Friday, May 10, 2013

An inspiring lecture: Gil Schafer

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending one of those lectures which snaps you right back to life career-wise in a "oh, thats why I'm doing this" kind of way! Award winning architect and president of the ICAAGil Schafer spoke in Georgetown about his life, his work, and his book, The Great American House: Tradition for the way we live now.
Many of you are probably familiar with his work through the many national publications in which it has been featured as he works with many top name designers such as Miles Redd and Bunny Williams.  However, his work stands strong on its own and it was a pleasure to hear him speak of his childhood inspiration, his grandmother's country house in Georgia. Ever modest, Schafer is quick to speak on how a great house is 3 parts: Architecture, Decoration, and Landscape. He explained how these topics made his grandmother's house so special and in turn, he pays strict attention to them in each of his projects.
Schafer pointed out that he strives for dignity and comfort in his houses but not strict elegance (although one could argue they are also quite elegant just not in a 'fancy' way.) Hierarchy of spaces is important; so living and dining rooms will be detailed quite differently from family and breakfast rooms ( no bloated, oversized mcmansions here!). Like me, Schafer thinks of himself as an architect who thinks like a decorator. How will you live in a space? Is it comfortable, is there room for curtains, is it so contrived so that someone won't feel at home? Schafer believes decorators teach architects, if they listen, to loosen up.While he tries to give new houses a 'history' he warns one to be careful not to become too kitsch or slavish in its historical decoration: this is a modern time of course.   Schafer also stressed the importance of landscape in a project from the get go and not 5 years later when the  money is available.  He advises someone building a new house to plan on a fully developed landscape with a SMALLER house at first and then later put on an addition as needed.
Schafer practices in the classical language but is not a purist; he believes it's important to live in the current moment in a modern, comfortable way; not a museum (here here!).  His new houses are designed 1 or 2 rooms deep with traditional, proportionally sized rooms that aren't too big so that natural light is spread throughout the space. While his work contains much larger interior openings and windows than found in older houses he keeps the proportions the same so the buildings appear 'correct'. And most important to me during his poetic and inspiring lecture, he correctly used the words house and home; home was rarely uttered. Nails on a chalk board!
Images of Schafer's New York City apartment courtsey Gil Schafer.


Mark D. Ruffner said...

I wish I could have heard that lecture, but thanks all the more for the link to his book. Say, the bookcases in Gil Schafer's house remind me of YOUR apartment!

deana sidney said...

Well I love that caramelly, butterscotchy brown and his style and advice is all brilliant. It must have been a great lecture. His name rings a bell... must investigate.
Love it when someone reupholsters one's passions. Bravo to those who do.

Karen Albert said...

Stefan I am sure the lecture was very interesting and informative! Love Gil Schafer's style!

Art by Karena