I’ve just returned from a fantastic and much needed two week vacation in the English countryside, so here we are 15 days into 2019 and I’ve yet to make a single recommendation. As a rule, I never make hard and fast New Years resolutions. I like to spare myself the disappointment of getting 10 days in and realizing a change in the calendar year has failed once more to imbue me with super human strength. Instead, I like to imagine each new year is defined by a category in which I can focus on improvement. Last year, the category might have been identified as “self-expectation.” I worked to make fewer goals with the possibility of meeting or exceeding those rather than standing by blamelessly as many failed spectacularly. I am happy to report that last year’s single goal was met and exceeded.
This year I have two categories I want to work to improve. The first is to show those near me that I genuinely care about them. As a famously bad gift giver, we’ll see how that goes. The other is to sharpen my intellect through reading more widely in the field of domestic architecture. Very often I find myself struggling to define to clients why a certain thing should be as I have designed it to be. I know I have encountered the answers in books I read in and around my college years. Back then, I could have distilled the concepts easily into words, but now I find myself saying again and again, “I’ll find you a picture that shows you what I am talking about.” It’s an okay strategy, because people really do respond more powerfully to pictures than words, but there is so much history behind every choice we see made in a photograph of some designed space or object. Take for instance the classic image of a rotary phone with the dial sitting on a sort of squat box and the handset resting on its cradle behind. Did you know a single person was commissioned by AT&T to design that?
The thought never occurred to me either until I was reading my first book of 2019, Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. While not a great book if you’re looking for really astute, undiluted architectural criticism (which you’re probably not), this book is an excellent and spellbinding read if you’re interested in learning more about all the things of domestic life you’ve been taking for granted all these years. And so, my first rec of 2019 is not some design idea, but a book so that hopefully we can expand our knowledge together this year.