Within each tab is a press release for immediate distribution. A link to the PDF version of the article is available at the bottom of each article. For more information about these or other press releases, contact:
Anne Marie Oliver
Lew Oliver Inc
Pacific Northwest Division
1826 SE 35th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
- NEST Opening at Serenbe
- Roswell Square Monument
- Ultimate Beach House 2010
- The Civic Green Space Alley
- OBIE Awards
- Green Streets
- Loft Baroque
- BALA Awards
- Alternative Katrina Housing
- Roswell GA New Urbanism
- Atlanta Home Builders Awards
Roswell, Georgia. Award–winning home designer and New Urbanist Lew Oliver's latest innovation is Lew Oliver Nest, efficient eco–houses that are designed to consume less. Placed in walkable communities, the homes are perfect for those interested in living more sustainably while not sacrificing comfort or style. The venture has been designated a special project by the Southface Energy Institute.
The first of the Lew Oliver Nest communities is currently being realized at Serenbe, a string of hamlets located in the Chattahoochee Hill Country of North Georgia. Recently cited as an exemplary community by The New York Times, Cottage Living, and Metropolis, Serenbe features eighty percent open space in the form of forest preserves and organic farms and is the nation's largest eco–community. The official opening of the Lew Oliver Nest community will take place at the end of June, and will feature the designer's new geo-thermal, solar-powered 1,000 square foot model. Guests include Sarah Susanka, author of nine best-selling books on the philosophy of the “not so big house.”
Within months of conceptualization, several of the 15 homes in the inaugural community had already been spoken for. Homeowners are attracted by a compelling mixture of ecological, economic, and aesthetic incentives as well as the prospect of living in a community of individuals who share a similar commitment to sustainability and responsible growth. Infill and green–field communities can be established on sites as small as one acre, with the ideal being three. Building sites are prepared with minimal disturbance to the environment. Houses are typically 1,000–1,600 square feet, and utilize passive solar and photovoltaic energy, advanced framing techniques, geothermal power, and water reclamation features, all with the goal of net–zero total consumption.
Resisting the one–size–fits–all philosophy of modernist prefabs, Oliver tailors designs according to the climate of the communities—an oft–forgotten if common–sense design imperative found in vernacular architecture in the last century and one the designer intends to resurrect in future Nest communities across the nation. Considerations include sun exposure, prevailing breezes, snowfall, rainfall, and temperature. “Vernacular forms are all about responding to the climate,” Oliver notes, “from the cat-slide roofs and porches of the South to the saltboxes with central chimneys of the Northeast, the glazed porches of the Pacific Northwest, and the adobes of the Southwest. The aesthetics of the design is derived entirely from concrete needs, and is particularly compelling precisely because of this fact.”
In like manner, Lew Oliver Nest communities integrate native and edible landscaping in line with a burgeoning movement that is reviving the lost but vital tradition of native plant stewardship, a cultivation practice that shapes the natural environment for human sustenance without destroying it. Trails and footpath networks make for easy pedestrian strolls to nearby amenities, which at Serenbe includes restaurants, artisan bakeries, and small shops run by members of the community. The community's organic farm supplies residents with local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Oliver, a lead design consultant for international town planners Duany Plater–Zyberk, expects to expand the Nest concept across the nation. As this year's designer of the Coastal Living Ultimate Beach House and town urbanist of many of the nation's top-selling new towns, Oliver intends to propel the Nest brand into the national spotlight of emerging eco–house communities. His work has won numerous awards, including three Best in American Living (BALA) Awards, the most prestigious residential design awards in the U.S., as well as the Southern Accents Show House and the New American Home for the National Association of Homebuilders.
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Roswell, Georgia. A new fountain has been completed and installed in Roswell Square, marking the beginning of the revitalization of the historical town square, which dates back to 1840. The original monument was demolished in the mid–20th century, and, until recently, the spot was marked by a crude fountain that was too small for the scale of the space. Recognizing a need to revitalize the town square, civic and neighborhood boosters convened a charrette in 2006 to envision possibilities for the reconstruction of the heart of the city.
The fountain was conceived and designed by international designer and urban planner Lew Oliver, a resident of the city. The effort was spearheaded by long–time community pillar Sally White, who ushered it through City Council and the Historic Preservation Commission. Oliver's design process underwent three iterations, culminating in its final form—a classic obelisk that pays homage to similar monuments throughout Roswell and Atlanta but with a few unexpected twists.
