Gradually, and then suddenly: It’s how Hemingway once explained how people go bankrupt. It’s also how Charles Thomas (Chuck) Newmyer II speaks. Heavily tattooed, he has a thick mane of bull-black hair and a chuckle that is equal parts mischievous and satisfied. When I interrupt his cup of coffee to ask him about the Roman numerals tattooed on his knuckles, he invites me to have a seat. He tells me about his work as a freelance designer, and how living in his van helps him to appreciate spaces more. I tell his story here, in his own words.
“Living in the van has influenced me to think about and try to use space in a smarter, more efficient way. It’s 45 square feet of van, and that really makes you think about the bare essentials of what’s needed and how you can include those in design in a useable, intuitive way that makes people feel good about the space they’re in. I really want to work on tiny houses at some point, because I feel like it would be a really natural jump to make, and I’d have some innovative ideas about it. Architecture has to respond to the place that it’s in, the parcel of land it’s on, the space it takes up, the city it’s in. Otherwise, it’s just noise.
I haven’t heard of anyone else who lives in a van and is a freelance designer and architect, so it’s sort of cool to be the only one. When I worked in Boulder, especially during the winter – well, the van is really cold. So, as soon as I’d wake up, I’d think, ‘Well, I don’t have anywhere else to go, and it’s freezing, so I guess I’ll just get up and go to work.’ Then I would work later because again, I don’t have anywhere else to go, so … Living in the van influences my work flow and also forces me out more. I’m constantly at the library and coffee shops and at friends houses. It’s like being back in college and working in the studio. Professors didn’t make us work on projects in the studio, but you could tell the difference between the people who did and who worked from home. The subtleties, the skills, the design, the finished product, all so much better and cleaner from the people who collaborated and had their thinking pushed. I take a lot of pride in the product. A lot. I’m very much a perfectionist. I want my work to be so good that my clients aren’t paying attention to my tattoos or the way I dress or that I live in a van. I want them focused on an amazing product that has every detail tended to. Pitch perfect. Something that I’m really excited to share with people – friends, clients, whatever.
Being an architect sometimes doesn’t feel “professional” to me because it’s just so much fun. I get to draw houses for a living! There’s a bit of stress, I suppose. But I mostly feel stressed because of how much attention I’m paying to the fact that I’m designing a home that people are going to live in for years. I want them to live happily, easily, without too many hazards.
I originally got into architecture because I’ve always liked working on houses. Sprucing up my parents’ house and whatnot. I’ve always been into art and music. I saw architecture as a way to make art that is inhabitable. The shape of buildings influences how people live, which is scary because it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s intimidating if you think about it too much. Music and architecture – any of the arts, really – are so interwoven. I’ve been around music my whole life, and have played the drums since … forever. There’s a rhythm to music, which is sorta stupid to say, and there’s a rhythm to architecture. Sequences, you know? Visually, or how a person moves through a building. I’ve always got that musical part running through my brain when I’m designing. Rock drummer to architectural designer, but it kind of makes sense. Probably. [laughs]”
Cyle Talley would like to cordially welcome you all to another bipolar Colorado spring-type season. Feel free to email him, if you’re in to that sort of thing: [email protected]