December 12, 2013
The sum of a modernist house is greater than its parts. Thanks to the architectural logician who created it.
Never once in a recent soliloquy on modern design did architect Lionel Morrison ever utter any of the familiar maxims, like clean lines, boxy minimalism or sleek and chic. Instead, he soulfully expressed his admiration for a seamless interweaving of form and function; curiously, it’s the defining feature of a style that he claims has “almost no hard-and-fast rules, yet arises from pure problem solving and logic.”
So when a local businessman approached Morrison about building a contemporary bachelor pad in the prestigious Northern Hills district of Dallas, the challenge for the architect was not in creating those sun-filled austere spaces by which modern design is so often identified, but to gracefully achieve the required loftiness within the confines of a slender 20 foot width — a parameter dictated by a zoning ordinance on prized corner lots. The community’s lean parcels also mean that privacy is at a premium (hello, neighbor!), adding another wrinkle to the plight.
Like a true logician, Morrison cleverly worked the size constraints in his favor, turning an notions of how houses with slim dimensions should look plumb on their heads. Most of the rooms extend the full breadth of the build (“If you think about it, a 20-foot-wide room is a very wide room,” says Morrison), and many walls are of the floating variety. On the main floor, for example, a freestanding wall partially separates the media room from the formal living room, and another only fractionally encloses the dining room from the entry. While these momentary barriers don’t impede the overall volume of the space, they do achieve a modicum of privacy within the home. It must be noted, though, that in the case of a bachelor pad where the only other lodgers are two King Charles spaniels named Ashley and Ales, these dividers function less for intimacy and solitude and more for exhibiting art. “You get a lot of work out of these kinds of walls,” say Morrison.
Keeping prying eyes at bay was a much more straightforward endeavor. Any alfresco festivities taking place poolside, for instance, are protected from nosy neighbors by one practically fortress-certified enclosure wall. The interior also qualifies as a true hideaway, shielded from the overly inquisitive with planes of strategically placed translucent glass — such as in the stairwell and mast bath — that still allow sunlight to enter the home and perform its solacing magic. A teak screen distinguishing the home’s glass-front façade is similarly savvy, thwarting what Morrison calls a “fishbowl effect.” The partition’s textural quality warms the geometry of the home, but builder Steven Hild relishes a more playful upshot. “I like seeing the crisscross shadows in the dining room when the sun comes though the screen,” he says.
We haven’t overdecorated, which might have detracted from the simple beauty of the architecture.”
This radiance is echoed in Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn’s light sculpture displayed at the nearby front entrance. It’s on of many modern masterpieces curated fro the house by London-based art dealer Filippo Tattoni-Marzcozzi and designer Gonzalo Bueno. “Clearly the décor would be classified as modern, but that seems so one-dimensional,” say Bueno. “For this house, we want dot tell a multilayered story of comfort, forward-thinking design and fine art.”
In keeping with the singular nature of the collection, which includes masterworks by geometric abstractionist Andrew Bick and the late figurative painter Francis Bacon, the modern furnishings are either one-of-kind or numbered as part of a very limited edition, such as the silk-velvet Chelsea chairs in the living room and the wood Giano screen in the master bedroom, both by Romeo Sozzi. “These pieces ensure that we haven’t overdecorated, which might have detracted from the simple beauty of the architecture,” explains the homeowner. But Bueno’s take on the unique trappings speaks more to the very essence of the project: “It will always have the stamp of individuality at its core.”