Hewn from 78,000 pounds of Elberton granite, the obelisk stands 22 feet tall. Each of its four sides is adorned with custom bronze masks. Eschewing conventionally classical motifs such as lions or dolphins, Oliver chose the humble squirrel, whose numbers are abundant in the square. Marty Dawes of Cherry Lion Studio, Atlanta, who is also known for his Prince of Wales Monument on Peachtree Street, sculpted the figures using an early Greek (pre–Hellenistic) aesthetic, and had them cast in bronze in Colorado. The fountain's early Greek style pays homage to the locale's centuries-old vernacular, which is defined by Archaic Doric Greek Revival architecture. Sid Mostajabi, PE of DMD Engineering, coordinated the implementation of the fountain on behalf of the Roswell Parks and Recreation Commission, headed by Joe Glover. Bruce Koop of Cutting Edge Stone cut and installed the obelisk.
The revitalization of Roswell Square is a coordinated effort heralded by the Historic Roswell Alliance, chaired by Anne Reddick and the City of Roswell. A new comprehensive master plan for the historic square and its surrounds is now in the works. The plan features “Complete Streets,” streets that accommodate a variety of transportation systems including pedestrian, bicycle, bus transit, and automobile. New initiatives include lifelong neighborhoods, architectural reconstruction and renovation, mixed-use centers, and extensive community gardens and park systems.
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Coastal Living has chosen international designer and urban planner Lew Oliver as its 2010 Ultimate Beach House designer. The magazine has traditionally included multiple properties for this category, but the review committee was so impressed with Oliver's design, they made it this year's exclusive entry.
Located in the Pacific Northwest coastal town of Seabrook, Washington, the home integrates vernacular design elements of the Northwest Coast, and was designed to take full advantage of the surrounding environment. Built upon a foundation of board–formed concrete and roofed with wooden shingles, the cottage compound house is nestled within a stand of Pacific fir trees, its lines echoing the dramatic coastline it surveys. The compound is formed of a main house that takes advantage of the sweeping view, the guest cottage, and a single car garage, a deliberate departure from the multi–stalled suburban types common in the late 20th century. The front porch and upstairs balcony of the main house are cut directly into the subtly sweeping roof mass. Throughout the house, ribbon windows are oriented westward, opening up stunning ocean vistas and maximizing the light unique to the region.
A drive–able piazza and pedestrian walkway curve toward the back of the compound. The house invites visitors inside through a subtle breezeway gate that gives way to a light and airy outdoor living room. Screened outside walls shield residents and guests from ocean winds when they gather around the outdoor fireplace. Inside, a grand kitchen island forms the social center for the composition. Open counters with ribbon windows relate the kitchen to the outdoor living room and built–in cupboards keep the area open and functional. The adjacent main dining area with its large table shares space with the living area sofa grouping arranged around a steel fireplace.
In addition to the detached guesthouse with angled windows situated at the rear of the property are guest accommodations on the ground floor of the main house, including a spa with a steam shower, sauna, and sunken hot tub. The upstairs opens onto a generous hallway with a secondary–stack laundry area, a bedroom with a private bath, and a deluxe master suite attached to a wide, west–facing balcony. The restful master bathroom is edged with ribbons of windows across the lavatory and shower edges.
The beach house is located in Seabrook on the Washington coast. Cottages are designed in the West Coast Arts and Crafts vernacular, updating Prairie and Craftsmen bungalow design elements found everywhere from Pasadena to Portland and Seattle. Bucking the national downward trend in the real estate market, Seabrook has experienced record sales despite the current economic downturn.
About the Designer
Lew Oliver, founder and CEO of Whole Town Solutions, is an award-winning designer and urban planner who has helped pioneer sustainable design in the U.S. and abroad, in particular, the usage of green space in constructed environments, including green streets and green alleys; alternate energy sources; and native plant stewardship. His latest projects include Lew Oliver NEST, a design framework for residential architecture in which small–footprint, sustainably–built vernacular structures support tightly–knit intentional communities. The designs feature advanced framing techniques, geothermal energy, edible landscaping, and other innovative design elements, all with the eventual goal of net–zero total consumption. The venture was recently designated as a part of the Department of Energy‘s “Build America“ program and also adopted as a special project by the Southface Energy Institute. Oliver‘s work can be found in towns and communities across the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Vickery, Clark‘s Grove, Lost Rabbit, and I‘on. Current international projects include towns in Scotland, Ecuador, Canada, Panama, and Spain. He is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including Designer of the New American Home for the National Association of Homebuilders (first Earthcraft national show house); projects that won two CNU Charter Awards, Designer of the Southern Accents Show House; nine Obie Awards; twenty–two gold and silver awards from the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association; and three Best in American Living (BALA) Awards, the most prestigious residential design awards in the U.S. His interior design work for the Grand Bohemian Hotel helped win the hotel the title of Westin‘s Best in Brand worldwide for five consecutive years, while his design work at The Mansion on Forsyth Park, another one of his design collaborations with Gray Reese and The Kessler Enterprise, is a five–diamond hotel. He is Town Urbanist of Serenbe, a thousand–acre hamlet that is part of the nation‘s largest eco–community, which was named by Cottage Living as one of the top ten cottage communities in the U.S. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New Urban News, Architecture Week, and many others.
