With every original creative expression, whether it be a piece of furniture or a home, there’s someone behind it, someone who had very specific ideas. Someone who likely laid awake at night, wrestling with how to implement them in exactly they ways they envisioned.
What the design reveals about the designer
Almost any of us can walk up to a home and appreciate the craftsmanship in the ornate details. Many of us could even spot it in the much subtler ones. But it’s harder to appreciate the deeper significance of those details, to know how they’re the framework of something that wasn’t tried before and probably couldn’t be easily reproduced, not at first, anyway. To even consider anything like that, let alone to pull it off, requires a rare kind of confidence and commitment.
In too many of those instances, the craftsmanship endures—like I said, we know it when we see it—but the vision that brought it into being and the person behind that vision—once a modern furniture designer in their own right, or an architect, or someone simply with a dream that wouldn’t stop harassing them—fade away as the home becomes defined by its basic functions.
Do you remember the things, big and small, that snared your attention, that ultimately compelled you to say, “This is it! This is our house”? Maybe every now and again. But your mind’s probably trained now on the home’s vitals. How many years do we have left in the roof? The windows are going to need replacing before next winter.
Seeing in emotion
When a home catches my eye, I don’t necessarily see it in the way that you may be thinking a modern furniture designer would. I don’t home in on the architectural features, not right away. I’m aware of them. But it’s kind of like meeting an enchanting person. It’s not until you’re walking away from the conversation that you start trying to put a finger on what, exactly, cast a spell over you. I see a home and imagine it as it would be in its prime, full of life, the sun beaming through the windows, casting long shadows on the hardwood floors, the warm scent of baking bread hanging in the kitchen, kids’ laughter echoing from the backyard. I feel like I’m seeing it exactly as the architect imagined it.
Designers, I think, tend to be viewed in the same ilk as engineers; we’re driven by technical perfection. I do consider some part of myself an engineer. I enjoy the problem solving that comes with being a modern furniture designer. And I believe a design is only as sound as its construction. You’ll never find me building anything that isn’t functional—and that won’t be fulfilling that function a couple generations down the road. But we’re not only that. I’m not, at least. I have a deep emotional connection to everything I build, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that respect.
The engineering’s going to torment you at some point. It’s calculated and, even worse, it’s cold. It doesn’t care how often you try something. If you don’t get it precisely right, it’s not cooperating. True, there is some comfort in its constancy. But, more often than not, it feels like it’s working against you. So, what ends up carrying you through is the emotional connection, those feelings that stirred in you the moment the vision took shape in your mind. In me, they’re so strong, they become an end as much as the physical piece itself. I don’t consider it done until it elicits the emotional response that I imagined it would.
Nothing’s built from scratch
But there’s more to that. Those emotions run deeper than me. They’re the lifeblood of everyone and everything. The greatest compliments I’ve received as a modern furniture designer came from people who confided that they were moved by an energy coursing through my pieces. They may have been unsure about it, but they grasped, at least, that there was more than met the eye.
Likewise, if you can quiet the distraction, a home—and its architect—will reveal itself to you. A renovation, then, becomes an homage to the person and the ideal they created, a means to ensuring the home pulses again with the vibrancy of its prime and the next generation is granted the opportunity to tap it.