Sparkling chandeliers. Gorgeous staircases. Detailed carpets, beautiful floral arrangements, and vast rooms with high ceilings. Without a doubt, taking in the beauty of the temple is always a sacred experience.
We know from the Bible Dictionary that “only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness,” but you don’t need an extravagant design to bring that sacredness into your own home. In addition to living in such a way that invites the Spirit’s companionship, here are a few tips from temple designers you can apply in your own home to make your living space a peaceful haven from the world.
Tip #1: Focus on the Purpose of the Space
Temple designers share that the first thing they consider when designing a space is the purpose of that space. Though the temple is beautiful, simply being beautiful is not its purpose. “Peace in the temple comes through the ordinances and through the order that exists there,” temple designer Kathleen Bluth shares. First and foremost, the divine purpose of any house—whether it’s the house of God or the house your family dwells in—should be reflected upon.
But focusing on the purpose of the space also means that there are some basic realities to consider. For temple designers, this includes ensuring that temple interiors are conducive to hundreds of people walking through. And since the members who clean temples are often not professionals, the flooring and lower areas must be toughened up for frequent and sometimes clunky vacuuming. Similarly, home design that is beautiful but not functional for your family’s needs does not create a welcoming atmosphere. Having room for your children to run and play, for example, is more important than simply having a flawless living room.
As another temple designer, Kathleen Lewis shares that the purpose behind design is also a kind of communication. “With temples and with homes, you, of course, have the functions necessary for that space,” she states, “but you are also trying to communicate to anyone that comes into that space that they’re loved—that they’re welcome and they were planned for.”
As you design your home, it may be helpful to ask, “What is the divine purpose of this space? What am I trying to communicate to those who enter, and what do I want them to feel?” Focusing on the central purpose and temperament of your home will guide you as you make decisions in the design of your living space.
Tip #2: Conduct Your Own Precedence Study
The early stages of temple design entail a surprising amount of research. Referred to by designers as a “precedence study,” this research serves to identify cultural and geographical connections in the surrounding area where the temple will be built that can be incorporated into the temple’s design in meaningful ways. Results of these precedence studies can be observed in landscapes depicted by temple murals, in the color schemes selected, and even in simple details found in windows, railing, and woodwork. The Twin Falls Idaho Temple, for example, features the Syringa, Idaho’s state flower, throughout its interior in subtle ways.
Though a precedence study for your home might be a bit different, the concept still applies. “For me, the precedence study for a home involves not just the place but the history of the family,” Lewis explains.
Your own precedence study might involve research about your family heritage, leading you to incorporate themes that remind you of your ancestry. It could also involve more recent connections, like vacations your family has taken, places your family has lived, or other interests and hobbies your family has. Home is more like heaven when you surround yourself with things that remind you who you are and where you come from.
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Tip #3: Let There Be Light
One of the most beautiful and symbolic aspects of the temple is light. Though your home may not have a glittering crystal chandelier, the lighting in your home can have a big impact on the comfort and overall atmosphere of your living space.
Bluth’s first recommendation when it comes to lighting is simple. “One of the things that really goes a long way in a home is to make sure your lights are clean, because light really does sparkle so much more when all your glass is clean,” she states. “It’s amazing how many people don’t really think about that. But it makes a big difference.”
Another practical recommendation Bluth provides is to select bulbs that are 2700 Kelvin or higher. “There is a big variety of color in light,” she says. “[Between] 2700-3000 kelvin is warmer light, and generally speaking, that is what most people are really comfortable with.” Adding lamplight is also a great way to bring a warm glow into your living space.
Tip #4: Invest in a Few Key Pieces to Build Around
While the design of many temples is quite modern, you may notice that fads are not often found within the temple’s walls. One reason for this is the eternal vision temples embody; design choices are intentionally made to be more classic and lasting.
In a home, however, fads can be a fun part of the design you create. “You can have a great time with the trends and enjoy that,” Lewis shares. “But you will notice that you tire of that sooner, and you start tiring of that [even more] when you see it in everyone else’s house.”
