I grew up in the '70s and '80s, and entered my adulthood and professional life in the nineties. It was a time of Growth, if that’s even the proper word. Unmitigated growth is what we were all sold on during this absolute orgy of consumption: flipping houses, buying new, bigger, more expensive cars every two to three years, the advent of bottled water, always more stuff, always more, bigger, better, newer, with no end in sight. In every other facet of life, unmitigated growth – with no ebb and flow, no cycles, no downturns – is considered cancer . . . right?
And what does cancer do? It just keeps growing and growing until it has crowded out everything good around it. And in these conditions, the host can not survive.
This concept of growth and consumption has fit perfectly with the whole concept and industry of interior design. Helping people buy and consume stuff properly, to fit their house, fit their lifestyle, keep up with the Joneses, display their wealth.
You want to lounge just so, while you’re watching TV? Well, you just need the perfect type of sectional sofa. You’re not sure what to do with that weird open area at the top of your stairs, or your unusually large foyer, or your formal living room that no one ever uses? Well, let’s just figure out the best type of Stuff to stick in there that will hold more Stuff, impressing people when they come over, and giving everyone a perfect place to perch themselves when you’re having those grand dinner parties you’re dying to have.
So here we are. The first decade of the 21st century is over. Our country is in the worst economic shape I’ve ever seen in my lifetime thus far, and even my parents have never seen anything like this. People are losing jobs, businesses and homes left right and center. It feels like a bloody nose that just won’t stop gushing.
The upside has been the reassessment of Value that’s been going on. What is valuable? How do you define it? What is truly worth our time and our money and our emotional commitment? More and more we’re turning to things that are not tangible. Environmental and conservation movements are starting to mesh and jive with the changes in thinking that this economic crisis has spawned. Saving, reusing, refurbishing, salvaging, recycling, organizing, streamlining . . . doing more with less. That’s all great. I’m so glad. It feels virtuous and pure and dignified and clean. And it is. I feel that way. I grew up with the same bedroom furniture that my mother bought second-hand and lovingly hand-painted herself from the time I was two until I left for college, and then she repainted it and it became my sister’s furniture.
But it really sucks for Interior Design. Here is an industry built on the assumption of unabated wealth and consumption. What’s an interior designer to do when no one wants to buy anything and it’s not cool or economical to do so? What’s an interior designer to do when the common view is that anyone can do this – your credentials are only one TV show away? How can this industry survive when the paradigm has shifted to one of less consumption, everything you could ever want is just one click away on the internet, and cheap is the new black; in fact, there are whole cable networks dedicated to doing it yourself?
I’d like to change interior design to fit this type of intensely cathartic undertaking, by subtracting instead of adding. Would you hire an interior designer to help you get rid of the right stuff, aka the wrong stuff that doesn’t serve you? Could you actually be comfortable living with empty rooms? If your rooms were empty, would you look around yourself in awe of the possibilities or would you be freaked out? What would you do with some space around you? Would you dance? Would you breathe deeper? Would you stretch more, meditate more, hang out on the floor, read a book, play with your pets and babies, play Twister with your friends?
I was inspired by Danielle LaPorte’s guest post recently for Bindu Wiles. You can find it here: http://binduwiles.com/buddhism/the-law-of-the-ugly-chair-guest-post-by-danielle-laporte. It’s called the “Divine Law of the Ugly Chair”, and Danielle wrote it in honor of Bindu’s latest program called the Shed Project. It’s a great idea, really. Shed your stuff and your baggage, little by little. Peel back the layers of crap that have built up around you, and that you have allowed to accumulate in your life, your mind, your house, your body, all of it. Strip it down and let it go. It’s beautiful.
But my big question is: Is interior design, as we know it, dead? I would love to hear from each of you either posted openly or commented directly at email@example.com