Details, when they are successful, are not mere decoration. They do not distract or entertain. They lead to an understanding of the whole of which they are an inherent part.
~ Peter Zumthor
INTERIOR DESIGN NARRATIVE
mills studio has a very expansive, but clear set of explicit intentions for the interior design. Because design is an artistic endeavor, it is not always possible to adequately articulate design intentions or how a design decision makes the intentions tangible, but it is still important to attempt such articulations as just the attempt tends to clarify intentions and strengthen their real world expression.
DTS Interior Design Intent
The DTS interiors are designed to address ten broad, often overlapping, intentions of roughly equal importance: the house is a singular experience; reinforce the project’s institutional and architectural intentions; in concert with the structure establish an aesthetic; support the Owner’s informal and relaxed lifestyle; make the house function on multiple scales; encompass all elements that have the potential to shape the architectural experience; contribute to an expansive definition of sustainability; contribute to the inhabitant’s well-being; provide a luxurious environment; give rise to wonderment, curiosity, and innovation. Each interior design decision is judged and evaluated to determine which of the ten intentions it fulfills or if it works against any of the intentions. Every design decision should simultaneously fulfill multiple intentions, if not all of them.
Intention One – Singular Experience
The DTS house is intended to be a singular experience with no perceived segregation among design and engineering disciplines. Conscious or sub-conscious thoughts of segregation distracts from the potential fullness of the architectural and aesthetic experience. Thus, although we may rightfully speak of interior design as a discrete discipline, we cannot experience it as such in a building, if the building is to fulfill its full expressive power.
There are many perspectives from which to experience the DTS Project House, but if the DTS Project House is ever to function as an aesthetic experience, the building must allow one to directly experience and perceive its inherent qualities and the site’s natural phenomenon without distraction. Thus, all things, especially the interior design, must work toward the good, acting as signal and not noise.
Intention Two – Reinforce Institutional and Architectural Agenda
All DTS interior design decisions support mills studio’s architectural agenda, especially the aspects related to the institutional importance of the family. The interior design must reinforce the importance of the family as the filter between the individual and the community and the structure giving role of institutions. It is human nature to identify as both an individual and as part of a group. Like the family, the interior design has the potential to simultaneously develop and accentuate the individual character of design elements and make the individual elements sufficiently responsible to be a productive part of a group – the architectural whole.
Whether it’s house or film or chair–it must have a structural concept.
~ Charles Eames
Every material and piece of furniture in the DTS Project House is chosen for its individual character and its ability to productively contribute to the group so that the ensemble is much more than the sum of its parts. Every individual interior design element is dependent upon the whole and the whole is dependent upon the individual parts for their success. Like the family, the interior design organizes and civilizes the individual parts into an ideal community and gives each part a purpose in a larger endeavor. The interiors must express intentionality showing that life and design do not happen accidentally. The interior design, like the home and family, has the potential to provide some protection against the apparent arbitrariness of life.
Intention Three – Aesthetic
The DTS interior design must work with the structure to create the building’s aesthetic and make the building an aesthetic experience for its inhabitants and users. The raw materials of concrete, glass, and steel provide the DTS structure within and upon which the interior design interacts to create the DTS aesthetic. The interior design must help the raw materials maintain their authenticity but also give them a pleasurable elegance. The aesthetic is a result of how the building is made, not just what it is made of. The interior design must reveal how the structure is constructed and show how anonymous industrial materials and processes can be used to make a handmade, crafted building.
The DTS interior design must allow the structure to be appreciated for its own sake. The interior design must accentuate and make the building’s essential properties tangible. If these essences are perceptible, the building can serve as an aesthetic experience, it can be appreciated for its own sake. Every element of the interior design should have a sense of purposefulness and necessity, even if serving no apparent purpose or necessity. The interior design should not be passive but should actively insist that experiencing the building and landscape demands our attention and contemplation.
