by Suzy Chiazzari
Published by Ebury Press
128 pages, 2001
Buy it online
Reviewed by J.M. Bridgeman
I chose this book for its title. Harmony. Home Harmony. The way we choose by scanning for vibrations that speak to us, reaching for what we need. Harmony.
Home Harmony looks like a book about interior design, but it isn't. There are some decorating tips and beautiful photographs of elegant arrangements. But Home Harmony elucidates something more basic. It deconstructs the elements that are used in creating harmonious designs. In addition, it links spatial arrangements to the "interior" work usually done in therapy. Indeed, the cover says, Chiazzari is a therapist who founded the Holistic Design Institute in Devon and specializes in "healing interiors."
Home Harmony assumes that there are five elements -- earth, wood, metal, fire and water and that these elements relate to each other in positive and negative ways. It also assumes that everything we do affects and is affected by the natural environment. That we live in nature, not above or outside it. That we can and should attempt to manipulate and to control the elements within our private spheres, to maintain our connection with nature.
Perhaps control is the wrong word. Home Harmony assumes a certain willingness to surrender some of the intellectual and physical control we may have come to assume. If we accept that there are some things we may not understand but are willing to be open to, we can counter our alienation and improve our balance. Home Harmony attempts to integrate wisdom from around the world. It nods at Gaia Theory, the Tao and feng shui. It incorporates a variety of tenets into the explanations, including some of the ancient symbolism attached to the five basic elements as well as the different rituals and spiritual practices that celebrate our connection.
There is nothing very new here. Home Harmony attempts to integrate. It asks us to remember that we are a part of nature, not separate from it. That the more we separate ourselves from the natural environment, by living inside our heads or inside some unbalanced unnatural environmentally unfriendly buildings, the more we make ourselves sick. That we have the power to recognize the problem and take steps to address it.
To address the problem of disequilibrium we have to assess ourselves, the others we live with and the environments we inhabit. The assessment process sounds a bit like astrology, probably because it assumes that we accept a cosmology that is "given" but not necessarily understood. That we may find ourselves to be in tune with or clashing with our setting, our environment. That we can choose to do things to improve the balance.
Home Harmony discredits the notion that caring about our homes is somehow materialistic and frivolous. The spaces we inhabit are "our third skins" and, as such, should resonate with the swirls of energy within and outside us. We are a part of nature: the way we choose to live should reflect our natural origins. We are responsible for recognizing that and for making the necessary adjustments. So, in that sense, although it is a calming book, it is also an empowering book, with a simple powerful message. Tuck it into a housewarming gift, in a hand-woven basket of beautiful useful objects. | November 2001
J. M. Bridgeman is a contributing editor at Suite 101 as well as January Magazine.