stuff

The other day one of my small house clients expressed concern that their home design doesn’t allow for enough storage. This is a common concern with clients whether the house is 750 sf or 5000 sf. We like our stuff. Obviously people who purposely seek to build a small (under 1000 sf) house are doing so with the intention to live at a smaller scale – on multiple levels. Even so, the smaller the house design gets the more a person’s attachment to “stuff” surfaces.

A common theme in a lot of books and articles about decluttering suggest that we only have in our homes things that we use and that bring us joy. So I asked my client to carry this question into their home: go through each room, look at each object and ask, “do I use this (daily? weekly? monthly?), does it bring me joy?” Marie Kondo (author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy”) suggests that her clients hold each object in their hands to see if they can feel joy in their bodies when they hold it. Now that’s some serious feng shui. 😉

Now I have my clients do this exercise not because it’s my place to tell them how much stuff to have. I do it because when you make a commitment to live in an 800 sf home, you only have so many square feet to work with. There is no “fluff”. Everything is there on purpose. The more I understand the purpose of the storage (what, why, how often, what size, how much, etc…), the better the design and the utility of that space can be.

In the meantime, these small house projects really have me taking a close look at my own “stuff” – again, on multiple levels. 😉 My home is 1600 sf. I used to think that was small. Now I am doing the same exercises that I have my clients do. It is quite the awakening and very freeing. I encourage you to do the same!

 

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Small House Design

Two years ago I had the pleasure of designing a small home for a client in the Charleston, SC area (Johns Island, specifically). When she introduced the idea of wanting to build small, I was intrigued. I hadn’t designed something smaller than 2300 sf (more of today’s norm for a home). Designing a 750 sf home took a brain adjustment of sorts. It made me be more creative, smarter. It’s the brass tacks of design. It bodes the question, “what does a person really need?” Things like hallways and half baths were out of the equation. Maximizing open space and minimizing sleeping areas drove the design. There is no waste  in a small house design. Every square *inch* counts. The process was exhilarating, mind-changing, and just plain old fun. The response from the public was exciting to watch – a constant stream of passersby walking through saying, “this is exactly what I need!” Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to do some more small house design, and am working on a series of small house plans which will be available for purchase online. In the meantime, I’ve watched more and more buzz/movement happen around small/tiny/micro house design, building, and development in the Charleston area. This will definitely be a topic you’ll see often in this blog, as I want to keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment!

The Eternal House

From “The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life” by Thomas Moore:

“It’s curious that we talk about housing and homelessness as social issues, and yet our songs and poems show how soulful our sense of home is – Stephen Foster’s traditional, plaintive “Old Folks at Home” and the song “Going Home”, set to Dvorak’s melancholy tune, and the phrase “Home, Sweet Home.” No one talks about the sweetness of home these days, and yet sweetness is what pleases the soul.

To appreciate the enchantment that home can bring into a life, we have to shift attention from the literal house to the felt experience of home and realize that the sometimes bitter and tenacious longing for home many feel may not be satisfied by an expensive house or a mere shelter. Memories, fantasies, and desires for home are subtle and set deep in the heart. The longing for home may ask us for the kind of attention that is much less literal than housing, or that can be satisfied only by aesthetic, emotional, and memorial aspects of a house, and not its convenience and good functioning.

Home is an emotional state, a place in the imagination where feelings of security, belonging, placement, family, protection, memory, and personal history abide. Our dreams and fantasies of home may give us direction and calm our anxieties as we continually look for ways to satisfy our longings for home.”

Making Mistakes Is Good

There’s a part of me that still cringes a bit when I typed this blog’s title.

I come from a long line of perfectionist’s and the field of architecture fosters a lot of perfectionists as well; so I do come by it honestly. (wink)

I recently had a huge learning lesson/blessing given to me. I had the experience of winning a contract and then losing it. A big one. The winning part felt really great. The losing part….not so much. However in that process, I was given a HUGE gift – the opportunity for self-examination. Don’t get me wrong. It stung. But I saw that I couldn’t afford to stay in my wound. I felt myself starting to swirl and just didn’t want to go (or rather stay) there. So, Google to the rescue! Seriously. I “googled”: “how to find comfort in making mistakes”. This is what I found:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/04/17/good-employees-make-mistakes-great-leaders-allow-them-to/

This is the part that really spoke to me:

‘We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person.  As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.’

So I apologized, and asked for feedback – both from the client and from the builder (who brought me into the project). I wrote down their feedback (very grateful they actually took the time to give me feedback). Then I took inventory based on the feedback: Is it true? Is it even a little bit true? Even if it’s not true (because I’m learning to know my own truth) is there something I could have done to have created a space of more clear communication? Then I met with my business mentor and we drafted an “official” company policy on how to best navigate/frame the process of getting to know a prospective client – all the way to signing the contract – and taking them through to project completion. A lot of these were things I was already doing – but to write them down made them more clear in my mind and also gives me direction to make sure I don’t skip any of these steps.

