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Together, Your Story and My Magic Wand Will Create Your Perfect, Unique and Inspired Home

Updated on January 5, 2016
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I want to inspire you to tell a story and to create an environment where that story can be told, shared and enjoyed by others. The most successful way of turning your home into this type of a personal haven is by creating it such that it tells your story. Why do you think everyone loves images of lofts created inside an old clock tower or factory? It isn’t because we enjoy spending 4 million extra dollars trying to waterproof it and keep cold drafts out. It isn’t because we believe walking on cracked concrete every day is comfortable or desirable. It is because it evokes a feeling. It tells a unique story. It doesn’t have to be a clock tower to evoke feeling. It does, however, need to tell a story. That story is your story.

As an architect, I’m in the ‘people pleasing business.’ If you are happy, then I am successful. You will be happier if you can take time to determine what will make you happy and then help me understand your happiness (Architecture Self-Help 101). Think about it… People default to copying Pottery Barn magazines because they see something that inspires them. Ikea has taken this one step further by creating 3-dimensional versions of these magazine pictures in their showrooms where the average person can see, feel, touch and ultimately buy the checklist of things that evoked that initial inspired feeling. In either case, however, you get it (whatever IT is) home and the shiny sparkly feeling tends to fade either when it begins to quickly wear (you get what you pay for) or you see the exact same checklist in your neighbor’s house, and suddenly the magic goes POOF! The magic fades because your home isn’t telling your story. It’s telling the story of a few people who sat in a conference room somewhere and decided the “IN” color would be fuchsia and that post-post-mid-century modern-ish would make a comeback, because these were the things that would evoke the most emotion and therefore make the most sales.

table of distant design deciders pondering the color fuchsia
table of distant design deciders pondering the color fuchsia

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with feeding your Pinterest habit. Hey, I do it too. Just take the time to look a little deeper and longer at things and notice what you like and don’t like. You may end up noticing enough things that you aren’t psyched about on the piece of eye candy you are drooling over, that you realize it isn’t for you after all. I recommend doing that BEFORE you spend millions on a home rather than after (just a thought). That inspiration and energy you feel when you see something SUPER AMAZING is the energy I’m trying to get at. Grab hold and harness it! But you get exponentially better long lasting results if you spend the time really picking through the details, paying attention to the specifics and allowing yourself to think outside the Ikea, I mean box. Take note of the strange little things from which you get loads of joy, as those things create YOUR story.

One of my favorite things in my home is a 2’ tall hand-carved wooden Thai hand puppet of a wrinkly, wide-eyed woman dressed in green linen with saggy boobs. The best part is that the boobs actually have strings on them too, so you can swing them around as you would her arm or leg. I have seen a million different reactions to this thing. The man who installed my new oven took one look at it and sped up his service call 10-fold to get the heck out of my apparently crazy house. My neighbors, the ones with 200 different rooster sculptures scattered around their home, simply adore it. Half of my friends love it, some just laugh and the rest think, “Eh”. What really matters is that year after year, literally every time I look at it, I smile. Take THAT Ikea! It doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it. This emotion, if sprinkled throughout your home, is what will really create your personal home haven. Each piece tells a story and is like a little surprise. Everyone likes surprises. It brings life to your home.

I had a client who lived in a condo overlooking one of Seattle’s historic nuggets. Highway 99 (The Viaduct) rides along the edge of the beautiful Puget Sound overlooking the Olympic Mountain range. As many of you may know, part of the viaduct was demolished to change transportation in the city (a topic from which I will spare you, as it has been known to actually triple the decibel level of parties). This client once saw an image where an artist combined a picture of the Viaduct (under construction so it appeared damaged anyway) and Godzilla who was made to look as though he was bashing through the concrete. He thought this was the best thing since sliced bread and went on and on about wanting to find or recreate this for his home. Inspired by this strange interest in this thing that I myself would never have gravitated towards, I worked with a local concrete fabricator to obtain a chunk of the actual demolished Viaduct. It was then turned into Powder Room sink where the top was cut flat and polished, and the edges were left natural and rough. You can see and touch the massive chunks of stone aggregate that once held up our highway, and steel legs were designed to evoke the steel in the concrete. This type of STORY is what will create your personal home haven. He loves his sink so much that the first thing he does with new visitors is to shuffle them single file into the Powder Room to tell the story. His story.

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The floppy boob puppet is a purchased object placed on a wall, and the Viaduct sink is a fabricated piece installed in a building. The actual architecture itself, however, is the grand master of all storytellers. Picture standing on the stone floor of a 200 year old farmhouse Living Room drenched in light from the 14’ tall floor to ceiling windows. You meander towards the Dining Room and the actual doorway or interstitial space literally between the Living Room and Hall is almost a small room in and of itself. It is like you are walking through a 2’ deep alcove or cave. The ceiling in this 2’ alcove drops from 14’ to 8’ and when you look up you see a stone archway. This massively thick wall is merely a pass-through between two rooms, but it creates a surprise space that tells a story. Maybe it evokes your favorite childhood bedtime story about dragon lairs and castles, or maybe it reminds you of the 16th century building you enjoyed on your honeymoon in the south of France. The thick walls tell a story about how buildings were built in that particular time and place, and you imagine how strong the person must have been who placed each heavy stone 8’ above your head. A space filled with this type of story, emotion and surprise is magic. It doesn’t have to be a 200 year old stone structure or a once-in-a-lifetime clock tower opportunity to be amazing and tell your story. Your strange interests and unique quirks are what I love. They are my palette and inspiration. Don’t hide these wonderful details behind magazine images. Tell me your story and we can make magic!

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