26 June 2010

Put me in a box on the plains

There is no shape so basic or so elegant as a right angle. There I said it. Compound angles give me vertigo and arcs make me break out in hives.

When I dream about dream houses, the dream houses always come back to basic shapes and of course that most basic of all, the right angle. I love minimalism. Real minimalism. I am up to my elbows in contemporary this and retro that all day every day and that's fine. I channel other peoples' sensibilities for a living. When it comes to mine however, I am most definitely in the school that says less is more. A lot less.

I came across this house on Trendir's Modern House Design site a couple of weeks ago and I keep going back to look at it.

All photography by Kai-Uwe Schulte-Brunert

I did a little sleuthing and the house is a private residence called Sulla Morella in Casina, in the Emilia-Romana Region of northern Italy. It was designed by Andrea Oliva and his studio Cittàarchitettura and I swear he designed it with me in mind.






Minimalism tells me a story of an uncluttered life where I can think clearly and concentrate fully on what ever it is I'm doing. Minimalism sets a tone for intellectual honesty and true relatedness to people and place. There's nowhere to hide in a minimal space and I mean that figuratively and literally. I think that's why some people react to it so negatively. I know that's haughty and inaccurate, I'm just being provocative.


What is it about this kind of real minimalism that just rubs some people raw? Some people can look at this box on a plain and swoon and some people can see the same box on the same plain and be repulsed. Why is that?

24 comments:

  1. I love it, Paul- just not enough to have it.

    It's been my experience over the years that people shy away from minimalism because to do it correctly will eliminate their ability to have "stuff". So many times I've said someone wanted "Ten pounds of sh*t in a one pound box." One can have all the luxuries desired in a minimalist surrounding, but that's not what most people are wanting.

    Because we are a nation of excess and not necessarily luxury excess, just junk, I think that minimalism is overlooked because in a weird, Hoarders sort of way... clutter is comfortable.

    Additionally, I think that some people(not me) see the pictures above and somehow think it's a couple axles, tires and trailer hitch short of being a mobile home.

    Just my sweet little country opinion! ;-)

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  2. And a valuable opinion at that. Thanks Nick, that's exactly what I was looking for. I agree with you although the last thing I get from that building is "double wide."

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  3. I dream of a minimalist farm house. I really want one one day. I learned first hand how much "stuff" one can really live without when all our belongings were in storage for 6 months after we moved. No TV, very few clothes, mattresses on the floor. I found it did not effect our happiness one bit.

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  4. It's a cliche but happiness really does start inside and work out from there.

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  5. For me, it's less about "stuff." I am an avid unclutterer. (You would never know it from my house, but I am.)

    For me, it's more about time. To live in the house above and to love it, I need to employ a full-time tidy-er and ALSO a full-time maid. A minor speck of dirt seems a blemish of abomination, sure to mock the entire home and its inhabitants. To me, that type of residence _must_ be immaculate to be inspiring and comfortable and relaxing and "aahhhh, I'm home". I would spend SO much time constantly cleaning and tidy-ing that house that I would never do anything else.

    A more traditional style is much more forgiving on the eye. A little bit of dirt can hide here and there for a few days. A little bit of clutter is not devastating. I feel like in my conventional, traditional house, I am ALWAYS tidying and cleaning. Sometimes I want to come home, put the groceries in the kitchen, and then sit down and put my feet up for a few minutes, you know? In the first house, I feel like I couldn't do that.

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  6. Rachele has the right (pun intended) of it. Minimalism is very high maintenance. I also think there is a big difference between living simply and minimalism. I have a very dear friend who lives with a man whose two homes are both Architectural Digest-ready minimalism in white with art to match. She's been injecting flowers and pillows since day one. His children are thrilled. And yes, Rachele, there is live-in help.

    As for why some people have an aversion to minimalism a couple of thoughts. A) It can appear "cold" if all the surfaces are hard B) It can appear "dangerous" if there is a predominance of sharp angles -- including your beloved right ones. C) If A and B apply, it can come off as "haughty" or "unwelcoming". That's where the flowers and pillows come in.

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  7. I'm a less is more gal - if I acquire something new I have to get rid of something old. I just feel lighter without the fluff 'n' stuff. This design is successful because the space on the left frames the landscape and those gray panels are like art on the exterior wall. Being situated in the middle of the country is intriguing, unexpected and fab.

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  8. Great to look at - but to live in? That would be hard, I'd be on edge the whole time. I just don't think minimalism is natural. Guess that means I'm just not evolved enough?

