Bob Butler drew lessons from the legendary Case Study House program to design his cost-effective residence in Nashville.

Almost everything about Bob Butler’s Nashville home is unexpected. Its sunken living room, open beams, and carport hark back to the 1950s, yet it’s barely more than a year old. The breezy, rectilinear residence transports visitors to midcentury Hollywood Hills or Palm Springs, though it’s located in a city known for Craftsman bungalows and the rococo mansions of country stars. Most surprising of all, Bob designed and built it himself, with only a few years experience under his belt and no formal training, and on a budget that would get the attention of many area residents: $115 per square foot.

Influenced by Southern California’s Case Study House program, designer Bob Butler conceived a luminous residence and guest house on a sloping lot in Nashville that originally held a red-brick ranch-style duplex. Western red cedar lines the walkway from the carport to the entrance. The Globe lights are from West Elm.

Influenced by Southern California’s Case Study House program, designer Bob Butler conceived a luminous residence and guest house on a sloping lot in Nashville that originally held a red-brick ranch-style duplex. Western red cedar lines the walkway from the carport to the entrance. The Globe lights are from West Elm. 

Photo by Pippa Drummond

“It was difficult to find builders who wanted to be creative within my budget,” he says. So he hired a variety of subcontractors and ended up doing it all.

A General Electric stereo cabinet and a 1950s chair are among the vintage pieces in the living room.

A General Electric stereo cabinet and a 1950s chair are among the vintage pieces in the living room.

Photo by Pippa Drummond

The road that led Bob to architectural design was also unexpected. Born in New York and raised in Australia, he made his living for many years as a fine art photographer. But in 2011, while looking for a light-filled home in Decatur, Georgia, he purchased a 1950s ranch and refashioned it almost entirely by himself, on a “super slim budget,” into a low-key modernist haven. His education? Francis D.K. Ching’s Building Construction Illustrated, YouTube videos, and muscle memory from a handful of drafting lessons in high school. His photographic training didn’t hurt, either. “I felt like I was building a 3-D picture,” he says.

A double-sided fireplace shared with the living room warms the deck on cool evenings. Bob sited the house and strategically placed windows to take advantage of shade in summer and solar gain in winter. The outdoor seating is from IKEA.

A double-sided fireplace shared with the living room warms the deck on cool evenings. Bob sited the house and strategically placed windows to take advantage of shade in summer and solar gain in winter. The outdoor seating is from IKEA. 

Photo by Pippa Drummond

See the full story on Dwell.com: A Self-Taught Designer Builds a Midcentury-Inspired Home on a Budget

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