Marin County Residence by Building Lab

A tremendous amount of lighting is being done to the lower stairwell in order to show the intent of the designer. The shadow pattern from the pendant lamp upstairs has been strengthened, and the stairs have been lit "from the inside out" in order to draw attention to the keyhole cutout and the strong graphic lines of the handrail and bars.

A tremendous amount of lighting is being done to this stairwell in order to show the intent of the designer. The shadow pattern from the pendant lamp upstairs has been strengthened, and the stairs have been lit “from the inside out” in order to draw attention to the keyhole cutout and the strong graphic lines of the handrail and bars.

We’ve recently completed a two-day shoot in Marin County California with Building Lab, documenting a spectacular remodel of a mid-century modern residence. Building Lab manages to create crisp, clean, graphically compelling designs using traditional materials — emphasis on wood grain, metal, and glass.  The staircase shown above is a classic example: it’s deceptively simple and clean, but further examination reveals a very careful and skilled design.

To bring that out, we effectively reversed the existing light and left the surround dark, while bringing light in from above and emphasizing the patterned shadow from the hanging lamp upstairs (see below). This allows the “keyhole” cutout to really show, and the strong lines of the handrail and the vertical bars are more prominent as well.

This angle, intended as a companion to the photo above, demonstrates how the vertical rails are continuous with the upstairs railing, and again shows off the banister and pendant lamp.

This angle, intended as a companion to the photo above, demonstrates how the vertical rails are continuous with the upstairs railing, and again shows off the banister and pendant lamp.

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Bringing light through the ball from above projects the shadow further down the stairwell, where it can be seen from the lower vantage point of the first photo. The result matches the experience of being there: the net of shadow lines entices one up the stairs.

Upstairs, Building Lab custom fabricated a steel fireplace facing, and adjacent firewood bins, which flow into the wood-paneled (custom) entertainment center.BL-2

In the master suite, access to the rear deck is through (new) sliding doors. The recessed pocket for the sliding closet doors is something of a Building Lab trademark, and so we’ve featured it in this shot. We kept the lighting in the inner, foreground space subdued and coming in from the outer space, exactly as it works naturally.

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Strobes from out on the deck keep the outer sitting area bright and sunny, while a touch of continuous light on the fleece throw in the foreground brings out it’s texture.
Careful attention to the placement of the mirror creates an interesting geometry, reminiscent of the modernist magazine table, and in keeping with the motifs that are present throughout the project.

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The shower stall is shot with 100% natural light. A polarizing filter on the lens controls unwanted reflections. This shot shows the sloped shower floor, and the cedar drain at the rear (which we wiped with water to bring out extra color).

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Detail showing tile work in the guest bath. The existing light was flat, so we introduced our own light from the right side to clearly illustrate the texture of the tiles. The green streak in the chrome is the reflection of the edge of the glass enclosure.

ON TO THE KITCHEN….

The kitchen is really “classic” Building Lab, and readers of this blog should recognize the look. Below is a view that wasn’t on the original shot list but which we added because of it’s instant appeal.

To capture this shot, we've scrimmed the skylights (Alan loves climbing on roofs!) so they're not glaring and washing out the wood panels, and brought light in from the right side to create extra depth on the ell.

To capture this shot, we’ve scrimmed the skylights (Alan loves climbing on roofs!) so they’re not glaring and washing out the wood panels, and brought light in from the right side to create extra depth on the ell.

Here Building Lab has blended the warm, amber wood tones of the eating area with the clean modern kitchen area, using the stainless refrigerator as a transition.

Diffused continuous lighting spots the butcher block counter, and is balanced against strobes lighting the kitchen in the background. Under-cabinet lights have been gelled to neutralize the green-hued color cast that is largely invisible to the human eye but which the camera faithfully records.

Diffused continuous lighting spots the butcher block counter, and is balanced against strobes lighting the kitchen in the background. Under-cabinet lights have been gelled to neutralize the green-hued color cast that is largely invisible to the human eye but which the camera faithfully records.

All in all, this was a terrific project to photograph, and came with it’s share of technical challenges! This project will be entered in the 2013 Remmy competition, so we’ll hopefully be re-visiting these photos when the awards are announced!

2 responses to “Marin County Residence by Building Lab

  1. Always appreciate it when you have time to explain your lighting set-up! Thanks!

  2. Scott, as always some awesome shots! Really like the stairwell ones. One quick question about the last shot. Is there any particular reason why you included the thin wall part at the right edge of the frame? I find it just a little bit distracting and overpowering.

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