No, no, come back! It’s ok, I promise. And, yeah, I know I promised the second part would be good times and it wasn’t, not entirely, but this one is totally a barefoot walk through soft grass and sweet-smelling wildflowers. Or whatever personal equivalent makes your day. When you get through all the flaming circus hoops (these aren’t in a field of flowers, that would be a fire hazard), the rest is a blast. It’s picking out just that right shade of [insert specific thing you want here] and being really, really picky about the kind of message your home says about you.
So you’re back. You traversed the abyss of “Deciding Whether or Not You Really Want a Tiny House” and came out the other side, scarred but stronger. I salute you, weary traveler. Now pull up a chair, make yourself a cup of coffee and get comfortable. We’re going to tackle the Sisyphean challenge of zoning, permits and loans.
No, honestly, it’s not nearly that impossible. It’s more like… what was that Greek myth where the bird came around and pecked out the guy’s liver, which regenerated so the bird could do it again the next day? The labyrinth of legal craziness is more like that. Annoying, painful maybe, but ultimately not deadly.
The problem almost entirely lies in the fact that the whole tiny house “thing” is relatively new and exploded with such speed that the legal and banking systems hasn’t been able to keep up. So while some people try to tell you that you can slap wheels on your tiny home and call it an RV and others will say it works just like a regular home, the truth is that neither is true. It’s something in-between both.
Given the quickly shifting nature of all the rules, regulations, procedures, guidelines, ordinances, (just going down this list of words in the Thesaurus), edicts, laws, etc, the suggestions in this post are going to be more starting points than a bullet-list of steps to follow.
First off, there’s a reason I used that whole “if it has wheels, it’s an RV” thing above. It’s the biggest misconception and quite a few of the shadier builders will try to quash your worries by telling you you’re fine if you have wheels. To even be classified as an RV, you need it constructed by a certified RV manufacturer. And for those who think they’re gonna build it themselves, that certification costs thousands of dollars, requires business licenses and then the structures has to pass a 500+ point test. All very doable, but not quickly or easily.
Then there’s the “I’ll just say I’m camping” or “It’s small enough to not need a permit.” And, yeah, both of those will work. Good job. But neither will hold for very long. The camping one is a solid excuse, and provided you’re on land that’s already ok to have campers, you’ll be fine. But most states only allow that kind of thing for a certain amount of time, sometimes 30 days, sometimes only a few. You’d have to pick up and move regularly. And that “small enough” one is only true of sheds. Once you switch the lawnmower out for a couch, or start sleeping in it, it’s a house.
There’s also a lot of laws in place to protect people from slum lords. Unfortunately, a lot of those codes also work against tiny homes, which gives them the right to deny you utilities, condemn the house and arrest you when you enter, or just fine the pants off you until you go away.
Loans are also an issue. Because banks don’t see tiny houses as having much in the way of resale value, they often don’t see them as worth the collateral of the loan. If you have an extra child or kidney, depending on the bank, sometimes you can trade it for the loan, but it doesn’t always work and you didn’t hear it from me.
But fret not, my concerned readers. Day by day, with the realization that tiny homes are not just a quick fad, everything’s getting easier. Many states have designated areas where a tiny home can be built, outright zoning clauses for them, or make it very easy to get a variance on an existing zone. Sometimes it boils down to them letting you do whatever you want, as long as you’re not a bother to anyone else, but that’s not exactly a guarantee for anything. And if American television has taught me anything, it’s that if government officials get something over you, they’ll make you sell State secrets to Russia. So better to go the legal route.
Again, this seems like a lot of scare tactics on my part, but it isn’t. These are all problems, but they’re problems with solutions. Chances are, provided you’re not paying your uncle’s best-friend’s son’s old juvie buddy to build your tiny home, they’re going to have a lot of this stuff either taken care of or will at least know where you can go or call for specific help. If that’s not the case, then call your local planning and zoning office for yourself. It’s literally their job to help you.
Banks, too, are starting to catch on. A few have specialized loans just for tiny houses. Call them. Ask. Don’t assume. Honestly, decent life advice, not limited to tiny houses.
Next time, we get to talk about all the fun stuff. Building materials, fancy power options, weird toilets. You know, the classics. Till then…
They say good things come in small packages. And, barring vulgar humor, that tends to be the way of things. Everything seems to be getting smaller and smaller as we advance technologically. The computer I’m writing this on is an entire warehouse smaller than the first one designed. Next to me, there’s a phone the size of my hand and about as thick as a travel brochure. There isn’t much I can’t do on that phone. In fact, if it wasn’t for these occasional blogs and my need for a keyboard, I could probably get rid of the laptop and be just fine. Perhaps not as convenient, but cheaper. Simpler.
