Renderings & Construction Progress: Master Bedroom
This is the top-floor of the renovated nineteenth century townhouse in Boston that I have been overseeing, and as you can see by comparing my renderings to the in-progress photos it is likely that it will closely resemble my ultimate design for the space once it is completed.
That ceiling is probably the most striking element to this room, and I’m tempted to ad-lib some derivative "archi-spiel" to explain why it looks like this. But circumstances and simple expediency drove the design: prior to renovation, the townhouse’s almost-flat roof had been illegally modified to accommodate a shed-roofed glass sunroom, uncomfortably facing south for maximum heating and leaking. I had determined to save time with permitting for this project by avoiding any design changes that would require a zoning board hearing, which in this case meant I had to keep the “existing roof profile” with its high points, low points, and slopes (including the shed), no matter how little sense that roof configuration made post-renovation. So I did just that, and I decided to allow the individual planes of the ceiling, determined by those silly roof configurations, to overlap each other strategically. The shelves created by those overlapping planes in the ceiling largely hide the awkward geometry where different slopes intersect. And I’m running concealed LED lighting strips along those shelves to make it all look deliberate and not desperate.
There was one skylight, pre-renovation, over the stairs in the hall outside this bedroom. To bring more natural light into the center of the ceiling I simply reproduced that skylight (thereby maintaining “the existing roof profile and slope”) and spaced the three copies across the width of the building. None of the interior partitions on this floor actually structurally support the roof, so I placed the skylights (off-the-shelf Velux models, BTW) on a plane distinctly higher than the adjoining portions of the ceiling and passing across the bedroom door opening, largely because it amused me to illustrate the insubstantial nature of the interior walls. The builders have taken to calling this the "skylight groove.”
The partial-height wood-clad wall in these renderings and photos separates a small, open walk-in closet from the bedroom. The client for the project once complained with some bitterness that, in his house, no one ever closed the closet doors. So, whenever possible, I gave him closets that do not have doors so that he can’t get upset about it.
I could have left the dividing partial-height wall painted gypboard, but at some point it occurred to me that I should give it some sort of textured surface. The Japanese designer Takeshi Sugimoto (whose work I only know from photos) covered interior walls in his 80’s and 90’s restaurant and retail fit-outs with patterned assemblages of salvaged metals, wood, and other found materials. He claimed that the historic uses of these recycled materials would still radiate from them as a sort of ineffable energy or information that remains appealing despite the change in location and use. Or perhaps I have been reading something badly translated and I completely misunderstand why he did this. It is certainly not clear to me if he ever proposed an explanation for the appeal of that revenant energy or information.
Anyway, I will be personally finishing this wall with strips of wood salvaged from elsewhere in this construction project, which I have been carefully hoarding in the basement. I have a logical system for facing the wall that requires three different rough profiles of wood strip, in two different lengths. But chances are that it will have a much more varied texture than presented here in my renderings.
Incidentally, that wall was originally (i.e., a couple of years ago, early in the project) to be the built-in headboard for a bed. But then, after the interior framing was in place, the other client decided she wanted a king-sized bed, which would be too large to back up against the partial-height wall. I hadn't intended the wall to be a sculptural object standing alone, but so it goes. I’m sure it will end up with a piece of antique art or furniture in front of it, as indicated in my renderings with a tansu model casually downloaded from Trimble’s 3D Warehouse. (At one point, I thought about bagging the whole idea and papering the partial-height wall with out-of-date and red-lined construction drawings from the project, the sort of stuff I am forever finding scattered about in the sawdust. But I couldn’t decide if cynicism made for a good decorative motif.)
The eight-foot-high, multi-panelled hanging door which slides into the open closet’s entrance was recovered from the library of a grand nineteenth century Beacon Street mansion currently being converted into condominiums. It is solid oak, faced with cherry, and weighs at least three hundred pounds. It’s also pleasantly over-stained and generally f--ked up, with chips, cracks, and badly-filled repairs, as the grand mansion had fallen on hard times as a sort of rooming house in the twentieth century. We had to have the door craned to the top floor here with the air conditioning equipment for the roof. Originally it was a pocket door, but the foreman for this job of mine was able to salvage and restore all of its elaborate Victorian rail system, which will be exposed in this installation...you can observe in the renderings the black steel “C” track spanning the “skylight groove” above the lintel-less entrance to the bedroom.
You could argue that I am, with that door, yet again emulating Sugimoto with his reused material and its ineffable information. I was invited to visit the old mansion as it was being demolished, and I purchased the old door on the spot because I couldn’t bear to see something like that go into a dumpster. Perhaps it was the ineffable information or energy of the old piece that called out to me and led me to incorporate it into a new project.