Home Tour: Beauty and the Beach

Open Wide

The Brazilian architect Arthur Casas has designed several homes at São Paulo’s Baleia Beach before, but never with such limitations. Presented with a narrow strip of land and clients who wanted to maximize the views of the stunning seascape, Casas created a 6,200-square-foot villa over three levels, with oversize windows and doors that telescope out to showcase the remote, largely unspoiled beach. A pool and its inset hot tub allow the owners to gaze at the white sand and gentle surf, as do the terrace, the living room, the dining room, and the second-floor master bedroom.

Casas arranged most of the main public areas in a straight line running perpendicular to the beach, raising the ceilings high and installing glass walls and partitions that dramatically erase the boundaries between the indoors and the outdoors. He amplified the sensation of being one with nature through his signature color palette of neutral and earth tones, relying on locally sourced materials, such as limestone and cumaru wood, and fashioning a privacy screen from native trees and plants.

Air Supply

Casas prides himself on minimizing a home’s environmental impact, which includes sparing use of air-conditioning. Despite the open-air layout and high ceilings, the home stays surprisingly cool. The five bedrooms have mechanical climate control, but otherwise, the villa’s temperature is regulated by walls with adjustable cumaru wood louvers, or vents, and strategically placed vegetation. The lawn of native grama amendoim grass that crowns the roof over the living room is more than a whimsical flourish; it serves to keep the room cool and pleasant and acts as an overhang to the outdoor area, providing shade and sun protection.

While Casas is quick to credit the Brazilian Paulista architects as an influence, this São Paulo villa also shares commonalities with the landmark Palm Springs, Calif., home that Richard Neutra created for the Kaufmann family in 1946. Both multistory homes are sleek and angular and embrace their natural settings, and both employ natural cooling methods—Neutra’s because it had to, Casas’s because its creator wanted to.

For the interiors, Casas designed several of the furnishings, including the sofa and the coffee table in the living room, mixing in such local exemplars as the overstuffed oxblood leather Mole chair and ottoman by the noted Brazilian designer Sergio Rodrigues (see “Lounge Acts,” page 142).

Privacy, Please

The Brazilian beach villa’s public areas are big, bold, seemingly endless, and ideal for hosting a spur-of-the-moment party for a few dozen close friends; however, the smaller, more intimate private areas are just that—private. The master bedroom is an aerie overlooking the 4.5-foot-deep pool, the greenery, and Baleia Beach, which translates to “Whale Beach” and takes its name from the whale-like contours of the landscape. Finished in the local woods that Casas treasures, the bedroom harmonizes with his cream-and-earth color scheme. Right angles reign here as they do throughout the house, complemented by the curve of a lamp and the plump stuffing of a Jean Gillon–designed armchair. Though the home’s modernist aesthetic may date to the mid-20th century, more contemporary touches, such as a staircase stripped down to its simplest form—a series of polished cumaru wood rectangles jutting from a white wall—resemble conceptual art and showcase Casas’s distinct 21st-century modernism.

Out and About

“The house was built on the last piece of land available on one of the most beautiful beaches in São Paulo,” says Casas, who also has an office in New York. “One of our main aims was to create architecture that would be sensitive and not impose itself on the landscape—a building that would instead be seen as part of the landscape, almost unnoticed.” Looking from the beach at the villa, one sees how the large residence nestles into the landscape, the sizable windows and open walls allowing light to flow through the home. The union of indoors and out reaches its peak in the exterior dining room, with its spectacular table hewn from a single plank of local wood.

Casas’s clients are delighted with the finished property, which was completed in 2011 after two years of work. “The design of the house feels like it’s floating,” says Ana Marcondes, a member of the family who commissioned it. “The spaces are ideal for socializing. I also like the dimensions of the house—the high ceilings. And we love the ocean views, which we can enjoy [while] relaxing in the comfort of our home.”

Studio Arthur Casas, +55.11.2182.7500, www.arthurcasas.com

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