by Durand Seay
Simplicity of line will always remain classic in design.
| Led by the tour guide through the large, double wood paneled front doors shaded by the porch, the group entered the entry hall. The hall was much wider than anticipated, more like a room with a stair case right before you, along one side. The oohs and aahs could be heard under many of their breaths while they scanned every detail of the space. “You couldn’t get that today,” one said. The ceiling was very high; it had to be at least 12 feet. Framed by crown adornments, formed of intricately detailed cast plaster, you could see where a few pieces had broken off to posterity. The darkened heart pine floor creaked as everyone moved to the center, below the balustrade running diagonally above their heads. With envy, a comment came from one woman, “this hall is as wide as my living room!” The tour guide was quick to respond that it was used that way at certain times of the year. Another double doorway entrance at the other end of the hall had been opened to which a breeze swirled its way through. This was the dog trot incorporated into homes so as to capture the winds. The hallway was used very much as a central living and entertaining space where an evening breeze could be felt to cool you from the day’s heat.
The other rooms of the home were directly off of this space, utilizing two of the outside walls and a corner of the house. Large, very tall windows, adjacent the front porch, were large enough to walk through once the sash were raised. The fire place on the adjacent wall was flanked by the other windows and just as tall. The shape of the room was simple, large and adorned with hand hewn details around every opening. Paneled doors, also of heart pine, stood tall to match the windows and high ceilings. The same crown treatments from the hallway framed these too. A cross breeze could be felt from the open windows accented with a light bouquet of a daffodil and wisteria permeating from the gardens.
It was spring and the time the azaleas would also begin their blooming. Attracted like bees to nectar, the tourists came from all over to see what once and still was a memorable sight. The tour of homes on those plantations, farm homes, the family house, would commence a following of people every year. You could see that these simple but elegant homes held a magnetism unto themselves that could not be explained. The tour guide was just there to show them off and make sure no one broke anything, directing the tourists on their designated path. They thought people just like seeing history. But once all had passed through to see what they could in the way of the old antique beds, tables and chairs, an emotion of attachment remained. The tourist, old home enthusiasts, would still long to have something like that for their own.
Older homes provide a simple lesson that we can engage, feel, and learn about the design of rooms and space. It is something that can be applied even to a modern environment, a message that is timeless. These spaces described above were actually from old homes as assembled memories from a legacy of preservation, restoration projects, all as learning tools. But, the less than straightforward essence is just in the shear simplicity of those spaces. They are easy to understand with uncomplicated lines; never the cliff hanger formations of a rock face with endless lines moving in all directions.
There is a part of human nature that is demonstrated by our desire to engage restful environments. Our desire for intimacy is satisfied the moment we comprehend boundaries. Regardless of how big a space may be, there is assurance knowing, seeing, and feeling our relationship of where we are in that place. Therein, comfort is gained in simple lines that move the eye without jarring the mind in that discovery. So a rectilinear (or elliptical if you like) room with plainness of line by no means is boring and will remain eternal, a satisfying, contemporary classic forever.