When our company begins any new home renovation project with a client, I ask the homeowners what kind of remodeling experience they want to have. They always look at me blankly in response. Whether they’re planning major home overhauls or making minor improvements, they seem to think their renovation experience is out of their hands. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Significant Home Ruined by Poor Window Choice?
A couple of years ago, I toured a home that was for sale and built by esteemed architect Louis Kahn. It was a lovely 3-bedroom, 2-bath, very modest-sized gem of a house in Elkins Park, a suburb just outside the city limits of Philadelphia. At that time, I was looking to move, and I found this house very charming and beautiful. Everything about this house “fit” within it. The yard was well tended with mature plantings and a small stream. The price was not out of reach. But, in the end, it was just too small for our family. But I’m so glad I took the opportunity to go see it because it reminded me about an important lesson: windows can make or break a house, even an architecturally significant one.
If you visit the Louis Kahn Wikipedia page, you can see the house I am talking about on the right-hand side, and I’ve included an image in this post.
When I saw this house, it was almost completely original and “un-remuddled.”
Trip to Rhinebeck and Learning From The Past
I just returned from a weekend jaunt to Rhinebeck, NY, a charming village located 100 miles north of New York City that was settled by both English and Dutch settlers in the 1600s. Rhinebeck. My visit to this town brought to mind a book I recently read, “Home, a Short History of an Idea,” by Witold Rybczynski. In it, the author explains where our modern ideas about what makes a “home” come from. For all of us who live in or work on old houses, this book is a must read.
Rybczynski explains how the Dutch design of the home informed our American way of thinking of the idea of “home.” What do we all think of when we think of home? It’s a place for a family unit. The fact that your home’s shape answers your family’s needs is a Dutch invention. It’s more than just shelter. It’s about comfort and ease and privacy — all newly imposed criteria for home.