This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.
And just like that, winter comes and Friday night means you light the fire.
In A Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander explains and illustrates how there are two things that cry out to be 'resolved' by good design in living spaces. Firstly, people are drawn to the light. Secondly, we want to be comfortable in whatever position gives as best access to that light. Think bay windows. In the house we rented around the corner, the main bedroom was a classic example of poor design. The only natural light was a high narrow window. In that room we experienced what Alexander describes as unresolved tension between our natural inclinations and what the design facilitates.
In contract, this room draws us to the light and offers comfort. In Alexander's world, such a place gives us peace. Our lounge room is a great space, but I would change one thing if I could. I'm not sure how it would be architecturally possible, but I'd switch the positions of the TV and the fireplace. Unfortunately, that would require the fire to be internal ... hmmm. But why?
Because there is only one practical way to arrange the seating. One seat faces the fireplace, the other the TV. In the apartment we rented in the CBD we intentionally chose not to have a TV. I never missed it. Apart from the evening news, we watch the TV infrequently, but it would be awkward to have a seat facing away from it. That means the most natural orientation (towards the double doors) is 'unresolved'. But, notwithstanding that little imperfection, we love being in this space.
It gets used for afternoon naps, for post-dinner conversations, for lazy weekend afternoons reading and drinking tea, and for playing with Winnie. The space in front of the fireplace is also the spot where our little pup (when home alone) reduces kindling from the wood basket to a floor covering of splinters.
The wall hanging above the mantle piece is a Leunig print entitled "Mr Curly Comes Home". Apart from us being partial to Michael Leunig's poetic and prophetic take on the world, it seemed appropriate to hang in this house that signalled the end of my peripatetic vocational life. In anticipation of our long planned family excursion to Italy, I bought the Lodestars Anthology for Maria, and it still sits propped near the digital music player as a happy reminder.
I haven't 'curated' the coffee table books, but what is there today is not atypical of our lounge room reading faire. The latest edition of Maria's Dumbo Feather arrived earlier today; Paul Hawken's Drawdown; the April, May edition of Great Walks; the current edition of Talking Heads (the local community newspaper full of community news and views); I am Coyote, a gift from Rachel which is a collection of readings on being outdoors; Nassim Taleb's the Bed of Procrustes (essentially a book of proverbs) and the latest Give Where You Live Foundation magazine (of which I am a director). And the latest Monocle Magazine which arrived the other day and whose spine I am yet to crack ....
Along with the dining nook and the kitchen, this inviting space forms our communal area. It's where we gather, either as a family or with friends. Soft seats mean relaxation. It means slowing down. Sometimes the music gets turned up ... but when it is, we tend not to sit. Sitting is for soft music. Perhaps more than any other place in our little house, it is not for doing, but for being.