An intentional home: Ready to dive deeper

It’s been about six months since I declared “intentional” our word for the year and announced our hopes to start a revolution in the home blogging world.

In case you weren’t around back in January, here’s a snippet:

We want to read (and be) a blog that helps all of us see the stupefying beauty that’s available to everyone, every day, right nowregardless of our income or house or neighborhood. We want blogs that help us learn how to make home in ways that don’t diminish home for others–and not just our neighbors down the street, but our neighbors on the other side of the world.

We further declared that we wanted to be the Dove Real Beauty equivalent of the home blogging niche, featuring real photos of our real homes all the time.

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Here’s a real-life, non-staged shot from our living room yesterday. (Messy books, hanging cord, random throw and all.) We did a little bit of furniture re-arranging earlier this week.

So, earlier this week, I was delighted to read this post by Australian blogger Rhonda Hetzel. Talking about the blogs she likes to read, Rhonda wrote:

“I tend to go back to the blogs that are well written and have non-staged photographs. I want to see how things really are. I don’t want a staged version of it.”

Me, too.

I also really appreciate Rhonda’s take on making a home, as stated in her sidebar:

“The work you do in your own home, by creating a warm and secure place for yourself and your family to live in, will enrich you and make you a different person. It saved me from a life of ridiculous spending and mindless acquisition and slowed me down enough to allow me to see the beauty here.”

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It was nice just to have that little reminder/nudge of what we want to do/be here. I like the way it got me to walk around the house with my camera, capturing what I could see that looks beautiful to me. (Something I highly recommend for everyone. Will help you appreciate your home in whole new ways.)

The very next day I found this post, Rethink the Way You Live, from Design for Mankind’s Erin Loechner. In it, Erin shares the discomfort she increasingly feels with being a person focused on design. As she writes,

“I don’t know if I’ve properly put this into words here, but I’m in this weird space where I see so much value in design, but am also seeing a lot of the cost. Consumerism, materialism, keeping-up-with-the-Jones-ism. I mean, these concepts have been around for years, yes. But for some reason, I’m feeling the weight of it in a bigger way. Something in my heart is stirring…”

And this made something in my heart stir. Doesn’t it always, when you find someone who articulates your very own questions, discomforts, wonderings, experiences? (If Erin’s words stir anything in you, I recommend her blog, too.)

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As we embark on our summer projects, Cane and I have once again been pondering questions of design. So often, it seems, the messages we get are that we cannot be people who are focused on both function/sustainability and beauty/pleasing design. It’s either/or:  Either we admire/desire things (knowing that the important things in life aren’t things, which means we’re shallow) or we live simply and responsibly and eschew things.

We think that’s a false dichotomy, one that we increasingly reject.

We do find beauty in the humble, every day surroundings of our life–one in which we attempt to live simply, without getting caught up in our culture’s relentless messages to buy and consume. We are happier with fewer things, and with more time to spend on things that aren’t things.

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We are frustrated by current trends that glamorize re-purposing, making the making-of-new-things-from-old things just another fad that others rush to follow, causing them to spend time and money on old things to make new things they don’t really need–and thereby being, in a real way, just as problematic as pressures to buy shiny new things.

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This table made from a door continues to draw lots of visitors to this site. But we want to be honest: We built it because we wanted/needed a coffee table, and it doesn’t work as one the way we built it. We’ve kept it in use because we went to the trouble and expense to build it, but we don’t really have a good place/use for it. We feel more than a little funny about that.

However, we also love and admire good design–which can be, but is not necessarily, the same as popular design. Although we see much beauty in our home just as it is, there are things we want to change. We don’t want to feel somehow guilty or frivolous or shallow for both having and acting on these desires. We think we can give time and attention to design and still be thoughtful, responsible, and focused on the important things in life.

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Our kitchen table and chairs function just fine. So does that bench in the corner. And yet, Cane has spent weeks now designing (and beginning to build) a new table and seating benches for this space.

We think design actually is one of the important things in life.

Our recent design course experiences (through which Cane has designed the new kitchen seating) helped me see that design is in everything, whether we attend to it or not. The design of objects and artifacts affects how our lives work and how we feel living them.

We don’t need to change our kitchen seating, but we think the new pieces Cane is building will work even better for us. And we think it’s going to look better, too. Both things will make us feel better, and we think we can have all of that without causing undo harm to our family life or our community.

One of our intentions, as we move forward through the second half of this year, is to go deeper in exploring how to resolve the seeming conflict in our desires to both live a non-consumerist, non-trend-driven life and a life with pleasing design.

We’ll be exploring that question as it continues to come up in our home-making projects, and I’m also going to become intentional in exploring the thinking of others.

A first step: I’m putting this book at the top of my summer reading list:

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Amanda Talbot’s Rethink is a book that Erin referenced in her post, one that I’ve been trying to get my hands on for months. Originally published in Australia, it was only available in the US for an exhorbitant sum–until now. I just ordered one from Amazon for about $23, and it should be arriving in a few days.

Talbot is a shelter magazine editor and stylist who grew increasingly uncomfortable with the world of her work. According to the Amazon blurb, “Rethink: The Way You Live is a book to inspire and challenge people to reconsider how to redesign their homes.” I can’t wait to read what she has to say.

I’ve also got these on my list:

shop class1 An intentional home: Ready to dive deepernot so big life An intentional home: Ready to dive deeperdesign everyday An intentional home: Ready to dive deeperlife perfect1 An intentional home: Ready to dive deeper

(Clicking on the images will take you to Amazon, where you can read more about them. No affiliate sales here, btw.)

Here’s what I’m wondering:  Would any of you like to read along with me? Want to have a book club of some sort?

I’m just really feeling the need to expand our thinking by seeing what others have to say about these questions. (There’s only so much wisdom I can glean from gazing at the belly button of my own life, you know? :-)) I do read other blogs that challenge and expand my thinking all the time, but I’m feeling the need to dive deeper, in the way that I think can only happen through the extended read of a book.

And I’d love for all of you to go there with me. The work I do as an educator is all about helping teachers see that students gain so much more from their reading through socially-constructed interpretations of text; I always see/learn more about what  read when I can talk about it with others.

So, whaddya say? Who’s in? (And if you’re in, please let me know which of these you’d most like to read.)

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Thanks to all for your good wishes for Rocky. He’s still in his neck brace and on bedrest, but he’s doing much, much better. I think you can see here that a long bench would be a better option in our kitchen!

Late again to the William Morris party, but that’s real-life, too.

Update:  You can find the discussion (and it’s a rich one!) on The Not So Big Life here.