body of work

February 13th 2014 Comments: 12 Topics: ,

Each house we design and draw is a work of art, handcrafted in its detail. We often refer to the houses we design as bespoke, like a custom tailored outfit: a dress or a suit.
Just as every house needs a bedroom, bathroom and a kitchen, every suit has sleeves, buttons and collar. Each bespoke suit is made to fit the wearer and every house we do is crafted for each of our clients.

We often find ourselves taking the analogy further. Each house can be discussed in anthropomorphic terms – relating it to the human body or figure and even how we dress our bodies.


When you are out on a porch, enjoying the view, the porch roof should sit down low, like the brim of a baseball cap over your eyes. Perfect for a sunset and a cool drink.


An animated thatch roof sits on top of a landscape folly like a hat, one perched playfully and dramatically on top of a graceful head.


Chimneys or parapetted gabled ends of a Cape Dutch house have shoulders. Nobody wants to see slouching shoulders on a person, so these house “shoulders” should appear relaxed but strong, graceful but confident.


The rafter tails along the edge of a roof should always sit down on top of the doors or windows under the eave. If not, it will reveal too much “forehead” above the doors. That would be like wearing a top hat tilted back at a 45 degree angle on your head.


Houses will sometimes have projected bases or watertables that act as a “belt” around the façade. The human body can look disproportionate if a person wears their belt too high, or too low, or cinched too tightly. A house is the same – its belt will allow the base below to be grounded, while the body (or torso, if you will) above is elevated and accentuated.


Landscape walls and stone bases are meant to be like flared pant legs, or pants with a cuff, providing a connection to the ground that is stable and organic.


Some houses, like their owners, are meant to be tall, slender and elegant. Other houses are low and humble, rooted to the landscape, salt-of-the-earth and kind, just like their owners.

Every client has their distinct personality and style; so too their house. Art and life are entwined in each drawing and design.

“Ars imitator vitae. Ars vitae.”*

John Sease for McAlpine Tankersley

*translation: “Life imitates art. Art imitates life.”

Congratulations to commenter Jan Hoenk, the lucky recipient of last week’s giveaway!  A copy of our little book, Finding Home, is on its way to you.


  1. you do amazing work I am a HUGE fan Laura Michaels L & L Designs 29 Half Mile Road Armonk, NY 10504 914.273.1962 fax 914.907.2927 cell

  2. Kandy says:

    Beautifully written! I adore all things McAlpine Tankersley.

  3. design key says:

    Beautiful! I loved this blog post and was tickled to see it was written by my talented brother-in-law, John Sease!

  4. Rhonda Gregoretti says:

    Beautiful!! Thanks to everyone for impacting mind, body & spirit !!

  5. Susan J Nelson says:

    Well done faithful servant !

  6. Christine Stanton says:

    How amazing I had never thought to compare a house and it’s accessories to a human body, yet it makes total sense.

  7. David Braly says:

    John, yours is a thoughtful and insightful post; thanks!

  8. Janine Dunn says:

    What a beautifully unique way to express your ideas!!! I LOVED this post and learned a great deal from you. You’ve given me a new perspective on how to think about houses, as well. Well done!

  9. janinedunn says:

    What a beautifully unique way to express your thoughts! I so enjoyed this post. You’ve given me a new perspective on how to think about houses! Always dreaming of my own McAlpine home someday.

  10. this is brilliant……

  11. Kris Kendrick says:

    LOVE this post! More more!

  12. Phyllis says:

    I love this idea and someday hope to see how my personality interpreted into a house, my final house.

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