Tag Archives: Architecture

A Closer Look: Historic Inspiration from the Met

One of my favorite places to look for inspiration is the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  They have much of their collection online, including everything from modern photographs to historic drawings.  I like to browse the historic drawings to inspire my own projects.  Take a look:

Design for Painted Ceiling Decoration

Design for a Room in the Etruscan or Pompeian style (Elevation)

Architectural Drawing for a Chapel

Framed Design for an Architectural Interior: Coffered Ceiling with Central Hexagonal Cartouche and Walls with Floral Ornament and Drapery.

Design for a Ceiling in Pompeian Style


Get some inspiration of your own at the Met Website.

– Robert



A Closer Look: Frank Lloyd Wright in the Southeast

When you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, his iconic midwest Prairie style probably comes to mind – homes with expansive eaves and horizontal lines that seem to extend toward the horizon.  But this sought-after architect designed many projects in other locations, including a few in our own backyard.

The following examples are within a day’s drive from Raleigh:

1. Auldbrass Plantation, Beaufort County, South Carolina.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed a complex of buildings including a main house, guest house, and stables for this plantation, originally established before the Civil War.  It is privately owned, but tours are occassionally offered.

2. Broad Margin, Greenville, South Carolina.  The only other building by Wright in South Carolina is this beautiful private residence, made from thick concrete walls and cypress wood.  Wright even designed the furniture for the home out of cypress.  The home was positioned on its wooded lot so it wouldn’t be seen from the road or neighboring properties.



2. Pope-Leighey House, Fairfax County, Virginia.  This is a prime example of what Wright called a “Usonian” home, defined as an affordable, modestly-scaled dwelling that responded to its surroundings.  Regular tours are offered, find out more here.

File:Pope-Leighey House - North east facade - HABS VA,30-FALCH,2-10.jpg

images 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7: library of congress

image 4: amazing sites

image 8: wikipedia

A Closer Look: Julius Shulman

You may not have heard of Julius Shulman, but I bet you’ve seen his photos.  Schulman (1910-2009) was the foremost architectural photographer of the 20th century, and was responsible for spreading the popularity of California modernism all over the world. 

Shulman lived in Los Angeles, and got his start when the architect Richard Neutra saw a photograph that Shulman had taken.   In the early 20th century, new ideas about architecture were spread mainly through images and publications.  Much like today, most people experienced design through photographs rather than personal experience.  At the forefront of architectural photography, Shulman shaped the way the rest of the world saw the newest buildings.

His unique way of composing photographs was true to modern aesthetics, and architects from around the world continued to seek his expertise until his death in 2009.  He was known for employing single-point persepective in his pictures; he held the camera horizontally so that all lines converged toward a vanishing point in the center of the frame. 

It may sound simple, but this trick allowed him to emphasize the clean lines, sweeping views, and dramatic perspectives inherent in modern buildings.   Tom Ford, famous Gucci designer,  once remarked that Shulman actually made buildings appear more beautiful than in real life. 

I highly recommend the 2008 movie Visual Acoustics, which chronicles the life and work of the photographer.  The film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman and features interviews with Frank Gehry and Tom Ford.  It also features numerous photographs and footage of modern landmarks – the next best thing to seeing these great buildings in person.  Here’s the trailer:

There is also a gigantic three book set on Shulman available from Taschen –  it’s defintely worth a look, though its price is equal to its heft!

I hope you’ll take a closer look and find that Julius Shulman has already influenced how you see the world.


image 1: New York Times

image 2: blogspot

image 3: fascina

image 4&5: design kultur

A Closer Look: The Farnsworth House

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, often called Mies – was one of the most important pioneers of modern architecture.  He began his career in Berlin, where he soon established a reputation as a talented and capable designer, despite lacking of a formal education.

In 1937, Mies reluctantly emigrated to Chicago, where he began a program of teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).  He became well-established in Chicago and designed many projects over his 31 year career there.  Many of his buildings, including the Federal Court Complex and Lakeshore Drive Apartments are still an important part of the city’s skyline.