The truth is that I *assumed* that I had the project. Looking back I can see that I skipped some steps. I also know that I wasn’t a good fit for the client – and that’s okay too. I am very grateful for the lessons they taught me and I am better for it

Fast Feng Shui

(31 Day Blog Challenge – Day Three)

Here are eight things you can do right now to improve the feng shui of your home or office:

1. Fix Broken Things

2. Clean Your Front Door

3. Replace Burned Out Light Bulbs

4. Clean Your Windows

5. Remove Dead Plants

6. Repair/Replace Broken Mirrors

7. Keep the Toilet Lid Down Between Uses

8. Fix Drips and Leaks

31 DBC: Day 2 – Equitecture

“One of the meanings of home must be equanimity. A spiritual poise, the heart stable, the attention still and unwaivering, all things positioned in their proper places and at ease – therefore, at ease.”  

– Nick Bozanic

Definition of Equitecture: An alternative architectural practice which respects the relationship between the structure, its context, and their effects on the human condition.

One of the first things I learned in architecture school was the importance of context. Before one could even start to consider a solution to a design problem (style, #/size of rooms, etc), they had to have all of the pertinent information about the site (and surrounding sites), such as:

* topography

* size of the site

* compass/sun orientation

* sun exposure

* predominant winds

* optimal views

* landmarks

* drainage

* prominent trees

* neighboring sites

* traffic/circulation access

I would add to this the inherent energy or feeling of a site. This energy is informed and effected by all of the above items. Equitecture honors the natural assets of the site and designs a building that serves as a conduit from earth to user. So the structure is an extension of the site and a reflection of the user. Carefully studied, the context will say “enter here”, “discover there”, “rest here”, and “welcome”.

31 Day Blog Challenge: Day One: What Is Feng Shui?

I just joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge (in case you are interested: http://bit.ly/19WzwV4 #31dbc). The idea is to boost traffic to your blog. In my case, it’s also about breaking oneself out of a rut. So here’s day one!

These days a lot of people have heard of feng shui. Just not everyone knows what it is. No wonder. There isn’t exactly a simple answer to the question “what is feng shui?”. It is part design, part philosophy, part common sense, and part quantum physics.

The design part is just how it sounds. Anything that falls in the realm of good design practices is considered good feng shui – balanced, ordered, attractive, inviting, proper scale, uncluttered, etc.

The philosophy part is inspired by taoism – the connection or relationship between man and earth (the environment). The very first practice of feng shui was connected to how to best live off the land – or rather in harmony with the land. The people paid attention to the orientation of the sun, predominant winds, positioning within the topography, and locations and flow of the rivers. Rivers were used as transportation corridors back then. So the modern day version of this is to take note of your buildings relationship to the street.

The common sense part is….well…..you get the idea. For example, if you want your home to be inviting, you probably won’t keep an overflowing trash can next to your front door. If you find yourself thinking “that’s probably not good feng shui”, then it isn’t.

The last part is quantum physics. Don’t let this scare you. The cliff notes definition of quantum physics is: everything is energy. We all learned this in school. Remember the lesson about how objects that seem solid actually aren’t because they are made up of whirling atoms. Even the air we breathe is made up of them. These guys are constantly in motion – full of energy. How objects (and people) are positioned effects the flow of this energy (the Chinese call it “chi”). A simplistic example is the positioning of two magnets. Depending on how you position them determines whether they attract each other or whether they repel each other. The flow of this energy in your surroundings effects your flow in life – all areas of life: abundance, community, self-actualization, career success, wellness, relationships, creativity and benefactors (to name a few).

So feng shui is a multi-faceted methodology that optimizes one’s position in life through the alignment of their built and natural environments. Make sense? Feel free to post questions below.

 

Motivation

So much has happened since my last post. So much to share. I just signed up for a 31 day blogging challenge. Saw it as the perfect opportunity to get my “writing engines” back up and running – new and improved no less. I started this blog because I was seeking a new path. Last year helped me find that path, and now I want to share it with you. Stay tuned!

Best and warm wishes,

Danielle

Pause!

