Sunday, 22 April 2018

#5 transitions and nooks

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.


In 2009, one of the first events held at donkey wheel house was an unconference called Trampoline organised and hosted by my mates Pat Allan, Melina Chan and Steve Hopkins. I attended a session by Dan Donahoo with whom I would also become friends. Dan's session was on the curious idea of 'edge theory'. In psychology, edge theory is about anxiety inducing situations, but at Trampoline, Dan talked about transitions.

I started to see 'edges' as points of transition. Where the sea meets the sand on a beach, a transition from one environment to a completely different one. The edge of a cliff, a transition from safety and stability to one of free-fall and either danger or adventure depending on your intentions. And it opened my eyes to the way architects design transitions within buildings or outdoor spaces. Staircases, hallways, entrances etc.

One of the design features I love about our house is the transitions. The use of little corridors, steps and changes of colour are masterful.



Immediately inside the front door, the open space ahead towards the kitchen is the dominating orientation, but to the right a single step up and change in floor colour invite an alternative. The first 'edge' we encounter is the gate at the bottom of the stairs delineating the environment where Winnie has free reign and the space into which she must be invited.

These days most staircases have a bend in them. Ours is a single straight climb to the privacy of the send level. The clean and direct lines feel unapologetic. At the top of the stairs is a little corner with a print and a pot plant. The plant sits on a little stool that we found in a gift store around the corner in Hitchcock Ave. The print is one of three elephant drawings which Rachel bought from a London market. We have two; this one and one that hangs at the bottom of the same stairs, and Rachel has the other. The prints are a subtle reminder of her every time I ascend or descend the stairs. Maria and I are good at some things, but growing indoor plants is not in the set. The single remaining leaf on this plant is a constant declaration of our lack of prowess. 



I'll spare you a picture of the washroom, except for this drawing of Heidi's that sits on the wall. It was a gift when she was in year 5 ... a little window into our family wanderings in a beat up kombi 15 years ago.




The only place in the house that feels a little awkward from a design perspective is this study nook. The proportions feel a bit out, but it ends up being the compromise associated with the long straight staircase. In the end, we don't use this as a study space and it actually works really well as a storage and utility nook for the modem and printer. The cork board has a collection of Maria's photos of Barwon Heads and some hand-drawn postcards from Vasto. (Italy) The wooden stool under the bench is a piano stool that was part of the furniture set my parents bought from a local Devonport manufacturer after they were married nearly 60 years ago. 


Back down the stairs to the front door. The prints on the wall are from a Tasmanian artist who's work we first came across in the emporium upstairs in the Stillwater Restaurant, just near where we lived in Launceston. At the time we were living a peripatetic lifestyle. Her images captured beautifully the themes of transience, relationships and changing environments. We hung them on the walls in Launceston and love their place along the welcoming hallway here in Barwon Heads.

The side table was the first piece of quality furniture we ever purchased. How useful is a small narrow table with a couple of draws as a place to put and keep items we need as we transition from being 'at home' to being 'out'. Even furniture can help us transition well. While a coat and hat stand might belong here as well, I am gald that it doesn't fit and instead sits around the corner in just inside the garage. That way this 'at home' / 'out' transition space remains uncluttered and simple.



There is nothing special about a laundry, but the designers have integrated a few things that make the space work fabulously. A single step down (contrast to the single step up inside the front door). A change in flooring and full length glass in the external door all add a quality to the space.



We don't really have a 'backyard', but the closest we come is this long deck that hosts outdoor shower, clothes line, water tanks and garden shed. Out of sight and out of the sun is Maria's worm farm :-). Doors conveniently lead to the laundry and the garage.

looking from the entrance hall passed Johanna's room, the downstairs bathroom and laundry to the garage.

... and back the other way.

Our town house is sufficiently small that we need to be careful about how much stuff we hold onto. I like that. Although I confess that the garage is filling up with bits and pieces stuffed into nooks and crannies with some creative storing options, overall we are committed to recycling things we are not using. Over the years Maria has taught me lots about simplicity when it comes to decorating; whether it be clothing (decorating our bodies), shelving (ie avoiding it), and certainly ornaments. I have thought a lot about (and occasionally written) about the differences between minimalism and essentialism; the differences between economical and quality consuming; and the sometimes inconsistencies within an anti-materialism ideology. Suffice to say in this context, we want to make wise choices about the things with which we surround ourselves in our home. 

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