Did you see my clever segue? Did you?
I suppose, in a way, tiny houses have been around since the beginning. Except, in the beginning, before greed, pride, wealth or whatever engendered the desire or ability to create mansions and palaces, tiny houses were just called houses. That’s all there was. But then the people who could make money did and those capable of building such structures started using words like “convenience” and “quality of life” and “property value” and, well… I’m sure you’ve been to Greenwich.
And that really is the crux of the whole tiny house thing, or movement, as they’re calling it. Of all the hoops someone who intends to own/live in/what have you in a tiny house, and thereare hoops, whether you can or can’t live without a certain level of convenience is what everything boils down to. Which isn’t to say tiny houses aren’t comfortable, or modern, or even downright fancy, because not only can they be, they usually are.
We’ll get to the more technical hoops (read: permits) later. This first entry covers the issue I talked about in the paragraph above. And to do that, we’re gonna play a little game of “C.I.B.H.W.M.T.S.I.M.H.” Or, Could I Be Happy Without Most of the Stuff In My House. The title’s a work in progress.
Look around the room you’re in. Now add a mini-fridge, a small dresser, a sink and a toilet. Remove the rest of your house. Imagine living in what amounts to a single room. You can hear when your spouse or kids go to the bathroom because it’s close enough to hit with a couch pillow, not that you’ll have a couch, in the traditional sense. Imagine heading to the grocery maybe a few times a week because there’s no room for a full size refrigerator or a freezer chest. Imagine never going to an antique store, because there’s literally no room in your house for a knick-knack, let alone a Victorian armoire. Can you be happy without a collection of items to call your own? Do you require a library of every book you’ve owned or hope to read? Do you quantify success by the accumulation of things, like the rings of a tree or the strata of a mountain? You have to go through all these questions and before you look at a single legal document or talk to a loved one, or try to pawn off your rather extensive collection of porcelain cats, they need answers.
And they seem harsh, I imagine. It might seem like I’m trying to talk you out of even thinking about the notion of a tiny house. But on the flip side of all those rough questions, you can ask yourself the following as well. Do you like to be creative with the design of your home? Does the thought of paying little to nothing on electricity excite you? Do artisanal things make you happy? Does the thought of having more time for other things in your life make you happy?
Tiny homes tend to focus your life down to what’s important. Not just the possessions or the space, but what you do, how you do it. Nearly every religion talks at least one time or another about the simplification of life. Living only within your means. Not collecting debt or treasures or whatever. For those who already have all that, they usually suggest to give it away and follow on the path of whichever religion’s doing the talking. And that’s not to say you have to be religious to have a tiny house, only that without the distractions of debt and treasures, you’ll have more time to pursue whatever path your feet are on.
The next parts of this are way more technical. Design options, permits, regulations, etc. I promise the existentialism stays here in part one. So take a breather, answer these questions and think about your life. I’ll see you next time.
Perhaps you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, which, if you’re reading this, means the home you’ve made for yourself under this rock has internet, which is almost never a bad thing. But if you haven’t been living under a rock, you may or may not have noticed it’s winter.
Now, as a home design business, you might expect us to offer advice on how to winterize your home before it actually gets cold, but you can get that sort of information anywhere. Instead, we decided it would be funnier better to remind you of things after the fact. I won’t be going over the big stuff. Obviously, if you were so inclined, you’d get new windows, or insulate your house or set fire to your furniture to stay warm through the winter months. Instead, we’re going to look at some easy stuff you may have simply forgotten.
Right off the bat, I’m going to deviate from my expressed purpose. This tip isn’t going to make you warmer so much as it’ll save some money. Maybe my focus group had the wrong people in it, but it’s my understanding that people don’t get excited about their thermostat. I have never personally heard two guys discussing the latest model over cold beers, but there’s so much more to them than leaving it somewhere between 68 and 72. New thermostats can be programmed to lower the heat during certain parts of the day, say, when you’re at work or in bed, and raise it so it’s warm when you’re up and about. Most studies have savings between 6 and 12%, which can end up being several hundred dollars. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how many trips to Starbucks that is.
