Crafted from natural materials that will evolve over time, this courtyard house in Phoenix embraces the subtle imperfections of handmade objects.

The entrance to home is defined by two Foo dogs, which are feng shui symbols of protection—and these dogs also give the home its name. The board-formed concrete of the main living wing has been left as is, creating a play of constantly changing shadows. Over time, weather will naturally soften these joints, and the look of the home will subtly evolve.

A family home should be an extension of family life, reflecting the homeowners’ values and creating opportunities for them to engage in activities that bring them joy. This sentiment is perfectly expressed by a new home in Phoenix, Arizona.

The clients are a family of four with a love of hands-on and creative pursuits. The husband is a surgeon, the wife is a ceramic artist, and the kids enjoy playing musical instruments, gardening, raising chickens, and making robots.

The entrance to home is defined by two Foo dogs, which are feng shui symbols of protection—and these dogs also give the home its name. The board-formed concrete of the main living wing has been left as is, creating a play of constantly changing shadows. Over time, weather will naturally soften these joints, and the look of the home will subtly evolve.

The entrance to home is defined by two Foo dogs, which are feng shui symbols of protection—and these dogs also give the home its name. The board-formed concrete of the main living wing has been left as is, creating a play of constantly changing shadows. Over time, weather will naturally soften these joints, and the look of the home will subtly evolve.

Roehner + Ryan

“We wanted to build on the essence of these items and make an entire home that reflected their family values,” says Cavin Costello, who co-founded architecture practice The Ranch Mine with his wife Claire. “The design uses a combination of the handmade and materials meant to patina and change over time, in an aesthetic some might consider wabi-sabi. It embraces the journey, the imperfections of handmade objects, and the transitory nature of our world.”

The building’s handcrafted construction is readily apparent. It’s an intentional part of the design that architect Cavin Costello likens to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi—appreciating the beauty found in imperfection.

The building’s handcrafted construction is readily apparent. It’s an intentional part of the design that architect Cavin Costello likens to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi—appreciating the beauty found in imperfection. “Pottery is something that is often found in archeological digs, revealing clues to cultures of times past—and I love the idea that at some point perhaps these walls, which were the first pieces of the house to go up, will also be the last pieces remaining,” he says. “Like the ruins in the deserts across the world.”

Roehner + Ryan

The initial brief was for a contemporary home with natural elements and daylighting, that would be large enough for visits from extended family. There were also some very specific requests—family history dictated that the stove must face east or south, and they wanted to incorporate Foo dogs, or Chinese guardian lions. “As we got to know more about their family and passions, the design developed to be even more specific,” says Costello. 

“Where most would use chicken wire and a box design, the clients wanted the chicken coop to complement the architecture of the house,” says architect Cavin Costello. “So, the coop uses some elements of the main house, with the rusted, corrugated metal shed roof and vertical brise-soleil. It’s a chicken coop design that can stand up to the elements of living in the desert.” 

Roehner + Ryan

See the full story on Dwell.com: A Ceramicist’s Family Home Is Inspired by the Ancient Art of Pottery
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