Editor’s Letter: The New Neighbors

How American homes are taking risks.

The old-fashioned, single-family American home no longer works for how we live. That’s one of the reasons we partnered with Norm Architects and ADU company Abodu to create the Dwell House, a 540-square-foot prefab home designed to be added to your backyard. It can be a rental unit, an in-law suite, an office, any of the spaces our homes need but can’t provide—as many of us have become acutely aware over the last few years.

Columbus, Indiana, resident Nick Slabaugh tasked Chicago architect Grant Gibson with creating a low-cost home on a small lot near the city’s downtown. Its design references local architectural landmarks. Gibson says the building’s "low profile with a bulging roof element" recalls Eero Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank, while the half-buried volume "is similar to Gunnar Birkerts’s Lincoln Elementary School." 

Columbus, Indiana, resident Nick Slabaugh tasked Chicago architect Grant Gibson with creating a low-cost home on a small lot near the city’s downtown. Its design references local architectural landmarks. Gibson says the building’s "low profile with a bulging roof element" recalls Eero Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank, while the half-buried volume "is similar to Gunnar Birkerts’s Lincoln Elementary School." 

Similarly, the homes in our annual American Design issue play with conventional situations in unexpected ways. A home in the ’burbs—maybe the epitome of American banality—gets an addition and a glossy green makeover worthy of its delightfully unusual interior. The house has polarized the Dwell team, and presumably the neighbors, more than anything we’ve published in recent memory.) In Indiana, a riff on a 20th-century ranch, designed to be affordable for a household earning the median U.S. income, brings a true starter home to the market rather than maximize the habitable square footage on its lot. And when a couple in California discovered the abandoned foundation of what was to be a ludicrously large mansion, they decided to buy it and move in. The adaptation turns excess into an expressive space that embodies its owners’ taste.

Inspired in part by the work of Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz, and wanting to preserve the sense of a ruin, they left the arched front windows frameless. "From the outside, they still look like open holes," Michael says.

Inspired in part by the work of Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz, and wanting to preserve the sense of a ruin, they left the arched front windows frameless. "From the outside, they still look like open holes," Michael says.

In addition to architecture, we check in on the state of American craft, starting with generations-strong communities building the future of their traditions—and making sure they stay in the control of the artisans. Six other creatives also invite us to their homes. We asked them to pick their ideal dinner party theme and set the table accordingly. The results range from the convivial (Matt Byrd’s Friendsgiving) to the conceptual (Jialun Xiong’s Grayscale Dinner for Two). Alongside these spreads, we offer our own selection of objects to fit each mood.

Jillian Knox and Elvis Santoyo’s San Francisco apartment embodies a maximalist exuberance, and many of their furnishings—like green wine glasses from Viand Vintae, napkin rings by Melina Kemph, and denim linens by Ubi Simpson of Mi Cocina—were created by people in their close-knit artist community or found at secondhand markets.

Jillian Knox and Elvis Santoyo’s San Francisco apartment embodies a maximalist exuberance, and many of their furnishings—like green wine glasses from Viand Vintae, napkin rings by Melina Kemph, and denim linens by Ubi Simpson of Mi Cocina—were created by people in their close-knit artist community or found at secondhand markets.

A sense of play and creativity runs through the entire issue. Though market forces—and it’s scary out there right now—tend to lead American houses to a lowest common design denominator, the homes here take risks. And they show that even the unremarkable spaces we’ve inherited are full of possibility.

Head back to the November/December 2022 issue homepage

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