Emotional Beauty

When I was about 10 years old my class went on a field trip to Trinity Church in Boston. When I walked through the huge arched doors and looked up I vividly remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck…and then I started to cry. I had no idea why this was happening and I was so embarrassed trying to hide my tears from my teacher and the other kids. I now know this experience was the first out of many more to come where I was simply overwhelmed by the beauty and power of a space. It happened while visiting cathedrals in Europe, grand historic homes, even art museums. I’ll wander around with the other tourists trying my best to act completely normal, all the while trying to hold back tears. It’s still embarrassing but it’s out of my control.

Not that long ago I had a similar experience much closer to home. My husband and I attended a memorial service for a special friend who had quite suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Her family were long time members of the Sconset tennis club on Nantucket, known as “The Casino”.  Our friend spent all her Summers there, worked there as a teen and then as a manager as an adult. I’m not sure what I was expecting but certainly not this.

Linda Holt Photo

After a bit a research I found out The Casino was built in 1899 as a “hall of amusement” by John Coffin. From what little history I could gather, the Casino was later remodeled in 1923 by architect Frederick Hill of NY. Hills elaborate use of painted latticework on the ceilings and walls was influenced and resembled the famous Newport Casino. Being in this space while paying honor to our friend was a very powerful and emotional experience (to say the least).

Decorators and designers understand and witness the emotion that beautiful design can bring . Many of us have experienced clients bursting into tears of joy when they see their newly designed room for the first time. I believe we should all feel emotional beauty about our home, yet in my experience so few do. Many of the homes I visit have too much clutter, or the homeowner is hanging onto furniture or artwork they don’t like out of family obligation or they have rooms that don’t function or enhance the family’s current life style.

I have been on a mission in my own home to strive for emotional beauty. It is certainly a process but over the past few years I have given myself “permission” to let go of family heirlooms that do not enrich my life. I have sold and donated furniture that was “very expensive” but is no longer my style. I have painted walls with colors that I love even though they are not “in”. I let go of accessories that I didn’t love yet felt obligated to keep because they were given as gifts. The more I let go of, the better I feel.

After our friend passed away I was reminded yet once again that life is short. I decided right then and there, I will only live with what I love and create a home that brings value to my life and that of my family.  Maybe one day I too will feel like crying when I walk through my own door.

How about you?  Do you experience emotional beauty? Have you ever cried when you walked into a space? Most importantly, are you living with things that do not serve or enrich your life? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.

11 Responses to Emotional Beauty
  1. Connie Nikiforoff Designs Reply

    As a musician and decorator, yes, I’ve experienced emotional joy many times. And yet, the times when one nearly least expects it, is when the overwhelming beauty takes me by surprise. The concert when the music is so heavenly that it causes an immediate (and unexpected!) outpouring of tears; seeing the interior of European cathedrals with hours and hours, years and years of designer’s vision brought to life by highly skilled artisans. That one little flower that opened earlier than all the rest in the Spring. The absolute quiet as we see the sunset on our horizon. The Beauty is all around us….we we allow it. And when we allow it into our lives, we seek it out as often as possible.

    I too have had clients cry when they see their completed rooms. Those times are precious, much more so than any money they paid for my services.

    I think beauty in our surroundings can be easy to achieve …. if we ‘allow’ it in. Linda, you said it all so well, I need only conclude by saying “Amen!” 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Beautifully said Connie and yes, music and nature will bring me to tears as well. I should also add I cry seeing certain TV commercials and God forbid anything comes on the TV showing animal abuse. I have to run from the room.

  2. Mira Furth Reply

    yes this has happened to me too!

    regarding the emotional beauty of our home, I have always believed that my home must be the place where as soon as I walk through the front door I feel embraced and welcomed by it.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      And your home does just that Mira. You and Richard live such authentic lives and your home reflects that.

  3. Jill Dippman Reply

    Hi Linda,
    A very interesting post. A few weeks ago I saw ‘The Lion King’ for the first time on Broadway. The opening scene is so special, so incredible that I had tears running down my eyes. I was totally taken off-guard by it and was grateful for the darkened theater. I am sometimes moved by music that way so perhaps it was a combination of the music and the puppets/actors. I went with two friends who are avid theater fans and each told me later that with all the plays they have attended, that opening scene remains a favorite.

  4. Meredith Bohn Reply

    Wonderful post, Linda! I too am often somewhat embarrassed at my coming to tears over thoughts or objects of powerful beauty….I found that the ONLY description of Venice that applies is that I literally weep at how beautiful it is….I am often moved to tears when I am seeing visions of the place I hope to live in England and know that my soul NEEDS to be there! Cathedrals in Europe, the tiny needlemarks in an antique sampler that show so clearly the hand of the maker ( often so young is astounds me) We love what we do BECAUSE we are so emotional about it and I secretly cheer yours and my ability to be moved to tears…..
    My experiences recently let me know that you are on the absolute right track to make over your space so that it feeds your spirit…what better way can we love ourselves and our family than to create the perfect space for their ( and our) lives? “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – William Morris…this has often been quoted and the”Form follows Function” crowd has scoffed at the “beautiful” part….but I truly believe that things ( and homes, and lives) can be useful, functional, AND beautiful!

  5. Heidi Reply

    I’m crying just thinking about what you are saying and knowing the truth of what you say! The photo is amazing!! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  6. Livia Reply

    Linda, as I read this post, I can feel the emotion you are describing… yes, I am moved by tears brought by beauty many more times that I would admit.
    It is very important for us to be surrounded in our homes by the things we love, things that express our own individuality, that make our soul sing (and cry…). This blog is very dear to my heart, as I am in the process of writing a blog post about how a home should reflect its owner’s story. 🙂

  7. Siobhan Farrer Reply

    Linda, Your blog touch me with emotion. It is such a perfect and heartfelt discription of a sentiment we have all experienced. Thank you for sharing.

  8. kelly Reply

    This is beautiful Linda. I am getting teary just reading and thinking. I call myself a cry baby because I am always moved to tears seeing great places. I think that is ok we are like that. We got soul!

  9. Kelly R. @ Interiors For Families Reply

    What a great blog topic, Linda. Something I don’t often think about, and yet it happens pretty regularly (even more so when the pregnancy hormones are in charge!). The most powerful experience I remember was while visiting Saint-Chapelle while traveling solo in Europe during college. There was a children’s choir performing, and I just froze for about an hour and took it all in. The other thing that gets me on a regular basis is music. I get major goosebumps, which for me is even more embarrassing than tears! And even harder to control.

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