Meditative Spaces Meditative Spaces

As regular readers of Designer Monthly know, every month we analyze the décor of a room according to the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony. Usually we look simply at one room and talk about how the furnishings help the occupants utilize the room to its best effect. For example, you may want to have the living room coffee table in easy arm's reach from the sofa. And then, you may need to consider whether the sofa harmonizes in style with the coffee table.

For this month, we're taking both a more complicated and simpler approach to our Room of the Month.

With the increase in interest in using the home as a refuge for calming one's jangled nerves, this month we'll take a look at two different rooms, each of which is designed with the sole purpose of providing a space for mediation, quiet contemplation, and relaxation.

At first, you may think that creating such a retreat is easy: just take everything out of a room and polish the floors, right? Well, no. It's as important when creating a retreat room to consider the function, mood, and harmony as it is when designing a kitchen, living room, bedroom, or study.

First, as you would in designing any room, consider the function of the room.

In this first photo, you'll see that this room, at a conference center, is primarily meant to function as a space for private meditation. However, since the room features sliding shoji screens, the space can be divided and used by two people, each seeking solitude. Or, the dividing screen could allow one side of the room to be used for an acupuncture treatment while the other portion is used for meditation. Each side of the room is large enough to accommodate a small number of people for group meditation, or when the divider is opened, a larger group.

The second room is in a private home; hence, it is considerably smaller, and doesn't need to double in function. It still provides enough quiet space for one or two people to mediate, or even to practice yoga. The table by the window also provides a space for writing quietly, which in itself can be a kind of meditation, in the right environment such as this.

The mood of both these rooms is calm and soothing, created by the utter lack of clutter and furnishings. The vase in each room serves to focus the attention of the occupants without being distracting.

In part, the mood of these spaces is encouraged by the monochromatic color choices. In both rooms, a pale beige color scheme has been chosen, using natural materials. This creates a more soothing atmosphere than bright white would. Any stronger color would certainly distract occupants from finding the calm of the inner world.

Likewise, notice how the windows are covered in both these rooms. The white rice paper shades allow enough light in so that the rooms can primarily be lit with natural light, but the view from the windows is completely screened. Again, as with the lack of clutter, the lack of a view means there is no distraction caused by looking out the window.

Finally, let's look at the harmony in these rooms. This is easy to do, as the minimal elements that make up these rooms are in themselves harmonious. The fact that there is nothing that clashes may at first seem obvious, but imagine if the ceilings were painted a garish color, or if the window coverings were old-fashioned drapes.

In each of these rooms, everything from the floor coverings to the vases are chosen with an eye toward the simplicity of Asian décor, a simplicity that lends itself perfectly to the creation of a room that's a welcome retreat from the busy world outside.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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