Featured Project: Zen-inspired Country Retreat

Built in 1989, this residence pulls from a tradition of zen gardens, economy of materials and embracing the surrounding environment.  Looking for a home design that is other-worldly, our customer chose a floorplan that inspires with far east influences and and a beautiful jewel hidden within. 

The design of this unique residence was masterfully executed by Hammond, LA design firm Holly & Smith Architects.  Known for combining impeccable design acumen and forward thinking Eco-friendly techniques, Holly & Smith are a go-to for exceptional results.  

There are many things to consider when starting on a new construction and finding resources to breath new life into modern concepts is architect Michael Holly’s specialty. From the Holly & Smith Architects website: “The owners required a small residence with oriental influence, located in mature bottom land forested area on the edge of a river basin. The project program called for a simplistic piece of design work for comfortable everyday life with consideration for energy conservation.”  

For this particular project, the client was inspired by a worldly love for travel and time he had spent in Japan and Asian traditional building concepts.  Richard Woods, CEO of Albany Woodworks, was able to expand on this idea by using environment techniques to design with the existing features of the property in mind.  Richard proved to be a source of experience for what works in the southern Louisiana climate as he had incorporated design elements to similar effect for his own home.  

“We knew that we could make a big difference in the heating and cooling efficiency of our family’s home if we built to make use of the trees, water, and position of the house to the path of the sun”, says Richard.  “My wife Judith and I did extensive research into the topic and discovered an essential resource in Design with Climate: Bioclimatic Approach to Architectural Regionalism.”  Originally published in 1963, this book was a forerunner to many of the Environmentally-friendly architecture that is popular today.  

Building with the Environment in Mind:

Building to expand upon the environmental features of your property and the seasonal climate changes of the area is not a new concept.  In fact, it’s roots trace back to ancient people who lived closely with the land. “The ancient [people] recognized that regional adaptation was an essential principal of architecture”,  Design with Climate, page 4.  For Richard and Judith this translates to leaving trees standing near the house for shade during the sunny parts of the day, wide roofs overhanging the outer walls, and building over a water feature to capture cool air into the underside of the house.  

The ground temperature of the Earth provides a consistent temperature in Hammond, La which has a 10-year average of 71-degrees.  [Source: Soil Temperature Maps, Green Cast Online]  This can be harnessed by digging a plenum below the floor boards of the home to pre-heat or pre-cool the air before it enters the HVAC unit, saving you up to 70% on heating, cooling and hot water costs.


Award-winning Design

Not building more than what is needed is also key to a sustainable design, as well as adding an attic space at the apex of the roof with fans to move the air through the house for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.  As for the zen-inspired design elements, they are clear from the start.  A well-appointed entryway complete with a ceremonial feature which leads to the foyer on the first level.  A wrap-around porch with overhanging eves captures the cool air from the adjacent river basin to pull in efficient circulation throughout the house.

The client loved the look of our reclaimed pine and cypress, which is the hidden jewel that added to the beautiful oriental motif.  Simplistic details such as smooth beams and a latticed interior entry make the living space a retreat to recharge the mind and body while taking in views of nature through floor-to-ceiling solid cypress framed windows.

The rear of the house features a pleasing detail; a wooden catwalk that leads to a mediation space overlooking the deep incline at the edge of the river basin.  The surrounding forest was left untouched for a mood of contemplation and appreciation of the natural landscape.

More than just a beautiful space to live, this design won two awards of distinction: the AIA Baton Rouge Rose Award and the AIA Louisiana Honor Award.  It remains one of our favorite projects to date for its beautiful use of our reclaimed building materials and the forward-thinking use of environmental design.  

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