Dinner out

Every so often, you meet people who are truly inspirational. After having spent time with them, you walk away a better person, encouraged to explore and excited to learn.

Last night, we had dinner with a couple of lovely people: Larry and Judy. They’re clients of mine. Since meeting them a few months ago, we’ve become increasingly more interested in one another and finally decided to put work aside for an evening and have dinner together.

At first, it was like having a meal with anyone: the majority of the interest was on the food, introductions and finding things we had in common. They’re better than twice our age, and yet, connecting with them was no laborious task. It was as though we’d been old friends for years.

The real experience began when we followed them home. I really didn’t know what to expect. The evening could have gone a number of ways. I anticipated we’d sit down in the living room or kitchen and small talk for a while, then play games for the rest of the night… but things went quite differently.

We pulled into their driveway behind them and to my astonishment, before the garage door had closed all the way, Judy was already standing at the front door, with her big friendly grin, beckoning us to enter.

I thought to myself, “what kind of jets does she have strapped to her feet to get her to the door from the garage so quickly?” In most houses, to get from the garage to the front door, you have to cross through the kitchen, then maybe a dining room, then the living room.

I should have guessed from her apparent rocket-shoes this would be no ordinary visit to a customary home.

I stepped over the threshold and noticed immediately how dark everything was. Man, their house was dark. I suddenly became aware that I was still wearing my sunglasses and had to run back to the car to switch out my glasses. What an embarrassing way to start a tour.

“Hey… hold all that anticipation you have boiled up inside to share with me this amazing house! I have to go get my glasses out of my car so I can see it.”

They must have been thinking, “young people sure are absent-minded these days.”

Stepping through the front door, I was greeted by an unexpected area of the home: a courtyard. The front door to the house was apparently a faux front door. Most houses, you’d find the deck and outdoor eating area in the back. Here, before we even got inside, we were met with a garden, a deck that was designed and built by Larry and an outdoor relaxation area. What a charming and unusual entryway!

Inside and off to the right, I found myself standing in the living room.

Now before I go on, you have to understand what working with Judy is like. She’s one of the most meticulous clients I’ve encountered. She writes down everything I say and then goes back home and researches it so she can bring more to the table the next time we meet. It’s surprising and a little intimidating. I really have to watch what I say around her because I never know what she’s going to quote at our next meeting.

If working with Judy was like a puzzle piece, standing in their living room was like standing in the middle of the hole where the piece fit that completed the rest of the picture. I stood there overwhelmed and overstimulated by art and beauty. Everything in the room had been meticulously chosen and placed to complete the composition of the room and work toward the experience of being there.

Have you ever visited someone and said, “you have a beautiful home?”

Sometimes you mean it and sometimes you’re just paying a compliment. I couldn’t even get it all out.

“You have a b–” …and the rest of the time, my brain worked hard to take it all in.

By the baby-grand piano (which Larry had stripped and refinished) was a lush indoor garden. Against the wall was a built-in bookcase (no doubt built by Larry), filled with literature, books on art, music and history. The sofas were chromed support-structures with soft, overstuffed cushions. In the corner was what looked like a tall, twisted, square paper lantern, illuminated from floor to ceiling. It resembled the kind I’ve seen in Ikea, but it was clear that the ones at Ikea are cheap imitations of the one I was looking at.

Everything had place and purpose.

There wasn’t a single thing in that room that wasn’t a conversation piece. Everything from the basket on the floor that was carved from a root to the coffee table, which I find difficult to describe, was unusual, beautiful and came with an intriguing story.

I tell young designers who struggle with their layouts to envision the goal of the piece and then create something that works toward that goal. Everything in the composition must have purpose and a place and work in unison to achieve the goal. The designer must be able to defend every element of the design, whether it be shape, color, line or hue. If they can’t defend it, it has no business being there. …and the magic is in the subtlety. Don’t go crazy on effects. Pull it back and let the user digest its purpose and its message.

Clearly, Larry and Judy apply those same principles to their home. Everything in their home was of high quality, distinct beauty and had purpose. It was overwhelming, but not from the perspective that it was busy. Honestly, I’d say they only had a few things, but the things they had were pieces of art. Even the telephone was unusual!

The thing that was overwhelming to me was the quality of the room; the house; the experience. Contrary to mainstream culture, they were not collectors of junk.

Touring the rest of the house told a story of love, friendship, peace and an appreciation for learning. We talked about music and art; jazz and architecture; life experiences, joys and disappointments; God and religion.

These two love and appreciate fine art and music. They read and laugh together. Soon, they’ll find themselves traveling; seeing places and visiting people, sharing more of their love for goodness, beauty and truth.

As we wrapped things up for the evening, this 29-year old thought, “when I grow up, I want to be like them.”

One response to “Dinner out”

  1. We really enjoyed sharing our home and time with you and Natalie, Paul; and how happy we are that you found a couple our age inspiring! We appreciate your genuine comments and hope you and Natalie will find even greater peace and comfort in your new home – How absolutely rewarding it is to build a home and life together.
    Let us add, too, that it hasn’t always been “a bed of roses.” We have worked hard, and debated often. … But we love at a deep level and unconditionally. May you and Natalie share such love, as you build a life together as well.