24 August 2009

On Character And Soul In Design, Part 01.

Currently marinating in Sally Shapiro's latest summery effort My Guilty Pleasure -- which perfectly complements this lazy, breezy afternoon. The weather should be perfect later for early evening jogging.

So last week I was hanging out after dinner with my sister Genevieve and her husband Mick. They're considering buying a house sometime in the next few months and she'd cued up a website which allowed them some sneak peeks at properties up for sale, complete with photos of the exteriors and interiors of the homes. Listening to their conversations over the dining room table, it was obvious that they each had different style sensibilities:

G: [clicking on a house] Oh look at this one. It looks cute!
M: It looks old.
G: What are you talking about. It has character. I hate how modern houses all look the same.
M: Yeah but they won't fall apart on you. When was that built?
G: Umm, it says 1952.
M: That's too old.
G: But I love how it looks. We can always fix it up.
M: What, you wanna buy a house just so you can spend all your time fixing it? And what is that [pointing to an interior photo of a completely round doorway] -- a hobbit door?
G: It's cute!
M: I'm not gonna live in the Shire. Let's see something with clean lines and built sometime after your grandma was born.
G: What! Don't bring my family into this! [kicks Mick's chair over]
M: [jumping up] I'm not a hobbit and I will not live in a house older than the hills!! Grragghhh!! [grabs laptop and hurls it into wall]
Lights suddenly flicker on and off. Room temperature inexplicably drops 20 degrees.
G: [hissing and baring three-inch fangs] I WILL DEVOUR YOUR EYES.

Okay so I made that last part up. She really said, "I WILL DEVOUR YOUR HEART." Married life is a funny thing.

But I digress. While I side with Mick in that a house shouldn't be a money pit, I can see her point about a home -- or any major thing you own, really -- having some kind of character/soul. My sister has developed a unique sense of style over the years. It appears to be a very eclectic combination of pseudo-shabby chic and mid-20th-century aesthetics with a dash of Ikea thrown in for good measure, and it shows in the types of furniture and design features she seems to prefer. Nothing too ultra-modern or sleek, her choices radiate a kind of warmth, sturdiness, brightness and a bit of good loving wear. I don't see her living happily in a pre-fabricated box, constructed over angles and lines. (That, actually, would be me.)

I've been an apartment/condo-dweller for most of my adult life, so my design choices have been somewhat restricted to what I can do with the smaller spaces provided me. I've slowly collected a few furniture pieces that I love which reflect my design aesthetic (contemporary, minimalist, clean and square/symmetric yet comfortable). These are the larger pieces -- sofa, bed -- which are accented by occasional "softer" items. I'm not at a point yet where I can completely deck out my place with things that satisfy me design-wise, but I've got a good sense of the look in mind and am near-constantly looking for ideas, many of which come from:
Visually, here are a few images that agree with me:

A wide variety of design influences, to be sure, but hopefully unique enough on their own that, when combined, please the eye. I guess we'll find out when I get around to buying a house in the Shire.

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