For this reason, both Bluth and Lewis recommend selecting a few key pieces for your home that are more timeless, knowing that the other decorative aspects of your design will change over the years. Since upholstered furniture is typically the most expensive aspect of home design, Bluth recommends selecting furniture that is more neutral. “Get your pop of color in a rug or with some pillows or accessories . . . so that you don’t get tired of your upholstery,” she advises. “You’ll be able to keep it longer and not get tired of it.”
“Make your money count on just two or three pieces and let the rest be what they are, knowing they’re temporary,” Lewis adds. By choosing a few key pieces, your home design can evolve and change while still having a lasting base to build off of.
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Tip #5: Strive for Balance and Contrast
Temple designers rely heavily on principles of proportion, harmony, and balance to make a space complete, just as all designers do. “Everything works together,” Bluth says. “I personally feel like that’s a good principle to use in home design too.”
But having harmony and balance doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to match perfectly. Variety is key to creating the harmony and balance you are going for. “In a temple, we’re really careful to have very similar wood tones in a space so there is that harmony, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the furniture is made out of the same wood or has the same grain,” Bluth shares. “There’s a harmony to the color tones of the different woods in the room.”
Lewis adds that having contrast can help you emphasize the highlights of a space while minimizing the less pleasing aspects. “To use contrast as you design, what you’re doing is controlling where the eye goes and what it rests on . . . what it skims over and what it comes back to,” she explains.
Strategic use of contrast in color, for example, can help you draw attention to the artwork hanging above the mantle while working to hide the pipe in the corner that you can’t get rid of. “Sometimes [you] can’t fix the proportions of the room,” Lewis admits. “But with the addition of a highlighting contrast or by minimizing [through] a lack of contrast, [you] can control the impact of how the room reads.” This simple strategy can help the imperfect aspects of your home blend into the background while bringing out the pieces that matter most.
Tip #6: Display Meaningful Art
There is no question that the art displayed in the temple’s halls fill us with wonder and awe, but many are surprised to learn that the selection process for art to be displayed in temples involves multiple steps. After being passed by several rigorous reviews, each piece of art must also be approved by the First Presidency.
When selecting art to hang in your home, it is generally best to avoid buying it the first time you see it. Lewis recommends coming back to it several times to see if your reaction to the piece is equally as meaningful each time. Careful consideration of what to hang on your walls can ensure that you select something “both to please the eye and to gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18).
Bluth also offers specific recommendations for hanging and displaying art. “There should be a relationship between the bottom of the art and the top of whatever piece of furniture is below it, so you don’t want too much distance to be between those two items,” she says. Typically, this means hanging artwork six to nine inches above the complementary furniture piece. On a blank wall, art is usually best positioned at eye level, around 60 inches from the floor.
“All the artwork in the temple is to remind us of the miracles God has accomplished and can still accomplish,” Lewis explains. Whether demonstrating a miracle from the Savior’s life or the miracle of creation, each piece of art has a particular purpose. She continues, “When we represent those artistically, it isn’t just pretty—it actually is a testimony of God’s love, anciently and eternally. So anything that can also communicate that in a home should be very welcomed.”
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Tip #7: Fill Your Home with Things That Make You Feel Loved
Though there are countless design principles to study and follow, perhaps the most vital advice when it comes to home design is to fill yourself with things that you love. “I think it’s extremely important for a home to be surrounded by reminders of happy things,” Lewis emphasizes. “If you’re going to dust it and move it and worry about it, just make sure it’s something that you love and enjoy seeing . . . and reminds you that you are loved.”
Even if it breaks a so-called “rule” of design, it can be worth it to hang your 2-year-old’s art. It is worth it to keep your grandmother’s chest and worth it to fill your home with pictures of family. Incorporating other décor is refreshing and fun, but creating a space that communicates love means making room for the pieces you can’t purchase at a store.
Though the design of temples and homes can be impressive, Lewis reminds us that impressing others is not the point. “It’s about communicating affection,” she testifies. “Affection for God, and affection for whoever comes into that space.”