April 12, 2017

A Design Compendium of Beautiful Places and Things to Inspire Peace

Finding peace has never been more important. Escape the chaos inside the home—and out.

by Deborah L. Martin

In the August 1960 issue of House Beautiful, Editor in Chief Elizabeth Gordon introduced a new concept to the American public: Shibui. She wrote, "Shibui describes a profound, unassuming, quiet feeling. It is unobtrusive and unostentatious. The form is simple and must have been arrived at with an economy of means. Shibui is never complicated or contrived." In spite of the fact that it was a new idea here—and it created quite a stir—it was a centuries old Eastern philosophy in Japanese culture with seven elements: Simplicity, implicity, modesty, silence, naturalness, everydayness, and imperfection. In the decade before Shibui was introduced here, a design movement in Scandinavia was also taking hold with similar philosophy. In Scandinavian design, simplicity, minimalism, and functionality were celebrated, with a uniquely egalitarian point of view. Ideologically, then as now, the Scandinavian countries espoused social democracy, the idea that everyone should be able to enjoy beautiful, well-made things, and a comfortable life. Over the years, many thousands of words have been written about these design aesthetics, and although they made their debut here over 50 years ago, today it seems that simplicity and silence are just what the doctor ordered. In the pages that follow, a design compendium of beautiful places and things to inspire peace.

Photography by Michel Denancé (Morgan)
Photography by Michel Denancé

The great escape Living in New York City comes with its own set of challenges and aggravations. From the constant noise of the streets and the crush of humanity, to the pressures of vertical living, sometimes it seems as though there is no way out. But if you know where to look, the city is filled with special places and quiet corners to satisfy the need for peaceful respite. The Morgan Library's Gilbert Court (above) is a light-filled oasis in the midst of Murray Hill. Afternoon tea in the café is the perfect interlude. Further uptown, on 70th Street and Fifth Avenue, there is an oasis of a different variety. The Frick Collection, housed in Henry Clay Frick's mansion, is one of the few remaining Gilded Age buildings in New York. The raised Fifth Avenue garden, surrounded by a cast iron fence, is an island of calm. Magnolia trees and roses decorate the terraced space, and carpets of green break the monotony of concrete and blacktop.

Photography by Michael Bodycomb.
Photography by Michael Bodycomb.

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