A Contemporary house plan should match the lifestyle and vision of its
owner. Where traditional styles may be very common and the owner
wishes to stand out, forge a new direction and set the stage for a modern
psychology then a different approach should be taken. Sometimes the
site or context dictates this, or simply that an avant garde solution is
most appropriate. In this case, precedent should be discarded and
new forms, new geometries and living spaces investigated. There is
much satisfaction in arriving at a solution for the moment, and one that
will be timeless.
Florida Transitional Contemporary above, 8,000 SF
Cost to purchase most existing
plan designs is $4.90/ SF typ. for
Permit Set drawings, $3.30/SF for Schematic Design only (see each description for
NOTE: We do not
have plan books nor send copies of our floor plans unless we are
under contract. Please
contact us to receive typical contract form, or set an
appointment to view most of our work at our Orlando office.
Spanish Mediterranean Contemporary (above)
Throughout Italy and France, the
Tuscan and Provencal styled home has
enchanted every visitor and became the prototype design to emulate. For
centuries the simple house was the standard form in these regions.
Imagine the medieval farmhouse, originally one story, which
had to shelter family, livestock, and store grain/supplies/tools, etc.
As the farm and owner’s family grew, two options were available. Either
to build additional structures to accommodate needs and/or build a second
floor over the first. These two avenues can be seen in the many examples
dotting the countryside in
When the owner elected to build above, the first choice was
to install a ladder or small staircase from inside. If animals remained
inside the first floor, eventually an exterior staircase was built in
order to avoid the obvious problems and the owner’s living quarters were
fashioned above. The rationale in part was that heat generated below in
winters would rise and supply some of the warmth. The first floor
fireplace flu was built upon and extended through the second floor.
Now these living quarters became the ‘piano nobile’—an
Italian term that literally means the noble level, or owner’s suites.
Over centuries, the compact two-story form gained the reputation of simple
construction and energy/materials conservation. The same derivative in
is obvious. When the decision came by those with means to build anew or
for the first time, this geometrical form was one of two options.
During the Renaissance, symmetry (as in the human body) was
deemed a guiding design principle. While the rustic farms had single
stairways usually off center, the larger new villas being built by wealthy
merchants and nobility in the south of
central stairways or double flights on the outside to offer a direct route
to the piano nobile.
When nobility and royalty erected palaces and chateau, this
same model was followed in countless examples. If you recall
Versailles, the king’s
chambers and formal suites are on the second level, not the first. The
first floor contained rooms for offices, livery, stores, guest suites and
reception rooms. The wonderful Linderhof in
is organized exactly in this manner. In
the palazzi on the canals have similar space layouts. In fact, this
historic idea was incorporated in several of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs
and was the model for Corbusier’s ‘Villa Savoye’ in the 1930’s.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s reasoning to ‘go up’ was simply to
avoid the noise and distraction of street activity in a bustling age of
horse carriages, noisy new cars, and constant pedestrian traffic. He was
so inspired by this tree top view to the outside world that he created his
famous leaded glass based on natural forms. Corbusier wanted to improve
the view of the owners on a second living floor and third level
observation terrace. He also separated the car and utilities (machines)
from the living quarters.
THE POST MODERN HOME
style design incorporates a very contemporary architecture that
accommodates a family of four (by the same principles as the
traditional design pictured here).
Rectangular forms intersect angles and curves for an exciting exterior
and interior design. Parapet walls on the front and back can screen solar
collectors set in rectangular grids. Low VOC and other 'green'
components may be specified.
This is an
open plan design with single Living and Dining rooms with a large Kitchen
communicating directly into these spaces on the second level. Master and
secondary bedroom is zoned apart from each other. Although located on the
second floor this living arrangement offers more privacy from the street
and better views. Vaulted ceilings in all second floors are more
interesting and possible whereas impossible to achieve on a ground floor
with rooms above.
office/work area below (in both plans) allows direct access from ground
floor to keep business matters or hobby noise away from family. Notice
the large walk in closets. These are both intelligent home designs with
great flexibility. Two families can practically live here, or elder
parents, etc. Expansive feel with space in the right places. Office on
ground floor with separate entry. Dramatic spatial features with
contemporary curves, with much natural light and views.
