Thursday, July 21, 2011

{thoughts on interior decor ...}

Any one been following Bravo's latest hit Million Dollar Decorators? While it is very entertaining, I have to admit that it doesn't paint the best picture of high-end professional designers. I've even read a fellow blogger's post exclaiming that after she watched the first episode she had the sudden urge to quit her job! What I think is the most striking is the level of shallowness associated with decor that is portrayed. It really got me thinking, is this field that I adore so much just a bunch of showy and unnecessary fluff?? What is the goal we are trying to achieve?

Ok, gotta admit I am in love with Mary's style, those red doors with oversized pulls get me every time!

Then it came to me: No, it's not all as shallow as this show would make it seem. A decorator's true goal is to enrich people's everyday lives. It's to bring function and beauty to some one's home, not to tell them what they can and can't have in their home. This can't be a true representation of the industry. I really believe interior design does not have to be pretentious and out-of-touch. These thoughts have been floating around my mind for the passed few weeks, and I even had a great discussion about it with friends at work. We talked about the fact that families do desire beauty and comfort in their homes, and that this is a legitimate desire. Good design and decor can change a families every day life! This took the discussion on a whole other tangent ... children are as affected by decor as adults are.

This is an important point to realize, how many decor/home reno shows have you seen where the kids are just as thrilled with a home makeover as their parents? And I'm not just talking about their bedrooms, I'm talking kitchens and living rooms and the like!! The first season of Sarah 101 featured a beautiful kitchen reno, and I distinctly remember the homeowner mentioning that the kids now LOVED to do there homework in the space and just generally hang out there. Now that's what design should aim to accomplish, don't you think?

My friends made a few good points; first that they could distinctly remember thinking certain friends had 'really nice homes,' that they wanted to visit, and a few even admitted they were too embarrassed by their own homes to invite their friends over!! And remember the days when people kept the somewhat 'sterile' living room a child-free zone and certain furnishings were off-limits? I'm sensing that those days are fading ... good design should be comfortable and accessible to every one in the family. So, coming back full circle, decorating does not have to appear shallow, showy and unnecessary. Good design is as important to us 'average' people as it is to those with a million dollar budget.

I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this topic. And just out of curiousity, do you have any experiences/memories of being affected by design as a young child? Do you have children who have already shown signs of being affected by their surroundings? What do you think a designer's aim should be?


christine {bijouandboheme} said...

This is such a fabulous post Nancy- I clearly remember feeling so proud/happy after my parents would renovate/redecorate...definitely left and impression on me. I think like everyone, children are affected by their environment...just the act of taking pride in your home and teaching them to do the same goes a long way in my books.

Kelly @ JAX does design said...

Great post, Nancy. You hit the nail on the head - decorating and designing should be about creating pretty, comfortable, and functional spaces for the people (and pets!) who live in them.

When I was a kid, I had a friend who was never allowed in the living room of her house. If there was ever a footprint in the carpet, her mom would have a fit and whip out the vacuum to create those perfect vacuum lines. Crazy! A house is meant to me lived in, it's not a museum!

BTW, LOVE those red doors with the amazing hardware!

Brandi said...

Amazing topic Nancy! I don't have children or even friends with children yet but I can comment on function in design. As a child, I ALWAYS cared about my decor, but that was inevitable I guess. I used to save up my money to buy things for my room and rearrange the furniture monthly. Now since my only constraints are a clumsy husband and two dogs I definitely have to weigh that with all of my choices. That's why I got a couch with a slipcover and covered some indoor furniture with outdoor fabric. I can't go crazy protecting precious items. Who has the time?! These shows are popular because of the drama!

MRS said...

After seeing one of the first commercials for Million Dollar Decorators, I quickly went to record the series. But you're right, the shows have been more about fabulous and ridiciulous the designers are than their creativity and elements of the designs.
I grew up in a house with "average" design, where my parents selected matching furniture and whatever was popular at the time. Keeping things, clean, neat and tidy were always important, and bright welcoming rooms.
Now my home varies greatly from the traditional look of my parents, but I still try to achieve the bright, welcoming, and well put together style.
Also, as I gotten older, I realized that a clean home (and office) keeps me on task and focused.
I'm looking forward to including our future children in decor decisions and teaching them about a neat and happy home.

sohappyhome said...

It's interesting, I think of design as being in service to whatever the client needs (children or not), but I found that the MDD show showcased designers who were trying (for the most part) to please themselves. When they were running into drama or unflattering moments it was mainly because they were forgetting to please their clients (I suppose that's when they were acting as artists). Good design should incorporate function first, beauty (and that is in the eye of the beholder) and longevity.