The interior design must not be a distraction to perceiving and experiencing the expressed meaning of the architecture, but this does not mean that the interior design must disappear and the aesthetic tend toward and extreme minimalism. Architecture, and especially the home exists to be lived in and much of a lived life is unstructured and messy. Most minimalist aesthetics do not give structure to life, but instead deny that the messiness of life exists. One of the most important purposes of architecture, and thus interior design, is to give structure to life’s apparent messiness, to help one create a designed life.
Mankind has lost its dignity, but Art has recovered it and conserved it in significant stones.
~ Friedrich Schiller, On Aesthetic Education
Intention Four – Support Owner’s Lifestyle
The Owners requested the DTS interior design provide for an informal and relaxed lifestyle with no imposed rigidity. This request aligns with mills studio’s agenda that the permanent architecture provide a sufficient direction and structure that allows the interior design a responsible flexibility and freedom to adjust and adapt as living life dictates. The interiors can never become static and must forever remain dynamic continually searching for their ideal resolution. The Owner’s desired lifestyle and thus interior design also aligns with mills studio’s intention to make the architecture particular to the California ethos and Southern California climate.
The Owners also made it clear that the house and interior design must be generous and inviting, a place to share with others. It must be a place of love and ease that is comforting to all those invited in. Along with the structure, the interior design is a presentation that tells others who the Owners are and who they aspire to become. The interior design helps us define for ourselves and for others what we consider an ideal lifestyle.
Intention Five – Support Multiple Scales
The DTS Project House must work equally well at multiple scales. The interior design must equally support the two Owners daily life, frequent small groups, and the special occasion of large community events.
Most commonly, the interior design serves the physical and psychological needs of the two Owners, but the interior design must also meet the needs for both planned and impromptu small group gatherings that often extend overnight. Among the more important purposes for the DTS Project House and its interior design is planned large gatherings, especially philanthropic events. Thus, the DTS house must work for two to two hundred. The interior design must address the differing scale considerations from space organization to furniture flexibility to public private demarcations to a daily and catering kitchen.
The DTS interior design must address the micro to the macro because the quality of both affects the architectural experience. The interior design must respond to the smallest micro consideration of fabric stitching to faucet handles to drawer pulls to the color of night lights on home automation devices. The interiors must respond to room size issues of space organization to furniture flexibility to ideal table seating layouts to home automation functions. The interior design must respond to macro issues of traffic flow to privacy to home automation use by the uninitiated.
Intention Six – Encompass Wide Ranging Elements
The DTS interior design includes full consideration of the “traditional” elements of interior design from finishes to cabinetry to furniture to wall coverings. But the interior design also considers elements, such as user interfaces, that have until now not been an integral part of interior design.
Modern devices such as phones, laptops, and televisions, anything with a screen, has replaced furniture and other domestic products as most important to one’s daily experience of a house. The design, placing, and infrastructure for these screens has as much visual affect upon a building’s interior than any interior design element. But even more significant is the fact that the user interfaces for these screen devices is the building element inhabitants often spend the most time interacting with. Whether considered a positive or negative development, the design of these devices and their user interfaces now go a long way in defining if our interactions with the building are positive or negative.
There are at least two ways the interior design must address the dominance of screen devices. Firstly, all aspects of these devices from the look of the hardware to where and how the devices are mounted to how the devices are charged to how the devices are programmed to user interfaces must be designed and considered as an interior design element.
Secondly, the building and interior design must find a way to not let these devices visually overwhelm the architecture and screen time overwhelm time spent interacting with the environment and with others. Like a cell phone ringing in the middle of a symphony, screen devices potentially intrude and violate the idealized world we have set up for aesthetic contemplation. Screens have the potential to provide so much noise that an aesthetic experience is no longer possible or even desired. Voice activation, another significant non-visual interior design element, is among the technologies we can use to combat some of the negative aspects of screens.
Intention Seven – Sustainability
The DTS interiors must address both narrow and general sustainability considerations. The interiors must be conceptually designed and physically constructed to last. The more narrow technical considerations include material sourcing and durability, fixture and appliance performance standards, and finishing and maintenance requirements. Recycled content and an ability to be recycled is a significant important consideration in all interior material and product choices.
