Last week I started running through the 10 PrairieMod Principles that help guide what we've coined as "The PrairieMod Lifestyle: The Art of Living in the Modern World." If you missed it, follow this link to last week's entry to catch up on an introduction to the ideas behind this movement and an explanation of the first 3 Principles. Once you're caught up, follow the jump below to read part 2.
PrairieMod: The Art of Living in the Modern World — Part 2
4. Useful and Beautiful
One of the ways to determine whether or not to place an item in our home is to follow the advice of William Morris, a major force in the Arts and Crafts movement.
“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
The Principle of Useful and Beautiful can be a tricky one to master. Determining the “useful” aspect of something is usually not that difficult. If you use something on a regular basis and it serves that function well–odds are it’s useful. Beauty, on the other hand, is a little more difficult to pin down.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is the way the saying goes, which would lead one to think that it is a relative concept that defies having any concreteness applied to it. “Beauty” may seem as mysterious as life itself; but in terms of home design and decoration, William C. Gannett in his 1896 sermon, The House Beautiful, put it best by stating:
“The ideal of beauty is simplicity and repose–not flash, not sensation, not show, not exaggeration, not bustle.”
It is simplicity that helps to define what should be classified as beautiful in the PrairieMod Lifestyle. This shouldn’t be taken to mean “plain” or “boring”, but instead look for things that embody excellent design and craftsmanship, are imbued with integrity and honesty of material and craft and most importantly will naturally fit into the overall unity of our home’s appearance. Remember, having useful and beautiful objects in our everyday environments will help reflect beauty in our thoughts, behavior, and ultimately in our lives.
5. Informal Meets Eloquent
Thank goodness we don’t live in the Victorian era! Life was all about adhering to strict social rules. Everything from the clothes people wore, to the houses they lived in were rigid and constricting. It was anything but casual.
We are indebted to the Prairie School innovators for adapting the Japanese quality of “open space” to our American way of life. By eliminating all the extra walls and rooms found in the Victorian houses, the Prairie homes gave us some breathing room to live in and introduced us to a more casual existence. But the true genius of the Prairie School of design didn’t just lie in opening up a home’s floor-plan, it was also in simplifying furnishings and décor in a sophisticated, unified way; showing us the Principle of Informal Meets Eloquent.
As the Principle of “Useful and Beautiful” relies on the notion of simplicity at it’s core, so does “Informal Meets Eloquent”. Building and decorating informally means not having to worry about frills, superfluous extras, and compartmentalizing our living spaces. To do it with eloquence means to apply a unified structure to the whole and pay heed to the other Principles in doing so. This is what separates a warm, inviting, natural home from a cold, sterile home or a horribly cluttered and stifling home.
6. Integrate and Unify
If you have ever heard an orchestra play a symphony, a rock band jam or a rap artist and a DJ perform, you have experienced unity in action. Every musician playing their instrument in harmony with the others is needed to complete the desired effect. If just one person is out-of-sync, the results can be a total disaster. We should also look at our home as a piece of music that we will conduct. To succeed, the Principle of Integrate and Unify must be applied.
Unity is one of the most important aspects of creating a beautiful home for living a beautiful life. Richard Neutra wrote in Nature Near, “The universe of which we are a part is a dynamic continuum. It extends from the most distant galactic systems into…molecular and subatomic events that configure all matter, motion, and mind”. All things are interconnected. When we apply integration and unity to our surroundings, it puts us in harmony with our environment and has enormous affects on how we feel and the quality of our lives.
To follow this principle, we must be aware of how our home fits us and how we fit our home. We must be aware of how the things we select to put in our homes might fit into the overall fabric of the environment we’re creating. If our house is designed in a way that does not fit our real needs, we will ultimately experience the dis-unity and dis-integration of our lives. If our house is filled with disjointed and disconnected items that have no relation to the environment as a whole, we will feel just as out-of-place.
As the practitioners of the Arts and Crafts movement believed, a unified home is a beautiful home. Such a home, along with its principled selection of décor, would therefore be the source of moral and spiritual growth for the people within. When we’ve successfully achieved this through integration and unity, we’ll be able to appreciate the beautiful “music” our home will provide.
Tune in next week for part 3 and as always, please send your thoughts and comments. Until next time.