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Design

Printable PDF - David Michael Miller Associates

*left: Miller's design

*left: Miller's design for a 5,600 squarefoot Desert Mountain home is a showcase for the owners' collection of 400 wood-block prints by the 19th-century Japanese master Ando Hiroshige and their collection of artifacts from Southeast Asia. Four corridors displaying most of the black-framed prints surround the beckoning entryway courtyard. *below: Asymmetrically configured balustrades, white oak treads, and Aaron Fink monoprints highlight the elegant stairway of the Newport Beach house. o get to the work area where David Michael Miller creates many of his award-winning interiors, you take a tour of the Zenlike studio created by him and architect Wendell Burnette. As Miller describes it, the studio is designed so that "every somewhere is everywhere." Off the reception area, you climb a stairwell, past a thinly cut white Indian-onyx stairway window that draws natural light into the stairwell, then to a half-story landing with artifacts lit by halogen lighting (created by Phoenix' Creative Designs in Lighting), and up to a work area with a thick-planked bookcase that seems to float but that actually serves as an architectural truss. The bookcase, in fact, is the wall - "a friction piece" Burnette has called it. Then, to get to Miller's office on the north side, you trek by the library/conference area across a 30-foot catwalk that Burnette has suspended on stainless-steel cables. The hollow metallic sound of shoes or heels reverberates against the block walls, signaling not so much the instability of the engineering but its floating, detached, and mysterious character - themes of the building. Above, a series of banks containing five halogen pin spots are slit into the ceiling -illuminating your journey as well as individual work areas and artworks Two pieces of artwork - one synthetic, one natural - serve as focal points for the office, where Miller meets with clients at an unobtrusive cast-concrete conference table. Above his subdued whitewashed plank work-area floor, a bright abstract painting by Janis Provisor (an untitled oil and metal leaf on canvas) foregrounds itself against the white drywall backdrop. During the day, the painting is illuminated in two ways: by a floor-height cutout created by Burnette in the eastern wall to infuse natural light and by a northern window-wall that displays the second piece of artwork, a mature mesquite tree that rises from the courtyard, contrasting against the block wall of the studio that extends beyond the window ten yards or so north. Transparency, honesty, comfort, lightness, sunlight-and a venerable mesquite rescued from razing: This is the studio built about, for, and by David Michael Miller, who says, simply, "It makes me feel good.” After meeting with other architects, Miller approached Burnette to design the studio. He liked the way Burnette had used a similarly narrow site in building his modernistic, minimalist studio home, which had appeared in Phoenix Magazine and brought him widespread recognition. To complete the team, Miller chose Construction Zone of Phoenix as the builder, Creative Designs in Lighting for the lighting plan, and Christy Ten Eyck of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects for landscape design. Burnette had primarily worked on public projects with architect William P. Bruder Ltd. in Phoenix from 1985 until opening his firm in 1996. After just a few meetings, it was clear that Burnette often wanted to travel one path, Miller another. "Wendell loves inventions and innovations in his building designs," Miller says. "I saw my studio interiors as more of a passive container. I wanted to edit the building details down and have the building interiors recede in the building's composition." Still, the 1,680-square-foot DMMA studio is a successful collaboration of design disciplines, and the outcome is an innovative container, as it were. Completed in 1999, the building rises on a narrow lot 50 feet wide and 125 feet deep, with an extended offset from the street, which highlights its more horizontal neighboring structures. Burnette has placed it ingeniously amidst existing structures, park - ing, and the garden streetscape of First Avenue, creating what he describes as "a building carefully placed in a garden — as opposed to one set in a parking lot." The north and south extremes of the building are glass walls, bringing in natural light. On the north side, Burnette created a courtyard for the studio, including saving an old mesquite — Burnette's "tree from Sleepy Hollow": This courtyard, which also serves as the staff entrance, becomes a focal point for Miller's secondstory office window-wall. Burnette and Miller agreed that 12-inch Integra masonry blocks would form the building skeleton, which runs from the concrete floor to the ceiling on the east and west sides. Within this solid frame, the studio working space seems to fill the building, to float in the masonry shell rather than attach to it. It is, as per Miller's desire, space that seems fluid, that is visually light and luminous, and space that seems capable of evolving, allowing Miller's own professional and creative evolution. At the same time, building tolerances were very precise, as the architectural elements are extremely cohesive, explains DJ Fernandes, project manager for Construc- *The primacy of art, order, and life permeateds the design of the Desert Mountain home –from the first step. At the entryway, owners and guests pass through a 5-foot-by-8- foot pivot-action mahogany door. A sisal runner, manufactured by David Michael Miller Associates, welcomes them on finished concrete. A trio of Asian sculptures sits on a console on one side of the room, while a living plant affirms life on the other.

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