As someone who swims in the deep end of life, I usually find it hard to come to the surface and talk about things on the level of form. If you were to meet me for brunch (my favorite meal), almost instantly and without thought, I naturally submerge myself and who I’m visiting with, down to the depths of what’s underneath the surface, where I am most comfortable. It’s part of how I’m wired, sometimes a beautiful experience and sometimes, an intimidating one, if you don’t already have your scuba gear on.
Ironically, As an Interior Designer by trade, what I currently do to afford my life, means I’m solely on the surface. I have been privy to the experience of designing my own furniture, ballroom carpets, fabrics and wall coverings. I believe the best part of what I do is designing a space, and then, a time later, being able to walk through what I had envisioned. It still makes me giddy, every time.
I was given a piece of advice when I first started out in the Design industry, approximately 13 years ago, that I feel, has changed the way I feel about creating space, and It is this that I want to share with you. This piece of advice is what I tell anyone who asks me for their opinion, and I am in joy to share it, because it falls somewhere between being on the surface, and at the depths to which I easily swim every day.
Besides my belief about the three things that you can do to change your space, without spending a lot of money (Paint, Lighting, Art) this… is my most powerful design statement.
Your space… has to speak WITHOUT YOU.
I was first given this advice when the principal of a design firm I was interviewing with was looking at my portfolio. I had just graduated and was wet behind the ears and eager to begin my career. I think he could tell I wanted to learn, because he gave me an unsolicited piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten. He told me that my portfolio had to speak without me. He said that if I (Kerilyn) wasn’t here, my portfolio should tell him everything he needed to know about who I am as a designer.
That tidbit sunk into the CORE of who I am and I have been deeply impacted by its understanding. It’s what I want to bequeath to you today.
Let’s daydream a second, okay?
PRETEND you are having a cocktail party at your abode. Pretend the most inspiring people you’ve ever wanted to meet (Yes, even Oprah) is coming over to YOUR house to meet and mingle with you and your beloveds. They have never been to your house, and you wouldn’t consider them friends (yet) so this will be your first opportunity to share with them who you are.
Well your space can tell them, in fact, your space WILL tell them.
Most likely at this cocktail party, you will be busy doing the myriad of hostess duties and cannot possibly be able to be with all your guests at the same time. That means they are going to have to take in, by what they see, who you are by what they see as they “make themselves at home.”
Your space tells a story.
The people attending your party WANT to know who you are so they will most likely be looking around your space for the answers to the questions about you, they have. I mean, they are here because they want to get to know YOU, so why not use your space as a way to answer their inquiry?
They will look at what you’re reading; they will look at your art. They will wonder where you got the vase that’s on the shelf and wonder what town or antique store (or contemporary furniture shoppe) you found that amazing piece of furniture.
They are taking in how they FEEL when they meander throughout your space and in turn, creating a STORY of who they think you are.
Most likely, they’re not even conscious that they are filling in the blanks about who you are… but if you create your space as if its told the story of your life, then it’s almost automatic they would know more about you, as a result.
This said, I appreciate the designers and architects who subscribe to the minimalist philosophy, are attempting to let the structure speak, versus what’s in them. I absolutely can appreciate the beauty in simplicity, but for ME, a deep swimmer, I want to know who you ARE and your space can tell me a LOT about you without you even having to be there.
For instance, my life’s motto is an Italian phrase called Ancora Imparo. It means “I am still learning.” I want my space to tell the story that I am still learning. I want my space to tell the story of someone who is still learning, who is hungry to grow. The picture in the banner is a photo of my office. If you were standing there, you’d be able to easily understand who I am.
- I am a reader – If I have an addition to anything, its books.
- I have a green thumb. I really enjoy having plants around me, as a part of my silent family.
- I love my family and friends – The picture frames on the shelf are of some of my favorite moments.
- I constantly need reminders – It’s so easy to be swept away by life and I find the need to constantly remind and inspire myself when life gets complicated.
- Music and movies are sacred – I want to share what movies and music inspire me as a way of connecting with the many ways life inspires and motivates someone else.
Could you see that in my space? Would you be able to tell more of my story by just standing there?
I think you would. Let’s go back to the cocktail party.
I know this is going to seem extreme (or silly), but bear with me. If I were a betting woman (which again, I am not), I would predict that 30% of those who were at the cocktail party, who visited the bathroom, would also want to know who I was, behind closed doors.
Yep, even your medicine cabinet tells a story.
Now, I don’t go around opening people medicine cabinets, BUT IF I had a reason to, what would that space say without the person being there? What better time than alone in a bathroom, to figure out who someone is, without outside bias. (Think about it)
At the end of the day, people are curious and they want to know who you are.
Oh, and in no way does having your space speak without you have to be expensive. No joke, the dresser that I have in my guest room is a pink, shabby chic looking piece that was sadly standing next to the dumpster, one day when I was walking home from work, on its way to its demise. The moment I saw it, I was SO curious about its story (and it was in great condition too), that I knew its life was far from over. To date, it’s been one of my favorite finds. (Much to my husband’s chagrin) Now it has an even better legacy, being saved from the trash compactor. (I even left the one wooden knob on there unpainted, as a mystery to its story)
Talk about something speaking without you.
With the advent of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, I have definitely seen many people who, whether they are aware of it or not, are subscribing to the philosophy of their space speaking without them.
In the age of having a photo tell a thousand words, one photo can say who you are without you being there.
I’m saying the same can be applied to your space.
So, if you’re in the market to change up your space, consider the question about what story you want your space to tell… and create around that question. If the time ever comes that a new person (yes, maybe even Oprah) comes to visit your house, wouldn’t you want them to know who you really are, without you having to say a word?