Classic & Modern: Signature Styles
In a celebration of homes that are as distinctive as the people who commissioned them, architects Alan Barlis and Dennis Wedlick recast the dichotomy of “modern” and “classic” by showing that the two dovetail delightfully in the most successful and soulful homes.
June 2013—New York, NY—Some architects have a signature style that becomes the hallmark of all their projects. By contrast, Alan Barlis and Dennis Wedlick, partners in BarlisWedlick Architects, see their role as uncovering their clients’ own signature styles and then designing homes that bring them to life. In the upcoming hardcover book, Classic & Modern: Signature Styles, the authors explore 14 projects that each stand for a different signature style, revealing not only the expressive power of architecture but also the tastes and predilections of the households that commission them. With a foreword by noted architecture critic
As they guide the reader through gorgeous portfolios of these eclectic projects—which range from an Italianate country villa to a spare SoHo loft—the architects show that both classic and modern aesthetics, often considered to be opposed and even mutually exclusive, interact subtly in the most distinctive and beloved homes. The work in the book is organized into two portfolios: those that primarily reflect a classic style (Signature Classic) and those that are mostly modern (Signature Modern). But what is most interesting is how elements of one style add vital flair and functionality to projects more closely associated with the other, and how almost every homeowner’s signature style is an inimitable blend of the two.
“We believe that everyone has a signature style,” said Wedlick. “Our clients may not be able to articulate it when they first walk through the door, but it’s not long before we get a sense of how they want their home to look and feel—and, even more crucially, how they hope to live in it. When we show them our first sketches, they are often delighted to see their signature style reflected back at them; they recognize it even if they couldn’t describe it. For us there’s nothing better than that reaction: it tells us we’re on the right track.”
The projects in the book are also a testament to the extraordinary artists and designers with whom Barlis and Wedlick had the privilege to collaborate. They include the performance artist Marina Abramovic; interior designers Thad Hayes, Julia Doyle, Matthew White and Frank Webb; and landscape architect Margie Ruddick.
A tour of new work punctuated with iconic milestones
Each section of the book opens with an essay introducing its namesake signature style, pointing to significant projects that epitomize it. Part I, Signature Modern, starts with a discussion of the Wiley Residence in Connecticut, designed in 1956 by Modernist master Philip Johnson (who was also Wedlick’s early mentor and first employer). The authors write how the Wiley Residence represents the best of Modern style: “The comfort of bright, airy spaces; the delight of connectivity with nature; and the captivating beauty of the basic building blocks of architecture.”
The Wiley house is minimal, intentionally so, stripped of any picturesque details and the personal stamp of its owners. The modern houses in Classic & Modern strive to emulate the best of this style but incorporate the romantic, whimsical and yes, even traditional, flourishes that make a home an inseparable extension of those who live there. BarlisWedlick Architects’ client-centric approach places a premium on just this sort of detail. Projects in the Signature Modern section include a rural compound whose red steel-and-glass vaulted structures recall traditional barn buildings; a stone house with a stunning all-glass wall that set a national record for energy-efficiency; a sprawling Manhattan loft with elegant retro touches; and an artist’s serene country retreat.
Part II, Signature Classic, addresses styles that represent the period in which they were conceived; the best classic houses are as rooted in time as they are in place. The opening essay examines the Millford Plantation, which was built in South Carolina in 1840 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A pristine example of the Greek Revival style, Millford was the inspiration behind the River House profiled in the book. River House is a modern take on a classic style, as are all the houses featured in the Classic section of the book. Other projects include a rustic Cotswold-inspired artist studio and guesthouse; a charming home comprised of two traditional Saltbox structures joined at an angle by an airy conservatory; and a Hamptons getaway that blends classic Shingle style with East Asian architectural traditions in a decidedly modern way.
“In our practice we talk a lot about architectural styles initially as a way to gauge what resonates most profoundly with our clients,” said Barlis. “But once we start to understand the basic elements of their dream homes, it becomes all about their signature style and how we can best represent it in a beautiful, high-quality, and high-performing home.”