Tag Archives: Mies van der Rohe

The ABC of Architects

30 Jan

As a follow-up to my previous incredibly geeky primer on architecture, I have to share this wonderful video on The ABC of Architects from Ombu Architecture.  So fun.

Who’s your favorite and why?


Dream Houses

15 Dec

Okay, so I know this is total kitsch, but I love all these brilliant gingerbread houses that honor mid-century and modern architecture. And while we love beautiful design, I can pretty much guarantee that we will be making a traditional gingerbread house. From a box. Sorry. My talents only go so far.

From the University of Texas Architectural School blog, a gingerbread house of Le Corbusier’s flat roofed Villa Savoye. The house was the result of a contest sponsored by the Chicago Tribune celebrating Chicago architectural legacy (from whence all good things come).  Gorgeous.

From Baz at Atomic Indy, a gingerbread replica of his very awesome mid-century home. I so wish I could do this.

From an old post on Inhabitots, a lovely ‘Cake’ Study House 09 with banana succulents, almond cacti, hazelnut flowers, a pepper Palm tree, almond grass and pepper ferns. Modern pastry landscaping at its best.

eco-friendly gingerbread house, felt gingerbread houses, gingerbread, kristina hahn atelier, modern gingerbread house

I love this one for the Lifesaver Wintergreen MCM wall. Absolutely perfect from Craft_Schmaft on Flickr.

And the coup de grace would of course need inspiration from the master Frank Lloud Wright, a gingerbread house Falling Water. From Garden Melodies, the most gorgeous gingerbread house I have ever seen.  12 hours of work put into it! That is dedication.

 As I was rolling out the trash and recycling bins this morning, I was looking at our house and thinking  maybe I could do that.  Except I have no idea how to make gingerbread that thin. Does anyone have a recipe to share?


Don’t want to leave out chocolate houses and furniture too…

From Notcot, a chocolate Eames house…


From reader Lynne, check out this amazing Mies van Der Rohe bed cake!


Other People’s Homes

22 Nov

From one of our readers, Lynne shared photos of her gorgeous MCM home with the renovation in process.  Below are her words about the home and some photos. I find great inspiration here, especially with the lovely sky lights and Native American artwork.

My architect uncle who studied with Mies van der Rohe built this house in 1969, and placed it into the woods by the design of the terrain.  He lived here until 2008 when he passed away. His wife was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Anthropology, she taught Anthropology at the University of Iowa and wrote books about, and lived with the native people of Northeastern Canada, the Dogrib Indians.  An amazing couple who became challenged by health issues,  I inherited this home and alot more: native art and artifacts, an incredible mid-century modern library. This house is amazing and perhaps my uncle left it to us because he wanted their legacy to receive the respect and love that it required, and probably others would not have taken this on.

Thanks so much for sharing Lynne.  We look forward to hearing about the progress!  Other readers, please share your MCM homes no matter what stage of renovation or remodel, whether it’s your completed dream home or still just a dream.

Rain, rain, go away!

8 Jun

Come again some other day. Or not.

Living in Seattle was an adjustment for me to say the least. There’s the weather, of course. The rain, the gray. The long summer days with sunlight until 10pm. The equally extreme short winter days surrounding you in darkness by 4. 

I moved to Seattle from Chicago ten years ago this September. I struggled through the transition mainly because I didn’t want to leave my beloved city.  I grew up in south Texas and moved to Chicago for college. I never looked back. Chicago was my kind of town. (Cue Frank.) I loved the history, the architecture, the museums, the restaurants, the people. Chicago has a small town sensibility in many ways, lacking the pretention of New York or Chicago, but having all the same world-class amenities and friendly genuine people to boot.  After all, what other city could be so enamored with a team like the Cubs?

Of all the transitions to Seattle, the weather affected me the least I think. Chicago weather isn’t a bowl of cherries either. Long brutally cold winters, gray clouds from November to May, blistering summers. Seattle seemed downright mild compared to that.

And mild is a good word to describe it. The people seem milder. So does the pulse on the downtown streets. Seattle has a restraint that Chicago could never conceive of. Association with Seattle:  rain. Association with Chicago:  Al Capone. Bang bang. Seattle has a sensibility that is more understated, reserved, an almost chameleon-like in the way it blends into the scenery versus screaming ‘look at me!’ Maybe it’s because I lived in Chicago in my 20s, but the quiet way of Seattle unnerved me at first. 

I also missed the buildings, the Sears Tower, the Hancock building, Water Place, Merchandise Mart, the Rookery.  My take on Seattle modernism was cynical. Where was the Minsk house, the Robie house, the Federal Building and all the other examples of International style that had defined modernism in my mind? Who didn’t love the Ferris Bueller house, which is now in danger of demolition?  We need a ‘Save the Ferris Bueller House!’ campaign.

Metal and glass and concrete gave way to shingles, glass and wood. I admit fully that I am nothing more than an admirer of architecture. I knew what I learned but had no idea what I didn’t yet know. (And I am still learning and hoping you enjoy this adventure with me.)

