March 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Three C's

Because when you haven’t read the book, the book doesn’t matter.

Find the difference

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Which of the following doesn’t fit?

  1. Know thyself.
  2. Beauty is chaos.
  3. Only connect….

If you chose “Beauty is chaos,” then you’re absolutely correct! “Know thyself” and “only connect” are actionable themes, whereas “beauty is chaos” is merely a statement—and an incredibly ambiguous and subjective one at that.

The inspiration for this outlier came from page 136, when Lucy tells Charlotte:

‘It makes such a difference when you see a person with beautiful things behind him unexpectedly. It really does; it makes an enormous difference….’

This idea is also supported by an article in The Independent, wherein Jay Merrick writes:

There is no ideal, dictatorial beauty in architecture, nor a precise definition of beauty—our experience of it is often momentary, unexpected, and contradictory. […] Beauty in any form always causes some form of emotional or intellectual chaos.

Nevertheless, a good verb is required. Something to do with muddle, perhaps? (And putting the quotes together for the first time, it becomes apparent that unexpectedness is key.) Whatever the final verbiage, though, the goal tied to this particular theme is to frame guests in momentary vignettes (à la Wes Anderson). Here’s a basic sketch to give you a better idea of what I mean:


Not beautiful yet… but they will be!

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

March 1, 2013 § Leave a comment



February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

It began with a book. Or rather, it began with a book design, recently released:

David Pearson’s cover design for Orwell’s 1984

Sweet black foiling!

Awesome, no? Perhaps it was nostalgia for an old favorite, or perhaps I needed something to temper the lightness of Room, but it was decided that 1984 should be revisited. Several pages in, it hit me: these are the same! (Okay, not the same, certainly, but they do share some similar sentiments regarding personal connection.)

To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction.

Victorian etiquette!

His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, […] to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.

The submergence of feeling? The hypocrisy of knowing, but deliberately not knowing? Why, it’s Lucy!

This may amount to nothing more than a curious rumination. Then again, it may influence the design of the pension… A Room With a View + 1984 + Penguin Deluxe Classics?

A Room With Absolutely No View Whatsoever

February 22, 2013 § 3 Comments

Bubbles 022113

Bust or blessing?

As I was making the transition from trace to Revit, it occurred to me that guest room number 7 (highlighted above) has zero windows. Eek! Is that even allowed? It certainly isn’t normal….

But as it turns out, there is such a thing as a windowless hotel room! Check out this capsule hotel in Japan for one extreme example:

The concept is spreading to Russia and the UK as well. NiteNite in Birmingham shows off their slightly larger but still windowless “cabins” here.

Translational relevance

Is there a reason to have a windowless guest room in the Pension Bertolini? It would be possible to add additional skylights, but this windowless thing is intriguing. And when you’re dealing with symbolic rooms and views, what better to signify a flat refusal to know oneself than a room with absolutely no view whatsoever?

Specific inspiration might be derived from the character of Cecil, whom Lucy associates with a drawing-room, sans view (99). (Another name note: Cecil means “blind.”) He deceives himself first in his love for Lucy. After calling off the engagement, she watches his retreat:

She watched him steal upstairs, while the shadows from the banisters passed over his face like the beat of wings. On the landing he paused, strong in his renunciation, and gave her a look of memorable beauty. For all his culture, Cecil was an ascetic at heart, and nothing in his love became him like the leaving of it. (162)

Cecil’s unbecoming love, exhibit A.

Prior to leaving,  Cecil thanks Lucy for showing him his true self (a person incapable of intimacy)—but the lesson seems lost on him. While Lucy later contemplates the reception of her elopement with George, she remarks:

‘I wish, though, that Cecil had not turned so cynical about women. He has, for the second time, quite altered. Why will men have theories about women? I haven’t any about men.’ (194)

Not that you can blame him, of course…. But critics make a persuasive argument that Cecil, with or without realizing it—but certainly not admitting it to anyone, least of all himself—is gay. Mr. Beebe, who was “from rather profound reasons, somewhat chilly in his attitude towards the other sex, and preferred to be interested rather than enthralled”(31), seems suspicious of this, as Lucy’s brother recounts:

‘You know Mr. Beebe’s funny way, when you never quite know what he means. He said: “Mr. Vyse is an ideal bachelor.” I was very cute. I asked him what he meant. He said: “Oh, he’s like me—better detached.” I couldn’t make him say any more, but it set me to thinking.’ (80)

Yet here is Cecil at the end of the book, hating women instead of loving men.

But what say you? “Windows be damned?” Or, “Dear God, who in their right mind would sleep in a room with no windows!”

