I have been asked before: If I could start from scratch with a decent budget, what sort of a house would I build for myself? I was thinking about that the other day as my eyes wandered up to the huge pine and maple trees that tower over the house (mental note: check homeowners policy) That is a tough question to answer. Part of me would live to live in a big old farmhouse and part of me wants a Tom Kundig sort of house with lots of steel, glass and concrete and a cool device that does something interesting.
The reality may be somewhere in between. Living where I do, energy efficiency and insulation rule out either of these options in their pure form. But there are lessons to be learned from both extremes. My own tastes probably run toward a warm modernism with Scandinavian influences that isn’t afraid of wood and stone as well as glass and steel. I would not impose the limitations of “traditional” architecture on myself. I’ve seen too much for that. I’m spoiled. I like light and dark, open spaces and well defined spaces. Indoor and outdoor. I don’t like to take my shoes off whenever I come in the house. Function rules! I like porches. I like woodstoves.

I like low maintenance. I like simplicity. I want a huge range in the kitchen and a huge island to match. I like old fashioned pantries – with a window. I like when a window goes down to the floor. I want laser cut steel switchplate covers. I like wood ceilings and floors but not wood walls. I love dark slate with dark thin grout lines. I don’t like big bedrooms. I want a soaking tub.
I dislike fancy. I hate frippery and fakery! (fake divided lite windows make me gag) Sometimes I use the term “carpenter modern” to describe my tastes. There is a lot of this in VT. My own barn is a good example. It describes a building or house or detail that does the job without any overt nod to “style” but in its simplicity and function and logic, it becomes beautiful. Did I mention that I love raw steel? It is difficult for me to find examples of what I like in print media. Everything is too big, too fancy, too complicated, too precious. Dwell Magazine does a better job of presenting “real people” type projects. And I love looking at what happens down South at Auburn U’s Rural studio If I were to design my own home, it would probably kill me.


  • Patrick says:

    Beautifully written, Bob. I couldn’t agree more. Any recommendations for books covering Scandinavian architecture?

  • bob says:

    I have a few old books found in used book stores. Very FLW type floor plans and very indoor outdoor. Very Lived in. You can almost smell them and imagine all the good food and parties. I’ll have to poke around for good books and resources. I’ll put it on my LoTtD (list of Things to Do) Dwell often covers Scandinavian stuff.

  • Lee Calisti says:

    Bob, a nice transparent view of yourself that begins to address a larger issue at stake for architects. Most people don’t want to live in the projects that command the most attention in the press. Then again, most architects do not want to “design” what most people “think” they want. I’d bet most people want that “building or house or detail that does the job without any overt nod to “style” but in its simplicity and function and logic, it becomes beautiful.” Well said, there’s no better way to say it.

  • Steve May says:

    I understand where you are coming from Bob. There are so many things about architecture that I like, there is no way to get them all into one house and it would probably look odd at the same time. Designing my own home probably wouldn’t kill me but my wife might.

  • frippery?!?

    I learn something new every time I visit. Thanks Bob – as always

  • bob says:

    1 Showy or unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress, or language.
    2 A tawdry or frivolous thing.
    If the word didn’t exist, I would have invented it for sure.
    Although I am never shy about using words of which I don’t really know the meaning…of.
    Which is to say that I lucked out on this one.

  • Rukhsana says:

    Hi Bob!
    I might live all the way on the other side of the world but I totally relate to your views.
    I am a big fan of the Scandinavian style and my dream house is white, steel and uncluttered, impossible when you have a big extended family!
    At times I have actually thought of hiring someone else to design my home…

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Robert Swinburne in Brattleoboro, VT on Houzz
Robert Swinburne in Brattleoboro, VT on Houzz


Robert Swinburne Architect, LLC AIA, NCARB, CPHD, DAD bob@swinburnearchitect.com 802.451.9764
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