Highlight The Differences



This pattern is derivative of “Half Inch Trim” (240), “Good Materials” (207), and “Ornament” (249).

There seems to be a modern fascination with making things perfect. We are told that it is better if all the edges line up, and that dissimilar materials should be made to meet flush. But this is not the way of timeless construction. The more precisely something is built, the more glaringly obvious become its flaws.


Any time two surfaces, objects, or materials come together and meet you have to deal with the connection somehow. The modern approach would be to make the junction as narrow and minimal as possible, as if to hide the transition. But the timeless approach would be to highlight and draw attention, to make something special of the place. Connections are the best place to emphasize and augment with trim, finer detailing, and decorations. (see “Ornament” (249))



                                        Not This…                                   But This.


The beauty is in the imperfections and the layer upon layer of details. Highlight, or accentuate the differences between materials. Hand crafted details are essential ingredients for timeless beauty. Without such details, often the connections between materials is too abrupt and lacks sufficient transition between them.

A good example is crown molding, which always adds to a room. That is because the molding fills a void. It creates a rich transition between the walls and the ceiling, and provides an additional level of detail.




Highlight the differences. Instead of hiding connections, make something special of them. When two surfaces or structures meet, do not try to have everything line-up and be flush. Have adjoining materials meet with a slight offset. An offset small enough to hardly be noticed, but large enough that it is clearly intentional.



Gary Zuker is a Senior Systems Administrator at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1989 he built a house outside of Austin. Inspired and guided by "A Pattern Language", he developed 12 new patterns during the process of building his house.
Gary Zuker

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