Ideas for topics can hit me at any time. In this case, mid-sentence with a friend during a recent gallery opening, my mind interjected and I blurted out, “Wait, an idea for a blog post just came to me!” She was in the middle of complimenting me about recent posts she’d read, how she thought they were great and spot-on.
I’m not sure what triggered the idea. I’d just left a conversation with another friend about how we never wore seat belts growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s. In fact, we knew a family — dubious friends with our next door neighbor — who did wear seat belts only because they were in an accident once. Damned to eternal seatbelt-wearing hell, we felt so sorry for them. We were safe from that.
Everyone comes to us with a perspective and set of prejudices, whether they know it or not. Well before we get down to the creative process, we take to listening, carefully, and with a sensitive ear.
“What colors do you like or dislike?” So simple, it’s not a trick question but I get so many trick answers.
It took me years to warm up to the color purple, which in 1986 was the color of a three-piece suit I was forced to wear at my bar mitzvah. At the time it was sold to me “plum, not purple” but I wasn’t having it. I knew the difference and worse, it was a wool sateen (think high gloss) mess and everyone but me thought it was so cute.
In the beginning, no matter what I say, I can’t convince any new clients to abandon any preconceptions like this. I get it, but it changes later once I present it all in context.
Context is another thing I can talk about for an entire post, and I might. But during this example, I’ll just say that color — and everything else I do — is meant to be appreciated in the context of other colors, lightness, darkness, alignment and scale.
I rarely reveal my concepts, even in the abstract, too early on. Say that a room that, as part of the entire context of the design, is painted a certain shade of blue. Out of context, it is completely meaningless. It’s an empty blue room. More on this later.
Excitement, Elation, Enthusiasm
I’m very perceptive. I have a talent for reading minds based not on what people say but more the negative space between their sentences and that includes demeanor, body language and posture. Aside from all the literal information I collect during the Discovery process of a project, I’m taking mental notes on every single detail.
What goes on next, which can take several weeks, is the secret formula to what I do. Generally speaking, it’s part imagination, part mathematics, part self criticism and finally, part discipline. Rinse and repeat, until just before it’s ready. Because to me “ready” grants an excuse to chase perfection. So I always serve it a bit undercooked.
Enter Presentation Day, I aim to stun and astonish. Maybe that purple color, now in context, works perfectly in the design composition I propose because I’ve determined it to be a necessary element. I present design concepts all at once just as a fine artist wouldn’t reveal an incomplete picture. The rooms I create are very well thought out, not an arbitrary grouping of pretty things. And along the same lines, I insist on complete installations and high-impact reveals for this reason.
Though I don’t have the luxury of preventing the inevitable peek.
It’s usually the paint color. Or a combination of color, flooring and architectural details that I can’t prevent clients from seeing earlier than the reveal.
Let’s think about this logically. You walk into an empty room, the color of the walls have changed, but the room is still empty. A blank canvas. I would panic too if I commissioned a painting and saw only the canvas color. Though in this example, it’s worse, because color changes when the sun shines, when the clouds roll in, when evening arrives and the lighting is incomplete. And most importantly, it changes when the furnishings are installed and all the materials interplay symphonically.
A Seed of Doubt is Planted
Everyone has an opinion. However, not all of us has the gift of silence. Here are some fun scenarios:
- Imagine the painting contractor is on site, finishing up a room or maybe just applying the first coat. Our client comes home, has a look. She says to the painter, “Wow, what do you think?” He replies, perhaps not knowing for sure she’s the client, “I don’t know, seems like a strange color for a bathroom.” The doubt avalanche begins, questioning perhaps every decision made to that point.
- Or maybe the floors are in and have even been finished and the staining process is complete. The client’s brother-in-law stops by to see the progress. Everyone loves to see a renovation in progress: “Wow, you chose to go with solid wood oak. Interesting … Didn’t you consider engineered walnut?”
- And my favorite, usually a neighbor though sometimes mother (-in-law): “It seems like such a waste to go through all this trouble when you might not live here forever.”
Set aside the honest slip, I can spend days analyzing why people feel the need to give their opinions, usually unsolicited. My business is wide open for opinion invasion, and it’s part of my job to manage the fallout.
I usually just say, “Everybody breathe, it’s always beautiful in the end. Everyone’s just jealous.
Truth is, we often fear the unknown because we fear the shame of getting it wrong, and I think everyone quietly knows that.
It Comes Together
And so it always is beautiful. If I’m involved, it’d better be.
Installation day, revealed in a single, dramatic curtain drop, is usually so shockingly better than anyone imagines, the doubt and hesitation disappears faster than it arrived. And all the worrying melts away.
I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite part of the project, but is most certainly most rewarding.