Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Design or function?

The previous post on brick flooring brought an important issue to mind. Which is more important; design or function? Can we have both?

We do admire this modern neighborhood for the character of the homes, for the feel of history and the beauty of the homes.


Yet, as we walked through home after home in historic Charleston and a few historic homes in New Orleans, we realized some important differences in those charming homes that were built to accommodate a more simple lifestyle. Many of the small kitchens were regulated to the back corner of the home, with very little storage. I had to remember that these homes were built in a period when fresh food was brought in each day from the garden or the market. However, there would have been canned goods to store for the winter months, and I am uncertain where the storage space would have been in most of these homes. (Maybe that space wasn't a part of the tours.)

I remember a few lower cabinet bins in my grandmother's farmhouse which would be impractical in today's kitchens. There was no Williams-SonomaSur la table or even Target or Walmart to convince them to purchase new and improved cooking appliances. Appliance storage wasn't as necessary then. 

Closets were also not as important in historic homes as they are today. If there was a closet, it was probably tiny.

So how does historic design work with today's function?

It is an over-simplification to consider that a modern floor plan is fitted with historic design elements. Yet that is not untrue. While we want the larger closets and more kitchen space, we find ourselves continually asking what a certain area would look like if it was in a historic home? The answer is sometimes easier to figure out than it is other times.

My dining room will have twin china cabinets flanking the fireplace. There were a couple of questions when these cabinets were being designed. (1) Fretwork style and (2) Drawers or no drawers?

We drew a few different designs for the upper cabinet fretwork before copying a pattern from a piece of Queen Anne style furniture I currently own and love.

Drawers? I am told that the majority of built-in china cabinets in new homes in this area will not have drawers as part of the design. Neither our builder or my husband wanted the drawers, but neither of them cared a great deal about the subject. Our designer and I actually cared about this tiny part of the design, and both of us wanted the drawers to mimic the old silverware drawers from antique china cabinets. The cabinets are being built with drawers which will be fitted with silver cloth or inserts in order to remind us of their original purpose, where they in a historic home.

Which is more important?

Is it best to build a historically accurate home? Or should homes be built to accomodate today's lifestyles, but with historic accents? I can speak only for myself. I realize there are people who could enjoy recreating an accurate piece of history, while I want a home with open spaces but having design elements that reminds me of a home with some history. Which of the two is more important is probably a question that has to be answered in a different way by each person.

When building a home from scratch, it is fun to help put a personal touch on the house, making it reflective of our own tastes and allowing design and function to meld into a beautiful finished product that truly feels like home.

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