Janice's Blog

Sunday, December 18, 2011
I Hate Decorating!

A beautiful room is designed not decorated. Decoration means adornment or ornamentation. Design, at its best, is about function handled beautifully. Good design is what Apple products and the humble brown paper bag have in common (note the little serrated top edge that prevents you from getting a paper cut). Nothing is frivolous, every detail is considered and a quiet beauty emerges from function driven form. This is why a beautifully designed room, chair or object will never go out of style while decorated things become dated period pieces.

charles section couch

Charles Eames sofa via Apartment Therapy

If I could afford it, my sofas would be designed by Antonio Citterio or Christian Liaigre and distilled so that design becomes almost invisible, felt as much as seen. Why are so many mid-century furniture pieces by the likes of Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen selling as much, if not more, now than when they were designed 80 years ago? It is because they represent aesthetically appealing solutions to everyday functions. No one will bang their knees on a Saarinen table base AND the marble top won’t stain and does not feel cold to the touch because of extra layers of lacquer. The beveled edge adds to the sculptural quality. His Womb Chair is as comfy as a big and beefy armchair but it is nimble, and light enough to turn to the window or pull up to a table rather than staying parked permanently in one spot. Buy well, buy once, and get pleasure forever. Good design is like an expensive bargain.

saarenen tulip table

Eero Saarinen table via Oliver Yaphe

When I do colour, some might think this is surface not function and therefore entirely decorative. I disagree. Good colour is also about feel and function. I don’t decorate with it. I renovate! (In the up and coming weeks I will share with you how colour can be used to adjust scale and proportion to balance a space.) Most importantly, it balances energy levels, making a place feel calm or exciting and everything in between. Colour is about customizing physical space to fit the people. It is not about having fun with bold hits of hue. As Dieter Rams, designer for Braun, put it, “Good design is as little design as possible”. So when the son of a client said he knew I'd used 24 colours in his mum’s condo but he could only see twelve, I asked if it looked good. He said yes. I like to think that that’s good design.

saarenen womb chair

Eero Saarinen wombchair via Style Estate

Suggested viewing on Dieter and the subject we just discussed is the documentary film, Objectified.


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