BALA Regional Winners: The Best of the Best

By Susan Bady

To be named Best in Region in the Best in American Living Awards, projects must have already won a Platinum award in one or more categories. Therefore, regional winners can be anything from a one-of-a-kind custom home or a glittering urban high-rise to a repurposed commercial building. It’s their thoughtful planning, creative design, and fine craftsmanship that makes them stand out as regional champions, not to mention their overall impact on the neighborhood or the community.

Diverse as they are in typology, style, and intent, the 2019 regional winners uniformly demonstrate a strong connection to the site; an emphasis on capturing views; and the latest sustainable design and construction techniques. They elevate the quality of life for their occupants, whether it’s an individual client or several hundred residents in a highly amenitized building.

Here’s a look at the 2019 winners, which represent the Middle Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, North Atlantic, Pacific, Pacific Northwest, South Atlantic, and South Central regions.

Best in Region—Mountain

Home of the Year & Platinum One-of-a-Kind Custom or Spec Home Over 8,000 Sq. Ft.

Project Name | Vail
Project Location | Vail, Colo.

Architect/Designer | Brandon Architects, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Builder | Meadow Mountain Homes, Edwards, Colo.
Landscape Architect/Designer | Fieldscape Inc., Orinda, Calif.
Interior Designer | Ultra-Mod Design Concepts, Newport Beach, Calif.
Photos | Bitterman Photography

Step inside and immediately you realize there isn’t a bad view anywhere. The objective was to capture vistas of Colorado’s West Vail Valley from every angle, and this residence does so in spades, with glass cubes that stack and cantilever off the main building.

While it may look like a detached single-family home from the initial approach, the home actually is a duplex. Two families could vacation in close proximity, but with completely separate living quarters. There’s also the possibility of renting out one or both units to generate income for the client.

Brandon Architects worked skillfully around the constraints of the lot; rather than dominating the site with glass and steel, the design hugs the terrain in a progression of glass boxes. Separated by a hefty concrete demising wall, the larger of the duplexes is 5,628 square feet and the smaller is 4,435 square feet. Each home has a master suite, secondary bedrooms, a laundry room, a kitchen, a great room, a dining room, an outdoor patio, and a roof deck.

The larger home nestles into the sloping hillside, with a master suite that projects 12 feet from the main structure and creates a covered loggia adjacent to the great room below. Two bedrooms look out on custom graffiti selected by the client.

Best in Region—North Atlantic

Multifamily Community of the Year & Platinum Affordable Multifamily Community

Project Name | St. Augustine Terrace
Project Location | Bronx, N.Y.

Architect/Designer | Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC, New York, N.Y.
Builder | Mega Contracting Group LLC, Astoria, N.Y.
Developer | New York Institute for Human Development, New York, N.Y.
Photos | Ari Burling | Architectural Photography | Esto Photography | Seong Kwon Photography

Built on the site of a former church in the Bronx, St. Augustine Terrace is a mix of supportive and affordable housing with a divinely inspired design. The 12-story building glows at night, lit from within by fully glazed elevator lobbies on every floor, and serves as a beacon for the community. Those using the lobby elevators enjoy southern views of the New York City skyline.

To soften the impact of the tall brick, metal, and glass structure, boulders found on the site during construction were incorporated into the landscaping to provide a visual association with the adjacent park and a connection to the natural environment. Decks extend over the rocks toward the west and more views. The bell and stones from the original church were also placed throughout the landscape.

St. Augustine Terrace offers 112 resident units, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. Every unit receives ample fenestration from well-placed windows. The first-floor, glass-walled community room leads to the outdoor courtyard seating area and lower gardens, furthering a connection with nature.  

The building is certified LEED Gold, with such features as rooftop solar panels and numerous plants to support energy conservation efforts.

Best in Region—Middle Atlantic

Remodel of the Year & Platinum Entire Home Remodel Over $750,000

Project Name | Barn at Walnut Hill
Project Location | Rockville, Va.