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New Urbanist planners have long advocated rear alleys over suburban-style front-loaded garages for the simple reason that such a system relegates automobiles to the backs of houses and facilitates pedestrianism. These alleys, of course, need not degenerate into unsightly service entrances. Indeed, at sites of great natural beauty, particularly those where the alley constitutes the sole vehicular approach to the site, an aesthetic transformation of the traditional alley system is invited or even required. Not only is double facing of individual houses dictated in such instances but also perhaps a structural change in the notion of “alley” itself. As recently mapped out by participants in a late January charrette at Seabrook, a New Urbanist town located in northern Washington near Olympic National Park, alleys can not only be radically enhanced but transformed fully into civic green spaces.
The planners have dubbed their solution to the challenge “the drivable piazza.” The enhanced alley in the new ocean-front segment of Seabrook will feature formalized bosques and allees, and will terminate at an unusual esplanade fronting the Pacific Ocean. It will serve a number of purposes besides simple access to the small cluster of Maybeck-inspired homes nestled into the landscape above the water. It will also provide public access to the beach, connect the two parts of the town divided by Scenic Route 109, and extend the series of interlocking public spaces that currently run through the town. The town’s pedestrian spine at present is a series of multiple-scale green spaces framed by door-yard homes with varying setbacks and comprised of parks, pocket parks, mews, native habitats, and display gardens of native perennials, shrubs, and trees. When completed, the new segment will connect primordial Pacific Northwest forests at one end of the community to the wind-chiselled bluffs, seaside brooks, Pacific Ocean, and Western horizon on the other.
Seabrook is a new ninety-acre beach town with future expansion of more
than 250 acres. The first New Urbanist coastal town on the Pacific, the
community is known for its unusually varied eco-urban spaces, innovative
design work, and intimate approach to nature—a bold fusion of New
Urbanism and organicism. Designers participating in the January charrette
included Laurence Qamar, Seabrook Town Planner; Stephen Poulakos,
Seabrook Urbanist; Lew Oliver and Robert Pulliam of Lew Oliver, Inc.—
Whole Town Solutions; Peter Brachvogel and Nathaniel Werner of BC & J
Architects; and Peter Bergford of Scott Homes. The charrette ended with
the inauguration of Café Tashtega, Seabrook’s newest community feature.
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Atlanta, GA: The work of Atlanta-based designer Lew Oliver made a strong showing at the recent 27th Annual Obie Awards of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, earning five gold awards and four silver awards:
Single Family Detached, All Builders
Gold Award in the range of $600,000-699,999 for “Delphi Cottage”
Silver Award in the range of $520,000-599,999 for “Palmetto Cottage”
Silver Award in the range of $600,000-699,999 for “Carriage House”
Single Family Cluster, All Builders
Gold Award in the range of $250,000-349,999 for “Glen Falls”
Best Building Design, Detached Model
Gold Award in the range of $300,000-399,999 for “Glen Falls”
Single Family Attached, All Builders
Gold Award in the range of $375,000-499,000 for “Glenwood Park”
Silver Award in the range of $275,000-374,999 for “Woodstock Downtown”
Silver Award in the range of $375,000-499,000 for “Glenwood Park”
Best Attached Model, All Builders
Gold Award in the range of $500,000+ for “Manget”
Oliver’s latest achievement follows his sweep of the gold awards at last year’s
Professionalism Awards of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association in eight
different categories. This and his recent wins add to a long roster of national and
international awards awarded his work, including the New American Home for the
National Association of Home builders and Westin’s Best in Brand worldwide for
five consecutive years.
Oliver’s homes are among the most sought-after in the business, and are known for their elegance, livability, and cutting-edge floor plans. His work has aptly been described as a fusion of classicism and vernacularism with great attention paid to form, detail, and proportion. “Lew Oliver is the fastest person of great talent that I know,” says Andres Duany, founding co-principal of the influential firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk and widely recognized as the leader of New Urbanism. “His eye is among the most incisive I’ve ever seen,” concurs Steve Mouzon, President of the New Urban Guild. “Most designers can do no better than a cartoon of traditional architecture. Lew’s work is emphatically the real thing.”
Oliver has had a hand in many of the major New Urbanist towns and neighborhoods across the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Celebration, Lost Rabbit, and I’on. He is town urbanist of Vickery, Serenbe, Clark’s Grove, Norcross Downtown, and Woodstock Downtown, and has been involved with the creation and design of McDaniel Glenn, Briar Rose, and Glenwood Park as well as several city blocks in downtown Marietta and historic Roswell, where he served for many years on the Historic Preservation Commission. He is founder and principal of Lew Oliver, Inc.—Whole Town Solutions.