A little extra quoting

Mrs. Honeychurch accuses Freddy of disliking Cecil out of jealousy, after which this gem follows:

The explanation seemed plausible, and Freddy tried to accept it. But at the back of his brain there lurked a dim mistrust. Cecil praised one too much for being athletic. Was that it? Cecil made one talk in his way, instead of letting one talk in one’s own way. This tired one. Was that it? And Cecil was the kind of fellow who would never wear another fellow’s cap. Unaware of his own profundity, Freddy checked himself. He must be jealous, or he would not dislike a man for such foolish reasons. (80)

What can I say? I like it dry.

Miss Charlotte Bartlett

February 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Charlotte Bartlett (right)

Rooms with character

Speaking of spaces dedicated to characters, no character is as deserving of such a space as Charlotte Bartlett—Lucy’s older, financially disadvantaged cousin-cum-chaperone. Throughout the novel, Charlotte makes every attempt to keep her charge from entangling herself with the younger Mr. Emerson… or does she?


He whispered: ‘Is it this? Is this possible? I’ll put a marvel to you. That your cousin has always hoped. That from the very first moment we met, she hoped, far down in her mind, that we should be like this—of course, very far down. That she fought us on the surface, and yet she hoped. I can’t explain her any other way. Can you? […] She is not frozen, Lucy, she is not withered up all through. She tore us apart twice, but in the rectory that evening she was given more than one chance to make us happy. We can never make friends with her or thank her. But I do believe that, far down in her heart, far below all speech and behaviour, she is glad.’

‘It is impossible,’ murmured Lucy, and then, remembering the experiences of her own heart, she said: ‘No—it is just possible.’ (195-196)

Despite her fusty appearance, it turns out Charlotte is something of a romantic herself. A guest room in her honor will feature fabulous fabrics from Gretchen Bellinger in varying shades of brown.

Before she could speak, almost before she could feel, a voice called, ‘Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!’ The silence of life had been broken by Miss Bartlett, who stood brown against the view. (63)

A color often associated with “plain-Jane” drabness, brown is made stunningly beautiful in gold-flecked velvets and sequined sheers.

Gretchen Bellinger Samples

Charlotte’s guest room bath will feature a magnificent soaking tub… there may only be room for one, but that’s no reason why she can’t treat herself!

Fab Soaking Tubs

A note about a name

It did not do to think, nor, for the matter of that, to feel. She gave up trying to understand herself, and joined the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catchwords. […]

Lucy entered this army when she pretended to George that she did not love him, and pretended to Cecil that she loved no one. The night received her, as it had received Miss Bartlett thirty years before. (162)

Dun dun dun!:

Charlotte Bartlett… “march to their destiny by catchwords”…Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations… you get the point.


January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Doors = Drama

From Sarah Luria’s “The Architecture of Manners: Henry James, Edith Wharton, and the Mount”:

Wharton’s doors offer an invitation to enter and yet protect privacy through their controlled revelation of the house’s interior. Like manners, the doors heighten intimacy while they also make social relations more formal. The opening door, for example, restores the key dramatic moment of entrance to its full intensity: it creates a prolonged moment of suspense during which neither the intruder nor the occupants can see each other—a moment of simultaneous revelation and concealment, as the occupants have time to stop what they were doing and turn to meet the new guest.

Of course, the dining room and drawing room of Forster’s pensione are divided by “curtains—curtains which smote one in the face, and seemed heavy with more than cloth” (7). Not that this prevented the inhabitants from sizing up the newcomers….

Miss Lavish Observing

Dame Judi Dench as Miss Lavish

Doors establish social order

Again from Luria’s article:

‘While the main purpose of a door is to admit,’ Wharton writes in The Decoration of Houses, ‘its secondary purpose is to exclude.’ Key doors in the house serve to separate outsiders from insiders, servants from residents and day visitors from overnight guests. Wharton’s architectural creed reveals the extent to which doors themselves become a pivotal means of establishing a social order; it is they that do the including and excluding, with the result that they establish an inner elite by determining who is allowed in—and, crucucially, how far in. The Mount establishes its subtle social order in large part through movement. Insiders have the greatest number of paths available, outsiders the fewest. Servants have access to the entire house but only through certain doors.

Something to consider… especially if parts of the pensione are open to “day visitors.”

Doors from the film

Doors leading from the guest room to the bath, the bath to the hall, the hall to [an intermediary space following reception]?

doors doors doors
doors - guest suite to hall
doors - off from reception

Two sets of double doors in the drawing room, flanking the piano…one presumably leads to the smoking room?
doors - drawing room

A traditional Victorian pass-through door between the dining room and the kitchen:
doors - dining room pass-through

Doors, doors, doors!


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