The Sugimoto house was made in the 18th century. But it looks like it could have been constructed yesterday. The open, modular space. The duality of functions in a room… In the west this idea would first be introduced by the early modernist architects like Frank Loyd Wright and Gerrit Rietveld.
Our own house
Sandra and I live in a 40m² (around 430 square feet) house. Even though it is small, Sandra and I try to combine as many functions we can. Instead of centered around a big television screen, our living room has a table on which we can work. All furniture is chosen to be easily movable, so we can convert the space to our needs. It doubles as a library, art studio, office, tailor shop, micro brewery, bakery, study, cinema and sometimes even a radio studio.
Because it’s small, we have to be creative with the space we use. An architect like Rietveld has been a great source of inspiration. Looking at the space within, instead of the mass of the building.
Over the years people often asked why we don’t move to a bigger dwelling. The reason is simple: we don’t need a larger house. Sometimes an extra room would come in handy. But on the other hand this house gives us the opportunity to keep our carbon footprint small. It doesn’t require a lot of gas to heat the two rooms we have.
I like the tiny house movement, but the size of the trailer dwellings is just too small for all our projects and hobbies. Also going completely off-grid is virtually impossible here in the Netherlands.
Head and hands
Cicero once wrote that “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” And though I like gardens, I would like to change it a bit. “If I have an atelier and a library, I have everything I need.” It’s what keeps me going. The balance between head and hands. My work is always a symbiosis between both sides. And I need both elements to keep me going. One can’t go without the other. Without the desire for knowledge and intellectual exploration I get bored out of my skull. But without the practical side in the workshop the knowledge just remains theory.
In the past I tried to approach both ways individually, just like public opinion demands. To only work with my head, or only with my hands. But in both cases the other suffered, it drained my energy and ultimately destroyed the path I was on. The only conclusion we can draw is that going back to such a situation is not an option.
Don’t judge a house by its size or the looks/gadgets it holds. It’s far more important that you feel ‘at home’. And that you can be yourself and LIVE in your house. Sandra and I are busy bees, so we need a house that accommodates that. The houses in both movies are built for people to live in, not as conceptual architecture. Rietveld made the house for Truus Schröder, who lived there from 1925 until she died in 1985. In the few interviews she gave she always mentions how much she loves to live in her house. Even Rietveld himself lived there in the last years of his life.
To me these houses are a source of inspiration, showing that we can change the ways we work and live. Find alternative solutions and never stop being creative…