Though I disagree that the show made the profession of interior design look bad - I think some people who are extremely wealthy are also extremely discerning and that can come across as ungrateful, or snobby. It's tough, though, that line between art and service. And what do you do when you disagree with your client? How do you maintain your own aesthetic while pleasing your clients' needs? Not an easy feat, especially at the million dollar budgetary range. At any range it's not easy. Who am I kidding.

Fashionable Interiors said...

I am also an interior decorator, and recently went through a similar thought process of "is this job really meaningful or am I just wasting my time in a shallow career". Shortly after, I received a call from a client who's husband had passed away a few years back and she was ready to redo his man cave into a space for herself to finally enjoy. I felt so much better knowing I was going to help someone move on with their life and put them in a happier place. So there, to all who say interior decorators are meaningless!

Kathysue said...

Nancy I could write a book on this subject. I think when you reach the calliber of these designers you are no longer working for people who are creating a HOME, they are creating a show place that they can name drop the desiners name. It is a whole different quadrant than most of us designers will ever work for or with.
I spent years working in this busines and my main goal was always to leave my client with the HOME they would love. I did not care if it had a Kathysue vibe to it. I went home to the home I loved that makes me smile and I wanted to leave them with a home that would make them smile. I found the show very entertaining and I think I would love to hang out with Mary McDonald or Kathryn Ireland for a day!! Mary is beyond talented and her look is very distinct and she knows exactly what she wants to do. I would like to see more high end designers portrayed in the future. We just all need to realize it is not our goal to become like one of them, or at least I hope it is not the goal of the majority of designers.

Lisa said...

So interesting that you've written about this. I have been watching that show as well and had the same thoughts..I felt somewhat embarrassed to be a designer, some things felt so frivolous! I strive to ensure there is practicality and beauty in my designs, especially when children and pets are in the home. It is their home too!

As a child I would get stressed in messy environments (which was one of my friend's home) but I loved another friend's home for it's eclectic furnishings and books (which were everywhere). It was not the typical matchy, matchy decor of the time.

My children have definitely taken after me all four of them in different ways. One son likes things to be comfortable and stylish, my other son likes to keep things simple, one of my daughters craves cleanliness & tidiness and my other daughter loves an eclectic style. Very interesting for me to see their different styles.

diane said...

well said and my thoughts exactly. That show really upset me and I find myself having to defend what I do for a living. We have worked so hard to get away from that snooty reputation only to have it thrown right back at us.

That being the daughter of a designer I was very affected by my surroundings as is my daughter. I am most comfortable in a well designed and well functioning space whether it ismy own or someone else's.

Marcus Design said...

I am so appreciative of your thoughtful and insightful comments everyone! And I'm eating up every word you have to say, I find this a very interesting topic.

sohappyhome - You bring up an awesome question about what to do when you disagree with your client and to maintain your own aesthetic while pleasing your clients' needs, those are the really tough parts of a designers job, it really isn't easy is it??

{darlene} said...

love love love this post. couldn't agree more!

Gabrielle said...

Fascinating and beautifully written post Nancy! The images also perfectly reflect the content.

I defnitely believe that there is a link between beautiful functional well appointed living spaces and happiness - whether in children or adults.

This made me think of "Hoarders"'s episodes where children were sadly very affected by the state of their houses and their parent's bad habits.

I also think that if you are lucky to have had a happy childhood - the best designs are ones that reflect those memories. My mom's house has always been cozy and warm and always smelled good - I try to reflect the same cozyness in my place and feel happier and more relaxed when the place is tidy, organised, well-lit and when there is something yummy and fragrant cooking in the kitchen :)

Cat said...

First, you all know that much of the "reality" shows are staged. They want people to be at their worse b/c supposedly the viewers love this most. This is one of the reasons I do not watch the majority of "reality" shows. In addition the massive majority of people in the world are way way below below the economic class of any of us (I am assuming the majority of readers of design/decor blogs are in a higher economic class then the majority of the world population). When I look at the the most basic needs that 100s of millions of people don't have (such as clean water,little more then a shack, very poor if any basic education) then yes this is all extremely frivilous. So I am always torn.

Cat said...

PS: I do not think Mary's red doors with the big hardwear is hardly orignal. Didn't the iconic Elizabeth Arden first come up with the "red" door and those big knobs are right out of Dorthy Draper. Ok thanks!

Edins House said...

Such a thought provoking post, Nancy! I think there's a lot to be said for enjoying the space you live in. For me designing interiors supporting comfort and function in a space is just as important as the aesthetic beauty... don't you think that if you sat in a lovely space that wasn't physically comfortable or functional, it's prettiness would diminish? It's appeal lessen? Kids are oftentimes more innately attuned to these things without understanding why. They just "like" a space.