But one of the most unusal projects that the architect undertook was a home for a physician named Dr. Edith Farnsworth.   Built in 1950-51, it is a one-room weekend retreat in a once-rural setting, located 55 miles southwest of Chicago.  The building consists of simple slabs of concrete supported by steel columns.  The entire perimeter of the home is made of plate glass that stretches from floor to ceiling. 

This building is simplicity at its best.  And it’s no surprise, considering Mies van der Rohe is sometimes credited with coining the phrase “Less is More.”   But the building’s simplicity belies the fact that it was actually very expensive, at a cost of $74,000 (that’s about $1 million in today’s dollars).

The main materials are wood cabinetry, travertine floors, steel structure, and silk curtains.  Inside, everything is simple, harmonious, and plain.  An ingenious in-floor radiant heating system even eliminates the need for air vents.

The home is open for public tours – and it’s definitely worth the trip. Check out the wesbite: http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/


image 1: http://projects.cbe.ab.ca/glendale/showcase/2011gr56/inquiry_karshproject.html

image 2: flickr

image 3: philobiodesign.blogspot.com

image 4: ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

image 5 & 6: picasaweb.google.com

A Closer Look: Carlo Scarpa

Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) is my favorite architect.  He was a master of timeless proportion and detail.  But he was also an inventor – creating works that are constantly surprising, and seem fresh even decades after his death.  It seems he never designed anything the same way twice.

His work was modern in style, but what made him unique among modernists was his reverence for traditional materials and crafsmanship.  Born in Venice, many of his projects are located there, and blend its history seamlessly with the present.

During his lifetime, Scarpa’s decorative style became a model for architects wishing to revive the use of craft and beautiful materials in their work.

I love his buildings for their beautiful forms.  Scarpa was a master of techtonic formsin his buildings, volumes and planes seem to constantly slip past one another, giving movement to the heaviest of materials.

I am also intrigued by the details he designed into every project – from masterfully-designed museum pedestals to careful juxtapositions of materials.

His masterpiece is the Brion Cemetery near Treviso, Italy.  This complex incorporates some of the best examples of his architecture and landscape design.

Scarpa’s work has a timeless beauty.  I hope you’ll take a closer look and see how it speaks to you.


image 1 &5: fakebuildings.blogspot.com

image 2: wvcarch64.wordpress.com

image 3 &4: flickr

image 5: brookegiannetti.typepad.com



A Closer Look: A Walking Tour of Philadelphia

While in Philadelphia for Light Fair International, Judy and I took a quick walking tour of Center City.  It’s amazing how many beautiful examples of architecture can be found just steps from the Convention Center located at 13th and Market.  You can do the whole circuit in about a half hour.

We began by walking west from the convention center to Broad Street, where we caught a glimpse of two of Philly’s most handsome buildings – the Masonic Temple (left) and City Hall (right).  Completed in 1901, City Hall is an excellent example of the Second Empire style.  It was Philadelphia’s tallest building until 1987, and it is still the tallest and largest all-masonry building in the world.

We also walked by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art building, designed by Frank Furness.  Built in the Vicotrian Gothic style, this building is a masteripiece of architectural ornament.

We also saw saw great examples of public artwork very close to City Hall, including impressive sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and Jacques Lipchitz.  The nearby Fabric Workshop and Museum houses cutting-edge contemporary art shows and is also worth a visit.

Our final stop was the PSFS building (now the Loews Hotel), built in 1932.  It is said to be the world’s first skycraper built in the International Style of Modernism.  Filled with fine examples of marble from around the world, Judy and I marveled at it’s beautiful interiors.  But one of the building’s custom Cartier clocks told us it was lunch time, so we descended to the first floor and ate lunch at the hotel’s restaurant – Sole Food.

Finally, we headed back to the Convention Center, which itself is an architectural landmark.  Originally the Reading Terminal Train Station, the building also houses many restaurants and food markets on the first floor.  It’s a great place to grab a quick lunch.


