Friday, February 26, 2010

Are There Dahlias in the Garden?

Writing seems to take up more and more of my time these days, and happily so. Funny though, it feels more like coming around full circle than veering off in a different direction, for I realize that I have used the writer part of my brain throughout my career as an interior decorator.

Several years ago, at the close of a large renovation project for a couple of delightful clients, the wife pulled me aside and told me that one of the reasons I was hired was because of something their architect had told them about me. “She never does the same thing twice”, he had said. I had to laugh. He is right, I know. Although I love creating rooms for my clients, I have come to realize that I show up to the process as much like a writer as a designer, for I tend to create a narrative for each person with whom I work, a story written down in my mind from the myriad of clues I am given, an invisible book to refer to as I design a home for them and them alone. It is a method of working that has always been fairly unconscious with me, but one that has never yet failed. So many times, during the second meeting with a client when I show them my ideas, they have looked up and asked, “how did you know?”
There was the lovely emigre from Norway, she of the ice blonde colouring and love of the sea. The older couple who, despite their current ultra-conservatism, had obviously been hippies long ago in their youth. The affable lawyer with the octagonal library that was stocked floor to ceiling with science fiction and mysteries.
To follow a set formula for all of these wonderfully different individuals would have been a deeply misguided plan from which to work. They might have been presented with rooms that looked magazine ready, but they might never have felt at home inside them, and that is forever my ultimate goal.
Upon meeting a client for the first time, I always study them much more than I study the measurements of their rooms. Those can come later, I am busy observing other things. What shoes are they wearing, where were they born, where do they holiday? I notice their refrigerator magnets, their hairstyles, the books in their bookcases. I pay close attention to the names of their pets, the size of their earrings, the snacks on their counter.
Are there dahlias in the garden?
Is that jazz playing in the background?
Is there a bicycle on the porch?
When the time comes to renovate or redo our dwellings, we should all aspire to create beauty in our surroundings, for beauty is a quality that elevates the soul and enriches the spirit. Place some fresh flowers in a vase by your bedside and see what I mean. But that beauty should speak to us of our truest selves, envelop us with the things we hold dear. For no matter the decorating trends of the day, every home should be as individual as the people who live there. Then, and only then, can we be truly happy at home.

"To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition"
Samuel Johnson