A Flawless Modern Masterpiece
Make it whimsical, she said. It's not daring enough, he said. What is one to do with direction like this? When world-renowned architectural firm Thompson Vaivoda & Associates was selected to design the Lakota Residence, Ned Vaivoda, the project designer and principal architect who led the project, listened to his clients' words and used them as guidance to create what is now one of the world's most architecturally-significant residences.
As art is defined as the expression of human creative skill and imagination, the Lakota Residence, set on 10 sloping acres in Portland's coveted Forest Park neighborhood, is a work of art in every sense. The exterior draws you in with its combination of architectural mastery, privacy and stunning views of the Pacific Northwest's most famous mountain peaks while the interior's incredible open space, creative architectural details and use of stone, wood and glass elements keeps its hold on you.
The home's once-in-a-lifetime design began with a story. A story that Architect Ned Vaivoda conceived and presented to his clients after they purchased the stunning property and began excavating the land and laying the groundwork for their soon-to-be dream home. The newly constructed, curved retaining wall his clients built spurred a vision that became the narrative of the home's design.
The concept, explains Vaivoda, was that my clients were out hiking in the woods, exploring the woods, and they came across this relic, a demolished ancient house. It was just a wall, a stone wall. And around this stone wall, they would build a modernist home. That's the essence of where it began, says Vaivoda.
After passing through the property's gates and winding down the tree-lined drive, the home's relic wall comes into view, and one begins to understand this vision of ancient meets modernist. Sleek elements of glass, steel, shimmering mosaic tile, and concrete artfully protrude from openings within the wall's facade of highly-textured, guillotine-cut Italian travertine. The unique, angled landscape with custom, stainless steel blades of grass sculptures are framed by the circular driveway and wide quartzite walkway and steps leading to home's entrance.
To the left of the entry is, perhaps, the piece-de-resistance of the facade - an Italian glass mosaic-tiled egg that shimmers in the sun and literally permeates the wall. The 17-foot tall egg is a three-dimensional, multi-curved elliptical surface that was painstakingly tiled by hand, one half-inch row at a time.
To one side of the egg, reaching two-stories high is a wedge of glass windows and to the other is the riveted steel front door that seems to float in a glass box anchored to concrete panels and sheltered by an overhanging steel disc. To the right of the entry, ALUCOBOND panels project from the travertine as if being pushed through the ancient ruin by the magnificent, curved glass and aluminum structure that extends from the southern most point of the home.
Stepping through the front door is like stepping through time and into the epitome of modern design. The open, light-filled spaces boast clean lines that draw your eye from one end of the interior to the other. And while some modern interiors may appear stark, the incredible variety of natural stone and wood from around the world used throughout adds visual interest and texture and gives the residence an undeniable warmth.
As private as the front of the home appears, the back is equally open and inviting. Three levels of expansive glass panels anchored in curved steel forms sit atop the quartzite-covered walls of the lower level. Cantilevered rooms and terraces jut from the steel-framed structure - a breathtakingly beautiful engineering marvel. Expansive quartzite patios that flow from the interior's lower level open to the gentle curves of the manicured lawn and the forested property beyond.
I had unique clients who pushed me, says Vaivoda. When I was told to keep pushing, I knew they wanted more, more unique, more whimsy. For an architect with nearly 30 years of experience designing both residential and commercial structures, this out-of-the-box thinking was like heaven.
Architecture moves you emotionally, explains Vaivoda. That's what this house will do.
From the Beginning
The home began as a dream of Vaivoda's clients to build something different, something unprecedented. After an extensive search for property, in 1997, Vaivoda brought his clients to the Lakota Development in Portland's desirable West Hills. From the first day they drove up the narrow, gravel road and saw deer and other wildlife on the land, Vaivoda's clients knew that this was where they wanted to build. They loved the seclusion and the unspoiled landscape of the 10-acre property that back to the 5,100-acre Forest Park, one of the country's largest nature reserves that is six times larger that New York's Central Park.
The new owners began site preparations and called Viaoda back in after a retaining wall had been built on the one-and-a-half acre home site. It was then that Vaivoda went to the property and spent time drawing, taking in the views, and assessing the attributes of the site. It was important they felt like they were outside, explains Vaivoda. The forested land. The incredible mountain views. It is a true piece of the Pacific Northwest.
So planning began with his client's vision of an elongated home that would take advantage of the incredible view of the Cascade Mountain Range, including Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. The ancient wall found in the woods became the concept for the home, spurring an incredible design collaboration between Vaivoda and his clients - one that lasted the entirety of the project.
