Tuesday musings

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

tuesday musings: here a trend, there a trend

Inte­rior design­ers, like fash­ion design­ers, are always think­ing about trends. What are the trends in color and style? What’s new and dif­fer­ent this year? How long will this trend last?  A recent post by styl­ist Amy Dra­goo, wherein she ques­tioned whether she made her own kitchen too “trendy”, started me think­ing: is look­ing at trends a pit­fall in inte­rior design? Is it a nec­es­sary evil?  As design­ers and home­own­ers, do we embrace or avoid?

Inter­est­ingly, Merriam-Webster tells us a trend is (1) to extend in a gen­eral direc­tion OR (2) to veer in a new direc­tion. So which is it?

Every year, the color experts at Pan­tone announce a "color of the year", which they believe is on trend. Last year it was turquoise, this year honeysuckle.

pantone honeysuckle color of the year 2011

pan­tone hon­ey­suckle color of the year 2011

pantone turquoise color of the year 2010

pan­tone turquoise color of the year 2010

Did you (or any­one you know) rush out and buy all new every­thing in pink because it's the 2011 trend? I'm guess­ing not. If you already love pink, do you feel a fris­son of excite­ment to know you are now trendy? Maybe just a bit, right? If you never liked pink, did you per­haps stop and think about pink a lit­tle, re-examine your feel­ings and pre­con­cep­tions because it's trendy this year? Might see­ing a “trend” encour­ages some­one to embrace some­thing they never knew they liked? I would argue yes.

The newest Tra­di­tional Home mag­a­zine declares that navy, indigo and the dark­est of blues are now the trend. What?  Tra­di­tion­al­ists every­where are feel­ing vin­di­cated that the col­ors they have embraced for the past 20, 30 or 40 years are now con­sid­ered trendy! When does a trend become a clas­sic? I think when one moves from Merriam-Webster's def­i­n­i­tion 2 to def­i­n­i­tion 1. Deep blues are main­stays in many a tra­di­tional inte­rior. The trendy aspect may just be using them in newer ways, such as lac­quered walls, as seen on the cover.

traditional home april 2011

tra­di­tional home april 2011

As a designer, I think it's impor­tant to see what's new in home fur­nish­ings, tex­tiles and col­ors. There are so many cre­ative peo­ple work­ing to develop new and inter­est­ing prod­ucts for our indus­try, it's a joy to see and even mar­vel at them dur­ing Mar­kets and shows. I believe it is our job as inter­preters for our clients to exam­ine the new, and con­sider the stay­ing power of every item.  With Amer­i­cans redec­o­rat­ing (on aver­age) every 8 years, longevity is a must for major fur­nish­ing items. When a new trend strikes your fancy, incor­po­rate it in easy-to-change ways, just as you would with fashion.

In the case of a major ren­o­va­tion, chances are you've been think­ing about that dream kitchen for a long time. You've looked at pic­tures and torn out mag­a­zine pages, gath­er­ing ideas. If you've torn out 20 pages and they all have com­mon ele­ments, is it because you love that look, or because the pic­tures are all on trend right now? Over the years, white cab­i­netry was in, then oh-so-out. Wood cab­i­nets were pop­u­lar, then vil­i­fied. Dark fin­ishes were the rage, then light was the only way to go. As both a designer and a home­owner, I give con­sid­er­a­tion to the newest trends, but am not a slave to them. Ulti­mately, it's your space — trust your instincts and adopt the look you love whether it's con­sid­ered trendy right now or not.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

tuesday musings: green decorating

Imag­ine if you will a room, not overly large, rec­tan­gu­lar in shape.  Now add into this space five win­dows, three door­ways, six built-in book­cases and one fire­place.  This sounds like a room with quite a lot going on, doesn’t it? As some of my read­ers may remem­ber from an ear­lier post, I was con­tem­plat­ing paint­ing my home office all one color, in high gloss. Yes, this is the room in ques­tion, and yes, I finally did it.

