Call for an estimate today

Self-Conscious Design

June 4, 2012

The article titled “Home Design Fever is Reaching an Epidemic,” by Steven Kurutz of  The New York Times explores the phenomenon of homes that are styled for up-to-the-minute panache, but lack a sense of the owners’ personalities.

He uses current trends of stag heads on walls and terrariums (precious little plants under glass) as examples of decorating objects that are used for their popularity, instead of saying anything about what the residents actually do.

Kurutz is making a judgement about an overabundance of style, which is a false display of someone else’s interesting life.  So, you can be a couch potato, but if you display beautiful coffee table books about exotic travel and tasteful objects you can appear to have a fabulous life and aesthetic.

My friend Lois recently announced quite dramatically that she had the BEST idea for my next blog, and it happens to be this very subject, but with a slightly different slant.  She bemoans the lack of warmth and real life clutter in people’s homes today, at least that is the impression if you believe decorating magazines and newspaper features.

She feels that amateurs, and possibly some professional designers, are slaves to an ideal.  Perfectionism, open space, clean lines, minimalism, downsizing, organization and editing mean fewer framed travel photos, fewer family pictures and no children’s art hung on fridge doors.

It also means we don’t haul home vases and sombreros from distant lands to display proudly in our homes anymore, for fear of being judged by our décor savvy friends and family.  In the case of the sombrero—not a bad thing.

We are too self-concious about our own decorating choices and we don’t have enough confidence to show who we really are in our homes.

This also means that there is a lack of individuality in our homes, and decorating magazines seem to feature the exact same kitchen and living room over and over and over in every issue.

Kurutz quoted Elaine Miller, who writes the design blog Decorno, “People are insanely self-conscious.  People act like they’re always being watched.  Even their house is a performance.”

Lois wants us to be genuine, loosen up and proudly display our own personalities, not someone else’s.

I may be accused of being a designer without a specific look, but that’s OK with me.  I prefer to combine a client’s personal style with my own vision, a curated selection of what’s available in the marketplace, including only trends that make sense for them.  My goal is to creatively blend their cherished possessions with great new finds.

I also like the challenge of solving dilemmas with creative solutions, not just selling cookie -cutter, sure thing trendy looks.  Here is an example.  My client’s ten year old daughter wanted to have no less than seven distinct and bright colours on the walls of her bedroom.  “It will be so ugly!” protested her mother.  My solution was to install picture frames on the palest of spring green walls, each painted in one of the seven jewel toned colours.  These would be installed above a waiscotting of chalkboard paint under a chair-rail.  Within the frames they would install corkboards or magnetic boards (sheet metal with magnets).  These framed areas would allow her to express herself by posting pictures, cards, magazine clippings and mementos.  She would also draw and write messages to her heart’s content on the blackboard wainscotting.  This child will have more opportunity to express herself artistically than she could ever imagine.  She will have all of her favourite colours on display and her parents won’t get a headache every time they look into her room.

As my story illustrates, it is possible to display an individual’s personality tastefully, and create a very custom décor, it just takes a little creativity.  As a designer I can objectively evaluate a client’s desires (even a ten year old’s) and use my experience and knowledge of the marketplace to bring a fresh point of view to a perceived problem.  The seven colours seemed impossible when the clients thought their only choice was to use them as wall paint.

Stay tuned for a future story about a one-of-a kind office that I am designing for a creative fast-growing tech firm in Waterloo.  They want a design that does not conform to current trends, one that inspires them and allows their guests to be both impressed and comfortable.  It will be a refreshing departure from typical office design, no office systems furniture or trendy industrial chic for them.

I am enjoying the opportunity to work with these non-conformist clients.  Maybe the ten year old with the colourful aesthetic will become a creative entrepreneur in the future with a very confident personal style.

Let’s start a dialogue about personal design.   Do you feel that you have it mastered in your home or office, or are you or someone you know too self-conscious to be original?  Do you believe a designer can help you create your personal style, or do you fear that this is impossible?   Do you love to decorate using the latest trends and think that those who don’t just don’t get it?  Please share a comment below and bookmark this site.  Thanks!  Adele

About Adele Barrett

Adele Barrett is a consulting interior designer in Hamilton and Dundas. Over twenty years of conferences and continuing education classes keep Adele Barrett Interiors design practice both on trend and timelessly classic. She started collecting paint chips from the local lumber yard when she was 3 years old, and a seed was planted that grew into a career. Continue reading...