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Ball Ground, GA: The picturesque and historic mountain town of Ball Ground is poised to become the first in the state of Georgia and one of the first in the U.S. to implement a system of Green Streets. The town is already famous as the site where the struggle for territory in the 1700s between Cherokee Indians and their Creek rivals was determined by a game of stickball, a sport not dissimilar to lacrosse.
On August 13-15, the City of Ball Ground, under the direction of Mayor Rick Roberts, hosted an intensive three-day charrette at the Public Library, where governmental leaders, stakeholders, and citizens as well as land planners, designers, and landscapers tackled some of the major challenges and opportunities facing the town. Headed by Lew Oliver, founder and CEO of Whole Town Solutions, the charrette focused on revitalizing Ball Ground’s downtown with new restaurants and stronger amenities without destroying its historic character, diverting heavy truck traffic from the center of the town to the periphery, and connecting the entirety of the community to the school and park system with pedestrian paths, bike trails, and Green Streets.
Inspired by the writings of Christopher Alexander, Oliver has come up with a version of
Green Streets that connects town centers, amenity areas, and parks and, in addition, enables and
facilitates zero-emission transportation with a supporting infrastructure. The twelve-foot-wide
green routes are designed especially with electric carts, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians in
mind. Owners of such vehicles are given special privileges such as right-of-way as well as
preferential parking in commercial nodes. In addition, the award-winning designer has designed
special houses to front the Green Streets, which feature conveniently located garages that are
smaller than conventional models and more smoothly integrated with the rest of the house.
The designer is based in Roswell, Georgia, and grew up in the historic towns of southern
Georgia and northern Florida. His work has won numerous national and international awards,
including Designer of the New American Home for the National Association of Home builders,
Designer of the Southern Accents Show House, and, most recently, three Best in American
Living (BALA) Awards. His design for the Grand Bohemian won Westin’s Best in Brand
worldwide for five consecutive years, while the Mansion, another of his designs, is a five-diamond
hotel. For the past several years, his work has swept the gold and silver awards at the
Professionalism Awards of the Atlanta Home builders Association, with one of the towns where
he is Town Architect winning, in addition, Community of the Year. His work can be found in
award-winning New Urbanist projects across the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Celebration,
Vickery, Lost Rabbit, and I’on. His latest projects are in Tornagrain, Scotland and Arcos de la
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Roswell, GA: While the loft is now the quintessential urban form in America, its elements are ever evolving as designers strive to meet the needs and demands of its aficionados, who often desire what seem to be two contradictory ideals. The loft dweller often wants large, open expanses with monumental flair and drama while at the same time harboring a nesting impulse that demands enclosure and comfort. With the renovation and expansion of what is affectionately called “the Old Bricks” in the historic town of Roswell, in greater Atlanta, designer and urban planner Lew Oliver has managed to give loft lovers both. The result is a space that is spare and sumptuous, historic and chic, baroque and modern, dramatic and restful—alternately and sometimes both at once. Oliver’s new home is part of a larger residential conversion project recently completed by the designer and the Macallan Group, and exemplifies how connoisseurs of the form can get their cake and eat it too. The home is a study in contrasts—rough/refined, light/dark, metallic/prismatic, solid/free-floating—with contradiction and opposing desires engendering serendipity and a rare in-town magic.
An Ambitious Rehabilitation
Looking at the Bricks today, it is hard to believe that but a few months ago, the building was in disrepair and surrounded by gravel lots, service areas, and dumpsters—a virtual urban void. The original structure dates back to 1840, and was erected by Roswell King as apartments for factory workers in the nearby Roswell Mill. The Greek Revival gem was one of the first apartment buildings constructed in the U.S., and through the years, has served as everything from a hospital for Union troops during the Civil War to public library to private club. Oliver had ambitious goals for the project that went far beyond transforming the apartments into twenty-first-century dwellings. He wanted the conversion to help revitalize the Mill District of historic Roswell, encourage pedestrian traffic, remove commercial vehicles from the neighborhood, and foster neighborhood oriented startup businesses on the nearby historic square. The award-winning designer and New Urbanist planner has long been involved in revitalization efforts in Roswell. In 1988, he restored an old mill house in the village as his personal residence, and he is the designer responsible for the vision behind Founders Mill, austere brick town homes across the street from the Bricks that are commonly mistaken for old mill buildings. He is now involved in designing a master plan to remake Roswell into a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly city by connecting its disparate squares with the five-acre estate of Barrington Hall, perhaps the preeminent antebellum mansion in the Atlanta area.
