complication of being simple

January 2016 Newsletter

what makes it modern?

When asked about what attracted them to building Lab, our past and prospective clients often answered without hesitation, "simplicity and cleanness". Along with open floor-plans and structural clarity, simplicity (in lines and details) is certainly one of the most recognized hallmarks of modern design. Not coincidentally, simplicity is an important goal of our design team and its execution depends on the experience and skill of our carpenters. To understand how everything can come together seamlessly, we turn to our long time master carpenter Chris Rogers. 

it's not easy being simple

Like most established woodworker and artisans, Chris came from traditional modes of building whereby ornamentations (such as crown moldings and baseboards) are used to hide the seams and differences when different materials interact. In modern architecture, however, extremely precise construction techniques are required to create the clean connections. When the design calls for a wall of glass to disappear into the ceiling, the frame is concealed above the ceiling line. Sometimes, a thin metal piece is used to define the ceiling edge where the window shade will roll down from a hidden groove. Similarly, window frames can be made to disappear into the floor and the wall. In this case, the full thickness of the frame is visible on the exterior of the building, but it is mostly covered by the wall and the floorboards inside.

Another feature that attracts both admiration and curiosity is the way modern interior walls appear to be hovering less than an inch above the floor with no baseboards in sight. In fact, gypsum drywalls are installed above wood baseboards (both are attached to the studs) along the same plane. The bottom of each baseboard has been notched out to form a 3/8" reveal. The face of the drywalls and baseboards are then plastered such that the two materials are blended into one whole.

a perfect corner

In this elegant au pair suite tucked under an existing garage, white laminated glass with bronze anodized aluminum frame forms a minimalist sculptural form at the entry while enclosing a shower inside. This is a double pane assembly with a white synthetic fabric sandwiched between two layers of glass. It was chosen over sand blasted or acid etched types because it would offer superior privacy, safety, and ability to make a clean corner. After the panels were cut precisely for a miter joint, they were clamped in place with silicone bead. Strip lighting above the door and a stainless steel threshold extending across the whole width of the entry offer both function and architectural definition. 

things have to line up

In this small studio apartment, refined details and clean lines make the space more expansive and functional for its many purposes: as an au pair suite now, as an entertainment space for the parents later, and eventually as a dwelling for an aging grandparent or a boomerang kid. Note that the pocket door slides close and lines up perfectly (thanks to ceiling tracks and metal floor guides) with the cabinets to hide the custom kitchenette, and the large cabinet in the middle cleverly conceals a murphy bed.

the master carpenter

Chris's interest in the trades developed early, working summers with his father on various residential construction projects. After a stint in college studying art, lit., and music, he settled in Berkeley in 1991. His passion for fine woodworking grew as he worked building custom homes. Chris took a break from construction in 2000-2001 to study furniture making with the late James Krenov, renowned author and furniture maker, at the College of The Redwoods in Fort Bragg. He built cabinets and furniture independently in the Bay Area until he started working with building Lab in 2003. He's still here!
Architect: Andrew Fisher, Fisher Architecture
Design development and general contracting: building Lab
Photos  (#3 and #8 are by Muffy Kibbey): 

1. Expanse of glass disappears into the ceiling  2. Window frame mostly concealed by the wall and floor boards; interior wall with no visible baseboard
3. Exterior view of au pair suite  4. Entry defined by white laminated glass corner
5. Closeup view of entry  6. Shower enclosed by white laminated glass; tiled floor slopes down to drain
7. Living room with kitchenette  8. Pocket door closed to conceal the kitchenette
9. Chris Rogers in his element

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stephen and taya at home 

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999 43rd street

oakland, ca 94608
t: 510.420.1133

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