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A minimalist condo with maximum light

We often referred to this project as the “house of glass” because there is glass everywhere.

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Editor’s note: Author Pamela Sandler heads her eponymous firm, Pamela Sandler Architecture, headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass.

Condominiums are tough. When I was just starting out in the Berkshires, one of my earliest jobs was a condo back when condos were not “a thing” here. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. But what hasn’t changed is the limitations of condominiums, and this one was no exception. It was very chopped up, typical late 1980s design. We couldn’t make any structural changes to the exterior, so we had to utilize the space we already had. That included the screened-in porch, which we brought into the square footage of the house, enclosed it, and it became the main living space. Multiple French doors—French doors everywhere, really–and angled windows (all custom, and cut flush with the roof line) opened the space up tremendously. That was one of the main goals our client had. Even when you are inside the living room, you feel like you are outside because of all the glass and light.

Before renovation, this Berkshire condo was a chopped-up, bi-level space that allowed for little light and very little wiggle room

 

Before, the kitchen was closed off from much of the rest of the condo, and with very little storage space.

 

The main living area was surrounded by a porch, seen through the glass doors, which we brought into the square footage of the house in order to increase the light.

In fact, we often referred to this project as the “house of glass” because there is glass everywhere. The windows, the doors, those are the obvious features. But then there is all the glass detail. Tiny, tiny glass tiles in the kitchen, concave and convex glass tiles in the bathroom, plexiglass stairs and glass risers, frosted glass cabinets; no view inside or out is obstructed. In fact, glass is the true “canvas” for our client’s expansive art collection. So expansive, that we catalogued the art before we began the build and afterwards hired someone specifically to hang the art.

Custom, custom, custom

The main living space was once a screened-in porch with a pitched roof. Walls were removed and the windows have been cut on the same line as the roof to allow for maximum light to flood the space.

 

The new living room from a different perspective. Ring light chandeliers add a soft, modern touch.

Everything is custom built. Everything. Glass shelves are backlit and filled with sculpture and other art. We made light boxes for specific pieces, and when younger, more curious guests would come (the kind who can really do some damage to glass), we designed wooden panels to cover the light boxes…just in case. Every corner of this house is a curation. A vignette that you discover as you wander through. And, of course, the stairs, which are central to the entire space. We’ve started calling them the “Pam stairs,” as they have turned up in subsequent projects. (I am mildly obsessed with stairs. My team and my kids might argue more than mildly.)

Plexiglass stairs with glass risers offer a modern element and unobstructed views on all levels.

 

The dining area is an extension of the main living area. Its lower ceiling and elongated footprint still allow much of the natural light to shine through. Custom display cases with strategic lighting line the entrance to the kitchen.

During the build, the grandchildren started arriving, and the space needed to take those curious visitors into consideration. And it needed to be fun! The loft area is one of my favorites. Everything is multi-functional. The L-shaped seating area transforms into a bed and the coffee table surface can be flipped over and used as snack trays. There are drawers built into the steps leading up to the loft that are used for extra storage. The office off the first-floor bedroom—the headboard and adjustable lamps as well as the closet behind it all custom—is still called the “baby’s room” even though the babies are all grown up. With our client’s feedback through every step of this project, we were able to achieve a modern space that would allow for growth—with the art, the grandkids, and the changing needs of our client.

The L-shaped seating area is custom-built and can transform into a bed for guests. The top surface of the coffee table can be flipped, revealing individual trays for casual dining.

 

To create space and a sense of privacy, custom closets were built into the wall behind the headboard, which has sleek shelving for books. Lamps were built into the headboard on either side and minimalist shades hide at the top of the windows.

 

 The office off the first-floor bedroom is still called the “baby’s room” even though the babies are all grown up.

Ironically, the more limitations we have, the easier it is to be creative and to allow for a vision to come into focus. Inspiration comes directly from the needs and desires of the client, and the functionality of the space. That’s why I sit and observe my clients in their home. It’s part of the process because with architecture, the end user is always right!

 

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