Restoration and expansion of the Bricks was particularly important for the plan and its vision due to the fact that in many respects the building is the historic heart of the Mill District. The setting is an urban ideal, uniting historic import, natural beauty, and an almost rural charm. The Bricks are sandwiched between one of the old squares of historic Roswell and the Chattahoochee River, directly above the last remaining original structure of the Roswell Mills, most of which was burned down by Sherman because they were used to produce the fabric for Confederate uniforms during the war. The city of Roswell recently constructed a new covered bridge below the Bricks near the Old Mill on Vickery Creek, facilitating use of one of the longest trails in the eastern U.S. Stretching for approximately fifty miles, the extensive park boasts waterfalls, wetlands, trout streams, and mountain ravines filled with wild azaleas and laurel as well as Civil War and native American archaeological sites.
Grandness and Intimacy
Oliver and his partners restored and extended the original buildings, transforming them into modern town homes while remaining ever mindful of their historic charm and significance. Chimneys were meticulously rehabilitated, and the old bricks exposed and whitewashed. Over the years, superficial and inappropriate ornamentation, much of it dating from the turn-of-the-century, had been tacked on here and there, stifling the building’s original beauty, spare aesthetic, and historical significance. During the renovation process, the bric-a-brac was not replaced, and the grand spirit of the structure was returned.
The new additions reflect the Greek Revival style of the original building in pared-down form. Handmade brick, some of it salvaged from an antebellum mansion in nearby Marietta, was laid in a common bond, thus named because the bricks are common to two walls, thereby lending the complex a material unity and authenticity. No opportunity for salvaging old materials was overlooked. Although the floor joists of the original building had been infested with powderpost beetles, site contractor Wade Chappel refused to throw them away, and instead sent them off to a mill shop to be planed down and used as front doors. With their wormholes, imperfections, and ravaged identity, they stand as testaments to the history of the building and the town, and have been appropriately outfitted with iron thumb-latches and framed by exposed open-flame gaslights. Tin shingles with a stamped fish-scale pattern were salvaged from the back porches of the original buildings and used to sheathe the back wall of kitchens as backsplashes.
Replacing the gravel parking lot are new townhouses whose form and details reference and streamline the spirit of the original. The streets, Oliver points out, are now whole, while the adjacent park to the east now boasts a terminating vista. The designer further tied the complex to the historic cottages that surround the park and adjacent streets with a new mill cottage of similar scale at the south end, which, he says, soon became a highly coveted property due to its intimate dimensions. At 1,350 square feet, the cottage is perfect for empty nesters, artists, and singles.
Oliver aimed throughout for a combination of grandness and intimacy. He situated the piano nobile on the second story of the new additions close to the street. The balconies allow people to see out from their homes, but people on the street cannot see in. Also adding privacy are the brick fences with elegant iron gates that surround the property and its courtyards. The fences serve to detail the street, providing not only intimacy for those living within them but also for residents of the neighborhood, who commonly gather in the streets to talk and walk their dogs. Oliver describes them as “living streets,” intimate places surrounded by homes, trees, and flowers where people and animals come first and cars second. As throughout the project, no detail has been overlooked--even the curbs have been constructed with original or antique granite. Trees have been placed but two feet from the curb, signaling further to passersby that this is a residential area. A benefit to such design is that it significantly slows down traffic in contrast to wide streets with big turning radiuses and without urban detailing, which, structurally, encourage high-speed traffic and, accordingly, more danger. The complex features a rear auto court, with cars, trash, and utilities well out of sight.
The Power of Contrast
Oliver describes his home within the complex as “mid-19th century meets the future, or baroque meets industrial.” The first floor features intimate, compressed spaces with antique brick floors and whitewashed walls. Adding to the den-like atmosphere are ceilings dressed in Sherwin Williams’ Urban Bronze. The ground floor suites were designed to serve as offices, studios, nesting dens lined with books, or accommodations for in-laws, guests, and boomerang kids. The ground floor of Oliver’s unit serves as the office for his companies—Lew Oliver, Inc. and Whole Town Solutions. Here, he and his associates work together around a massive machine-shop table in a charrette format with neither cubicles nor separate offices, the arrangement facilitating camaraderie and the rapid-fire exchange of ideas.
The affect of the home’s top two stories is the total opposite with 11’ ceilings flooded with light; pared-down detailing; and smooth, untextured walls, inviting large-scale artwork. The proportional contrast provides variety and high drama. The second floor features a kitchen with pewter cabinets set in the back of a large room in French grey loaded with glass in order to view the streetscape directly below and the riverscape further beyond. Lighting is minimal, and has been carefully positioned to accent art and architectural details and to create what Oliver calls “activity pools.” The locus of one such pool is a massive table that occupies the heart of the first floor and is faced with a grand expanse of windows that flood the space with natural light. The dark hardwood table hails from a machine shop in Belgium from the last century, and at 14 X 3’6, is multifunctional, serving at various points in the day as dining table, worktable, library table, craft table, homework table, and conference table. Oliver sees such multifunctional tables as objects worthy of investment, and points out the importance of correct lighting for them. Low-hung chandeliers can be used, but Oliver preferred the New York Public Library solution and drilled small holes in the massive piece, outfitting it with a pair of stacked-cube lamps of pristine crystal with refined white silk shades, which play off the rusted iron of the furniture’s base.
