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Finding Your Niche

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, August 02, 2013

We all are familiar with the saying “Bigger is better” right? But is this always true?

Don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t want more square footage in a closet? Wish for more elbowroom in a bathroom? Or, perhaps, covet more counter space in a kitchen? But, who needs more room everywhere? Maybe it is just me, but I like cozy. Grandly scaled rooms are great for parties and entertaining large groups of people but what about when it is only you or you and your significant other? I find that smaller, intimate spaces are more inviting and conducive for our day-to-day living.

Case in point, I recently vacationed in San Juan, staying at the El Convento hotel, right in the heart of Old Town. This wonderful, historic building was formerly a convent, thus the guestrooms were not at all spacious by modern standards, being perhaps two-thirds the size of your typical hotel room. However, what my small room lacked in square footage was more than made up for by tons of charm.

Glazed terra-cotta tile floors, rustic dark wood furniture, ochre-toned plaster walls, and rich fabrics gave the room the welcoming warmth not found in most chain hotels. Not one, but two French door balconies, complete with louvered wood shutters, framed views of the quaint roof-top pool terrace and the colorful cityscape beyond. It was the perfect perch from which to wake-up in the mornings and enjoy a strong cup of Puerto Rican coffee and to unwind with a cool and refreshing rum cocktail at the end of the day. I seriously doubt the much newer Sheraton hotel on the other side of town, with its larger, corporate-themed, cookie-cutter guestrooms offers an experience anywhere near what I enjoyed during my stay at the El Convento.

I think it is just human nature that we seek out spaces that offer us shelter and comfort. I find myself creating those special niches in my design work for clients, both figuratively and physically. Establishing a room-within-a-room, or an oasis, that lures you in to sit and relax is integral to good design. We naturally want a spot where we can comfortably spend some time and chill.

With our trend towards large, open-concept design, finding the right balance of roominess and comfort can be a challenge. In bigger rooms I always try to make an intimate seating arrangement for conversation. Sometimes this dictates having two groupings, one for larger gatherings of people and one for more intimate encounters. Architectural details can facilitate this. If there is a fireplace or bay window or a nook tucked away to the side, I take advantage of it. Creating a special space within the composition of a larger one is the key.

I like to group a pair, or more, of comfortable chairs upholstered in an inviting fabric, around a unique ottoman or unusual table to set the scene for a quiet tete-a-tete. Sometimes setting a game table in an alcove for a chess challenge or a puzzle is the way to go. Tucking a chaise-lounge into an alcove for the perfect spot to read a book, cruise the internet, or catch a nap is always an added bonus. Creating a personal space inside a bigger one to enjoy some private time makes a bigger room multi-functional.

I also find many clients are asking their architect to design a small space in their home from the get-go. In my client Joanne’s new home under construction in Sea Pines there is a special room just for her that we refer to as simply the nook. Tucked away in a quiet part of the house it is just big enough to contain a reading chair and a small writing desk, a bookshelf, and space for her electric keyboard. It will be her personal sanctuary and she cannot wait to enjoy it.

A little thought and planning to make a personal oasis in your home is easy. If you need help, consult a professional to assist you. Finding your niche is rewarding and fulfilling. And remember, bigger is not always better, but good design is priceless.


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