Wednesday, February 13, 2013

William Morris and Defining "Beautiful."

As we all know, the adage, as stated above, is:
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

So, the question becomes: just what is beautiful, (to me) anyway?

I found a wonderful blog a while ago, called Fieldstone Hill. The author, Darlene, has a brief, but profound little series called Personal Style Bootcamp, developed as part of a larger series to help overcome decorating paralysis.

Both series are thought provoking. A crucial part of defining what is beautiful to you is to know what you love.

One way to do that is look at pictures and things and evaluate and sort and name. Another way to do it, Darlene's way, is for the more left brain oriented among us. Come up with the words, first, then find images which express the words. This is step one in Personal Style Bootcamp.

How to find the words? Darlene suggest answering the following questions:

1) How do I want my home to feel?
2) How do I want my home to look?
3) What purpose do I want my home to serve?

After narrowing things down, my word list consists of the following:

Simple, Comfortable, Unexpected, Unpretentious, Welcoming, and Hand Made.

And here's what I mean:


There's a lot to say about this room at the NoMad hotel in Manhatten: but the light, the white, the strong lines, the symmetry and the materials all say "simple, honest, uncluttered, fresh."


It's comfortable not just because there's a warm welcoming colour scheme, and a stunning ottoman/coffee table to put my feet upon, side tables to put down my drink, pillows to put at my back and books to place in my hand, but because it's all so cosy. The scale is just right. Somehow, though, it looks like a living room in a magazine--not a room in a home. It feels cluttered to me, too. And I'd need more colour, anyway!

sidenote: It's astonishing how many "pretty pictures" are not, actually, pictures of comfortable rooms. I try to imagine myself inside--and though they make stunning photographs, most do not have chairs suitable for watching a good long movie, places to put drinks, a spot for my feet. You get the picture. The above is a nest. A magpie's nest, to be sure, but a nest, nonetheless.


Source: Loraine G. Vale via houzz

The red dresser is a bit of an eye opener, isn't it? It makes the room, though.



from House and Home, June 2012 via Wilson Kelsey Design
All that texture! The wood has such warmth. I would love to transfer this, item for item, into my front entry.


I  want to say something about purpose, because it is the most important thing--and the most difficult to capture in just images.

Our home has to serve us. We are not going to serve the home. Cleaning it, decluttering it, fixing up things here and there is all for us--not a design aesthetic I'm trying to adhere to. I am a creature of aesthetics, though, so looking good and caring about that will always be part of my home.

So, while I "decorate" my home, the first questions will always be: what do we do here and how can we do it effortlessly? How do we want to feel? How can I accomplish that?

That is what good design is all about. It's a tool. A means. Not the end itself.

Linking to Jules at Pancakes and French Fries for our weekly William Morris event.

Sidenote: I've had this post percolating for months. Many thanks to Rita and Cane at This Sorta Old Life for their thoughts on Undesign. They provided the push I needed to wrap my head around the issues of design and functionality, once again.


Rita@thissortaoldlife said...

The whole way through reading this post, I was thinking yes, yes, yes. You've captured exactly what we've been struggling to put our fingers on.

We've found that coming up with words is a good starting place for us, too. Comfortable and functional are always high on our list.

Lovely images of rooms that look so comfortable. I especially love that quilt in the bedroom near the end of the post. Want to take a nap!

(And thanks for the shout out.)

Melissa said...

What a great dissection of how design should serve those who live in it, not the other way around. I love your inspiration photos. I think I must have a similar aesthetic!

onshore said...

What a good post. And thanks for the links. I'm sometimes so drawn to so different styles that I think I would need to have many homes to incorporate all those styles. Also my style has changed over time. Luckily not over night but quite fast anyhow.
I too love the room with the quilt.

Lisa @ Trapped In North Jersey said...

Great thoughts! Agreed, stuff in your house should work FOR you. Its taken me a long time (and a lot of wrong furniture) to get to that place.

May said...

I am a words kind of girl to start with, so your plan resonates with me. And btw, I am loving the red dresser!

Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

Great post. I have to admit that in the 12+ years my husband and I have been together, now at 33 is the first time we have had a chance to actually decorate a home instead of just living in it, making it functional and renovating it. So I think I am going to have to spend some time reflecting on those questions and check out Fieldstone Hill to see if I can actually develop a style for our current apartment (which we adore) and actually have some time to decorate (for a change!)

Dropping by from the William Morris linky

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