Adding further contrast are dramatic silk curtains of an almost acidic chartreuse that stretch from floor-to-ceiling and cover two entire walls of the major living area. Sweep back the curtains, and one experiences a different effect altogether— spare and undressed. Oliver has situated furniture to create additional activity pools. Some work to anchor the space, while others, such as the grand piano situated at the east side, seem almost to levitate. The same combination of qualities can be evidenced in the spiral staircase that connects all three floors of the dwelling. Constructed of motel-grade steel, the structure has been left unfinished. Lending it a feeling of warmth and substantiality, the treads are translucent heart pine that, Oliver was delighted to discover, glow at night like lit amber due to the high amount of resin in the wood. Left alone, the structure is a dramatic, freestanding piece of art. Its mood, however, can be transformed in an instant by a massive curtain in French grey that creates something of the feeling of a crushed velvet cocoon. Providing texture, drama, privacy, and noise reduction at once, the curtain stretches a full thirty feet from the top of the house to the bottom. Dangling from the top is a crystal and iron chandelier.
The second level also contains an exercise room secluded at the southeast corner as well as a guest room. As throughout the house, the beds are low and modern and feature upholstered headboards. An antique chandelier placed at eye level serves as end-table lighting. The bath is large, and features a modern seven foot- long lavatory surface topped by mirrors that extend from splash to ceiling. Adding further to the baroquely modern affect are antique dragon sconces that Oliver mounted directly on to the mirror, making them seem to float across multiple surfaces.
The Charm of Unpredictability
The juxtaposition of new and old, modern and baroque, can be seen throughout the house, and often results in unpredictability and serendipity. The home boasts custom two-panel doors in pared-down Greek Revival, floors of heart pine, and almost medieval ironwork as well as modern granite fireplaces with post-and-lintel mantels and minimalist low-voltage lighting. Trim work is executed in the same color as the walls. No attempt has been made to hide technologies, whether in the form of refrigerators and other kitchen appliances, televisions, computers, or exercise equipment. Indeed, in contrast to the organicity of the building materials and the lushness of the upholstery and textiles, their sleek utilitarian function is celebrated and virtually ritualized.
On the top floor is an enviable master suite flooded with top light and featuring a bathroom worthy of a spa. Bed and bath are separated by a tactile wall of sheer bronze silk. The second floor also features a second bedroom, occupied by Oliver’s teen-aged daughter Elizabeth, with accompanying bath. Instead of boxing in the shower in the large space—the usual solution—Oliver’s friend Deb Golding suggested a custom-made curtain of white suede that stretches from floor to ceiling. The space’s pale yellow walls have been accented with draperies in a combination of lime-green and teal, while the bed is anchored with an upholstered headboard of green suede.
The house is full of counter intuitive color combinations that amplify its baroque modernity. Julie Wild—designer of the award-winning Grand Bohemian in Orlando, Florida; the Casa Monica in Saint Augustine, Florida; and the Mansion in Savannah, Georgia--helped pick out many of the colors. Others were the result of serendipity. The upstairs hallway, Oliver likes to point out, was mistakenly painted in Urban Bronze—an error he now finds unexpectedly charming. The richly saturated butternut suffuses warmth throughout the lofty space and seems to retain daylight well into the night.
Indeed, a number of the house’s best features, says the designer, are due to
serendipity, whether the wall color of the hallway or the amber glow of the
staircase treads. The power of the unexpected can be evidenced also in the home’s
courtyards, which feature potted plants, trees planted directly in pea gravel with no
fuss, and Chinese urns oozing water over their meditational edges. The front steps
are of stone interspersed with ferns, mosses, grasses, and something rather
unexpected—massive vines whose genesis is unknown to the many passersby who
stop to congratulate the owners on their gnarly charm. The steps, it turns out, were
a favorite resting spot during the summer, and melon seems to have been the snack
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Roswell, GA: The work of Atlanta-based designer Lew Oliver has been honored with three prestigious BALA awards, the foremost residential design competition in the country. Sponsored annually by Professional Builder magazine and the National Association of Home builders, the awards showcase homes that demonstrate high design quality, succeed in the market, and exemplify the “Best in American Living.” The contest, typically, brings in hundreds of applications from residential architects, designers, builders, developers, land planners, and interior designers across the U.S.
The panel of judges named Vickery, where Oliver is Town Urbanist, Best Suburban Smart Growth Neighborhood of the Year. The new town was master-planned by Andres Duany, founder and head of the New Urbanist movement and principal of the prestigious firm Duany Plater-Zyberk. Hedgewood Properties of Atlanta is the builder and developer. The mixed-use community of 600 homes features the best of Oliver’s design work, which is known for its architectural mastery, elegant composure, fine details, and poetic use of space. The town is surrounded by seventy acres of green space and filled with lush parks.
