Grassroots Modern, Carpenter Modern

Living in an aesthetically conservative state as I do, I am led to wonder what is it about modernism that scares people? After all, everybody loves their tiny simple I-Pod and their swoopy sleek cars and fancy footwear (except during mud season). Maybe modernism is still stuck with the images of white, cubist flat roofed houses that leak. Perhaps a survey is in order: what does modernism mean to you? As an architect I get to look at many magazines and books that are filled with warm, easy to live in modernist houses with amazing spaces and light but most of these houses are way beyond the budget of normal people. Dwell magazine comes as closest to the mark although they make regular forays into the high end of modernism as well. As a carpenter I realized that most carpenters are modernist at heart though few realize it. What is the simplest, cleanest way of doing something that results in something that works well and looks beautiful? - Actually bicycle design comes to mind here but this is a common carpentery way of looking at things. I use the term “carpenter modern” sometimes to describe the low budget modern aesthetic that I love so much – see my barn in a previous post. True, a lot of modern architecture is sleek and expensive and impossible to live in but great for displaying artwork. But carpenter modern is a grassroots modernism that seems to be about doing more with less and doing it better. Simplify the detailing, make the plan perfect – inside and out. Play with light. Play with views. Work with the seasons. Make the house as energy efficient as possible. Make it as low maintenance as possible. Make it as low budget as possible so you can splurge on the glass tile in the shower or a little more room in the plan for a bigger pantry instead of architectural shingles or fancy trim or gables on gables on gables which the all plan books seem to be full of nowadays. Window placement does not have to be a compromise between inside and outside. When all this is accomplished, then look at making it a cohesive aesthetic package, work the proportions and detailing to perfection. It is okay to do something just because it is cool. Architecture should be fun. Have no regrets when it is built. (Hopefully you get a client who understands the importance of these things because this takes time and time is money.) I like to design houses that people fall in love with. I like to walk into a house I designed with someone who hasn’t seen it yet and watch their jaw drop. I like that moment when someone realizes that this is what it’s all about.