Q: What do you think “good design” is?
A: Ohhhhh boy this is a juicy one - to me, good design includes all FIVE of these things -
ie. Sense of purpose
Using a sofa for example -
If it’s a sofa in your main living area - aesthetics aside - it should be comfortable AND functional for how you use that space.
Meaning, for New Yorkers / small spacers, it needs to wear MANY hats… for me it means it should:
Be deep enough for my partner and I to snuggle up on
have armrests, because laptopping on the sofa is inevitable.
Have a high enough seat height for dinner guests to perch comfortably and hold a drink on
Have a tall enough back so that my partner’s 6’-3” frame is supported
Be solid quality - NOT fast furniture quality - as it will be used all the time for years to come.
Repeat this process of functional box ticking with every object in the home per its unique purpose(s) to the inhabitants. WABAM.
ie. Sense of geographic place / history / culture
On a visual front - tying back to your sense of place can be done in many ways -
In historical neighborhoods, this happens effortlessly within old buildings that have been mindfully kept up. Structures that have been there 100+ years create a natural link to our sense of place, and exist as a reminder of how we got to where we are now.
In newer construction, this can be done with vintage home items, or on an energetic level, with a clear intention on where you source your home goods from..
If you’ve ever noticed when you go and stay in an airbnb where every single thing is brand new, and the space is sparingly used in a consistent way - that space HOLDS ONTO that feeling of transience, of not knowing where it came from or where it’s meant to go. To me, that’s why I never quite FEEL at home in those kind of sterile, all-new, environments.
This feeling of ROOTEDNESS is an often unspoken, but to me - crucial - aspect of good design. It’s not always something you can pinpoint visually, but it’s something that can be clearly felt. Because if you don’t know where you’ve come from, how can you know where you’re going?
3… SENSE OF VISUAL BALANCE
ie. Spatial harmony
I like to think of a room as a conversation amongst objects. The floor, walls, ceiling, furniture, and lighting are all like people in a conversation. They each take up space and engage with one another in different ways.
The rooms (and conversations) I like to spend the most time in, contain elements that are all balanced in presence. They work harmoniously with one another, shifting their hierarchy as your gaze drifts throughout the room without things fighting with one another for more presence.
For me, that means they are not all ONE type of person. Their sizes, textures, ages, and back stories, differ, but they still have several things in common. Those commonalities help them to get along swimmingly as the room changes from day to night, year to year, through trial and error, mistakes, and growth.
4… SENSE OF PHYSICALITY
ie. How does it feel under your muscles and against your skin?
I never understand why someone would buy something purely for how it looks instead of how it feels. Actually, I do understand, because I’ve been there, pushing aside the needs of my body for the feast on the eyes.. but… it’s been years now since I’ve put on a pair of skinny jeans, and baby I ain’t ever going back now !!!
I feel this same way about furniture… why someone would design a chair who’s seat is that of a hard flat plane of wood or plastic when our butts are soft and round ?? No clue, it blows my mind.
This is a very personal one, so YOU have to be the one to decide what elements of physicality are most important for you. For me, it means, I will never have a leather sofa, or heavy, cumbersome, un-upholstered dining chairs, or one of those incredible looking marble armchairs that doubles as a sculpture. But that’s just my personal preference.
5… SENSE OF THE GREATER WHOLE
ie. awareness of our connection to everything else in the world
Everything comes from somewhere. Hands that made it, earth that watered it, a seed that grew it.. I mean, do YOU know how to harvest wood for a coffee table, or skin a cow for its hide, or weave and dye fibers to create fabric?
No? Me neither. This is why - home goods ARE generally expensive. In our consumerist, capitalist, colonialist society, it’s VERY easy to forget that things don’t just magically come from a store or an Amazon warehouse - poof - that can be here in 24 hours or less.
To me the sustainability and exploitation problem in design is not JUST an issue of poor business practices or that we need to buy “better things”.. It’s also a CONSUMER problem of buying too much, too quickly, and throwing away so much without slowing down to really think about what it is that we are actually doing.
This is an incredibly layered and complex subject, but my one word of advice to start, is to stop. Stop everything. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now exhale. And then another one. Inhale. Hold it. And exhale. And do it once or twice more…
Now, whenever you feel stressed, or pressured, or overwhelmed….breathe.
Giving yourself some space to breath can make alllll the difference.
*To SUBMIT a question for the design Q&A -email me !