In early March, I had the pleasure of hearing guest speaker and internationally acclaimed interior designer, Vern Yip, during the Art of Design luncheon at the Gibbes Museum of Art here in Charleston, SC. Vern shared some of his life stories, design information and creative guidance, most of which are included in his new design book Vern Yip’s Design Wise. His approach to home design, including his children’s rooms, feels very Montessori-inspired to me.
After the luncheon, Vern graciously signed his book for any and all purchasers, answered questions and engaged in conversation with many. When it was my turn to meet Vern, I couldn’t wait to ask him about designing children’s rooms. His approach was as I had hoped— young children’s rooms should be aesthetically pleasing, built to last through their growing years, thoughtfully designed and well organized. He and his spouse, Craig, decided early on to leave their precious and special things out and displayed in their homes rather than stored away from their children’s reach. By doing so, they have been able to teach their children to value, appreciate and handle the items they treasure with care. After all, cultivating a respect for the environment is a big part of parenting! By teaching this caring for their environment from the start, children will do the same in settings outside their homes.
Similarly, Maria Montessori observed “….the tiny child’s absorbent mind finds all its nutriment in its surroundings. Here it has to locate itself, and build itself up from what it takes in. Especially at the beginning of life must we, therefore, make the environment as interesting and attractive as we can…” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 88)”. She believed a beautiful, purposeful, orderly and well-maintained environment should be prepared for the child’s early years of development. Everything the child is surrounded by in a Montessori environment facilitates and encourages independence, learning and exploration. Dr. Montessori also preferred materials made of glass, porcelain, metals and wood. She found that natural materials were not only more pleasing to the child’s eye; they are more fragile and therefore must be handled with great care and respect.
Throughout his book, Vern Yip has presented a myriad of important design elements that should be considered in creating a beautiful and well designed home. Maria Montessori’s numerous books outline her extraordinary framework for aiding and enhancing the innate development and inner design of the child. Both are guiding, teaching and inspiring us while clearly describing the outcomes to expect based on their expertise. Best of all, these guides can help families realize an outcome of greater peace, harmony and happiness in their homes and lives. Now that’s wise!