When I was a girl my Mom designed a bedroom that I was sooo in love with! She papered each wall in a pretty red, white & blue flowered paper and she had fabric made that was an exact match and made drapes, bedding... it was a room awash in pretty flowers! She designed an odd shaped desk that dad made and mounted on the wall - the shape allowed for movement around the room and was well though out. In hindsight I now realize that my Mom not only designed a pretty space for me, but she also created function using form. I loved it!!

Macarena Martinez said...

EXCELLENT POST NANCY! You've hit the mark with this topic for it's the ultimate taboo about what decoration is all about. Tons of people look at it as an excentricity only millionaires can afford. But as you stated is about making our houses a home, where everyone should feel at ease and inspired by beauty, real beauty, not distant to our reality, but in conconcordance with our story, likes and way of living. I remember feeling sad when i was young when my mother kept us out of the living room. It was her pride and it was beautiful, but no one could enjoy that room never. It was embarrasing when i was a teenager to give parties at my home and listening mom's preaching about taking care of the Decó. I hated that, and promised myself that one day I'll decorate all the rooms in my house in order to be enjoyable by anyone in the house. I wouldn't complaint now if Max brings his entire class to the house. But if he breaks any of my beloved crafts, I'll make a scene, jaja. I don't watch that show, but it's sad to hear that it protrait Decó as something pretentious or snobby. Hope that from the blogging sphere the change will be done. So people can relate to other "normal" people and star watching Decó as something possible for everyone. You make a great job with that, inspiring all of us with your notes and letting us know about cool trends easy to DIY. Thanks for that! Huge hug and keep this great blogging job you're doing! XoXo

barbara@hodge:podge said...

Wow Nancy, love this! You have said it so well. I too hate watching that show because I CAN'T stand the frivolous waste, I grew up with parents who left a communist regime, were young kids during WWII and had to live to survive. They came to Canada with 2 suitcases.
My mom decorated our home with practicality and pretty but on a meagre budget. Despite having no money our home was always warm and welcoming. It was how she put it together. She made it with her own two hands, sewing, hitting thrift shops and painting. Purchasing furniture was a BIG deal and was purchased with thought. They bought only the best {and they still have it!}
I feel that I hold the same belief, my house is my home but it is also my canvas. I enjoy playing with fabric, colour, furniture, art, etc to create a home that my family can be comfortable in. What I find the best complement is when my kids' friends say they love how our house looks and feels.That they wish their mom's decorated their house with their artwork and with them in mind.
I think a successful designer not only create a look but a feeling as well!

Sarah Klassen said...

I think considering children in design is vital. As you know, I love a more relaxed style, as beautiful as it may be, and appreciate when I see decorators and designers consider the actual family living in the space when making decisions for their home. There is nothing worse to me than a showhome feel for a house. I detest it. Using fabrics that are quality and can withstand washing is so important. However, and I say HOWEVER, I do not believe in child-proofing one's home. It is vital to teach children to respect things in the home. I see so many families remove pieces in their home, rather than teach their children to respect them... no easy task, mind you, but with two brothers (and one being autistic) my Mother taught them both, still!

Okay, that was a long response—sorry, Nancy!

Have a fabulous weekend, my friend,
xx, Sarah

kelly@refresheddesigns. said...

What a great discussion Nancy. I think you are absolutely right in that everyone can and should care about making their home a sanctuary for their whole family. It can be done on any budget and that is what we designers and decorators can help achieve. It is a noble profession.

My mom used to redecorate our home often when I was a kid, and she included me in helping to pick colours, etc. It was a great way express creativity and make the house comfortable for all who live there.

Thanks for this!

Rosa @ flutterflutter said...

Nancy, you did such a great job on this post! I couldn't stop thinking about it last night. I think Ego can make beautiful things seem ugly sometimes... and when design becomes about us, and not our clients needs, then there is a problem. That's how I feel when I've watched that show. Just my two cents.

Vintage Home said...

Couldn't say it more honestly than you and those that have commented! Great Post Nancy very well done ....the show is fascinating in its "how not to behave" lessons!
My home growing up was a great entertaining place and even tho we moved relatively often our parents still loved to create.
My husband & I love antiques and have used them to create a home where our kids have played hard & felt welcome to entertained friends . Even now as they are in their twenties (and our oldest married) they still have friends who say.."hey can we go to your folks house!"....lots of acceptance and food doesn't hurt!
Creating a home where kids are considered is obvious in the amount of time they want to spend there!

Sarah MacMillan {Prairie Perch} said...

I've had similiar thoughts... interior design should serve people. It should create a space where people can enjoy life on their own and with others. It's about function and beauty. It can have a purpose that goes beyond the superficial, but, at the same time, it's easy to get caught up in all the hype. Great post, Nancy.

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