When clients come to us, this is the basis of what they want. They want something that touches the heart. Something that silently calls to them, that says welcome, sit down next to the fire and relax. You’re home now. Nothing epitomizes this like a simple cottage. Everyone I’ve ever shown the above picture to inevitably sighs and wants this. It speaks to something basic and human. Roof, walls, view, outdoor space and water. These are intrinsic yearnings – authentic truths are simple and I feel should be tended, valued and celebrated.
Modern life, however, marches in with its complexities and immediately comes with “requirements.” Our clients come prepared with a laundry list of these contemporary house necessities: laundry rooms, mudrooms, pantries, media rooms, offices, cat rooms, etc. All come to the table dragging their spatial baggage (oh, and we need a trunk room for the actual baggage, too). In the arranging and editing of all of this, our job as designers is how not to lose a precious seed in the dirt. How can we maintain the wonderful and elementary idea of the simple cottage? That’s what the soul longs for – how can we help obtain it?
No matter what the scale of the project, there are a number of things that can be accomplished to pay heed to this basic and modest concept. Below are a few we practice regularly in attempt to embody the innate goodness found in the cottage.
- Celebrate humility. If a grand gesture is called for, follow it up with an apology. Every boisterous expression should be balanced with a humble one.
- Reduce scale. Even massive houses can be broken up into bite-sized chunks. Think like a village.
- It’s American to think “bigger is better”. We were raised that way (I’m looking at you Texas). Don’t forget to include some “small”, especially in room sizes. Not every room has to accommodate the entire clan at Thanksgiving. A tiny room will quickly become the favorite place to slip into. A tiny room is like a hot toddy to the body – warm and enveloping.
- Don’t just build for the “right now.” That’s short sighted as well as wasteful. The huge family of six will not always be there. I hate to break it to you but kids will be gone before you know it. Yes, build a house that will graciously accommodate your active family but also plan for a house that’s comfortable when it’s just the two of you. It can be done.
The notion of “cottage” has always been one we’ve held close to our hearts. Given a choice, we would design these all day long. Our clients, however, require more. The above are but a few suggestions on how we maintain,dearness in our work – that ineffable quality people come to us in search of.
Post recession, “McMansion” has now become now an offensive word; it’s actually always been a particular vile phrase to me. I’m hoping the cottage is society’s new treasured goal. It’s always been ours.
Here’s a few of our larger works that I hope embody the virtues I’ve mentioned:
Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley
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