written by:
photos by:
June 25, 2014
Originally published in Modern Across America
as
Out on a Limb
A chance encounter led a Dallas couple to a neighborhood where nature is prized as much as design, and houses are built to make the most of both.
modern vanguard way martini deck cylindrical entry galvanized steel
Architect Max Levy designed a home in Dallas for Deborah Orrill and Blair Sanders using small but mighty design details, like a “martini deck” tucked atop the cylindrical entry, which is clad in raw, galvanized sheet metal.
Photo by 
1 / 9
modern vanguard way  living room laminated lumber window
Big windows need massive supports that are hard to disguise. To get unobstructed views, Levy did away with the beams, opting instead to use laminated veneer lumber studs to hold the windows in place. The Poltrona Frau sofas date from the 1980s, and the cane-chrome armchairs are from Gebrüder Thonet Vienna.
Photo by 
2 / 9
modern vanguard way living room bookshelves
Built-in bookshelves in the living room hold Sanders’s vinyl collection.
Photo by 
3 / 9
modern vanguard way  kitchen ikea countertop laminate

Orrill, a culinary professional, used Ikea’s kitchen planning software to plot out cabinetry and appliance placement. Levy split the 30-foot-long space into a private back kitchen, with an oven and staging area, and a public cooking station with a white laminate countertop—a maneuver that means guests in the adjacent dining area never see the messy stuff.

Photo by 
4 / 9
modern vanguard way birdhouse screech owls purple martins
Jason David Smith, a young architect working for Levy at the time, made birdhouses for local screech owls and purple martins.
Photo by 
5 / 9
modern vanguard way house number shadows
The play of shadows on the iconic shape, as well as on the shapes of the house numbers, is a Levy trademark.
Photo by 
6 / 9
modern vanguard way facade stucco metal clad ipe
“One of the things Max insisted on,” Sanders says, “was that we have views of our own house. That’s why all the sides of the house are different.” Some are stucco, others are metal-clad, and ipe latticework encloses one end of the garage.
Photo by 
7 / 9
modern vanguard way  kitchen copper pots refrigerator
Orrill wanted the kitchen to be command central for entertaining, so everything is kept inside minimalist cabinetry—except for the copper pots and pans hanging on the back wall, painted in Pale Water by ICI Dulux Paint. The refrigerator is by Jenn-Air and the faucet is American Standard.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in How to Design with Green
8 / 9
modern vanguard way floor plans
Vanguard Way Floor Plan: A Entrance B Living Room C Kitchen-Dining Area D Half Bathroom E Utility Room F Garage G Bedroom H Bathroom I Master Bedroom J Deck
Photo by 
9 / 9
modern vanguard way martini deck cylindrical entry galvanized steel
Architect Max Levy designed a home in Dallas for Deborah Orrill and Blair Sanders using small but mighty design details, like a “martini deck” tucked atop the cylindrical entry, which is clad in raw, galvanized sheet metal.
Project 
Vanguard Way
Architect 
Interior Designer 

Deborah Orrill and Blair Sanders weren’t thinking about moving out of the house they’d lived in for 30 years, let alone building a new one. But they did both with the help of Dallas architect Max Levy, surprising themselves with an impetuosity that flew in the face of the security of a nearly paid-off mortgage. “It was an accident,” admits Orrill, a former director of Dallas’s Central Market Cooking School. 

How did two usually methodical people upend their well-laid plans and end up in a brand-new, stucco-galvanized, metal-and-glass house? Luck, or perhaps fate: Orrill noticed a sign on a road near their house in the Dallas suburbs announcing Urban Reserve, a neighborhood of modern, single-family, architect-designed homes. “I was intrigued,” she says—and she liked what she saw. The city’s first low-impact development offered a synthesis of modern design, sustainable architecture, and respect for the environment. 

modern vanguard way martini deck cylindrical entry galvanized steel
Architect Max Levy designed a home in Dallas for Deborah Orrill and Blair Sanders using small but mighty design details, like a “martini deck” tucked atop the cylindrical entry, which is clad in raw, galvanized sheet metal.

After a trip to the 13-acre site, on the east bank of White Rock Creek, Orrill and Sanders discussed the possibilities. “We knew we didn’t want a bigger house, but a better house,” says Sanders, a former director of cloud technology for Xerox. “Our [previous] house was a tract home built around a courtyard,” he explains. “It looked in on itself. We wanted a house that was open to nature.” It didn’t take long for the couple to make a decision. They bought a lot, interviewed four architects recommended by the developer, and put their house on the market.

