Brad Lynch of Brininstool + Lynch designs a residence, near Indianapolis; influenced by 17th-century Japanese screens.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 10/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
The clients' wishes were, to understate, unusual: Having found an architect whose work they admired, they asked that the design of their new house be based on two 17th-century Japanese screens. Not as aberrant but also affecting the evolvement of the building plan was the choice of site, a down-slanting 24,700-sq.-ft. plot in an established development within the suburban realm of Indianapolis. The architect was Brad Lynch, co-principal with David Brininstool of Brininstool + Lynch. The clients were Nancy and Tom Yamamoto, both born and bred in Idaho, then schooled in California; his forebears were Japanese. Frequent visitors, in the course of his career, to Japan and South Korea, they had developed a knowledge of and love for the countries' indigenous artworks and lifestyles. They brought back mementoes, but the aforementioned screens—actually bought from an art dealer in New York—indeed are their pièces de résistance. Entitled Mount Fuji, Bridge, and Musashino Grass, each depicts, stretched across six folding panels, a scenic panorama of land, water, and sky seen through a soft haze. Hues are mossy green, earthy, and sepia. To showcase the screens without unseemly ostentation, Lynch created two niches protruding from the living and dining rooms' southern border. Each screen measures 4 ft. 10 in. by 11 ft. 8 in.; a structural divider rises in-between.
Lynch designed the 5,350-sq.-ft. building to be set back about 65 feet from the outlying street and to start, at its south side, as a composition of horizontal planes: Seen in profile are a cantilevered canopy above the driveway and, veering off at 90 degrees, the garage, and the dwelling's red brick façade. Going down to grade level one faces glass doors opening to the basement containing a family room, study, guest quarters, and ancillary areas. The first and second floors hold public and private rooms respectively; stairs provide linkage. And as the central level's open layout lacks upright supports, a tubular steel frame was used to assure stable rigidity. There are no windows looking to the street; to the north, sight lines face the landscaped grounds, alive with native planting and, in the distance, woods and a lake. From top to baseline, the amply glazed back wall measures 33 ft.; that's a lot of admission space for sunlight to stream into the two main floors. Yet another bonus is privacy, not only from the street but also from the development's other residences—Lynch refers to them as "builder houses," his voice reflecting just a hint of disdain—in the immediate vicinity. Most of them are considerably larger and anchored on level planes.
Within the Yamamotos' residence, first impressions are formed by the amplitude of natural light originating to the north and a sense of pervasive serenity. Entering the wood-clad kitchen and looking across the polished-granite counter to the living room, one detects the niches harboring the antique screens. Overhead, a suspended steel frame with translucent glass inlays and marginal track lights continues into the dining room, there dispensing with glazing. The dining table, designed by Lynch, is of cherry wood seemingly skimming the aluminum base. Asian art appears omnipresent: there are contemporary ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu and Peter Voulkos, a lovely little "scholar's desk" posing as coffee table, early 19th-century Surimono prints, and "wooden pillows" bought by Nancy Yamamoto from—dig this—the woman who married the last king of Korea.
And then there is the writer's favorite story: How the mottle-finish fireplace wall came into being. Lynch made the first of four panels, applying four-in.-square aluminum leaves and sepia lacquer atop plaster-finish wood boards, followed by rigorous wiping to attain the wanted degree of patina. Having thus demonstrated the technique, he challenged the Yamamotos to take over. They labored, they rubbed, they erred, and finally succeeded, wasting merely 400-some of the 1,000 silvery patches provided. Surely this shows that good collaborative client/designer relations prosper and thrive.
The job won both the Interior and Distinguished Building awards from the AIA Chicago chapter. Design time lasted one year, construction took two. Andrea Zaff was the project architect; Christine Marsal Brandl, Jason Longo, and Keith Ginnodo completed the team.