Book Review: Your Home, Your Sanctuary

I’m always on the lookout for books that show the benefits of nature in a new light. While garden books are the usual fare, once in awhile something like Clodagh’s new Your Home, Your Sanctuary catches my eye. Unlike most “shelter” publications, which focus on interior spaces, this new book demonstrates how Clodagh, an architectural and interior designer based in New York City, blurs the boundaries between indoors and out, bringing elements of nature inside (through materials, colors, plants, fire, water, and views) and pulling home comforts (such as furniture, places to cook, privacy, fire, water, and views) outside. Of course, this inside-outside concept is not new; architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, and landscape architects like Garrett Eckbo and Thomas Church, inspired us to live in harmony with nature. Still, it’s an idea that sometimes gets lost in cycles of fashion and technology, and we’re lucky to have contemporary designers who remind us of its continuing importance.

Clodagh’s primary message is that your home can be a sanctuary for you and your family and guests. In addition to providing examples, handsomely illustrated by Daniel Aubry’s photographs, of how she does it for clients, the book serves as a kind of “how-to” for the rest of us. In the introduction, Clodagh poses several questions that people should ask about their home; they remind me of the kinds of questions that landscape designers should be asking their clients about their garden: “Is it harmonious and balanced? Does it enhance my life and bring me joy? Does my heart lift with pleasure when I think about it? Is it comfortable? Is it a place for healing and wellness? Can I invite anyone there at any time without stress? Do I get upset when I think about it? If so, what are the problems?”

Most of the book is devoted to interior spaces, with ideas about how to create harmonious and nurturing environments. Clodagh uses many natural materials and environmentally friendly principles that make rooms feel warm, soft, and comfortable. Not surprisingly, “Beyond the Window” is my favorite chapter. It contains an introductory overview, a set of nine “essentials” (which in this case are labeled privacy, texture, maintenance, plantings, food preparation, meeting, water, pets, and storage), a page on the importance of water and windows, and an additional “Nine details for creating a perfect outdoor sanctuary” (I’m not going to give those away, too – go buy the book!). Clodagh wants us to think about what kinds of spaces are right for us (or our clients)–not what we think our garden should be, but how we want it to function so that we can live fully in it: “Think about what you love to do in the yard and garden.” Do you love to entertain, play with your kids, grow your own food, do yoga, or simply put your feet up and listen to the wind and the birds? 

This is an “inspiration” book, not a textbook, and its focus is residential design. For designers and health and human service providers who want facts, case studies, and concrete examples of therapeutic gardens, there are other books out there that will be more useful (see, for example, this blog posting: “Psst! Wanna buy a book?”). However, many of the principles discussed and illustrated in Your Home, Your Sanctuary – comfort, human connection, joy, balance, harmony, safety, and responsibility to our environment – are excellent reminders of what all designers should bear in mind when creating restorative environments and meaningful places.

Your Home, Your Sanctuary is available wherever fine books are sold, or online at

All quotes © CLODAGH: Your Home, Your Sanctuary, by Clodagh, Rizzoli New York, 2008.