How To Design For Your Best Life: TED Talk Follow-Up

This isn't a self-help post about all the things you could do to live a stress free, happy, and healthy life.  It is about how you can manipulate the physical aspects of your home to work in sync with the stress-free, happy, and healthy life you (want to) lead.  

Originally I was going to follow-up the TED Talk I posted last week with an insightful and enlightening look into the head of great interior designers with the help of Paul Bennett's talk as a reference guide.  It was going to be award winning stuff.  

Then I realized how incredibly UN-helpful that would really be.  You don't need, and probably don't care, to know how a designer's head works (although this post will give you a little insight).  What would be helpful is learning how to do what we do - even in little ways - to make your own life better.  Easier.  To give you more time for the really important things.  Your life is full and sometimes frenzied, and how amazing would it be if you could change things in your home to make them just a little bit less so.  Every little bit helps, right?

Design is how it works.  Meridian Abbey Interiors | Indianapolis, IN

Form follows function.

When I was a kid, I really didn't get this statement.  I don't think it was until high school that I figured out what it was all about.  I wanted to do something different with my bedroom.  Next to the bathrooms and closets, it was the smallest room in the house.  I had to get creative.  Now there's a whole movement around living comfortably in the tiniest conceivable spaces.  I wish I was someone that could do that.  I sincerely do.  But that is just not my reality.  I knew it in high school and it becomes clearer to me every year.

Even so, having all the space in the world doesn't help you if it is arranged poorly.  A sexy chair is just sculpture if it isn't comfortable.  A beautiful kitchen is a pain in the a$$ if the trendy and attractive open shelving doesn't provide enough storage for you.  

"Yeah," you're saying.  "I get that, but how do I fix my house?"

Unfortunately, I don't know you specifically so I can't address your specific problem(s), but here is how you can start to do that yourself...

>>First off - start by really paying attention.  Examine your routines and figure out why you do and do not do certain things.  Procrastination is a big tip off that something is not great.  For instance, I once lived in a house with the laundry in the basement.  I had to walk through my already tiny kitchen, through a usually closed doorway, down a short but treacherous run of stairs, and then turn a corner to go down a longer set of stairs with whatever basket I had, clothes overflowing, to a dark, damp, creepy basement.  Can you guess why I procrastinated?  Oh, it was so bad.  (My new home has a laundry chute, which is honestly one of my favorite features in the whole house.)

Routines and habits are as individual as the person.  I can give you other examples of things I find myself doing that I would rather not do - such as using my guest bedroom as a really big closet because my actual closets are tiny and impossible to see everything I need - but you know you better than I, and realizing WHAT you do that you'd rather not guides you to think about HOW you can fix it.  

>>Second - pay attention to yourself.  Your physical self.  And also how your physical self interacts with your surroundings.  This is ergonomics.  Webster defines ergonomics as:

An applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely —called also biotechnology, human engineering, human factors

Think of those clunky, wavy, usually split keyboards that are designed with our hands in mind.  Ergonomics are considered and applied so much more in the workplace than at home.  Why?  Because efficiency is not considered as much in the home as it is when you're being paid to get something done.  Easy examples of no-brainer ergonomics finally making an appearance into our homes are "Comfort Height" toilets, vanities that are as tall as the cabinets in the kitchen, and single handle and no handle faucets.  If your routines and habits indicate the "what" of the problem, ergonomics guides the "how" of the solution.

Be aware: this may take a while.  It took me years to figure out that if I don't make my systems of organization as easy as possible, my house turns into a cluttered mess.  It is hard to see yourself and your routines clearly.  A professional does come in handy here.  Just sayin'!

Machines of efficiency.

That is what you need your home to be.  You're busy enough!  Your home should cater to the way you and your family live so you aren't thinking of how hard the floors are to clean, or the mess all the way up to and in the kid's bath because your dog came in covered in mud.  On the ergonomic side of that argument, say you do want to put in a dog bath downstairs.  How tall are you?  How big is the dog?  This is your opportunity to design for your own individual experience.  It really is human engineering.  Making it pretty, calming, formal or not: that is atmosphere engineering.  

Maybe I should change the job title on my business card!

Maybe I should change the job title on my business card!

To round out his inspiring talk, a quick list of all the spot-on things Paul Bennett said that ring true in all aspects of design (and life, for that matter):

  • Tiny solutions make a huge amount of difference

  • Seeing things afresh leads to new possibilities

  • Find the human dimension in all things

  • Semaphores speak for us (like the ribbon spanning the wine shelf on my bookcase that means "Do Not Touch" and people do. not. touch.)

  • Pick battles big enough to matter but small enough to win


                                ~ Abigail