Friday, July 3, 2009

"Let Jon do his thing"

We are all guilty of it in one form or another. Making quick judgements based on first impressions is a fault of human nature. While I love the work of my favorite architect, Jon Pankratz, when he designed and built his own house, like so many times when we judge too quickly, I did not understand it. It was definitely not love at first sight for me.

It's not my house, though, and I am sure he really didn't care if I fell in love with his house! The house is home to Jon and his wife, Marilee, and to hear the story of how it came to be is endearing and fascinating.....AND like so many times in life, once you get to know someone or someplace, your perception can change dramatically.

I asked Jon to tell me about his house - how he chose the style and why it sits as it does on piers on the side of a hill. Here is how our conversation went:

Tell me about the site and how you chose to place the house as you did.

We sat on the site for three years (Mar in a hammock) and I slowly began to realize a structure that responded to the site conditions - I wanted it to sit on the ground like a butterfly sits on a flower - lightly - so the piers raising the floor off the ground did this for us - minimal site impact. The plan of the house was totally dictated by the site and how we chose to live in the spaces. The site slopes 16 feet from the front of the carport to the bottom earth under the deck/dining/living areas.

Why did you choose to design something so very contemporary, rather than a modern, yet still traditional house, like you design for clients?

Well, to tell you the truth, my lovely wife gave me full range on this one. Marilee tells a story that when our dear friend, Frank Welch, heard we were planning to build a house, he told her "Marilee, just let Jon do his own thing". I am truly a modernist at heart and had a great teacher in Frank. I love designing the others, but not like the ones I seldom get to do - MODERN. A big influence in my current practice is Glenn Murcutt, an Australian architect. He also touches the earth very lightly in his projects.

Note: If you want to know more about Jon's inspiration, do a Google search on Glenn Marcutt. I couldn't begin to do justice to this amazing architect. There is a ton of information that is so interesting!

Your furnishings are very minimal, but I know from visiting, very comfortable. Tell me about those woven chairs.

They are Aalto Pension chairs from the Dallas Design Center.

And the collection of art in the entry hall?

The collection on the wall is by Sam Gummelt from Dallas. The long vertical painting is also by Sam and the small work in the square black frame is by Geoffrey Lardiere.

Aalto Pension chairs and view of front door and entry hall

Small sitting area accessed by living room. There are benches on either side of the fireplace for a quiet spot to read or enjoy the view.

What about your sofa? You obviously chose with a very careful eye.

Our sofa is an Albert sectional leather sofa from Design Within Reach.

Talk to me about your inspiration for the kitchen and the materials used.

The cabinets are BC grade yellow pine plywood and the cabinet doors are MDF (medium density fiberboard) . The counter tops are concrete and the back splash is India slate. My inspiration was to meet a budget. All of these materials are inexpensive and give a great and different look.

What a peaceful bedroom with an incredible view of the hills and woods. What about this furniture?

The bed is from the Zola Collection at Design Within Reach. The floating side tables are by Rex White, an amazing craftsman here in Fredericksburg.

When I finished my conversation with Jon, I had a new perspective on his house. He designed from his heart, he built what he wanted to build, regardless of how conventional many are. He designed a unique home for himself and his sweet wife, and it fits them perfectly.

I must say, as much as I love all of my collections, textiles, art and books.......the list goes on - there is a tranquil feeling upon entering Jon and Marilee's home, and it is a welcome rest for the visitor. Their careful and focused choice of furnishings reflect their personalities. They have great taste and each piece is special and meaningful to them. I love their new house and all that I have learned about it! Thank you, Jon.

I did a little research on Glenn Murcutt and his design philosophy and work are fascinating. Here is an excerpt from the NY Times that I believe captures what Jon admires about this architect.

What all of Murcutt’s work shares is a conception of architecture as minimal intervention, yielding buildings so efficient, and so deft in their design, that they hardly feel like buildings at all, though they provide all the comforts of more conventional edifices. At their best, they’re as controlled and powerful as a sonnet: dozens of considerations seem to click neatly into place, yielding a single, surprisingly simple structure.

I love that. I think it describes the Pankratz home completely and only wish I had penned it myself!


  1. Ann, I just read your post about Jon and Marilee's home. What a lovely story. And your choice of subjects. You are really developing in this art. It is a joy to read.

  2. Great job of reporting and story telling! This is an architect I never knew about until now. Blogs can be wonderful this way, can't they? Introducing the world to under the radar people and things. Keep it up.

  3. Ann, I think how you see something, whether it's a house or a object or a person, changes when you here the whole story. It is really a great house, and is so very Texan on some level! Thanks for sharing.



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