Tuesday, October 5, 2010

part 2: interior design is about…emotion

Humans are emo­tional crea­tures — it is truly what sep­a­rates us from other ani­mals. Some peo­ple, espe­cially cre­ative types, embrace emo­tion more com­pletely, delve into it more deeply, explore it more intently than the aver­age per­son would con­sider wise. Some peo­ple are more sus­cep­ti­ble to emo­tions gen­er­ated by the envi­ron­ment in which they find them­selves. If you have ever stood in a red­wood grove or Notre Dame or your own liv­ing room and been unmoved, you are not one of these people.

The process of inte­rior design is fraught with emo­tion. If you read my ear­lier post, you know it often starts with fear. Fear of open­ing up, fear of let­ting go, fear of the unknown — inti­macy is scary. And inte­rior design is inti­mate. Start­ing a new rela­tion­ship can bring anx­i­ety and ner­vous­ness — how not when you are fil­ter­ing it through your prior expe­ri­ences? If you have no knowl­edge base to draw on, anx­i­ety is nat­ural.  But once you take a deep breath and that first step, those but­ter­flies morph into excitement.

With rap­port between your­self and your designer, explo­ration is a joy. Con­sid­er­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties, see­ing how the ordi­nary can be ele­vated and changed to sup­port and enrich your life — inte­rior design is rel­e­vant to every­one, regard­less of bud­get. It's not about how much money you spend, it's about emo­tional invest­ment in the process and emo­tional return when the project is completed.

Well-designed spaces evolve from emo­tion — anx­i­ety, trust, joy — often with fits and starts along the way. Ulti­mately, they gen­er­ate emo­tion — con­tent­ment, pas­sion, warmth, peace — to those that inhabit them. Whether it's a tran­quil white oasis or a spir­ited mid-century mélange, your spaces should embrace you and engen­der the emo­tional sup­port you need.

Go ahead and take the leap — the return is worth the investment.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

part 1: interior design is about…personality

Inte­rior design­ers, at least those I know, rec­og­nize well-designed spaces. We under­stand the effort that goes into each aspect of a room, and see how the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Even when the style does not match our per­sonal aes­thetic, we appre­ci­ate the com­plete pic­ture. So too, when we eval­u­ate a poorly designed space, we see where it falls short — be it func­tion­al­ity, color, tex­ture, scale. It's not meant to be judg­men­tal, it's more an occu­pa­tional haz­ard — we can't shut it off. But what none of us can see with­out direct knowl­edge is the ulti­mate link between all the parts — the client.

I think suc­cess­ful inte­rior design has tan­gi­ble per­son­al­ity — and that per­son­al­ity should always be of the peo­ple who inhabit the space, not the designer. How do you explain, to some­one who has never expe­ri­enced it, the added value an inte­rior designer brings? That abil­ity to instill com­pletely per­son­al­ized solu­tions ver­sus the "room in a box" one can pur­chase at a major retailer? I think it is human nature to seek out the famil­iar — hence the pro­lif­er­a­tion of chain stores and cat­a­log fur­ni­ture retail­ers. But have you ever looked around, a lit­tle dis­sat­is­fied, and thought "is this all there is?"

It's an inti­mate busi­ness, inte­rior design. And there are a lot of peo­ple uncom­fort­able with inti­mate rela­tion­ships. Those peo­ple are going to be hap­pier pick­ing from the lim­ited menu at their local store. No need to open up to any­one about how they live or want to live. Pick one from col­umn A and one from col­umn B and call it a day.

For peo­ple who are not afraid of a new expe­ri­ence, the design process can be eye-opening. It's a chance to explore and exam­ine your own per­son­al­ity, wants and needs, along with those of your fam­ily, and see it all made manifest.  It can be a lit­tle scary to unveil so many aspects of your­self, but free­ing too. Inte­rior design at its best is about com­mu­ni­cat­ing per­son­al­ity — yours, not your neighbor's or your mom's or that guy in the next cubi­cle at work. Clients who rec­og­nize and embrace that are always the hap­pi­est.  They enjoy the jour­ney and the destination.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A photo shoot, and a twitter tale

Today was the photo shoot for my space at Designer Spaces & Mar­ket Places in Hart­ford, the inte­rior design event which opens Thurs­day evening. There's an inter­est­ing social media back story to how I ended up spend­ing the day with a fab­u­lous pho­tog­ra­pher I had never met.

