Lessons from the podcast in 2021: sourcing inspiration and digging into the history of a space

On my podcast, Talk Design, I try to not let my questions become granular. Building projects and design choices can often be spoken about in such a black and white manner, when the true story has so much colour to it. Behind these choices lie specific experiences, sources of inspiration and childhood stories. When we find out what makes people tick, and the history of their properties, we can dig deeper into their artistic choices and the fuel behind their fire.

Here are some of the things I learned by embracing inquisitiveness on my podcast in 2021.

When speaking with Burton Baldridge, I discovered that he recently worked on a house that was “powerfully sharp, cool-toned and minimalist”. By delving into this further, he explained that the meadow beside it was so rich with colour and natural life that it wafted through the house and created a beautiful contrast. Upon reflection, this made me realise that every space needs to reflect its outdoor environment in some way. Whether this be by embracing biophilic design or creating a simplistic home that lets nature shine, we have to pay homage to our environment. We’re selling ourselves and our home short if we don’t.

Through chatting with Tom Kundig, I began to further understand how childhood memories can inspire and define someone’s stylistic taste. Tom grew up in Northwest America, where mining and logging was a prominent way of life. Because of this, he became fascinated with understanding the mechanics of these, and still uses the skills every day in his architecture. He loves hot rods and, when creating, he refers to it as ‘hot rodding’, because he believes in paying tribute to the original elements of a space, whilst manipulating parts of it into something unique and beautiful. Tom asks himself, what is in the ugliness that can be highlighted rather than replaced? This connection to childhood ensures that Tom is passionate about his projects, but also gives him a defining skill in the field – a unique talent which customers and peers respect.

Often with architects, there’s a lot of history and details that play into their ideas and choices. We love the history and stories behind a piece of land or a pre-existing building because it inspires and challenges us. Jeff Dungan told me he wasn’t looking for great projects, he was looking for great people and their stories. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bathroom or a mansion, if the people are great, then these are the projects you want to work on. When you combine great people and a space rich with history, you can create something truly magical.

Michele Dempsey explained that she approaches everything with “what if?”, so that there are no limitations to her work. Her inspiration lies in the unknown – the open possibilities. Losing assumptions and embracing innovation has changed the way I approach all of my jobs.

Tommy and Patricia Chen Suchart expressed that, when designing their own home in Arizona, they wanted a house that was round so every room had a view of the nearby mountain. In stark contrast, they wanted their kitchen to be completely black, so as not to distract from food preparation. Food is sacred to Tommy and Patricia, and this massively inspired their home.

Perhaps one of the most distinct designers I spoke to was Christopher Travis, founder of Truehome Design.Build. Chris has a very unique process in which he digs deeply into people’s emotional state, and he crafts each room based on the desired emotion that the space can provide to the client. His clients feel so heard and empathised with that they love the rooms before they even see them.

When we are perceptive about people’s true inspiration and motivation behind choosing property, land or designers, we can create a genuinely special space for them, whilst testing ourselves creatively. Personalised design will never go out of fashion, and the devil is always in the details. When we dig deeper within ourselves and others, we can design more articulately, deliberately and passionately.

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