This next one’s even easier. Do you have a ceiling fan? If you answered no, skip this paragraph. If you said yes, go find it and bring a step stool or something with you. Somewhere around the base, there’ll be a switch. Flip it. During the summer, you have your fan set to pull up hot air, which cools the room. In the winter, though, by flipping this switch, you’ll push the hot air back down into the room. It’s like having another heater in the house. You’re welcome.
Here’s one I’m personally guilty of forgetting. Throughout the year, the filter on your furnace… uh… filters out icky stuff from the air so you don’t breathe it in. But that gunk slowly reduces the air transfer rate. And like a vacuum doesn’t suck stuff up when the filter is covered in dust and hair (I’m looking at you, ladies), a furnace doesn’t do a great job circulating warm air when the filter is covered in a nice, thick layer of… whatever it is it traps. I tried to make a habit of changing the filter on the first day I needed to turn the furnace on. Sometimes I even remembered. It was great. But the difference is pretty incredible.
Another way to keep your rooms warm is to close off the ones you don’t use and make sure your ducts are nice and sealed. Spare bedrooms, random extra bathrooms, libraries, that exercise room that’s already doing nothing more than collecting dust? Shut the vent and close the door. By reducing the amount of space your furnace has to heat, it makes it easier to warm the ones you want, and cheaper too. Just make sure there are no leaks in your ducts. Warm air shooting into your basement is not a good way to heat your living room.
This last tip won’t be for everyone. But the ones who respond well to it, I feel like it will change their lives forever. It’s the thing that, up till now, they’ve been seeking without success. To those people, you owe me nothing. I’m just here to help.
Build a greenhouse around your existing house.
That’s a geodesic dome. They’re super cheap and easy to build. And they can turn any area into an immediate greenhouse. Just like that. Don’t like the winter? Reject the season and make your property live in perpetual summer. All year round! And with my very inconclusive search on the internet, I can tell you with a minimal amount of certainty that you can cover your house in one of these babies for as little as a thousand dollars. Then you’d never have to turn your furnace on again. Windows open in the middle of January. Flowers blooming all the time.
For those who’d like help building their geodesic dome, or for those who’d like to build a house from the ground up that’s built to be very efficient with its heating and cooling, give us a ring. We’d be more than happy to help.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at the history of housing, where it originated, the path it took through the centuries and where it is, more or less, today. It’s been a long, bumpy ride with many cool discoveries (like indoor plumbing, that was neat), but the houses being built now, some of them on the very edge of new technology, are the craziest things yet.
But before we get into that, how about a look at slightly more regular improvements with today’s houses. Sustainable and zero energy houses are becoming more and more popular, with systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Energy Star in place to rate how effective they are.
The most used process is good insulation, or building in a way that maximizes surrounding features to hold onto or shed heat faster, such as wind currents, positioning of the sun and shade and building layout that either increases or minimizes surface area. Past that, though, is energy reclamation, passive and active solar power, wind turbines and heat pumps among other things.
Existing homes can be modified to function at or near sustainable levels, but zero energy or energy-plus houses depart significantly from traditional construction practice, so must be created new. Zero energy homes use all the features previously mentioned but to a higher degree and contain superinsulation techniques. Energy-plus homes are actually constructed in such a way that they generate more energy than they use, benefitting the local community.
But who cares about all that, right? Bring on the high-tech gadgets. Like that $13 million home in Telluride where you can control temp and humidity, multi-room audio-visual systems, alarms and outdoor video monitoring from an iPad. Or the house in Portugal that makes the most out of its smaller space by being able to actually move its walls and produce hideaway flatscreen tvs with a touch of a button. Better yet is a Los Angeles home that incorporates the iPad control from the first home with the ability to also use it to change the colors of interior and exterior walls.
And let’s not leave out the possibility of living off-earth. In a few years, maybe the cutting edge of housing includes geodesic domes on the moon or Mars, maybe they’re little space stations orbiting Earth or large ships making use of breakthroughs in physics to seek out other planets like ours. Seems pretty hard to believe, but fifty years ago, changing the colors of all the walls in your house with a magic sheet of metal and plastic probably seemed far-fetched too.
So if you’re looking for something, whether it’s a well-appointed tent in up-state New York or a gigantic mansion that runs on classified technology and doubles as a generator for the surrounding city, Home Designing Service is where it’s at. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we are no longer able to design space ships. We offer our sincere apologies.
As you could see toward the end of last week’s blog post, the idea of class played a big part in where you lived. Obviously, this is a concept that has always been – even when people were fighting over trees and caves, the stronger or smarter would have prevailed. But as the level of talent surrounding architecture rose, the distinction of class became more and more apparent.
