Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Sterile House Design


I was reading the real estate lift out this weekend. For a while now we’ve been seeing the 70’s/ Palm Springs architectural trend. It’s usually white, lots of arches in doorways, perhaps some curved walls and gardens that could in some cases be described as stark. The other feature that strikes me is that they look like sterile impersonal show houses, not homes.

I understand that when you are selling a house the real estate agents advise to declutter of personal items. That makes sense- potential buyers need to envisage their future lives in the house, not see your life.

However it’s not just the real estate pages showing the impersonal interiors, it’s also reflected in feature articles where people are showcasing their homes in glossy magazines and online stories.

I always feel that these houses tell nothing about their owners’ personality. Sure the home owners would have briefed the architect about the look they wanted. But when the house has only trendy design features and neutral décor, it sadly comes up lacking the lived in/ loved feeling. And more to the point, it’s really difficult to live a minimalist show house lifestyle. There’s shoes that get discarded around the house, pet food bowls, magazines, bills, books, family photos & mementos, homework, coffee cups, devices and chords etc. 

My thoughts were echoed to me when reading a recent article on Oprah Daily. Oprah describes finally accepting that she needed a house that showed her true personality, instead of trying to conform to trends and how she thought people wanted her house to look.

As a designer or architect it’s not unusual for a client brief to request “a hotel feel”. However as a designer if I want a Hotel Feel- that’s exactly where I go. I’m more than happy spending time in a nice hotel or boutique accommodation that is beautiful and elegant yet neutral.

What I most enjoy when entering a house for the first time is seeing the personality of the owners. It can still be a stunning modern interior, but the details such as family photos, framed children’s artwork, well tended hanging plants with tendrils trailed around shelves, book collections, the odd lamp that stands out because it’s a family heirloom or the dog bed in a spot where he can watch his family come and go. They are the things I like to see, not the inter-changeable cookie cutter houses.

Trends are great and they influence everything in life from our cars, to fashion and how we live, until they don’t and we’ve been oversaturated and then suddenly realize that just because it’s trendy, it doesn’t represent the true you. It’s easy to throw out the acid wash jeans and trade your car to upgrade to a new model, but houses are a lot more expensive to update.

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