This week a great blog post on Momastery has been making the rounds (check it out if you haven't already). Author Glennon Doyle Melton describes the unsolicited advice she received to update her kitchen in response to a photo she had posted. Initially, she takes the bait and starts to consider a remodeling project, but then adjusts her perspective to overlook the outdated tile and appreciate the incredible bounty of her fully-functioning first-world kitchen. I loved her message, delivered with a big dose of humor, and when she said this I practically stood up and cheered in my living room:
"Sometimes it seems our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings."
So many industries profit by making women in particular feel inadequate. The businesses of beauty, fashion, fitness, weddings, parenting, and yes, interior design, are all guilty of it. The message is that we are constantly at risk of falling behind on the latest trend or product or technology. Thinking through this as a design professional I can't help but wonder if am I part of the problem.
I made a shift mid-career and went back to school for interior design because I believe good design can improve quality of life by increasing accessibility, functionality, and positive emotional impact of the built environment. I'm now working as a designer and people typically seek me out because they want to update their spaces. How can I help them navigate my industry without contributing to the unnecessary consumption of stuff?
I recently helped a client update her space without replacing any of the major pieces of furniture. She has a colonial-style dining table and chairs that doesn't really fit with her more modern tastes. We talked it through and decided these pieces still function well and are in great condition, so it didn't make sense for her to invest in a new set. With the old wallpaper removed and a new coat of paint on the walls the space looks current, and keeping that table and chairs makes for a more interesting mix of styles. This is just one way of redecorating while minimizing expenses and environmental impact. Here are a few more:
1. Shop your house. Most of us have lots of things stored away because we don't have room for everything. Go digging in the closets and basement for "new" furnishings.
2. Rearrange. We often live with our things in one place for so long it gets hard to imagine them anywhere else. Try shifting artwork and rugs to a different room, or place your furniture in a layout you've never tried before.
3. Repurpose or modify what you already own. Changing the hardware on your kitchen cabinets or dresser can give it new life. Paint can work magic. If you're not the do-it-yourself type find someone who is.
4. If you decide to make a purchase be practical so that your things will last. Be honest about how you and the members of your household use your spaces and furnishings. No matter how gorgeous that white sofa looks in a catalog it is probably not the best choice for a busy home with kids and pets.
5. Adjust your thinking. This is the most important idea and what Melton urges us to do. Appreciate what you have and create a home that is comfortable and beautiful to you and your family, not one that follows the latest trend. Develop a critical eye for images in shelter publications and on design sites. They are staged and lit for the photo, no more real than photoshopped models in fashion magazines.
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Make it fab!