“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” Gaston Bachelard
I have long believed that houses, and their interiors, were not just brick and mortar and furniture. They are places where we live and they reflect who we are, both our exterior lives and our interior lives. It is how houses reflect the latter — our interior lives, including our emotional lives — that interests me.
Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher, who lived from 1884 to 1962 and taught at the Sorbonne. He came from very humble beginnings, starting out his professional life as a postman. He wrote a book that I plan to read, The Poetics of Space.
I first saw Gaston Bachelard mentioned in an AMAZING book, Reveal: Interior Design as a Reflection of Who We Are by Harriet Anstruther. Anstruther is an architect and interior designer. I first heard about her in an article in House and Garden, the British magazine. Remember, it’s all about following those crumbs . . .
The book examines the relationship(s) between interior design, what is a home, and our personal, social, and emotional selves. This is a subject that I have thought a lot about. I believe that how we organize/think about the interiors of our homes reflects our emotions, our sense of ourselves in the world, and what we value. This could be for “good” and not so “good.”
I spent a good deal of my career working in organizations that supported folks who often had major challenges. They were homeless, or battered (or both), lost their children, battling alcohol or other substance abuse, had mental illness, had grown up in foster care, etc., etc., etc. These are serious issues due to a multitude of factors, too many and complicated to list and discuss here.
But among the more subtle issues that my colleagues and I used to think about is how chaotic their lives were. A good part of that chaos is due to the fact that they were required to meet with so many agencies and bounced around among them, with little or no support to help them use their own strengths to re-build their lives.
But some of that chaos was “built in”. By that I mean they grew up in chaotic situations, their schooling was haphazard and poor, they struggled to make sense of the world they found themselves in. They had little of what is called “agency”, the sense that many of us have that we can accomplish things, that we are strong, capable, and can make it through.
I wondered then and still do, about how much of that struggle is reflected in their homes. How much of how we design our own homes supports us mentally, emotionally, personally.
Here’s some quotes from Reveal that talk more eloquently than I about this subject:
“So, if . . . the home is able to be a ‘guardian of identity’, should the interiors we have any control over embody our personalities & can we choose how much they reveal about ourselves?”
“Keeping or reproducing versions of spaces or things we love for example, would seem to have therapeutic value as objects or rooms become versions of the things we found fascinating, happy or inspiring. That being said, the design of an interior space therefore has the potential and capacity to alter the way we can feel, function, think, relax, succeed, purchase, study,d live or even die.” (Emphasis mine)
“By placing furniture in a particular way, we are creating a delicate system of signs as a means to communicate; the angle of the chairs in strict straight lines or human curves around a focal point.”
The colour blue is thought beneficial to the mind and body. It shows human metabolism whilst producing a calming effect to aid rest.” (Remember, she’s British.)
“Light is a source of wellbeing, and is widely used as therapy by medical & spiritual practitioners the world over. In Ayurvedic medicine, the use of coloured light is also thought to correct imbalances in the body. What better way then to begin the morning, under a magenta pink skylight that not only disguises winter white skin, but literally starts your day as though through rose-tinted glasses.”
Enough words; here’s some pictures from Anstruther’s website, http://www.harrietanstruther.com
This last room is dark. But at night, it sparkles because there are metallic pieces in the wallpaper that shine when the lights are on. Love this!
As you can see, this subject fascinates me, so expect more.