Daniel Joseph Chenin’s artistic process begins with storyboards. That is, to sketch the story’s scenery and draft its plot points based on time, space, and nature. Chenin’s architectural choreography has made his eponymous firm as unique as its projects, including a residential oasis in the Mojave Desert called Fort 137.
Chenin sets the stage as follows. “Las Vegas is a very young city compared to New York or Los Angeles. It’s a watering hole that evolved from a spring.” It pays homage to the isolated frontier of the new Las Vegas, drawing inspiration from the adobe outpost known as the Old Mormon Fort, he continued. The fort’s typology and site plot number 137 give it its name.
Desert home designed to stimulate the senses
Emerging from the desert grassland like an ancient rock formation, Fort 137 is a force of nature, a geological form rendered in steel and travertine. “This wasn’t our first time building in the desert, but it was our first project in a rural setting like this,” explains Shennan. The clients, a family of nature lovers looking for a base camp for their active lifestyle, utilized Shenan’s Las Vegas-based studio to envision a complete turnkey project. Even though they lived out of state, “the owners had complete trust in our process,” Chenin recalls. “They didn’t want our creativity to be limited by a list of parameters other than an environmentally friendly home with views of Red Rock Canyon and the surrounding foothills.”
At first, the terrain was an issue. The barren land was located at the top and partially blocked the view of the valley. In response, Chenin cleared the area to make part of his house four feet higher, allowing for expansive views of the valley and mountains, much to the delight of his customers.
Design that incorporates natural light and passive cooling
Consisting of three levels radiating from a central core, each volume serves a calculated purpose: primary and secondary suites, three additional bedrooms, expansive living and dining spaces, and a transition between the desert and the residence. It features a terrace that blurs the lines. Panoramic glass doors on the north and south facades allow natural light and ventilation throughout the house, while a louvered roof overhang allows for passive cooling.
The house offers a multisensory experience, Chenin said, through interior notes and exterior views painted like illustrations from an old Western movie. “Moving through the space is like walking through a movie,” says Shenin. He also features a nature soundtrack. Water dripping from a fountain on the lower floor resembles a mirage, and desert winds blow through the hallways.
The home’s material palette reflects the natural landscape
The centerpiece is the rotunda, which Chenin calls the “kiva.” The term originates from the ceremonial buildings used by the Puebloans of the American Southwest. The eight-metre-tall conical building serves as a palate cleanser from its barren exterior, inviting residents into a cool, quiet retreat.
Using a material palette of weathered hot-rolled steel, travertine, salvaged rock, and reconstituted wood veneers, the architects wove the landscape into Fort 137’s storyboard. Carefully selected furniture to complement the biophilic environment is minimalist yet striking. Distressed chestnut oak dining table with distressed iron legs and hand-cast bronze composite table lamp by Gregorius Pineo, elegant Minotti Lounge His chairs are matched with many of Chenin’s custom pieces . The living room also features one of his designs, a huge area rug with soft bands of orange, gray, and sand colors. Custom millwork in the kitchen and bathrooms carries the themed textures of bronze, onyx, and rift-cut white oak finishes throughout the home.
What is your favorite space in Chenin? Living room with rear views and access to the courtyard. “The play of light and shadow is constantly evolving,” says Chenin. “This space is designed to capture both sunrise and sunset, so in the morning he can see for 10-15 minutes and in the evening the colors in the sky are so rich and vibrant that it creates a cinematic view. It will spread.”