simplicity and good design: mutually exclusive??

Does simplicity mean living in a design-free zone?

For real?  Give up beauty and elegance in exchange for simplicity?  It's not happening, because its not only not necessary, but would be missing the whole point. A certain simplicity means having the minimum amount of things required to lead a content, balanced life while respecting the environment around you.  It most certainly does not mean trading in your personal style for a futon and a hot plate.

Simplicity, in a home sense,  implies digging deep into your pool of self knowledge and not squandering money or your precious time creating an environment that doesn't work for you.  It means being choosy.  It means knowing and trusting yourself.  By knowing what your own personal style is, you feed your soul by slowly and carefully constructing an environment that is genuinely yours.

Because nothing will give you a better starting point for happiness and creativity in other areas of your life than to have a space that suits you.

Back in this blog post I talked to you about finding your own personal sense of style for you home.  Today I want to go further and pose some questions for you to ask yourself when you think about creating or changing your personal environment.

What materials do you feel innately drawn to?

Battered, distressed wood?  Clean. sleek stainless steel?  Mosaic tile?  Soft linen? Fancy damask? White plaster?  What makes you coo like a baby when you see it in a glossy design magazine?  Cut that picture out!  Put it in your journal (you do have a journal, don't you?).  Repeat until you have a collection of materials to call your own.

Are the things around you about someone else (like your parents) or are they about you?

Seriously.  It's really hard to get out of our parents' living rooms.  We think it's easy.  We think, no way, I am not going to have a big old wrap around sofa with an oak coffee table in MY living room. Then there you are one day, feet up on a corner unit couch, Windexing the glass top of an oak table.  With all the good intentions in the world, we revert.  We acquiesce.  We understand less about ourselves than we should.  So we cram our spaces full of things that we don't really want simply because there is some kind of subconscious blueprint to do just that.  STOP.  Your parents' house was fine.  So is your brother's and your sister's and your best friend's and your in-law's.  But none of those people, as much as you love them, have  to have anything to do with you in a design sense. You are free and now officially in charge of your own taste.

Imagine you could have a room of your own that no one could enter without your permission. There is a tiger, your own personal pet tiger, at the door, licking its paws making sure your privacy is protected.  How would that room look?

The first time I did this exercise, I imagined purple walls.  White mosaic floors.  A huge bed with silk pillows and beautiful robes in every imaginable color.  A huge vase with birds of paradise and a monstrous bowl of guavas.  A window overlooking a tiny stretch of coastline called Bathtub Beach on the eastern shore of Oahu.  Quite decidedly non simplistic.  But that fantasy was about me wanting to touch my own femininity, which I felt had suffered through all of the hard labor of building this bed and breakfast.  It made me realize that I want to be in a soft, comfortable space much more than I wanted sleek interiors. Eventually I broke down the components of that fantasy room to see exactly what it was that I would need to be happy.

Are you ready to take action?

This would be known as the cruel and heartless giveaway phase.   If  an item costs you clutter and gives you nothing in return, give it away to someone who can use it.   Like the bowl you got from your grandmother - for your first wedding.  Like that chair in the entry that you only dust but never sit on.  Give. It. Away.  Make room for new ideas.  Live with emptiness for awhile - you might find you actually like cleared out spaces.  Wouldn't that be something?

You might be afraid of this.  It might end up costing money.  But maybe less than you think.  Because once that stuff is gone that you don't like, you might find yourself sourcing used items - ones from your favorite materials list - for pennies on the dollar. And seriously, being in an environment that frustrates you with clutter is costing you a whole lot more than that.

Getting in touch with colors and textures and materials that rock your world sets you free to explore your own design ideas further. Because the more honest you are with yourself about what you like and what you don't, the better able you are to quench your thirst for individuality.

And that is the simple truth.

(picture courtesy of Decor8)