Oliver’s three-story “Founders Mill” in Woodstock Downtown, Georgia, took the silver for best single-family detached home in the 1,801-2,400 square feet category. “The home is suitable for urban locations where the occupants want both privacy and a view of street life,” says Oliver. Inspired by nineteenth-century Savannah townhouses and based on the designer’s award-winning infill project in the historic Georgia town of Roswell, the home has a compact footprint (24 X 44) and offers the kind of openness and panoramic views that make even a small space feel expansive. It features tongue-and-groove walls and ceilings, enviable master suite, and a second floor piano nobile.
Another of Oliver’s designs won the platinum award for best single-family detached home in the 3,001 to 4,000 square feet category. Reinstating classical elegance, the house features restrained brickwork, arched entry way with curved hood, hand-cut brick jack arches, and a roof composed of terra cotta tiles reclaimed from France. With its two-story foyer, formal dining room, state-of-the art kitchen, butler’s pantry with concealed door, and outdoor living room with freestanding fireplace, the house is an entertainer’s paradise. The home offers multiple intimate spaces as well, including a sunroom off the great room, artist studio over the garage, multiple balconies, and sumptuous French-paneled master with adjoining bath.
The three BALA awards are the most recent addition to a long line of national and international awards won by Oliver, which include Designer of the New American Home for the National Association of Home builders, Designer of the Southern Accents Show House, and Westin’s Best in Brand worldwide for five consecutive years. For the past two years, the designer’s work has swept the gold and silver awards at the Professionalism Awards of the Atlanta Home builders Association, with one of his towns winning, in addition, Community of the Year. Oliver has designed personal homes, banks, and hotels for clients from Florida to California, Colorado to Hawaii; and his work can be found in award-winning New Urbanist projects across the U.S. and abroad.
He is founder and CEO of Whole Town Solutions, a firm that provides builders and
developers with the tools they need to create profitable high-quality towns and neighborhoods
with but one source while enriching the landscape and fostering a model of healthy and
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Roswell, GA: Trailers are being hauled in daily for Katrina refugees by the thousands. Is there a better alternative?
Lew Oliver, founder and CEO of Whole Town Solutions, thinks so. The Atlanta-based designer recently designed a Creole Revival cottage that costs less to build than many of the trailers currently being used as temporary housing.
Not only does the “Rainbow Row” cottage costs less to build, it is also durable, superefficient, indigenous in both style and form, and easily transportable. The designer hopes it will help with the revival and reconstruction of communities affected by Hurricane Katrina both along the Gulf and in those cities that have opened their doors to the storm’s victims. The house is currently being diagrammed for panelized construction by Duany Plater-Zyberk, the nation's most influential New Urbanist firm.
At 598 feet, the cottage is also ideal for a wide range of homeowners across the U.S., from retired persons, artists, schoolteachers, and first-time home buyers. The vernacular prototype is a Creole Revival shotgun, but with different elevations, can easily be adapted for almost any location. The cottage is effectively rendered in rainbow pastels and placed in rows or clusters to form friendly cottage enclaves and neighborhoods almost anywhere—old towns, new towns, commercial zones, urban infill. It features a dramatically cantilevered roof with massive curved brackets, elegant vertical windows, and a French door whose transom is meant to be customized—hand-cut and painted—to fit the owner’s personality. The floor plan is open, and includes a living room, eat-in kitchen, and two bedrooms with shared bath.
Oliver is a leading advocate of the movement known as “New Urbanism,” which is based on the ideals of quality design, authentic materials, environmental sensitivity, and fine craftsmanship. The focus, according to Oliver, is not only on individual houses but entire communities, which are walkable, livable, and pedestrian-friendly. Rainbow Row, for instance, is most effectively placed in clusters, thereby providing the infrastructure for a real community and an authentic social vision.
Oliver’s homes are among the most sought-after in the business. His work has aptly been described as a fusion of classicism and vernacularism with great attention paid to form, detail, and proportion. “Lew Oliver is the fastest person of great talent that I know,” says Andres Duany, founding co-principal of DPZ and widely recognized as the leader of New Urbanism. “His eye is among the most incisive I’ve ever seen,” concurs Steve Mouzon, President of the New Urban Guild.
The designer has had a hand in many of the major New Urbanist towns and
neighborhoods across the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Lost Rabbit, and I’on,
amongst others. His long list of awards includes Designer of the New American Home
for the National Association of Home builders and Westin’s Best in Brand worldwide.
