Monday, September 20, 2010
"The house and the household, with all that these words involve, were, to Morris, the symbol and the embodiment of civilized life"
J.W. Mackail, The Life of William Morris
My friend, Mrs. D., had a home within her. She studied books and magazines, traveled to absorb regional architecture, parsed the continuum of styles, defining and discussing her vision with Mr. D., until they could identify the home they wanted to wrap around their large family. After years of reverie and culling, they telephoned Bobby McAlpine to see if he would translate their imaginings. For those of you who have not yet become enchanted by his idyllic country houses, Bobby McAlpine is legendary for his ability to choreograph space. There is a rhythm, refrain and melody to his connection of living areas, coming from the emotional and spiritual place in our hearts and souls that responds to beauty in the world around us, that seeks refuge from the mundane. Glenn Lavinder, a virtuoso interior designer, of The Pink Door in Greensboro, added his eclectic gifts, complementing their vision.
Mr. and Mrs. D. loved the stone and shingle farms of the Philadelphia countryside. On the morning of their first meeting with McAlpine, Mrs. D. drew a hasty plan of her imaginary, light filled house, which Bobby quickly started sketching on the back of napkins, commenting: "The sun rises here... sets there...," capturing their shared aesthetic. In a House Beautiful interview, Mr. McAlpine describes his selected elements that had attracted Mr. and Mrs. D.
"They let me go about creating a house that is my favorite type--a series of buildings and outbuildings, one room deep, so that the outdoors is ever available."
Lingering within the entry court, stone walls and gamboled references to Pennsylvania Dutch Barns speak the language of continuity, and articulate an era when agrarian generations crafted the fruits of their land and labors, on the place. It wafts with memories and scents of home-made bread and jams. It is the eloquent expression of McAlpine's harmony of opposites, combining ephemeral florals with muscular stone. This entry courtyard is an exterior vestibule. It is a sweet inhalation that punctuates the natural respiration of his progressions. That moment is followed by the tension of having to search for the front door--he always hides it. McAlpine is not a proponent of the grand entrance.
We are swept-- In medias res (into the middle of affairs), instantly joining the family's communal narrative (exhale). McAlpine attributes the inspiration for his own house to Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, in his new book THE HOUSE WITHIN US. He shares his collective, architectural DNA with clients, in their resonant homes. Lutyens thrived during the great country house boom at the turn of the 20th century. His educators and peers were members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, valuing the art of living, the use of authentic materials crafted traditionally, in a furious reaction to the industrial revolution's mass production. At the opposite end of the century, in a mirrored boom technology economy, Bobby McAlpine adds a fresh layer to the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, drawing from their neo-Georgian, Gothic, Classical and myriad permutations, devising an amazing New-Neo aesthetic. If I was Queen, I would knight him! He is not a furious reaction to the mcmansions of our era. He gently shows the path.
It is a clever McAlpine signature to elevate the dining room within the living room. It is tucked into a cozy nook, but raising it, sets it theatrically apart (see McAlpine alum, Ruard Veltman's, similar treatment in our post of Mrs. G.'s house).
In his revelatory book displaying the wide range of his oeuvre, McAlpine explains:
"You can put the dining area in a more vulnerable setting than any other room, because when people gather around a table their circle creates its own enclosure."
Why is simplicity so complicated? Bobby McAlpine reduces extraneous space, by merging the active voices of dining and visiting. By flanking parallel, invisible passages as perimeters, rooms and house unfold, communicating and dividing seamlessly.
On the opposite wall, the hearth is set within an alcove. It is the way McAlpine punctuates the emotional areas of a space. He balances open, sunny areas with intimate escapes.
Glenn Lavinder of Greensboro, N.C. is the master of nonchalant mixtures, styles, and colors that are entirely timeless. Italians, Brits and the French, children, teenagers and the ancient, mingle amicably with each other. In the second image, the vistas and axes that McAlpine is so fond of, provide a passage of the soul as a metaphor within the house.
"The Process is meditative and serene. You are pulled toward something inevitable, which seems to move away from you even as you come toward it, but at a slower rate. This gradual unfolding makes way for your metamorphosis. By the time you arrive, you have lost one context and gained a new one--one where you can live most creatively."