The design process was a gradual one in which the clients and architect would often find themselves sitting in the in-progress structure contemplating the design and sketching new ideas. With unique access to and a vast knowledge of the latest building materials, the clients brought a vision for the inclusion of natural stone and tile to the home, while Vaivoda imagined beautiful curves and angles for the interior and exterior architecture. Little by little over the first three years, the design came together in what they describe as a natural, organic process.
My favorite part of the project was the collaboration, says Vaivoda. He relished his clients' continued feedback and loved their ideas. Each change and idea gave me another chance to design something, explains Vaivoda, who is known for his spectacular design of the Moyer Meditation Chapel at The Grotto in Portland.
Ground was broken for the residence in 2000 after two years of design and planning, and after another five years of construction with design changes, upgrades and improvements, the magnificent estate built of stone, steel and glass was complete.
The resulting home is a layered structure that is anchored by entertaining space and a mosaic glass-tiled pool on the bottom level that opens up to expansive patios, a lush lawn and the natural beauty of the forest. The main level, where you enter the home, offers open entertaining, dining and living space, while private quarters with bedrooms and an office reside on the top level. These levels were the seeds of the design, explains Vaivoda.
It was the incredible collaboration between architect Ned Vaivoda, Mike Bradley of Distinctive Homes Construction and the owners that resulted in this masterful residence. It was Vaivoda and the owners' goal to achieve a level of design, quality and craftsmanship that most can only dream of. Mike Bradley bought into the level of quality that we were aiming for, says Vaivoda. It was a first for him to build this kind of house, but he knew what to do and did a remarkable job
Vaivoda's out-of-the-box design aesthetic that masterfully blends symmetry and shape, along with his flexibility and love of collaboration, was perfectly complemented by the owners eye for detail, love and knowledge of stone products, and desire for a home that would be unique, playful and unlike anything ever built before. For the clients, it was all about completing the essence of what we were trying to do, Vaivoda says about the home's design that pushed against convention. And with a curse for perfection, the owners were also adamant that only the best craftspeople, products and material would be used for every aspect of the home.
From the start, it was clear that stone would play an important role in the residence. The ancient wall which acts as the concept for the home's design was built using travertine, a limestone born of hot springs. With a special connection to Italy's famed Mariotti company, fabricators of high quality travertine since 1898, the owners chose to use this special limestone which is almost exclusively used for commercial projects. Known for its incredible use of Mariotti travertine, the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles served as inspiration for the home's facade. So much so that Vaivoda's clients sent stonemasons to LA to study the Getty's travertine and learn how it was built. After using the same open-jointed building technique and guillotine-cutting method that exposes the many crystals and textures of the stone, the Lakota Residence stands in good company with the Getty as being the only structures in the United States that use Mariotti travertine in this manner.
Impressive choices of stone continue throughout the home. African slate, Indian and Brazilian granite, Chinese quartzite, and Middle Eastern onyx play equally important roles in the interior. And while stone is a key element, it along with the use of hand-picked exotic wood, glass and impressive architectural details work together harmoniously and perfectly capture the vision for the home's whimsical design.
The owners, who had an integral role in the design process and ultimate control of material selection, believed it was important for materials to be chosen literally from the ground up. To anchor the design, beautiful 2' x 2' Brazilian granite tiles, with radiant heat, were chosen as flooring for the entire main and upper levels.
Similar to the form and function as one concept found in the galleries of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles, the home's walls were contoured and flow organically through the space providing an exceptional backdrop for art collections. The catwalk that connects the top level's sleeping quarters and office is a dramatic curving walkway and has a sharp point projecting from it just beyond the stainless steel railing, serving the sole purpose of being an unconventional design element - just as Vaivoda's clients requested.
Commercial, high wind-resistant windows by Kawneer, a company known for their projects including the Empire State Building, NYC's historic Flatiron Building and Minneapolis' NFL U.S. Bank Stadium, cover the home's east-facing facade, providing both visual impact and framing the natural beauty of the property and the stunning mountains views.
The kitchen, located on the main level, was a true collaboration between Vaivoda and his clients. After Vaivoda completed initial drawings and elevations for the space, his clients felt it necessary to fabricate a full-scale model within the space to ensure every cabinet was aligned, every curve was perfect and every detail was fully visualized. The owners purchased large pieces of rigid insulation, and cabinets, countertops, appliances, and an island were mocked up full size. No client has ever done this before, recalls Vaivoda. The result is an astoundingly beautiful kitchen with curved sapele wood cabinets that flow into sleek, stainless steel cabinetry, an island with a gorgeous, floating granite top, professional appliances, and a wood-fired pizza oven - all with a back drop of iridescent Italian mosaic tiles and lit by German pendants, low voltage recessed lights, and more windows that overlook the property.
