A successful house, particularly one that has survived centuries of living will be invested with soul. How did it come to inhabit the house? Perhaps it was passed on by the original builder that sought shelter for his brood who put his heart into every stroke of the broadaxe. Perhaps the first tree that offered itself up to him has contributed. You might thank the generations that may have lived fruitful lives therein and passed on in nature’s way to leave it in our hands. An historic house comes with a kind of promise, a promise from past to future occupants of peace, safety, beauty and shelter, all of which are a duty with soul built in. This is its true prosperity, its triumph and its legacy.
These houses have character. We would be very remiss not to notice and appreciate the spirit behind the crafting of them. To turn an oak tree into a few square timbers by the strength of one’s arm was no mean feat. They were meant to stand for the generations to come and it seems that’s us. We have been given a gift we must recognize, the advantage of the monumentality of effort that created them in the first place. These natural materials with the earnestness that shaped them in evidence will cradle us as lovingly as they ever have. The house then becomes the haven that nurtures the soul, that inspires and gives meaning to our lives.
When these houses are threatened, often by the urban sprawl, sometimes by neglect, a few of us choose to save them and with care and diligence they can be saved. They are often reconstructed as they were first intended but sometimes need to be tailored for today’s homeowner. An architectural designer with traditional design experience can be of great assistance in this regard. It is important, if introducing modern elements, to add them without sacrificing the vitality and ambiance of the original structure. Needless to say, a particular sensitivity is required to marry the old and the new.
The psychological power of rooms is often underestimated. Some rooms, particularly venerable old rooms, cannot be improved upon and we are well served to keep them intact, even to furnishing them with our prized antiques.
But there are opportunities for drama. Take the current interest in converting an old barn into a home for instance. We have recognized that space was not meant to be contained. It wants to soar. As do our souls.
As Thoreau put it “We are but a sojourner in nature.” Man’s journey has always followed a trail that steps from the past to a future where on both sides of the road are lined homes where souls may rest and share their lovely rooms.