A Stone Hearth as Center of the Home

Places / March 22, 2010

Chris Kempel of Rockefeller Partners Architects dropped in to see his new clients a few years back, to see how they lived before starting on designs for their new home.

“They were renting a rustic canyon home which felt like a ski lodge,” he said. “There was a stone hearth at the center of the room, and the father was strumming a guitar, the children were playing and the mother was reading a book. It was all very Norman Rockwell – the family was obviously important to them, and gathering together was also important.”

The new home, he decided, would feature a stone hearth at its center. “It was a very Frank Lloyd Wright idea,” he said.

Rather than designing the residence as one massive, 10,000 square-foot block, the architect broke it into rooms and clusters of rooms, stretched out across the site that addressed a California canyon. The home features two wings connected by an entrance hall at its center. The main living wing is composed of family room, living room, kitchen and dining room, with master bedroom suite above. The other wing features children’s bedrooms, guest quarters, basement and gym.

“It’s all tied together by the entrance hall.” Chris said. “It’s literally a bridge at the second level that connects one wing to another.”

Central to its design is its stacked bluestone main hearth and stone wall. The home was created around it – it’s the reason for its being. “We search for a story behind everything we do,” Chris said. “If you have a good story, you can always fall back on it if you get stuck along the way. It helps inform us when faced with design decisions on detailing.”

Even after three years of construction, the end result was not very different from the initial concept, the 1994 graduate of N.C. State’s School of Design said. “By really listening to the client, and observing how they lived, I came up with a sketch of what it could be” he said. “And that original sketch is not much different from the final product.”

For more on Rockefeller Partners Architects, go to http://www.rockefeller-pa.com/ 


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Michael Welton




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