FUNCTIONALITY for MULTI-GENERATIONAL
Zoned design to offer a maximum of flexible living arrangements.
A few possibilities are as follows:
Can leave entire ground floor unfinished (new construction) including
elevator, and live perfectly on second floor. Dining area of French
Country plan can be extended into bedroom in later years to open into a
Intermediate Aged Family:
Teens can move downstairs with their own Den. Washer/Dryer and small
Kitchen/eating area allows maximum privacy. Parents above also have
Two different family groups or individuals can share space. Garages on
both sides of ground floor in French Country plan can be used
independently of each other. Independent entries are available on both
Mature Family with
For baby boomers, semi-retired with aging parents- easy to care for loved
ones on main floor with own living and kitchen facility. Elevator can be
activated to bring upstairs for dining or visitation, etc. Private and
independent as necessary.
Office and Living:
This model is similar to medieval European examples in Germany, France,
England, Netherlands, etc. Living quarters above work area. Can bring
clients into building below without affecting owner’s quarters above.
Extra bedrooms become offices, etc. as zoning permits.
So, we have not really reinvented the house -- John Henry
Architect has reintroduced and packaged this superb historic notion for
the contemporary homeowner. Where there were storerooms and animal
stalls, now we have garages, storage area or office with private exterior
entry, secondary bedrooms with baths ensuite for older children, parents,
or a second family, galley kitchen/utility room, and large central
den/reception hall – accessed from ground floor directly. There is an
interior winding stair, and an elevator to communicate effortlessly with
the upper floor.
Cutting edge Deconstruction contemporary design, -
3D view below
Southwest Contemporary, Modern style @ 12,000 SF above
Most of the work shown here is clearly Modern, with
free flowing plans and sweeping profiles. Modern Movement or
International Style design started as products of the machine age which
resulted in boxy and rectangular statements, but through the years after
the early part of this century, Modern Style has evolved to represent a
self-referential exercise more the result of the idiosyncratic style of
the architect. It has come to be an 'anything goes' approach, which
often results in a lack of any historic allusion, and the designers are
constantly pushing the limits.
Contemporary Malibu hillside design concept, above
House' at left, ' Desert Southwest Contemporary' above, 'Contemporary
Supreme Florida Deco contemporary: 'Papillon II' above
Contemporary Mountain Retreat (above)
Florida Mediterranean Contemporary
Dream Home, concept above
18,000 SF Modern Contemporary Luxury Home
Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Contemporary above
Southwest Texas Contemporary: 'Big Bend' above @
Art Deco design above, Deco gate below
Modern Movement 'Deco Moderne' below, 850 SF.
Creating the American Luxury Home Available now on CD- rom.
(click below left) This is a history of the luxury home with
sections on working with an architect and builder, style, modern and
traditional approaches, etc. Also, companion volume:
Dream Home Design Questionnaire and
Planning Kit (click right below, available as PDF file via
Luxury Custom Homes, Villas and Estates by
home plans, Traditional dream house design architect, European estate castle plans, English manor
house plans, new home floor plans, custom contemporary Modern house plans,
Tudor mansion home plans, Mediterranean villas, French castle and chateaux
plans, by John Henry Florida Texas Architect. Interior
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‘Tis Use alone that sanctifies Expense, /And Splendour
borrows all her rays from Sense.
Alexander Pope, 1731
The solution of modern problems must be freely developed
from the premises given by modernity.
