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Stand out while fitting in
Richard Blender and Michael Wilkinson
Wilkinson Blender Architecture
Remember high school? You tried to fit in, and your Members Only jacket proved it. Now you know that fitting in isn’t about following trends and acquiring status symbols. Granite countertops and soaring great rooms aren’t for everybody. Your house should fit you, your family, and your community. For a good fit, go to Richard Blender and Michael Wilkinson.
Blender and Wilkinson say that many of their clients are turned off by generic edifices that dwarf the older structures around them. “There’s a large group whose needs are not being met,” says Blender. Their clients want a modern urban house, an affordable alternative that uses space efficiently and fits on its lot with space left over to garden and play. “Small is the new big,” Wilkinson reports.
If you hire Wilkinson Blender (http://www.wbarch.com/), their first question will be, “How do you want to live?” They spend time with clients defining space requirements for different activities, figuring out what spaces need to be near others, and delving into the nuances of family life.
Their houses have included such idiosyncratic elements as a backyard amphitheatre, a rooftop garden that incorporates solar panels and wind turbines, and a flexible dining room that can accommodate anywhere from five to 20 people. Very few of their houses include formal living rooms. “A house should have no spaces that you don’t use,” says Blender. “A formal living room is often just a museum setup.”
Their houses show respect for the fabric of neighborhoods by fitting in with the structures around them. Where appropriate, Wilkinson and Blender preserve original façades while modernizing the interiors and backs of buildings. They respect their own neighborhood, too. They both live in Roscoe Village, where their office is located, and have worked pro bono on projects for neighborhood parks and also on the gateway structure for the annual Retro on Roscoe street fair.
|Glass doors frame the view of a park across the street from this Old Town home. Inside, the kitchen steps down into the dining room, which steps down to a living room with 14-foot ceilings. A bridge connects the main level of the house with a landscaped garden.|
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