Editor's Letter: Soul Full

Editor's Letter: Soul Full

I can’t remember how it came up, but when I was visiting the home of Pete Bossley and artist Miriam van Wezel in March, Pete said, “I talk often with my clients about comfort. It’s a dirty word in architecture but I think it’s important – how are we going to make this house comfortable?”

He didn’t mean overstuffed furniture or gigantic televisions – the sorts of reasons comfort is so often thought a dirty word. What he meant was a layer that can be hard to define – the layer that gives a house a feeling, even a personality. 

It’s tempting to say it’s the things we add to a house – collections, art, furniture, gardens – and that’s a big part of it. But I think it’s the feeling we add to a house through inhabitation – the joys and everyday moments of living in a space. The spilled glasses of red wine, the thousands of coffees in the sun. It’s a slow burn, as Bossley has found over two decades of iterations – he talks about himself and Miriam slowly falling in love with the house, and the house slowly falling in love with them. It shows.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought comfort was what we experience when we walk into a particular kind of house – it envelopes you, draws you in, in a way that can almost feel magical.

Similarly, I’ve often talked about soul in a house: the inexplicable feeling that things just feel right – or in my case, that they could be just right. My wife often accuses me of finding merit in any house, no matter how prosaic, ugly or far gone. I look at real-estate listings and get the sketch pad out and voilà! It’s fixed! 

Our place is a case in point. Few at the open homes would have described the previous occupants' rugby posters and stained walls as comfortable – but it does have soul and we both felt that. By contrast, we would walk into houses that fit the brief, shrug our shoulders, poke around half-heartedly, and leave forthwith. 

Comfort is something we seem to be turning to a lot. As the threat of Omicron fades, we’ve cautiously emerged, again, into everyday life. But autumn is upon us, and there’s a war in Ukraine. Uncertainty has become a byword for our lives – and I think we could all do with a little soul right now.

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