In a broad sense
art always reflects the image of contemporary man, and if kitsch represents
falsehood (it is often defined, and rightly so), this falsehood falls back on
the person in need of it, on the person who uses this highly considerate mirror
so as to be able to recognize himself in the counterfeit image it throws back of
him and to confess his own lies (with a delight which is to a certain extent
We are in the midst of a liberating period of
human expression, especially as evidenced in the plastic arts. The breach in
the wall of tradition has allowed a torrent of individual experimentation within
all branches of art, and its most permanent and visible result is in
architecture. Urban and ural design has reached heights of
daring and complexity never before witnessed. The bold manipulation of glass
and metals, aided more so by computers, yields astounding structures of
inventive/vast and ephemeral forms bound and contrasted by intricate detailing.
honest lining up of functions in a free, descriptive way without any worrying
about their formal relationships, or the final effect.
No a priori, no
concluded process, and therefore no Hellenic, Roman and Renaissance
The efforts of the ers has repeatedly found expression in a
part of our domestic architecture, but there is no doubt that the impact of
modern form is still resisted by the majority of those building or
purchasing private custom residences. There seems, in fact, a type of elitism
in the minority who demands the modernist style. This attitude finds its
parallel in the purchase and taste of modern art for example, as opposed to
classic or more representational works of painting and sculpture.
But before we direct our attention to specific
examples and of modern residential architecture, let us digress and examine the
philosophical basis of this movement.
The term ‘modern’ as relates to
architecture was not minted exclusively in the early part of the 20
Faced with new conceptions of building exploitation
produced by midcult, the neo-Gothic villa and the sham fin-de-siècle
mansion maintain a dignity which benefits their theatricality, but which
today hides behind a false functionalism of low-cost production.
In this way, the slums of the rich pile up in continuous
development in the suburbs or in the more central areas of the city.
Structurally, they are built on the same principles as the new
working-class housing which in its turn strives desperately to turn its
back on its proletarian origin in an effort to retain at least the dignity
of the apartment if not the status of a private property…The apartment ,
the villa, the suburban family home, which still obstinately retains
vestigial traces of the sense of private ownership and pride of
possession, are straightforward examples of kitsch in relation to the
object and the attitudes which it induces.
Gregotti, Kitsch and architecture,
essay in Kitsch, Gilo Dorfles
Modernism has several connotations in our time. Modern
implies progressive. Modern implies change for the better. Modern can be
sensational, a flirtation with established morality or ethics even. Modernism
implies freedom, freedom of expression, to ‘do your own thing’. Modernism also
refers to changing ethics and morality. Modernist architects practicing in the
International Style in the first half of this century tended toward
geometrically pure structures, echoing even the Greek austerity of temple
construction. Both examples reflect an ideal state, or at least profess its
existence. David Watkin finds this idealism paralleling the classicist resolve
more even than recent forays of postmodernism (Morality and Architecture).
Later architects responded to the zeitgeist of the times which has evolved at
present in various forms bordering on chaos theory. Richard Neutra in 1954
indicated the uncertainty and impossibility of an ideal state thus: “But static
peace, slipping out of the chain of ever-new events into a life of stable
‘facts’, is an ideal we cannot possibly entertain.”
As a credo, “why
not?” or more precisely, “why the
hell not?” – is a new direction for world architecture.
Frank Gehry, 1998
Modernism, as codified in the early part of this
century, is a specific reaction to traditional artistic and architectural design
principles and iconography. It is based on the availability and results of
technical and material progress in industry – scientific primarily – that is
adapted to structural and building needs. Only in the last 20 to 40 years has
real research instigated by architectural academics been applied directly to the
solution of building problems. The construction industry, those manufacturers
of building components, are primarily responsible for breakthroughs in
commercial glazing, metals, roofing, etc. How we apply these
discoveries is the root of this discussion.
It was all
pseudoscience, based on the fatal misconception that architecture could be
nothing but problem solving.
