The secret language of universally good design.
You know those homes where joyfully experiences seem to unfold effortlessly? There is time-tested good design underneath all that joyful unfolding. Want in on the secret?
The Pattern Language , by Christopher Alexander, contains a set of patterns that are more or less universally successful in creating rich life experiences. All great homes exhibit at least a few of its time-tested “patterns”.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Front Door Bench
“People like to watch the street. Build a special bench outside the front door where people from inside can sit comfortably for hours on end and watch the world go by.”
People need connection to their neighbors and the street, and also a place to rest while waiting. The old-fashion stoop has gone by the way-side, but you can improvise with benches and chairs in the front yard, or a folding chair in the drive way. It will all make sense with the first wave you get as your neighbor drives by.
Windows That Open Wide
“Windows that open should be easy to get to, open onto flowers that you want to smell, paths where you might want to walk, and natural breezes. Put in side-hung casements that open outward.
Modern double hung windows don’t allow us to comfortably sit on the ledge or lean out the window. When possible, install windows and doors that open wide and blur the line between inside and out.
Pools of Light
“Uniform illumination destroys the social nature of space and makes people feel disoriented and unbounded. Place lights low and apart to form individual pools of light.”
We gravitate towards light, but evenly lit rooms don’t draw you in. People naturally sit in intimately lit spaces; near reading lamps, and along counter tops lit by low hanging pendants.
“Balconies and porches which are less than 6 feet deep are hardly ever used. Whenever you build a balcony, a porch, a gallery, or a terrace always make it at least 6 feet deep.”
When given a choice people will sit across from each other or form sitting circles, where conversation flows and faces are clearly seen. Narrow spaces do not allow for this type of interaction and are intuitively avoided.
You’re Never Too Old for Tiny Spaces
“Children love to be in tiny, cave-like places. Tuck these “caves” away in natural leftover spaces.
Refrigerator boxes, tree houses, snow caves, secret neighborhood bush forts; we have all been there and felt the security that small hidden spaces give us. While the desire to crawl into a cave may be very child like, it never truly leaves us. Cozy intimate spaces are important for adults too. Window seats, nooks, and lofts make for comfy and useful additions.
Things from Your Life
“’Décor and the conception of ‘interior design’ have spread so widely that very often people forget their instinct for the things they really want to keep around them. Décor is most beautiful when it comes straight from your life- the things that you care for, the things that tell your story.”
Make a place for your most precious objects, collections, remembrances, tokens of love and adventure. When you move, take those things with you and your house will instantly feel like home.
While great design seems effortless, it’s the thoughtful creation of space that leads to quality life experiences. A home is not something that you buy; it is something that you create. This is truly the most rewarding endeavor I know of.
Stay tuned for more pattern language inspirations!