We’ve all heard the famous axiom of Chicago Architect Louis Sullivan (1856–1924): form follows function. Frank Lloyd Wright elevated the teaching of his mentor to argue over his lifetime of work that form and function are one. So many others have argued that what we create must be aesthetically pleasing—beautiful—and usable.
Most of us are not architects, and many of us will never build or grandly renovate a home or office. Our places and spaces are prescribed for us when we buy or lease, and unless we can afford the services of an interior designer we’re left to imaginatively ask: What is the construct of the space? How will I use it? Can I improve it without a lot of time and money? How can I make it beautiful?
Maybe there’s one best question: what do we uniquely need in and from our spaces? J. and I watched an American political thriller television series until it became a little too dark for our tastes. The iconic lead’s famous line delivered to her clients was “What do you need?” In a moment of intense frustration I not so famously used that line on a difficult client. She bit back with, don’t psychoanalyze me.
If I psychoanalyze the way I live and work, I realize I need comfortable corner spaces. I need spaces that can change clothes from overalls to royal velvet depending on their uses and the moods we want to create. J. needs to retreat to spaces like the top level of our terrace to think or unthink. Give him an office surrounded by his books and art. Give me the end of a table.
My friend Judy needs her commercial kitchen. Sarah needs her dreamy patio to read the newspaper front to back. My parents need their English courtyard and roses. Our son Alex needs a golf hole in his home. An architect acquaintance needs his treehouse for its expansive view of pasture and horses.
What do you need?