A Place to Call Home: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New American House
For award-winning architect Gil Schafer, the most successful houses are the ones that celebrate the small moments of life—houses with timeless charm that are imbued with memory and anchored in a distinct sense of place. Essentially, Schafer believes a house is truly successful when the people who live there consider it home. It’s this belief—and Schafer’s rare ability to translate his clients’ deeply personal visions of how they want to live into a physical home that reflects those dreams—that has established him as one of the most sought-after, highly-regarded architects of our time.
In his new book, A Place to Call Home Schafer follows up his bestselling The Great American House, by pulling the curtain back on his distinctive approach, sharing his process (complete with unexpected, accessible ideas readers can work into their own projects) and taking readers on a detailed tour of seven beautifully realized houses in a range of styles located around the country—each in a unique place, and each with a character all its own. 250 lush, full color photographs of these seven houses and other never-before-seen projects, including exterior, interior, and landscape details, invite readers into Schafer’s world of comfortable classicism.
Opening with memories of the childhood homes and experiences that have shaped Schafer’s own history, A Place to Call Home gives the reader the sense that for Schafer, architecture is not just a career but a way of life, a calling. He describes how the many varied houses of his youth were informed as much by their style as by their sense of place, and how these experiences of home informed his idea of classicism as a set of values that he applies to many different kinds of architecture in places as varied as the ones he grew up in. Because while Schafer is absolutely a classical architect, he is in fact a modern traditionalist, and A Place to Call Home showcases how he effortlessly interprets traditional principles for a multiplicity of architectural styles within contemporary ways of living.
Sections in Part I include the delicate balance of modern and traditional aesthetics, the juxtaposition of fancy and simple, and the details that make each project special and livable. Schafer also delves into what he refers to as “the spaces in between,” those often overlooked spaces like closets, mudrooms, and laundry rooms, explaining their underappreciated value in the broader context of a home. Part of Schafer’s skill lies in the way he gives the minutiae of a project as much attention as the grand aesthetic gestures, and ultimately, it’s this combination that brings his homes to life.
Part II of the book is the story of seven houses and the places they inhabit—each with a completely different character and soul: a charming cottage completely rebuilt into a casual but gracious house for a young family in bucolic Mill Valley, California; a reconstructed historic 1930s Colonial house and gardens set in lush woodlands in Connecticut; a new, Adirondack camp-inspired house for an active family perched on the edge of Lake Placid with stunning views of nearby Whiteface Mountain; an elegant but family-friendly Fifth Avenue apartment with a panoramic view of Central Park; a new timber frame and stone barn situated to take advantage of the summer sun on a lovely, rambling property in New England; a new residence and outbuildings on a 6,000 acre hunting preserve in Georgia, inspired by the historic 1920s and 1930s hunting plantation houses in the region; and Schafer’s own, deeply personal, newly-renovated and surprisingly modern house located just a few feet from the Atlantic Ocean in coastal Maine. In Schafer’s hands, the stories of these houses are irresistibly readable. He guides the reader through each of the design decisions, sharing anecdotes about the process and fascinating historical background and contextual influences of the settings. Ultimately, the houses featured in A Place to Call Home are more than just beautiful buildings in beautiful places. In each of them, Schafer has created a dialogue between past and present, a personalized world that people can inhabit gracefully, in sync with their own notions of home. Because, as Schafer writes in the book, he designs houses “not for an architect’s ego, but [for] the beauty of life, the joys of family, and, not least, a heartfelt celebration of place.”