integrative space

Integrating the Story with the Space

Recently I was asked to assist with a new home being built in a development out of state. I appreciated that I was called into the project prior to the owners breaking ground. The issue, however, was that all the layouts they were considering were identical or a mirror version of the original. There were no options for moving rooms, re-sizing, or changing the location of the kitchen. It goes without saying that the direction of the front door could not be changed.

This was the reason I was asked to be part of the owner’s process. They wanted to somehow separate their identical home from all the others. They wanted to make it “their own story.”

An important part of constructing anything—-a home, an office building, a hospital—-is that few people stop to think about what the unique storyline could be regarding that space. Despite the obvious “we want to be happy” or “we want to be healthy” or “we want to be successful,” there are more relevant and life-changing questions that can set an environment apart from all others.

Here are three questions I have clients answer:

  • How do we want people to feel when they come in?
  • What’s our focus?
  • What are 3 keywords that can be embedded in the space?

And here are their answers:

  • For a family of five: We want people to feel welcome. Our focus is warmth
    and joy. Three keywords: upbeat, comfortable, pleasant.
  • For a dental office: We want people to feel relaxed. Our focus is being kind
    and professional. Three keywords: safe, respectful, likable.
  • For a clinic: We want people to feel like they’re at home. Our focus is
    comfort and protection. Three keywords: relaxed, calm, easy.

Just like authors ask themselves “what’s the point of my book?” or artists ask “what do I want to get across?” a space can and should have the same drive propelling them forward. This is an exercise that should be done while the building is still on a napkin—-not after the final drawings. Let the story and the dream infuse the very walls. People won’t necessarily understand the story on a cognitive level but will feel it on an emotional one. That’s where all stories reside.