Friday, June 18, 2010

Truth in Design

Honesty in art & design...  It's often a very elusive thing to achieve.  I find that I'm constantly searching for an understanding of how to create honest, true, "real" designs.  It's not an easy task and one that I've made it a goal to get better at through the years.   

{Darryl Carter in his DC townhome featured in Elle Decor, photo by Simon Upton}

Much of my design work comes from logic, careful planning & attention to balance, scale, color, harmony...  but then the other part of it comes straight from my gut.  (I think this is how it is with many people)  It's that "gut" aspect that can't be forced.  That has to be real & honest and current.  It's not a recreation of what's already there, but a new concept...  something created or incorporated to spark a feeling.  

{Our living room}

In his lecture Some Hints on Pattern Designing  (delivered on October 4th 1899)  textile designer, artist, socialist, and writer William Morris said, "Every work of man which has beauty in it must have some meaning also; that the presence of any beauty in a piece of handicraft imples that the mind of the man who made it was more or less excited at the time, was lifted somewhat above the commonplace; that he had something to communicate to his fellows which they did not know or feel before, and which they would never have known or felt if he had not been there to force them to it."

{portrait of Willian Morris by George Frederic Watts}

I haven't been able to get it out of my head because it's just so true.  The words "I'm so excited about..." come out of my mouth (and often onto the blog!) pretty regularly...  (Hence the overabundance of exlamation points you're used to seeing here ;)  Now I'm not saying that what I'm necessarily excited about is anything new to anyone else, but to me it's new, and the potential for beauty I see is exciting to me... My goal with every project I do is to create something that is new for my clients & provokes a feeling that they would not have without my design...  To spark a feeling, to create a mood, to set the perfect (in the realest sense) backdrop for my clients' lives.

{Women's Shelter bedroom by me & Rebecca Ilgenfritz}

To do this, a design has to be true & honest.  It can't be a copy or an imitated-version of another room.  Anyone can do that and I wouldn't want to pay someone to do it for me.  Because each person, each family is different, their homes should reflect their uniqueness.  One of my favorite parts of meeting new clients is helping them figure out their personal styles.  And then taking that style and applying it to the mood of a room, because even someone with a self-described "casual elegant" style may want a room that makes him or her feel happy or a room that makes him or her feel alert or relaxed or calm or whatever.  There are different goals for different spaces in a home, and I love figuring out the desired mood/ feeling in a space and to set about making it a reality.  Again, to create a truth or an environment that did not exist before the design came to life.

There are so many different levels and depths to decorating/ design.  So many goals and so many desires.  Some people's desires are more surface-grazing: a beautiful room that they and the people who visit their home will love...  It's well-designed and often complimented.  Others want a home that is updated and comfortable: Does it have hardwood floors? Check. Does it have granite counters? Check. Does it have my favorite color? Check. Does it have 'art?' Check.  Pretty and comfortable furnishings? Check.  Is it "pulled together?" Check. And this is totally okay! 

...  But there are others who want something deeper.  Honestly, it's what I'm after.  I want a feeling... It has a "pace" or "speed"...  a level of motion or a "pitch" if that makes any sense.  (See synesthesia if this isn't clear)  My desires for the feeling I want in a room change failry regularly... often seasonally.  But the essence of it remains.

{Our foyer at Christmas}

It can be a new observation or true appreciation for a type of art or a fabric.  When we laugh out loud because of a movie or something we're reading, we often find ourselves saying to ourselves, "that's so true."  (Think of Seinfeld...  observing life's daily monotonies and saying the statement/ observation out loud.  We laugh because of the truth of what he's saying.) 

We also feel other emotions when presented with truths like these in stories or movies, songs,  or to sum it up in all types of "art."  Honest representations have meaning or truth behind them.

{Iwo Jima by}

Like many things there's the cheeseburgers and the prime rib...  (I think Stephen King said this??)  But sometimes  you are in the mood for a cheeseburger and sometimes you're in the mood for prime rib.  Although prime rib is widley regarded as "better" than a cheeseburger, the best cheeseburger in the world is better than a poorly cooked prime rib.  Think of design/decorating like that.  In honesty, in creating what is "real,"  you can create the perfect cheeseburger, and isn't that better than making a crappy prime rib?  My point is be what you are.  When you design, design for the space and the client at hand.  Beautiful things like crown molding exists, and when used in the correct spaces, are perfection, but just because crown molding exists and is beautiful and you can do it, does not mean it is right for every space and will necessarily make your space look beautiful.  (The same applies especially for granite countertops!! ;)  Honesty in design is appropriateness. Do what you do and do it well.  Don't worry about it being what everyone else is doing or what's "in" or "out."  It needs timeless appeal to you and/ or your client.

{image from}

Our house is a cheeseburger and we've tried to make it the best cheeseburger ever for us:  which would be one with lots of garlic and basil added into the meat, and even sometimes carrot puree.  A lot of people might not like all that stuff in their burgers...  So, even the "best" cheeseburger for us isn't necessarily the "best" to others and might not have mass appeal, but we love it and we live here. 

{The Something's Gotta Give Living Room via Cote de Texas}

However, many of the rooms that we (design-lovers) do fall in love with, are seemingly personalized spaces, because we appreciate how perfect and appropriate the space is for the people who live there.  (Think of the Something's Gotta Give House, above.  People (me included) feel head over heels for this it!!)  We appreciate the honesty in creating a space that's both highly personal and beautiful.  We take inspiration from these rooms and cherish our magazine tear pages. The inspiration should translate into learning,  reinterpretation, personalization and creating...  not necessarily copying if we're trying to actually create something new, something with its own soul....  something that wouldn't have existed if we didn't create it.


I am still learning and know it's a lifelong process.  I know there's still so much more to know.  There's a potential that I hope to reach and I know I'm not even close to it.  I don't say this to be vain, but because I'm sure you feel it too.  We all have this potential we're striving to reach...  to learn to create a truly honest design. 

Sorry to get all heavy on a Friday but I just had to get some thoughts out. :)  See you Monday and get excited about the weekend!!  ;)

xoxo, Lauren


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