Concepts & Designs

Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.       JOHN O’DONAHUE

I’m a thinker, and a creator, but I’m also a doer.  I like to move and to make things. Below is a glimpse into my process.

Every project begins with a feeling. 

A tangle of emotions I want to illicit, and then the ideas and the answers unfurl from there—the menu, the flow, the colors, the fixtures and the finishes, getting more and more specific, like the narrowing of a funnel. But it all starts with a desire to ignite a certain feeling or set of feelings that exist like an unsung musical chord in your mind—hazy and imaginary and yet also resonant, pure.

I have to keep going back to that feeling as I work my way through the funnel of design—especially when I get stuck. I pull it up in my mind and hold it there, and start to see things, muzzy at first but increasingly clear. Sometimes ideas come like epiphanies, and you jump forward to the end and bring what you see back to the beginning—the perfect chair! transcendent lighting!— but mostly you have to be patient. 

I begin to wonder if beauty is somehow as elemental to life as carbon and chlorophyll—a key component that imparts life and hope and even transcendence to the natural world and to the religious and the nonreligious of the human species.—KRISTA TIPPETT

So, every project is a lesson in faith.

Design is not all rational, known.  Like a seed, it has to germinate. You don’t get all the answers at once; they come when they are ready, germinating in some secret unconscious place in the mind. Like the restless seed in Soos’ poem—the the “darkness of being planted” and the “struggle towards the light” are as much a part of the process as the visible green growth and flowering—the stuff you can see, the manifestations.

Coming home

I’ve been chasing the feeling of home all of my life, trying to create it for people, and for myself. Home is a physical place but maybe more importantly a space in our mind-body-soul, that I think good design, and beauty, can help people find. To feel at home. To come home. To be at rest. To feel cozy, tucked in, safe, but also delighted and excited, with that wormy squirmy feeling in the belly. Every concept and space I’ve imagined represents a different way home.

It all rests on affection. 

Good design comes from love. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds. Wendell Berry puts it, perhaps, more poetically, writing “it all rests on affection.” You gotta love the places where you design, and the people you design for. And, that love isn’t some abstract notion, but a palpable, clear as day feeling you hold when you create, like a hug in your head—it’s love for people, and love of land, of dirt and air and bricks and wood.

Beauty is full-bodied and synesthetic.

 

Beauty, real beauty, is healing, transcendent, transformative

Beauty changes us, body and soul, and beautiful spaces are meant to be experienced with our bodies and all of our senses. We breathe spaces. We feel their textures, we sync up with their rhythms. We smell beauty. 

In order to design healing spaces, we have to spend a lot of time in them.

We can’t do everything on a computer, with slick renderings, toiled over at a desk, behind a screen, theoretical. This makes lifeless, cookie cutter spaces—the blank of blank—which only makes us retreat behind our screens even more. To design for people and not just for Instagram and Pinterest, you have to use more than mouses, brains and eyeballs. You have to use your spidey sense and synesthesia, and you have to spend time in the spaces, feeling them, and asking them what they want.

 

My staff, my boo (who also happens to be an uber-talented architect), and I often do parts of the construction work ourselves—we plant trees and grass, mud walls, paint massive panels of peg board, nail tongue and groove ceilings into place. Sometimes we do it to save money, but really it’s a kind of an offering, a blessing, like smudging a room with sage.

Beautiful photography: jenjudge.com