Here is a book of photographs that inspired me early on in my design career. The photographer, Ianthe Ruthven, visited homes across Ireland that ranged from palatial estates to wonky little cottages. Although I loved the mansions in the way so many of us love the sets of Downton Abbey, the character of the humblest homes impressed me the most. Close inspection revealed all the things we’re schooled to think of as inferior [crude finishes and dilapidation], but the confidence of the interiors was an education.
Rather like the old woman we all love because she still slaps on lipstick and wears outrageous clothes, these little Irish homes wore their colors like a banner. The homeowners were less concerned about hiding lamp wires and more concerned about surrounding themselves in color and comforts. It helped me befriend our home, which we called Hodge Podge Cottage with good reason.
These rustic environments seem more relevant now than they did when I first fell in love with them. In the aftermath of the economic melt down, the emerging generation of home buyers are turned off by opulence and formality and more intrigued by simplicity of layout and innate character of materials. The McMansion seems a relic to young buyers today; certainly it will be a symbol of an era, good, bad or indifferent.
It has been twelve years since I stumbled upon this volume in a Shepherdstown bookstore, but it still teaches me lessons. Hopefully you’ll check it out and other works by Ianthe Ruthven, like her book The Scottish House.