PHOENIX-BASED ARCHITECT USES THE 10 PRAIRIEMOD PRINCIPLES TO MAKE HOUSE A HOME
Believing whole-heartedly in the PrairieMod Lifestyle, architect Colin Edward Slais recently finished a Do-It-Yourself whole-house remodel (nicknamed "Optimista") completely based on the 10 PrairieMod Principles. Colin contacted us and wanted to share some tips, advice, lessons, and ultimate joy with the project with other readers. If you’re looking for some inspiration and encouragement to live artfully in the Modern World, then learn more about Colin's life-changing and life-enhancing experience after the jump...
1. Consider the Cost
Because we bought our home in a challenging recession, we lowered costs by doing most of the work ourselves (occasionally with a handyman) and designing things simply enough for us to build – namely furniture. We used standard off-the-shelf materials like Birch plywood, Oak 1-by, and standard baseboard trim from our local building supply stores. Our design used easy-to-cut straight lines and screw connections. We painted, ordered accessories online, assembled, and installed everything in the house over a long time period to “nibble” away at the cost. Patience and time are your friends. Beauty and comfort are always worth it!
2. Form is Function
We designed each individual room to encourage our PrairieMod Lifestyle. Work, entertaining, relaxation, daily life, and play are supported by the furniture we chose or built, wall colors, fabrics, lighting, etc. Our Home Offices contain shelves, desks, drawers, seating, task lamps and area rugs all to suite our daily activities. Kitchen counters double as buffet areas or folding/work counters. Separate, twin Kitchen & Dining tables slide together forming 1 large table. We custom-built a TV console for A/V equipment. All of these things help make our lives more organized and less stressful. Architecture is always rooted in the functional.
3. Less Becomes More
Our own motto is, “Have what you need, need what you have, no more, no less, never a mess”. We literally gave away everything we owned to transition to a PrairieMod life, which allowed us to start from scratch. Thinking about what you need isn’t just relegated to utilitarian needs like a bed or chair. It goes beyond daily life to include thinking about how you wish to entertain, dine, read, relax, play games, cook, work on your computer, etc. “Less” became having only life-simplifying, life-enhancing things without the unnecessary clutter. Your environment becomes richer when you actually design your lifestyle with the things you need rather than filling every nook and cranny with what you don’t. We can park both cars in the garage!!
4. Useful and Beautiful
Frank Lloyd Wright said, “If you ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it…But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life”. This could be expressed by the beautiful wood grain in a useful night stand, or a custom glass-top coffee table with storage ottomans below. For our Kitchen, we custom-made a wood barstool for party guests or for my wife to use while researching recipes. Try thinking about how something you need can be artistic, unique, and creatively beautiful!
5. Informal Meets Elegant
My wife and I often comment on how civilized our home and lifestyle are. This is achieved not through rigid, symmetrical, Classical styling and details, but by a more relaxed, balanced, proportional, comfortable space appropriate for the human being (and a pet or two!). Elegance for us is in the beauty and rationality of how our home perfectly suites our lifestyle and graciously hosts our guests. A friendly, asymmetrical, casual, and inviting home supports a noble life for which conversation, laughter, and peace are designed. Every evening after work we listen to music with a good glass of wine and catch up on the days activities.
6. Integrate and Unify
When designing each room, we wanted a continuity to create a feeling of repose and integrity. This was achieved using a geometric design motif (a half-circle matching an existing Living Room window) and similar furniture materials and details throughout. Everything in the home becomes part of a “family”, including patterns, colors, shapes, and styles. We found that warmer colors and cleaner lines were easier to match. We stained the exposed concrete floors throughout to tie all the spaces together. This makes the overall home seem bigger and more flowing rather than compartmentalized. Piece should be to whole as whole is to piece.
7. Bring the Outside In
This principle was very important for a small townhome
because we don’t have broad vistas or large yards. To expand the space outwards
(and bring the outside in), we stained the concrete patios and terrace to match
the stained concrete floors inside. We also painted our window sills and some
accent walls to match the outdoor stucco color. We have small desert rocks
throughout the house that we picked up from hikes as well as gravel or river
rock in some corners and under a built-in window seat to match the outdoors. We
even placed a bookcase on a covered terrace to match the indoor bookcases.
Finally, plants really help connect the indoors to nature. Bring what typically
goes outside indoors, even wind chimes. It’s magical!
8. Think Natural
Our home is in the Desert Southwest, and is thus inspired by and connected to it. Exposed concrete floors were stained to resemble smaller rocks on hiking trails. The Living Room is an abstraction of being under a Palo Verde tree by painting the exposed wood beam and simple wood ceiling strips a “Palo Verde” green. We painted abstract sun colors on a high wall giving life to the room. Nature is the ultimate context in which all things are made. Wood is prominent in our house, and its expressive grain left visible by clear sealers. No carved fruit or lion heads in this house! We also found glass to be a good tabletop material for its inherent strength and transparency. It can also be cut to almost any shape if you provide a full-size template.
9. Go Green
Going green not only helps your bottom line, it simultaneously saves the planet. It’s a win-win, no-brainer to which we hope everyone takes advantage. We opted for the following economical “low-hanging fruit” methods that have lowered our utility bills: A) Low water-use plumbing. B) CFL/LED lighting. C) Insulate/seal around doors/windows. D) Ceiling Fans in many rooms. We also implemented our own recycling program for glass, plastics, and paper, and we support our local flora and fauna with sustainable irrigation methods and bird feeders.
10. Uniquely YouRemodeling, buying, or building a home allows for the opportunity of tailoring it specifically to you. What are your likes, interests, hobbies, habits, passions? Design for those and you will achieve a contentment and comfort you’ve never known before. My wife designs jewelry and loves animals, so we built her an office/studio by modifying IKEA furniture for a desk, dresser for storage, and floating shelves for display. We custom framed some posters and prints of her favorite animals. We also incorporated our own artwork through creating a painting together as well as framing many digital photos we took from trips and nights on the town. There is nothing generic about our home. We experience a personal joy and immense pride in living with all of our own hard work each day! We now could never live any other way but personally, integrally, and beautifully! pm
All photos courtesy of Colin Edward Slais
Colin Edward Slais is a Phoenix, Arizona-based architect and avid Frank Lloyd Wright fan working on various projects from medical/dental to commercial building and residential. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org