Cambell, of modernism in the 1960’s
Modern methods of
fabricating mass housing to solve the urgent problems of human displacement– precast paneling, prefabricated modules, utilities cores, etc. – in the closing
phases of the world wars, had their most direct effect soon after on commercial
structures. It is the development of modern building techniques that seized the
imagination of so many post-war architects and designers, especially after the
commercial developer realized the powerful tool gained. Large structures could
now be economically erected using prefabricated steel posts and beams, sheathed
in large panes of glass, held together by aluminum (and later rubber) grommets/
mullions. Large areas of duplicable floors could be likewise finished with
light-weight concrete poured over either steel or concrete beams. The roofs for
these mega-structures (as contrasted with their previous load bearing masonry
clad brethren) were needed for mechanical equipment and access to floors below,
elevator machinery, cooling towers, etc. and thus were more often flat than
pitched. Built up gravel and tar flat roofs developed into high-tech synthetic
agglomerations of multiple layered rubberized and neoprene waterproofed
systems. Hand crafts were virtually eliminated. Wood and stone sculpting,
ceramics, and all forms of traditional decorative effects quickly disappeared.
Gains in erection time were highly appreciable.
Beauty was acknowledged in the daring massing
of volume and repetition of module. New and technically clever applications of
concrete and steel, and the resulting abstract forms generated was venerated.
The application of glistening panels of aluminum, glass, and polished stone
veneers became the new mode. God was in the details (Mies van der Rohe). A new
aesthetic was born. It replaced completely its antithesis: traditional form
and its academic precedents. Walter Gropius proclaimed in 1943, “New
buildings must be invented, not copied.” Gropius believed that “…the
artistic gentleman-architect who turned out charming Tudor mansions with all
modern conveniences has almost vanished. This type of applied archaeology is
The imported cliché was not only easy to teach.
“Less is more” unless less, already less, already little, becomes
less than nothing at all and “much ado about nothing.”
Regardless, the old box comes back.
The crate now consecrate. Frank
Lloyd Wright, 1952
In the plastic arts, the
abstract and cubism movements paralleled architectural thinking. It could be
argued that painters who developed these modes influenced architectural style.
The stripped-down anti-representational effect, the minimalism, the
primitiveness of the works of Picasso, Pollack, _____, et al was not due to
technological advancements in drawing materials but a reflection of
angst; it described the human failure to contain the horror of man’s inhumanity
to man. Thus there is a commentary on the modern social order, on its
traditions, on its ethics and morality by painters and sculptors of the first
half of the 20 th century. This ‘spiritual’ discourse had its
parallel in architectural design. More than ever before it seemed, modern
architecture was truly the instrument for positive social change. It made
efficient use of space, energy and materials. It searched for ideal urban
solutions which yielded visions of open space amidst democratic housing towers,
and a separation of traffic and industry.
In order to make the change
effectual however, one had to abandon tradition in all its forms--- completely.
This included the traditional city, especially the model of the medieval organic
town. In fact, the zeal of the imported thinking at its zenith (European – and
it was due primarily to the contributions and proselytizing of Corbusier, Mies
van der Rohe and Gropius), reached a frightening prejudice. This prejudice,
upon reflection, can be compared to the blind zeal of the fascist power that
caused the massive destruction modern methods of production in architecture was
devised to remedy in the first place!
Nevertheless, the promise of
Modern architecture is alluring to those who wish to escape any reference to the
past, to bring forth ‘original’ works that have no precedent. These results can
be gained at no small expense however. The entire building industry favors the
status quo and is loathe to adopt new methods of construction unless there is an
overwhelming demand for the extraordinary. This seems unlikely to occur. The
most acceptable and reasonable expression of the modern movement in domestic
architecture is the ‘contemporary’ design, which has at its root traditional
precepts. This can never be true modern architecture however, and the
countless examples which have been produced are arguably full of the same
pastiche as the indiscriminate regurgitation of traditional forms.
But there are truly unique
possibilities in form when the mantle of tradition is abrogated. Modern
architecture’s corollary theorem is that a building should respond to its
environment. By this we mean that orientation to the micro and macro climate,
to topographics, to the natural landscape and views produces a design that
cannot be preconceived, but is of an organic result.
misunderstanding is that Classical architecture is pastiche.
