Sheltering in a Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Residence

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Sep 10 · 5 min read

In March, how we live and work shifted radically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, many of us continue to work from home. Though some regions in the United States have begun their phased re-opening, many still spend much of their time at home. We connected with three of our clients, asking them to reflect on their shelter-in-place experience. We were curious to hear how the concentrated time at home affirmed or changed the way they feel about their home. And, if they’ve been working from home, we were eager to hear about their experiences — many of us never planned for extended work from home and have had to adapt quickly. We were also especially curious to hear about any special details that have made their time at home more enjoyable.

Reduction Residence

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© Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

This residence, a post-war brick house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, was transformed from a tight, dark home to light-filled and full of energy. This was achieved by removing existing elements and creating operable skylights, creating a layout of bright interconnected spaces.

“We are so thankful for the light and flow of our newly designed home. It feels spacious even though we all live in it all day. Being home all day also allows us to appreciate how the light changes so beautifully through the skylight and bay window over the course of the day. We have also realized all the extra things we held onto that just take up space and don’t get used. We are more aware of our personal patterns and space usage.”

Residents in Northern Pennsylvania

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© Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

This residence in Northern Pennsylvania is a second iteration of a family residence on nineteenth-century farmland. It embraces nature, wellbeing, and healthy living, creating an environment with extensive views, natural light and ventilation, and beautiful craftsmanship.

“Every day since we moved to our new house in December 2019, we each have thought, and most days expressed to each other, how grateful we are to be living here. The cozy, warm feel of the kitchen, dining, and living areas was a welcome surprise given the soaring windows and ceiling beams that define these spaces. Another surprise is that we frequently move throughout the day to different spots in the house depending on what we are doing and the time of day. This is especially important as we are now spending 90% of our time in the house during the lockdown either at the computer or reading. And every space feels so inviting and comfortable. Now that we are able to open our giant doors to the screened-in porch, the house has a whole new feel. Having the doors open all the way while we are going about our daily routines makes the whole house feel like an outdoor sanctuary. Enjoying afternoons and dinners on the porch is such a treat and the high roof and ample space mean we have been able to feel safe having a few friends and family members join us for porch suppers.”

Wine Country Farmhouse

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Right Image: © Nic Lehoux, Left Image: © Matthew Millman

The Wine Country Farmhouse, located in Napa Valley in Northern California, was a dated farmhouse that was renovated into a modern residence, connecting its inhabitants to the surrounding landscape. The clients, who are local winemakers, wanted a home that kept the charm of a farmhouse but opened up to the environment around them.

“When everything is at home, home is everything. Our home may be small but it’s big on gratification. Living and working at home 24/7 for the past 90+ days made this ever so clear.

What we liked before the COVID-19 quarantine; we appreciate even more now — so why is that? It’s a feeling. Like the surrounding landscape, it emanates tranquility, clean lines, simple materials. It is down to earth, uncomplicated — it draws you in and makes you want to stay.

Every morning when I come down these stairs, I feel content. Its light, it’s airy, it’s intriguing, offering the first view to our vineyard. It’s a positive start to the day. There is a purpose and reason for every detail and every room making it efficient, highly functional, and visually appealing. The open layout promotes shared experiences, spurs real-time communication, spontaneous interaction. It keeps us connected to each other. Pockets of privacy provide balance because having space and alone time is important too, especially when you’re together 24/7. What’s more, many of our favorite areas convert from “living” to “work” and back to “living” seamlessly. Open the Fleetwood doors, and the dining area becomes an open-air office. Perhaps it is the connectedness to nature that means the most. Whether its views from a window, sitting on the front porch, or Fleetwood doors that open to bring the outdoors in, having a direct connection to nature brings focus, perspective, inspiration, and a sense of calm to our confinement. In uncertain times, one thing is always certain: we will always find comfort at home.”

In this new normal, our homes are our sanctuaries. As architects, we focus on the holistic view of what shelter is. When designing, we study light patterns, efficient floorplans, and create elements of surprise like a reading nock or expansive exterior door. We can visualize and model how we think our homes will be used, but ultimately the test of time is the true judge of our efforts. We are grateful that our residential designs bring solace and comfort during these unprecedented and uncertain times.

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