Decorating TipsInterior Designnature

Refuge and Prospect: Observation from a Place of Safety

By March 2, 2017 No Comments



noun: refuge

1.a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble

◦something providing shelter

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all live in a house built on top of a waterfall like this one? I mean really. That view though! Frank Lloyd Wright definitely gets props for his creative skills here. But what we might not realize is that this infamous architect was also addressing one of our basic human needs with his Pennsylvania masterpiece “Fallingwater”.

As you can see from this diagram, we were designed with 5 basic needs. The 2nd most important involves our need for safety and security. Why do you think our houses evolved from caves, like this one? It was our hard-wired way of saying “I need something around me to help protect me and keep me safe.” This concept resulted in the “Prospect and Refuge Theory”, which explains why we prefer more confined or “secure” space directly around us but with a view that looks out into the world around us.


It’s no surprise that the elements and principles of design (things like shape, form, space, proportion, perspective, and unity) still shape the presence of prospect and refuge in our daily lives. While our homes are meant to provide a safe place for our families, we often go to extensive lengths to seek the beauty and openness of the outdoors (think plants, large windows, skylights, landscape art, etc.) Natural light is one of the best things you can bring into your home – and it’s FREE! Opening up blinds and curtains not only opens up the view to the beauty around us, but it fills our need for nature and even fills us up on good ‘ole Vitamin D.

Dining Room photo by Prospect Refuge, designer Victoria Sass, TEM Photography

Think about this diagram, for example: Which bed placement do you prefer? Most of us would say #1 simply from what we know about stuffing a bed into the corner of a room (hint: it’s bad). We wouldn’t recommend floating the bed in the middle of the room either, but we tend to want to have some space around us, especially in a smaller room, ideally in view of a window if there is one.

There are countless other ways to create Prospect and Refuge in your home without knocking down walls and installing a wall of windows, as nice as that would be. Try placing your furniture a little further apart in a place like the living room. Getting rid of some “clutter” opens up the room and lets your eye go beyond the immediate seating group and gaze out across the room. You can also mix up your textures, proportions, and patterns.

Nature is full of variation – and it’s ok for your home to have variation too. There is some rhyme and reason to correctly use proportion and scale in your home. Start small and build your way to bigger projects as it becomes more natural to you. Maybe try a low-profile coffee table and some floor cushions (winner with the kiddos), and see how your family adjusts. Bring in some greenery to instantly calm your space and add a jute or sisal area rug for warmth. There’s really no way to mess up here, just start trying. You’ll soon make your own little “refuge” called home and we know you’ll love it!



Happy Decorating!


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