April 20, 2010

How to Eat an Elephant

So ya want to eat an elephant? Me, neither. Somehow, though, it seems there are tasks and things I simply do not want to take on that must be done, and that seem insurmountable in one way or another- size, scope, smell (for real), whatever. I suppose there are folks who would enjoy the literal culinary experience of eating an elephant  -some parts probably taste like chicken, after all - but I think I'll pass on that. It's an old proverbial question that offers its own answer- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. For our purposes today I will apply this adage to home-keeping. 

I can be a messy person. I am sometimes a (drawing in of breath here) STACKER. Let me give you a moment to gasp in shock and dismay.              Ok; moment's over. There are days when I simply do not feel like sorting through and putting things in their proper places. Instead, I STACK. My friends, I am here to tell you that there should be a support group for stacking; it is addicting, destructive, and dare I say it? Hideous and repulsive! There, I said it. Stacking can also take on other forms of maliciousness- it can be piling, cramming, stuffing, hiding, or spreading out, but for our purposes I shall use the all-encompassing term STACKING. Let us consider the aesthetic ramifications of STACKING. For the purposes of this particular discussion I shall use images of books and the like to demonstrate. Proper arrangement of bookCASES is a topic for another day; for now we shall stick to ORDER.


and finally...

All of that being said, there IS a proper way to stack. Consider the exhibit below:

Why is this method acceptable and the black and white one is not? It should be noted that most folks do not live in a home in which a ladder should be necessary to put a book or piece of paper in its place. Remember our key phrase for today... THE EYE IS ATTRACTED TO ORDER. We can see that the stack on the wall has many things going for it. We know that order can be achieved by remembering a few simple lessons. First, get it up OFF the floor and NOT on the surface of a table, dresser, or cabinet top. That alone lends itself to looking more orderly. Second, the stack itself should be of similar-sized objects, which brings me to another catch phrase for today... GROUP LIKE THINGS TOGETHER. Had the stacker thrown books or things that had varying horizontal lengths, the arrangement would be less visually pleasing because it would be less orderly. Third, it should be pointed out that books of varying horizontal (or vertical length if placed on a bookshelf) CAN be successfully arranged together as long as they are arranged in an orderly fashion. Put the tallest first (or last) and graduate the sizes to the end. Like this:

You can see that in neither of these pictures the books are PERFECTLY aligned according to height. But they are generally either the same height or are arranged so that overall your eye comfortably skims the height of the line and doesn't jump up and down as though in a seizure. 

If we wish our homes to be a refuge, we do not want it to become a place of chaos, disorder, or ugliness. We do this by maintaining ORDER. Order is achieved two ways; either by methodical and consistent organization (a place for everything and everything in its place) OR if you have neglected your methodical and consistent organization, by eating elephants (one bite at a time). If you are currently in an elephant-eating situation, make a pact with yourself to take care of ONE bite (aka one STACK or one small AREA) at a time. Get that bite (or even nibble, if you must) done, step back, admire your success, and it just might spur you on to take the next bite. Before you know it, order shall be restored (or created) and you will have your elephant-free sanctuary! Let's face it, we all might like elephants, we may have even had stuffed animal elephants when we were kids, but when one thinks of orderly, aesthetically pleasing interiors, elephants don't exactly come to mind.

April 9, 2010

Hey There! Where Ya Goin'?

So you're at a street corner. A choice must be made- which way are you going next? The above pic (courtesy of Getty Images) is certainly a strong visual representation of choices we all make every day, and most of the time we give little to no thought about those choices- we "go with the gut," impulsively working our way a little at a time in one direction or another. This method is based upon an emotional response to the circumstances we're experiencing at that particular moment, or past experience has taught us which way (usually through much trial and error, and when I say error here, I mean ERROR!), we can rely on direction given to us by others- could be a parent or other older person who has shown us the right way to go at some time in the past based on their experience (there's that trial and error thing again), a friend who has been at the same corner, or even someone we just met, and for some reason we take a complete stranger's word at knowing which way we should go (men do not do this, because they have that unfortunate Y-chromosome thing which apparently makes it physically impossible for them to ask for directions). 

Now, logically speaking, we can look at the previous little statement (ok it's a pretty long sentence, but I'm getting to the point which you think you already know, but you don't, so keep reading!) and say this is all so obvious it doesn't even need to be spoken about, let alone spend this much time READING it. BUT let's look at this a bit closer: we choose to follow the route explained to us by other people most of the time, right? This statement begs the question, "Who ARE these people and WHY do I trust what they say to be true?" Let us analyze! The people we turn to for advice/direction depends greatly upon our age and emotional state at the time. When we're kids, our directional questioning is very simple, and the answer generally comes from our parents, is almost immediately accepted as true and without question, and we do what we're told. Pre-teens still ask and sometimes accept and act upon parental input, and then by teen years most kids never seek wise direction from parents and instead choose the less-experienced, but sounds oh-so-much-more-fun advice from other teens who by their very age and life experience have absolutely no idea what they're talking about, to say nothing of any long-term effects such things could have on the person who actually TAKES said advice (but I digress...). As we mature, though, sage advice thankfully becomes much more valuable to us and we once again revert to the wisdom of those both more "mature" (ok OLD) than we, or those with more experience and/or education than we have, for the given subject.

All of this is to say... when you are at the corner, confronted by CHOICES, how do you choose? If you have the option of seeking the advice/direction of someone who, say, has studied maps, geography, or has been around the corner(s) before, would you not, in wisdom, take the advice of the one who has been there? 

What in the world does this have to do with interior design, you ask? I'm so glad you asked! Well, it has a LOT to do with it. Because when we make purchase decisions for the things that are going into our homes, we are choosing one direction or another, and some of those choices can be pretty expensive. If we don't choose wisely, we can end up in an ugly part of town, or wake up one morning and think, "hmmm. I've managed to surround myself with a bunch of expensive things that have no cohesive direction."

THEN WHAT?! Well, my friends, I'm glad you asked (you are really asking good questions today!). THEN we can decide to continue on the same ol' path we've always been on, OR we can decide to seek wise counsel, tap into the wisdom and experience of those in-the-know, and refresh our every day lives; by not only using what we already have, but also adding simple ingredients and perhaps mixing things in a way that they haven't been before, and cooking up something fresh and new- reflecting the path we WANT to be on, that yields the results we are comfortable with, and leads us in the direction to where we want to be... HOME!