Even as a busy child I knew there was something about my best friend’s house. My own house was comfortable and cozy, clean and styled in its way. A fairly typical country Victorian, down to the purple exterior.
But my friend’s house… The space itself had a cohesion and deliberateness that was apparent even to my 7 year old self. Her parents had designed and built it themselves. It was likely professionally decorated, but it could have been done by them–her mom, while fairly plain in her personal style, obviously had taste and an eye.
It’s only recently–after realizing my love of interior design and decor and honing the interest with House & Home magazine, HGTV and a Pinterest obsession–that I’ve developed the vocabulary to define what it was I was unconsciously appreciating as a child. From the cathedral ceiling celebrated by a huge, black-paned 2-story window to the primary-hued Arne Jacobsen Vola faucets providing a pop of colour against the white walls, the carefully placed antique wormwood consoles to the Le Corbusier Basculant chairs in Italian leather–this place knew what it was about.
Even the entryway, which baffled me a bit as a kid–the fact that it was at the back of the house, small and unassuming, simple and dark, a mudroom off to the side and hardwearing charcoal grey tiles underfoot, a coatrack and simple wooden bench along the wall–I know it now as a typical Frank Lloyd Wright trick, because the two steps up from that cave-like, perfunctory room deposited you into the vast, light-rilled great room where that picture window breathlessly delivered the vista beyond the house–the green hills of the Hudson Valley rolling off into the sky. From dark into light. In terms of design, her house was the most sophisticated, intentional, and informed space I spent any time in as a kid. Somewhat museum-like, yes. But now I get it.
And thinking back on it, it holds up–an artful example of postmodern design. Perhaps that’s why, in all the years that I spent there for playdates and sleepovers, it never changed much. It didn’t have to. Despite the self-conscious furniture choices and deliberate design, it wasn’t trendy. It was timeless.
I must have absorbed lessons in style from this house I spent so much time in as a child. I am loathe to jump on a trend, either in decorating my house or my self. My beauty routine and makeup are pretty simple. But I have always liked the idea of investing in quality–good construction and design that will last.
It wasn’t the most comfortable of places, for a variety of reasons (those Basculant chairs are not exactly cushy). There were a lot of objets that were off-limits. There wasn’t a space to completely relax and sink into (and those missing pieces also provide some good lessons). But this place has clearly stayed with me. It seems amazing now that I can remember these details–it’s either a testament to how good design can move even the least educated of us, or that I had an interest I didn’t realize or understand yet. But how interesting to look over those memories with the loupe of new knowledge!
What places had a strong impression on you growing up? How did it affect you? What do you know now that changes those memories?
Has it really been 12 years since you bought that bag?! I think were at Woodbury together, right?
Yeah, man, looong long time ago. It’s crazy. And yes, I think you were with me. I’d been eying that bag for a while and bought it one summer with my golf course job money 🙂 Good times!
I think the place that had the most impact on me as a child was a house on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, belonging to a family friend, where we used to go with a few other families once a year for a low-cost holiday. I don’t know that I fully appreciated the design of the house, but aside from the happy association of holiday, the impression it had upon me was one of a complete contrast to everything I knew from daily life. Growing up I lived first in a semi-detached house on a busy main road and then in a detached property on a lively housing estate. This cottage we used to go to was made of old grey stones that looked and felt like they had been there forever. There were no neighbours. It was situated on the edge of a loch and surrounded by rugged Scottish countryside, with a field full of sheep next door which was the best playground imaginable. In my young mind it was as far away as you could get from where I was coming from. I’d love to be able to go back now I’m older and see it with adult’s eyes.
Oh my gosh, that sounds like heaven! I love those old Scottish cottages! We’re sort of house-hunting right now, so it’s helpful to think about the impression that places have on children, as we consider what is right for our family. Kids really do see things in different ways.
Thanks for sharing 🙂