A Closer Look: The Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Design Lines Ltd. Robie House Frank Lloyd Wright Hyde Park Chicago

I used to live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.  One of the things I miss the most is passing by the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright.  While not as famous as Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, I love it just as much.  The elongated eaves seem to stretch out to the horizon, bringing to mind the expansiveness of the Midwest prairie.

Design Lines Ltd. Robie House Stained Glass Windows Frank Lloyd Wright

Like many of Wright’s masterpieces, the Robie house is full of  beautifully-executed details.  Even in black and white, this vintage photograph shows the stunning stained-glass windows located at the the home’s “prow.”

Design Lines Ltd. Robie House Gate Chicago Frank Lloyd Wright

Even the gate was designed to be completely integrated with the house.  In fact, it was Wright’s goal to completely design every aspect of his projects, and in that spirit he created everything from rugs to light fixtures. 

The Robie house is owned by the University of Chicago and is open to the public.  If you’re in the area, you should definitely stop by!


image 1 & 3: Chicago Concierge, image 2: Decor Hotline

Spring Inspiration: Kiawah Island



 These past several weeks every design blog you turn to is talking about the spring time. When I think of spring I am reminded immediately of Kiawah.  I seem to always be taken back by the authentic architecture and landscape.

Kiawah, Island is often called a hidden treasure. For those who don’t know about it, this little island in South Carolina, is filled with wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. There is no other place that is so surreal and yet the nature seems to be untouched. As a child I grew up vacationing on Kiawah. I even remember my first trip down to this island thirty minutes east from historic Charleston. Many years ago a current client of Design Lines at the time, had a place on the river and my family went down during the sumer to visit.

I remember the dolphins jumping and swimming in the river as we sat on the screen porch eating the freshly peeled shrimp for dinner, a glass of ice cold sweet tea and feeling the warm sun bake our tired bicycle worn bodies.

If you ever need a trip for some exterior inspiration head south on I- 95 and get off on I-26 E then to 17 and turn onto Bohicket Road. Your last stop will be – Kiawah. You can’t miss it.

cassique golf course

One of several golf club houses – this one is Cassique. Don’t you love that circle window in the front?


An aerial view of The Sanctuary, a five star hotel on Kiawah. It is the top luxurious hotel near Charleston and #1 Ranked Family Hotel in U.S. and Canada by Travel + Leisure Family. It is work it just to walk around the hotel and grab an ice cream cone in the candy shop. So delicious!

This hotel is so big in person.

Below are some pictures of some garden shots, Judy has taken in the past while vacationing at Kiawah.


 The lush shades of green. Its spring time!


 A natural landscape wouldn’t be the same without the palmetto tree.




 A place to sit and watch some birds in the garden.


 Bring some fresh lemonade and nice book to this bench.


In the mood for some chicken salad? Come on in. What do you think of the blue on the garage door?


 What puts you in the mood for spring? What is  your inspiration?


Images: Google, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Judy

Fortress Findings

My family and I recently went to Fort Macon near Atlantic Beach, NC – what a treat! I have been many times before – beginning in grade school. Now with 3 kids in tow – one of whom is enamored with the history of battlefields and forts – we seek such destinations.

This last trip revealed yet again the beautiful architecture that resides within the walls of the fort. Built from 1826-1834 and designed by an architect in nearby Beaufort, NC, Fort Macon has many features worth noting…

From the simple yet classic iron railings,

to the intricate brick barrel vaulted rooms,

to the sliced lumber entry pathways just beyond the moat that surround the Pentagon shaped fortress –

I found each detail to be representative of years of talent and labor that was tested by warfare and somehow survived ( with a little restoration effort). During your travels, I encourage everyone to pull the car into the next parking lot designated to accomodate an historical site – you are likely to discover not only a slice of our history but a quick study in architecture that not only served a purpose, but was a quality built structure reflective of it’s period.

Award Winning Interior Design | Raleigh, NC