a blog about design, art and ideas



May 2014

Nature - Nurture - Nourish

by Julian Cohen, on Design Pricipals, Wabi-Sabi, Living Guild, Nourish, Nurture, Nature

Design principals to live by

A story about ourselves, and the choices we make, is expressed in our dwelling.

Here are three fundamental design principals that get to the core of the design experience and that I would like to share with you. These principals have nothing to do with aesthetics, styles or trends. They are Nature - Nurture - Nourish. There is a children’s book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein that embodies all these principals. Each of these principals is in it’s own continuum, yet inextricably intertwined with the other.


Nourish is a feedback loop that keeps giving and there is always an affirmative story attached to it. Here is a typical example of how it works, just a story. “During a wonderful vacation, Tom and Carol met a furniture maker and bought a piece of furniture to sit their entry hall. The purchasing and selection experience was fulfilling and the piece of furniture worked perfectly in it’s new home.” Now this could have been the end of the story, but instead it was just one step in the continuum. Each time Tom and Carol return home the piece of furniture connects them to their positive experience. The piece of furniture nourishes. Although Tom and Carol only purchased the piece once, it keeps on giving. When friends come to their home and ask about the piece of furniture they enjoy retelling the story. The nourishing continuum builds on itself. Contrast Tom and Carol’s experience with buying a item at a well known furniture chain store. The sales person was a little pushy and Tom and Carol were not confident of their decision making process. Now when they get home each day there is a tinge of regret about their purchase however momentary or subliminal it is. When friends ask about the piece, Tom and Carol tell their sad story which in turn clouds the memory of their vacation.

In my previous post I discussed the Medici family, art patrons from Renaissance Florence . In a way Medici is another principal. It is the principal of supporting others, especially those in the same community. The Medici principal becomes integrated into the nourish feedback loop, by giving and sharing we can add many different values to our purchase and selection process. Our purchase nourishes both the craftsperson and ourselves.


In The Giving Tree, the tree that is nurtured and nourished gives so much back in return. It gives fruit to nourish and shade to nurture. It is easier, in some ways, to see the relationship to nurture we have with our garden than in our relationship with our home.

Wabi-Sabi embraces the natural effect of change on materials through the passage of time. This embrace is at the core of nurture. Embrace, and acceptance is exemplified in the relationship of mother and child. Nurture is connected to comfort. In our homes, when we feel comfortable with what we surround ourselves with we are nurtured. If the connectedness is tenuous the nurturing is missing. Shinny, slick, hard, straight materials tend to not nurture in the same way that matt, textured and soft materials do. For more insight into this juxtaposition of materials, read the book on Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren.

Two rooms in our homes in particular have the potential to nurture. The bedroom, where we turn in from our day, is not a room in which to be overstimulated (the stimulation belongs to the kitchen, family room and media room). The bathroom, where we bathe and nurture ourselves, is our private spa in which we become rejuvenated.

Nurture is being safe in our surroundings. At it’s essence, nurture is letting go of fear.


There is a learning process in house design of getting to know ourselves through the choices we make. That self discovery is an important journey to take in order to discover materials, textures and elements that resonate with our own nature.

Understanding the natural elements is a top level priority when designing a home. How does a home fit and integrate with the surroundings. Keeping the sun out, letting the sun in, passive solar and photovoltaics form a framework for design, as do, keeping the cold out, letting the cool in, and sheltering from wind and rain. The Japanese in the Edo period had an aware relationship with the land. In his book, Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green From Traditional Japan, Azby Brown introduces us to a well thought out and observant way an individual, a community and culture can live with the land and all benefit from a conscious stewardship.

The materials of nature, wood, cotton, clay, paper, metal and stone etc. that fill our homes also have their story of harvesting and manufacturing and histories dating back thousands of years. We become connected to those histories.

We are in the continuum of nature. As we change amidst the changes around us, our stories also change.

What’s new

I have teamed up with a consortium of professionals, Living Guild, who are focusing on bringing added values in our relationship to the environment in our future developments.

After thoughts

As I write this post, I realize how many people in the world are not currently in a situation to make choices about the design of their homes or interiors, or may not even have homes. My heart goes out to those who do not have the luxury to make choices about their living conditions. May they find nature, nurture and nourishment.

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