The Case of the Invisible (or Missing) Fireplace Hearth!

Why I insist design takes more than PRETTY!

Check out this predicament...



Scott & Tara found the perfect setting for their dream home and engaged a terrific builder to execute construction. Nothing was spared

in building quality and the project was completed in record time with little complication.

They engaged a "decorator" to assist with the aesthetics and at first glance it all looks wonderful and visibly connected to the natural environment outdoors. They "have it all" when you look at the surface; pretty landscape; pretty house; pretty furniture; pretty dťcor Ė something like the house in this picture.

But, guess what happened when the buzz of the project and the feeling of "pretty" settled into the daily routine of real living patterns?

It didn't take long for the "bloom to fall from the rose"!

The first clue that something just wasnít right came when the couple decided to curl up by the fireplace to watch their favourite TV show and quickly realized that they couldnít actually see the hearth from either of their two seating arrangements in their great room. This wasnít because the fireplace itself wasnít large and the centre focal point of the room, it definitely is. Its significance as part of the seating arrangements had simply been ignored as the layout was planned to create two seating sections in front of French doors, which flanked it on either side. Unfortunately, the "planners" really didnít understand sight lines and human function. In other words, there was no sitting by the fire. But it gets worse.

The second disappointment hit when Scott & Tara realized that despite the architectural grandeur of their twin sets of French doors leading to the backyard deck, the inside-out view was less than they had expected. They simply didnít realize that since the door frame takes up about 1/3 of the opening space, visibility is reduced because the glass size is significantly less than on a sliding door or window. The turning radius required for inward opening doors further restricts furniture placement, and they actually ended up with a chair in front of one set of doors facing in, blocking the view all together. Now they have two seating areas separated by an empty "hallway" with a floor to ceiling gorgeous fireplace whose hearth can only be seen standing in front of it smack in the centre of their "living room".

'Today, good design requires a whole new level of skill and understanding of human behaviour to take us beyond the myriad of marketplace choice so that we ultimately deliver environments that enhance the quality of life for the people living in them.'

The third disappointment came when they realized that despite their intention to maintain a connection with the outdoors, in the areas that they frequented most on a daily basis for the majority of the year, they had failed to do so. Even their kitchen bar stools face the stove and fridge despite the fact that their island covers some 60 sq.ft., which by the way, almost calls for roller skates to navigate.

In the end, this home is a "show piece" designed to impress Ė which it does profoundly from a "pretty" point of view as one walks through the impressive interior. But the real question is: would you really want to live there?

For most of us, our homes need to meet more demanding criteria for comfort and support. We are creatures of habit and our homes should enhance our time spent in them. Designs should first satisfy the lifestyle requirements and expectations of its inhabitants and the family and friends they wish to share it with. Understanding how we function in our spaces is much more than building and decorating pretty.

Today good design requires a whole new level of skill and understanding of human behaviour to take us beyond the myriad of marketplace choice so that we ultimately deliver environments that enhance the quality of life for the people living in them. Itís time to realize itís not about how big it is, or the stuff we put in homes, but about how well the space serves its mastersÖ.

Thatís what Feeling Great in Your Space is All About!