Class was the difference between living in a townhouse or a hovel. A villa or a hut. But even as the gulf between social tiers widened, the living conditions of everyone rose collectively. As it, in general, became easier to make houses, it also became cheaper, which allowed more and more people to jump on the bandwagon. So to speak.
During the medieval era of architecture, timber framing became a thing. And, by thing, I mean it had been around almost since forever, but was finally coupled with a level of skill that made it easy to produce. Early houses during this period were basically just big communal rooms and a few side rooms. Even the manor houses of the more affluent weren’t very intricate. Cross the class gap, however, and you were up against castles and whatnot.
Swiss homes in particular had a very interesting design. Two story, cabin-like homes, home owners housed the animals on the lower level and lived in the upper. It seems pretty rustic by our standards today, but at the time, they had separate rooms for cooking, dining and enjoying each other’s company, which was a pretty big deal. These Swiss homes universally used the timber design, but also used brick and stone for the lower levels.
Fast forward a few (hundred) years and you’re smack dab in the middle of the Romanesque period, and while this moment in architectural history is most known for the construction of castles and abbeys, it also was a time of improvement of inner-city living. The tower house and town house entered the scene, both under heavy constraints of space due to the packed nature of walled cities of that time.
Tower cities rose like, well, like towers, often only having a single, small room for each floor. Town houses, in contrast, allowed the fairly rich a place to stay close to all the action in the city. Unlike the sprawling domus of Rome, town houses looked like proper houses. Two story, stone or half-timber, etc. Despite being primarily for the well-to-do, they were a statement for what would come.
What followed over the next handful of (again, hundreds) years, were a collection of “Revival” styles. It’s like how 80s clothes are becoming popular again, except for houses. As architectural techniques began to solidify, older styles were revisited and given a new treatment. Classical and gothic elements were introduced into domestic homes, homes that were steadily becoming affordable to the very people who had to fight for a thatch-roofed hovel in previous eras. These styles have been highlighted in previous articles, so I won’t bother going into them.
A standout style, however, was found in Japan, during a little period of change. Much like the European countries, Japanese homes were becoming more and more decadent. I wouldn’t put it as equal to the Victorian-era houses, but for the Japanese, it was becoming a serious problem. When the Zen masters introduced the Tea Ceremony, the resultant Tea Houses changed residential styles to a more modest, simple design. The interesting part of Japanese housing is the changeable nature. Walls were made of sliding panels, which could be changed with ease. So rooms could be joined for entertaining a large number of guests, or closed for privacy. Nevermind the fact that they had to practically set themselves on fire to stay warm in the winter, you can’t really put a price on that kind of convenience.
Then the Americas happened and ugly little colonial buildings became the norm for awhile. Without the infrastructure of an established country like England, the American colonies just weren’t capable of producing bigger, more intricate houses. But within a short time, they would catch up and even invent a few styles of their own, as evidenced in the Frank Lloyd Wright post.
Housing has come a long way from trees, caves and tents. A lot of styles have come and gone, but the concepts of style, protection and comfort have been around since the beginning. We’ve taken a brief look at where we came from. Stay tuned next week and we’ll discuss where we’re going.
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you have a home. You may not have a house, per se, but you have a place where you go to be warm, to sleep, to take your clothes off without risk of being jailed for public indecency. A structure you can, in one way or another, call your own. If you do not fit into this category, if you are, in fact, homeless, then you should stop reading. I believe in visualizing your goals, but reading a blog about home designing in the hopes that you will someday get a home is, perhaps, putting the cart before the horse. So to speak.
Anyway, with that disclaimer out of the way, I’d like to give you another. This won’t be a philosophical discussion on the difference between House and Home. Just assume that if I use either of those words, unless I say otherwise or context leans heavily in the other direction, what I mean is a building or something like it.
What this article will be about, however, is the house itself. Where it came from, where it is now, where it’s going. And like other great stories, I’ll start at the beginning. Or as near the beginning as is possible. The introduction of housing isn’t exactly a known occurrence to historians. Obviously being sheltered from the elements was as important then as it is now, we just don’t know when people started thinking about it officially.
With that ambiguity in mind, most of these early examples will be lacking in hard dates and solid facts. Some of it is historical conjecture, based on a look at the society as a whole, not necessarily archaeological findings.
