It is said that the “devil is in the details”. Indeed, a room can be outfitted with expensive finishes, wired with technology, and furnished to the nines yet still fail to inspire. The difference is in the thoughtful consideration and fine craft of fitting the pieces together – the details.
Consider the “fractal”. In art and design, the fractal is a pattern that is the same, or nearly the same at every scale. That is, the detail doesn’t just enhance the whole, it is the whole. That is what we as designers and builders attempt in architecture: creating spaces where the detail and the whole are inseparable. The initial concept establishes the “feeling” of a room in broad-brush strokes and the construction details are carefully considered to enhance that underlying concept.
The best spaces work at both levels simultaneously. They are designed to evoke a feeling when you first step in, perhaps of warmth and intimacy or perhaps of utilitarian cleanliness. To evoke a sense of history, or of cutting-edge exploration. That gut reaction is the broad stroke of design.
Then, after inhabiting a well-designed space for some time, you will begin to “zoom in” on the details that support your initial gut feeling. Lines will lead your eye across the room to a particularly interesting view. Materials will connect with each other in understandable ways. Openings will match up with each other to build symmetry. A finely-crafted cabinet will grab your attention, but then you will realize that the grain of the wood is consciously matched across the doors.
The next time you are in a space that impacts you on a visceral level, take the time to explore the detail. Notice how small design decisions support the overall feeling: color, height, proportion, texture, pattern, material, light, view, furnishings. How far down can you dive into the fractal?