Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Designing Thoughts

I have an unabashed love of exuberant rooms; those creative and colourful interiors that speak such engrossing volumes about the individuals who live within them. To me, there is nothing more enticing than a home filled to pop with books, collections, patterns, textures, antiques, paintings, flowers and dogs... rooms artfully arranged - a bit dramatic, and eminently comfortable. The English Country House style, although admittedly fictionalized a bit, has always made my heart sing and it is a style certainly reflected in my own home. This of course does not mean that I cannot appreciate other avenues and other approaches to design. Indeed, one of the more enjoyable challenges of my profession are the projects that require a jump or two outside my personal taste and total immersion in another. I have created many varied interiors for my clients, from all white romantic country to sleek sophisticated urban, but no one could ever call me a minimalist. The straight lines and stark colours of the minimalist style leave me a bit chilled. It appears I have a kindred spirit in the British furniture designer, Mark Wilkinson. Known best for his gorgeous kitchens, Mr. Wilkinson has a rollicking interview in the latest issue of The English Home; an interview that left me nodding and chuckling a bit. Here is his quote on the reason why he is not a fan of minimalism. While I would not express myself quite as stridently as he on the subject - especially in that first sentence - I do think he has a wonderful philosophy on the importance of interior design as the vital art form that I feel it is.

“...Minimalism is a kind of emotional bankruptcy...a refuge for those who do not understand the grammar of ornamentation or the symbolism of colour. I can see and make an argument for design being the most profound and enlightening of art forms. A play or piece of literature by Shakespeare is very effective, a painting by Monet or Van Gogh especially is shudderingly expressive, a piece of music by Rachmaninoff, by Elgar, by John Lee Hooker, whomever, can be very effective, but you don’t live with the piece of music playing in your ear. The voice of design is softer. It doesn’t have the same volume of other artistic mediums but it is all-powerful and all-persuasive by virtue of the fact that it is there subliminally all the time that your eyes are open. If we put people in surroundings of wonder, they express that sense of wonder, of beauty, of joy and that’s what you should be doing with design. Why create an environment that says, “I’m not here to look nice cluttered.” I want to walk into an environment that says, “hello mate, been working hard all day? Take off your shoes, that’s ok...”

The photo above is of the famed Yellow Room of Nancy Lancaster and is often referenced as the definitive example of English Country House Style.