Having lived on both sides of the Atlantic, twenty-nine years in Europe and twenty-nine years in the USA, I can assure you there is a huge difference in architectural styles on the two continents. I was impressed when I moved to Switzerland in 1990. The solidity of the construction was far beyond the wood frame and sheetrock culture in which I grew up. Europeans still build their internal walls with brick or block, and at the very least with solid plaster walls about 4’’ thick. With great ease, they sink electric and other services into these walls, which provide a huge acoustic and living comfort over a wooden frame with 1/2’’ sheetrock on it.
Once a European shell is built, it is usually fit out with sleek doors and staircases. These are objects which blend into the structure and offer a good shot at timelessness, as we know the houses will last several hundred years – many generations of people using the same space. The first European doors I noticed were called ‘slim line’ steel frames. They were a predecessor to frameless doors in a way, as their entire aesthetic was a thin exposed line around the door leaf. Frameless doors evolved and reversed that concept, with the exposed line becoming a thin gap and nothing else.
In the USA, the doors are often ornate, paneled expressions of colonial times, and then complimented with the ever popular ‘reveals’ which add additional ornateness to the already busy door. This obsession with excess detail is almost nauseating to minimalists like myself, as it creates an environment where no peace can be found and horizontal lines of emphasis in the architecture are practically non-existent. Our clients in Europe normally define one door type per residential or commercial unit. In the USA, they tend to mix the whole thing up with a bit of this, some of that, add some glass doors, a few frameless, and maybe some 8′, some 7′ and some bi-fold. It usually results in a predetermined lack of minimalism.
Messiness is trending. A client recently told me he was paying $20k to have ‘reveals’ put around all the doors and along the baseboard of his new modern residence. He was also interested in our frameless doors. The apparent lack of logic in this combination did not register with the client. I spend a lot of time wondering where he got the idea to put ‘reveals’ around doors. Does it come from the time when crown molding against the ceiling was fashionable? Or perhaps from the time we put fake wood on the sides of our station wagons and framed it to look like a door frame? Adding more detail to walls can serve no logical purpose, which is why I am totally perplexed by this trend.
Every designer has their personal style, so my respect to everyone for building their own sense of beauty.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication – Leonardo da Vinci
New York, 23 November 2019
With more than 20 years of experience in developing minimalist stairs and doors for projects across Europe and North America, we’ve seen quite a lot. The basic fact that it does not cost more to design something aesthetically will always hold true. Value is not only the purchase price of something, but the intrinsic value of experience with that object.
We will explore this and other topics connecting minimalism, investment, construction and aesthetics in this new blog.
LOVER’S OBJECT – My first love of architecture, Nov 10 2019