Saturday, June 4, 2011

"My Really Favorite Room"--The Importance of Empty Space

This morning, I decided to move the glider chair out of my two and a half year old daughter's room. With the recent addition of her first dollhouse, the room was starting to feel crowded, and I wanted to give her more space to play. Lately we've been reading bedtime stories on her "big girl" bed, so we haven't needed the chair as much as we used to.

I wasn't sure how my daughter might react to this change--after all, that glider was the site of lots of snuggles, songs, and stories, not to mention the 3 am (and 4 am, and 5 am) nursing sessions from her baby days. I felt a little wistful as I heaved the glider through the door, and I mentally prepared to comfort her if she expressed any sadness.

So I was more than a little surprised--though maybe I shouldn't have been-- when I returned to her room after carrying out the chair and found her twirling in the middle of the carpet, her little pink purse full of LEGO people practically flying off of her arm as she spun. She was belting out a song that she made up as she went along:

"It my favorite room! It my lovely room! My really favorite room! I like my roooom!"

She has never offered any opinion about her bedroom before (in spite of all of the pretty, color-coordinated touches that resulted from my overzealous nesting phase during my pregnancy), so I asked her about her song. She explained that she was happy because she had more space to play.

I looked at the corner by the window where the chair had been and where the dollhouse now stood. The dollhouse, a pastel, plastic, 3 story structure made by Fisher Price, is not attractive in and of itself--particularly since we lost the toilet and now use a hinged spice jar lid in its place-- but sitting in front of the window on its little fabric-draped decorator table, with lots of sunlight and empty space around it, it looked pretty. Or maybe more accurately, the space around it looked pretty; the absence-of-chair looked pretty. The potential-for-play looked pretty. Lovely even.
My daughter's reaction to this change reminded me of two things:

1. How sensitive human beings are to changes in our environments (children in particular), and how a simple change can truly shift the "energy" of a space. Forgive me if my California roots are showing, but it's the truth.

2. The power of "subtraction" in redesign. Sometimes removing one element from a room can make such a positive difference. As Lauri Ward says, we need to give the eye a place to "rest" in each room. Subtraction is one of the easiest--and most affordable--ways to change a space. After all, even in the worst economic times when many can't afford to buy something new, anyone can afford to remove something! And, as my daughter pointed out, it's not about losing "stuff" as much as it's about gaining space...for living!

Have you subtracted anything in your home lately? Do tell!