Recently I have begun to appreciate the Northwest take on architecture and the layer it places on top of the traditional definition of modernism. While one can see plenty of metal and glass and concrete downtown, residential architecture softens up. The sense of environment and its importance in the conversation of design separates it from anything I had seen in Chicago. Let’s be honest, how much does one need to take into emphasize that there is prairie for miles around?

I recently watched a wonderful documentary Modern Views on ‘The Northwest School’, the name they have given to the local style of modernism. I bought it after we found this house because I wanted to learn more about what we would be working with. I also bought it because it featured the architect of this house, Fred Bassetti. Some people, probably those that know more than I, aren’t fans of it. I have to say I loved it and learned much from it. It gave me a sense of the importance of land and surroundings. It helped me understand why the NW abandoned the flat roofs and cold structures I had known. (Rain travels downward and collects, duh!) I began to understand the Asian influences, the desire to be light on the land, to capture light with windows and skylights, to protect from the rain with overhangs. I saw the value in the softness, the tactile and sensuousness of all that wood.

But my favorite quote in the entire film was about the effect of rain on the beauty of the environment. It makes the greens greener, the bark on the trees are more intense and the stones and pebbles shinier.  Wow.  Who knew?

Rain, rain, go away.  Then again maybe you can stay.

You like that? Really?

6 Jun

So why are we doing this?  I know people have opinions about mid-century homes.  I know that I did.  Ranch?  Boring!  (Unless you mean the salad dressing and then I have even stronger words than boring.)  Characterless, uninspiring, ugly!  Yes, some people are even so cruel as to call them downright hideous. 

Here’s the truth:  I was one of those people.  Every home I have owned as an adult has been almost 100 years old.  The 1920s were my sweet spot.  From my first condo in a renovated Chicago courtyard building to our last home in Seattle, I adored the wooden floors, crown molding, poky hallways and small cozy rooms of older homes.  The inconveniences be damned!  What they lacked in modernities, they made up for in charm.  I mean, who needs a pantry really?

I realize now that I was doing what we all do, to one degree or another, was carving my own identity.  I grew up in a mid-century house and I needed to break free of it, chart my own course, blaze my own trail and, ultimately, make my own mistakes while I crafted a life that was uniquely mine and as different from my parents as possible.  And then as time went on, I remembered things.  Things I would laugh about with my siblings and cousins:  the rust shag carpet, the white faux fur floor pillow, the built-in TV and hi-fi, the huge wooden swinging doors that led from the foyer to the living room.  And also things that would make me wistful:  the Hotai on the red Chinese trunk in the entry way, the chime of the grandfather clock, the smell of cedar in the hall closet where all the Christmas decorations were kept.

The house I remember as my childhood home actually belonged to my grandparents, who we called Nanee and Poppy.  Someone commented the other day that our new house looked like Nanee’s house and he was right.  Nanee was a force of nature, the axis around which we all spun and her home reflected that.  The layout, the materials, the sensibility.  I realized one of the reasons I love our new house is because it’s like my childhood home.  It even smells like my childhood home.  But it’s more than that.

I love beauty and beautiful things.  Who can’t help but look at structures like the Sistine Chapel or Notre Dame or the Taj Mahal and not be in awe?  But lately I need philosophy as well as beauty.  I need a reason for things beyond their visual appeal.  Louis Sullivan ushered in the age of modernism with his aesthetic motto that ‘form follow function’ and that speaks to me.  The beauty in an object can come simply from its functionality.  I like that level of honesty.

Modernism and architectural honesty gave us Frank Lloyd Wright with his Prairie style and open-plans.  It gave us Mies Van der Rohe with his ‘less is more’ aesthetic and a host of other straight-line German architects. (I swear you can hear a Teutonic accent when looking at their buildings.)  It gave us Le Corbusier and those wonderful chairs.  It gave us ‘truth in materials’. 

But Wright and Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier are all far above my pay-grade and most everyone else I know.  For the post-war masses in California, a real-estate developer and architect named Joseph Eichler made this level of design accessible to the everyday man.  It was modern, ground-breaking, innovative.  Houses like most Americans had never seen before:  bringing the outside in, walls of windows, post and beam construction, patios, atriums, swimming pools!  (Cue Dean Martin because I swear I can hear a martini being shaken poolside somewhere!) These homes came in the time of space travel and rock and roll, a time when the war had ended, anything seemed possible and the future was yet unwritten. 

For me, I like that mid-century modern reflects my personal values and beliefs, that honesty in presentation gives depth and meaning to life.  Authenticity, genuineness, lack of pretense.  I value these things in my life and in home.  And if you don’t think this style is cool, you haven’t watched ‘The Incredibles’ with your children lately.

(For all of you MCM design crazies, here are a few more shots of my childhood home.  Yes, the kid in those photos is yours truly.  Check out the pendant and table lamps, the wood paneling and the awesome furniture.  What I wouldn’t give for that stuff.  But I am sure there is some store in Ballard that will ask me for an arm and a leg and my first born for pieces like that now.)


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