Our desire for home design that speaks to the heart and gives comfort to the soul has never been stronger. Last weekend at Grand Designs Live, I joined designer, writer and TV presenter Kevin McCloud; Habitat creative director Theo Williams; and designer, author and TV presenter Naomi Cleaver in a panel, “Home is where the heart is: interior design with emotion.” (It’s not a coincidence the name of the seminar is eponymous with the title of Ilse Crawford’s recent book).
Kevin talked about his new book 43 Principles of Home, while Naomi discussed her own title, Joy of Home, and Theo Williams talked about the new direction for Habitat. I chose 10 books that highlight thinkers who have valuable insight into planning our homes, but who, for one reason or another, have not become prominent voices in the world of design. Here’s the list:
1. A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freeman.
The antidote for those who want total control over their environments. Mess, it turns out, can be good for us. There are hidden benefits to disorder. Brace yourself for some undoing of shibboleths.
2. World of Goods: An anthropology of consumption by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood.
Our motives for purchasing goods are a thinly disguised communications system. We want to tell ourselves and others about who we are through buying things from clothes to furnishings.
3. Happiness by Richard Layard.
Fascinating, unorthodox insights into where, when. how and with whom we feel happy. Based on research from psychologists, neuroscientists, economists, sociologists and philosophers.
4. I’m Still Here by John Zeisel.
Zeisel is a leading neuroscientist and sociologist whose advanced approach to designing environments for Alzheimer’s sufferers offers many clues for home design.
5. Healing Spaces by Esther M. Steinberg.
Readable account covering the science of well-being and place based on the way our brains, emotions and hormones are hard wired. Moving and accessible with a lot of joined up thinking.
6. Wabi Sabi for artists, designers, poets and philosophers by Leonard Koren.
The Japanese concept of imperfection and understanding of nature’s explained as key to beauty, time and authentic environments. Straightforward language to the point of poetry and truly inspiring ideas.
7. The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton.
We are hard wired to art. Its not a nicety, more a necessity and it’s a relief to see this set out in such a comprehensive way. Using Darwin’s evolution theory as a basis, Dutton explains art as a motivation for creativity, our admiration for skill and our need for transcendence.
8. Alexander Technique by John Gray.
Explains its core tenet of how moving with economy can be achieved and its benefit for long-term body maintenance and well-being. Not quite yoga for westerners but along those lines and taught at many performing arts schools as essential for enhancing the performance of the body’s architecture.
9. The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.
Redefining craftsmanship in a civilised society through rigorous and original analysis; from the definition of 10,000 hours of work, skills that take you beyond technical ability, the appreciation of the hand and to exploring the philosophy applied to making things. It speaks to both practitioners and users alike.
10. House as a mirror of self by Clare Cooper Marcus.
Exploration of bonding with your home and garden, as a child and adult; what self-expression means as you evolve your relationship with home, living and working, privacy and going beyond the house as ego to the call of the soul. Cooper Marcus narrates moving interviews many householders from her base in San Francisco to form the basis of her research.