Making peace at home

Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2008

Chicago, USA -- A discussion of how to employ "white space" in your home brought out a lively mix of thoughts and ideas among this handful of designers.

For Glen Joffe, owner of global goods gallery Primitive, 130 N. Jefferson St., 312-575-9600, white space isn't necessarily about the color.

"When we talk about white space, what we're really talking about are feelings -- feelings of calmness, unity and relaxation," he says. "And while white is definitely one of the means to that end, it's not the only one. Any combination of color or materials that forces you into that mind-set sooner, more effectively, will achieve that."

One technique Joffe has relied on in the past is to create a focal point around an object, furnishing or sound. "We did a meditation room for a client of ours that was focused around a water wall with a pool at the bottom and inside the pool, a pedestal with a Buddha on it. What we were doing, essentially, is forcing any person who walks in that room to do nothing else but focus on that one vignette."

Chicago interior designer Susan Fredman relies on natural light to create "Zen" environments. "Create a space that gets an abundance of natural sunlight to connect you to the outdoors," Fredman says. "Allow the windows and the beauty of the outdoors to be your only distraction."

And then there is the contingent for whom it's all about color. Chicago designer Judy Niedermaier is known for her calm, monochromatic homes. "For me, the entire home should be calm and restorative," she says. "And the best way to begin that process is to make things monochromatic."

Niedermaier adores creams and other neutrals, which she employs in force via fabrics, flooring and paint colors. "I love Ultrasuedes, cream velvets, cream mohairs and linens," she says. "The great thing about fabrics is that you can get a monochromatic feeling while still getting lots of visual interest through all the different textures."

Another huge piece of the puzzle for Niedermaier is lighting. "I feel very, very strongly about having dimmers on everything. It's amazing the kind of difference lighting makes, and with dimmers, you have that leverage." Niedermaier's dimmers of choice are made by Lutron and Maestro.

Minneapolis-based architect Sarah Nettleton learned through her work and own home life that the most crucial -- and challenging -- part of creating a peaceful home place is the mental process leading up to it. "People get into these heroic fights about cleaning out their closets," she says. "It's not really about that. It's about going through the exercise of figuring out what's important to you in your life, and then clearing out or putting away everything else."

Nettleton's book "The Simple Home; The Luxury of Enough" (Taunton, 256 pages, $40) features 21 homes that have been successful in that regard. Nettleton recalls one of them. "One of the houses in the book belongs to two professors," she says. "I noticed they had no books or bookshelves. I asked, 'Where are all the books?' And they explained to me that the way they approach it is to carefully select one book each weekend. And that is their 'simple' and 'luxury of enough.'"