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  9. Oh, I thought Andrea had designed it with ME in mind! :)
    Sarah said she doesn't think minimalism is natural....and that's probably true for her and a lot of people. It's all about our personality types.
    I actually think it's what is completely natural for me.

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  10. Thanks for chiming in, all of you. Sarah, I know it comes off as being haughty and really, I don't mean it to be. I think a lot of the appeal of this sort of minimalism to me springs from the fact that I live alone and have no kids. I function better when my bed's made and I don't let mail accumulate on the kitchen table and a house such as this would make it easier to keep on top of myself over things like that. However, if I had kids I cannot imagine subjecting a five-year-old to an environment like this. The lack of stimulus borders on the cruel. But at 45, I look around my living room with its full-to-overflowing boookshelves and my contrasting accent walls and I think, there HAS to be a better way.

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  11. Well, I'm a girl that swoons at the sight of an arc and counts Palladio as a hero. I appreciate artistry of the house, however to live in? With no sign of warmth, patina, the touch of a human hand, I would find it sterile and less than inspiring.For me it looks more like a bunker than a home.

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  12. Thanks JoAnn. I love the feedback today on this house. I think it's fascinating that where I see clear thoughts and intellectual rigor, other people see an almost aggressive sterility. Human minds are the most amazing things.

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  13. Having two kids in my home (and a husband who is tantamount to a third), Rachele's comment is spot-on for me. I love, love Dwell magazine, but I can't help but snicker when I see the images of the hipster children in pristine, minimalist environs. Maybe I'm just a lazy parent who's not disciplined enough to raise a child that can live in and appreciate such settings, but I can't fathom raising my children in my "dream home" without a live-in therapist for all of us.

    Until the kids are off to college, I may get my fix by buying this dollhouse for myself http://www.brincadada.com/products/dollhouses/emerson-house

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  14. I'm in Jo Ann's camp. What rests my soul is the beauty of shape in arcs and curves and warmth and color.

    While I can appreciate minimalism, it's not something I could live in--I just find it too harsh. (And having been in few minimalist homes of concrete and glass, acoustically loud with all the hard surfaces.)

    Oh well. If we were all the same, it'd be a pretty boring world, wouldn't it?

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  15. That doll house is a riot! And yes Kelly, it would be a boring world indeed.

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  16. Actually Paul, I really thought this blog post was going to be about your LAST resting place. Literal me.

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  17. Hah! Actually, my last resting place will be as about a pound and a half of ashes scattered off the jetty in my beloved Pass-a-Grille Beach.

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  18. Food for thought since there has been so much talk about design this week: The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum is showing an exhibit called Design for the other 90%. National Geographic is also showing part of it in their headquarters in Washington. The website has some great links, pictures and discussion.

    http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/

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  19. Amy: Thanks for that reminder. I'd forgotten all about that expo. I need to get some of my New York pals over to the CH to check it out and report back.

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  20. I can appreciate the design of this home, but I am with the majority here, it would be hard to live in full time. I am just not that organized. My piles of research for projects and magazines scattered about would spoil the look. I do think this would be a good style for a vacation home. Restful and nothing to "clutter" the brain while I recuperate from life.

    That being said I think I would actually enjoy this home if it was built in a more pleasant setting where it became one with the landscape instead of looking like someone just plunked it down in a field. I have in mind something like Wright's Falling water or some of the homes built in Sedona that meld with the landscape. Of course those are not as Minimalist as this and maybe that is the point. Maybe its stark contrast to the landscape is the statement. Ohhh...way to heavy for a Sunday morning. Must turn off the brain!

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  21. I find the scale of it a bit inhuman (it's two-storey, I think). Secondly, it doesn't seem to spring from the landscape or reflect it in any way; rather, it is an imposition on it, like a shipping container that has fallen from the sky.
    Are you familiar with the work of Glenn Murcutt? He designs similar minimalist houses in Australia, but they are somehow better seated in the landscape and culture than this one. I think you'd love what he does. There are some pics at http://www.ozetecture.org/GM_exhibition/index.html but he doesn't appear to have his own website.

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  22. Chookie: Thanks! I'd never heard of Glenn Murcutt and I'm awfully glad I know about him now. He does some stunning work.

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  23. Sorry Paul, but I must agree with Chookie; 'like a shipping container that has fallen from the sky'. Upon first glance, that is exactly what it reminded me of.

    Prefer Philip Johnson's glass house. -Brenda-

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  24. Oh how you wound me! If shipping containers look like that I'll take two.

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