“An Artful life”

DIY paper bouquet of flower costumesPerhaps you’ve noticed the small subtitle directly below the logo of this blog, The House That Lars Built, An Artful Life. I’ve felt the need to discuss what this means and why it’s there. It’s not there to fill up space or because the logo needed a little something extra below it (although it does fit in like a nice little package) . That small subtitle happens to inform everything we do here.

I’ve talked about how The House That Lars Built came to be in previous posts. To sum about nearly 9 years of blog history down, had I known The House That Lars Built, a blog I started for a grad school project, would become a business/my whole life, I definitely would have named it something else—something shorter and catchier for sure. But that’s not how these things work out. Lars—the nickname we like to call it—has since shifted and morphed depending on what I was using it for at the time: a portfolio for my work in grad school, a magazine for my graduate thesis, a journal for when I moved abroad, etc. Since moving back to the US from Denmark 4 years ago now, it’s solidified itself as a design lifestyle blog with an emphasis on hand-making and providing inspiration and very gratefully, it’s been put onto some really awesome awards lists (including this year’s finalist at the Shorty Awards! And one of Domino’s favorite design blogs) and featured on The New York Times and other great publications and TV spots. It’s such a great motivation to keep trekking along and no doubt thanks in part to YOU for playing such a big role in that.

I added “An artful life” subtitle a few years ago after realizing that upon arriving to the site, there are few signs indicating what you’re getting yourself into. I spent a number of brainstorm sessions considering what that adjective to “an _____ life” should be. And yes, I wanted it to have “life” in the subtitle because I believe that crafting and making is a lifestyle and something that brings you joy and is inherent in the human experience. Here are some of the words I considered:

  • Beautiful
  • creative
  • crafty
  • lovely
  • artsy-fartsy
  • artsy
  • wonderful
  • marvelous
  • artistic

Ultimately, I decided on a word I couldn’t get out of my mind. I hadn’t heard the term much at the time, but it kept on coming back to me again and again: “artful”. Artful means just what it sounds like—full of art. Full of all the things that make art art—color, texture, composition, meaning, training. Over the years, it has come to have added meaning. It implies a thoughtful selection of the things you surround yourself with, the things you spend your time looking at and doing, the things you spend your time thinking about. Because all these things impact you and contribute to your decision making, mood, happiness, contentment, and general well-being.

Why artful? 

First off, this is a design-focused, artistic-type blog so of course, having the term “art” associated with it feels like a natural extension. Like I mentioned earlier, I started Lars for a grad school project. I was going to school for interior design and learned the ins and outs of designing a space for function, enjoyment, beauty, and purpose. When the blog became more DIY driven, I applied these same characteristics. The thought process behind each craft is quite similar and the point is to marry function with making the most beautiful thing possible. Why? Because beautiful things improve your life. I don’t say this to be overly dramatic or cocky, it just does.

Think of the reverence you have when you enter a beautiful space, whether it be a place of worship, an academic institution, a rad restaurant, or a hip shop. You feel something when you walk in. It changes you especially if you’re in the right state of mind to take it all in.

The same goes for art and music. Have you ever walked into a museum and felt magical things as you’ve looked at a painting? Or when you’re listening to your favorite band live or in a huge symphony hall? You FEEL things. It changes you. You might even feel as if the heavens are opening and you’re physically led to tears. This happens to me all the time (you too??).

What about your own home? Think about when you have visitors over and it forces you to clean your house. You finally realize, “whoa, my house could I feel like this all the time?! It feels amazing!” (ok, ok, yes that is an auto-biographical experience). Yes, you can live in a sense of amazement all the time. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this one with regards to my own home, but I do fully believe it can be.Balloon heart tutorial

And this is precisely what I hope you feel when you come to The House that Lars Built. I want you to see beautiful pictures and projects and be changed for a moment. Perhaps something took your breath away, even for a moment. Because that awe-inducing moment has the ability to lift your mood and can be added to your personal visual bank and referred to when you’re in a need of mood-enhancer. Better yet! Perhaps a craft project inspires you to get down and dirty and bring beauty into your own home. I consider myself a success if this happens!

This space on the Internet is not meant to serve as a jealousy-inducer. Not one bit. Aspirational? Sure! Pointing out the things you don’t have and you’ll never be happy because of it? NOPE! To be totally frank, I don’t have most of the things I show myself. I don’t mean this to be deceiving. In fact, I’m pretty open about living in a basement apartment after all. I treat the projects on this blog and the photos on my Instagram feed as my own personal creative challenge: How can I make the most beautiful image possible? I’ve been asked to photograph my basement apartment for this and that and in a space that doesn’t get too much light I feel like I’ve been successful at creating beautiful images. This comes through thoughtfully figuring out the best angles, the best time of day to shoot, how to style it beautifully, etc. It’s about making something out of nothing.Friends enjoying dinner partyDIY paper garland swag for wedding get away car

Hand-making of any sorts implies a sense of thoughtful expression because it is a time to get inside your brain, flex your creative powers, and get your juices flowing. It can be a relaxer or a way to solve a problem with decision after decision, “What color will I use? What material should I work with? How much money do I want to spend on it? Where will I put it afterwards? How much time do I want to invest into this party?” We are all busy people and our time is limited so thoughtfully selecting what you choose to make is a big deal. However, I believe it’s an important way to spend your time because there’s something inherently human about the act of creating.

When it comes down to it, I don’t expect everyone to make all the projects from this site but I do hope you thoughtfully contemplate what you could do to have a fuller “art” life. Perhaps Lars can help you identify a project or two (or three or four or five 😉 along with some other helpful tips. “Artful living” is the term I coined to achieve that and it’s what I try to communicate to our team. We ask ourselves if it feels “artful” before each brainstorm session and when we set our goals. Right now we’re in the midst of making some big strategic plans that will affect our focus over the next little while and I keep on coming back to “artful life” to drive it.

Did you know we spend so much time thinking about such a little phrase? I hope it’s shown through somehow because it’s a major passion of mine and becomes even more so the more I write about it, meet you, talk with you, and continue to grow our community.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Our comments section has been out of order for the past few months, but feel free to comment on Instagram or by email: hello@thehousethatlarsbuilt.com


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