Notebook: Nod to Natural

A blending of the original architect’s vision with the homeowners’ tastes produces a multipurpose space with unique design elements.

authors Paul Driessen | February 13, 2019

We’ve completed several remodeling projects in this mid-century modern home designed by Russell Barr Williamson, protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is truly a creative and enjoyably engaging collaboration among the homeowners, the designer and myself. The homeowners have always stayed true to the original architect’s vision with each renovation. Designer Brian William Nelson blends that vision with all of the homeowners’ aesthetics: the home’s mid-century sensibility, the homeowner’s affinity for Asian influence, their extensive art collection and elements of nature. He then gives me the freedom to build their collective vision.

This old bedroom with ensuite bathroom needed updating to bring it up to the same standard as the rest of the home. The homeowners wanted the room to have two very different purposes. Most of the time it would be an executive’s home office. When the homeowners had guests, it needed to function as a comfortable, welcoming guest room. How do you make an executive home office not look like a bedroom? You have to hide the beds but make them easily accessible.

I began my career in furniture making, so creating a design element that basically acted like a secret door was an exciting endeavor. The Murphy bunk beds were tucked into an old closet space. We camouflaged the bottom of the beds by adding wood panels that also appear in other parts of the house, blending them into the larger wall when closed. When the beds are open, guests have access to built-in Lutron lighting controls for the room as well as a charging station for electronics.

Jordan Driessen

Another favorite element is the live-edge walnut desk. The homeowners wanted it to look as though it had naturally grown out of the floor. I searched far and wide for the right slab of wood. It wasn’t until I was on vacation with my family in Portland, Oregon, that I came across the perfect piece. I had the slab shipped home, then cut and finished it in my studio before installing it in the room. Despite it being two separate pieces of wood, the desktop was built to waterfall to the floor as one continuous piece. The craftsman in me really enjoyed creating a sculpted work of art. The shelving unit in the room also has a live-edge floating countertop to match the desk.

Despite the large windows, lighting was inconsistent in both rooms. Brian added a layered, multidimensional lighting plan, dispersing light throughout the rooms, accenting artwork and adding depth. Hidden in the plaster ceiling was the original heating pipes, which created a challenge for placing recessed lights. To avoid removing the ceiling, we turned the heat off in the room overnight. In the morning, we turned the heat back on and used an infrared camera to map out the location of the pipes. Then, we were able to surgically place the lights in the ceiling without damaging the heating system.

Jordan Driessen

The original ensuite bathroom was outdated, dark and cramped. We created a spa-quality shower, using two frameless glass panels set in concrete to give the small space a feeling of openness. Tiered limestone—also found in the home’s landscaping and master bathroom—seamlessly cascades down the shower wall with thin pieces jutting out for shelves. We installed uplighting to flood the stone wall of the shower and added a lit niche to feature a favorite art piece. A slotted drain gives the effect of the water naturally spilling over the edge—the same effect as the concrete formed vanity basin.

I am very fortunate to work with designers like Brian and homeowners who trust me to build their vision. There is great satisfaction in having the freedom to create something that is not only beautiful but also functional and unique. QR

Paul Driessen, master craftsman and owner of Timber Innovations, began as a traditionally trained woodworker. Today, Driessen and his skilled team of craftsmen and women are recognized, respected and recommended by the industry and their peers in home construction and remodeling. For 25 years, architects and homeowners have trusted Driessen and his Timber Innovations team to build their vision in any architectural or design style. 

Brian William Nelson works in healthcare architecture and interiors. In his award-winning 20-year career, he has helped improve the healing process for patients with a focus on green design and biophilia. In addition to his healthcare work at Zimmerman Architectural Studios, he occasionally gets to indulge in residential work such as this project.

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