“Charles Rennie and Margaret McDonald Mackintosh were a significant part of my history of architecture classes. Their work resonated with me for reasons I couldn’t identify at the time. I now know it was the combination of the Scottish vernacular with the emerging arts and crafts modernism. For me, that’s Regional Modernism: modern design based on historic forms and materials that reflect a region. It is design for the needs of people as individuals who want to live in art as they see it, rather than a one-size-fits-all machine.”  Steve Chambers, AIA

This home is sited on a trapezoidal lot on its own ‘modernist island’ in a traditional urban Dallas neighborhood. The home’s design was inspired by the restraint and economy of modernist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an early 20th century Scottish architect, designer, water colorist, and artist. His work, alongside that of his wife, Margaret Macdonald, had an influence on European design movements, particularly Art Nouveau. He was born in Glasgow and attended the Glasgow School of Art, where he met his wife and design partner. Margaret Macdonald is credited with the “Glasgow Style” in the Art Nouveau movement. Though history has marginalized her, Charles said, “Remember, you are half if not three-quarters in all my architectural work.” And reportedly “Margaret has genius, I have only talent.”

Mackintosh was fascinated with 20th century Japanese art (Japonisme) because of its: simplicity and minimalism rather than ostentatious accumulation; its honest forms and natural materials; and its use of texture, light, and shadow rather than pattern and ornament. In European and Western style design, furniture was used to display the wealth of its owner. The value of the piece was established by the length of time a craftsman spent on its creation. In Japanese arts, design focused on the quality of the space and its ability to evoke calm on the interior.

At the same time a new philosophy concerned with creating functional and practical design was also emerging throughout Europe: “the modernist idea” of arts and crafts. The main concept of this movement was to develop innovation and new technologies. Design was concerned with the present and the future, rather than with history and tradition. Heavy ornamentation and inherited styles were discarded.

Even though Mackintosh is credited as the pioneer of Modernism, his designs were far removed from the stark utilitarianism of the movement. His concern was to build around the needs of people as individuals, rather than part of the masses. He recognized that some people wanted to live in a work of art, rather than inside a machine. Mackintosh took his inspiration from his Scottish upbringing and blended it with the flourish of Art Nouveau and the simplicity of Japanese forms. His elegant blending of these aesthetics enrich our vocabulary of design today.

Digital Animation of Dallas house inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh