Frank and Me

A number of 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 honestly 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 only aesthetic goal being to integrate the structure into its surroundings. That it might seem FLW-ish is purely coincidental.

Without question, I admire FLW's work. I've visited Fallingwater (above), 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 also feel that he sacrificed a degree of functional practicality for the sake of a somewhat 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, and made them as small as he could, resulting in uncomfortably small, barely navigable spaces that looked and felt rather awkward. In my home, by contrast, the hallway is a (comparatively) large, open space with windows over the steps that fill it with natural light and provide inviting glimpses of The View as it draws you down into the main living space. I call it The Canyon.

Truthfully, I'm much more enamored of architect David K. Burton, a contemporary of FLW who had a more conservative, controlled take on the mid-century modern style. I'd sent my architect a link to a website featuring the house he built for himself in Monterey, California (below—photo by OpenHomesPhotography) as an example of the design aesthetics I admire, both inside and out. One can detect subtle Japanese touches in his austere yet approachable design, and it's been an invaluable source of inspiration for me; I wish I could have used more.

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, complete with my own peculiar stylistic touches, not to mention no end of blunders.

The most frequent remarks I've received regarding my design have had to do with the bedroom being part of the living 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 huge windows in the bedroom? Well, the windows look out on nothing but a woodland 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 are deer and squirrels. Anyway, it's just me and my cats living here. But if I should happen to have the good fortune of a stay-over guest uncomfortable with the arrangement, she can change in the spacious bathroom or walk-in closet.

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 TV screen from the sofa or the bed. I can fill the entire living space with music and enjoy it uninterrupted during most any activity. Best of all, I can gaze out upon The View continuously.


Copyright © 2017-2019 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
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