We often define our homes by what can be found inside them – comfortable furniture, heirloom treasures or carefully selected décor – and for some, this is as far as the concept of home extends. The dwelling itself might be described by its owner as no more than a suitable shell, or shelter. To an architect, however, home is about much more than a building’s contents; rather, the design of a house can play an integral part in creating a lovely living space, and can even help shape the homeowner’s quality of life.
For one day each year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Central Kentucky Chapter (CKC) opens some of Louisville’s most artistic homes to the public, to share not just the beauty but also the benefits of houses that have been custom-designed by architects. This Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 6 p.m., the AIA CKC Annual House Tour will take visitors on a six-stop tour of this year’s grandest local homes, culminating with an exclusive look at the upscale downtown bar and restaurant, St. Charles Exchange, led by its architect, Chris Bowling of K. Norman Berry Architects & Associates. AIA CKC President, David Allen, each year looks forward to the tour, the organization’s largest event, because of the unique opportunity it affords for members of the public to view and learn about architect-designed homes, up-close and from the experts.
“I think its one of our best outreaches to the public,” Allen remarked. “It presents architectural design at a scale in a building type that everyone can relate to … on a level that everybody can appreciate. (Those on the tour) can all compare living environments done by an architect, as opposed to their own living environment, and see how architects and architecture can improve their life.”
This year’s tour includes the Brown Residence, a nautical style stilted home on River Road which features a renovated foyer, stair tower, master bedroom and bath, family room and a newly-enclosed deck, all designed by Studio Kremer Architects. In addition to new paint color and metal wall panels that were added to connect the stair with the home’s metal roof, the home features a unique stairwell, tilted 45 degrees to the house, to enhance visual interest from the road. A spectacular view of the Ohio River and Six Mile Island greets visitors at the top of the star, through the living room’s towering windows.
Another home not to miss is the Gratz Residence, a contemporary “CityHome” row house in NuLu which, despite a downtown location, offers traditionally suburban amenities such as a private rear courtyard, rooftop deck and two-car garage. Ten-foot-high ceilings and an open floor plan in the building designed by CityWorks, PLLC, create a feeling of openness and space, while design features like the floating wood and metal modular stair system stand out as works of art in their own right. A modern kitchen completes the clean look of the home’s interior, while the Energy Star-certified building offers the extra efficiency advantages of an attached house.
While the AIA CKC Annual House Tour is an exciting opportunity for Louisvillians to see a few of the city’s finest examples of architectural design, it also serves as an excellent way for the organization to highlight the talents of some of its less-publicized members. “The house tour kind of indirectly provides some service, some marketing to some of our smaller and startup firms,” Allen pointed out. “A lot of those firms specialize in residential design, house additions and houses, and so forth, so it gives us an opportunity to serve that segment of our membership that might be otherwise less served by the chapter.”
But this isn’t an event held simply for the benefit of its designers – rather, 100 percent of the proceeds from the house tour go directly to Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville. In addition, St. Charles Exchange has committed to donating a percentage of sales from the day of the tour to the cause. In past years, the AIA CKC has been able to donate as much as $5,000, and last year even undertook to build their own LEED-certified Habitat house for a local family. “I think one of the most noble causes an architect can be involved in is helping to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty,” explained Allen. “And I think Habitat has an excellent reputation of doing that, one family at a time, you know, on a very specific and personal level.”
Tickets for the AIA CKC Annual House Tour will be available, along with maps, at each of the homes on the day of the tour, Sept. 23, and are $15 each, or $10 each when purchased in groups of ten. The homes featured will be The Ashworth and Spangler Residence, 1710 Windsor Place; The Brown Residence, 4228 River Road; The Gratz Residence, 415 Hancock Green Place; The Hall Residence, 1906 Lauderdale Drive; The Mullins Residence, 8512 Cheltenham Circle; and The Neary Residence, 2336 Brookside. For more information visit www.aia-ckc.org. There will also be a discussion about green urban renewal and an Architects’ Forum, Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to noon, at The Urban Design Studio, 507 S. Third St., with refreshments by Lynn’s Paradise Café. R.S.V.P. to firstname.lastname@example.org.