Designing Sacred Space
...and Have it Abundantly
First Things First
Function is the first consideration to address. What will this room be used for primarily? Will it have secondary uses? Having a dining room used only for entertaining is different from a dining room where all meals are taken and the kids do their homework. Do you view kitchens as only a place where food is prepared or do you see friends and family gathering there even between meal times? Aside from enough work space to prepare and cook meals are you a meticulous planner who will need a desk? Is the kitchen fairly contained or is it a thoroughfare from one part of the house to the other? Are the household chefs, short or tall or both? If two people will be working in the same kitchen who have very different physical needs having varied counter heights can be viewed as health saving necessities and not luxuries. This is especially true for people with disabilities.
Also, consider the functionality of tools, doors, cupboards, and equipment. Can you easily get to items used daily? Does anything impede the function of something else? Is there a place for everything and is everything in it's place? Some people are perfectly happy with a well order galley kitchen and prefer to work alone to cut down on distractions, to aid their focus and efficiency. Others see kitchens as the heart of family life and spend most of their time there. Which brings us to our second consideration, feelings. How would you like to feel in this room? If cooking is a hassle you'd rather avoid, planning a kitchen that personally delights you will help balance those feelings. Rooms can inspire feelings of energy, relaxation, competence, order, refuge, peacefulness, energy, connection, excitement, beauty, wealth, personal expression and so on. Consider every one's emotional needs.
In the Realm of the Senses
Once you define the function and feeling of a room, you'll want to identify the components that provide these for you. The physical properties list is fairly easy, the kitchen needs a refrigerator and stove, for example. Consider how your senses respond to stimulus and ask yourself if the feeling you wish to create is aided or restricted by your design choices. You may LOVE red, but typically, if you are looking to create a quiet personal retreat, red probably isn't going to be a help to you. There are exceptions, but you have to be conscious of your responses in order to know what will work.
- See: look through the things you already have and love to identify the colors you enjoy. Find pictures that express the feeling you are looking to create and use the colors within the picture as your palette. I was once saw a tree whose grey-green bark fell off in varied picture puzzle pieces, revealing a cheddar orange color beneath. That memory evokes for me thoughts of Fall, wool, wood, sophistication and surprise. It's a rich enough association to plan a room around.
- Taste: My Nana had a candy bowl in her living room. Visiting Nana meant getting a treat and it was one of her ways to express love. A water filter on the kitchen sink (or shower) brings added health and better tasting water. A bowl of fruit in the living room, a crystal decanter of water in the bedroom, a small refrigerator of treats in the studio, a window box of kitchen herbs are all examples of how taste effects a room. There is a reason why hotels leave a mint on the pillow.
- Touch: If you love to sink into furniture and the luxurious pile of velvet, planning a modern design for a room will offer more challenges than California casual. If cleanliness is next to Godliness for you are you really going to want many nooks and crannies, small tiles and grout? If you live organically, you may come to dislike the feel of acrylic carpeting under your feet or fret over its chemical based construction. Touch is about more than texture. Do your feet touch the foot board of your bed? Do you frequently bang your elbow getting out of that corner shower? Do you have a hard time gripping your new cookware? Over time, these small annoyances grate on your soul.
- Smell: Flowers, wood chips, candles, incense and potpourri have been used for centuries to scent rooms. They say to bake on the day you show your house if you want a sale. How about ventilation? Do unpleasant smells become trapped? Do your windows open easily and if so what smells from outside may come wafting in?
- Hear: A bubbling fountain, music, a white noise machine, a wind chime, the television, the clink of pans, all add their distinctive homey sounds. Consider how the use or elimination of sound influence your well being. A large closet can be turned into a quiet meditation space or isolated home office very easily.
So, you've identified how you wish your room to function and you've hopefully eliminated any dysfunctional aspects. You've decided how you want to feel in the room you're designing and you've pinpointed your sensual response to the items you are using to decorate the space until you've found the right match. Now it is time to ornament and accessorize, add your own personal touch. When selecting accessories, again coming from the stand point of how does this make you feel, pay attention to their stories and symbolism. Antiques and heirlooms are rich with subtextual history, known and unknown. If you know the history of piece and like its story that is excellent. However, if you are holding on to an item of value that reminds me you of a disagreement, unpleasantness or has negative connotations you would do yourself a service by selling it immediately. A relative of mine had a picture of screaming men being pushed off a castle in their living room -- this is not helpful, unless of course you work in repossession. Symbols of love in the bedroom, symbols of health, vitality and abundance in the kitchen, symbols of study and play in your children's rooms, family symbols in the living room are visual reminders that return our focus to what is important in or lives and keep us on track. Cleaning an item helps to clear negative energy, as does prayer.
Finally, the most important aspect of creating sacred space is setting it's vibration and honoring it afterwards. Say a prayer, ask for a blessing, or create a ritual when your room is completed. Ask people who are important to you to attend. Involve everyone who will be sharing the space. If you've set the intention to feel love in your bedroom, than choose not to argue or fight there. Really. Move to another area or take a time-out. By communicating what you wish to bring to life in a room you are protecting something important and vital to you. Those who share your space will come to appreciate how special they are that you are creating a life sustaining environment.
Kitchen Window Sill
Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote,
In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
Restraint and elimination are often the hallmark of a room that conveys sacredness; all needs are met, but nothing superfluous exists to clutter or distract.
Keep in mind the scale of the room. A few good, well-sized pieces fill a small room better than a jumble of small, rickety things crammed together. Tall rooms need objects placed higher. With very large rooms you can use carpets to define several spaces to avoid that barren, barn like feel. You can achieve the same effect of multiple spaces within a large space with lighting as well.
Ultimately, where ever we are, God is, and all is well.