"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them"
colour coordinated books by the metre
I was contemplating this quote today in the context of the prevalence of the artfully styled interior. It was on a chalkboard outside Matilda's Bookshop in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. It's very common to see Designers incorporating walls of bookshelves in their schemes for clients - bookshelves which they then buy books by the metre to fill up, as their clients don't actually have any books to put in them. And undoubtably they create atmosphere and ambience and the feeling of cosiness and a full life. But a wall of books brand new and completely unread by the owner does depress me somewhat. Perhaps this is because some of what I learnt studying Architecture at Uni sunk in, and that is Truth in Design. If you don't read, and you buy books by the metre as a decorative device, you are not being truthful in the design. And perhaps this is the fundamental difference between Styling an interior versus Designing one.
Alternatively you can buy multiples of things and fill the shelves up like your own personal homewares store
via @sophiepatersoninteriors instagram account
Don't even get me started on television shows like "The Block" that promote fast turnaround, unrealistic budgets, little thought to design and interiors slanted to the demands of the real estate market rather than real living.
the perfectly colour coordinated Celine bag casually left on the floor via @sophiepatersoninteriors instagram
a piece of good design- a seating niche via
the sofa too close to the bed, the stool too close to the sofa, the stool with the large vase of flowers you'd knock over… via
backward books via
It's long been a fascination of mine to analyse an interiors image to see what is likely always there and what has been created for the photo shoot. Some of those clues are contained in the text - pieces of furniture/ accessories/ art that are credited in a magazine are often borrowed for the shoot. Often these items are sourced from the big advertisers in the magazine, but certainly a lot of styling has gone on that bears no correlation between every day life and the perfect picture. Other things require a little more observation - chairs that block doors/stairs/ halls, or things obviously moved into position for a photo that would never be there otherwise - like the fully upholstered cross bench stool with attractive vignette styling including an oil painting in a shower alcove as pictured below.
via @ivyandpiperhome instagram
The cover of Home Beautiful magazine with photoshopped changes to a pool cabana - furniture, light fitting, window, flooring, hanging chair
The original image they based it on in a house featured some months before in the magazine, designed by Melinda Hartwright Interiors
So what she'd actually been sold on was the image of the smiling mother and child on the sofa, and she was projecting that she'd like to live moments like that in her future. Essentially design and decoration is loaded with all the expectations of special moments we'd like to create, of the way we'd like to live our lives. Big warm family gatherings where everyone is happy and convivial (when in reality you don't get along with your family and Uncle Billy always is drunk), snuggling with the golden child on the sofa, cooking delicious meals from scratch in your enormous and very clean kitchen (when you more often buy takeaway). All these things are loaded into our psyche when viewing images of houses and inserting ourselves into fantasy pictures that many then try to create in their own homes. I've always said that the best thing you can do when starting the design process for anything is to be realistic and honest about how you live - if you don't cook, you're unlikely to start just because you have 2 wide ovens, an inbuilt deep fryer and steam oven.
carefully curated shelf styling via
Real design is about making your life easier - it's not about chairs that block doorways, spray painting something gold from Target for a decor accent or any of the other things that might end up looking good in a photo and being pinned 10,000 on Pinterest. Unfortunately the business of design and decoration and the relatively recent culture of shopping for home items on a seasonal basis has masked the underlying truth - that good design will make your life better, and that it doesn't matter how many throw rugs, coffee table books, turkish towels, diptyque candles and cushions you buy - if you don't fix the underlying problem you'll just be buying more and wondering why it doesn't work. The best house is the one that reflects its owner - not someone else's idea of what is good taste, current fashion or supposed personal interests and hobbies that they don't actually have. And perhaps this is why the images of perfection in magazines are a little like a souffle in reality - pretty but can fall flat in the end.
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