For award-winning architect and Delaware Antiques Show co-chair and keynote speaker
Gil Schafer, the measure of a house does not lie in the structure itself or in any particular
element of its design. Instead, he says 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 only 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: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New
American House (Rizzoli, October 2017), Schafer follows up his best-selling 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. Lush, full-color photographs (250) 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.
Part I of the two-part book, aptly titled “The Essentials,” outlines Schafer’s
architectural “toolkit”—both the concrete techniques he uses for every project and
the more emotional and intuitive elements he takes into consideration, the so-called
“lightning in a bottle” that fills his work with soul. Sections that 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—from the doors and
windows to fireplaces, mouldings, and hardware—are informative and enlightening.
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
(figs. 1–4) each with a 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 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 approachable. 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.
Readers will find themselves wandering the pages just as they might wander the
rooms, absorbing every detail and every anecdote.
Ultimately, the homes 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.”
Gil will be the keynote speaker at the 54th Annual Delaware Antiques Show, November
10–12, 2017, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware. His keynote
kicks the show off on November 10 at 10:00 am. For more information on the Delaware
Antiques Show or to purchase tickets, please visit winterthur.org/das.
Post by John Hanlon, assistant and marketing coordinator, G. P. Schafer Architect