In this new project for the Huffington Post, I will be examining photographically the inner sanctums of architects. Seeing as how our entire life and experience in the world is shaped by the structures that create our homes and cities, I was curious as to how the designers of the built world choose to create their own interior space. Would I find fabulously minimal and bizarre homes indicative of the latest trends in sustainability and design? Or would I find the opposite -- something comfortable and messy, more relevant to how the inner workings of a creative mind are made manifest in the physical world?
For the first in this series, I have turned my lens to Thomas Warnke of Space4A architecture. He, like myself, has made himself home in the slightly odd but beautiful waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn -- a place somewhat secluded yet a stone's throw away from downtown Manhattan. Thomas renovated a turn-of-the- (20th) century carriage house, transforming it into a comfortable modern dwelling that is as bright and sleek as it is cozy and respectful to its original appearance. Besides the beauty and simplicity of the architecture within, there were interesting and unusual objects everywhere I turned -- an old rusty hook, faded snapshots in a motley assortment of frames, stacked logs, a pair of recently acquired wrought iron end-pieces from an old bench.
I asked Thomas a few questions about how he got into architecture and what it was like to be his own client:
When did you study architecture and what are some of your design principles?
I started studying architecture in 1988 in Hamburg, Germany, and after working with a small firm I came to New York in 1999 with a grant for post-graduate studies at Parsons School of Design. I began working on my own projects full time in 2007. To me each project is a response to the unique conditions of the site combined with the results of a dialog with the client. I favor concepts with strong ideas that drive the design and run throughout the project.
Are you your own worst client?
No, I enjoy being my own client; in fact I started to shift my firm in this direction by getting involved with the development of projects -- the first one has been under construction for 7 months now and so far it has been a pleasant experience. The main difference is that you as the client have to set priorities and decide where to spend money.
What freedoms do you exercise in the design of your own living space as opposed to a client's? Conversely, how have past projects for clients influenced how you see your own home?
The main freedom is that there is no need to compromise mostly in regards to design decisions. I believe, though, that the dialog with the client is an important aspect of a project and most of the time makes the project stronger as the dialog often serves as an inspiration. In my own project I created this dialog by getting reviews from friends and mostly from my former girlfriend. I believe that with each project you continue to learn, so each project informs the next one. There are definitely elements and insights of past projects for clients reflected in my house but more on a subconscious level.
Is your home a good example of your design principles?
Yes; I try to create projects where simplicity and functionality are combined with complexity or an element of surprise. It is important to me that spaces are fluid and melt into each other and I like to experience objects and volumes in space. I also try to create spaces where the separation between inside and outside is not clearly defined; in my house I used a slide and fold glass system and a continuous concrete floor to extend the living room to the outside terrace. I also like to emphasis directions and try to enforce horizontality by the use of certain details that normally re-occur throughout a project.