Home Designing Service, Ltd

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Bigger Isn’t Always Better

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Good things come in small packages. You hear this randomly throughout life, mostly from guys, short people and cheapskates. But in some cases, it really is true, especially when it concerns houses. And today we’re going to go over some of the best examples.

Now, this is not meant to be an exhaustive or comprehensive list. It’s not even meant to be all that detailed. It’s simply meant to show that dream homes don’t have to be castles or gigantic, sprawling mansions and some of the coolest, most famous people in history agree with this philosophy. Architects, queens, samurai, presidents, etc. Not a single cheapskate in that list, is there?

Take Frank Lloyd Wright’s home of Taliesin. Nevermind the fact that it’s situated at the peak of a hill, in a beautiful valley and the property also includes his large architecture studio and a school. The part of the house that was actually the living quarters was just a simple, if beautiful, home, built in Wright’s unique Prairie Style. It burned down twice, though and had to be rebuilt. Frank lived a pretty crazy life.

Or perhaps the home of Isamu Noguchi, the famous Japanese American sculptor, who had a 200-year old samurai home moved to the village of Mure and restored. And while the property later turned into a well-appointed compound with all manner of areas for art and reflection, the house itself was a clean, simple, traditional Japanese home. If Apple started designing houses, I feel like they’d look like these historical Japanese houses. They have such a simple, modern feel, despite being so old.

Heating in the winter must be fun.

Thomas Jefferson’s famous home, Monticello, might be pushing the upper limits of “small home,” but when put up against what is typically considered a mansion, I think it fits, if just barely. Jefferson, who was an avid architect, made sure his home was in a constant state of redesign, but mostly kept it within Neoclassical boundaries. But when he saw an element he liked, or had an idea, it didn’t stop him from experimenting. What resulted is one of the most famous houses in America.

A house in California, owned by Gisela Bennati and built by Rudolf Schindler, started off as a rustic, mountainside home, but because of local regulations had to, for whatever reason, be changed to a more formal Normandy style home. Zagging when most might zig, Schindler preempted a lot of design elements that would later become extremely popular: expansive windows, locally obtained materials, exposed rafters and large, open living areas. It was also one of the first a-frame houses. It’s also incredibly beautiful.

Pointy

But, really, why stop at a single building when you could just as easily (not really as easily) build an entire little town for yourself. Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet, for our non French reading audience), was just such a place. Ms. Antoinette, unhappy with her posh lifestyle, decided to build a hamlet so she could pretend every once in awhile that she was actually just an average citizen. There was a dairy, a farmhouse, a mill, a barn, some other buildings, then about five or so buildings designed for the Queen’s comfort. All constructed in such a way as to make them look rundown and rustic, to the point that she requested the builders put in imitation cracks and fissures, rotting timbers and moss. If you want to pretend you’re a peasant, I guess the best way to do so is to construct an entire little city built around your comfort and delusions. Rich people confuse me.

When in doubt of whether or not you’re out of touch with the problems of your impoverished subjects, build a little city for yourself so you know what they’re going through.

We’ve looked at just a handful of houses, all of them famous in one way or another, but the point is… there are countless small, amazing homes owned by less-than-famous people all over the world. And you can be one of them. Call us, we’ll hook you up.

If Rainman designed houses and had affairs instead of counting toothpicks and stuttering

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Imagine a docile guy, soft spoken but driven. Loyal to friends, superiors, co-workers and family. A great father, a loving husband. A private man, living a life without scandal, secret or serious offense. Got a good image in your head? Ok, now imagine the exact opposite and make this man a genius, prodigy architect that defines truly American building design. This is Frank Lloyd Wright.

I’d like to say, for the record, that this is NOT an article about Frank Lloyd Wright. 90% of what ends up being written will be about him, but the star of this particular blog post is his portfolio of structures, which somehow managed to stay true to his original principles, yet fundamentally evolve over the 60-ish years he worked as an architect.

It’s difficult to grab just one house and say, “Here, this is what he did and what they all symbolized.” We’ve been able to do that, more or less, for past blog posts, but Frank Lloyd Wright very much defies such simple categorization. That’s not going to stop me from trying, though.

 

It’s like getting Christian Bale to star in the Batman reboot, but for houses.

This is the Nathan G. Moore House, and if Mr. Wright were alive and cared enough, he’d probably send someone to beat me up for posting this house first, because he hated it. He spent his entire life attempting to distance himself from the architectural traditions that, even in America, tended to draw exclusively from European influences, even going so far as to totally remove attics and basements from later designs, but when he first started, he needed the business enough that he’d cater to his client’s wishes.

But even with the obvious Tudor Revival influences, you can tell from the particular massing, the long, horizontal line of the porch and the severe cantileverization, that Frank (I felt Mr. Wright was too formal and I can’t be bothered to write out his full name each time) was developing a reserve of brilliance that would manifest very quickly and zig-zag through several style changes.

 

[Insert obligatory Bat Cave reference here]

I give you Fallingwater, one of Frank’s signature designs. Here we get to see his honest, organic style at its full potential. Obviously not Tudor Revival, but you can definitely see the similarities. There’s a density to the structure that melds perfectly with those horizontal sweeps of the balconies. And above it all, you see how Frank believed buildings should seem natural – as if they had grown there all by themselves. Somehow simple and inhumanly complex all at once.

His work’s evolution culminated in what were called his Usonian homes. The word, an Esperanto name for the United States, was taken on by Frank to signify a design of homes that was, stylistically, solely American. I find it funny that he’d use a foreign name to do this, but whatever. He built just 60 or so of these homes, but also used the motif in city planning.

 

This is like getting Christian Bale to star in the reboot of the Brady Bunch, but for houses.

The Rosenbaum House, widely noted as the greatest example of Frank’s Usonian works. You can still see that horizontal line and cantileverization he was so fond of, the natural look and clean design. The roof acted as a source of passive solar heating, the wide overhang helped cool the interior in the summer. It had a carport, a word Frank himself coined. According to Frank, this style defined what it was to be American and to own a home without centuries worth of European baggage.

Frank Lloyd Wright was named “the greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects in 1991. Two sons (one of who invented Lincoln Logs) and a grandson are all architects of note. And he lived a life full of dramatic craziness. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, it involved betrayal, 3 marriage and one long-term affair, escaping to foreign countries, drug abuse, human trafficking, fire, murder and suicide.

But beyond all that, he is the definition of early American architecture and one of the biggest proponents of leaving European influences behind in an effort to be true to our own style. His houses were advanced for their time and still amazing today. If you want a home designed with any of his many styles, we’re more than able to help.

 

 

 

 

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