Thanks to Erinn at the happy living blog and her mention of this book House Thinking by Winifred Gallagher, I started to read it last evening and was thrilled with the first chapter! This is not a "how to decorate your home according to a certain style" book. This is about addressing your psychological and emotional needs in your home, or how the way the arrangement of furniture, the inclusion of your things, the floorplan or the light and windows affect your mood, your energy, and your day-to-day activity.
In the first chapter she discusses what architect Grant Hildebrand found when he asked the question, "Why might Homo sapiens be drawn to some places and repelled by others?" He found that we have an enduring fondness for the combination of field (hunting range: food), stream (water), and grove of trees (shelter) as reflected in so many paintings of old masters. He wanted to make this connection with our architecture and came up with the five characteristics that enhance our experience of home: prospect and refuge, enticement, peril, and complex order. Frank Lloyd Wright understood these elements, incorporating them into many of the homes he designed. In a nutshell:
Prospect: a big, bright space that has a broad, interesting view
Refuge: a snug protected haven... Prospect and Refuge should be paired together and are the most important elements. Our cookie cutter homes tend to neglect these truths with same heighth ceilings and lack of refuge or cozy places, especially with Great Rooms being the rage or even prospect as structures are built so close together. He refers to these two things as "perching" and "nesting".
Enticement: an element of surprise, what is around the next corner...in nature this is evoked by winding paths. This could be the lighting, leading your way from room to room. But you could also ruin the enticement by dark passageways or overgrown ivy creating creepiness instead.
Peril: though it sounds funny, the controlled feeling of peril, like looking out your window at a snow-capped mountain or the desert, or a wonderfully laid-out balcony gives some excitement to space.
Complex Order: This explains why older suburbs have more charm than new suburbs with nearly indistinguishable "units". We feel good in a room that is tidy, yet has some books, pillows, and everyday objects scattered about, balancing variety and stability.
So this is what I've gotten so far from this book! One college professor had his students take a small apartment and create these characteristics in it. So this is not about going to the furniture store and spending thousands of dollars or trying to copy magazine layouts. It's about your and my needs in our house to make it a home. Can't wait to read more!!!