Designed to blend in seamlessly with the kitchen's cabinetry is the home's elevator. The curved, sapele-covered door opens to reveal a spacious cabin that quickly shuttles passengers from the top to bottom floor. Around the corner from the elevator is a powder room which is housed in the interior of the egg. Stepping into the shimmering convex room is like stepping into another world. The same Italian mosaic tiles that cover the exterior of the egg cover the interior walls as well, giving the room an unearthly, ethereal feeling.
Two-story high windows define the dining and living areas on the main level. The dining space, between the kitchen and the living room, is bound by the custom credenzas designed by Vaivoda. While not typically designing furniture, I wanted to do it and convinced them I should, says Vaivoda. Made with Africa bubinga pommele, a rare wood with irregular swirling patterns, the credenzas, like the kitchen cabinetry, were fabricated in full-scale models before construction to ensure that they would have the right feel for the space.
The far end of the living room features a stunning wood-covered wall that reaches to the roof. Large panels of bubinga pommele, also known as African rosewood, surround a built-in television and rise to meet a Juliet balcony that opens to the office above. Even larger panels of beautifully-figured African anigre create an angled wedge that wraps over the top into the office space and perfectly meets the bubinga. A simple, sleek sheet of stainless steel serves as the fireplace surround and projects from the bottom of the wall.
The staircases that mirror each other on opposite ends of the home have three-inch solid granite treads suspended by steel frames - heavy-duty material that is given an airy, modern feel by the open tread design and gleaming stainless steel finish on the railings. Banks of corner windows two-stories high flood the stairwells with natural light as well as provide additional views of the property.
Vaivoda's intent for the top level was to have not only private sleeping and office quarters but to also have the most spectacular views. Cantilevered over the main level's terrace, the luxurious, 983 sq. ft. master suite could win the award for the world's best view from a bedroom. Floor-to-ceiling windows wrap the room on three sides offering panoramic mountain views to wake up to and views of twinkling city lights to fall asleep to. A curving transition between Brazilian granite tiles and solid maple flooring, in custom 1 1/2 width, draws the eye from one side of the room with its treetop views to the other where a private terrace awaits. The master suite's fireplace has a sleek stainless steel surround and sits in a dividing wall covered with more beautifully-figured anigre wood. Opposite the fireplace is the en suite bath where the incredible array of stone and wood continues: Slab granite vanity with carved trough sink, quartzite and granite shower walls, contoured granite tub surround, and built-in anigre cabinetry.
On the opposite end of the catwalk resides the home office space where windows provide mountain views and the Juliet balcony gives views of the great room below. The home's third fireplace with stainless steel surround sits within the anigre wall and next to a closet covered in redwood burl wood. The office's powder room has some of the home's most spectacular stone on display. Covering the walls are truly breathtaking slabs of onyx with incredible swirling patterns. A thick, translucent onyx slab is also used as the powder room's counter where natural light is able to penetrate it from the window above that overlooks the side of the home.
The lower level's 50-foot, indoor lap pool is not only a rare amenity, but it is yet another space that boasts a combination of beautiful stone work - all with soothing green tones that enhance the serene, luxurious feel of the space. Chinese quartzite wraps around the pool, up the walls and appears to flow through the glass and stone exterior wall onto the home's outdoor patios. Shimmering, iridescent glass mosaic tiles cover the pool's interior as well as the walls which provide privacy for the changing and shower rooms, bathroom and steam room.
Inside the steam room are two beautiful pieces of onyx from Pakistan that serve as benches in the ultra relaxing space. To ensure the pool room had an outdoor feel and abundant natural light, a mirrored wall at one end, a glass wall at the other - which connects to the media room - and floor-to-ceiling windows were chosen for the space. Exceptionally-designed tokyo-pop lounge furniture by Tokujin Yoshioka, who is considered one of the masters of contemporary design, is placed around the indoor pool as well as on the patio and lawn, adding to the modernist feel of the space.
Only glass separates the pool from the recreation/media space, creating an incredibly open feel throughout the entire lower level. The quartzite floor in the pool area flows under the glass and into the media room where it meets a sprung maple floor. The sprung floor is excellent for absorbing shock and providing a soft feel - a perfect floor choice for the exercise studio, a cozy space beside the media room.
