Smart Home Style
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
“We would have never thought, for example, 10–15 years ago, that we’d be building smart houses,” says architect Simon Jacobsen. “Now we’re building houses that are not only self-aware, but user-aware.”
One half of the namesake Jacobsen Architecture team, along with father Hugh Newell Jacobsen, the two describe their business partnership as the “best of both worlds,” by incorporating ever-changing technology into their projects and blending it with their signature modern, understated elegance of renovation projects. Examples of the Jacobsens’ smart-home technology at work: a cooling system that senses a need for one-room temperature change rather than the entire house; a bathroom mirror lit from behind by lights that pulse to the beat of music; closet lights built into boxes running parallel to the clothing for more precise illumination.
“There’s a direct relation between architecture and technology,” says Simon Jacobsen. “No longer do you just have a bedside table. You have a bedside table that has an electronic element to it.” The electronic table he mentioned features a small wiring station hidden inside to handle all the devices a person takes to bed: a Kindle, iPod and Blackberry. The unit lights up inside when a person enters the room and changes color when the phone rings.
For an architect to put a stamp on the corner and disregard the surrounding aesthetics is like shouting at the neighbors.
— Hugh Jacobsen
Integrating sustainability and modernism has always been at the root of the firm, but what makes the father-and-son duo truly unique is the order of classic architecture as seen in their signature white surfaces and exacting, clean lines. Ceilings and floors are laser level; doors are flush to wall surfaces; casings and baseboards are absent. This precision allows Jacobsen Architecture to seamlessly incorporate innovation into everyday life.
Tom Glass, president and owner of Glass Constructionand frequent colleague of the Jacobsens, recounts one of the numerous experiences he’s had while renovating historical residences with the team. “The exterior of the house was completely restored to a like-new condition, much like how it looked when it was originally built in 1815, but with the unique juxtaposition of the interior being completely modern.” He appreciates how Jacobsen Architecture integrates technologically efficient equipment into projects while still managing to salvage recycled materials and matching them exactly to fit with exterior additions.
Outside of their architectural projects, the Jacobsen men have designed their own yet-to-be titled line of home furnishings, inspired by 51 years of custom furniture designs for clients. “[The line] is authentically American; it’s not a European influence. It’s influenced by what we’re all doing now as a culture in the United States,” he says. Simon notes that their line of furniture and interior objects will hit the market in about a year.
“I think the fact that Jacobsen [Architecture] designs furniture and interiors really allows them to take the construction of the project into consideration, and make decisions that will ultimately result in a spectacular home,” says George Collins, president and co-owner of Peterson & Collins Inc., a contracting firm specializing in high-end residential properties. “[Hugh and Simon] consider everything, all the way down to the interior layout, so when you walk into a room, they have already figured out how the furniture patterns and the lighting will be arranged.” Indeed, Simon Jacobsen states that he and his father approach every project with a road map of the “comfortable limits of living well.” They envision the room’s design and the modern client’s everyday routine, so designing furniture has organically become a part of their design process.
“I think [Hugh Jacobsen] is one of the great designers of our time,” says Tim McDonald, president of Centric Building Inc., currently working with Jacobsen Architecture on a residence in the Napa Valley. “It has the Jacobsen fingerprint and style, and it’s going be a welcome addition to the community.” A sentiment echoed by Hugh himself. “It’s your obligation, your duty as an architect to make [the street] better and not lose the tempo that’s there,” he says. “For an architect to put a stamp on the corner and disregard the surrounding aesthetics is like shouting at the neighbors.”
And although father and son Jacobsen continue to extend the firm’s scope of work, they remain true to their roots: historical renovations and high-end residential and commercial buildings marked by precise attention to detail. “We’re involved in a very large deal, but it will never surpass the legacy of the company,” says Simon Jacobsen.
by Katie Weber Schroeder