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?