Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Epistemologically Self-Conscious House

Doug Phillips at Vision Forum has made a byword of the phrase "epistemologically self-conscious", meaning intentionally consistent with a Biblical world view in every respect. I first heard it in connection with the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (I haven't been but my son John Calvin has, so I've listened to the CDs).

At the Uniting Church & Family Conference this month, Doug extended the phrase to the home of Scott Brown. I wrote,
He also talked about the Browns' home as an epistemologically self-conscious family integrated home, designed to make a home where kids spend the least amount of time alone in their rooms and the most interacting with grandparents, guests, and their family. “It is a revolving door of evangelism,” he said, where there are always visitors being discipled.
One of my readers asked a question about it, and since I have been blessed to be a guest in Scott's home a number of times, I can offer a bit of first-hand observation.

The Browns live on a beautiful piece of rolling farmland in eastern Wake County, just a short drive out of Raleigh but totally in the country. Their home is affectionately called "The Barn" since the original pre-engineered structure -- it's a steel building, you see -- was designed for that purpose. I have heard different stories about the Browns' original plans for it, whether it was intended to be an actual livestock building or if they intended it as a meeting place for the church Scott pastored, but the slump in the investment market after 9/11 prompted the decision for them to make it their home instead.

Rather, their home in addition. You see, the central space of The Barn is truly a "great room", capable of seating over a hundred without overcrowding, so they still use it for church services as one plan had intended. The Browns have stocked it with Victorian sofas and armchairs, filling in the spaces with inexpensive stackable chairs when needed, so I've been there for several meetings and celebrations of the church. The big room is open to the gambrel roof, probably 24 feet or higher, and features a chandelier made of (simulated) deer antlers, a huge stone fireplace, and a rope swing, of all things. Word is that the children sometimes do get to use it, and at full arc they can touch the wall over the dining table.

The heavy wooden beams and rough stonework are balanced by feminine touches like a framed antique wedding dress, a collection of china plates on the wall, and lace curtains. Scott said the antler chandelier was a gift from a friend and arrived just as he was leaving for a trip. He rejoiced over this manly decoration but had to leave it crated until his return. While he was gone, though, his wife arranged to have it installed -- and hung her teacup collection on the points. Scott said after the initial shock he agreed to only remove some of them, so the "Theodore Roosevelt" effect is still moderated by "Edith" -- there are still a dozen or so cups hanging overhead.

Scott has an office partitioned off with bookshelves in one corner (I've seen the surfboards as well as the WWII invasion map of Iwo Jima), and there are bathrooms, an open kitchen, a parlor, and a couple of bedrooms in the "front end" of the building. On the opposite side of the big room (which feels like about 30x40 feet, though I may be overestimating) there is a mezzanine (think "hay loft") with the children's bedrooms upstairs.

There are many "self-conscious" aspects to this remarkable home. Doug's comment about designing for "family integration" was refreshing in its obviousness and uncommonness today. Anyone who has bought a recently-built home has probably experienced the feeling of a home that was not designed for a vibrant family life. Try doing a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner sometime. I have to agree, though; I've never seen the kid's rooms but with all the space and interesting things and people about the rest of the house, I can't imagine there's anything there as compelling as being part of the Browns' extended "family" on any given day.

1 comment:

Lorie said...

Hello Hal! Wow! That post made me want to visit the Brown's home. It sounds like we would LOVE it. I pray the Lord blesses them with MANY divine appointments as they use their home to share the love of Christ.