“When you find yourself in a new situation, a new cirucumstance, a new life experience; everything that is going to require healing is going to rush to the surface. And if you don’t take a minute to breathe, to gather yourself, to pray; you will do what you’ve always done. So you’ve got to be clear enough, grounded enough, centered enough to say: “How am I going to handle it this time”. So the lesson is: “Pause!”. – Iyanla Vanzant

Amen, sista, amen. Just two months ago I was faced with an opportunity to leave my “in the meantime” job to practice architecture and feng shui full time again. It was something for which I’d been praying very hard for a really long time. I wasn’t sure if it was what God wanted for me. I mean I clearly have talents for this field, but what if I was meant to do something else? A friend who does business/marketing coaching says to look at what you did when you were a child (unfiltered, unconditioned). Well when I was a kid my favorite passtimes were: creating a city out of a pile of dirt on the edge of our driveway (including tunnels, bridges and little rock houses on plateaus with small stick fences), digging in the sand box/creating an underground house for my smurf figurines, dismantling my barbie house (or doll house) furniture and recreating rooms/houses in places you might not expect (like the stairway, under the coffee table, and on a 3-level side table in the living room – to name a few). I also enjoyed discovering spaces/rooms in the void between three trees growing closely together, under a bush on a sloped hill, or underneath a sun chair – carefully folded to fit just me. Let’s not forget the forts built with whatever materials nature provided and tents created out of blankets strewn between me and my sister’s beds. Yes, indeed creating space and/or place was my thing – still is.

So here I am in a new situation – having had some time off from my profession of choice to focus on being a mother and a wife, to learn some life lessons that were very much needed to learn – to gain a new level of humility, faith and courage. I’m working with a marketing specialist to get things off the ground and I’m faced with a not-so-new obstacle: me. More accurately: my fears, self-doubt – you know, the usual. As Ms. Vanzant so eloquently put it, “everything that is going to require healing is going to rush to the surface”. Things that I grappled with in architecture school have come to pay me a visit.

Now I could listen to the voice(s) of self-doubt and retreat – go work for someone else doing…whatever. But I believe that there is a huge opportunity in front of me. I also believe that I can’t do this alone. Of course I am enlisting the help of my higher power…but I’d love to hear how some of you have faced some of your own “demons”, pushed through the fear, and did your dance of freedom on the other side.  After all, it does take a village. 😉

In the meantime, I’m marching on (and, yes, pausing too).

Being Vulnerable and Lessons Learned

“Even though you may feel that these jobs have nothing to teach you, they can ctually impart vital lessons in how to self-motivate, how to develop and maintain a positive attitude, and how to develop skills you may not have training for. Who knows – you may even discover interests or aptitudes you hadn’t considered yet. What’s more, these positions can provide valuable perspective for later positions. When you’ve had the wrong job, you’re more likely to apprecite and treasure the right job when it comes along.” – source unknown

So it’s been a little while since my last entry – not that I’ve been at a loss of words (those who know me take your queue to chuckle)….There’s been a lot going on – meaning, plenty to write about. I heard a talk the other day and something hit me straight between the eyes: sometimes we hold back out of fear of being vulnerable. There’s a certain level of honesty that happens here. I think on some level I could sense that that’s where this blog is headed and some fear kicked up for me. You see, it’s not just friends following this blog – it’s clients – or potential clients. Some part of me says “you’ve got to show them how well put together you are”, “don’t let them see you that way”. But then I’ve been watching some people who I consider great leaders in their profession – in their community. You know what they are? Real. Vulnerable. Open. Then I remember so many times that I’ve had people say to me “Thank you for being so real. It’s so frustrating when I all I hear is how great/easy people’s lives are – makes me think I’m doing something wrong.”

A new mentor of mine said “when you can get to the core of who you really are and allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to that, then you’ll be truly successful – and attractive”. So here I am, open to being vulnerable. Being real.

Along that note, tomorrow marks two weeks since I started practicing architecture and feng shui full time – again. You see when the economy crashed, so did my business. I had to seek other work to keep the money coming in – to pay the bills – a J.O.B. The position was related to my field – just not what I was trained to do or what I loved to do. I am very grateful for that job. It helped me and my family avoid foreclosure on our home (which we came really close to doing), it provided me with health insurance (which helped pay medical bills for my pregnancy and the birth of my son), it allowed me to not have the stress of keeping work coming in (so I could focus on being a new mom), it connected me with some really nice coworkers (particularly some really cool women). There were parts that were very challenging – which pushed me to have a deeper spiritual life and do some inner work that I probably would’nt have been motivated to do otherwise. One of the lessons I learned was to not take other people’s bad moods personally – to see them with compassion and to realize that, unless I’ve truly done something wrong, they are reacting out of their own conditioning and whatever I may be mirroring back to them. I learned that God has a purpose for everything – though I wasn’t using my strongest talents in that profession, I discovered ones I didn’t know I had – ones that I can take with me and which will make me a better architect and a better feng shui consultant. So it taught me to look for the silver linings – because there are often many going on. My God is efficient like that (p.s. please don’t lose the message here because I’ve used the word “God” – feel free to insert whatever you call your higher power in it’s place to make it more personal/meaningful to you).

So I’m on a new phase in my journey now. Looking back and taking not only what I learned from this most recent job – but also looking back at my first go around as a full time self-employed architect/feng shui consultant – taking inventory of what worked and what didn’t, being open to doing things differently – better. Trusting that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be – that I always have been and always will be.