House Call: Luciana and Alex's Tropical Minimalist Home

House Call: Luciana and Alex's Tropical Minimalist Home

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Adrienne Breaux
Jun 24, 2009

Name: Luciana Misi, of architecture firm Lamme + Misi Urban Studio and co-founder of MINIMIS and Alex Lorenz, principal and co-founder of MINIMIS
Location: East Austin

The husband and wife team of Luciana and Alex have a keen eye for modern: not only are they the creators of the sleek home products company MINIMIS, they've built a modern home in Austin's East side. Their tropical minimalist style can be seen in the infusion of bold colors mixed with more modern, clean lines.

How would you describe your decorating style?
Tropical Minimalist. The beauty of this philosophy is that it is, at once: minimal, modern, green, and livable. The philosophy encourages the harnessing of natural daylight and passive ventilation, and defying the convention that homes have to be hermetically sealed from the elements. This makes for a highly livable, welcoming, and natural living experience.

Favorite spot in your home and why?
The 'convertible space' - room that has movable glass wall panels (NanaWall) that can be configured to either: a) enclose the space to make it an extension of our living room; b) separate the space from the living room, and make it a covered porch, ideal for controlled, indoor-outdoor parties or c) fold away, to create seamless wall-free flow between indoor and outdoor. Behind one set of the NanaWalls is the monumental trunk of a mature pecan tree that shades our enclosed courtyard, herb garden, and outdoor shower. Behind the other set of NanaWalls is our front yard, dappled with river stones and ringed in seven different species of true, flowering jasmine, and the clean, white planes are softened by a white Brazilian hammock that soughs with the breezes. The 11-foot wide roll-down bug screens further make this a fantastic place to relax, have breakfast, or curl up with a book. Finally, in the late summer through early October, the late afternoon sun shafts in diagonally through the front door, streams across the house, and into the convertible space, exploding on our white walls.

What's on your nightstand?
We don't have one. Our rings, wristwatches, and water glasses go on the sill behind the headboard. Minimalism!

What are you most proud of, with this house?
So many things. Proud of the victory of the final product, among the everyday struggle in the construction of this house. Proud that my design philosphy survived through the project. Proud that this house would qualify for LEED platinum accreditation (had we had the time to apply within LEED's limited time window). Proud of the efforts that Alex and I personally put into this house, including the finish-out, hand-hanging the swing doors from scratch, hand-crafting all the ceiling-hung bypass doors. Proud of designing, building and installing our countertops, which parlayed into one of our company's most popular products. Proud of how this house became a sounding board for products that we designed and now market under our firm, MINIMIS, including our fully-recyclable solid steel plate countertops, and our LED-illuminated modular steel walkway system, CATWALK, which has shown up in publications around the world, including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Arquitectura y Diseno, MocoLoco, and more. Proud of how the sunlight plays with the spaces, throughout the course of the day, and through the changing of the seasons, using the floors, walls, and ceilings as the canvas. Proud of how people immediately feel at ease and at home, when they're here.

What's in your kitchen?
All-gas. The kitchen is the fulcrum of the house - nearly everything happens there. We have made life-changing decisions there, thrown parties there, embarked on delicious gastronomic odysseys there, and hosted intimate breakfasts for friends there. The two islands seat three each, turning the kitchen into a stage. This kitchen, like every other space in this house, was thought through, with the ultimate goals of warmth, welcoming, and livability in mind. Plus, our MINIMIS countertops, which everybody loves to touch and gawk at.

Gadgets. Let's hear what you have.
Alex wired the entire house for audio-visual, including in-wall zoned volume controls, distributed infrared remote control, an integrated subwoofer hidden in the ceiling of the kitchen, a hidden projector that creates an eleven-foot diagonal screen for movies and cable in HD, an integrated media server, in-wall Ipod connection for whole-house sound, an in-wall video input, to connect your laptop to the projector, and an in-wall touchscreen for access to MP3s, movies, and the internet. And a Kitchen Aid Professional Series 600 6-quart bowl-lift stand mixer.

Favorite childhood memento that's in your home
My Alfredo Volpi painting. This one I picked out when I was seven years old and it has been with me ever since. It so graphically embodies the tenets of my architecture.

Favorite travel keepsake?
We don't do knick-knacks, but the closest thing would be an ancient Moroccan door that Alex brought back from his travels.

Current inspiration(s) for your work?
Architects: Marcio Kogan + Isay Weinfeld
Book: Tropical Modern

What's your favorite design-related quotation?
Definitely Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, when describing Roark's design philosophy:
"The [designs] were austere and simple, until one looked at them and realized what work, what complexity of method, what tension of thought had achieved the simplicity." Talk about goose-bumps.

Favorite home/design magazines or websites?
We Make Money Not Art, MocoLoco, Apartment Therapy, of course! OpenDeco.es - great design blog from Spain and DesignerBlog.it - an excellent Italian design blog. BetterLivingThroughDesign and Design-Milk.

Best bargain in your home and where did you get it?
IKEA cabinetry throughout. Our greatest find was the Besta - wall-mounted credenzas with several different door styles, that worked perfectly as a minimalist, low-profile entertainment center downstairs, our bedroom credenza, and even our undersink cabinets in the bathrooms. Plus, MINIMIS countertops - they ended up costing much less than granite or Silestone, and elicited far more responses of admiration.

Biggest splurge?
NanaWalls. Crazy-expensive, but absolutely no regrets. Beam Central Vacuum system (which we now realize is not a splurge).

What's at the top of your list of things to buy next for your home?
All-LED lighting, from lighting guru Wes Lane. Build a patio with MINIMIS CATWALK panels as the entire deck system.

Favorite local and online resources for furniture and accessories?
EveryFaucet.com, LightingUniverse.com, Overstock.com, IKEA

Thanks Alex and Luciana! Be sure to check out all of the new products and news from MINIMIS.

(Images: Casey Dunn, Adam Brackman and Lamme + Misi Urban Studio)

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