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Using design elements in your home can renew life

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 1:11 a.m. MDT

The natural light from the window and the skylight combined with the recessed ceiling lighting and the fixtures over the mirrors create an interesting design element for this master bathroom.

Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group

Architects have numerous design tools at their disposal to evoke positive emotions. Good architects know when to use each one and can expertly apply combinations of them to change the lives of their clients. There are three general areas of impact to a client's life:

  1. His or her personal life
  2. Interpersonal relationships within the family
  3. Social relationships outside the family

When designed correctly, the architecture of a home can facilitate renewal in all three areas. The home becomes a place to recharge from the stresses, demands and pressures of life.

When we hear a client express fatigue or weariness connected to his or her living environment, we know it is time to apply some design skills to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive in the design environment. Many architects work instinctively, and would be hard pressed to describe what they are doing.

One of our favorite architects is Sarah Susanka, author of the book "Home By Design," because she is not only a gifted designer, she has made the effort to craft a vocabulary to help us identify some of the design tools that contribute to creating a more positive environment. The terms used here are hers. She identifies the following tools: light, interior views, shelter around activity, inside/outside connection, public to private and openability. Today we will focus on first three design elements, which have the biggest impact on a client's life.

Light

There is something inherently inviting and pleasant when approaching a source of light — especially natural light. Light is inviting. Occupants will feel welcomed, renewed and energized when light is properly used as a design element.

When designing a remodel, a good architect will focus on providing and manipulating both natural and artificial light sources. Window positioning, the purposeful use of reflecting surfaces, and varying the intensity of light levels throughout the home are other architectural tools relating to light. When employed properly, these tools capture, shape and animate the spaces when light enters. Dimly-lit areas invoke a sense of calm serenity, while brightly-lit spaces create a feeling of hope, energy and life. Properly positioned windows can reveal inspiring views to create an ongoing sense of appreciation, interest and renewal.

Interior views

Architecture is often associated with how the home is viewed from the exterior, but there are far more opportunities to impact the lives of those who live and visit there in the views from within a home. Interior views are comprised of diagonal views, long views, connecting views, partially-hidden views and surprise views. Well-crafted spaces are designed using these tools and can connect individuals in the home. Purposefully placed interior views are pleasant and inspiring. They defuse stress and recharge the occupants of a home.

Shelter around activity

As human beings, we instinctively seek definition in our physical spaces. Bigger is not better. Would you rather work on a puzzle sitting at a card table in the center of a gymnasium, or in a cozy nook by a fireplace? This is referred to as providing shelter (or definition) around areas of activity.

One especially powerful tool within this principle is the window seat. A window seat can be a fountain of renewal. It provides a commanding view to the outdoors; can make a room feel larger than it actually is; and is the ideal place to bask in the sun, take a nap or read a good book.

Well-designed window seats create a feeling of private seclusion while offering a substantial dose of natural light along with an unobstructed view into nature. Notice that these are our two previously discussed tools, and you begin to see how they all work together for the good of those who live in well-designed spaces.

Architecture shapes and frames our experiences, for good or for ill. It can and should be a powerful, positive influence on our daily lives in creating a feeling of renewal in a world of stress.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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