It may seem incredibly nerdy of me, but I love the thrill of finding the thread of life's common themes wherever I go. Have you noticed? It doesn't matter where life takes us, what challenges we are facing, it becomes painfully obvious that there are only so many lessons to be learned. And just as painfully, often much more so, how long it takes us to learn those very few lessons. Last night I had the privilege of attending a conversation Called Big Thinkers at the Connecticut Forum featuring (in?)famous thinker and writer, Malcolm Gladwell and exhaustively (in a good way) learned author/historian/professor/etc, etc, etc Douglas Brinkley. The evening was moderated by NPR powerhouse Michel Martin and with a cast who boast of that many slashes in their titles (not fully listed here) the session was bound to tackle some doozies on the "big thoughts" scale - and did not disappoint.
Now I know it may appear to be an epic stretch of the mind to relate Human Condition deliberations to the pivotal, life and death topic of interior design, but just as much as they have crazy loads of merit when applied to life in general, we can also find insights that help us create spaces that support us as we continue our limitless attempts to learn these universal lessons. Suspend your skepticism for a moment and let's try their Big Thoughts on for size in a completely different context. I bet they stand up in the home just as solidly as they do out in the "real world".
I could - and may - address some of their topics in more depth, but let's get the fire kindled now and we can chop more wood when it's not a Friday afternoon…below are some of my favorite observations and assertions:
*Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. - Henry Ford (as they addressed, Ford would know failure intimately, which explains his great success. Just because you made less-than-optimal decisions for your space doesn't mean you should give up. Try again, fine tune, learn from your mistakes and you will achieve happier spaces for the effort. On the micro-level: don't be afraid to re-hang that picture. It's just a nail. Give it another shot.
*If you don't change your mind, what's wrong with you? Don't let the illusion of final decisions lure you to stagnation. We are not who we were 10 years ago; why would our home be? Just as life is a moving target, our spaces need to be nimble in order to bob and weave with our needs as we grow. Don't let your spaces stagnate at the risk of allowing our minds to do the same.
*Don't regulate your thinking to traditional boxes. Assess and re-organize. Don't let tradition tell you how best to approach your spaces. Like grandma's chair but would rather see it in pink velvet? Love your dad's old toy train, but feel it works better in a frame above your fireplace? Re-approach from a different angle and you may find a result that is more applicable to you and your purposes.
*Participate in the "giant, messy experiment of life". Try it out - see if you are a plaid sofa kind of person. If you only love it for 2 years, re-assess, re-cover and learn from the experience. You may be surprised at what works when you put on the goggles and throw acceptability out the window.
*Inciting passion starts with finding the spark of that passion within others. You will not ever feel like your spaces speaking to your passions if you don't first teach them to speak your language. If you giggle like a giddy school girl when your kitchen whispers in that sultry french accent, get inspired by black & white tile, nouveau ironwork and a killer oven for your next batch of macaroons...
*Instead of fixating on answers, delight in the questions. Don't reach for the history books and recreate a classic Georgian simply so that you know all of the pieces "belong together". Experiment. Figure out what you like about one thing and start a dialog with an unexpected pairing. Let your pieces throw complements back and forth at each other. You will get a much more dynamic result. (ha - did you catch that pun there? Yup. Total nerd.)
*We innately develop compensatory mechanisms for all situations. This means we need counterpoints to what we encounter. You can't have too much of the same thing or you will not get enough of its counterpoint. (Again with the complements. Stop, I'm blushing…) If you decide to embrace the ubiquitous 2 ¼" wide, honey oak flooring, don't add more of the same yellow, ruddy shades to the room. All colors play together more beautifully if you let them each pick their own chord.
*Find time for your quiet - we are all at risk of losing it in today's world. Certain areas of your space should be reserved for calm and relaxation. If you have not consciously developed these, you know you wish you had. Get on it and embrace the resulting sense of silence (real or imagined).
So….I think that was a worthwhile little exercise. Life's big lessons can only be learned if we reiterate our findings and foster further pursuit. Let your home support the inquery as well as the solutions.