I’ve always thought of myself as the big-city type. Having grown up in, what was at the time, a small seaside town in the early 2000s, the siren song of Cape Town (a sprawling metropolis by comparison) was impossible to ignore. A heady mix of the energy, freedom, opportunity and anonymity that only a big city can offer, it presented a chance to carve out an identity independent of everything I had known hitherto. A pretty standard, Hallmark-movie plot line, sure, but it is mine.
Fast forward 15 years and something has started changing in me. Specifically, in my love affair with the city. And if these feelings of doubt were ephemeral and noncommittal before, they have certainly been crystallised by the pandemic and I cannot help thinking: is big city living everything we have built it up to be?
If, like me, you have been experiencing this yearning for a (perhaps a bit idealistic) life in the country, then this issue has arrived in your hands just in time. Traditionally, this is the time of year the team at House & Garden produce a big, winter-focus issue but, as we all know, there is nothing ‘traditional’ about our lives anymore, no matter the season, which is why we decided to look outward – way outward – and bring you the best of what lies beyond the highways and skyscrapers of our everyday. As it turns out, sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to find what real comfort means.
Of course, there is more to country living than a hygge-centric collection of forested log cabins, crackling fireplaces and piping hot cocoa with homemade biscuits (do not worry, we have still got these covered). It is about changing your urban state of mind. Frank Lloyd Wright said it most succinctly: “No house should be on a hill or anything. It should be of the hill. belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each happier for the other.”
I think this could be seen through the lens of a broader, current ideology – one I wish we had had when Wright wrote those words in the early ’30s – around sustainability and symbiosis, rather than the need to impose our architecture – and presence – on the world, without thought of consequence. This type of conscientious modus operandi is certainly more prevalent here, in these country homes and with these country designers, than with their city cousins. And we should all be taking note.
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