We have in our library the ‘Arts & Architecture’ compendium, published by Taschen from 1945-1954. Beyond the obvious midcentury modern inspiration, these articles unveil an earnestness and prospective outlook toward living spaces. Check out this ‘Reunion House’ designed (and written) by Richard Neutra in November 1952. The program is for an empty-nester couple whose grandchildren may be deposited several times a year for limited terms of mutual enjoyment. According to Neutra, ‘grandchildren are more pleasant to grandparents than to their own fathers and mothers. But there is that other principle that old age can take youth and be mixed up with children only in measured doses.’
The house Neutra designed is modest in scale, keeping true to his notion that ‘the house shall not be too burdensomely large between avowedly intermittent visits.’ I like that. Too often we end up designing houses for the once-in-a-year occasion, outfitting kitchens with double ovens used only during Thanksgiving or guest suites that mostly sit empty. Even spaces that are less used must be dusted, air conditioned, situated on a site, and ultimately, paid for dearly.
So how did Neutra pull off this house that is ‘comfortably reduced in housekeeping area and as free as possible of unnecessary chores?’ First and foremost, the house contains a master bedroom suite and guest suite, and no more. The children’s room is situated near the kitchen, so this room could be used by the couple on a daily basis as an office or sitting room. ‘Guest services’ are adjacent to the garage entry, which is where I imagine the parents depositing kids’ bags, toys and gear, and then hightailing it right back out the garage door.
The kitchen and bathrooms are functional but small to help maintain a tidy lifestyle, but the living spaces breathe and expand to the outdoors. The enormous sliding door and breakfast room windows open toward the patio where the grandkids would probably be spending the most time. There’s almost no superfluous hall space, and the clever master suite / powder bath combo decreases the number of plumbing fixtures required. Furniture is fixed or generously spaced, so little people can run without disturbing order. It’s the ultimate efficient yet grand space. I love it!