I write because it’s my way of entering into conversation with the world. My fingers find their purpose pressed on the keys and I find my voice in concert with their quiet tapping.
Sometimes I type with my eyes closed and the words appear faster than the thoughts are consciously formed. It’s as if my fingers know what to say…know how to access what my heart has been thinking all along.
When I visit a client’s home, I do the same thing. Close my eyes, I mean, and I nearly always discover something hidden there. There’s a layer of quiet beauty that resonates just under all that confusion, chaos, and noise.
My job is to help determine what that unseen beauty looks like, to give it color, texture, light.
Real beauty, the essence of it, is more felt than seen. That’s why some people, some places, have an inexplicable quality that our senses notice even before it can be named.
It’s not uncommon that most of us hide this essential beauty, the quality and character of who we really are…not because we are shy about being seen,
but because we are so afraid of being missed altogether.
Our fear of being misunderstood compels us to live drab lives. We conform. Close our doors. Draw our drapes. And we make friends with mediocrity—
We agree to live our lives in context of commonplace, in the shadow of other people’s dreams. It’s safe that way. But it comes with a cost of never being recognized for how precisely magnificent we really are.
Have you ever noticed how many design shows there are on tv? We are drawn to the shiny object, there’s no doubt that’s true. But what if the thing we are seeking isn’t about paint color and porticos at all but the hope that lies in the redemption of all things?
Sometimes we discover ourselves in the revelation that everything seemingly dead and decayed has potential for new life—an existence limited only to our imagination.
The French call it, Je ne sais quoi,* that inexplicable something that’s impossible to frame.
It’s the willingness to stand apart, to “turn left” even when everyone else is convinced of the other way. It’s the effortless vulnerability-of-being that agrees with Creation that you were meant to shine. It’s the acknowledgement that the most captivating moments in person or place are born of an indisputable inspiration of the heart.
The 17th-century Spanish Jesuit writer Baltasar Gracián sums it up succinctly:
This certain something, without wanting anything itself, enters into everything to give it worth and value.
“Without wanting anything itself,” is an extraordinary phrase. real beauty is unselfish, it magnifies in the quality of bringing delight.
Real Beauty cannot Be manufactured; its character cannot be contrived.
To live beautifully we must risk the ridicule born of being willing to be indefinable: To be willing to lean into the attribute most-associated with the image of God—Je ne sais quoi.
Without being able to define what is missed, we crave that something different, something special in our homes and in our lives. To achieve it, we must be willing to mine the whole of who we are like an archeological dig. And we must be willing to examine all the shattered, broken bits hidden and buried there. Our unique story, every singular detail, is the only thing that differentiates us from the person next door or across the world, and the only real design inspiration that matters in the end.
If we have learned anything from the countless remodels and renovations we’ve undertaken or seen, the most intriguing spaces are the ones that were once left discarded and then exquisitely redeemed.
That Je Ne Sais Quoi, the certain something that permeates the room? It’s the unforgettable continuation of a resurrected story embodied in every detail.
What a breathtaking weekend to live the truth of these words.
*Je ne sais quoi [French]—literally translates, “I do not know what.”
An ethereal quality that’s hard to name. A little something. Elusive. Defying description or explanation. Effortless beauty.
How to achieve Je Ne Sais Quoi?
Know who you are—Being clear about what you like and how you really want to live eliminates confusion and allows true creativity to flow. How you live should not be based on 'personhood' not 'popular.'
Immerse yourself—Allow all of your senses to participate in the decision-making process. Sourcing should be a fully immersive experience that allows the hands to touch, the nose to smell, the mouth to taste. Creative decisions should never be left solely to the eyes.
Be willing to walk away from trends—Doing something that is fresh and authentic to who you are is remarkably liberating and appealing.
Set your own trend—Sometimes going the exact opposite of trend helps to uncover the you within.
Lean into your story—List ten things you love about yourself and integrate the essence of those qualities into your design.
Example: Open minded, open spaces.
Listen to what your home wants—Acknowledge and integrate the architecture of your space into your plan. The most memorable homes convey an unmistakable signature style.
Incorporate natural elements—Nature is always authentic, listen to its cues. Borrow from its patterns, color, texture, light.
Limit shopping in stores that specialize in mass-produced goods—In an “everything now” economy, being willing to invest time to source the right object and waiting for it to arrive can be unimaginably rewarding and refreshing.
Fall in love with the found object—Make friends with local vintage and flea markets; incorporate pieces that speak to the story in you.