Can you have a crush on a place? If so, I've got one.
We are fortunate to have as friends the Toronto-raised, New Hampshire-based Boa family: Paul and Katherine and their friendly daughters, Marian and Emma. They are big-time fun people to be around and Paul happens to be one of the highly skilled craftsmen/builders of the acclaimed Loblolly House, by Kieran Timberlake Associates on Taylors Island, MD.
The Boas vacationed there this past week and invited us to come over for a day. My husband (also a Paul) had been there for the raising in October '06, and was excited not only to see his friend, but to see the finished result. The house has been recognized by Architectural Record, Inhabitat, and I'm sure a bunch of other professional press, but you get the picture. It is a remarkable piece of architecture on so many levels.
Much has been written about the green aspects of the house, its economic advantages and the impressive time and materials rewards of pre-fab construction. That's not my area of expertise. This story, from my perspective, is all about the feeling of the place. It's about how our surroundings can influence our outlook, alter our thinking. A physical environment can elevate or depress; it can inspire or deflate. Loblolly house in so many small measures, and also on a grand scale, does the former.
I was raised by very visually creative parents: a father with a rare talent in three-dimensional thinking and a mother who is well-known for her sartorial craft. In a time before Auto-Cad my Dad could interpret and detail some amazing residential solutions that drove continual demand for his work throughout his life. Both his, and my oh-so-talented Mom, have had an impact on my standards of aesthetics and design. So while I'm not an expert, my opinions are rooted in something inherant and substantive.
It's the marraige of site to design that makes the Loblolly House such a compelling second/vacation home. There was an overwhelming and immediate sense of relaxation on arrival. It is rare to say, but I actually enjoyed being in the second story living space to the outside. The bay facing glass walls retract entirely leaving an open expanse, seperated from the bay by only a screen and a few cables. The rooms are a part of the water and sky; there is no division.
The home, though modern, had a timeless quality. There was a pair of traditional green Wellies by the door and I imagined the owners returning home after trodding through the sea grass to relax with a strong drink and a good book in their Eames lounger. There was a spare quality to the finish materials -- birch plywood walls and ceiling, olive-stained bamboo floors -- basic and calming, but not entirely minimalist. Being there made me want to shed unnecessary things.
We enjoyed the company of Emily and Hans (another of the uber-talented building team) and their tiny, very alert newborn, Karl. We had the pleasure of meeting the project architect who was there for lunch and ongoing research, taking measurements of temperatures and the like. There was quite a bunch of us and though the house is smallish, there was not a hint of feeling crowded. It's a very sociable, usable, and practical space, with the outside becoming an additional social force; we did not turn our back to it.
As the sun began its slow decent over the Chesapeake Bay, the glow inside the house became warmer and softer, easing us so slowly into evening that we forgot it was getting late. Our children had played outside all day and needed to get home to thier beds.
We're back inside the beltway, fondly remembering of our brief visit on the Bay among the loblolly pines.