Gil Schafer: Designing Timeless Homes with a Contemporary Twist

Introduction Renowned New York architect Gil Schafer III has gained fame for his ability to create elegant and comfortable houses that seamlessly blend classical design with the modern needs and lifestyles of his clients. But...


Renowned New York architect Gil Schafer III has gained fame for his ability to create elegant and comfortable houses that seamlessly blend classical design with the modern needs and lifestyles of his clients. But what sets Schafer apart is his deep appreciation for the significance of a home's connection to its surroundings and the memories it holds. In his latest book, A Place to Call Home: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New American House, Schafer explores the fundamental role of place in the concept of home. Let's dive into some of Schafer's remarkable projects and gain insight into his unique approach to architecture.

A Perfect Harmony of Past and Present

Mill Valley Cottage: A Rustic Delight

One example of Schafer's mastery is a charming late 19th-century cottage nestled in Mill Valley, California. By reconfiguring the layout to allow more natural light and incorporating vintage materials and hardware, Schafer preserved the cottage's historic charm while creating a comfortable living space that reflected the owners' cherished memories. British designer Rita Konig's eclectic interiors added a touch of whimsy to the rustic setting. Schafer's collaborative spirit shines through as he acknowledges, "I like to decorate, but I really love collaborating with decorators — you learn more."

Fifth Avenue Apartment: A Window to Central Park

For a Fifth Avenue apartment, Schafer designed a columned entry that frames a breathtaking view of Central Park from the living room. This clever architectural maneuver instantly immerses visitors in the essence of New York City. Schafer's ability to imbue new spaces with a sense of history is evident in a house he designed in Georgia, where he skillfully incorporated a narrative that expanded an original mid-19th-century Greek Revival structure with a 1930s Colonial Revival hunting lodge.

Brooklin Getaway: Serenity by the Bay

In his own residence located in Brooklin, Maine, Schafer transformed an ordinary house from the early 1990s into a modernist-inspired retreat. The revamped design takes full advantage of the spectacular views across Blue Hill Bay to Mount Desert Island, skillfully blending warm and cozy spaces with open areas that invite the outside in. Schafer's ability to create harmony between contemporary aesthetics and traditional sensibilities is truly remarkable.

The Power of Place and Personal Experience

Gil Schafer's deep-rooted understanding of the relationship between architecture and its inhabitants stems from his own upbringing. Growing up in various homes, including an old New Jersey farmhouse and his grandparents' stone-and-shingle house outside Cleveland, Schafer developed a keen appreciation for the unique charm of each place. His maternal grandmother's hunting plantation in Georgia, with its classical architecture and idyllic gardens, left an indelible mark on Schafer's design philosophy. He learned early on the vital role of charm in creating a grand place that feels inviting and lived-in.

From Modernism to Tradition

Having studied under architectural visionaries such as Robert Venturi and Frank Gehry at the Yale School of Architecture, Schafer initially gravitated towards modernism. However, after working at a renowned firm with classical leanings and heading the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art, Schafer discovered his true passion lay in a blend of traditional and contemporary design. He states, "I prefer a house that looks traditional but lives contemporary, attaining a cohesiveness that respects both history and modernity."

Creating Timeless Beauty

Schafer's current projects showcase his unwavering commitment to seamlessly integrating his designs into their surroundings while evoking a sense of subtle beauty. From collaborating with renowned designer Tom Scheerer on a Mount Desert Island home to restoring a Georgian-style house in San Francisco alongside interior designer Bunny Williams, Schafer consistently strives to ensure that his work complements and enhances its environment. He emphasizes the importance of landscape design, considering it the "fourth wall" of every project.

In all his endeavors, Schafer's ultimate goal is to create spaces that are both stunning and unpretentious, where his craftsmanship goes unnoticed. He believes his work is most successful when no one realizes his presence. This humble approach to architecture truly sets Gil Schafer III apart as an exceptional designer.

Gil Schafer Designs Image Source: Gil Schafer Designs Homes That Look Traditional but Live Contemporary

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