The Architecture Critic

Separating Truth from Propaganda

  • What Makes Residential Architecture Extraordinary in the 21st Century?

    Eric Wynkoop
    Oct 4, '16 4:20 PM EST

    In 1952 Frank Wynkoop, a renowned school architect, decided to build his own Mid-Century dream out on the rocks on Carmel’s Scenic Drive.  Known worldwide as the ‘Butterfly House’, this residence was state of the art in its day.  Frank was my grandfather, and today I continue his legacy as a designer here in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  If Frank’s home was mid-century perfection in 1952, then what does the perfect home look like for today?  Where does one begin?  What elements and concepts should be considered? Every designer formulates his or her own design criteria based upon experience, talent, education, vision, inspiration and ability. My top 15 are:


    Siting: It all begins with the way you situate the home on the property. Just as the Butterfly House appears to have been born on those rocks, your new home should rise organically from your conditions, with close attention to the forces of nature present. 


    The Approach: The yard and its first impression should reflect the reality or our arid climate, with color and smells that delight walkers and birds alike.


    Size Appropriately: The size of your home should reflect your taste, education, breeding, and intellect, but not your wallet. A home larger than you need, is not a sustainable practice, but if done, should be spectacular without duplicated details and redundant rooflines.


    Simplicity of Design: The Ultimate luxury, as with the Chanel’s ‘little black dress’, is simplicity. Great, lasting design is very well expressed by keeping things contingent on what's needed, wanted and necessary. And, eliminating everything else. Too much of a good thing is, well... BAD!


    The Front Facade: A 21st century home is a part of the community where it lives, it is not a refugee, or an alien thing with its back to its neighbors.  It welcomes the visitor with glass facing the street, and a fine entry door worthy of a dignitary.


    The Front Door: A home gets one chance to welcome a guest, and it should be anything but ordinary. The front door is your opportunity to set the stage of expectations. It should be at least 42 inches wide, perhaps over 8 feet tall and possibly on a pivot.

    The Foyer:  A place to stop and acclimate to a home. A warm place that welcomes you, but does not necessarily allow for a full view of what’s to come. If there is an amazing ocean view, then yes. But, if the view is your amazing interior, then surprise is better served.


    Human Scale: Size the spaces inside to human proportions. As people we feel much more apt to hang out in a room which envelops us, rather than a cavern that swallows us. If you want your house to feel like a home, size it for people and how we live.


    Honest Materials: Inside the materials are real, true and authentic. No plastic, no carpet, and no veneers.  What you see is what you get.  Quality of design and materials, even in small quantities, trumps the gross excess of applied ‘stuff’.


    Natural Ventilation: We live in a time when indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air pollution.  Access to fresh air is the goal, and the ability to illuminate naturally while cross ventilating effectively.  Operable windows are a must!  And, the more the better.  Light, which is transmitted through glazed fenestration, delights the senses and lifts even the darkest spirits.


    Stairways: If there are stairs, they should be focal points. Works of thoughtful contemplation; Art, sculpture and passage.


    The Great Room: Living, Dining and Kitchen unified, as one homogeneous indoor retreat is an absolute must.  Regardless if you entertain like Auntie Mame, or have a family of twelve (all, sadly, living with you) the usefulness of a singular soul of a home is beyond reproach.


    Inside Out: With the Butterfly house, the inside is married to the outside. You feel one with the sea in the living room, and on the interior every room faces a central courtyard. This is still the optimal living design.


    The Roof: Often overlooked and treated as an afterthought, the roofline is critical to finishing a place. Great roofs, like the swooping butterfly style on Frank’s 1952 home, are not unlike the hats of the 1950’s. It tops off a good design. It should flow, it should complete the work, it should define the design style, and it should protect the home from the unwanted…


    Finally, find a ‘Master Builder’.  In Europe architects are still master builders and thereby oversee all of the design elements of a home/ project. In America Frank Lloyd Wright was one of our last, even designing furnishings. This method allows the entire project to speak one language, from the street to the back wall of your lot.  Landscape, structure and interiors, should all embrace and unify a singular vision of beauty, artistry and love.



    Eric Wynkoop is a 3rd generation residential and commercial designer with master of architecture degree. He can be reached at, or at his design studio at Lincoln off 8th in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

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  • Driving Profits Through Architecture

    Eric Wynkoop
    Jun 3, '16 1:17 PM EST

    Driving Profits Through Architecture In the late 20th century corporate leadership elevated the human resource department to a corporate leadership level.  Intuitively realizing the vast profit center that exists in human potential. HR was the answer in how to engage employees at a visceral... View full entry

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About this Blog

As a recent master of architecture graduate, and a designer with 11 years of professional experience, I have many ideas about what great design is. I like starting conversations about what I see and others can agree or contribute their opinions.

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