When we tell people - particularly our suburban friends - that we intend to raise a family in a 2,000 square foot home with no garage (for now), their reactions typically cause us to question our sanity. We’ve always believed that a well-designed and thoughtfully detailed small home would serve us better than large, hastily detailed one. A simple appraisal of the U.S. housing stock suggests that not many people agree with us. So, every once in a while, it’s nice to find someone who does.
What should people experience in their homes? Virtually life’s full range of experiences. This is the reason I’m so interested in residential work. The home is primal, it’s visceral, it’s our primitive past, it carries all the baggage of our cultural life. It has to have prospect, the sense of being in the open; but also intimacy and protection. It has to encompass open and closed, hot and cold, fast and slow, light and dark, yin and yang. That’s how we experience life, and that’s how we should experience a house.
You seem to revel in the challenge of designing homes. People who build their own home tend to be very courageous. These people are curious about life. They’re thinking about what it means to live in a house, rather than just buying a commodity and making it work.
It takes some sacrifice, doesn’t it? Most people are looking for sheer square footage. Absolutely. But a lot of my clients are willing to do a 1,500-square-foot, beautifully detailed home. They don’t want the 3,000-square-foot empty box with colonial columns that makes some sort of pretension of success. I don’t want to make a value judgment on that, which I just sort of did, but it’s a different way of looking at how you want to spend your money.
Do you enjoy the challenge of doing small houses? In some ways they’re the most satisfying because they go back to that primitive place—the small hut that is a refuge, small enough that it can open out to the landscape. The only way you can really experience that landscape throughout a house is if it’s relatively small. If you have a big house you begin to lose touch with the outside quadrant.