The DTS interior design addresses the more general concern of disposability. The interior design choices should eschew trends that might become dated and instead employ materials and installations that rely on intrinsic attributes and not surface effects. Materials must age gracefully both physically and conceptually. The interior design must promote dynamic experiences so that the interiors are continuously evolving and never become static calling out for updating. The interiors must be sufficiently flexible to allow for adjustments to both momentary and long-term changing physical conditions and design attitudes.
Intention Eight – Well-being
The DTS Project House interiors must promote the physical and psychological well-being of its inhabitants and users. Physical concerns include floor materials that do not stress the body to materials that do not off gas or hold allergens to wall mounted toilets and surfaces that promote cleanliness to spaces that promote movement and exercise. Materials and interior elements have to be much more than raw functionality and must appeal to the human soul through the senses with meaningful detail, such as rhythm, texture, and pattern.
The interior design must provide a variety of spaces to acknowledge the human need for spaces of refuge and prospect along with spaces of exposure. Although the human brain is designed primarily for processing visual information, the interiors must cater to the physical and psychological needs of all the human senses. The air and breezes must be felt, silence and music heard, vistas and the horizon seen, flowers and rain smelled, shade and shadows perceived.
The DTS interiors must keep the building’s users in tune with their environment, especially the natural environment. The interiors should provide physical and visual direct connections to the exterior. The interiors should be filled with natural light and air making the weather and the turn from day to night a significant part of the DTS daily experience. The interiors should not only be connected to the natural environment, but contain plants and greenery, and the elemental substances of life: earth, water, fire, and air. From natural light to non-blue night lights on screens, the DTS interiors should promote the maintenance of all important circadian rhythms.
Intention Nine – Luxury
The DTS interior design must be luxurious. It should be a luxury not of opulence, but of comfort and relaxation, of richness and pleasure. It should be a simultaneous luxury of excitement and clarity, a luxury of contemplation and peace of mind. Although every aspect and element of an interior should be treated as essential and valuable, it does not mean they are so precious they are no longer useful. A luxurious interior is an interior that is sufficiently precious to be cherished, but not too precious to be lived in.
The interior design should help the structure reach its full potential with a sense that every element is purposeful. Luxury is the expression of care and attention, often making the ordinary extraordinary through nothing more than conscious intention. Luxury is having the profane everyday turned into ritual. It is a luxury to see and know that our environment can be designed – that our environment does not happen by accident but is an intentional creation.
Intention Ten – Wonderment, Curiosity, Innovation
The DTS interior design should in a sense be a Cabinet of Curiosities containing treatments and objects that tell stories about those who made the DTS Project House and what they cherish. The interior design is a curated presentation that makes its inhabitants and creators known to others. The interior design is also an instrument of self-reflection helping clarify the attachments from which we come (the attachments we bring to the project) and which attachments we aspire to (the attachments the project inspires).
Material treatments, furniture pieces, accessories, and art should all act as objects of wonderment satisfying some particular or universal curiosity. Charles and Ray Eames’ interior design for their 1949 Case Study House 8 in Pacific Palisades, California, is one of the most useful models for how to humanize a modern world of increasing universals with particular objects of affection and significance that present and tell the Eames story.
The innovation of the DTS interior design is not so much in its choice of materials or visual qualities but lies more in the fact that it reaches back to the past and makes the old aims of architecture new again. The interior design attempts to rescue its inhabitants from a world of becoming more and more virtual and make living a more real-world tactile experience. The interior design attempts to make tangible the purpose and importance of the institution of the family. The architectural structure is designed to literally and metaphorically provide an enduring structure that makes possible and gives meaning to provisional individual acts of design. Within the DTS structure the interior design proposes an idealized community.
INTERIOR DESIGN IMPLEMENTATION
At all times love and discipline have led to a beautiful environment and a good life.
~ Charles Eames