Behind a sound-proof, smooth opening, pivoting door is the home's music room. Built as a space where extraneous sound and vibrations are eliminated, the room's maple floor, insulation, and bright, artistic acoustic panels that line the walls create the ideal environment for playing and recording music. The wide, pivoting door has been powder coated using a unique technique that results in an iridescent, color shifting look - depending upon the light, the door may appear blue, purple or a combination of both.
This incredible home was designed for entertaining so it was important to create comfortable spaces for guests to stay. Two bedroom suites are perfectly positioned for privacy, one on top of the other on the main and upper levels, and share the windows that make up the glass wedge that juts out from the home's facade. Vaivoda's clients spared no expense in the guest suites and created beautiful spaces with custom floating beds, handcrafted nightstands and exquisite cabinetry. Rare peanut-figured" Japanese tamo ash veneer was used on the cabinetry in the main level bedroom and quilted maple veneer, prized for its rippled pattern and often used for musical instruments, was used in upper level bedroom.
First-grade Eastern maple was custom-milled into 1 1/2 planks for the bedroom floors, and the en suite baths have exquisite finishes that surpass even the most luxurious hotel baths around the world: Slate floors and walls, granite counters, benches and walls, tamo ash cabinetry, frameless glass shower enclosure, and sleek, modern fixtures.
In addition to the guest suites in the main house, the Lakota Residence has a separate 1,127 sq. ft. guest quarters on the property. More than just a suite, this guest house is a fully functional apartment that was designed and built with the same high-end materials and attention to detail. The exterior was designed as to not distract from the main house's unique ancient meets modernist architecture and has its own distinctive, yet complementary, aesthetic. Concrete panels, built using the Japanese technique made famous by Tadao Ando, envelope the guesthouse's lower level. The resulting smooth panels, iconic lines and holes made from the concrete forms create a simplistic base for the commercial Alucobond aluminum panels, also used on the main house, that wrap the upper floor and create modernist, box-like shapes. Ribbons of hidden windows placed within edges of the boxes along with a single thin, horizontal window give privacy to the main house while still letting in light. A patio and tall windows wrap around the other three sides of the guest house giving the interior an abundance of natural light as well as providing exceptional outdoor living space.
Lighting for both the main residence and the guesthouse was another important factor when it came to design. Vaivoda and his clients understood that proper lighting would enhance the natural beauty of the material used, highlight architectural details, and create optimal ambiance within the spaces. One of the nation's top lighting designers, Jim Benya, was brought in to develop a plan that would balance the aesthetics, the form and the function of the residences' unique architecture. With 40 years of experience in commercial, theatrical and urban projects and having won more than 200 national and international lighting design awards, Benya was the perfect choice for the project.
The challenge, says Benya, was how to integrate light into the home and into the interior design while producing something out-of-this-world good. Working closely with the architect and clients, Benya conceived and executed a lighting plan for the Lakota Residence that was on par with those of acclaimed museums and achieved a level of performance and efficiency second to none.
The clients set a very high standard for what they wanted to accomplish. They wanted to use the best of everything and have the work done in the best possible manner, Benya says, explaining why only the best in material and technology was used. They had a high level of sophistication and taste and did a marvelous job at making the outcome truly spectacular.
The architecture and material used throughout the Lakota Residence are remarkable; however, what's underneath and behind the floors and walls are worthy of mention too. Incredible effort was made from the very beginning with maximum engineering during site preparation and use of commercial steel construction methods. The home's mechanical systems were designed for ease and efficiency, including power generators, electronic air filters, automatic lighting and window blind controls, security, and more. Vaivoda's clients knew that a home of this caliber could only have the best both inside and out.
From the moment one arrives at the Lakota Residence, it's evident that this is an exceptional property - one with thoughtful, artful design and meticulous attention to detail.
The concept of ancient meets modernist is unique and gives the home a timeless quality. While it was a long journey to create such an architecturally stunning home, neither Vaivoda nor his clients compromised in any way and continued to design all the way through the end of the 7-year process. They truly appreciated good building, says Vaivoda of his clients. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk.
The materials used are the best from around the world, and the craftspeople who built each element of the home are the best in their fields. The materials and craftsmanship are astounding, Vaivoda concludes. But the detail I love the most is the how each joint, each panel, each connection - both inside and out - align. The layperson sees this, feels good about it, but can't express what is so cool about it. I look at it and know that it took forever to get right. And those guys who built it, got it right!