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A Statement of Place-Based Design

Written by Karen Marley
Imagery by Photography by Sandra Kicman

Every building is part of the landscape, influencing and impacting the surrounding culture and environment. In a 
perfect world, homeowners, architects and builders would integrate regional characteristics into the form, function and personality of a house. In Amherst, New York, one couple had this luxury. Their efforts are a shining example of how respecting regional architecture and being sensitive to the land, creates a dwelling with charismatic beauty and exceptional flair, all while radiating a personal, natural style.

Ten years ago the couple purchased a wooded ten-acre lot with a dream of someday building a custom home. They spent time getting to know the land: experiencing the nuances of seasonal patterns, watching the sun’s path, and learning how the wind blew.  When the opportunity came to build they knew exactly what they wanted.

“I had intimate knowledge of the land and binders full of design inspiration,” says the homeowner.  “I was very particular.” She brought Blum Builders on board to construct her specific vision.  “I wanted a modern farmhouse with a clean, contemporary look. A home that doesn’t represent the region is not my ideal. There are influences of where we lived before because I also believe a home should reflect the personality of the occupants.”

Respect for the environment and love of natural light play the biggest roles in the home’s orientation, layout and design. Morning light streams through the kitchen then moves through the dining and living room for the evening. The way the windows open allows the breeze to enter in a certain manner. Outside the natural forest is ever-changing, intriguing and beautiful. With more windows than wall space, the forest is the visual anchor. Above all,
the home encourages family togetherness with an open and airy  floor plan.

Environmental awareness impacted material selections. The homeowner found the formality of granite and marble unappealing. When she discovered polished concrete with its design versatility, it struck a chord. “It’s natural, inviting and warm. I can see the pebble of the stone and love the smoothness.  And you’re not harvesting the earth to get it.” Her concrete kitchen counters have built-in drain channels. Concrete is also in the cabinet top, basement floor, 
shower accents, desk area and above the basement window sill. Radiant heated concrete floors are beautiful and inviting. 
Having lived in the South, the homeowners incorporated Southern details along with the Northern elements. A bead board porch ceiling painted blue and a metal roof reflect Southern style. Hardwood floors and rustic furniture pieces acknowledge the Northeastern locale. Indigenous Lake Erie limestone accents the interior.

The essence of this home is refreshing and light but filled with textures and fun surprises. The homeowner did not want the studied look of an interior designer, preferring an interior that was an authentic expression of her family. Her selections speak of mindful decision-making and her artistic eye. Chandeliers of Southern formality are made of recycled glass beads in her favorite go-to color: aqua. Light fixtures marry retro farm-house practicality with modern pizzazz establishing unexpected flavors in each space.  The laundry room uses exposed filament bulbs in canning jar fixtures. Glass, another natural element, is prevalent throughout the home. Cracked glass tiles, glass panels, 
glass fixtures – its transparent qualities highlight the interior’s ability to reflect and flow with the light.

The brilliance of this home comes from its ability to ground you in familiar comfort while offering inspired glimpses of something new. It feels fresh and healthy, doing its part to contribute and enhance regional sensibilities in a positive way.

More Features

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Ever wonder how the yard of a neighbor or friend is transformed from a blank slate into an enviable resort-like setting? How do you start the process? Where do you turn?

“You don’t need decoration. You need an exquisite collection of furniture, fabrics, art, lighting, and personal effects.“