intentional by DESIGN

“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” Charles Eames

I have always been more about practical than pretty.  When I got my first job as a teen, I remember my mom’s advice was to “buy separate pieces, not dresses, they are far more versatile and practical and you can mix and match and buy less.” That advice along with much more has held me in good stead for decades, always choosing functionality first, design second, and in the best of both worlds, they’ve come as package deal. During my first stay in Sweden, I recall how well the furniture ‘operated’ in the homes I visited.  I so appreciated the practical, and multi- purpose pieces I saw; beautiful to look at but always simple, smart, and so functional.  And while some might favour this love of function as a nod to frugality, for me, I just love when things ‘work’ and when they serve more than one purpose, that ticks all the boxes.   

When I met with our house designer for the first time, he asked me the usual questions; where was the property, how big a house, what was our budget?  And then the bigger ones; why were we building, what was our vision, what mattered most about this new home?

What I appreciate most about John, was that he got us.  He designs using a holistic approach that reflects well on paper and we hope, in the finished build. He understands what we are trying to achieve with our last chapter, our intentional lifestyle, and our limited resources. 

Some of our design requirements include: an ‘accessible’ home, that meets our needs now and can adapt to the future, a public side and a private side, rooms that are not defined by name but rather by function. So, while on a drawing, they may need distinction, we purposefully haven’t built permanence into the design. For example, our bedroom is a bedroom only if we deem that it’s the best fit; if we put a bed in there, if we indeed sleep in the space.  There are no built-in cupboards or closets so we are able to design based on how we want to use a room; what happens there, where does the light fall, and how does this place flow into others. By not building in permanent structures, we are able to design and redesign as time passes and requirements change.  If at some point, we are unwell and need to sleep in a larger space with easy access to the outside and lots of natural light, then perhaps our bed moves into the larger space, and a ‘living room’ becomes a ‘sleeping room’. If we need to isolate for any reason, to write a novel or do yoga in private, then we have another space that allows for that. If we want to invite many people over to share our table, then we can place a table in the best possible location; inside, outside, whatever works best for that gathering.   

Within our adaptable spaces, we expect to choose our furniture with the same intention. What we move into the house needs to serve more than one function, two is great, three or more, even better.  So, we are not hung up on a ‘kitchen table’, we simple have a table or tables that can serve as a dining space, a working space, a reading space, a bread making space, a place to create.  Cupboards are also free to live wherever it works best.  If we need to house clothes, then we can put a cupboard in where we dress, if we need to house dishes, then we can put a cupboard in where we make food, and if we don’t need a cupboard, we simply won’t have one.  Keeping in mind that we intend to bring very little into our new space, we hope that we will need few places to house ‘things’. Benches must include storage, tables must fold and expand, everything must be useful, and if it’s beautiful, that’s a bonus. Function is more important to me than form.  There won’t be shelves for things to simply sit upon, there won’t be boxes to simply hide things in, items will be permitted to stay if they can prove their worth.  For those who are imagining a home without beauty, art, and colour, fear not, there will be creations and makings, but with more windows than walls, just fewer of them.

If you have visions of entering our new house and seeing only a chair and a plate, don’t worry.  There will be modern and historical pieces, artwork and beautiful furniture, but it will have been put there with intention, on purpose and with purpose.  We intend to incorporate ‘functional minimalism’ which is defined as a more mindful approach to purchasing, owning, and organizing physical goods and operates on one central tenant – you should only own things that you value. 

For me it’s not about being more organized, purging, or finding better storage solutions.  It’s about intentionality. It’s about deowning, not just decluttering. As Joshua Becker says in Becoming Minimalist, “At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality upon us. As a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.”

Our hope is that as we age and the woods and weather change, the place we soon call home, will continue to meet us where we are. We hope it can evolve alongside us, until our current living space becomes our final resting place, all going well.    

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Bookcase that is also a table and 2 chairs – designed by Sakura Adachi

Coffin designed by William Warren -first launched at the British Library during the 2005 London Design Festival.  We haven’t bought this, but I like the way he thinks!

FRAME of reference

I have always had the ability to envision, to form a mental picture including size, texture, and colour. It’s been helpful as an event planner to be able to view an empty space and see what’s happening there; the band on stage, fully dressed dining tables, the flow of guests at the buffet, the lighting, a completely decorated room.  

Even with the architectural drawings and a concrete slab with colourfully chalked rooms, a finished house has been somewhat harder to imagine; waking up to the view, showering outdoors, eating breakfast at the kitchen island.  Now that walls have arrived, my senses are in overdrive, in a good way!  

What a frame does is it defines the container in which everything finds its place or attempts to fit within imposed boundaries. It outlines the edges from which we can then find our central focus.  For me it has helped my mind’s eye place furniture as well as place us in our new life. Like a camera that captures the present moment, I am able to see us at home, dining outdoors, resting indoors, and moving from room to room. I can sense a measured approach to living, imagine a slower pace of doing, smell the conifers ouside our bedroom windows. 

That ability to envision along with the plan’s proposed measurements has allowed us to better design the spaces that we will soon find ourselves in; to place furniture, to organize function, and to imagine the flow of life there.    

With our space being limited and becoming more defined each day, we are now able to design with intention what we will bring into our new home. We can determine what won’t fit the spaces and what won’t fit our lifestyle. Working with this frame of reference allows us to clearly design a way of living that allows for movement and flow as well as fixed forms and distinct function; and as is often in art and advertising, white space is key.  

So our earliest discussions around design now become decisions around what’s pragmatic; what goes and what stays, what’s really needed and what’s mostly wanted, what’s of value, and what still brings us joy. By the time we pack up, we hope to have a clearly defined plan as well as a very limited number of items to shift from one house to another.  And because we have our eyes set on the future, we are designing with the end in view.  Not only have our needs changed, our numbers have changed. When we moved into our current home, we were seven.  When we move into our new house, we will be two, and with a much smaller footprint.

So as we begin to walk the chalk edged rooms, we anticipate what will fit within the lines, and not only how the house frames the spaces, but how our home will frame the next part of our journey.