THE HOME WITHIN US
Within this concept, Mrs. D. shared that Bobby told her that a hall needs to be long enough to finish a thought. Did you ever think halls could be brilliant? We know what they normally look and feel like--nothing!
From the central rectangle of the house, wings extend to simultaneously unite and enclose the outdoor spaces with rustic dependencies and walls, creating a geometry of dynamic tension between flow and limitation. We feel secure and free, in a balance shared by both good architects, and good parents.
Look carefully, a mantle is suggested above the stove, functional as the fan, yet it is also a reference to the bygone days of cooking within the hearth. But wait, there's more... What we are beginning to call the sneaky kitchen, is behind the stove-wall "curtain." Mrs. D. has added a humble, textural element to the sleek, modern stainless refrigerators, with a pair of rustic antique baskets. The yin-yang, dynamic interaction of opposites is an attractive force on many levels.
"To create spaces with a broad emotional spectrum, there has to be a pendulum that strikes far to the left and far to the right. A rhythm of the grand and the humble, the exhilarating and the calm, the bold and the tender must be struck at a regular rate. "
THE HOME WITHIN US
The McAlpine, sneaky, kitchen/pantry is the ultimate way to rectify and compress our communal food spaces, with light-handed division. The plus-sized kitchens of the millennium have gone on a welcome diet. You can have a Fred Astaire kitchen dance, with friends and family, and you can hide the mess, drawing us closer to the intimate moment of feeding and eating. The solid "curtain" serves to both conceal and reveal. Thank you Sir Bobby for this brilliant innovation. He must actually cook.
This elegant pair of 18th century cabinets, are a gothic arched counterpoint to the Lutyens neo-Georgian paneling and limestone hearths. They were found after this element was cheekily drawn into the plans. Run up the stairs, and see the surprise.
"Through Gorgeous math good architecture creates a benevolent presence that pets and comforts you, or energizes and exhilarates. "
THE HOME WITHIN US
Sometimes these people just makes me smile! It is simple and pretty, waiting for you at the top of the back stairs, like a pair of raised eyebrows reminding: "Pay attention, even the humblest space can feel like a cathedral." It is two little triangles, cut over a door for heaven's sake, but from ingress to egress, it is architectural poetry, devised among kindred souls, versus a committee.
Sorry for the digression, sometimes when you see a fork in the road, you have to take it. The kitchen den is a cool sip of wine, after a busy day, or a thoughtful place to read the paper and savor your coffee in the morning. Bobby McAlpine, takes a page from Frank Lloyd Wright--luminary of the American Arts and Crafts movement--by lowering the ceiling from the adjacent space. While open to the kitchen passage, the lowered, beamed ceiling is grounding, quieting and embracing. Neutrals are balanced by a gorgeous, colorful Page Laughlin interior oil painting, over the mantle.
Off of the kitchen axes, on the East side of the house, the breakfast room, in this breathing, resting, shag dance, reel and waltz of a house, twirls me away from the warm embrace of the masculine kitchen den. This lovely, feminine, classic Georgian niche, in soft pastel green shades, changes colors during the day, as the house takes on different perspectives with time and season. I am an incandescent, Pride and Prejudice Lizzie here, merging with my throughly modern Lizzie. This house is so... beautiful:
"It could make a blind man see, it could make a crippled man walk, it could make the quietest man in the world talk."
Electricity and stillness--all our complexity, transitions, and growth, are simultaneously reflected and resolved by the truth of stone, plank, and mortar, in this grassy and flowered place.
I've gone all Stendal Syndrome on you, and Thank God!! I thought it would never happen. I thought I'd been desensitized by modern life. I admire this gestational moment, formed over a humble field, created among kindred souls, materializing mutual ideas, fusing time, space, light and shadow, nudging and chiding us towards illusive love, and the eternal reconciliation that is pure grace. My post is my curtsey! Time to stop, but we'll continue with a Part II. Please take a moment to thank Mr. and Mrs. D. They are far and beyond more lovely than their home. Their home is a transcendent and collaborative expression.
If you want to continue down this rabbit hole, tumble down these links: