Learning the Design of Place: Landscapes, Architecture & Interiors


As I get deeper into my interior design degree, I’m gaining a greater appreciation for a more holistic view of residential design. I’ve begun thinking beyond the design of a room or even a whole house’s interior to consider the impact of the architecture of a house and how we view and use our front and back yards. There’s a feeling derived from the combined interior, exterior, and landscaping design of a home that creates a sense of place. Building on this expanded idea of place, I’ve begun seeking educational opportunities to study traditional design beyond the four walls of a room.

I’ve joined the kids headed back to school this fall, embarking on a more ambitious course load in my interior design program and having the occasional opportunity to attend in-person classes.

Kids aren’t the only ones transitioning to a new school year. My son enjoyed the role-reversal of taking this picture.

I’ve expanded beyond the interior design department to explore the design cross-overs with horticulture and architecture. My favorite class this semester is Landscape Design. In that class, I love thinking about extending classic interior design to include the views outside your windows and how we utilize our outdoor spaces to welcome, dine, converse, recreate, work, entertain, relax, store, and garden. I love thinking about how the exterior of a building can interplay with outdoor “rooms” created to facilitate all of these activities.

During the summer, I really impressed myself by learning about building codes and systems such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, fire safety, etc. It’s the kind of technical knowledge I tend to struggle with paying attention to, but I can now say that I at least know enough to know when I need to look up codes, where to find them, and (for the most part) what they mean. It also familiarized me with how to communicate with building systems professionals for matters beyond my expertise. This degree program is so practical!

Concurrently, I’m putting in 100 learning hours to gain a Certificate in Classical Architecture from the Institute of Classical Architecture. They offer pre-recorded educational videos, live webinars, and in-person outdoor seminars in Chicago (and other worldwide locations). My interest in this program was a natural extension of my love of the historical elements of interior design that I learned about last fall. Focusing on Roman and Greek principles of proportion and classical design, there is much to learn. From column styles to mouldings to detailed motifs to traditional craftsmanship, I love the idea of continuing to apply classical architectural principles to current-day preservation efforts and even new construction. I’m taking a watercolor painting class in preparation for an intensive eight-day course in New York City in January 2022. To gain credit in this course, I’ll need to be able to sketch and paint classical buildings and their components alongside trained architects.

Experimenting with watercolor: two-tone gradients and color-bleeding effects

Lastly, I have finally begun a project long in the making. I have heaps of pages of inspirational and instructive photos that I’ve ripped out of design magazines over the years. I needed to organize these images into a useful reference system for when I’m looking for ideas or inspiration. I call this undertaking my Paper Pinterest Project because it’s basically an old-fashioned version of Pinterest. For now, binders and tabs are serving this purpose and I can’t wait to reference these pages full of all my favorite design ideas. Do you tear pages out of design magazines too? How do you use them?

These sample pages show ideas for using upholstery fabric at the head of a bed (top) and creative uses for trim (bottom).

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