An odd-shaped property was no match for architect Ryan Young, who designed his family's home on a beautiful lakeside property in Central Florida.
"I have a profound fascination with the authenticity of materials and the beautiful imperfections of wood, concrete and steel," said Young. "My interest lies in the basic concepts of the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy as it relates to architecture and the transient nature of materials. Rather than covering the core beauty of a structure, I believe that the the honest beauty of time can be a remarkable element of design."
This 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 4,000 sq. ft home is located in downtown Orlando on land that once housed a mission-revival style Catholic monastery. While designing the house, Young's introspection developed into a modern experiment with materials: exposed steel beams and raw steel accents, polished concrete floors complete with natural cracks, beautiful walnut and cherry woods not covered with stain but left natural with exposed knots and imperfections, coquina (shell) features indigenous to Florida and to the original monastery structure, and a few signature accents of corten steel which is a curiosity to watch as it changes and patinas to a beautiful earthen amber.
The result of this experiment is a space that is modern, open, and light-filled with a pleasant mix of natural, exposed materials that exude a comfortable warmth that feels connected to the land and to the Young family.
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“I wanted a horizontal fence," said Young, "but they all droop in time.” He devised a metal frame on which the cedar is spaced flat on it. Set within are Cor-Ten panels with seemingly random holes that give a little peek through to the lush greenness of Leu Gardens, the family's neighbor on the backside.
The design was created in CAD. “The holes you see were placed by my sons who colored the pattern. We then water-jetted the holes.”
The elevated front porch is a smooth concrete platform, bordered by a thick concrete boardwalk supported by a visible steel beam connecting the front porch to the side porch, the family’s primary entry as it is nearest the driveway and detached garage. The smooth frame of each rough tread is polished smooth, blending into the surface of the porches. Small agaves fill in along the boardwalk. “The steel beam beneath the boardwalk shows when the plants aren’t filled out,” said Young. “Seeing the thickness of the edge of the pieces on the boardwalk was important.”
Drew McGuckin of McGuckin Custom Metal Creations brought several of Young’s design ideas to life. Here, a Cor-Ten frame encases field stone in the sidewalk as a collage of shape, color and texture. It also plays off the Cor-Ten frame of the window feature on the front of the house.
Every element of Interstruct’s 1600 Lakeside residence is an exercise in juxtaposing materials, shape and texture. The corroded Cor-Ten steel grounds the modern mailbox, and is repeated in details throughout the home’s exterior design. The mailbox’s shape creates some rhythm in the landscape, not dissimilar to the pair of steel mesh sculptures by Florida artist Chris Scala called “King and Queen.”
With his young sons in mind, Young worked with a local metal artist and together they came up with this double-walled firepit design. "It was a design choice to provide a layer of air in between the firepit and the outer surface to prevent burns," explained Young. "Holes in the outer layer vent the heat. It was really just an experiment.”
Young and his wife sought out many "amazingly creative people that we have in Orlando" to bring many ideas for their family home to life.
Metal work is seen throughout the exterior design, including on the outdoor shower. Young and his sons used existing copper piping to make their own shower head. "It has now oxidized and is starting too look really cool," said Young.
This detail speaks to the heart of Young's project: to play with exposed materials. Here, Young left the support beams exposed and they become the heart of the home.
He repeats the vertical and horizontal lines of this central structure in multiple applications outdoors, including the support of the concrete boardwalk, the pergola over the courtyard and the sun-shade beside the pool.
Here, you can also see the two totally different ceiling treatments. Upstairs is cherry plywood that has been lacquered and set in squares atop black-painted drywall. Downstairs the ceiling is tongue-in-groove Florida black cherry, which is used to define spaces.
The courtyard provides the family their main entrance into the home and connects the detached garage and driveway to the house.
Young faced his home with a collage of exterior materials including Hardie board, Fry Reglet architectural metal, corrugated metal siding panels and stucco.
The sun-shade beside the pool plays with the horizontal and vertical repetition of the exposed beams that are not only the heart of the home's construction but also its design.
It was important to the Youngs to use local talent wherever possible. The kitchen cabinets and all of the mill work were locally fabricated. The breakfast counter is supported with an old tire jack -- the kind of found object that appeals so much to Young and that he finds uses for in details throughout the home, inside and out.
Approaching the site, you’re greeted by a pair of towering steel mesh sculptures artfully placed at the apex of the lot, playing off the angles of the house. Late-day sun casts a golden light on the King & Queen (the tallest of the pair) steel-mesh sculptures by Florida artist Chris Scala. “I knew I wanted to do something on this this end of the lot to capture the natural curves of the site,” said Young. The artworks also hint at Young’s guiding design principle: truth in materials.
“I love polished concrete floors though they are not necessarily a simple thing to do. When done correctly and in a natural way, without a lot of sealers and chemicals, they feel extremely smooth and silky, making you feel very connected," said Young.
The sound of gurgling water softens the space. A concrete trough whose texture mimics coquina is a nod to the original coquina columns that were found on the site, explained Young. The fountain defines an edge of the courtyard, above it a vertical garden whose riot of succulents are contained by a custom Cor-Ten steel frame by Drew McGuckin of McGuckin Custom Metal Creations, who also brought several more of Young’s design ideas to life. Cast concrete planters blend with the porch, merging hardscape and landscape components into a singular moment.
The Young's backyard is built for kids and dogs, and looks great too.
Overlooking one end of the dining table is an oversized drawing by Sarasota artist Clive King which adds color, softness and vitality to the space. "I fell in love with this panel from a triptych when I'd seen an exhibit of King's work. It's hand drawn with a Sharpie, and then he goes back and colors it in," said Young. The piece is on heavy paper is framed by the same craftsman who fabricated all the cabinets and millwork in the house. The artwork itself remains unglassed. "It would be a shame if we tried to cover it up," says Young.
The side yard connects the courtyard to the backyard. At the center is a downspout fountain that Young designed (an up-close look reveals a collection of gears and found metal objects from Renningers, the antique flea market in Mt. Dora). He later added a second chain to the right that guides overflow water from the gutters into a submerged drain added to the patio.
The house has opposing shed-style sloped rooflines and the exterior is faced with a collage of materials including Hardie board, Fry Reglet architectural metal, corrugated metal siding panels and stucco.
One of the family’s favorite rooms in the house is the library. Young’s wife is an avid reader and founded a children's literacy nonprofit here in Orlando. The couple needed a space for everyone’s books, and finding a place where they could display them side-by-side was important.
The bookshelf, part of a larger shelving grid, is built around a bright yellow piano. The piano was Young’s wife's when she was growing up and it was originally a very boring, oak brown. “We wanted it to be the signature feature of the room and painting it yellow is always a fun surprise when you walk in the room. This is the room you can find us in most nights playing board games, playing piano, and drinking wine.”
The long hallway from the kitchen to the master bedroom is often used as a racetrack for scooters or cardboard box bobsledding. The exposed steel support beams are at the heart of the home, and the project's design.