IF I ever get to design a house I will make sure it has two particular features.
It will face the direction necessary to ensure the winter sun floods into at least one room, and it will feature a collection of rounded French doors made from small panels of curved glass.
Catching the winter sun has always been on my wishlist, but I added the special doors today after visiting Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House For An Art Lover in Glasgow.
Mackintosh, who was born in Glasgow in 1868 and died 50 years later in London, is Scotland’s most famous architect and he designed a collection of buildings that rival those created by American Frank Lloyd Wright.
House for an Art Lover was actually built in 1987, almost 60 years after the architect’s death, when a Glasgow civil engineer took a plan Mackintosh had entered into a competition and turned it into bricks and mortar.
In 1901 Mackintosh entered a German-based competition to design a “grand residence for an art lover” with the condition set that “only genuinely original modern designs” would be considered.
Mackintosh’s original submission was disqualified because it was incompletely so he added three internal perspectives and resubmitted the entry but, by that time, the competition had closed so the Glasgow architect’s design couldn’t be officially considered.
But it seems the judges couldn’t see past his entry because no first prize was awarded and instead the Mackintosh plan toured the Continent alongside the designs that were given the second and third-place ribbons.
Glasgow engineer Graham Roxburgh was walking in Bellahouston Park, on the outskirts of Scotland’s biggest city, in the 1980s when it occurred to him the empty plot on a gentle rise would be the perfect place to finally build the property.
He set about raising the money and putting together a team of builders and tradespeople who could bring the design to life, and now House for an Art Lover is open for visitors to explore.
There is a cafe on the ground floor while the second level features a handful of rooms decorated with some of Mackintosh’s beautiful furniture and lights.
Guests are welcomed into a foyer before a long corridor opens to a large two-storey space with boxy art nouveau chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling and sliding doors that open to the dining room.
On the other side of the main hall are two more rooms, one a rectangle gallery and the other a small square sitting space, with the winter sun flooding in through the curved French doors that open to a compact veranda.
The living and dining rooms are handsome spaces, featuring dark wood panels on the walls and ceilings that give these areas a moody peacefulness, while the gallery and sitting room on the sunny side are all white which make them serene but comfortably bright.
It was easy to see the similarities between Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright as I was exploring the House for an Art Lover, with the same careful attention to the use of wood and placement of unique designer furniture.
There is another feature I would love to have in my own house — a staircase that leads from the centre of the living room to a stream right below the dwelling, just like the one at Wright’s Fallingwater in the American state of Pennsylvania, but I guess I would need a very particular block of land for that to work.