Ask most contemporary architects what they think of decoration in architecture and you’re apt to elicit a diatribe of snobbery. As a matter of fact, the ornate branches of architecture are sometimes treated like a flamboyant uncle at the family reunion: fun to look at it for a bit but not to claim or take seriously. I think, however, that decoration and ornament have a distinct place in the building arts. After all, Architecture’s inspired roots have always been planted in the soils of the natural world. Even the staid classical orders and designs of the Greek and Romans were hymns mused of nature. One need only look around the garden, forest or ocean and know that Mother Nature is hardly a Shaker – she seems to shamelessly revel in the Baroque.
A true piece of Architecture that lacks some type of whimsical beauty is like a room without accessories: coldly bare and lacking something for the eye to caress; these rooms look unused. Similarly, buildings void of even the smallest decorative gesture lack a generous and habitable sensibility. Rooms without accessories look uninhabited and buildings without some sense of decoration look uninhabitable. I dare to mention the word “pretty” in terms of discussing architecture because “pretty” is seen as the F-word of architecture. But I’m complimented when one (of our houses or rooms) is pronounced as pretty; that means the eye of the describer has found something within which pleases the heart.