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. 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
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.
Both the Prairie School and Modernism emerged from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late nineteenth-century. 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.
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 School and Modernism that embody the word PrairieMod.
Old School is the New School. It’s the Art of Living in the Modern World.
1. Consider the Cost
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 decision 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. 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
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.
3. Less Becomes More
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.
4. Useful and 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.
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 Elegant
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 Elegant.
As the Principle of “Useful and Beautiful” relies on the notion of simplicity at it’s core, so does “Informal Meets Elegant”. Building and decorating informally means not having to worry about frills, superfluous extras, and compartmentalizing our living spaces. To do it with elegance 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
Unity is one of the most important aspects of creating a beautiful home for living a beautiful life. 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.
7. Bring The Outside In
In our fast-paced, technology-driven modern world, we have become increasingly disconnected from nature. We’ve come to see nature as something that is outside of us. We think we must travel to see and appreciate it or overcome and bend it to our human will. But this is not true. We are part of nature, whether we realize it or not. It is all around and we act on nature as much as nature acts on us. Acknowledging our integrated existence with the natural world is the first step in developing a natural home.
Frank Lloyd Wright called this way of living “organic” because of its close association with the unity and integration found in the natural world we inhabit. He felt a home should “spring from the ground and into the light.” An effective way to do this is to follow the Principle of Bring The Outside In.
8. Think Natural
To “Think Natural” means to look at the very nature of the materials we use to build and decorate our homes with. Wood should be treated like wood, so that its natural qualities are there for anyone to appreciate. Brick should look like brick, and glass should be used in the nature it is most effective and appropriate. When someone paints over wood or brick, it no longer has the essential qualities that made it “wood” or “brick” to begin with. When someone ignores the natural qualities of glass and uses it where wood or brick should have been used, the effects can be a disaster.
Thinking natural also means looking to nature for ideas and inspiration. The rich, inviting color palettes found in the spring meadows or the woods in autumn can be integrated in everything from fabric choices for linens and upholstery to wall and table setting colors. Natural finishes and textures should also be considered. Always looking to integrate and unify every part with the whole. To “Think Natural” is to ultimately live natural with beauty, warmth and harmony.
9. Go Green
The ultimate step in thinking naturally is to consider how every one of our lifestyle choices affects our planet. We live in a time when the pressures of energy consumption are only going to become more pronounced and extreme. With our society held captive by the rising costs of fossil fuels, it is only a matter of time when our current lifestyle choices may no longer be feasible. In an effort to move a new direction, we can begin to focus on sustainability in what we build, what we buy and how we think.
The Principle of Go Green should quite possibly be at the center of every decision we make. But, it’s a hard one to put into practice. Many us of may find it difficult to consider sustainable products, or give up the perceived benefits of a larger house or car. This is an understandable reaction to the thought process associated with short-term benefits versus long-term benefits. However, it’s making an investment in our future and something that we’ll all have to come to grips with eventually.
10. Uniquely You
One of the greatest strengths of this lifestyle is its acknowledgment that everyone is uniquely individual. Each person will find a unique way to interpret and apply the 10 Principles when they examine their core values and beliefs—not based on fads, not based on what the media or advertising sells us, and not based on what our neighbors or friends are doing. It is the right of every person to be able to experience a home that uplifts their spirit and makes their life more meaningful and beautiful for having lived in it. We can find what is unique about each of us and then discover ways to express those characteristics in our individual homes.
A Lifestyle For All
PrairieMod is a lifestyle for Democracy. It embraces individuality. It acknowledges freedom. Our home should be seen as a reflection of who we are. It is something that should grow from the values we hold, rather than something that is imposed by outside forces. A home should be a physical representation of the unchanging principles of Consider the Cost, Form is Function, Less Becomes More, Useful and Beautiful, Informal Meets Elegant, Integrate and Unify, Bring the Outside In, Think Natural, Go Green and Uniquely You. It is up to each of us to find the ways we can make our homes not just a place to live, but also a way of life.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said that, “People who have never seen or never lived in a beautiful environment…can never know what they have missed.” By exploring and applying the 10 Principles of the PrairieMod Lifestyle, we can awake to the possibilities of experiencing an enriched and inspired life through the rewarding creation of our own beautiful, meaningful home.
As indicated in the introduction, the challenge can be in mastering all 10 Principles. Some require a change in perspective, a possible “downsize” or an altering of habits. These adjustments just don’t happen overnight. The important thing to remember is that the incorporation of just one principle will make a profound impact.