Designer Sketch: Josh McCullar

Meet Josh McCullar, 34, a Richmond designer for SMBW Architects now working on a modern home on a 21-acre woodland hillside overlooking a lake in Goochland County, Virginia. “The home is going to be an aperture through which to view the landscape, the changing of seasons, and a silent refuge for the owners,” he states. “The website is a ridgeline in a forest of tulip poplars, American beech and eastern red cedars.”

Josh McCullar Architects

When did you know you wanted to style homes?
My childhood piano teacher lived in an antebellum mansion in South Carolina with profound shaded porches, ivy-covered damp brick garden walls, slate paths and centuries-old pine trees. This place’s power enchanted me. I waited for my lessons on her porch and waited to be picked up later in the iris garden. It was a home.

I understood that individuals could make such a place by building with idea and intention and by giving a canvas to the landscape and the passage of time. There was an oversize, well-proportioned tall front door with a display that made a creaking sound when opened.

The front porch had wide wood plank floors and smelled of dew and fresh-cut blossoms, and the kitchen of well-used oiled pans from decades of living and cooking a well-loved life. Beyond was a wide and spiraling stair climbing four stories. On one side was a living room with two grand pianos, and on the other was a summer porch with louvered displays and a series of tall French doors.

To this day, I remember the smell of her English boxwood and iris garden. Every one of the senses engaged. So I have been searching for the meaning of”home” almost my whole life.

Josh McCullar Architects

What inspires your designs?
Consistently, the culture and landscape of a place. I’m a modernist although not at the expense of abandoning regional consequences. I feel strongly that modern layout should reinterpret and expand the vernacular lineage of a place.

I’m also motivated by the visual power and beauty of ancient ruins. I’d love to think of buildings we design today as the most exquisite and evocative ruins centuries from now if we do them right. So all designers should consider the passage of time.

Which iconic architect could you have loved to utilize?
Luis Barragan.

Where in the world do you wish to go next?
I’d love to spend two weeks traveling to the back streets of Carolina and Georgia in spring, photographing barns, eating cherry pie, smelling the air, taking it slow, stopping at used-book shops in tiny cities and then return to Virginia on the western road through the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have lived in this region all of my entire life, and I’m still finding it. It is my place.

What is the main thing on your desk?
A pen and follow paper.

Josh McCullar Architects

All projects start with sketches. Drawing is your conduit for ideas, and the hand is the expansion of the mind’s eye. The computer is simply used for production after the plan is conceived. I won’t ever quit drawing.

If you could change 1 thing about home design, what could it be?
To produce people realize larger is not better. Quality is much more important than volume. You simply require a single big and tall principal room with southeastern sunlight for daily life, and the remainder can be somewhat small.

Who are your favorite artists?
I greatly admire the work of Josef Albers, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Serra, North Carolina sculptor Thomas Sayre, Richmond Professional Duane Keiser and photographer William Christenberry. Currently I have started admiring the realist function of an emerging Connecticut landscape painter, Jan Blencowe. I feel any home without art or books inside is a home with no soul.

Best thing about being a designer:
to comprehend on a deeper level the landscape and the website, to fulfill many people with different backgrounds and help themlearn from doingis a creative problem solver and to hopefully render something helpful behind long after I’m gone.

Your ideal client is…

My current one, a young and motivated couple with an amazing site and the openness to slow down and let us all attempt to get it correctly.

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