I took my daughter rollerskating recently. I dusted off my 30 year old, now retro, Bauer hockey skates and headed off to the roller rink with great excitement. We got there early, so waited with several other families and birthday party invitees for the doors to open.
Once inside, we strapped ourselves into our boots and headed for the rink, not really giving it a second thought. Until about five minutes later, when I realised that I was the ONLY adult on the rink, other than the young adults that worked there. A few minutes later another parent got on, then three twenty somethings. That was it. The adult contingency for the entire session.
The rest of the adult contingency had moved from the queue to the spectators section. Not just one or two, but loads. Adults bowing out. Why? Ignoring the sedentary message it sends out to kids, I was surpised that they weren't even giving it a go and having fun. Surely I wasn't the only one that had a misspent youth down the rink?
It all looked so serious in the seating area, as I did laps around to all the latest disco tunes (some of which I knew). Why are adults so serious? I know life can be. But it doesn't need to be - all the time. Especially at the rink. Or is it they're afraid? And if so, afraid of what?
Since that exhilarating morning, I have been wondering "Do we take interiors too seriously?" and "Are we too afraid to stand out and have a bit of a laugh by giving something different a go?" As I have pondered 'seriousness' in relation to interiors and our homes, I realised that I could be potentially thinking (and now writing) myself out of work!
So what makes an interior serious? Aesthetically, it's a space or entire home that's been sample matched into an inch of its life. A colour palette and style brief developed with no room for maneuver to cater for emotion, individuality or personality.
Being too rigid and following design guides can cause you to loose an element of creativity. Interiors with personalised objects, collections & art are the most fascinating and bring soul to a space, regardless of the colours and style chosen. Personality is key to making a space welcoming and warm. The best interiors I have seen, or have created, have been the ones where you can really see and feel who lives there. I hate to refer to it, but every reveal of The Block this season has talked about individuality, soul, personality, history, charm and been very vocal in shunning the "cookie cutter" design.
I'd even go as far as saying, not having items or pieces in a space that either mean the world to you or you love, just because they're not the right colour or don't match the style, makes for a miserable interior for those that live in it. Having the things that you love around you is really really important for your psyche.
So if it's all about individuality and personality, why employ an interior decorator I hear you say. Well, interior decorators can help you recognise what you want from your space and what you need to do to achieve that. They also identify items and objects you have and potential purchases out there to help you pull it all together. I find clients need help to identify and pull the different design elements together. This often means me re-organising or consolidating ideas with 'things' or the introducing new items and materials to really gel the space. Bringing spaces together.
So what makes an interior serious in terms of functionality or practicality?. Can we be too serious about this? Well yes. Don't get me wrong there's plenty of design concepts and theories to follow that enable you to use and move about your home well. But there are many others that just take it too far. There are four basic issues you really shouldn't ignore when redecorating a space. This is where the experience and knowledge of an interior decorator or interior designer can really help you.
Spatial awareness - one of the biggest problems people seem to have when decorating is miscalculating the amount and size of furniture needed in a room. The ability to translate figures, like 1200mm, into a space and work out what that would look like is not easy. Especially when you need to do it both in terms of plan and elevation. Come on we've all bought a piece of furniture that's way too big for our one bedroom apartment (or even too big to get through the front door). There's guides and standards on the amount of space needed to move around, undertake certain activities or house a certain piece of furniture. Yes it's serious. But get it wrong and your space probably won't work. Sardines. Tin. Cat. Swing. Linked to this is scale and proportion.
Understanding scale and proportion - the size of furniture will set the scale of your space and other furnishings will link to this. Proportion refers to both the size and shape of a piece and how it relates to others in the space. It relates to both positive and negative space (or white space) and is present in everything from big ticket items all the way down to the pattern on a cushion. For small rooms, use smaller pieces of furniture, with smaller and fewer patterns. Playing with the proportion and scale of furniture and fittings can create very dramatic results. Get it wrong and, well, it's wrong. I wouldn't put a rectangular centre piece on a round table for example. The biggest space or proportion based mistakes people make which you should work to avoid are:
- buying a rug that's too small
- buying too many small accessories
- hanging art too high
- not having negative space
- having more than one focus point
Serious? No, not really. Frustrating, yes. Possible unsettling if your eye cant rest anywhere. But there's ways around most problems. The space below would work much better if the sofa had more presence and there was a piece of furniture with height to break up the wall. But its not the end of the world. It's still a lounge with functioning pieces that make for a comfortable life.
Regulations, which there are many. Too many to go into detail here. But simply, certain materials have to be used or applied in a certain way to ensure they work as they are designed to. The other key consideration is knowing what structures, support or mechanisms products need behind them. For example you can't hang a pendant light up with out a joist to secure it too. You certainly can't hang a 240V pendant over a bath. You need good waterproofing in your wet-room. You can't but a bathroom niche in an external wall without considering the insulation. The list goes on. Serious? Yup, but for good reason. So ask questions. Lots of questions.
Home hierarchy - buildings have layers and certain activities have to be completed before others. It's just a system of construction. Try changing the order to save time, and it won't. The stages match the layers of a house. These layers have tradesman attached. So you need to line our trade ducks up to get renovation projects done. Yes this takes time and no it's not like that on the reality TV DIY shows. But this is real life. Serious setup? Yes. But if you don't do it in order you end up undoing work that's already been completed, taking extra time and money.
Personally, I think it's important to be serious about smarter living. What do I mean by smarter living? Making better use of the space we have and the resources we use. The two fastest growing developments in interiors at the moment are home automation and people living in smaller spaces (tiny house movement and apartment boom). The first is using smart technology to automate your home so you can control the systems within the house remotely. Essentially making it work very efficiently. The other is smart design in which every millimeter of space is utilised to allow for the basic requirements of living. The development of multifunctional spaces and multipurpose furniture and installations is exciting. It's different. It's unusual. Both provide us with an opportunity to explore and think outside the circle. I'd love to see a shift in focus. Away from the formal and rigid 'serious' approach on how our spaces look and more towards being serious on how our spaces will work and perform.
Like with everything in life, putting together an interior is about balance. In my wordly opinion you should never take it too seriously. It's more than OK to be bold and have fun. Life's too short and you can't take it with you. You're more likely to be remembered for the person you were, than the house you lived in.
Too serious? Maybe. But true. Did I just talk myself out of work?