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 – 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? 

Timeless Trait #1 – Restraint

Hello there! Welcome to the first Timeless Trait Tuesday! Let the games begin! Well, maybe not games exactly, unless you count intelligent conversation a game… (I’m nerdy, so I guess I do!) I should say, let the formal discussion begin! Now that you know a little more about me, and the purpose of the blog, let’s dive in, shall we?

On Saturday, I proposed that timeless living is a lifestyle. What we consider important in our lives affects the decisions we make about how we live in our homes. Those decisions include the ways we arrange our furniture, lay out our kitchens, select our plumbing fixtures and make our beds. They affect how we furnish and decorate, how we choose to make our house our home. That leads me to the first timeless design trait: RESTRAINT. I look at the concept as a lifestyle and a design style, because I think the two are co-dependent. When we choose to live a lifestyle of restraint, that translates into our homes’ aesthetics.

So what does a lifestyle of restraint look like? Nowadays, most of us are having to make due with less, making our money go further and getting creative with our financial decisions. Some of us are living restraint by necessity, some of us by choice. I don’t propose, however, that living a life of restraint means giving up what’s important to you (like a weekly dinner with friends, for example). I think restraint means giving up excess; if it’s not that important, do you need it? (I will point out that dinner with friends at someone’s house is much more fun, and economical, than another night out.) If you don’t need it, can you give up wanting it? (I would like to refurnish our master bedroom, but, saving money to buy a house is more important.) Decisions are value judgments. So if we decide we don’t need that fiftieth pair of shoes or third gray handbag, not only are our closets less cluttered, but our lives are a whole lot simpler. Perhaps our budget is self-imposed, because we reject the materialism our culture pushes on us. The home design/decor/DIY blogosphere has shown us that repainting/refinishing that old cabinet can created a completely new look. Those old wallpaper scraps make great art when framed nicely, and houseplants and flowers from the garden are really the best accessories a room can have.

But, I’m getting off my soapbox now (because really, I could add materialism as an “anti-timeless trait” for so many reasons). We’ll probably return to the lifestyle discussion at a later date…

Back to the real topic: What might restraint look like in our homes?

Some recurring themes of restraint:

  1. consistent and simple color palettes
  2. minimal but meaningful accessories
  3. careful and thoughtful selections
  4. focus on necessity and function

These themes show us a few things.  First, restraint obviously isn’t about “stuff”.  It’s about the careful selection of pieces we love.  Then, we let those items speak for themselves, not cluttering up tabletops with useless items or covering the sofa in a hundred pillows.  (Too much clutter makes me feel anxious.  Does it do the same to you?)  When we choose to make selections based on a subtle color palette, we can feel refreshed and calm.  Restrained design allows us to live in our home the way we want to: comfortably.


A few closing thoughts:

“Teach us delight in simple things.”  – Rudyard Kipling

“Going back to a simpler life is not step backward.”  – Yvon Chouinard

all images shown from: http://thepursuitaesthetic.tumblr.com/ , http://delicatesoundofthunder.tumblr.com/ , and http://open-bibles.tumblr.com/

Timeless Living as Lifestyle

I think timeless living begins with the concept that it is a LIFE STYLE not a design style. How we design our homes is only one component of our lifestyle. Do you agree? Or is there an argument that design can create a lifestyle? (If you went to design school, you know the answer is yes, but maybe that’s a topic for another day…) A lifestyle is a way of life, a way of living. It relies on our fundamental belief systems and is created through our actions, our relationships and our day-to-day choices.

source: http://jarlathmellett.com/index.php?id=16&type=projects

By trade and by passion, I’ll be focusing on the aesthetic aspect of timeless living: timeless design. I think designing timelessly requires a change in thinking and a change in lifestyle. And I think that means creating a lifestyle of restraint. By that I mean, a lifestyle, and a design style, that rejects excess. (The topic of restraint is a big one, so more on this Tuesday!)

Our home should reflect how we live our life, and be integral to it. For each one of us, this is a little different. Each one of us has a different daily routine, different guiding principles, different beliefs. These lifestyle traits will impact our design choices. That means, I don’t really want to arrive at one over-arching definition for timeless living that we can all ascribe to. I want to pursue my personal definition and help you pursue yours, and find a lot of inspiring work along the way!

Here’s what you can expect as this blog progresses, in an effort to further our pursuit.  But don’t think I won’t be posting on other days too just because I don’t have an alliterative subject title!

  1. Must-Read Monday – there are many fabulous design books, blogs and websites out there, and I have so many recommendations. In order to formulate our definition, we must do our due diligence and see what other definitions exist. Sometimes that’s how we find the best ideas!
  2. Timeless Trait Tuesday – if we are going to define timeless design, we must define its traits. (And I don’t mean design style or design elements. We need to define it on a higher level than “linen vs. leather”.) I’ve got a starting list, but I have a feeling we’ll discover many more. And I always want to hear your suggestions!
  3. Fabulous Find Friday – because there will always be beautiful images to share!

What do you think about the lifestyle concept?