Thanks for the Memories

Using circulation spaces like foyers, hallways, and stair landings makes for a home that feels at once gracious, lived-in, and space-savvy. Shaker Lodge, Houston. Architect: L. Barry Davidson Architects, Houston; Builder: Pyramid Constructors, Houston

Here’s a spot where it’s easy to imagine being curled up with a book on a rainy day, and inspiration for places like these can come from surprising places. Builder Sean Ruppert takes his cues from popular culture and old movies. “The interior details in ‘Home Alone’ are amazing,” he says. Cabin John Crossing, Cabin John, Md. Architect: Greg Sparhawk, Architect: Greg Sparhawk, GPS Designs Architecture, Kirkland, Wash.; Builder: OPaL, LLC, Cabin John, Md.; Interior Designer: P Four, Lanham, Md.

The front door is an ideal place to get a little daring with color, hardware, detailing, and one-off design touches that make a home feel truly original. The house that this door belongs to is new construction, but classic proportions, salvage elements, and vintage-style details—provided they’re done really well—make it look and feel like it’s been around for awhile. Firefly Hill, Buchanan, Mich. Architect: Sullivan Goulette & Wilson, Chicago; Builder: Jacob Construction, Berrien Springs, Mich.

Off-the-shelf material like 3-Form resin panel embedded with birch twigs can be backlit for a striking island that provides seating, a work area, ambiance, and a memorable kitchen centerpiece. Zen Kitchen, Hillsborough, Calif. Architect/Interior Designer: TRG Architects, Burlingame, Calif.; Builder: J.P. Lindstrom, Inc., Burlingame

Too often, closets are an afterthought, says Marie Newton, owner of Closets Redefined. In this new home, the owner wanted “non-active pantry storage” (as opposed to her go-to pantry) where she could store special-occasion platters and appliances that don’t see everyday use. Still, this one is as organized—and even appealing—as a pantry you’d use every day. It also looks like a great way to re-purpose an underutilized closet. Custom Pantry, Southern Massachusetts. Architect: Oak Hill Architects, Weston, Mass.; Builder: Custom Designs Incorporated, Natick, Mass.; Closet Designer: Closets Redefined, Weymouth, Mass.

A hinged gate and limestone bench help define a side entryway to a home, turning it into a loggia that’s as welcoming as the front way in, with a gently sloped ramp that makes it wheelchair-accessible. Stone columns, painted trim, and a tongue tongue-and and-groove ceiling give this circulation space extra-special presence. The New American Bungalow, Evanston, Ill. Architect: Cohen Hacker Architects, Evanston, Ill.; Builder: Sturm Builders, Northbrook, Ill.

This house has an inside-meets meets-outside flow shown exemplified by its outdoor living space, with a design that’s as simple and striking as it is utility-driven. The butterfly roof helps channel the western breeze while offering shelter from sun and rain. During a downpour, the roof directs runoff onto the main roof and into a cistern. Power Haus, Sarasota, Fla. Designer/Builder: Josh Wynne Construction, Sarasota

Ideas built into the floor plan have staying power, like a well-equipped mudroom with nice hooks to hang coats and shopping bags, a flat space to set heavy parcels, baskets and cubbies for bike helmets, baseball mitts, and cleats, and an appealing floor finish. Wisconsin Farmhouse, Boyceville, Wis.; Architect: Rehkamp Larson; Builder: Red Cedar Construction, Menomonie, Wis.

A staggered array of tea containers cling to a magnetized wall, creating dramatic and beautiful storage. The practical idea is a simple one, and it translates well to home kitchens—works great for spices. Great Wall Tea Shop, Vancouver, British Columbia. Architect: Marianne Amodio, Vancouver; General Contractor: Woodworks Custom Developments, North Vancouver; Millwork: Fullbore Design, Vancouver

The glass walls of this bathroom are lifted straight from mid-century design, and they're made from off-the-shelf blocks. The wall looks striking from both inside and out, and it drenches the bathroom behind it in light while affording maximum policy. Four Palms, Austin, Texas. Architect/builder: CG&S Design/Build, Austin.

The 18-inch-deep bathtub is a drop-in standard model from Kohler that fits in a 5-foot alcove. The bath area is built into a window bay that cantilivers out into the garden. Stepped Douglas fir cabinetry in the Asian tansu style makes the most of a small room, adding storage space as well as visual interest. Idea Garden, Healdsburg, Calif. Architect: Arkin Tilt Architects, Berkeley, Calif.; Builder: Earthtone Construction, Sebastopol, Calif.; Cabinet Maker: Higgins Cabinetry, Duncans Mills, Calif.

A pivot door gets a special—and a spatial—assist from a slatted wood wing that warms up the modernist look of the outside. The added element embellishes and shelters the entry at the same time. What’s more, the wing helps the front door appear wider and more substantial than it really is in relation to the elevation. Rotenberg Residence, Malibu, Calif.; Architect Minarc, Santa Monica, Calif.; Builder Lannen Construction, Los Angeles

Appealing color like a clear, deep blue helps the favorite room of the house linger in memory. This isn’t fancy Italian custom stuff. It’s off-the-shelf, from Ikea. Glass Onion Loft, New York. Architect/Interior Designer: Christopher Rawlins, New York; Builder: Leeway Construction, Pearl River, N.Y.

Last year, a survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects ranked an outdoor fireplace as second only to a cooking area on the list of most-requested outdoor features for a home. This one, in a LEED Platinum Home, is both warming and striking, thanks to its sculptural flue. Sycamore House, Los Angeles. Architect: Kovac Architects, Los Angeles; Builder: 44 West Construction, Topanga, Calif.

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