Architect/Designer | Poole & Poole Architecture LLC, Midlothian, Va.
Builder | Portico Classic Homes, Midlothian, Va.
Interior Designer | Focus Design Interiors, Atlanta
Photos | Eastman Creative

Poole & Poole Architecture took a classic American form, the barn, and turned into it a comfortable, energy-efficient home while retaining its familiar silhouette. The Pooles were determined to respect the barn’s original Dutch gambrel design, and to emphasize the two-story volume of the interior while reusing and repurposing as many materials as possible.

The original cedar siding was preserved and reused as the base of the kitchen island, an accent wall in the powder room, and the material for the sliding barn doors. Posts and beams became focal points that delineate different living areas. The white walls and furniture contrast with wood details that add touches of warmth that hark back to the building’s origins.

Best in Region—Midwest

Platinum Kitchen Remodel Over $100,000

Project Name | Mid-Century Kitchen Remodel
Project Location | East Grand Rapids, Mich.

Architect/Designer | TruKitchens, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Builder | J. Peterson Homes, East Grand Rapids, Mich.
Interior Designer | Fairly Modern Studio, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Photos | Ashley Avila Photography

As part of the remodel of their 1967 mid-century modern house, clients in East Grand Rapids, Mich., wanted to open up the main living space so that the kitchen wasn’t hidden behind a wall in the dining area. As frequent travelers with an appreciation for clean lines and global design trends, they wanted the remodel to be respectful of mid-century modern, but also add international flavor.  

The wall in the dining area was removed and skylights added to supplement natural light from the existing windows above the cabinetry. Frameless, flat-panel cabinets with a white matte finish were installed around the perimeter to perpetuate the feeling of airiness. Natural elements in keeping with mid-century modern design were added, such as the walnut kitchen island, coffee-bar cabinets, and floating shelves. The full-slab backsplash, waterfall island countertop, and paneled refrigerator are luxurious touches in a highly functional layout.

With a retooled floor plan that lets traffic flow smoothly whether gatherings are large or small, this kitchen leverages its authentic mid-century modern vibe with strong indoor-outdoor connections and an abundance of daylight.

Best in Region—Pacific

Platinum One-of-a-Kind Custom or Spec Home 6,001 to 8,000 Sq. Ft.

Project Name | Harbor Island Residence
Project Location | Newport Beach, Calif.

Architect/Designer | Brandon Architects, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Builder | Patterson Custom Homes, Newport Beach, Calif.
Landscape Architect/Designer | Daniel Stewart & Associates, San Clemente, Calif.
Interior Designer | Details A Design Firm, Irvine, Calif.
Photos | Langoworks

This handsome home has a timeless style that is perfectly suited to its location on a private island in Newport Harbor. With its stone exterior and extensive—but never fussy—details, this is a residence of grace and charm. The trellises and brackets over the wood garage doors, the turned gables and dormers, and the formal garden by the water suggest an English country home. Yet it is unmistakably a California home built to withstand the rigors of saltwater and wind, with roofing made of natural slate and zinc.

Keeping in mind lot constraints, Brandon Architects designed a home with a three-story floor plan, a foyer with nearly 30 feet of volume, and a mix of open-concept design and Old World detailing. The main level contains the public living areas (bar, lounge, great room, dining room, and kitchen). The second floor has the master suite, three secondary bedroom suites, a laundry room, and a gym. The third-floor entertainment space, which might be said to be the piece de resistance, includes a bonus room and bar and opens to a rooftop deck.

Throughout, stacked windows and glass sliding doors suffuse the interior with natural light, further enhanced by white walls and ceilings.

Best in Region—Pacific Northwest

Platinum One-of-a-Kind Custom or Spec Home 4,001 to 5,000 Sq. Ft.

Project Name | Mercer Island Residence
Project Location | Mercer Island, Wash.

Architect/Designer | McCullough Architects, Seattle
Builder | JayMarc Homes, Mercer Island, Wash.
Landscape Architect/Designer | Kenneth Philp Landscape Architects, Seattle
Interior Designer | Tammara Stroud Interior Design, Seattle
Photos | John Granen Photography

Building a house on an island is rarely an easy undertaking. To bring this unique home on Mercer Island to fruition, it very nearly took a village …or rather, a collaboration between the client, the architect, the builder, the interior designer, and the landscape architect.

