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.
When I first moved to Seattle, I lived in a classic, beautiful “Seattle Box” (aka “Four Square”) house on Sixth Avenue West, two blocks from where I live now. Tom Kundig was my landlord for the last year I lived in that beautiful Craftsman duplex.
Architectural History: Four Common Seattle Home Styles
I didn’t realize my landlord was a starchitect until I opened the New York Times Magazine one Sunday many years ago, reading an article lauding the design of Delta Shelter, a house he designed for, coincidentally, my dentist, Dr. Friedrich. In this interview, Tom talks about his love of residential architecture, echoing what Will and I talk about all the time as we’re designing 1934: our new house will be a personal, intimate artifact, a beautiful, quality machine designed to function around how we live.
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.
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.
This philosophy in direct opposition to the Seattle Box, a cheap, easily replicable floor plan created for the masses. Nonetheless, that house on Sixth Avenue West, along with my Italianate rowhouse on Lafayette Avenue in Baltimore (also replicable architecture for the masses), was one of the nicest houses I’ve ever lived in.