I’m in the middle of reading some Christopher Alexander, which of course gets me thinking about how our house works. And my conclusion is that I quite like it, but that Miranda can take almost sole credit for that.
The downstairs has one largish L-shaped room, a small kitchen, and a small den. The upstairs has a largish master bedroom, Miranda’s bedroom, and the library / guest room. There’s a bit of a garden in the back, a porch off of the master bedroom.
And we have stuff all over the place: books line most of the walls, and there’s a pleasant amount of artwork and such on the remaining walls. But Liesl and I don’t actually spend much time in most of the rooms. Miranda’s room doesn’t really count for this purpose, but as for the others: we spend lots of time in the kitchen, we spend lots of time in the den (both the TV and the cable modem connection are there), we spend meals at a table that is in one part of the large downstairs room. But, honestly, we don’t spend much time in the rest of the large downstairs room, or in the library / guestroom, and the bedroom basically gets used for sleeping and other related tasks. To be sure, those rooms aren’t completely dead – if nothing else, I regularly gaze at the bookshelves therein – but using them isn’t our first instinct. And we never go out on the balcony and basically never go into the backyard.
Or at least that’s the way we used to do things. Miranda, however, takes a different tack. She spends some amount of time in her room, of course, and some amount of time watching movies in the den. But she likes to draw in the large downstairs room, and she also likes to play in the library, either doing legos or working at a desk that we just constructed here. (Following a design from a quite nice activity book that she got for Christmas, if I’m recalling correctly – thanks, Uncle Brian!) And she even spends some amount of time sitting at the desk in our bedroom, drawing or playing with the little sculptures/etc. that she and I have put there. (She likes to keep me company while I’m stretching, for example.) And she likes the back yard, though she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time there. (Yosha has also decided that the back yard has its advantages, too.)
I’m glad that she’s getting so much use out of the rest of the house, but it also makes the rest of the house seem much more alive to me. I’ve find myself spending more time in the living room and library recently, for example (admittedly, sticking a second computer in the library doesn’t help), and hanging out in the non-den room downstairs. But I still have more progress to make.
Not that she can take all the credit – like I said, there’s a fair amount of our stuff around the house, stuff that’s not for show but that we care about and use. And I like the way the piano placement has worked, making the large room downstairs more of a defined room instead of an open area with a vague boundary.
Still a ways to go. I have to train myself to use more of the space. Now that it’s getting warmer, we should probably try to lessen the boundary between the den and the back yard: maybe spending time out there, maybe just leaving the door open (but with or without the screen? I would say with, but the dogs might destroy it), maybe leaving it closed but leaving the blinds completely open so we can get more of a view.
And our bedroom, despite its size, is woefully underused: if you just want to sit and read a book, there’s no good place to do that, the bed and desk both being possible but both having drawbacks. One of Alexander’s design patterns that I’d really like to use is a window nook; I’m not up for doing actual construction, but maybe we can stop leaving the windows there covered by default, put a slightly more comfortable chair there, and rearrange the desk and dresser somehow so there’s a more defined space near the window and balcony, lessening the inside/outside barrier.
We could even think about what would make the balcony a more pleasant place to spend time; I’m a little dubious about that, but on the other hand I do like the view of the courtyard of the townhouse complex. (Nice trees.)
Probably other things to do first, though. We just got a leak in the skylight fixed last month; Liesl’s in the middle of arranging for follow-up plaster work. Next on the priority list is to arrange for somebody to go down into the crawl space and tell us if we have termites, structural problems, or an overactive imagination; then we’ll have to deal with the consequences. And we have to get the backyard fence fixed. Miranda is actively lobbying for us to take control of the backyard and plant a garden in that; I’m tentatively in favor of the idea, but I doubt I’ll have the energy for that this year, so maybe I’ll try to stall her until next year. We just got some prints that need to be hung up (that will be easy, we can do that next weekend); and Miranda is running out of bookshelf space (good girl!), as are we, so we need to buy three more bookshelves at some point, maybe next month. But perhaps at some point over the summer we can think about rearranging stuff in our bedroom, possibly buying another chair in addition. I shall raise the issue with Liesl.
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