Timeless Trait Tuesday – Home as Retreat

I spent the last couple weeks pondering how to make a house inviting and welcoming to guests. And those are very important traits for a home to have, because “no man is an island”, and it is the relationships we have with our families, friends, neighbors and community that are often cultivated within our homes. But, as it always is with guests, they go home eventually. Because they have their place of rest and retreat. So, too, should we have ours.

I think creating our home as a retreat is so important to our modern lives. When we spend so much time being busy outside of the house, we need a place to hang our hat at the end of the day. A place where we can cook a good meal, share it with our family, and spend the evening catching up on conversation and relaxation. We need a home that functions efficiently so that the mundane tasks can be accomplished quickly enough to allow ample time for the things we really want to do. We need a place where we are surrounded by things we love; things that have good memories attached, that make us smile, that make us feel like we have created a special place in which to raise our family and build a life.

I know we can all easily answer that a retreat is someplace we go on vacation to get away and relax, but we need to be able to do that in our own homes! Our home is the one little corner of the world that is all ours, where we have the freedom to do and be and live as we please, a place where we can get away from whatever worldly pressures weigh heavy on our hearts. I know I’m the type of person that values a big comfy couch to sink into, where I can read my books, do the Sunday crossword, and snuggle with the hubby and the puppy. And I know my hubby is the type of person that has to have a big place to work on his many hobbies, and a big bed to snuggle up in at night. A sense of calm and quiet is important sometimes, but sometimes we like to pull the blinds all the way up, throw open the windows and the doors, and feel connected to whatever the weather or the community is up to.

What do you think of when you hear “retreat”?

How have you made your home your own personal retreat?

all images via Pinterest


Timeless Trait Tuesday – Welcome (Again!)

I think our discussion about inviting and welcoming homes requires a little more introspection. I know I talked about this a little bit during my first week of blogging, but making your home welcoming and inviting is about more than just hospitality, don’t you think?

Making your home inviting from the outside could mean a clear path to a well-lit front door, a brightly colored porch swing, or large numbers on your mailbox.

Making your home welcoming on the inside includes not only your hospitality, but the colors in your home, the comfort of the furniture, the furniture arrangement, the smells, the quality of light, the personality of the artwork, and the care you take in making a house a home.

What can we do inside to make our homes more welcoming?

Furniture. Sure, you want it to look good, but it should feel good too!  It should make someone want to sit down and stay awhile!  It should be arranged to to facilitate conversation, allow movement through a room and complement the architecture in terms of both style and scale.

Lighting.  Light makes a big difference in spaces small and large.  Too little, too much, too glaring, too blue; when lighting is off, so is everything else.  Make sure there is more than one light source, so you get combinations of ambient, accent and task lighting appropriate to each space.  Remember that the fixture over your dining table should hang 32″-36″ above the tabletop.  And when it comes to table and floor lamps, make sure they fit the size and scale of the room and the furniture, and err on the larger side.

Materials.  When your rooms have layers of textures and a variety of materials, there is visual interest.  Do something like use linens and velvets together in varying shades of the same tone to add depth, or use different patterns in the same colors\ combinations.  Don’t use the same tone of wood or paint for all your furniture; then it looks like you bought everything on the same day from the same place.  Warmth created by varying wood tones and species makes a space look collected and personal.

Accessories.  Cut down on the clutter!  It’s ok to leave tables small and large completely empty; every room needs moments of visual rest.  In my opinion, your accessories should be meaningful to you to add meaning to the space.  Use the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid!  When it comes to accessories, less really is more.

What suggestions do you have?

How have you tried to make your home inviting and welcoming?

(all images via Pinterest)

Timeless Trait Tuesday + (un)Wordless Wednesday = Continuance of Invitation

Hello again… If you’re one of my regular readers you can probably tell a few posts have been missing over the past week.  Life has been busy!  Well actually, more like work has been busy and I have been exhausted.  But happy 🙂

If you read Monday’s post, you know I’ve decided to extend last week’s theme of “Inviting & Welcoming” to this week!  Too much to discuss!  (I should have divided it up better, but I’m still working on learning this blogging thing…)

Last Wednesday was all about front entrances that invite you to enter, and you guys definitely had a favorite image!  (overwhelmingly so)  Almost everyone commented about loving porches!

