A Sense of Place



When creating spaces, I am amazed with the sheer amount of design opportunities that exist. My approach to design starts with the potentials of the project and establishes the foundation which I call a Sense of Place.’ A Sense of Place involves the intrinsic character of a place and how people experience it. Practicing interior design in the Southwest desert, the Northwest, Maui, and the Colorado mountains taught me the importance of understanding the nuances of each spectacular place. The vocabulary of each environment is unique but the design process is implemented the same way.

Several key components combine to define a Sense of Place. The first step is to ask yourself “Where are we?” Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a historic destination resort which is one of the unique small rocky mountain resort communities made up of full-time residents, second homes and resorts. Born out of ranching and its famous hot springs plus the addition of a world class ski area and year-round sought-after outdoor lifestyle activities, this place inherited the incredible natural beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. All these elements combine to develop a design-influencing sense of place.

Within the design process, the natural beauty of Steamboat Springs can be captured in many ways, such as using the architecture and interiors to highlight scenic view planes or placing structures on site to blend in with native trees and landscape. Use of landscape and exterior materials inside the home allows one to enjoy indoor/outdoor living. Consider studying the sun angles year-round. Be creative with space planning, pertaining to flow and function of spaces. Use indigenous materials. Use interesting innovative materials in unique ways. Utilize height of structure allowance in innovative ways. Architecture, interior design and landscape design should integrate in a meaningful way. Opportunities get left on the table if an interior designer is brought in after a house is framed, so be sure to include an experienced designer throughout the entire process.

Incorporating your personal uniqueness is also important and contributes to defining a Sense of Place. Include your interests, hobbies, indoor activities, outdoor activities and career innovations. Travel experiences, pets, personal art collections, book collections and musical instruments also play a role. Incorporate any family mementos that can be thoughtfully displayed and integrated into the architecture.

Another great component is to relate the history of the town or land.
Use indigenous materials. Study integrating native history respectfully. Introduce local artisans of all types. When designing a space in a resort community, resist the urge to practice tacky kitsch. When designing spaces in Maui, designers or clients often overload pineapples and hula girls in the tile, lighting, bedding and cabinet hardware. Just like that, it ruins the idea of culture and makes it cartoonish in lieu of tastefully authentic. Look for meaningful cultural concepts to include.

To bring in current materials and fresh ideas, consult with your expert designer that keeps current with the world of quality vendors. This person should not be loyal to a few brands of furniture or tile they get deeper discounts on which limits client options. Procurement requires senior experience. There are a lot of mistakes to be made in this profession which are alleviated by a long-time learning curve.

What else can we do to make a project completely unique? Consider if you have flushed out all the opportunities. If so, how will this affect your asset in monetary value? When you hire an expert interior designer with a lot of experience, they will take you beyond what you thought possible. They will help build equity in your home and then some. Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the best part: a serenely beautiful space to live. Now, retain your design team and get started creating your Sense of Place.

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