But in the Quattro Libri of Palladio, no guidance is given as to size,
scale, materials and construction.
The architect cannot simply construct according to a formula;
creativity and resourcefulness are indispensable.
Frank Lloyd Wright used the term
organic as an integral element of his work. Whether an eccentric or part of the
forefront of the modern movement in this country, Wright believed the house
should be ‘of the hill’ rather than on it, that modern materials should be
employed in the clearest expression of our modern lives, that natural materials
– when worked by modern tooling methods – are sufficient to yield beauty. An
original spirit of Usonian architecture, our architecture, could be the only
result. Wright, though, was critical of the bland effect of modern work: “Thus
Modern-architecture is Organic-architecture deprived of a soul. Therefore
architecture is now so easy to grasp that any boy of three months’ experience
can practice it and appear with a dose of it on the front page of the local
newspaper…as the new “It.” The ‘plan factory’ now has shows in Art-Museums.”
Wright concluded that “…Modern architecture will become a poor, flat-faced thing
of steel bones, box-outlines, gas-pipe and handrail fittings, as sun-receptive
as a concrete sidewalk or a glass tank. Without romance the essential joy of
living as distignuished from pleasure is not alive.”
should look beyond the present.
I wanted to be modern and felt I didn’t need the crutch of the
past. Edward Niles
Assimilated by the modern
movement finally, Wright’s ideas melded with the mantra of ‘form follows
function’, the elimination of decorative frou-frou, the use of the most advanced
construction technique, in the search for an inimitable, wholly original work at
Only the sophisticated client
can recognize good modern work and equally good traditional work. It is an
education one must take up to grasp the nuances, to follow the historical
thread, to know the personalities, the protagonists, to recognize the signature
stamp. In this sense modern architecture is most extreme: the charge to produce
individual works that cannot be traced to other influences, either from
like-minded designers, but especially not from past styles. This can become
excruciatingly difficult. The challenge and expectations of this route are in
contrast with classicist principles, whose proponents are more eager to conform
to a set of precepts, canon, from which individuality becomes a study of
proportion and the modulation of basic elements.
The elements of the classicist
architect are earth materials (wood and masonry) in the form of columns, walls,
and the pitched roof, while the modernist architect presses the use of gravity
defying steel and concrete structure wrapped in bands of glass and seemingly
weightless curtain wall, absent a visible topping or roof in most instances.
The former attempts to build on traditional form, the latter to abandon it. One
evokes the past, the other attempts to express a boundless future. The first is
heavy and earth connected, the second pushes ephemerality. There has never been
a more distinct contrast in architectural form.
Thus architecture, the bias in home building, the
lodging tradition, is the hardest to reform.
Certain patterns of response have somehow been preserved from cave
days to the present. Mystically
inclined conservatives may revere them as quasi-sacred.
Each of us that build has to
search for the appropriate philosophical basis. There are pros and cons for
each approach. The moderns are in the minority as concerns domestic
architecture. In that respect, modern designs are considered more unique,
one-of-a-kind. They seem to be constructed by those who understand and
appreciate more the modern arts than those of the traditional schools. They
imply an elitism. When constructed on dramatic sites, especially in rural
areas, avant garde work has an inspiring effect on its inhabitants. The
interior layout and details are extraordinary. Typically wide expanses of
glass, floating roofs, completely non-traditional geometries and coloration, use
of materials, etc. combine to produce an unduplicable statement. The results
usually justify the increased expense and efforts.
"I say to our artists study your country’s
tastes and requirements, and make classic ground here for your art. Go not to
the old world for your examples. We have entered a new era in the history of
the world: it is our destiny to lead, not to be led. Our vast country is
before us and our motto excelsior."
