What's good design? An architect's perspective
Creating a beautiful home takes a broad set of skills that not all of us possess. In the worst case of being left to our own devices, we could end up like Cary Grant’s 1948 movie character in Mr. Blandings’s derelict dream house.
But no one needs to go it alone. A good design professional knows how to listen to a client’s vision in order to bring it to life. To find out what’s involved, we chatted with three New Hampshire designers who are outstanding in their respective fields—architect Chris Williams, interior designer Ann Henderson and landscape architect Terrence Parker. We asked what they consider good design and how it affects our everyday lives.
Award-winning architect Chris Williams and his firm, Christopher P. Williams Architects in Meredith, have been building New Hampshire homes and buildings since 1984. Williams and his team have realized many dreams for clients and communities.
“Good design has a certain harmony within the building itself,” Williams says, “and within the site and within the context of the site.”
With his firm located in the Lakes Region, Williams understands the challenges of designing for iconic waterfronts. “We try to make any new landscape as natural as possible,” he says. “Ideally when we’re done, the house looks like it has always been there. Even the colors relate to the environment so that the structure recedes into the landscape.”
Light, Williams says, defines how you perceive buildings and how you feel the outside from inside the house. “The balance of light and shadow—and how they create texture and form, changing throughout the day—helps to define space and one’s place in it,” Williams says. He believes that light determines the design’s overall quality.
“With light, you also have the issue of ventilation,” Williams says. “Windows respond to the direction of the prevailing breeze and direct it like a sail through the building.”
For one lakeside camp restoration, Williams refitted hinged walls that opened the house to its large screened-in porch. Maintaining this historic feature ensured the continuation of the camp’s natural air conditioning.
For Williams, good design transcends style. His firm has done historical restorations; medieval Norwegian architecture; and Victorian, Shaker, Craftsman- and Shingle-Style buildings. “We design what our clients want, and we love working in all of those styles,” Williams says. “When we’ve done our job well, we’ve been able to really target a client’s outlook on life. It can make their whole life better.
“Really good design is comfortable,” he emphasizes. “It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it makes people feel at rest. Working with natural materials—local stone and wood—brings soul to a building and people feel that.”
At the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany (one of Williams’s projects), the meeting room feels spare and simple, yet it is beautifully complex. Post-and-beam construction creates a mosaic of airy geometric shapes. The color of the wood is a warm yellow, and heading up the room is a granite stone fireplace. “The staff tell me that couples visit and want to get married there,” Williams says, with a chuckle. “Now that’s powerful.”
Architect Chris Williams, of Christopher P. Williams Architects in Meredith, designed this house on a narrow point with a 330-degree panoramic view and utilized natural landscaping. The home won a silver Cornerstone award in 2011 from the New Hampshire Home Builders Association. Photography by Joesph St. Pierre