Making a House a Home
Gil Schafer III shares tips on creating homemade memories through design
Gil Schafer III is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary classical architecture. A member of Architectural Digest’s AD 100 and a winner of Veranda’s “Art of Design Award,” Schafer is also the author of the bestselling book “The Great American House” and the newly released “A Place to Call Home” ($49.50, Rizzoli Press), which showcases some of the homes he has worked on over the years that help their inhabitants celebrate the small moments of life.
“I lived all over the country as a boy, and in doing that I learned that different places in the country have different stories to tell,” Schafer says. “They’re shaped by the character of the land in those places, or the architecture, or the climate or the lifestyle.”
Schafer discusses why family is so important to good design, which Nashville architecture styles are his favorite, and why he loves coming to town every year for the Antiques & Garden Show.
Q. How do you incorporate “home” into the houses you work on?
Because every place is different and every client is different, how you define what is home to them is going to be unique to each job. At the same time, there are some commonalities. One of the things, to me, that makes a place feel like home is if you can connect to memory in some way. When we talk with clients about what makes a place feel like home to them, a lot of times it has to do with certain memories of places they grew up in, places they had special affection for or a connection to. And so we try to listen to that and then build those into the design in some way.
Q. Has your approach to creating a home changed over time?
It’s evolved. I think hopefully as a creative person, you are always growing and learning and evolving. As you get older, you accumulate more life experience that impacts how you design and informs how you design. So I think it’s a natural thing to have the way you work evolve because of that.
Q. What do you consider essential in any home?
Comfort. Places that are comfortable to be in, both as a large family group, but also just by yourself. Great natural light is really important. Good flow between spaces, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a wide-open plan with no walls. I think you can still have a traditional house with rooms that have their own distinct character and definition, but if you have good flow between them it can feel more contemporary in the way that we live now. And a great kitchen. I think a kitchen is so important now in a way that it wasn’t in older houses. There were some houses where people never went in the kitchen, but now it’s the nucleus of the way we live.
Gil Schafer III is the speaker for the Architecture and Classic Design lecture at the Antiques & Garden Show; he also serves as the honorary chairman for the event, which is Feb. 2-4, 2018.
Q. What do you have to have in your own home?
I have to have a great moldings usually. It has to be comfortable. It has to have great light. I’m not much of a cook, so kitchen has never been as important to me, but I have lots of friends who love to cook in my kitchen, so I guess in a way it has been important. It has to be beautiful in some way.
Q. Where do you recharge and find inspiration at home?
I have a particular home where I go to do that, way up the coast of Maine. It’s quiet, it’s right on the water and there’s beautiful light. I love being near the ocean, and the historic architecture in Maine is kind of wonderful. The way light plays off of it is really beautiful, and it has certainly inspired many painters. It’s easy to see why when you’re up there. Often you can’t get an internet connection, so it can be easy to unplug, whether you want to or not! I do that at the end of summer, and I really look forward to that every year.
Q. Is there an architectural style in Nashville that you would like to work with?
You have such beautiful homes in Nashville, and from different periods. From the ’20s and ’30s there are some really beautiful Southern Greek-Revival houses that I love, and it’s always fun to get the chance to work on those. You also have an earlier history, early 19th century. Some of the farm houses and the plantation houses, I love that architectural style that you find there in Middle Tennessee. We’re actually working on two houses in the countryside outside of Nashville. One down in Leiper’s Fork is very much inspired by the early Federal period in farm country.
Q. What are you most looking forward to at the Antiques & Garden Show?
I look forward to the show every year because of the variety I’m going to find there. I recommend it to anybody who’ll listen because I think it’s such a fun show. And I see dealers there every year that I’ve gotten to know. It’s a really wonderful thing, and it’s a great asset to Nashville that you have this amazing event every year. Plus they always get incredible speakers and really interesting people to talk about design. It’s a great place to shop, and Nashville gives a great party every year!