EYE ON DESIGN: Fire the Imagination

The Strength of Simplicity

Recent stints on two design juries reminded me that inspiration often derives from limitation: constraints in materials or budget have a way of freeing the imagination.

City College of San Francisco’s ARCHISTRUCTERIOR competition celebrating the Architecture Department’s 60th anniversary took the form of a happening in a downtown plaza. Each team of students was asked to design and build a full-scale construction representing the cultural, social, and ethnic diversity of specific San Francisco neighborhoods within four hours. Building materials: two kits of parts; one supplied by the department of architecture and containing things like boards and wire, the other containing “neighborhood elements” assembled by each team. Winners included the the following:

The team representing Chinatown created a dense mini-street under a canopy of Chinese take-out menus:


The team representing the Haight-Ashbury fashioned an evocative hilly landscape out of long-playing records melted in a microwave:


Both celebrated distinctive neighborhood qualities, features, or memories in vivid ways. In other words you can do and say a lot with just a few elements.

The strength of simplicity also became apparent in Atlanta where the Chrysalis Remodel Awards Jury reviewed more than 500 entries from across the country. Here’s a photo of the entry binders burying Ken Canline, the organizer of the program:


Judges included yours truly (in the green sweater), Leslie Plummer Clagett (in white), Editor at Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications; Oma Blaise Ford (in black), Senior Deputy Editor, Home Design, Better Homes & Gardens; and Louis Joyner, Photographer and former Home Editor, Southern Living:


Here the residential remodel projects that made it to the top of the heap often demonstrated an elegant simplicity: they didn’t use too many different materials and they solved space problems in clear and uncluttered ways.

So how does all this relate to finding your perfect layout on Houseplans.com? By way of a little common sense advice: Stick to the basics: a well thought-out home plan should help you get the best out of where and how you want to live without adding extra complications. Simplify and savor!

One response to “EYE ON DESIGN: Fire the Imagination

  1. I will be visiting SF in a month or so. I am passionate about designs and especially remodeling landscapes. I will have to have a look

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s