom color is integral to design, inside and out.  And their settings are all pretty spectacular.


via Shope Reno Wharton Architects

I’m not sure what this is– perhaps a guest house?  The form is striking and the use of color understated but so effective. I love the grid pattern of the “16 over 16″ windows flanking the entry (painted a strong but quiet green, similar in value to the dark shingle siding). Designed by  Shope Reno Wharton Architects .


via Dwell

This house, published in Dwell Magazine, was built on one of the outermost islands off the coast of Maine.  The client  had envisioned “ an unobtrusive abode that would blend with the local color…”  It was designed by Alex Scott Porter Design .  Aluminum cladding chosen for the harsh climate… guessing color choices were limited. Love that gray… pretty perfect.


Feldman Architecture

One of my  favorites- this beauty was designed by the San Francisco firm of Feldman Architecture .   For Feldman Architecture, “beauty is found in quiet understated forms, expressive structure, timeless materials, and carefully resolved details. The firm’s designs celebrate light-filled open spaces with a strong connection to the site and landscape.”


via Bosworth Hoedemaker

Seattle-based architect Bosworth Hoedemaker was tasked to transform a former concrete-block boathouse, on the shores of Hood Canal,  into a functional guest house/ boathouse. The result is so striking- the strong simple forms (square windows and  blocks of gray sliding doors) are softened  and balanced by the color of the interior (simple marine plywood).


photo Catherine Tighe

Restrained use of color by New York-based architect Deborah Berke for this Litchfield County, Connecticut “farmhouse”.


via Elle Decor

Elle Decor featured the bucolic (Wisconsin !)  getaway of New York designer Richard McGeehan .  The article states that “ The Shaker-like simplicity … appealed to his rigorous aesthetic. Another draw was the row of windows along the building’s 44-foot length, which provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape.”


via Rehkamp Larson Architects

The Minneapolis firm of Rehkamp Larson Architects designed this modern farmhouse. Strong but simple form and color. Iconic.


And here is the ” Russell House”" in Palm Springs. Modernist with orange elements repeating and balancing the strong forms of the desert landscape.


via Mathis Interiors

Ending the post with this image… have no idea who took this stunning photo (let me know if you do) or where this is…Nova Scotia perhaps? Guessing neither an architect nor designer was involved here. And “mother nature” surely had something to do with that worn blue/green color.  Simply beautiful.




One Response

  1. Great post! Luv the last photo too…the weathered blue is simply lovely.

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