Surely it's a contradiction in terms to lean toward making soft contemporary architectural statements by building traditionally conceived homes. If not a contradiction, then surely, it's an impossibility.
Geiger-Philips, Inc. in Wellfleet think not. In fact, that's not only what they aim to do, they feel that they do it, and quite successfully, too.
A tour down the backroads of Wellfleet, Truro, and Orleans confirms their unabashed claim. Phillips explains what he means by building soft contemporaries with a traditional flair. "A soft contemporary design is more natural, it's fluid, it fits into the environment, doesn't make hard statements. Our use of very traditional materials like cedar shingles and clapboards give our contemporary designs that very traditional feel."
When Geiger-Phillips complete the design phase, our building division takes over. The end results are homes which are architecturally innovative and pleasing and that complement their natural environment rather than conflict with it. The interiors offer functional, exciting living space, which translates into easy, relaxed lifestyles.
Phillips elaborates, "Long before we put pen to paper, we begin our site analysis. We visit the property several times, check out the views, try to get a feeling of how the house should be staked. We do our own topography and slope analysis and consider landscape design right from the start. We don't want the house to stand out. In fact, if a client comes to us with the attitude of wanting to build a grand statement, we say 'forget it.' We're not out to build monuments to great wealth."
One way to design traditional contemporaries with "exploded space" interiors is to create a series of three to four forms and shapes, "separate roofed editions connected by breezeways," explains Phillips. "The effect is reminiscent of the little oyster shacks that once dotted the Wellfleet shoreline." One Geiger-Phillips Wellfleet home illustrates the concept perfectly. The hilltop site suggested a rear approach. The owners wanted a big house - a big unobtrusive house. Geiger-Phillips solved the problem by creating three distinct buildings connected by bridges or glassed-in walkways. The interior is large and open - a total surprise considering the superb subtlety of the exterior.
Phillips re-emphasizes the firm's commitment to designing homes to complement the environment. "North Truro, for instance," explains the designer, "is a more naturalized environment with its beach grasses and dunes; it's a much more informal climate. Here we build a little more contemporary emphasizing a wide open feeling. We cut our houses right into the dunes, work them right into the landscape."
Take East Orleans to contrast. There's more of a village atmosphere with the more formal landscapes. Lawns... Phillips smiles. "We've never designed a house with a lawn in Truro." Continuing, he adds, "In East Orleans, we design more traditional house forms with front porches, attached barns, and more exterior detailing."
Phillips' approach to design is certainly contemporary but with an eye towards the past, an honest appreciation of what went before. Phillips contends, "we reinterpret the past, our houses are aesthetically pleasing, environmentally sensitive, and offer a particular type of lifestyle which is very appealing to our clients."
"There is also the low maintenance aspect of our homes, our use of natural materials - weathered shingles, stained trim - that appeals to many clients."
Geiger-Phillips has earned the Certified Green Professional (CGP) educational designation. Home owners and home buyers are looking for more green products and features in their homes. Many consumers are looking for a builder with real credentials in today's market; the CGP designation signifies our professional commitment to energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, and the use of sustainable products.
To effect sensitive architectural design is more than a skill, it's a fine art - a three-dimensional large-scale sculptural art. It's a responsibility. Geiger-Phillips take their art and their responsibility very seriously.