In these days of quarantine at home, the importance of domestic space is even more obvious than ever. No built space is as essential as the home. That’s why we wrote this article, thinking of homes that inspire us. Houses whose design solutions can teach us something during these days of quarantine at home. What small gestures we can use now or what big ideas for future projects can we learn from them?
Living in color: Casa Rogers
There is probably no resource as simple as using color to create a pleasant environment. Now, our homes are spotless white. However, throughout history the use of different colours has been fundamental. The more luxury, the more colour. Overflowing tones showed the European palaces, from Versailles to the most unknown.
Colour, like everything else, is also a matter of trends. Around the middle of the 20th century, it took on special importance. This was due to the appearance of new paints and synthetic materials in a myriad of different shades. Unforgettable are, as a result, those pastel-toned kitchens that have been immortalized in the cinema. At the same time, signature architecture also embraced colour, as shown by the interiors of Le Corbusier or Luis Barragán.
Later, high-tech architecture also turned colour into an ally. The iconic façade of the Pompidou Museum is an example of this. Its intense colours are a happy contrast to Parisian neoclassicism.
Not only the public buildings showed an intense rainbow, but in the homes too, colour played a role.
Ruth and Richard Rogers’ house in London, renovated in 1983, is a duplex characterized by high white walls, large windows open to the sky and a cold atmosphere created by the stainless steel furniture. The contrast is provided by the use of colour to mark certain architectural elements and furniture pieces. The indigo blue painted metal column and beam, the red cushions of Harry Bertoia’s chairs, or the fluorescent yellow of the Eames-designed office chairs fill the interiors with joy. The bathroom, painted entirely in pink -–ceiling, walls and floor– also shows us how flooding a space with a single colour can be a perfect strategy.
But perhaps the use of colour is even more spectacular in the house that the English architect designed for his parents. The Rogers House is a project where constructive clarity is based on the use of prefabricated industrial elements. As the architect points out, the design was influenced by some of the modern architects such as Raphael Soriano, Craig Elwood, Jean Prouvé or the Eames themselves.
The house was designed from a structural portico that was repeated, generating two very simple volumes closed at the ends by large glass windows. This portico (two pillars and an H-beam) was painted yellow, underlining its importance and giving the house a youthful and very cheerful feel. Yellow is the predominant colour in the house, being also present in furniture and walls. Nevertheless, other colours are also present, very lively and fresh: lime green, chewing gum pink and intense red. The result is an unforgettable home.
A Cosmos of Loved Objects to Play With: Learning from Case Study House #8
Without a doubt, two of the most important people influencing our home interiors have been Ray and Charles Eames. The couple of designers, of whom we already spoke in our past blog article Life as an architectural performance, were the authors of unforgettable design pieces such as the DSW Plastic Chair that many of us now have in our homes. In addition to furniture, the Eames designed many objects and games. These included the endearing elephant-shaped seat for young children, now marketed by Vitra, and the wonderful House of cards game designed to make beautiful three-dimensional structures.
At the heart of the Eames work were the details, a lesson that we can learn from the way they imagined and created their home. The couple made a house out of a cosmos of objects. The home was full of ceramic figures from their travels, beautiful kitchen utensils and dishes, fabrics, cushions and carpets, plants and bouquets of flowers, lamps and chairs, and paintings suspended from the ceiling. On the fantastic bookshelf, the books also participated in the creation of a universe of colours, shapes and memories. The objects could be repositioned or moved. In this way the house could be built and modified over time, as a task that never ends. In addition, the objects involved the inhabitants in their creation. This was the case of the enormous animal masks that the Eames themselves made as handicrafts.
From Ray and Charles we can also learn how process and result, playing and creating, go hand in hand. Many of their objects invited creativity and participation from all members of the household. Masks, kites or colored spinning tops can be designed, painted or handmade at home with a little imagination and simple materials. Many of the things the Eames tried to make at home or in their studio, such as the masks, ended up becoming mass-produced design objects.
The Eames turned child-oriented activities into an all-ages art form that beautified the home.
The result was reflected in the film that the couple created after a period of living in their home:House after five years of living. They also made numerous other films available today on YouTube depicting the everyday objects they collected or admired, such as toy trains or spinning tops.
Honoring the past to build the present: Casa Mercaders
The work of Enric Miralles, together with Benedetta Tagliabue and Carme Pinós, has received the greatest attention among contemporary architects. The house where Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue lived is one of these places of reference. Together they designed a very special domestic space, privileged by its location in the old quarter of Barcelona, an area of the city with several centuries of existence. Given the rich history of the city, the space they chose to renovate already had its own identity. The imprint of the past was incorporated into the new house.
In the 1990s, the couple bought this huge property with a courtyard. It was in a terrible state. They decided to renovate it, but without a project. As they progressed, they discovered real treasures in it. Originally a Gothic mansion, it had later been home to a bourgeois family at the beginning of the 19th century. Then, in the 1930s, it was transformed into a warehouse. This new use erased much of the traces of the previous architecture. The non-structural walls had been demolished. The decoration was hidden by layers of plaster and paint.
When construction works began, Tagliabue and Miralles found valuable frescoes and fake marble paintings, but also informal pencil graffiti made by former masons. The floors revealed the presence of hydraulic tiles. The walls hid stone chimneys or carved arches. As these elements appeared, the couple incorporated them into the design of the new house. They valued both the classical elements such as stone capitals and others apparently unimportant, such as pencil drawings.
The house of Miralles and Benedetta reveals how an appreciation of architectural heritage can create truly unique spaces.
The project had, without a doubt, an archaeological dimension. The existing architecture guided the reform project, giving the score for the new. However, this did not prevent Tagliabue and Miralles from playing with the findings they made, creating a very personal space. Thus, the floor tiles, which had to be removed, for example, were then placed differently, in relation to the windows, as if drawing the light coming in through them.
Recovering the old and discovering how to inhabit these settings is sometimes a privilege. But often it is even closer than we think. Simpler architectures, but loaded with past, as well as minor details, are also elements to build unique spaces.