Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Gathering" and "Retreat" Spaces

What are "gathering" and "retreat" spaces?
I am reading this great book, that I got from the library. It called, "living in style, without losing your mind." This book is very cool and in only 25 short pages in, it is changing the way I think about design and style. One thing about the book that I thought would be neat to share is the concepts of gathering and retreating in our homes. Gathering rooms are just that, the kitchen, living/family rooms and the dinning room. At the heart of any gathering space is usually dip, whether it may be on an island in the kitchen, at the dinning table or even the coffee table-or "dip table" in that matter. Gathering places are essential for a healthy family dynamic. And retreat spaces are just the opposite spaces, they are where you can go and as the book says,"dream."  The author says, "every home must provide a place to get-a-away." These spaces can be a bedroom, bathroom, a study, garage or even an alcove. The idea of these spaces are to be cozy and private. Just as we need time with people, we need time alone too.

Having balance
The equal balance of these spaces are important parts of the home. I personally have noticed  is that the main gathering places are not being used often becasue they are drowned out by many retreat spaces. Family's are branching away instead of coming together. Homes are so big now they have two dinning rooms; a family room, living room, bonus room, sun room, finish basement and even large landing at the tops of stairs. On top of these extra spaces, everyone has their bedrooms and bathrooms. Large homes effect the way a family gathers. Even if you have small homes when you don't have the rooms, creating retreats isn't hard. You can create window seats or reading corners or even make a large retreat closet space full of fluffy pillows.

Designing these spaces
Gathering spaces are just as important as retreat spaces and visa versa. When assessing or designing your gathering spaces make sure their is lots of choices for people to sit or lounge. Seating can be anything from a couch, to an over-sized chair, to folding chairs, to pillows against the wall or cushions on the floors. Give people choices, it helps them to feel more at home. Also, have people over, that is important in creating any home!

In designing retreat spaces ask everyone in your home, their favorite spaces. If someone doesn't have one, create one for them. It doesn't have to be expensive or tacky, just give them a space to really unwind and refresh too. The book gives a quote from architectural theorist Christopher Alexander, "No one can be close to others without also having frequent opportunists to be alone." Everyone should have a space to retire or dream.

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