Home As Idea Lab: David Baker

Adventures in Urbanity

Every home is a kind of idea laboratory, though its experimental nature may only develop gradually — as dry rot in the master bath makes you (I mean me…) think about upgrading the tile backsplash, or when the refrigerator dies and prompts you (me again) to start shopping for a more energy-efficient model. But time and the desire to experiment, or at least improve, speeds up for an innovative architect like David Baker. Known for his award-winning, sustainably conceived communities  in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s now in the fourth home he has designed for himself. He’s in good company: Frank Lloyd Wright designed at least three for himself (though Taliesin East and West probably count as more than two) and ranch house popularizer Cliff May did five. I just toured David’s

latest home, a compact urban row house that preserves historical details on the  street front, and found it full of lessons for how to be as space- and resource-efficient as possible. Take the kitchen. It occupies one

wall of the main living-dining space on the second floor. There’s an extra-deep

stainless steel sink and drainboard unit; dishwasher drawers and refrigerator are under the counter; and one storage cabinet is on wheels so it can roll out to

double as a table when needed. The kitchen wall can be closed off with shoji

panels while still preserving access. The hide and seek aspect turns it into a kind of stage. And the suspended bike? David’s a cyclist so he uses the vertical space

in this lofty room for storage — I think of it as sculpture on pulleys. Other details

are equally inventive: niches in the shower/bathroom hold different sized soap and shampoo containers, even a vase. Rainwater — for use in

watering the garden — is collected from the roof in modular tanks called Rainwater HOGs. And there’s a 2.0 kilowatt solar photovoltaic collection array on the roof. Finally, the front door is sandblasted glass for

privacy but with a novel twist: it’s transparent at the bottom, adding a little surprise to the street — and reinforcing the idea that this a design with legs! (Photos courtesy David Baker Architect.)

 Hunting and Gathering

David’s house is a sort of three dimensional design library. Here are a few more ideas to add to your own reference section.

Dining alcove instead of a dining roomPlan 508-2, by Nicholas Lee.

Extended hearth for seating and display. Plan 496-17, by Leon Meyer.

Pass-through from kitchen to living area. Plan 454-12, by Sarah Susanka.

Soffit over windows as bookshelf. Plan 547-1, by Prairie Wind Architecture.

A famous line uttered by the pickpocket in the film Casablanca comes to mind: “Vultures, vultures — everywhere!” Design is the same — but in this case you are encouraged to make ideas your own.


2 responses to “Home As Idea Lab: David Baker

  1. J’aime vraiment votre blog, j’ai vraiment aimé cet article

  2. We need more two generational/family homes that accomodate elderly needs so baby boomers can take care of their parents in style while encouraging independence. So, walk out basements with level front walks from door to the mailbox, handicap accessible design built in for the main floor with boomers living in a walk out that is almost fully exposed / OR/ an l shaped home that accomodates general lot sizes with main ranch or two story home with breezeway/garage that attaches a two bedroom garden home syle plan. NO stairs for elderly. NO hallways in their home and wide or no hallways in main home for their visits. a bonus area above ranch or within two bedroom garden plan for accomodating live in health care.

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