The home had to be balanced on the site, showcase the views, respect the neighborhood, and be custom designed to the needs of the family. The project team brought their A game to the table, starting with a steel-and-precast concrete bridge over the front garden that connects the street to the front entry. A roof deck perched above the garden offers expansive views of Mount Rainier.

To ameliorate the effects of the area’s rainy weather, stacks of windows were used to brighten the steel, glass, and wood staircase. Light flows through clerestory windows in the kitchen, which has an adjacent outdoor room designed to be used all year round.

The Mercer Island Residence is a careful balance of scale, proportion and color that creates an intimate, casual feeling, even beneath the living room’s soaring ceiling. A three-sided fireplace and entertainment center make this space a family favorite, along with a gym that opens to the garden patio through massive sliding doors. Indeed, indoor-outdoor connections can be found everywhere in this home.

Best in Region—South Atlantic

Platinum Multifamily Mixed-Use Community

Project Name | Artisan
Project Location | Dunedin, Fla.

Architect/Designer/Land Planner/Interior Designer | BSB Design, Tampa, Fla.
Builder/Developer | Kokolakis Contracting, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
Photos | Jacob Sharp Photo

In exchange for providing 234 new public parking spaces, Kokolakis Contracting got permission from the city of Dunedin, Fla., to turn a parking lot into an unusual live/work/play community named Artisan. The four-story, mixed-use structure, along with a similar BSB-designed project, Victoria Place, is helping to spearhead downtown renewal in Dunedin.

Two blocks from the Gulf of Mexico and within walking distance of numerous restaurants and entertainment venues, Artisan is highlighted by a unique art wall and glass accents. The modern, light-colored exterior features prominent angled rooflines with oversized brackets. The four-story, mixed-use structure has its second level at street grade, allowing retail bays to face the sidewalk and encourage pedestrian engagement.

Artisan emphasizes the community’s commitment to public art, with sculptures and three major murals. Two floors of rental housing (65 units in all) rest on top of the parking structure, with units either facing the street or overlooking a private 18,000-square-foot elevated pool courtyard with a resident club facility on the third level. The project is also close to Pinellas Trail, a 38-mile public trail/park system with walking paths and a dog park.

This project has it all: smartly designed, with parking tucked out of sight; fabulous amenities literally outside the door, a celebration of local art; and a revitalized neighborhood just steps away.

Best in Region—South Central

Platinum Urban Infill Community & Platinum Multifamily Adaptive Reuse

Project Name | Bell Heights
Project Location | Houston, Texas

Architect/Designer | Mirador Group, Bellaire, Texas
Developer | 1714 Ashland, LLC, Houston, Texas
Photos | Rob Muir Photo, Emomedia & Charles Suman

This imaginative reuse of a telephone switching station from the 1950s pays homage to the architecture of the original while creating upscale condominiums in a desirable Houston neighborhood. Bell Heights is a gated, 44-unit development on the site of the 1959 Southwestern Bell Switching Station and Telephone Museum. Twenty-four lofts were carved out of the conversion of the historic building, with an additional 20 detached cottages on the 1.6-acre property.

Staying true to the Art Deco design of the 1959 building, the lofts have 12-foot, exposed-concrete ceilings; brick-wrapped columns; floor-to-ceiling windows; balconies; and custom cabinetry.

The original basement, which had 12-foot ceilings, was converted into a 50-car parking garage that offers two spaces and extra storage for every loft, plus bike storage. Bell Heights residents also enjoy a fitness room and a 10,000-square-foot rooftop terrace a with summer kitchen, a fire pit, a sun deck, a plunge pool, a putting green, and unobstructed views of Houston’s downtown skyline.

Bell Heights benefits from a prime location near a vibrant shopping district and several outdoor hot spots for families. Major employers and transportation corridors are also nearby. Communities like Bell Heights show how to integrate attractive new residential into neighborhoods that are already hot or up and coming.


Post by Susan Bady, self-proclaimed “armchair architect” and advocate of sustainability, new building technology, and most of all, good design. 

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