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|LIFE IN THE WOLFE'S DEN
designed by: MJ Neal Architects
by Jeff Isacksen
Built by MJ Neal Architects in 2009, the Wolfe's Den one of the most prominent
modern constructions in the Bouldin area. With generous skylights and a massive
wall of windows, The Den reflects one of MJ's central philosophies - the merging
of the inside with the outside world.
|MJ elaborates on his philosophy, saying, "We are a part of nature, part of a living system.
Many buildings have cut us off from realizing this."
Perhaps even more striking is the compound functionality of the house's components.
Metal latticework shades the windows while creating shadow patterns. Hidden
bathroom cabinets preserve the aesthetic without sacrificing storage space. In MJ's
own words, "Buildings have jobs to do – physical jobs, emotional as well as ephemeral
jobs. All of these jobs have to be achieved for a building to be successful."
|So is this award-winning construction
successful? From the outside, it certainly
appears to be, but what is it actually like
living there? Resident Alex Wolfe was
generous enough to answer some
questions about life in the Wolfe's Den.
On first approach, the house is gorgeous.
Do you ever feel acclimated to this, or
do you still get struck by the beauty of it?
"My wife and I have lived in our house
since January 2009. We were deeply
involved in the construction process,
so we also have a connection to it in
a special way. We think MJ did an
outstanding job. Living in such an
eye-pleasing space, it's inevitable
that we find ourselves admiring more
than just the garage parking and
closet space. And while we don't think
about the beauty of the house
constantly, it certainly can't be ignored."
|Mod houses get a reputation for being about style over functionality. You've lived in the Wolfe's
Den for going on three years now. Do you find that it fits your lifestyle well, or do you sometimes
want for that extra bit of functionality?
"Many of the things we like most about the house are pragmatic: Generous room sizes, closet
space, a capable kitchen, room for guests, reasonable utility costs, and so on. For most people -
us included - these types of things take priority over style. While there might be a perception
that modern homes trade every day conveniences for beauty, that hasn't been our experience."
|feel any pressure to keep things just-so to maintain the aesthetic?
"It's true that clutter can detract from the visual impact of the architecture. The house gives
us a desire to avoid collecting unnecessary things, but I view that as a benefit of living here.
I've found that we've reached a stasis with the stuff in our house. When something comes in,
something else leaves.
And everything has a natural place that's "put away." We knew that we wanted it this way
from the start, so we planned for putting the microwave in a cabinet and for having a spot
for the mixer and all that. It’s easy to keep a clean place clean. Luckily we've got plenty
of closets, so if we "slip" there's always a place to tuck stuff away until it can be dealt with."
|The house has a very strong emphasis on mixing the outdoors with the indoors. Do you find
the living here makes you feel more connected to the outside?
"We do really enjoy having the outdoors featured prominently in our lives. We are constantly
reminded about what is going on outside. Thanks to the skylights, we know from the first drop
when it starts to rain. When it storms, we have a front-row seat to a crazy light show. And
when dusk arrives the house grows dark inside, but not before."
|One last question: In general, how's life in the Wolfe's Den?
"It's funny to me that I never know how to answer that question. Since we don't have
anything different to compare it to, that's a difficult question to answer. But in general,
it's great, and we feel fortunate to be able to live here."
|MJ Neal, who received a 2009 Design Award from the American Institute of Architects for
the Wolfe's Den, studied architecture at Texas Tech and the University of California.
MJ has operated a private practice in Austin, TX since 1993. More information about
MJ Neal Architects is available at: mjneal.com