You can see what people are thinking about by the periodicals that come out around this time of year. They are all about nesting, and storage - where to put all that “stuff” you got for Christmas. Add that to the current pandemic where people are confined to home, and you have a lot of focus on the spaces we live in.
I am no different. I also spent some time feathering the nest during the last lockdown. I totally redid my workshop, pulled everything out to the other downstairs room and started over. Think, girl’s bedroom with all the clothes pulled out of the closets for reorganization only worse. In my case, dealing with a lifetime of tools. They accrued gradually. Every time I did some home improvement, I would buy a new tool. Eventually storage and space became an issue.
We were looking at some home movies from our last house, where I was making do in the garage with a screwed together 2x4 and plywood workbench. I have since built much nicer workbenches, and I have the luxury of tools at hand when needed. For this to work, the tools must have a dedicated space, otherwise they are clutter. Like Mother Ann Lee of the Shakers admonished, a place for everything, and everything in its place. Truthfully, I am a little embarrassed that it took me so long, but the payoff has been huge.
Why beautify a space? Take just one room in your house and make it nicer than usual. We did this to our family room and now we sit there all the time. For some unplanned reason, the room has also been the gathering place for all that is hand-made. The furniture is mostly crafted, which adds to the organic vibe. The room proves that different kinds of wood all live well together in the same space. Natural plays together well with natural.
I used the same approach with my shop - make it beautiful. For example, I made my assembly table much nicer than necessary, with decorative raised panel sides from maple, beaded face frames and drawers with decorative dowel pins. That cabinet houses my air compressor and nail guns. The drawer fronts are arranged in a way that is designed for the eye. Things line up on purpose. I am conscious from graphic design, that furniture must also obey the rules of harmony and symmetry.
I have further decorated the space with antique tools. All of this makes it feel good to be there. It’s my own private man cave, and there is something to be said for having a dedicated space where you feel one hundred percent at home. It’s singular role is to add beauty to your life.
Let no one underestimate the role of beauty. It elevates the human sensibility and hones you to issues outside of the regular. Having beauty around you, makes you want to perpetuate that. You can’t live with mess in a nice space - your brain cries out for restorative order.
A trip to Europe quickly shows anyone from North America how starved we are for beauty here. There is much more attention paid to fine hand work and details of architecture that would take insurmountable man-hours to replicate. But they have preserved it nonetheless, and they are aware of it enough to have it out front and centre. Walk around a North American city by contrast, and see if you can spot anything of particular beauty. Chances are, you cannot.
The role of beauty is not given adequate place by most people. Consciously curating beauty in the spaces where we live, makes it a part of us. There is part of us which SHOULD strive for beauty, too often ignored in the modern age, where we have many substitutes but little discerenment. Being able to see beauty, makes for better people. Even Jesus recongnized this when he quoted the prophet Isaiah, “seeing, they do not see”. He meant those who are so obtuse that they cannot recognize beauty in front of their own eyeballs, and he saw it as a moral failing.
Beauty… God planned that we should know and enjoy it. The nineteenth Psalm proclaims this. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:4