Archive for August, 2012


Shades of Modern

August 29, 2012

I find it interesting that readers are reluctant to publicly share their thoughts in the comments section of this blog, choosing instead to send me emails.  I was told in one such note that I should make more of an effort to explain my ideas to those wanting to improve things but not artistically trained or astute enough to know how.  My position has been, hire and architect.  Problem solved.  I have, nevertheless, taken the comment to heart and hope, going forward, to show more fully how improvements might be made, starting with the two modern houses here.

Modern House, Randallstown, MD, MLS/Web ID: BC7755382

Even an untrained eye can tell that the house above is not quite right.  Built in 2005, the water stains under the windows, the vinyl siding, the off the shelf colonial garage door and brick wall combine in a way that makes the place look more like a homemade remodel than a fairly new modern style house.  The lesson is that materials matter.

Modern Style House, Austin, TX

By adding a bit of wood the same horizontal siding looks better on this house.  Imagine the improvement had the pink bump out and garage door on the house in the photo above been wood and the wall and foundation matched the concrete stairs, not an expensive way of providing a huge fix.


“Frito Bandito” House

August 22, 2012

MLS/Web ID:     2926658

Frito Bandito House,  Sorry for another bad doodle.

One might want to consider the emerging imagery before too literally duplicating each side to form a duplex.  That way at least the eyeballs can be exactly the same size and set far enough apart so that they are not crossed.  Also the addition of a nose would make the house easy to find, allowing residents to tell their friends that they live  in the “Frito Bandito  House.”   Gotta love those micro managers!

Frito Bandito, Creative Commons


Architecture, like possession, is equal to nine tenths of the law.

August 20, 2012

Earth Awards Competion Entry, House made from recycled shipping pallets by I-Beam Architecture & Design

The Earth Awards is a competition aiming to inspire designers of every ilk to work out market based solutions to the worlds environmental problems.  It brings to mind the 2007 documentary “Penny Revolution” which follows lenders making micro loans to help those living in poverty start business.  The goals are noble and there have been some pretty amazing entries. The 2010 Grand Prize Winner was a manufactured photosynthetic foam that does not rely on the earths resources for production and results in high carbon capture and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.  There are different categories.  The “Pallet House” project here was a “Built Environment” entry made from ubiquitous and almost free recycled shipping pallets.  It can be put together with hand tools and there are kit type instructions to boot.  If you were stuck in a transient camp waiting for a new home in distant lands, would you rather live in the little designer house or a box?  At the risk of being cynical, I would not be surprised if there were many preferring the box.

Home made house near Juarez, Mexico

Reality is a complex thing, and in my experience most people prefer their own to a romanticized vision drummed up by distant luminaries. Offered a chance to buy the little designer house, a potential resident is likely to check out how it is assembled and then build his own new improved version from found and free materials.  Proud, indeed,  is the owner of a real “Pallet House” like the one you see.  In this case architecture, like possession, is equal to nine tenths of the law.

So Bad it’s Good

August 8, 2012

A-Frame House
MLS/Web ID: 2954874

A-Frame House Interior
MLS/Web ID: 2954874

This circa 1966 Gelleresque vision is so bad it’s good.  In case you are not a history buff, Andrew  Geller was an architect and real working icon of  the mid century “age of optimism,” characterized by capitalization, industrialization, and modernization.  The “Windows of the World” complex on top of the World Trade Center was among the many projects he designed, including numerous summer houses along the East Coast.  He spent much of his career looking for inexpensive ways of providing modern conveniences to lots of people;  and he seems to have succeeded because it wasn’t long before cheap A-frames, like the one in the photo, were popping up all over the country.  These were actually considered a little ugly at the time, and probably still are.  It is  the overwhelming effect of my architectural nemesis, the point, that causes the problem.

Redemption comes along, though, in the complex and interesting interior space created by the A-frame structure.  It appears in the kitchen above and in an original Geller sketch below.  It soon becomes clear how one might both love and hate these little houses.  For myself, the most beautiful house I have ever entered was actually an A-frame, which is a story for another post.

Design Sketch by Andrew Geller


Backyard Business

August 7, 2012

Wood Worker’s Shop

Way back when I was starting I wrote about the tendency of owners of homes needing rejuvenation  to use design ideas pinched from suburban track houses.  A particular target for this type of application is the phony pediment, as if by its addition a tired old house can be made to fit in with the local aesthetic.   If asked,  an architect might look for more authentic inspiration, which appears to have happened in this backyard  wood worker’s shop.  The pediment marks the double (not garage) doors and ignites curiosity.  A nice way to attract positive attention to home hobby/small business.