Then there was a great comment from Jami @ Freckled Laundry last Tuesday.  She lives in a mid-century ranch in need of some curb appeal.  I can imagine that many of you out there have or will find yourselves in the same predicament.  So these can serve as inspiration for all of us to make our homes more welcoming, but Jami, these are most of all for you!

Hope you enjoyed the pretties!

Timeless Trait Tuesday – Inviting and Welcoming

What makes you want to enter a house?  What makes you want to stay?

What makes a home invite you in and welcome you with open arms?

I think we can all agree that there are two categories: the exterior of a house invites you in, and the interior of a house welcomes you to stay.  Through my reading and my studies, I’ve found several characteristics that I think say “come on in and stay awhile!”

Exterior Characteristics

Sheltering Roof – symbol of home; offers protection and safety

Visible Entry – designated path to experiencing the inside of the home

Curb Appeal – appetizer to the interior

Interior Characteristics



Natural Light




Rare for me, this post is long on images and shorter on words 🙂

A home is meant to be inhabited, lived in, cared for and enjoyed.  If it is not inviting, these things cannot take place.  After all, can something be timeless if no one wants to live in it or derive any joy from it?

Timeless Trait Tuesday – Sense of Place

I want to propose “sense of place” as an important trait of timeless design. It’s what gives our buildings and our homes, and for many of us, our lives, roots. It’s both a figurative and literal connection to our neighborhood, our society, our culture and our environment. Where I live is very different than Los Angeles, Seattle, New York or Chicago, because my city has its own story, its own past. It has a different pace of life than New York, a different set of values than Los Angeles, a different climate than Seattle and a different economical basis than Chicago. (I’m from the Midwest, and while that conjures up an image of a wholesome, corn-fed (make that meat and potatoes) girl, the states of the Midwest are large enough and widespread enough to create a wide range of differences.) There are two ways to look at sense of place: vernacular architecture and traditional architecture.

Vernacular architecture is the result of necessity, availability and function. These are the structures built by their inhabitants, using the materials and technologies they found close at hand. Think adobe homes in the Americas, mud or stone huts in Africa, yurts in Mongolia. Some vernacular structures were permanent, but some were moveable (think teepees!) as a result of nomadic societies.

(South Africa; Mongolia; Indonesia; Nepal; Inuit igloo)

Traditional architecture is, well, what we study in history classes, those buildings that can be categorized into a specific movement or style with recognizable features, the ones conceived and designed by trained architects. A quote on Wikipedia calls traditional architecture “polite” in comparison to vernacular buildings.

They sound like similar terms, and we might look upon the word “vernacular” in a somewhat endearing way, but if you ask a trained architect, they probably take a different view. For example:

Ronald Brunskill has defined the ultimate in vernacular architecture as: “…a building designed by an amateur without any training in design; the individual will have been guided by a series of conventions built up in his locality, paying little attention to what may be fashionable.  The function of the building would be the dominant factor, aesthetic considerations, though present to some degree, being quite minimal.  Local materials would be used as a matter of course, other materials being chosen and imported quite exceptionally.”  (Wikipedia)

The Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World defines vernacular architecture as: “…comprising the dwellings and all other buildings of the people.  Related to their environmental contexts and available resources they are customarily owner- or community-built, utilizing traditional technologies.  All forms of vernacular architecture are built to meet specific needs, accommodating the values, economies and ways of life of the cultures that produce them.”  (Wikipedia)

Is there a happy medium between the traditional and the vernacular?  I’m just going to say that yes, there is.  But what does it look like?  How is it created?  What do we call it?

With Frank Lloyd Wright, we called it the Prairie style:

  1. influenced by the architectural tradition of Louis Sullivan
  2. horizontal structures designed to mimic surrounding environment (primarily Illinois and Wisconsin)
  3. low-hanging eaves and low-set ribbon windows to connect inside and out (interior decorative details also reflected this theme)
  4. construction materials sourced locally, again reflecting those found naturally in the surrounding environment
  5. later works influenced by Japanese architecture (vernacular forms which created traditional architecture)

                   FLW home and office; Oak Park, IL.                   Structure at Ise Shrine; Japan

Robie House; Illinois

Martin House; Illinois

With Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, we’re calling it……..                                        well, the jury’s still out on that one:

  1. seeks to build “buildings that respond to their environment” (via)
  2. respond to climate
  3. like FLW, horizontal lines complement the Australian landscape

It is Murcutt’s use of materials and technology in response to heat, light, and the elements that set him apart from other architects. Louvred panels, low eaves, and various sun-shading designs are the most noticeable details.                                         (photos from Pritzker Architecture Prize website)