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Roswell, GA: The Greater Atlanta Home builders Association in November awarded a Roswell historic renovation and residential conversion project the silver award in the category of Best Attached Houses over $500,000, further cementing the town’s reputation as a New Urbanist magnet in the metro-Atlanta area. The Bricks was recently completed by designer Lew Oliver and the Macallan Group. Three years ago, another Roswell development by the same designer, Founders Mill, took the gold in the same category, and although new, it is commonly mistaken for an old mill building. Both Founders Mill and the Bricks are located in the heart of the historic Mill District.
The original structure of this year’s award-winning project dates back to 1840, and was erected by Roswell King as apartments for factory workers in the nearby Roswell Mill. The Greek Revival gem was one of the first apartment buildings constructed in the U.S., and through the years, has served as everything from a hospital for Union troops during the Civil War to public library to private club. The complex is situated between one of the old squares of historic Roswell and Vickery Creek, directly above the last remaining original structure of the Roswell Mills, most of which were burned down by Sherman in the waning days of the Civil War. But a few months ago, the buildings were in disrepair and surrounded by gravel lots, service areas, and dumpsters—a virtual urban void. Today, they are a vital part of the Mill District, and many of the goals of the project are being realized, including the encouragement of pedestrian traffic, the removal of commercial vehicles from the neighborhood, and the fostering of neighborhood oriented startup businesses on the nearby square.
Roswell is increasingly gaining the attention of award-winning designers and urban planners both in the Atlanta area and around the country. With its pedestrian squares, large parks, trail systems, and almost mythical history, the formerly sleepy enclave offers the type of lifestyle attractive to increasingly large numbers of urban dwellers. The town contains dozens of historical buildings, including Barrington Hall--arguably, the preeminent antebellum structure in the region. The setting is an urban ideal, uniting historic import, natural beauty, and an almost rural charm. The city of Roswell recently constructed a new covered bridge below the Bricks near the Old Mill on Vickery Creek, facilitating use of one of the longest trails in the eastern U.S. Stretching for approximately fifty miles, the extensive park boasts waterfalls, wetlands, trout streams, and mountain ravines filled with wild azaleas and laurel as well as Civil War and native American archaeological sites.
Roswell will host a three-day charrette January 31-February 2 that will bring
together top designers and urban planners from around the country who will work
with the leaders, citizens, and businesspeople of Roswell to brainstorm solutions to
a number of key issues and challenges for the city, which include connecting the
town’s civic monuments, parks, businesses, and neighborhoods; identification of
green spaces and desired green spaces; the slowing of traffic; and amplifying the
appeal of the city’s already extensive park system. The charrette’s findings will be
presented to the public on February 7 at the Roswell City Hall.
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Atlanta, GA: The work of Atlanta-based designer Lew Oliver swept the gold awards at the 25th anniversary Professionalism Awards of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association in eight different categories in the $370,000-599,000 range for builders doing over one-hundred homes per year. He adds the new awards to a long roster of national and international awards he has won for his work, including the New American Home for the National Association of Home builders and Westin’s Best in Brand worldwide.
The Georgia native hopes his work will contribute to a new City Beautiful movement that will result in a complete transformation of the built environment in Atlanta, the state, and the region. “I want to bring the highest quality design to the maximum number of people,” he says. “Great design should be available to everyone. Buildings should stand the test of time, enrich the environment, and provide people with beauty and meaning in their lives. What we need now is a resurrection of the great American neighborhood, a revitalized mythology of place.” Oliver is a leading advocate of the movement known as “New Urbanism,” which is based on the ideals of quality design, authentic materials, environmental sensitivity, and fine craftsmanship. The focus, according to Oliver, is not only on individual houses but entire communities, which are walkable, highly livable, and pedestrian-friendly. The process, he says, is consumer-driven. Most homeowners today are interested in buying not just an individual house but an entire world. The trend is increasingly away from suburban sprawl and toward “immersive environments” along the line of the great legacy communities that were created across America during the first half of the twentieth century.
Oliver’s homes are among the most sought-after in the business, and are known for their elegance, livability, and cutting-edge floor plans. His work has aptly been described as a fusion of classicism and vernacularism with great attention paid to form, detail, and proportion. “Lew Oliver is the fastest person of great talent that I know,” says Andres Duany, founding coprincipal of the influential firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk and widely recognized as the leader of New Urbanism. “His eye is among the most incisive I’ve ever seen,” concurs Steve Mouzon, President of the New Urban Guild. “Most designers can do no better than a cartoon of traditional architecture. Lew’s work is emphatically the real thing.”
Oliver has had a hand in many of the major New Urbanist towns and neighborhoods across
the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Celebration, Lost Rabbit, and I’on. He is town urbanist of
Vickery, Serenbe, Clark’s Grove, Norcross Downtown, and Woodstock Downtown, and is
involved with the creation and design of McDaniel Glenn, Briar Rose, and Glenwood Park, as
well as several city blocks in downtown Marietta and historic Roswell, where he served for many
years on the Historic Preservation Commission.
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