“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” ~ Plato
“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~ Lao Tzu
We are planners. We are organizers. We are intentional. Don and I can spend countless hours talking about how we wish to live, work, and play. It’s a delight we share over a meal, a morning cup of coffee, and on road trips with miles of highway before us. We dream. We diagram. We decide. This dialog frequently includes talking about the place where we live. Buying a house and living in it without a plan of how we would live there, was unthinkable to us. This house was to hold the space for our creative energies. Both of us were re-inventing ourselves, not only in our marriage relationship; but in our blended families, work interests and pursuits, and artistic nudges. Our lives were transitioning, re-arranging differently than before, and we were fully aware that an important point of grounding ourselves was the place where we lived. House Number Five needed to easily welcome our families and friends, give enough space for our offices and studios, and have a floor plan that supported and inspired how we lived and worked. In our search for home, we encountered too many houses where the relationship of rooms to one another was boring, awkward, or complicated. “I can’t see myself living here,” would be a frequent phrase uttered to the other. Something felt off, not matching a resonance with what our minds, hearts, and souls needed, desired. We were looking for both the practical and the spiritual in a home. The house needed to have character, a sense of beauty, and elegant simplicity. It needed to bring us to life in new ways, keep us interested and intrigued. How would we know when we found it? We trusted that a conscious connection between mind and heart would awaken deep within. That’s what happened when we entered House Number Five. To us, home was a feeling and it was found in this simple house.
Now that the destination was known, shouldn’t it be acknowledged? We felt the year long search to find a home needed to be celebrated. Our English heritage reminded us that in England, houses are given names. Before numbers and official addresses were established, houses were named. The names were indicative of some aspect of their geography, architectural construction, or family lineage. Giving something a name – whether it is a car, a house, a child – makes it personal and almost automatically gives it an inherent personality.
There was an aspect of House Number Five’s personality that we especially appreciated. Simplicity. The American Foursquare house design was intended to be simple, practical, and orderly. There was no fussing with extras. The name, Simplicity, certainly felt appropriate based on the structure of the house. It was also a value that we continually sought to integrate into our lives by less consumerism, wise ecological choices, and fewer gadgets. The clean lines of Simplicity prompted us to see and respect the gift of emptiness, negative space, not only in our home but in our artwork and busy lives. We were determined to keep the spaciousness of each room, rather than to fill it with too much. The name, Simplicity, suited this house and us.
If you give a house a name, she deserves a party! We called it a House Blessing, similar to a baby christening. We invited those who had remodeled and sold us the house, the neighbors on either side who had sacrificed land for Simplicity’s arrival, the realtor who worked with us an entire year to find the perfect home, and friends who were witnesses to the ups and downs of our house hunt.
Prior to everyone’s arrival we readied Simplicity for her guests. Every corner was thoughtfully cleaned. We walked into all interior rooms and exterior spaces smudging with sage to refresh her, release any old energy that may have stagnated from her former lives. Candles were placed in the center of every room to ignite the hopes and dreams offered by our guests. Wisconsin cheeses and wine, apple cider, grapes, walnuts, homemade chocolate chip cookies and fresh bread just out of the oven welcomed one and all. Simplicity’s spaces were alive with light, luscious smells and love.
The group that gathered was new to each other, brought together because they held part of the story of this house or the story of our search. Everyone admitted that this was their first house blessing and they were most curious. I had prepared a list of quotations about home and sacred space. Writer and designer, Alexandra Stoddard, described home in this way. “We experience a spiritual opening up when we feel at home. The spirit of a person and the spirit of the place where one lives is actually felt.” From Victoria Moran in her book, Shelter for the Spirit, “Home is where you go to refuel – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.” From Winifred Gallagher’s, House Thinking, “Designers wonder ‘How does it (a place) look?’ The rest of us ask, ‘How does it make me feel? Does it meet my needs?’” Our guests listened and then offered words that meant home to them. Being yourself, peaceful, feeling safe, cozy, a place to relax, a sanctuary, hospitality, where stories are lived, were the responses from their thoughtful voices.
We explained that we were naming her Simplicity in hopes that her simple design would enhance us to live more simply, more intentionally. They were invited to move throughout the house, pausing in each of the rooms to offer a thought, a prayer, a blessing for how that specific space might enhance our lives with the qualities of home. In both serious and playful ways, our guests blessed our home with love. We concluded the evening, lingering over tasty refreshments and hearing each other’s stories of finding home. We gathered that night to name a house. Her name is Simplicity.