“Where do you get your inspiration these days?”
This question was put to me and several other designers at a function recently. Magazines have truthfully lost some of their flair in recent years, what with the wealth of online options. Pinterest was brought up as a source, but my colleague was fishing for something fresh. The other designers and I seems to lack freshness when put on the spot. Now I think I have my answer. While both Pinterest and magazines (the slim Contract magazine getting more of my attention than the gorgeous and much fatter Interior Design) do play a role I think there’s been something even more ingrained in my psyche.
I get my inspiration on “field trips.” At one time, when I was in school and studying abroad that meant literal field trips. My Danish Institute of Study Abroad program was huge on visiting the sites of great architecture and seeing it for yourself. Even more so; they were huge on not just taking your own pictures and seeing the places with your own eyes, but drawing it for yourself. What I learned that summer and what I took away from that program changed the way I have approached design since. (I would highly recommend the program to any students). When I returned home I spent extra time to visit places related to my projects and get my feet and hands on the ground. There was a time (still in school and the year or so immediately after) where a staple of my purse was a small sketchbook.
My “field trips” now are more the spontaneous finds in my daily (and not so daily) travels. Today I don’t carry a notebook everywhere and sketch my observations, but I do have a smartphone. When I scroll through my pictures there I have a strange assortment of pictures that often include no people whatsoever. Photos of porcelain tiles, of building columns, of flower arrangements, of a cool combination of colors, of murals, of hotel room bathrooms and dozens of other things that make me happy to look at, remind me of ideas and help shape my latest projects. So I suggest to you to use your phone, not only for selfies and food shots, but to record the details of places as they inspire you.
Something New for New Years
Green and sustainability has become an increasingly important concept to design, especially since the US Green Building Council and its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification system has become so prevalent. Like the “Three R’s” (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) that many of us grew up on, this system encourages the innovation of sustainable and green practices in buildings. Extra points are also available for dreaming up new ways to do it! This credentialing system has been adopted by various Federal and State jurisdictions as minimum requirements for new buildings under their purview; a forward-thinking practice. There are other similar rating systems you might run across and all incorporate incentives for reuse of previously developed land, parts of old building, re-manufactured products, reclaimed wood and a variety of other “Three R’s” related stuff.
But today is January 2, so while I’m a proponent of the reclaimed wood and the reuse and repurposing movement, I want to point out the other side and the advantages of the New. There are times where reuse is just not always the best option and something new is needed in any space.
Reupholstering furniture, for example, is not an option that we often recommend to our clients. It sometimes is brought up by clients in an attempt to cut down on a budget, and the assumption is reusing a piece with a new fabric will be less than buying a whole new piece. This is sadly not true. Reupholstering an old piece is usually comparable to buying a new piece of furniture. Go ahead and feel good about buying new when it comes to sofa, loveseats and fully upholstered chairs.
New appliances and toilets are another good idea. Even the LEED systems agree; reusing an older toilet (particularly those from before 1994, as that was a major year for the minimum requirements of plumbing fixtures) isn’t worthwhile. These older fixture use more water per flush or more water per minute than their new counterparts. Since efficiency is definitely part of the game, these are items worth the investment. Much the same is true about new appliances. Every few years the energy efficiency improves and you can get more cleaning/cooling/heating for less power.
A fresh look is still, always a coat of paint or stain away. The newest lines of paints can also come with low or no VOCs to do away with the new paint smell (alas, stains and varnishes don’t really have this option) but get the look easy. Also, if you take a good look at a wall a few years old, it might be in need of some freshening in terms of filling some dents or sanding away old paint drips. With paint or stain, a little can go a long way.
So with those few pearls of “new” wisdom Happy New Year, from our family to yours!