Recently I attended 2 seminars addressing different aspects of design and the design business that, as usual, led me to examine what I do (and often, WHY I do it)! The first seminar that I was fortunate to attend was in Winter Park, Florida (a post should be dedicated to that terrific city, just because it is amazing all by itself) The Friends of Casa Feliz hosted the 7th annual Colloquium for Historic Preservation and I was back among the environs of my architectural studies. This year the subject was the architecture of James Rogers Gamble and James Rogers Gamble II and the guest speaker was Paul Goldberger, who I have admired since I read his work on skyscrapers and other articles in the NYTimes, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere. While we had several interesting discussions as to why preservation was and is important, what constitutes “good” architecture and why it matters, I was most struck by the panel discussion on the work of the two architects. These two men, uncle and nephew, could not have been more different in era and work, yet as son and grandson “Jack” Rogers explained, what makes good architecture great is this sense of place, context,and texture. In residential design, whether it is the exterior or the interior of a building, texture is what elevates the ordinary to something that is meaningful and moving. Something that we respond to on a deeper level.
A lack of texture is one of the major and defeating problems of the typical “McMansion”. The details are flat and uninteresting, usually under-scaled and out of proportion. Details on an exterior of a home can be terrific on a small or modest home and elevate it to something charming, expressive and interesting, and details on a large sprawling and expensive home can still be inexpressive and uninteresting, no matter the level of expense. So if it is not about money, what is it? It is quite simply, good design. Attention to detail means that it is historically appropriate and well proportioned at the very least, and that is not about richness of material or cost of labor, but everything about scale, shadow lines and reveals and materials that have texture.
Contrast that with the work of the two architects of the Colloquium. James Rogers Gamble is responsible for many of the gothic buildings that define the campus of Yale University. Even allowing for the differences in our period to that of late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the choices we make when determining a style of a building, these buildings have a universal language that we can all appreciate and they are the epitome of detail and texture. More importantly for the purposes of my thoughts on this subject are the residential buildings of James Rogers Gamble II, working in Winter Park, FL. James Rogers Gamble II was an architect that followed the “old-school” apprenticeship route to a practicing architect, but was something of a renaissance man of intense curiosity and awareness of the world around him. His homes built in Winter Park during the 20’s and 30’s were not about massively expensive materials, and massively sized homes, but attention to detail and texture were superb. These houses are delightful to the eye, moderately sized, yet perfectly proportioned. The interior of Casa Feliz, perhaps his first “important” home for Massachusetts industrialist Robert Bruce Barbour is delightful, spacious and yet very simple, in keeping with the style of Andalusian farmhouse that he was patterning the home after.
All these images and discussion lead me up to the importance of that same texture and detail in interior design. The second seminar that I participated in was on the features and principles that make a room worthy of being published. What is involved in the evaluation that an editor brings to judge interior design work? The same principles of design in architecture, apply to the work that I do. Scale, proportion, detail, texture, AND getting them right is the most important skill that I and my fellow interior designers bring to the table. The difference between a nice room and a terrific room is the sum of those details.
Each room that I design calls me to address the details, whether to correct a proportion problem, balance the furniture in the room, or even to solve a traffic flow difficulty. The choices that I make are all designed to create a space that functions well for the client. But, more importantly, I believe that the homes we live in should be beautiful, meaningful, and nurturing. The places we live are the places that enrich our lives and we respond BEST to homes and rooms that are made up of our history, our future and our spirit.
A flat, mundane, “4 walls and a ceiling” do nothing for our spirit, and it is not about how much money we spend. It is about the layers of texture and detail that we enjoy without really knowing why a space feels good. The cozy corner that calls us to curl up and read, the warm, inviting kitchen that we use to feed ourselves, our guests and family, the welcoming entry that functions well and invites everyone into OUR space. It is not about only “traditional” style, or layer upon layer of “stuff”. A simple, spacious modern home can speak volumes to the occupants about light and color and can be just as welcoming.
My goal as a designer is to create spaces that are as distinctive as my clients. To find that one thing that most means HOME to each of them. The principles of design are my tools. Balance, proportion, texture, architecture and architectural style, period and history all combine to help us define what each of us call HOME.
If you would like help creating a home that speaks to YOU, contact me! Meredith@mlbinteriordesign.com