theory – finding my “away room”

The kiddos were in bed, the designer was finishing a paper, and though all I wanted was to unwind for a few moments, all I could hear were the voices: the clothes in the dryer begging to be hung, the dishes in the dishwasher pleading to be put away, the clothes in the kiddo closets demanding to be rotated for the coming season, email desiring an answer, phone calls ringing to be made,…and the list goes on.

It didn’t matter what room I was in.  The voices were there and they wouldn’t go away.  Finally, I gave up, grabbed the library books that were due last night, and headed to the library.  As I drove, I wondered why I was so uptight.  When entering the library, I could hear beautiful music coming from the Senior Citizen Center’s performance room.  A beautiful opera performance was underway.  I was tempted to go in, but also just wanted to sit and look at a design magazine. 

I’ve always found it ironic that though we feel a library should be a quiet place, not many libraries are designed with acoustics in mind.  When the kiddos and I attend storytime at the Wasatch County Library, I feel for the librarians who just want Wednesday to be over.  But with the high ceilings, metal staircase, and little sound-proofing, it is nearly impossible to keep the many children that show up for story time with amazing “Miss Sally,” quiet. 

Last night I was appreciative of this flaw, for I could just barely hear the stunning voice performing at the other end of the building as I read Domino.  As I poured over the design ideas and looked at color palates (one of my favorite things), I sat and focused on relaxing and breathing.  No one was around.  I didn’t have to think about anyone else.  It was just what I needed.  A brief escape.  Soon the library lights began turning out, warning patrons that it was closing time. 

Driving home I was disappointed that I couldn’t find that serenity at home.  I have nice music, and I have great design that I could have looked at.  But where?  There isn’t an escape room in our current home.  I needed Sarah’s “Away Room.”

Sarah Susanka is a famous American Architect that I have been watching, admiring, and learning from for the past decade.  When I was studying for my GRE, she was speaking in Salt Lake, so I managed to get up there, hear her speak, took along my copy of The Not So Big House, met her, and had her sign my book.  I no longer have the book, (left it in a friend’s locker in architecture school), but she had written something about designing my dreams, and it left an impression. 

One of my favorite design theories she teaches, is about the Away Room, a room where one can escape from the world and enjoy those things they truly enjoy.  I picture mine to be a library, a study, a place to listen to music or research.  One to take guests that will always be cozy and welcoming during a short visit.  A place for a private conversation despite the hustle and bustle throughout the home.  It will have a lot of natural light and serve as the retreat that can be needed at the end of a long day.  It will be a while till we build the green dream home of our dreams, so I’ll need to find a space in our home that will serve the same purpose.

In college my roomie and I had separated our bunk bed.  My half was the bottom with the tall posts.  I flopped it upside down so that I had a place beneath the bed to sit, read, ponder, study.  During architecture school, I even recruited my neighbor and home teacher to help me build a raised bed (when I realized that I couldn’t do it alone). 🙂  They were my away rooms.  Now to find one in our home.  One where I don’t hear the voices, one where I can ponder and relax in peace.  🙂

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