Must-Read Monday: “Home: From Concept to Reality” by Kelly Hoppen

Hello all!  I’m finally back on the blogging wagon… Life has been “interruptive” as of late! But now I have another must-read for you this week.

This book is about British designer Kelly Hoppen’s own journey to define home.  As a result of her experience, she deftly explains the design process, working from whole to part, and focusing as much on architectural detailing as furnishings.  Stunning photographs, neutral palettes, and a strong sense of balance and proportion make this home a wonderful study in timelessness.


(cover image from Amazon, other images via)


(un)Wordless Wednesday

I really liked my post yesterday, except for one thing.  I don’t think I gave you enough good exterior images about curb appeal and front doors.  So, hopefully I can redeem myself today!  I like doors, and I love architecture as much as interior design, so I had a lot of fun looking for what you see below.  (Of course, I also found some images of front doors from the inside of the house, and couldn’t help but include them here too!)  Enjoy!

(all images from Pinterest)

Which house is your favorite?  Which do you think looks the most welcoming?

Must-Read Monday – “Welcoming Home” by Michaela Mahady

As you all can tell by now, I’m addicted to books.  And, unfortunately for my habit, I discovered many months ago that One Kings Lane has coffee table books for sale every couple weeks, I’ve been in big trouble!  I want to share with you one I just received last week, and is so perfect for the theme of this blog.

“Welcoming Home” is written by Minnesota architect Michaela Mahady.  Her goal in presenting this publication was to present that main characteristics of a house that make it an inviting home.  Personally, I think the summary in the book jacket does the best job of stating this:

“…architecture Michaela Mahady explores how humans experience built places in order to identify those characteristics that make us feel welcome, protected, comforted and happy.  She examines such elements as welcoming entryways, sheltering roofs, handcrafted details that convey personality and tradition, and materials and colors that create comfort and warmth.”

Personally, I think she does a great job at doing this.  While her examples are predominantly Craftsman-style homes, there are beautiful photographs of all the concepts she discusses.  She has designed the book to look at a house from the outside in, working from a holistic perspective to focusing on details.  She points out our timeless trait “sense of place” in a great way, discussing physical, emotional and physiological ties with the land and community, and offers some great anecdotal examples.  She gives advice on what questions to ask yourself during a building process to ensure that the home reflects your lifestyle and your neighborhood.

(all images from Google Preview)

What makes you feel welcome in a home?
What have you done in your home to make others feel welcome?

Come back tomorrow to discuss more on this timeless trait!

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!!

Must-Read Monday – Jasper Conran’s “Country”

Good morning, Monday!

Another week and another book recommendation. Today, I want to introduce you to Country, the first publication by the English-born fashion and costume designer Jasper Conran.

A note of caution: this is not a book about design. It is a book about a way of life, of heritage, of traditions. Its fabulous photographs capture farmers in their fields, families in their homes, the beauty of the English landscape. Conran writes about how so many country homes have remained rather unchanged for generations, due both to lack of funds and simplicity.

What his words and photographs exude are a strong sense of place, of family, of lifestyle. Their buildings have a common vernacular, same as the people who live in them. But this is the important part, the homes represent the people who live in them: their sensibilities, their relationships, their everyday routines.

I think this book also introduces some of what I want to talk about this week: sense of place, tradition, vernacular; the importance that environment plays in both architecture and interior design.  Stay tuned!

Fabulous Finds Friday – NYC Rowhouse Renovation

I’m posting this on a Thursday, even though it’s Friday’s post.  Please forgive me for not putting together a Thursday post worthy of sharing!  (I promise to make it up to you!)

I’ve been talking about architecture this week.  Mainly how architecture and interiors are inseparable in the most successful projects.  That a timeless home designs with both in mind from the beginning, or renovations somehow honor the existing structure and its past.  This month’s DWELL magazine yielded several great projects!  The one shown below is a New York City renovation of a rowhouse, spread out over nearly a decade, undertaken by an architect.  I’m showing this to you because even though the newly redesigned interior deviates from its traditional exterior, I think his use of materials and forms honor the building, not compete with it.

Rowhouses were traditionally built as a series of small rooms flanking a central hall.  These rooms were often deprived of natural light and lent themselves to a disconnect between family members in different areas of the house.  But, times and lifestyles were different a century ago.  Here in America, we may not have the centuries-old architectural heritages of Europe or Asia, but we have a multitude of unique buildings begging to be given new life.  So how do we preserve architectural integrity while catering to the needs of our modern life?  I think these images show a carefully calculated solution.







What do you think?

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; 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?