Work continues on the "model room" in the PrairieMod-ification of the little red house. We touched-up the paint and started adding trim around the doors and baseboards. In the next few weeks, it should be all done.
In the meantime, I thought it would be a good chance to delve a little bit into what it is that the PrairieMod Principles are all about. We've been getting some inquiries to elaborate on what PrairieMod is and what it's all about. As an attempt to answer some of these questions, I'll be posting a Guide to the Prairiemod Lifestyle in three installments over the next few weeks.
PrairieMod: The Art of Living in the Modern World
If you’re asking yourself, “What in the world is PrairieMod?” this guide will answer that question in a concise and accessible way. Regardless of where you live or how you live, the PrairieMod Lifestyle can help you create a well-balanced home by introducing ten timeless principles that promote beauty and meaning. Principles are unchanging, natural laws. They function regardless of our awareness or obedience to them. Principles are also the only constant we can know in a relentlessly changing, technology advanced and modern world. As a result, the foundation of the PrairieMod Lifestyle is based on principles.
It’s important to note that we did not create or invent the ten concepts covered here. We’ve simply gleaned them from both the words and the work of pioneers that went before us. Through the course of our research, we’ve gone through countless materials that discuss at length the items we will address in this guide. So what makes this different from those other resources? Great question! Even though they all contain interesting and important information, we found most of them to be difficult to navigate and generally not very user friendly. Our goal was to develop a tool that presented these principles in an accessible way. Consider it a well-designed map that accurately provides straightforward information. You can get in and you can get out.
One thing we recognize is that each of us is at a different place in life. Many of us live in condos or apartments. Some have recently moved into older homes that need renovation or some good old T.L.C. Still, others are beginning the process of building new homes. Whatever the case may be, these principles can help inform the decisions we make while creating our homes. Each of the ten principles we discuss should be taken as a whole. However, it may be difficult to master all of them. Yet, if just one of these concepts is applied in our lives we will reap tremendous benefits.
Okay. So you’re still wondering what the word PrairieMod means. You’ve tried doing a Google search and it keeps asking you if you meant to type “prairiewood.” Well, if you try Wikipedia, you’ll have better success. But for those of you who need to know right now, the word PrairieMod is obviously a conjunction of “Prairie” and “Modern”. In simple terms it refers to two eras in architecture that had a tremendous impact on American living. As Chicagoans, we’ve grown up with the finest examples of these movements right in our own backyards.
Both the Prairie School of the Midwest and Modernism emerged from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late nineteenth-century. The Arts and Crafts Movement made use of wood, glass ceramics and metalwork for its natural beauty, simplicity and elegance. Its architecture and interior design philosophies were a reaction to the Victorian era, by incorporating the use of clean lines, sturdy construction and natural materials.
The Prairie School (or Prairie Style), with its horizontal lines; hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves and open floor plans, were in particularly strong contrast to previous Victorian era design. The horizontal lines were meant to evoke the native prairie landscape (thus the name) and became a true revolution in American home design.
Frank Lloyd Wright became the Prairie School’s most important innovator and his career progressed into Modernism. Additionally, he was a major influence on other Modern architects like Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Rudolf Schindler, Richard Neutra and John Lautner. Modernism utilized materials like glass, steel and concrete, while creating floor plans that were simple, functional and logical.
These movements were all based on self-evident principles that were reinterpreted by each generation, bringing relevance and meaning to their designs. It’s the ideals of both the Prairie Style and Modernism that embody the word PrairieMod.
The Old School is the New School. It’s the Art of Living in the Modern World.
The Ten Principles of the PrairieMod Lifestyle
1. Consider the Cost
Making decisions is a natural part of living in the Modern World. We make decisions everyday concerning everything from what clothes to wear to what kind of car to buy. These decisions usually involve a wide variety of products and services to choose from. Choice is a wonderful aspect of living in our American society, but it’s easy to fall victim to making a decisions based on our emotions, a sales pitch, or even the stress of having too many choices! This can be especially true when making the important decision on where and how to live.
This is why the first principle of living the PrairieMod Lifestyle is Consider the Cost. This doesn’t just refer to the amount of money it will take to pay for our home, even though that is a significant part of making this decision. Instead, we mean the “big picture” costs associated with our home. “Big picture” costs are things such as:
• How far away is my home from where I work, or where my friends and family live? If we live in an area for a particular perceived benefit (nice neighborhood, real estate costs, low taxes) but spend hours in the car getting from there to work or other important destinations, consider the cost we’re sacrificing on gas, wear-and-tear on our car and most importantly, our time.
• How much will it cost to heat and cool my house? With the rising costs of energy in our country, it doesn’t take long to feel the burden of utility bills. Soaring cathedral ceilings may be impressive to look at, but they can quickly add to the inefficiency of heating a room. Large houses that dominate their lot and leave little room for shade trees can also generate huge costs to heat and cool. Consider the cost we’re sacrificing in energy bills versus the benefits of extra square footage.
Considering the cost helps to push our thinking from the realm of “instant gratification” to the realm of “long-term satisfaction.”
2. Form is Function
Take a moment to consider the phrase “fits like a glove.” A glove is specifically designed to fit a hand. Because that is the glove’s function, it stands to reason that it should take the form of a hand.
Now take a moment and think about how our homes are structured. Consider each space, each appliance and every other aspect of that environment. Now, think about how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. Do the two fit together? Are there rooms we hardly see? Do we have a family of 3 living in home big enough for 12 people? Do we have enormous bedrooms and spend only a few hours sleeping there?
The Principle of Form is Function states that the form of our home should reflect the function of it as well. If we consider the form only, we may end up with an interesting looking house that can’t perform the function of being livable. If we focus only on functionalism and ignore the form, we end up with a house that performs its basic sheltering duty, but appears sterile or downright ugly. Either way we end up with a place that excels only at being inadequate. The form of each item, each room, and of course the overall house, should be designed and considered in a direct relationship with its function. Otherwise, it’s as disjointed as wearing a shoe for a glove.
3. Less Becomes More
If you happen to have turned on your television recently and flipped through the channels, you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon of hundreds of channels and absolutely nothing worth watching. It’s a good example of more, rarely meaning more.
In our instant gratification society, we’re taught at an early age to “want it all” and it stands to reason that Americans would build titanic houses to try and fit “it all” into. It’s not long until closets, attics, basements and garages are so filled with things that none of it can be used or appreciated.
The Principle of Less Becomes More is meant to remind us that we are supposed to live in our homes and not our “things”. A beautiful home is made so through the thoughtful and integrated placement of beautiful and useful objects. A simple plant, a gorgeous vase, a well designed lamp; these things thoughtfully placed in an uncluttered environment can be admired for their individual beauty, instead of being lost in a sea of stuff. Those individual items act like the punctuation marks in the grammar of our home. Our eyes will be able to rest on a select few, pleasing, meaningful objects integrated into the overall scheme of our home. Less Becomes More, so that we can own our things—instead of our things owning us.
Tune in next week for part 2 and as always, please send your thoughts and comments. Until next week.