Once upon a colo­nial time, rooms were mostly painted one color, before the advent of “white-trim-and-colored-walls” as an Amer­i­can design mantra. Recently pre­mier shel­ter mag­a­zines have shown more and more rooms with­out (gasp!) white trim – beau­ti­ful rooms with walls and trim all wrapped up in one rich shade.  Libraries, offices, liv­ing spaces with tra­di­tional or eclec­tic décor — I will admit I was both intrigued and a tad envious.

My office, with its white wood­work, tiny sliv­ers of painted wall and numer­ous por­tals, was a visu­ally dis­tract­ing expe­ri­ence. But the view out the win­dows is lovely and green. Ah, inspi­ra­tion!  Could I erase the line between indoors and out, set­ting my desk in the yard, at least virtually?

Out came my fan decks, search­ing for the per­fect green. But this one is too yel­low, this too blue, this too gray — I felt like Goldilocks.  I decided to use the custom-blended olive green (in Ben­jamin Moore's Aura, nat­u­rally) pre­vi­ously rel­e­gated to those tiny bits of wall — a color I loved, but never had enough of. Green dec­o­rat­ing, with the color green — two favorites rolled into one task.

Down came the five enor­mous bal­loon shades left by the pre­vi­ous owner. Even design­ers need an incen­tive to replace what were clearly cus­tom, albeit weighty and grand­moth­erly, win­dow treat­ments. (Those win­dow treat­ments I hap­pily donated to a fel­low designer's tag sale to raise funds for Komen CT). The influx of light was astounding.

Some­times paint­ing a room sim­ply means mov­ing all the fur­ni­ture into the cen­ter and cov­er­ing it with a tarp.  But is my case, every­thing was already in the cen­ter of the room.  The desk had been nigh impos­si­ble to get through the nar­row door­way, so it was stay­ing. And if it was stay­ing, I was stay­ing too, with files and com­put­ers and projects, oh my!

And those six, over­stuffed book­cases?  All needed to be emp­tied, onto the floor of this not overly large room. Stacks and stacks to be nav­i­gated around, sorted through and even­tu­ally re-shelved.  Surely I can endure the dis­rup­tion for a week? A lit­tle voice in my head is won­der­ing if there really is any­thing wrong with white book­cases and trim. Hun­dreds of books made their way to the town library. Part­ing is such sweet sorrow.

But I car­ried on – and the result is truly… lush.  That’s the best way to describe my home office’s new aura (no pun intended), like sit­ting in a rain for­est.  Those of you who thrive in all-white spaces may shud­der, but this room now embraces me in glo­ri­ous, warm, con­tem­pla­tive color. The new, spare Roman shades, in Quadrille’s Conga Line (moss & aqua on tint) trimmed with Robert Allen’s Cabin Weave (surf), add a funky vibe with­out being cliché. It feels so like work­ing out­side, I’m tempted to swat the mosquitoes.

cabin weave Robert Allen

cabin weave from Robert Allen in surf

Roman shades in Quadrille's Conga Line

roman shades against rich mossy trim

Sorry, can’t show the rest of the room with­out blow­ing the mys­tique that design­ers live in pris­tine spaces. It’s a work­ing home office that looks like total dis­ar­ray – and not in an art­ful, dressed-for-a-magazine way!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

tuesday musings: SHED and the meaning of sustainable design

Sat­ur­day morn­ing at Yale Uni­ver­sity School of Art (New Haven CT), I attended SHED, spon­sored by AIGA CT and Mohawk Paper.  Billed as “an open dis­cus­sion about cul­ture, hap­pi­ness, con­sumerism, design and the future of our planet”, I was intrigued. One of the pil­lars of the inte­rior design indus­try must surely be con­sumerism, so maybe I could learn a few tricks to rec­on­cile the drive for new inte­ri­ors with the bur­den this puts upon the planet.

Living priciples SHED Connecticut

The panel of “four amaz­ing social good thinkers and doers” included: Mod­er­a­tor Julie Lasky, Edi­tor of Change Observer; Eric Ben­son, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Graphic Design at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois and Founder of Re-Nourish; Neil Brown, Asso­ciate Cre­ative Direc­tor at Bar­num Design and founder of Salt­Space; Aaris Sherin, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Graphic Design at St. John's Uni­ver­sity and author of Sus­tain­Able. Each offered their view­points on the sus­tain­able design work they are cur­rently engaged in – read more on their respec­tive websites.

