Sometimes after seeing too many chichi, precious, and citified houses, too much shiny, overproduced design, and everything just starts to look too estranged from the materials it was made from, as an antidote I go look at pictures of handbuilt houses. People can dismiss these as “hippie houses,” but the evident Japanese, Scandinavian and other architectural influences actually ally these buildings with the traditional rural house as well as with modernism. There’s plenty of crossover between westcoast modernism and the handbuilt house or westcoast vernacular cabin. This bedroom’s use of textiles, the wool blanket on the patterned bedspread, the coarse but pleasing textures, the architecturally simple beams and trusses, the skylight and the generally abundant light, the sense that the trees outside are part of the room—maybe it’s because my favourite aunt lived in a house like this when I was growing up, but to me this room is beautiful. You can almost smell the perfume of the wood.
This photo is from a great book from 1972 titled Handmade Houses. There are also two relatively new books on handbuilt houses by Lloyd Kahn, who used to be the shelter editor for the Whole Earth Catalog and who has probably documented more of these Pacific coast structures than anyone. Later I’ll feature more examples of what I think are the most interesting of these buildings.