Cre·a·tive (a.) having the quality or power of creating; resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.
It’s the word that comes to mind when I first put pen to paper. Creativity defines the world inhabited by Lilah Horwitz and Nick Olson. It infiltrates their thoughts, and seeps into their surroundings.
For the artist duo, a traditional home simply would not do. So they created a dream – an oasis cabin set on a mountaintop in West Virginia, where a whole wall is built from salvaged windows. The nontraditional structure catches your attention first, but continue to look around and ask questions, and you’ll find even more stories behind the place. The wood: salvaged from a barn originally built on the property by Nick’s great grandparents. The fixtures: scoured from yard sales and flea markets. The dinner plates: thrown on a pottery wheel with Lilah’s own hands. Every inch of this hideaway is formed from their creative touch.
I went to visit Lilah and Nick in their magical getaway. I was curious to know, “How does building such a thing with your own two hands change you? What mark has its memories left on their souls?” Read on for a few of Lilah’s own hand-written memories from creating and living in the window house, along with special questions giving a further peek into their experience.
Where did the idea for the window house come from? Do you remember when you first came up with the idea?
The idea started as a silly fantastical dream on our first date! Nick brought me to West Virginia, and we were sitting up on the hill where the house is now, watching a sunset – we got to talking about how it would be great to build a house meant just for watching sunsets – so we drew a little sketch. It all centered around us talking about how magical it is to see a sunset in its full – and how if we were to make a house we wouldn’t want to have to try to watch it out of one tiny window – thus – a wall of windows!
Most people, myself included, would never know where to start in building a home. Can you speak to how you learned to do such a thing? What challenges did you come across if any?
I had no idea where to even begin with building a house when we started. Nick has some formal training in log building and knew a decent amount about construction, but a lot of it we learned from books and watching little videos. We would drive to town and sit in the library reading books on shed construction, and then go to the café and watch YouTube videos. In the end, it’s surprising how quickly you can learn. The most difficult thing we came up against was that it was just the two of us working on it, that got hard, especially when it came to holding up heavy things 16 feet up on a ladder!
The window house is now alive and standing. What has the place taught you about life and yourselves?
We have learned a lot about how amazing a project can be if it is filled with love and passion! I am astounded at how when you have no other choice you can make anything happen (that is probably a reference to my own physical strength!). It has taught me a lot about patience; beauty takes time to create.
I can’t help but notice that you both focus your creative energies on functional objects that become a part of people’s everyday lives. The house is one thing, but between the two of you, you also create clothing, furniture, kitchenware, and so much more. What is there to be said for this kind of art as opposed to a piece of work that hangs on the wall?
We want to learn to make everything in our house!! I think there has been a recent shift in our work – away from the walls and into the home – maybe it has got to do with our desire to create the perfect nest – maybe just that we are becoming more aware of the more functional objects in our lives…becoming interested in making everything we use special and unique…There is something really amazing about eating dinner from bowls and plates you made, on a table you made, in a house you made, wearing clothing you made, etc. etc.! I think we both have an appreciation for aesthetics in our life coupled with a strong curiosity to learn how to create, and that leads to a focus on everyday objects.
Something made by Nick Olson or Lilah Horwitz – what sets it apart? Do you have a certain ethos that you use to approach your work?
Something made by us will forever hold a story; it is crafted with careful love, and a wild passion for the act of making. The more evidence of the human hand, the more beautiful!
Last, but oh no least, what does “free” mean to you?
“Free,” is swimming in the ocean.
Thank you Lilah & Nick for letting us into your beautiful home – for the hike, for the picnic, for the smile-inducing experience of meeting you both – it has been a pleasure!
For more on the Window House, check out this video here.
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot!