Deep Dive: Frank and Me

Several people have remarked that my house seems to be in the vein of Frank Lloyd Wright, which I've taken as a compliment (even though I don't see it). However, to assume I've consciously tried to emulate him is incorrect; I did not design my house with his—or any other architect's work—in mind. My design was influenced primarily by necessity, very much a case of form following function, with the aesthetic goal of integrating the structure into its surroundings. That it might seem FLW-ish is coincidental.

Without question, I like FLW's work quite a bit. I've visited Fallingwater, as well as two other homes he designed: Duncan House and Kentuck Knob. But while I find his designs striking in appearance, I confess I've also felt that he sacrificed a degree of functional practicality for the sake of a vaguely pretentious, self-conscious visual aesthetic.

For one thing, FLW had absolutely zero understanding of how to design a decent kitchen (obviously the man never cooked). He also hated hallways with a passion; he considered them a waste of space, making some as narrow as eighteen inches. In my home, the hallway is something of a mini-ravine, a comfortable four feet wide with windows over the steps to fill the space with natural light.

If anything, I'm somewhat more enamored of architect David K. Burton. I'd sent my architect a link to a website featuring the house he built for himself in California as an example of the design aesthetics I liked, both inside and out. But while my architect did his best to capture some of Burton's tone in the one aspect of the house I gave him free rein over—the roof—in the end it didn't work. Ultimately my architect's blueprints only served to get me the permits I needed, although this is not meant as a slight against him in any way; it's simply how things worked out.

So, bottom line, my home is well and truly mine in every respect, with my own stylistic touches. I think of it sort of as my own personal Fallingwater—with no water (aside from some puddles in a ditch along the property line). Plus, today you're not allowed to build a house within three hundred feet of a waterway in New Jersey. Am I envious of FLW's iconic house? You bet! But given the DEP's political and bureaucratic state—not to mention their frightening level of power—I'm relieved not to have them breathing down my neck; it was a costly pain in the butt just having some wetlands on one corner of my property.

The most frequent remarks I've received regarding my design have had to do with the bedroom being part of the living room (and dining room and kitchen). I'm often faced with furrowed brows and these FAQs:

But, having the bed in the living room? I'm a neatnick: my bed gets made every morning, so guests wouldn't be confronted by a bedroomy mess. Plus, with such a small living room, the bed—along with a pile of extra pillows—can serve as an additional makeshift sofa, albeit in a kind of groovy sixties fashion.

But, having all of those windows in the bedroom? Well, the windows look out on nothing but wilderness, as opposed to a sidewalk, street, or neighbor's back yard; any passers-by in my back yard would be arrested for trespassing. The only creatures to see me change clothes will be deer and squirrels.

Consider all of the plusses: When I make a fire in the fireplace after dinner, I can continue to enjoy it after I've retired. I can watch the same big television from the sofa or the bed. I can fill the space with music and enjoy it uninterrupted while doing anything. And best of all, I can gaze out upon the vista continuously.

Anyway, it's just me and my cats. And if by some wild stretch of the imagination I should ever have an overnight guest, she'd almost certainly be of like mind.

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