Way back in June, the savvy Suzi Craig over at Fathom had a, not really a come-to-Jesus talk, rather a come-to-the-new-gods-of-social-media talk with me. She stressed the impor­tance of con­nect­ing to peo­ple in the online world, and I insisted that Twit­ter was sim­ply not a place for me. It seemed ridicu­lous to think the Twit­ter expe­ri­ence could apply to me and my busi­ness.  I have nei­ther time nor inter­est in the meals and minu­tiae of strangers  - and that was my per­cep­tion of Twitter.

If you know Suzi, you know how per­sua­sive she can be, and before I knew it, I had a Twit­ter han­dle (@exuberanthome) and was dip­ping my toes into the twirling mael­strom that is Twit­ter. In short order, I was fol­low­ing and had acquired fol­low­ers. To my sur­prise the vast major­ity of these peo­ple are inter­est­ing. And infor­ma­tive. And con­nected to oth­ers like them­selves. Sud­denly I'm actu­ally IN a world-wide web of fun, cre­ative people.

Apolo­gies for the long-winded tale, but here's another inter­con­nected aside. Last Thurs­day, I attended an AIGA Break­fast Epiphany, hosted by the same Suzi Craig, where I met some seri­ously cool peo­ple. The dis­cus­sion of social media touched an inter­est­ing ques­tion: is your online voice your authen­tic self, or do you por­tray some­one else?  As a per­son who barely has time to have one online voice, I can't imag­ine hav­ing the energy to think up and con­sis­tently apply some other per­sona to my online inter­ac­tions. WYSIWYG with me. But the ques­tion of authen­tic­ity struck a chord.

Of the peo­ple I have "met" on Twit­ter, some really res­onate with me, I think, mostly because I believe their voice is authen­tic. I read their tweets and their blog posts and their nature shines through. It feels uncon­trived. And so I tweeted in August ask­ing "do you know a good, local inte­ri­ors pho­tog­ra­pher?" I received a reply from some­one whose online voice is so gen­uine — Amy Dra­goo at ABCD Designs. Because I believe in her authen­tic­ity, I believed her rec­om­men­da­tion would be worth­while. Does that make me naïve or overly trust­ing, or sim­ply ful­fill the adage that nice peo­ple have nice friends?

I have never met Amy, but she referred me to Michael Parte­nio, some­one she has never met, because she is con­nected to Stacy Kun­stel who is con­nected to Michael. So if you're still with me — the inter­sec­tion of four peo­ple who have never met in the real world resulted in me hav­ing a photo shoot with a ter­rific pho­tog­ra­pher — tak­ing pic­tures of a space titled "Wall Posts". A space designed around the con­cept of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the noise which sur­rounds us all from places like Twit­ter and Facebook.

The moral of this cir­cu­lar Twit­ter tale: despite the noise, there are real, mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions to be made via social media. When you get there — look me up @exuberanthome.

you really didn't think I'd reveal it before the show opens, did you?

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

oval office — why is this news?

The design world is abuzz this week with the news that Pres­i­dent Obama's decorator-in-chief, Michael Smith, redid the Oval Office while the first fam­ily was on vaca­tion. After read­ing the New York Times post and this arti­cle, I had to ask "why is this news?" A new rug, wall­pa­per, drap­ery and a few other updates — frankly, noth­ing very earth-shaking here. Any cor­po­rate office in Amer­ica could look the same — and maybe that's why it's news.

from New York Times

from the New York Times

The sheer bland­ness of the choices — what's the mes­sage behind that? Is it really a reflec­tion of his per­son­al­ity, as Mar­garet Rus­sell, new edi­tor of Archi­tec­tural Digest, seems to think? Truly, if the client is happy, the designer is happy. But how much could the clients have allowed them­selves to express, know­ing the judg­men­tal eyes of the entire coun­try would be search­ing for hid­den mean­ing (and men­tally tal­ly­ing the cost)?

The most inter­est­ing item in the revamped room is the cof­fee table. In wal­nut and mica, it's a lit­tle step away from the tra­di­tional styles of for­mer pres­i­dents. The blue Spitzmiller lamps are lovely, but feel a lit­tle lost in a sea of neu­tral. For­lorn really. And the pil­lows are just plain sad. What a chal­lenge to cre­ate a room that tries not to offend anyone!

The Bush Oval Office rug is far more visu­ally inter­est­ing, don't you think?

from the New York Times

The President's new digs are hope­fully just what he wanted, even if the rest of us are under­whelmed. What do you think — sub­tle and warm? Or bland and boring?