Lee Moody from Mohawk introduces SHED Connecticut speakers

Lee Moody from Mohawk intro­duces SHED Con­necti­cut speakers

Design panel at SHED Connecticut

L to R: Julie Lasky, Eric Ben­son, Neil Brown, Aaris Sherin at SHED Connecticut

While much of the dis­cus­sion focused on graphic design, there was crossover to other seg­ments of the design indus­try. Eric Ben­son dis­cussed the idea of “emo­tional sus­tain­abil­ity” and the need to engage empa­thy in order for peo­ple to care about this (or any) issue.  Neil Brown expounded on the need to edu­cate oth­ers about sus­tain­abil­ity and empower them to design change. His point – peo­ple will be the instru­ments of change, not tech­nol­ogy nor gov­ern­ments, but indi­vid­u­als within small com­mu­nity units. From my view­point as an inte­rior designer, this dove­tails with what I and other col­leagues say: our job is to edu­cate clients about sus­tain­able choices and one by one, ini­ti­ate change.

designer treasures at SHED Connecticut

design­ers brought trea­sures to SHED Con­necti­cut for a swap

Aaris Sherin posed the ques­tion: how can you as a designer make the world a bet­ter place? As Neil pointed out, design is a think­ing process for solv­ing prob­lems. Design­ers can and should con­nect what we are doing in our com­mu­ni­ties, using our skill sets, to fos­ter solu­tions for the com­mu­nity as a whole. Inte­rior design­ers like myself pro­vide com­mu­nity sup­port through local char­ity show house events like Designer Spaces & Mar­ket Places and Junior League of Hartford's Dec­o­ra­tor Show Houses — rais­ing funds for non-profit orga­ni­za­tions by doing what we do best. Graphic design­ers can sup­port com­mu­nity through ini­tia­tives like Design is Love.  Apply your skills in any way that feels best, but make an effort to engage in your com­mu­nity – sus­tain­able design is also about sus­tain­ing people.

Most applic­a­ble to inte­rior design­ers, Ms. Sherin spoke about the “tyranny of things” and how so many peo­ple labor under the bur­den of their “stuff”. The exam­ple cited was a $200 teapot, pur­chased for the long term. Many agreed this was a won­der­ful con­cept, to pur­chase the best qual­ity and keep it for life. But how to rec­on­cile that ideal with the masses of peo­ple who can never afford that $200 teapot? Should they spend $10 on the Wal­mart teapot to be dis­posed of in a year? Never buy a teapot at all? For the pro­duc­ers of the $200 teapot – how do they sus­tain their busi­ness if they only sell one teapot to a con­sumer, ever? Should the $10 teapot man­u­fac­turer be dri­ven out of busi­ness – what hap­pens to their employ­ees? So many lay­ers of peo­ple affected by every aspect of the sus­tain­abil­ity dis­cus­sion. How will con­tin­ual con­sump­tion work going forward?

Eric Ben­son offered this thought, so applic­a­ble to inte­rior design: anthro­po­mor­phize the objects’ char­ac­ter­is­tics to cre­ate an endur­ing impor­tant rela­tion­ship where “dis­pos­able” becomes an unfash­ion­able and ulti­mately unthink­able con­cept. Wow, right? Think about the objects you live with – do you love them? Do they nur­ture you and your fam­ily? Do they func­tion in a way that sus­tains you? If not, then SHED them. There is surely some­one who will trea­sure that which you no longer do. Pass it on, pay it for­ward, freecy­cle – call it what you will, just do it.

