Posts Tagged ‘contemporary style’


De-Shuttering Our World

March 21, 2016
I can't look!

I can’t look!

I really wonder if I missed some important rule of architecture when I was in school, or maybe there is something in the building code, some new requirement, or could it be something in the culture, or maybe technology?  That’s it, they must be functional?  I doubt it though.  Not anymore.

No and no!

No and no!

What does that leave?  Is it honestly possible that consumer preference has demanded that every mediocre house built in the US since 1950 must have at least one set of shutters, functional or mostly not, on a window that is visible from the street?  Sometimes it seems that way.

Do you want to know something about shutters, about function, types, sizes, history?  It is stuff I am not going to talk about here because it has already been done, many, many times, so check out the Old House Guy.  Shutters, we are told, are a great way to beautify a home because they provide lots of visual impact for not much cost.  They can also, he continues, very easily ruin (and usually do) its entire appearance, a point with which I wholeheartedly agree.




Not so you say?  Look at this cute little house.  Think how it would look without the bright shutters and notice how nicely they are tied in by the use of equally bright accents at the door.  Bye the way, the variegated roof doesn’t hurt either.

Could be a yes!

This is a yes!


What about this house?  These shutters are adding design to an otherwise very ordinary house.  They set up visual rhythm, add order and interest.  I want to go inside and find all of the windows equally spaced and lined up in the same room.


The problem is that for every thoughtful application of shutters there are 50 that miss, or never attempt to hit, the design mark.  The materials of Mid-American single family housing, stick built in mass after the WW II, and continuing today in miles of new urbanest town houses, have remained the same.  Only the planning has changed.  There is a very unpleasant visual tension between the very old fashioned, historic kit of parts and the contemporary form of the whole.  Nowhere is that tension more evident than in the application of decoration, the most obvious being shutters.  The pervasive wood clapboarding, shingles, brick, pre-manufactured windows, doors, architectural elements and trim used everywhere today might better fit on a wing of Monticello than on a new apartment in a builder development.

This appears of little concern to much of the purchasing public, who are perhaps too uniformed to ask for better.  I would suggest that visually pleasing results may be achieved when the parts support the whole,  when the clapboarding becomes a horizontal element reinforcing the shape of a wide low ranch, when the a decorative element completes one side of a partially open gable, when a change of finish material turns a short window into a vertical element, maybe even when a shutter signals a message.  Here are a few ideas offered as inspiration in my effort to de-shutter our world.


Images in bottom gallery are from and used under creative commons.  Please contact us for links.




Wish I’d a done it!

July 10, 2012

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What would you call this;  sustainable, green, high design, trendy, rustic, maybe vernacular?  Mostly I would call it beautiful.  This project is designed with utterly single minded focus around two functions.  One of them is the collection and storage of water and the other is cooling, natural or otherwise.  The fact that the building is energy efficient and serves as an outpatient health clinic becomes almost irrelevant, taken for granted in the face of such resolute purpose of design.  The place could as easily be a house, barn, shop, or school room.  Whatever the final purpose, it will be cool and have water.  Rare, indeed, is the project with a program so simple as to beget such an elegant solution, and by the way, it was commissioned by a sophisticated collaboration between government and charitable organizations, not exactly what I would term “real people.”  There must be a lesson here?

You can read about project details here.


From dated to stylized?

June 6, 2012

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Just take a look at the HGTV program “House Hunters” if you want some insight into the style sense of most people.  If a property is “dated” on the interior, the house hunter cannot exit fast enough.  Very few have the ability to look beyond the label.  White appliances, a standard and true classic,  are enough to send a potential buyer scurrying to the nearest new development in search of the current favorite, stainless steel.

Amazingly, many home owners do not apply the same logic to the exterior.  This home owner faced with a circa 1980 “Post Modern” style condo went happily off and bought a house full of “traditional” furnishing, without the least thought of the house’s architectural style.  Any architect with an interiors department would have directed this homeowner toward color blocked, modern furniture with a post modern flair.  It would have taken this condo from dated to stylized.

House photos courtesy of Weichert. 
Furniture store photo used under Creative Commons.

Drama at the expense of taste?

May 8, 2012

MLS/Web ID: 2912625

Here the  stone covered fireplace enclosure is so massive that it reduces the actual fireplace to a piece of hardware.   It overwhelms not only the soaring interior space but also common sense.   On some level, most of us understand that stone is heavy, much heavier than what would logically end up where it has.  The fake stone veneer looks more fake by dint of how much of it is used.  An architect, because he or she has studied scale and proportion (not to mention the peril of a single step) might have created drama without sacrificing good taste.


Are artist and architects interchangeable?

January 20, 2012

MLS/Web ID: 202076

Historically, many architects have also been artists, Le Corbusier comes immediately to mind.  Judging by this artist studio, though, I am not at all sure that the combination is reversible.  Shock value may deliver a message in a museum installation, but what does it do in the context of a suburban neighborhood?  Does this artist really want his or her home to be landmarked as the place that looks like half of a bad 1980’s contemporary style spec. house?  A real architect could have provided this artist with an elegant studio, both inside and out.