Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the Shadow of the Ubiquitous “They”

A while back I met with a client for a consultation. She took me through her house, pointing out all the things she was unhappy with, and they were legion. I could see the consternation on her face as she conveyed to me her frustration over her inability to get her house “just right”. She then told me the one thing a designer hates to hear upon the first meeting with a client. I was her fifth decorator. As I toured her home I tried to give her ideas on how she could brighten a corner here, improve a seating arrangement there, all the while she feverishly wrote down every word I said. Finally, when I suggested that she showcase an impressive collection of antique plates on a wall in her kitchen, she looked up from her writing and asked in a worried tone, “is that what they’re doing now?”. Oh , “
they”, are everywhere, watching, peering in the windows, hiding in the dressing rooms, lurking in the mirrors, of everyone. How do we ever please “them”? I could now understand clearly why this poor woman was on to her fifth decorator.
In my profession I would imagine there are as many different takes on design as there are designers. I truly feel that for any of us to do our jobs successfully, we need to be able to interpret our client’s tastes and personalities and reflect those into their surroundings. The joy for me is in creating an atmosphere where the client feels most comfortable, most at home, one that reflects who they really are. However, finding out who they are sometimes takes more than a wee bit of spelunking on my part. Clients can often be reluctant to express their true selves in fear of stepping over some imaginary line, or displeasing some squinty group of tastemakers. You know, “they”. My advice, Forget Them! Learn who you are and celebrate those truths. It is suffocating to live in surroundings that are more “correct” than comfortable.
For those unsure of their likes and dislikes,
and there are many I’ve found, begin to educate your eye. Visit art museums, read shelter magazines. Banish any judgmental spectre who may be looking over your shoulder and really ponder why you respond to certain art forms or designs in negative or positive ways. The more you do this, the more you will begin to learn about yourself - what makes you happy, what makes you content in your surroundings.
Of course, if everyone took this advice to the nth degree,
I suppose I would be out of a job. I do realize that pattern, scale, lighting, etc.etc. can be daunting waters for some people to navigate. Ideas and guidance that spring from experience are often needed. But my role, as I see it, is as an interpreter, not a dictator. The most satisfying part of my profession is the successful creation of rooms that perfectly frame a unique client. The best compliment I’ve ever been given as a designer? “She never does the same room twice!” No two people are alike and, hopefully, my work will illustrate that. So, celebrate your individuality! Celebrate it in the look of your home, in the clothes you choose to wear, in the way you live your life.
After all, life is way too short to try to please “

vintage vogue magazine illustration


  1. Oh, I loved this post! You are preaching my mantra. Yes, who are "they" anyway??

    Lovely vogue ad, too!

  2. I just so agree with you! There is a lot of snobism in the world of decor which should be resisted by sensible like you, and Melissa who pointed out to me a solution so simple, I hadn't even considered it. Tsk! I was a victim of deco porn magazines without knowing it!

  3. Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog - I've had a lovely time reading through your writings. This particular post was great - I couldn't agree more. It must be incredibly tiring to have to wonder all the time what 'they' are doing and whether or not one should 'keep up'. Is it a matter of age, I wonder? I've reached the stage where I like what I like, and if someone else doesn't ... tough!

    Take care :-)

  4. Great advice! I don't think you'll be out of a job though, because even if you know what you like, someone like you with your intuitive eye and skill can help the client make what fits their personality happen!

  5. I love your philosophy.
    Poor lady.

  6. "They" and "Them"....ptooey. The 'phantom menace'.

    Entering one's home should make the heart warm, the soul find can only accomplish this state of affairs if one is "to thine own self be true".

    I especially would like to banish the "stick to neutrals" gang!

  7. wonderfully said! Her fifth decorator. too funny - but sad still. Good luck with her - did she keep you or move on?

  8. Hi and Thanks for leaving the nice message on my blog. I love yours. If this image above, from Vogue isn't one of my favorite illustrators (Christian "Bebe" Berrard), I will fry you a pie! LOVE his work.

    Wherever do you find your early Twentieth Century illustrations. They are fantastic. Some of my favorite illustrators!

    Re: this post. Diana Vreeland said "Elegance is Refusal", Refusal to second guess one's self.

    (of course, Diana would say ANYTHING. In this case, it's true.
    Gret blog! Thanks for the hello to my Sophie.


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