Earliest forms of housing were likely as simple as trees with dense foliage or caves, especially in warmer climates. Provided those living outdoors like that didn’t have to contend with hostile animals or nasty weather, they worked fine. But in those early years, farming wasn’t really what it is today, and to survive, people needed to be close to animals. Unless trees and caves underwent a serious evolution lately, they were as immovable then as they are now.
So it wasn’t a gigantic leap of logic that brought people to the idea of tents. Small, light structures comprised of a frame of wooden poles and animal skins, they went up fast, they kept out the rain and they were easy to travel with. This allowed early humans to protect themselves as they followed migrating herds of animals. This was also the beginning of the concept of architecture.
It might not seem like much, but it wasn’t long before people were trying to make their tents bigger, trying to understand how to structure the frame in a way that it would accept a heavier load, etc. Within a handful of years, those tents started looking a lot like what we would consider houses, with multiple rooms, some of them even had multiple stories. Yet they were still easy enough to break down if everyone needed to pick up and move. And, as such, there was a definite lack of permanence. But that would change.
The start to housing was, I think we can all agree, pretty boring. I mean, there’s really only so much interior decorating you can do with a tent. There are no Victorian inspired tents, or Tudor Revival tents. But next week, we’ll get into where REAL houses started to take off, with walls and roofs and everything.
For those interested in Home Designing Service-created tents, I regret to inform you that a recent stampede of angry pickles destroyed the warehouse where we kept them. We can, however, whip up one of those fancy houses for you, if you want. I might even throw in a drawing of a tent. These deals don’t come along every day. Call now.
Ancient Egypt. Sand blows mercilessly outside in the dark of night. Men in robes stand over the body of their dead Pharaoh, performing the rites of mummification. The night stretches on and the men become tired, hungry. One of them takes a break and prepares some food on a nearby slab. The other men have him killed for desecrating the sacred rite, but later, are so impressed with the idea, they copy the it down in Hieroglyphics.
A thousand or so years later, a wealthy family is holding a dinner party. The husband, a famous archaeologist, has just uncovered the stone tablet detailing the incident, and with the thought on his mind, he decides to entertain in his kitchen, with servants folding clothes nearby. The idea is not a hit and, in fact, scandalizes the guests, causing the ruin of the archaeologist’s family.
But the idea lives on. Passed through rumor and underground intelligence, these multi-purpose rooms pop up in scattered clumps. Under fear of persecution by the Roman-Catholic Inquisition, which places the use of such rooms directly below Witchcraft in terms of heresy, these people create secret doors for all the storage and appliances in the room, so they can be hidden within a moment’s notice. Unable to trust even their friends, the spread of these rooms is stunted. However, a prominent member of the English court of Henry VIII is shown one by a friend of a friend and carries the idea back to his king.
The famous rift between England under Henry VIII and the Catholic Church, though allegedly because of his stance on marriage and his desire to divorce his wife, was actually due to the inclusion of some of these rooms within newly built manor houses. The church wanted them out, the King wanted them in, they parted company. But after years of fiddling around with the rooms, the King grew bored and they fell out of favor.
But today, a need arises…
Ok, so… maybe parts of that history aren’t true. But they seem like they should be, even if they aren’t. And really, that’s what matters most, right?
The truth of these rooms, known as “Do” Rooms, is that, in concept, they’ve been around since forever. Obviously I’m not a historian, but it’s likely that families have always had rooms that have pulled double-duty in the purpose department. But only recently have they been perfected and been the kind of room you can show off to friends. Functionality not replaced, but hidden, behind form. Which is to say it’s pretty AND useful.
A sitting room, maybe a tv or radio for maximum amounts of “chilling.” But hidden behind stylish walls are shelves and bins, washers and dryers, desks and others, differently shaped desks. Work can be done, then closed off. The future is now.
The “Do” Room defines what it means to be an average (maybe even above average) American. Of course we do laundry and have hobbies and need to store things around the house, but we also like to entertain. To have a room where all these things can be done at the same time, without embarrassment, well… I think that just might be the American Dream, as described by William Shakespeare (citation needed).
You need one of these rooms. It’s not a question, it’s a fact. So schedule a remodel and have us draw up some plans for you. Or if you’re one of our many current clients, have us add in one of these awesome, schizophrenic rooms. Don’t let Henry VIII’s sacrifice be in vain.
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.
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.
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.
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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The CT State Building Code updates every 3 years, which means all plans designed up to the release date of the new code need to be updated to comply with the changes. There is no extra charge to you. However, it does take time. So if you're looking for a plan ASAP, choose one that's already compliant with the latest code release.
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