For "Refreshing the Familiar" on Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, seven panelists presented ways in which they attempt to put fresh twists on traditional architecture.

Charleston local Chris Schmitt, FAIA, NCARB, showed images of several projects (including the renovated Vanderhorst mansion that was part of Monday's Reinvention house tour, as well as some new residences). He told the audience of 251 people that he uses regional precedents such as hunting lodges, agricultural buildings, and local ruins to take a "lighthearted" approach to considering context.

Stuart Cohen, FAIA, and Julie Hacker, AIA, of Evanston, Ill., focused on a single architectural element: the window. A wide array of photos demonstrated the way they employ both interior and exterior windows for toplighting, borrowed light, and views into other rooms.

Imagery of a new house in Minnesota provided Minneapolis' Christine Albertsson, AIA, and Todd Hansen, AIA, with plenty of material to voice their thoughts on refreshing the familiar. They based the home's forms on local rural buildings and mill ruins, also using Scandinavian influences to inform their design choices. They explained that their clients didn't want the formality of classical molding, so they developed a set of simpler, coved moldings as well as planked ceilings, tongue-and-groove wall paneling, and wide-plank doors.

Anne Fairfax of New York City told the audience she wasn't particularly interested in "refreshing" the familiar. "We kind of like the familiar," she said. Her presentation included photos of a New York apartment inspired by elements of the Sir John Soane's Museum in London, as well as an upstate New York house based on regional precedent and filled with locally sourced materials.

Another New Yorker, Dennis Wedlick, AIA, showed photos of a few houses he's designed ("a lot of our projects look like barns," he said) but then announced he had decided to use the rest of his allotted time to open up the floor for discussion and questions. For the remaining 20 minutes or so, the panel and audience engaged in a spirited conversation about the current direction and goals of residential architecture.