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Architect Kent Chilcott discusses award-winnng KK Residence -- his own home


At just 1,768 square feet, Kent Chilcott’s KK Residence is the smallest house among the 2011 myMarvin Architect’s Challenge winners. That’s not by accident, either. Chilcott, of Kent Chilcott Studio in Santa Rosa, Calif., submitted a design that skillfully combines living and functional spaces to work in tandem within a limited footprint. There’s also several towering window walls to let in the surrounding valley views.

A repeat winner, this year, Chilcott gets to have his cake and eat it, too. The winning project? It’s actually his house. After reading the interview below, be sure to visit to see more photos from this project and the other 2011 myMarvin Architect’s Challenge winners.

Just like last year’s winner, this year’s house is relatively small. However, you make 1,768 square feet some much larger than the number suggests. How does skillful use of space factor into your design?
It doesn’t just “factor into.” It’s the primary objective. I am a true believer in the notion that space can go beyond practicality without sacrificing practicality. A space, say, a dining room, can be just a room to have a table and chairs for meals. Or, it can be a spatial companion to the living room and  kitchen, outdoor spaces, etc. It can share with other spaces a wall of glass or an outdoor terrace for example. By blending spaces rather than rigid functional separations, we get to enjoy larger shared volumes and the associated lifestyle benefits. This house has a living area that is 18’ x 48’. Separated into dining, kitchen, living, and entry, these would be uncomfortably small spaces, but, combined it is a large shared volume. This is especially important in smaller buildings.

This is the second year in a row you’ve been selected as a winner of the myMarvin Architect’s Challenge. What’s your secret?
No secret really. I’ve been fortunate to have a good run of fantastic clients with interesting demands and high expectations.

Your winning house belongs to you and your wife. What are some of the features you included that you would never dare were this a spec house or build for someone else? In what ways were you allowed to take chances?
For a spec house, I wouldn’t try the window detail that I did here that includes a curved and mitered and grain-matched-inside-to-out system of installing our wood ceiling to terminate into the glass itself. It was a bit gratuitous. As for client/owner/user-driven design, that’s a different story. Every client has goals and limitations and a piece of land. My job is to make the most of those which invariably involves experimentation and risk. So far, those have been the high points and the areas folks seem to enjoy most about their homes – that they were part of an experiment tailored uniquely to their vision.

Really, it was little different than designing for others. Design is always a bit of a gamble but the alternative, to restrain the design process to insure minimal risk, seems an even bigger risk. Either I risk the failure of a sincere effort or I risk under-serving the project, my clients and myself for having not tried. I’ll stick with regretting the things I did rather than those that I didn’t.

What’s your favorite feature of the house?
The views and the way they become part of daily living.

Window walls were common among this year’s myMarvin Architect’s Challenge winners. Why are window walls becoming more popular?
Perhaps it’s due to a new and eclectic homebuyer demographic that’s leading a stylistic shift from nostalgia and tradition to one of experimentalism and innovation. Certainly, the popular home design magazines reinforce this. Design experimentation is all around us like never before – cars, fashion, music, etc. Expectations have come up a notch. Why not houses, too? Also, on the purely practical side, window walls are better quality now and in ways that improve perceived comfort. For example, low-e insulated glass really works and you can feel the difference.

Do you plan on keeping the streak alive next year? Are their any aces up your sleeve to make it three years in a row?
I’ll do my best!