One of the short-listed architects was Max Levy. “We’d heard so many wonderful things about Max that we were almost afraid to talk to him,” says Orrill. Levy grew up in Texas and has a small, hands-on practice; he’s known for a poetic treatment of modernism, connecting houses with nature in imaginative, cost-effective ways. “Deborah and Blair had modest needs,” Levy says. “The spark of their program was to connect with nature—they didn’t want features on steroids.”

Playing off of his design brief to construct a home where his clients could enjoy space and light, Levy’s next consideration was the lot’s prominent location in the Urban Reserve neighborhood. The triangle-shaped lot is located at the entrance to a cul-de-sac and possesses a lone chinquapin oak, a species that usually grows in clusters. Despite the narrow lot, the tree took precedence: “I thought that we could have a house that surrounded the tree,” says Orrill.

Levy got crafty with the lot’s scalene dimensions, breaking what was to be a 2,500-square-foot house into two 16-foot-wide rectangles. A 50-foot-long rectangle houses the garage with two bedrooms and baths over it; the main living area measures 60 feet in length. A corner of that single-story building is nudged underneath the eaves of the two-story bedroom wing at a 100-degree angle that makes it look like it’s been kicked forward. The oak takes center stage in the resulting V. The cherry on top is Levy’s addition of a two-story metal-clad cylinder at the front of the main building that functions as the home’s entryway: It neatly fits into the triangle’s apex, “like a punctuation mark,” he says.

After designing the bones of the Orrill-Sanders house, Levy began to wonder about one living zone in particular. “Deborah Orrill is a nationally known culinary expert,” the architect says. “I kept waiting for her to mention the kitchen.” Orrill didn’t say a thing, but she had her reasons: “I went to cooking school in France,” she says, “and they teach you how to do everything manually. It cured me of needing showy industrial appliances and every little gadget.” Since Orrill wanted to keep things simple, Levy accommodated with a galley kitchen. 

He split the 30-foot-long kitchen into two parts: a public cooking area in front and a back kitchen, tucked behind a wall at the far end of the counter, that houses cabinets, an oven, and room to stage meals. The open section is separated from the living room at the other end by a gray-green wall, where Orrill hangs copper pots and pans. “It’s my tribute to Julia Child,” she says, referring to Child’s uber-practical Peg-Board system, which she used to hang utensils in plain sight. This room is command central for entertaining: There’s a cooktop, a long white laminate countertop, and no visible cabinets. Nothing signals “messy kitchen” to guests seated at the dining table, on the banquette, or in the adjacent living room. The floor-to-ceiling windows help give “a very grand effect to a modest house,” says Levy.

modern vanguard way facade stucco metal clad ipe
“One of the things Max insisted on,” Sanders says, “was that we have views of our own house. That’s why all the sides of the house are different.” Some are stucco, others are metal-clad, and ipe latticework encloses one end of the garage.

Levy had called in a local architect, Sharon Odum, for help with fabrics, furniture, and colors. Levy and Odum suggested painting the ceilings dark gray, another small design decision with impact. The residents feared the moody hue would overwhelm the all-white walls and white oak floors but are happy with the result; painting the four-and-a-half-foot-wide soffits and 11-foot-tall ceiling the same shade of gray extends the visual perception of space. “It’s the color of a thunderstorm,” adds Levy, “and, in the Texas heat, that’s a good thing.” 

Color plays a subtle role throughout the mostly white interior. Odum responded to Orrill’s request for a “serene” house by matching the gray-green for the living room-kitchen wall to tonal nuances in the copper pots and pans. A peachy shade in the back kitchen references a dhurrie rug nearby. Upstairs, in the bedroom wing, Odum chose a paler blue for the ceilings—“partly as a nod to the shade you often see on porch ceilings in old Texas houses,” she says.

Their new home has lived up to, if not surpassed, the original intent. Orrill and Sanders have been entranced by the spectacular sunrises and sunsets they’ve tracked, as well as the paths of the moon. “We are wide open to the east, where we see the moon rising,” says Orrill. “And in the morning we see it setting.” They also enjoy the shadows on the walls, the clatter of rain on the galvanized metal roof, and acorns pinging the roof when they fall from the big oak. “It’s been amazing,” says Sanders. “We are more aware of nature than we’ve ever been. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of a big city.” 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016