Mills, ca. 1830
[below, Neutra’s Lovell
Most large American companies are run by managers who
preside over the status quo. They’re apt to live in traditional homes and be
interested in art from previous eras. But if one is an aggressive entrepreneur,
he’s drawn to new thoughts. And probably to contemporary art and architecture –
it’s innovative and energetic.
Eli Broad (Kaufman & Broad),
quoted in Fortune, Nov. 1998
There is without a doubt a sort of free-spirit mentality that supports the
creation of the true modern house. Let us differentiate here precisely what we
mean. As opposed to the contemporary house, which is usually an acceptable
structure of clean lines but hyphenated, as for example:
contemporary-Mediterranean, or contemporary-Colonial, Pueblo, Mountain, Valley,
Seaboard, Shingle, Victorian, etc. -- the modern house has a more intellectual
approach. It breaks cleanly from tradition, vernacular or otherwise. It is
much more abstract. It does not have recognizable forms; it is sufficiently
impersonal, and often-times unlike any domestic structure, lacking the
cues that typically define home: a gable roof, shutters, paneling,
ornamentation, some semblance of symmetry, conventional usage of stone or
brickwork, decorative ironwork, mullioned windows, etc.
“We don’t want you giving us anything like that
house you did for Winslow. I
don’t fancy sneaking down back streets to my morning train just to avoid
being laughed at.” New client admonishing Frank
Frank Lloyd Wright, p. 128
The truly modern house is
exuberantly defying the status quo at every turn. It could be properly
attributed to the nonconformist, the rebel. The modern home is about today and
tomorrow, not about yesteryear. It reflects the modern age, a modern society
that is pluralistic, that allows freedom of expression, free thinking, free
acting. Its roots no longer are important to its invocation. It can work with
nature or defy it. It is more sculptural as an overall form than traditional
architectural massing. It can curve and bend. It can jag. It can twist on its
axis. It can be anything. This is the new essence of modernism. The ability
to do anything one pleases. Who is there to criticize? After all, there are no
canons, no rules – only milestones to invent anew. As modern art broke the
rules of representation, so does modern architecture seek its own unique state.
Often, it is self-referential.
There is absolutely no context, no dialogue with the past or the present. It is
an intoxicating liberation of space. Materials, shapes and colors are selected
many times for whimsical reasons. Why not? Why not a blue concrete floor and a
contrasting corrugated metal wall? Why not insert a metaphysical gap in the
structural floor or wall? Stairs that go nowhere, hanging columns, corridors
that run askew, etc. are all characteristic elements of the avant garde. How
far are you willing to go?
Modernism can be
highly rational or can appear to be schizophrenic. There is usually a raison
d’être behind seemingly nonsensical geometries, albeit tortured at times. Its
most severe self-critique is exhibited by the Deconstructionists, who border on
avowed anarchy. Modernism is a reaction to a world that cannot have ideals, or
whose philosophies, ethics, morals, and religion have failed. Modernism is
highly individual. The statement it makes is extremely personal. It does not
represent anything except idiosyncrasy, takes no cues from precedent (except
when it is handled in a mannerist mode copying its own products), and in the end
is simply an artistic construct.
By being neutral almost or
a-historic, a modern domestic structure usually makes a sharp contrast to its
natural and built environment. Many deed-restricted subdivisions do not allow
such individual and eccentric behavior, thus the Owner is forced to find a rural
site. There, an abstraction of art becomes one spiritually with its
environment, not visually. If its materials are industrial, it finds no empathy
with natural stone or wood. But from within, the wide expanses of glass let in
nature as no traditional home can. Dramatic cantilevers perch over ravine or
body of water. Views are arranged for the benefit of the Owner, fenestration
does not conform to a canon that specifies what percentage of wall must balance
with opening. The plan is a natural layout of discrete functions that are
customized to the specific way of life of its inhabitants. There are no axis,
no enfilades. Symmetry occurs only if it responds to function.
Venice House (below), Antoine Predock
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