Skip to content
Weaver House

The Sensory Architect

 

My late brother-in-law, architect Leif Weaver, could not recognize his own mother in a photograph. He took the batteries out of the wall clock in order to sleep. When it came to visualizing spatial relationships in his head, he broke all the tests.

Leif was one of the people who taught me about neurodiversity. He self-diagnosed with high-functioning autism, prosopagnosia (face-blindness), and high sensory sensitivity.

He designed this house in Brooks, Maine to accommodate his sensory needs, as well as an exercise in sustainable design, small-space living, and permaculture.

When Leif passed away of a rare form of lymphoma, at the tragically young age of 45, he was working on designs for this house from his hospital room. His devastated family and community came together to finish it.

We took over the task of making interior design decisions which respected Leif’s architectural vision, learning a great deal about sensory design in the process.

This house tells a bit of Leif’s story.

Moroccan Lamp Corner
Weaver House Bedroom

Dug Into the Ground

Leif originally designed this ground-floor bedroom with a high square window, above eye level. We later understood that this was to accommodate his light sensitivity. In final construction we enlarged the window. 

Next to the bedroom, there is a sauna room with a wood-burning stove, allowing the house to be heated with timber from the property. 

Wood-look ceramic tile anchors the rustic structure, wears like iron and is easy to clean, a must in long, muddy Maine winters. Low lamps reflect the Danish concept of ‘hygge’–coziness–keeping overhead glare out of the picture. 

Antique corner cabinet and end tables hold a curated selection of objects, which change with the seasons. 

Climb Every Day

Leif created this ladder well to pierce all three levels of the house, conserving heat and space while providing the owners a daily core workout. He lined it with bookshelves, doubling the storage space while reducing visual clutter in the rooms. 

We chose warm neutral earth tones for the hand-plastered walls, lightening in value the higher up you go. 

Ladder with bookshelves
Solar Stairwell

Solar Stairwell

This three-story wall of windows faces south, creating a year-round greenhouse which boosts the natural light, even through winter. Four waving cherry-tree trunks, taken from trees growing on the building site, act as organic columns. 

After Leif’s passing, his friend John Dillenbeck, a fellow sufferer of prosopagnosia–with corresponding spatial superpowers–designed this staircase to thread through the columns. 

We lit the solar stairwell with semi-industrial sconces, bridging the stylistic transition between indoors and outdoors. 

One Room To Do It All

 

The main floor of the house integrates kitchen, dining and living areas in one room with many corners. A vaulted ceiling, inspired by Leif’s many visits to medieval castles and cathedrals, is illuminated by a high window situated to provide indirect natural light, easy on sensitive eyes. 

Like many people on the autism spectrum, Leif found it emotionally taxing to make eye contact (although he developed a seamless technique for faking it!). Creating spaces with many niches allowed him to maintain emotional privacy without erecting too many walls. 

The Danish lamp over the table is hung low enough so that it illuminates the tabletop without shining in diners’ eyes. 

Living Room Niche
Kitchen
Kitchen and Dining
Outdoor view of enclosed porch, solar stairwell, tool shed, courtyard

Permaculture Ready

 

Sitting on 16 acres of hilly, wooded land in Brooks, the house was made for permaculture. Tool shed on the ground floor, enclosed porch above, solar courtyard, green roof, covered stairs, large garden shed–all features designed for tending the land in the long term. Leif was inspired by land in the south of France, where stone terraces built into the hills are over a thousand years old. 

Practical Sanctuary was founded in loving memory of Leif. He lives in our hearts forever. 

Leaif
Learn More