There’s an adage (taken from a quote attributed to William Morris) that exhorts those decorating their homes to forgo anything that is not useful or beautiful.
Houses designed to promote maximum efficiency in the business of everyday life certainly gain points for practicality; ease of use in your living space can help make your home the respite it should be. Additionally, beautiful decor can provide comfort by enhancing living space and reminding us that aesthetic enjoyment is a quality of life issue, and shouldn’t be relegated to an afterthought.
When a home is an exquisite example of success in each of these areas, as well as a superlative illustration of how to blend those goals into a harmonious blend of utility and style, the designer has certainly done something amazing.
Especially when the designer isn’t a designer at all.
“I’m not formally trained in design,” homeowner Beth Jansen says, “but I did all the decorating myself.”
Jansen, a photographer, didn’t train formally in photography either – but admits that she has an innate artistic vision that has informed her professional work and the styling of the home she shares with husband Jeremiah, and sons Wesley and Ewan.
“I’ve just always had a knack for color and composition,” Jansen says. “And I’ve photographed a lot of homes. I think I just internalized some elements of design.”
Her love of art has probably also guided her inspiration for the eye-arresting decor throughout the family’s home; from a magnificent mural that dominates the formal dining room to the diminutive origami cranes delicately suspended above one of the fireplaces, the drama and detail of what you see from the minute you walk through the imposing, medieval-looking front door is truly unique and beautiful. Those unique and beautiful minutes don’t stop after you cross the threshold, either – around every corner there’s a singular wallpaper choice, a bold accessory or an off-the-wall-but-gorgeous tchotchke with an amazing story behind it.
The first thing you see when you enter the Jansens’ home is, well, almost everything. Much of the ground level is visible mere steps from the front door; the removal of a wall separating additional living space at the rear of the house from the kitchen area was part of a renovation that included adding a bathroom to the upstairs, but changed little else, structurally.
This serves to accomplish another best-of-both-worlds feat: harnessing the fluidity and functionality of an open floor plan while still retaining the intimacy of room “arrangements” in the home. With a divided living area directly adjacent to the entryway, a breakfast nook off the kitchen and formal dining area and another living area separated into what amounts to three distinct arrangements beyond that, there’s no shortage of space for family members or guests to find a little coziness, while still being open to connection.
“We do a ton of entertaining,” Jansen explains. “I run a nonprofit, so there’s socializing involved with that, and my parents were the kind of people that always had guests on the weekends. We’re not from Oklahoma, so we have a lot of people visiting, as well.”
Conversation pieces abound in the Jansen home. Whether it’s the photographs taken by Beth on her travels with her nonprofit Mother Huggers (motherhuggers.us), or the lady mannequin lamp purchased on a trip to Guatemala (the family took it just weeks after their home burned, but as Jansen says, “We already had it planned. Why wouldn’t we still go?”), almost every piece has meaning.
The outdoor area surrounding the pool may be the biggest example of the home’s functionality: Artificial turf, not grass, surrounds the large pool, saving swimmers from enduring grassy feet and protecting floors from red Oklahoma mud. Elevated decking connects the steps from two back doors, and serves as extra seating for outdoor gatherings.
“We’ve put pillows up here during parties so that guests can sit back and relax,” Jansen says. “A comfortable outdoor space was important, as was ease of use and lowering the mess that would come from having our three dogs going in and out a lot.”
Abundant light is the other co-star in the home – the original double-pane windows were changed to singles, allowing unfettered light to fill the space created by high ceilings and the semi-open floor plan.
When addressing the blend of form and function in the home’s design, and the process of fitting a decorative piece into an existing room or letting a space evolve around a treasured find, Beth compared her method with that of her photography.
“It can happen very fast,” she says. “With photography, I’ve always been able to compose quickly and make it look pretty in the end. I think I do the same with houses: I can ping off something, and build on it, and somehow just know that things will work together. It may not be everyone’s taste, but it works for us.”