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Article: My Childhood Home & Appreciation for Authentic Materials

My Childhood Home & Appreciation for Authentic Materials

My Childhood Home & Appreciation for Authentic Materials

My company was started based on making and selling Nantucket Baskets. I love these baskets in part for their simple beauty - which I think emanates from their authentic material composition and honest handcrafted nature. This relates to home building in the way that I believe truly beautiful homes emit an authentic energy. One way that we can enhance somethings authenticity is through the incorporation of natural materials wherever possible.

Let's back up a bit:

It was never a dream of mine to build a new house. Quite the contrary, I grew up fantasizing about living in an old house filled with stories and art and music a football team of kids and walls that could be drawn on and couches covered in dogs. And maybe that was in Manhattan or maybe it was in the country with horses, but it would be a far cry from the end of the cul-de-sac that I was raised on in suburban New Jersey.

My parents built my childhood home while I was in my mom’s belly and it was the only home I knew before I turned 18 and flew the nest. It was built in the 1980’s and very much reflective of the trends of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice house. It accommodated our family of five with plenty of space for activities. We had a big speaker system hooked up to my Dad's record player with a collection of vinyl that, if I could turn back time like Cher, I'd swipe in a heartbeat.  It had an exercise room with a mirrored dance floor downstairs where I could escape to groove to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection off beat, mess up the combinations and no one would stop the music to reprimand me and take it from the top like at dance class. It was big with high wood paneled ceilings, and a big back deck for parties, and dense woods behind that we could play in. But the actual design and structure was cold, and felt flat and nothing like my friends' old homes which I so admired. I’m sure they chose the best of the best materials offered to them by their GC when they built their house. BUT, my memories of it are cold tile underfoot, flat in character, smooth formica, and skylights that let in light so bright and harsh it was as if I was climbing out from the allegorical cave each morning. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Then again, maybe I’m not.

Visiting friends' homes was thrilling to me. I fell in love with the feeling of being in old homes. I loved the creaky wooden floor boards in my friends farmhouse, the cozy wood burning fireplace, Quirky collections, oil paintings of ancestors, ripped pages of books that had been read time and time again, rooms that were dim for snuggling up and resting, and the sound of off tune melodies played on a passed down piano and nooks and crannies that held stories and mysteries that reflected a richer homelife that I yearned for. 

Anyway, my takeaway was - if you have a roof over your head you are lucky, but you had to be really lucky to be born into a home with patina. 

Fast forward to 2020 and in the midst of the pandemic I found myself with a third baby in my baby, designing and building a custom new construction home. Am I becoming my mother? Possibly. But I like to think we stand on the shoulders of our elders, take the best, and leave the rest. 

While functionality is certainly the first thing I consider in design, very soon after are the materials with which the design is executed. Wherever possible in my new home, I strove to incorporate natural materials. Everything has energy, and when you choose to use a material that is natural, raw, from the earth, it has a very different quality of energy than something manufactured. Think of holding a nantucket basket vs. a plastic easter basket.

Sometimes using natural materials was cost prohibitive, and at other times I was deterred due to maintenance concerns considering my *ahem* lifestyle. I value the intrinsic beauty of authentic materials, but I also had to take into consideration my three kids, two dogs, and a certain person's tendency to blow through the kitchen like a tornado making something as simple as toast, and tell stories with wild hand gestures with no regard for the glass of red being held. (The person is me).

BUT my hope is that in the conscious decision to select raw materials over manufactured where possible, I have imbued our new construction home with a bit of authentic energy and the beauty that comes with it. The choice of a cedar shingled roof over asphalt, porch lanterns illuminated by flame over electricity, mahogany decking over composite, solid white oak hardwood over engineered planking, brick mudroom flooring and sporadic use of marble here and there despite pretty much the whole world telling me not to.

On Monday, I’ll dig a little deeper into my kitchen countertop selection. The agony I went through, and why, ultimately, in this case, I am happy I chose an alternative to marble.

Thanks for reading my first novel. Brevity is not my strong suit but I’ll work on it!

Have a beautiful weekend you beautiful people.

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