OK.  So, how else can we create a sense of place, besides responding to the environment or vernacular tradition?  Well, I’m not entirely sure.  But here are some thoughts:

  1. family is the source of our roots – perhaps heirloom or hand-me-down pieces connect us with those who we identify with
  2. maybe it’s making sure that the homes we build not only reflect our sensibilities, but are visually related to the other buildings in the neighborhood/city/region
  3. using local materials – stone from local quarries, wood reclaimed from old barns in your state, support of your neighborhood thrift/antique/secondhand stores
  4. using native plants in landscaping

I’ve found this to be a difficult post to put together, because sense of place can mean many things to many people.  I think for me, it means surrounding myself with the things I love, things that remind me of my family, of my values.  It’s hard to feel rooted in your surroundings when you’re renting a townhouse.

I really want to hear your thoughts!!

Timeless Trait Tuesday – Unity. or, Cohesiveness. or, Interior Design Complements Architecture.

Were it not for architecture, we would not have interior design. For that matter, we would not have interiors. Architecture is truly a fine art of form, function, innovation, structure, engineering and vision. Architecture has defined the landscapes of all our great cities, all our great societies. If you ever have the chance to take the architectural boat tour in Chicago, it is well worth the 90 minutes to understand how architecture has shaped the city as it proved a haven for both European and American talent. (I am biased because I spent a summer internship there, but Chicago has such a rich architectural heritage. Keep reading long enough; I’m sure you’ll hear more about it!)

I stated this in yesterday’s post: a successful project, as a whole, is greater than the sum of its parts. That requires a unified and cohesive project, one where the architecture and interior design, and all the finishes, materials and furnishings, are of the same vocabulary. That means that inside and outside not only relate but complement each other to the extent that one could not exist without the other. I think restraint is applicable here also; fewer materials unify a project.

Take, for example, the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. A pioneer in architecture and architectural theory, this home was created for single female doctor (completed in 1951) as a complete expression of Modernism. Its simplicity centered around the focus on the landscape; the furnishings are all of the same period, created by artisans that held the same Modern ideals (in terms of material and process). Truly, the architecture would not be successful separate from its interior, and vice-versa. It is a unified presentation. Photos below from http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/photos.htm; visit for more images and a complete history of its development.

Yesterday I introduced you to Bobby McAlpine and his work. This is his take on the cohesion of interiors and architecture:

“I don’t see houses as objects. If you go by a big-columned classical house, and the primary emotion it evokes in you is ownership—wouldn’t it be great to own that—that’s one thing. But if you go past a house, and your primary instinct is how wonderful it must be to be behind that window, then I promise you that was a house conceived with the intimacy of its interior as its primary driving force.”

— Bobby McAlpine quoted by Logan Ward in The Poet of Place for G & G  (source)

If you read about renowned designer/architect John Saladino, he relies on the juxtaposition of materials, styles and scale to produce his work. But in doing so, he still creates successful projects by carrying themes from outside to in and ensuring that there is one feeling that each expresses.

So, what else could this concept look like?





There are, however, many projects which do not adhere to this unity principle.  But does that necessarily make them less successful?  Less beautiful?  Less timeless?  The interior of this lovely English country home, by influential architect Edwin Lutyens, was recently “revamped“.  Check out the article and the slideshow.  What do you think? 

Must-Ready Monday – Bobby McAlpine’s “The Home Within Us”

One of the most inspirational architects/interior designers of today is Bobby McAlpine. Co-founder of architecture firm McAlpine Tankersley and interior design firm McAlpine Booth & Ferrier, and furniture designer for McAlpine Home, he offers ideas for every area of home.

McAlpine’s beautiful projects speak for themselves: they show that architecture, interior architecture and interior design are wholly dependent on each other for a project to be successful. His homes are rife with stunning details, inside and out, creating a cohesiveness that makes each one greater than the sum of its parts. McAlpine calls this his pursuit for “the inheritable house”, doing this through explorations of timeless forms and styles in an effort to give each client a home reflective of them. The Home Within Us is his first publication, complete with rich commentary and striking photos. There is a great deal of attention paid to the basic concepts that drive each design and the details with which they are realized.

all images from Pinterest

Further reading:

McAlpine Tankersley Architects; McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier Interiors, McAlpine Home


Come back tomorrow for a longer discussion about architecture and timeless interiors!