Interview: William T. Baker Discusses Luxury, Design & His Latest Book
Now that book signings & festive celebrations for the launch of Great American Homes Volume III are in full swing, it's time to go behind-the-scenes with the author to learn more about these remarkable homes. Below, enjoy an interview with Mr. Baker where he reveals more about what makes these homes special as well as what trends he's seeing among his private clientele.
Tell us what excites you most about the release of Great American Homes Volume III.
Having the opportunity to design families' dream homes is such a privilege! I am excited to share some of these incredible homes with the public. These homes represent the finest in both comfortable living as well as residential architecture that will stand the test of time. The reader will find that the book is illustrated with the floor plan for each home as well as the landscape plan. Together with the interior photographs, a reader can form a good impression of the total project. A careful study of the plans will reveal the continuing evolution of the American house plan.
What project within the book do you feel will surprise readers & fans the most?
One of the hallmarks of my firm's work is that we are adept at designing homes in a number of vernacular styles. While some firms have a single trademark look, we pride ourselves in being able to "speak" many architectural languages. The readers will find a wide variety of homes from grand estates to more simple shake style homes.
Why is that? What makes that residence stand out from the others? A departure in style? An unusual location?
One of the reasons people love to follow my work is that there is an careful handling of the architectural scale and proportions. The details are thoughtfully considered and executed. Our houses definitely set high standard for their communities and become cherished architectural treasures in the years ahead.
Our expectations of “home” evolve over time. What changes are you seeing lately in terms of features your clients are requesting in their homes?
The trend toward more casual living is continuing to the point that we are seeing the formal dining room evolving into a more open room located toward the rear of the house rather than being located on the front as is traditionally the case. We are also seeing the wine function moving upstairs from he basement so that it is now a feature wall in the butler's pantry or even the dining room itself. Master closets continue to expand and the in the master bath we are receiving see requests for his and her toilet compartments or even his and her baths.
For busy professionals, we often hear of the need for a separate exit from the master suite so the person with an early schedule can exit without disturbing their sleeping partner. We are also seeing an amazing number of requests for indoor sport courts. These require 20' ceilings and are usually located below ground so they are major structures.
Your ability to personalize your projects to accommodate the unique collections or preferences of your clients has always impressed me. From statement-making leaded glass windows to antique French paneled walls, I love seeing spaces with treasured art pieces infused into the architecture of the home. Is there an aspect of a project featured in Great American Homes III that stands out for your creative collaboration efforts with the owners? Tell us about that project.
The cover house certainly comes to mind as that was a wonderful collaboration between myself and the owner. The inspiration was a house in France that the owner knew and thus began a journey to create a limestone clad house with overtones from the original. The floor plan was designed around a major acquisition of a stained glass window for the paneled library. The axis of the central hallway allows the window to be seen from the owner's chair in the dining room. Furthermore, the great room is double height and we broke up the volume with banding and paneling that gives the room scale.
These large rooms often feel cavernous but with the architecture of the paneled walls, this room feels comfortable whether its two or two hundred people using it. Lastly, we wanted the family room off the kitchen to have dramatic architecture so we designed it with a coffer barrel ceiling. It took the trim carpenters weeks to build it out! But as the reader will see, the effect is wonderful.
And finally, what can we expect next from William T. Baker & Associates?
Most people think of me as a designer of grand estates. But I have designed a number of resort homes at various coastal resorts, lakes, and mountain retreats. I think it would be fun to create a book featuring some of these amazing homes from around the country.