Owner or Caretaker.

It’s a funny thing when you sell your house. You inevitably have mixed emotions of joy and sorrow. You’re happy you’ve sold, and a little sad since you have memories associated with your home. In our case, it’s a combination of both. While we have loved almost 4 years at Modular 4, it’s time to move on, and on March 1st we will when we head to a loft space downtown.

All of this comes to a singular point about this house, or really any house. In reality you never really own your house. You are in fact a caretaker of the property. This fact is even more true when you possess something unique, like a piece of art, a collectible car, a piece of jewelry or in this case architecture. I say this because at some point in time what you have will end up in someone else’s possession, and they will take on the responsibility of being caretaker. And so we pass the responsibility on to the new owners, as we move to take care of our next unique place to live.

I really like the concept of being a “caretaker” as opposed to “owner”. It has a completely different feel to it. It takes a position that says “I understand the uniqueness of what I have. I understand my responsibility to take care of, maintain, and pass on to someone else in the future.” By being a caretaker instead of an owner, it means you are willing to look toward the future, and understand that at some point you will give up stewardship. That another individual will take over, and hopefully do as good as, or a better job than you in the future.

Modular 4 is not a house designed and built by someone like Renzo Piano, or Frank Lloyd Wright, Neutra, or any other internationally famous architect. It is however, a one of a kind architect designed house, that might have been designed by a future internationally famous architect. More over it is a house that hopefully will be here in a hundred or so years, and will remain true to form no matter how many individuals care for it over time.

Modular 4 is part of an architectural record. A section of a living program with ties beyond its location, it’s inhabitants, the neighborhood, the University of Kansas, and so much more. It is an object that will never be owned, simply cared for until it changes hands again in the future.

Anyone that has ever lived in a space like this, or designed a house like this can relate to what I’m saying here. If you haven’t on either count, think about it. The concept of ownership vs caretaker is pretty simple and applies to so much.

Goodbye Modular 4 we leave you in good hands.

In case you are wondering, this blog will continue with this name, talking about the same stuff I’ve been talking about every day for almost 4 years.

Going, Going, Gone.

Well it’s official. We have sold Modular 4 and will be moving out around the 1st of March.  This means that Kristy and I are embarking on a new adventure and seriously considering downsizing our living space, while trying to live a much more minimalist lifestyle.

Modular 4

So what does this mean for the blog? Not much. I hardly ever post about the house any more so things should continue on as usual. The only real change is, no more posts about Modular 4 after February.

Because we are looking at spaces that are in some cases half the size of what we live in now, this should make for some interesting times in the near future. If anything, it might prepare us for what life would be like if we ever moved to Europe, (something we have talked about) or if we ever decided to move to a city like San Francisco (another thing we have talked about)

In many ways I like the idea of finding a space that is all about utilizing the smallness in the most efficient, well designed way. I’ve always been curious about how to get the most living out of a small space that requires minimum amounts of maintenance and maximizes design form and function. So lets see what the future brings in the next 30 days. It should be interesting to say the least.

Three Years and Counting.

Three years and two days ago, Kristy and I left the comfort of Union Hill and moved into our Studio 804 home in Rosedale Kansas. At the time this was a rather big step considering that we had been living in Union Hill for 10 years and had invested quite a bit of time and money in making our former home truly ours. So here we are, a third of the way through the time spent in Union Hill, and Modular 4 has transitioned in some capacity to reflect us.

Over the last three years we have replaced the failing Stabiligrid driveway with concrete. A move that didn’t sit well with the KU graduate students in the Studio 804 project. Part of me agrees with them. We did alter the original green driveway solution for something more traditional. Most of me says we did the right thing though. The Stabiligrid solution had failed after just two years. The heavy rain and snow that fell in the first year we were in the house caused the Stabiligrid to sink into the earth below it creating a 12 inch deep trench at the end of the drive by the street. Other sections of the drive sank as well, although not as much. The fact that Kristy and I both drove Mini Coopers says something. The total weight of our cars combined weighed less than a full sized SUV. I can’t imagine where things would be if we had been driving full sized cars.

This year, the master bathroom was remodeled to a much higher standard. The plastic shower surrounds, and hardware were replaced with a floor to ceiling tile shower, and glass wall. All the shower hardware was replaced with Kohler’s Oblo line of fixtures. The cheap IKEA maedicine cabinets were replaced with a recessed Roburn unit. Even though this wasn’t a full remodel, the end result was amazing and raised the value of the home considerably. Small upgrades were made to the kitchen as well with a replacement of the sink, and faucet.

Over the last three years we have been doing some landscaping. What I have discovered is this. When the former homes on the block were leveled to make way for the current houses, they were literally bulldozed into the ground. When I dig in the yard to plant a tree, I remove about 50 pounds of construction debris. I have to dig a hole three times larger than normal, and back fill around the root ball if I want the tree to live. Out of the 6 trees planted in the last two years, two have died primarily because their roots were cooked as the debris retained heat during the hottest part of the summer, or because the debris impeded the root ball from spreading and taking hold. The yard and landscaping has been the toughest work. Grass won’t grow in certain areas, and as it dies Bermuda grass moves in and takes over. Trees have been difficult to get started, and the flower beds have been only about 75% established. This fall the plan is to bring in 10 yards of soil and create a berm in the front yard above the section that is so filled with brick, stone, tile, wood, and other house remnants. I’m hoping that the berm will create a barrier and allow ornamental grass, flowers, and small shrubs to take hold.

On another note, three weeks ago we were burglarized. I know the neighborhood is a bit sketchy. It’s still not as bad as Union Hill was when we first moved in, but the burglary opened our eyes to a number of things. Our house sits on a dead end street, next to a three acre field that is half covered with trees. It’s easy to stake out the house, and it was easy for them to break in. Since we didn’t have an alarm, all they had to do was throw a hammer through the sliding glass doors facing the field and walk on in. With that said, a high-end alarm is now in place, and video surveillance is going up on the outside of our home. It might not stop a break in, but it will hopefully deter one. If nothing else maybe the video system will help catch the next person that breaks into my home or one my neighbors. The cameras see up to 90 feet in the dark, and record HD video 24 hours a day.

I’m still amazed at where we are. I can sit on my back deck and catch deer sneaking into the field at dusk, and at the same time I am a 5 minute walk from the 39th street corridor and a 5 minute drive from downtown Kansas City. Our house is in many ways located in an urban oasis. I can’t say how long we will stay here, but I know we have another year to look forward to. There is another bath remodel coming, an entry railing, and front door remodel, more landscaping, a deck extension and perhaps a basement addition; all of which is being done in a way that maintains the architectural integrity of the house, and the vision that Studio 804 had when they designed and built it.