Before my last year of college, I had the opportunity to spend my summer studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I was more than excited to spend the summer in my dream locale, but little did I know I would be experiencing a culture that would help shape my style as a designer. I had studied most of the famously historic architecture that the country had to offer, but being able to see the structures in person, walk through them, be surrounded by them, and touch their walls, brought a whole new sense of meaning to my thoughts on design. It wasn’t just the famous buildings, like the Duomo and Palazzos, that changed my perspective, but the buildings I saw everyday as I walked through the narrow city streets. The centuries old buildings that are now being used as apartments, restaurants, schools, and shops were what really opened my eyes to a different way of living.
In America we currently exist in a “throw away” culture, meaning most things we use everyday are not meant to last. We are so accustomed to throwing something away when it has served its purpose or when the next new shiny thing on the market has come along. It’s not just iPhones and material objects that we upgrade every few years but also things that are meant to last, like cars, houses, and buildings. The reason for this is partially due to the lack of quality in the initial construction of these things, but it is also because of our mindset of wanting everything to be new and representative of the current year. This “throw away” culture has allowed for many buildings and homes to be torn down, only to be replaced by new and modern designs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for modern design and function, but I don’t appreciate how our society views older things as useless and ugly. In the design industry we should be striving to create things that will not only be functional, but will also stand strong to stand the test of time.
When talking about “throw away” culture, Italians couldn’t be any more opposite. They built with a purpose of creating lasting architecture and they’ve clearly succeeded. Construction on the Florence Cathedral and Duomo began in 1296 and wasn’t completed until 1436. The architects and workers took plenty of time to have the structure completed in a way that would last centuries, which it has. The building that my school resided in was converted from a centuries old apartment style home. Even the basement apartment that I lived in was from the early 1900’s and had been recently updated. Despite the updates being made on these types of apartment buildings, the original architecture and style is still able to shine through. Italians celebrate their history and the architecture that goes along with it. They are constantly surrounded by their heritage through the buildings they work, dine, and live in. This is the type of culture that inspires me when I look at designing for our clients, specifically with remodels.
We do a lot of remodels here at Eklektik, and we get clients who either want to totally gut the space and start new or ones who want to keep existing elements of the home. More often than not though, they are on the side of totally gutting the space. I would like to inspire our clients to think about what aspects of their home originally drew them towards purchasing it—which elements they fell in love with. Then it’s our job to figure out how to incorporate those existing elements into the new design. Even if it’s something as simple as the existing molding or built in shelving, these elements can maintain the original charm that the home has to offer.
We also do plenty of new construction at Eklektik, where we work with builders and/or a client from the ground up. In these instances we can utilize this same idea of refuting throw away culture, by building with a purpose to last. This means we need to design with the future in mind. What current trends will still work in the years to come? What materials will last for years without needing to be replaced or upgraded? These are the questions we consider when designing new builds.
This idea of refuting throw away culture won’t be accepted by everyone, but we can progress the movement by encouraging homeowners to preserve some of the initial design brought to life by the original architects and by designing and building quality, lasting structures. I’m thankful for my experience in Italy and how it opened my eyes to a new culture with new ways of thinking and living. Specifically how it taught me to appreciate the care and detail that goes into creating beautiful lasting architecture. One day I hope to own a home that has been thoughtfully designed, with unique characteristics of the time in which it was built, but that allows me to meld in my own style seamlessly.