Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Give Me Room . . .

Sharon Wildwind

Lots of room. Maybe that should be rooms. I’m fascinated by interior spaces. I’m addicted to Studios, a magazine that shows off places where artists create.

Artists are so fortunate. They can turn a hundred hanks of dyed yarn into a rainbow curtain, fill glass jars with adorable collectables, and convert a closet door into a design wall.

Writers are not so fortunate. The Guardian has tried to make writers’ spaces interesting. They have a series called Writers’ Rooms, where over a hundred writers have shared a photo and a brief write-up about the places where they create. I hate to admit it, but stacks of books and papers does not produce the same frisson in me as drawers of an old wooden map case filled with rubber stamps or beads.

Two of my favorite things in the Harry Potter movies were the Weasley’s house, and the dormitory room where Harry and Ron slept. Twilight: Carlisle and Esme ultra-cool house. Lord of the Rings: Elrond’s home in Rivendell.

It’s not that I’m that interested in interior design. Couches and drapes are drapes. What I love is the internal arrangement, things like how rooms connect. Can you see into the kitchen from the living room? What special place has been tucked somewhere special, like under the eaves? What makes each house special? I visited a fascinating house once that had a green house connected to the kitchen. I love little architectural devices like niches and odd-shaped rooms. Wouldn’t it be nice if all houses had turrets, conservatories, breakfast nooks, and box rooms?

The neat thing about being a writer is I get to construct my character’s houses. Yes, I love authors who include family trees and maps, but what really endears me to a writer is a house floor plan, especially one with special architectural features. You can’t go wrong with secret passages, either.

So here’s the question for you: if you were designing a house for one of your characters, or designing one for yourself, what would be your must-have room?

Architecture can't fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn't real.
~Frank Stella, American painter, printmaker, sculpture, and architect


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

That's easy: a walk-in closet! It sounds prosaic, but to a New York apartment dweller, it sounds like heaven. ;) I gave Bruce one in "Death Will Clean Your Closet," and I based it on the recollections of a source who'd lived in a Yorkville railroad flat as a kid, but I had to embellish greatly.

Sheila Connolly said...

I'm cheating: I've already done that--twice! But the must-have is Nell's fireplace (in the Museum Mysteries), that she added to her tiny converted carriage house. When she's asked to explain why, she says that it made her house feel like a home.

Sandra Parshall said...

I'd love a walk-in closet too -- used to have one, but now have multiple closets that are too small. I haven't given a character a walk-in closet yet, but I'll have to do that so I can enjoy it vicariously.

Leslie Budewitz said...

On this frosty morning, I would give every character I like an attached garage, and every character I don't like no garage and no remote starter for their car heater and ignition. :)

Anonymous said...

Mine would be a conservatory or greenhouse. I'd fill it with all kinds of hydroponic vegetables and flowers so my characters could have fresh salads and flowers on the table, no matter what the weather outside.

Julia Buckley said...

Fun game! I would love the closet, too. We have four people and two main floor closets, so it's not a good scene. Also no guest closet or linen closet.

But I'd go for one of those big gorgeous kitchens with the center island and lots of conversation stools. I could spend a lot of money in reality on the stuff I dream up for free. :)

jenny milchman said...

I love houses, too, and in fact the heroine of my first novel is a home restorer. The things you mention--eaves, quirky spaces--are all wonderful. But I have to admit that a room crammed with books and papers (and a few people) would be my paradise.