my SHED Connecticut treasure

my SHED Con­necti­cut trea­sure finds a new home with Danielle Garrick

Ulti­mately, sus­tain­abil­ity is about mind­ful­ness. The busy­ness of our lives dis­tracts us from the deci­sions we make every day with every pur­chase. Make a con­sid­ered deci­sion to replace some­thing, don’t let it be auto­matic. It’s okay to want some­thing new or more func­tional or sim­ply more beau­ti­ful, only con­sider where it comes from and where the piece being replaced is going. You don’t have to raise chick­ens on your high-rise bal­cony to live sus­tain­ably (unless you want to, of course). All you have to do is think.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

tuesday musings: sustainable interior design and you

By now, you’ve all heard the mantras “go green” and “reduce, reuse, recy­cle”. I’m pos­i­tive you are incor­po­rat­ing recy­cling into your daily lives.  And no doubt you’ve heard many a mar­ket­ing cam­paign claim­ing ‘green’ ben­e­fits for this and that prod­uct.  Inte­rior design usu­ally involves replac­ing, ren­o­vat­ing or restor­ing a built envi­ron­ment, so inte­rior design­ers are uniquely posi­tioned to offer sus­tain­able design solu­tions at the begin­ning of a project. By def­i­n­i­tion, “sus­tain­able design seeks to reduce neg­a­tive impacts on the envi­ron­ment, and the health and com­fort of build­ing occupants.”

Last week’s #int­de­sign­er­chat on Twit­ter focused on green design. (Click here to access the tran­script – chat is every Tues­day at 6pm ET, with a dif­fer­ent topic each week). Par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed sus­tain­able prac­tices they use in their busi­nesses and the best ways to help clients embrace sus­tain­able design. The major­ity of design­ers (on the chat) believe it is their job to edu­cate clients on avail­able sus­tain­able options.

Low or zero VOC paint is the most com­mon rec­om­men­da­tion to clients. It is easy to spec­ify, most clients have heard of the issue with VOC and every major paint man­u­fac­turer offers low or zero VOC alter­na­tives. If you hate the smell of paint lin­ger­ing three days after the job is done, invest the extra dol­lars up front for this paint. It’s not just the smell – it’s the chem­i­cals you, your chil­dren and your pets are breath­ing in.  For days. Ugh!

Most design­ers agree that qual­ity is key for fur­ni­ture to stand the test of time. Buy­ing the best qual­ity you can afford elim­i­nates the need to replace things, and if tastes change, well-made fur­ni­ture can always find a home with some­one else. Antiques and re-purposed fur­ni­ture define the “reuse” label because they elim­i­nate the need to buy some­thing new alto­gether. An added ben­e­fit is lit­tle or no off-gas from glues or fin­ishes. When spec­i­fy­ing refin­ished fur­ni­ture, design­ers have eco-friendlier options from which to choose.  Another option is using reclaimed wood to make new some­thing new. Counter Evo­lu­tion in Brook­lyn turns old bowl­ing lanes into mod­ern, rus­tic furniture!

cus­tom din­ing fur­ni­ture by counterevolution

Design­ers across var­i­ous seg­ments of the indus­try offer tips for choos­ing sus­tain­able. Light­ing spe­cial­ists rec­om­mend CFLs and LEDs. Tile man­u­fac­turer Mod­walls cites recy­cled glass tile and renew­able cork as green options. Tex­tile pro­duc­ers encour­age organic and nat­ural mate­ri­als. Every­one agrees buy­ing locally (coun­try of ori­gin) cuts down on emissions.

mod­walls verid­ian recy­cled glass tile blend

As a con­sumer, what does sus­tain­able design mean to you? Do you ask for green alter­na­tives? There are some peo­ple who con­sider less than a totally green lifestyle to be a fail­ure and pur­chas­ing any­thing new (or heaven for­bid, lux­u­ri­ous) to be a bad thing. I am not one of those peo­ple. On the bell curve of life, there are a lot more of us in the mid­dle than on the tail ends! I believe con­scious choices every day con­tribute to the over­all greater, greener good. I think tex­tile designer Karen Young, owner of Ham­mocks and High Tea, summed it up best: “It's impor­tant to know that green is attain­able. No need [for city dwellers] to plant farms & milk cows. Small changes work collectively.”

tea towel from Ham­mocks and High Tea — 100% cer­ti­fied organic cot­ton twill, printed in the US with water based non-toxic inks.

I’d love to know: what does sus­tain­able inte­rior design mean to you?

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