Is a room ever truly done? Is there a point when you place that last piece of art, step back, and think “that’s it, I’m finished” and walk away never to touch it again? Or are rooms ever-evolving, design playgrounds that are meant to be constantly tweaked? More importantly – what do you do with those feelings of design discontent?
Maybe you know what I’m talking about – the experience of walking into a room in your home that is supposed to be “finished” . . . but doesn’t feel finished in your soul. You may look around the room and think “what does it need? Why aren’t you there yet?!” And the majority of the time you spend in that space you’re just trying to figure out what you could do to the room, what you could replace in the room, or what you could bring into the room that would just give your design brain satisfaction at long last – “THIS is the way this room is meant to be.”
And truly, what is the difference between design discontent (where you don’t feel satisfied by the design in a space and possibly frustrated that the room “isn’t there yet”) and design enthusiasm (where a room is never truly finished, because you as a human will never truly finish evolving your design aesthetic)? By the way, these aren’t official scientific terms. These are just the terms I’ve assigned to help myself grapple with my own mental tug-of-war on the topic.
Personally, it can be hard for me to separate out feelings of design discontent, design enthusiasm, and just design restlessness and impatience because our house isn’t fully renovated yet. So even though we’ve “finished” certain spaces in our house (our living room and dining room & our TV room), they can’t truly be at peace because now we’re renovating our kitchen and office, and suddenly the dining room is just kitchen storage. And the primary bedroom and both bathrooms are still on the list.
Let’s dive a little deeper into my own issues, so maybe y’all can play design therapist in the comments and help me sort my life out. When Velinda designed our living room and dining room Mac and I were coming out from under an almost year-long renovation. And before that Mac and I had spent the last year and half living in non-permanent situations, surrounded by unpacked boxes, rolled up rugs, and suitcase closets. I was tired of clutter, mess, and just wanted our home to be clean and fresh. Both she and Mac wanted more colorful and bold art, and I said no. I really pushed the design in a muted and minimal direction – and she delivered! The living room and dining room are bright, open, clean, spaces with a neutral color palette. And I LOVED it.
But now I’ve been spending all of my time in these rooms, 24/7 (I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to work from home) and I’m feeling a lack of something. When I walk into these spaces I look around and feel at my core that it’s not done yet. That it needs more . . . something. But what that “something” is, I’m not sure yet. I love all the pieces Velinda picked, and the layout of the rooms she designed works so well. So is it the art I picked? The empty wall space or all white walls? Classic design discontent.
In contrast, when I walk into our TV room it feels DONE. My heart feels happy in that room. But that doesn’t mean my design eye is at rest. I’ve already come up with two elements I want to add to that space and one element I want to change (keeping these under wraps in case we actually get around to implementing them *wink*). Classic design enthusiasm – there’s no uncertainty or frustration, but there’s still this sense of “but it could get even better.“
I think both of these design afflictions are the results of several key factors:
- First, I am naturally a really decisive person. I make quick decisions, and am a big gut instinct, emotional reactionary. But I’m not necessarily a person of great conviction. If you present me with more options or information I’m just as quick to change my mind. In design terms, this means I’m also really quick to pivot directions. I can only imagine it gives Mac design whiplash, because by the time he’s come around to agreeing to my first or second design idea for a space, I’m already working on design idea 33.
- Second, I’m surrounded by design trends all the time. It’s part of my job. My eyeballs are constantly being pulled in different directions and I’m falling in love with different styles and aesthetics over and over again. Figuring out what is just an infatuation versus what feels true to my identity and will be a long term appreciation can be really difficult.
- Thirdly, a recent widening of my view of design has me craving design MAXIMALISM. It’s no secret that at the start of June many of design enthusiasts (myself included) were made explicitly aware of how narrow and white our view of design has been. And how much of the design content we consumed via editorial content and social media algorithms just further reinforced that narrow view of design. My feeds were the same versions of minimal, bright, light-colored, neutral design over and over. The issue of racial inequity in the design industry is obviously a much larger and important topic, but needless to say, my feed has drastically changed since June, because the diversity of designers and content creators I follow has begun to drastically change. I’m still seeing those bright, minimal spaces, but I’m also seeing spaces with deep colors, busy patterns, bright tiles, and just so many more design aesthetics.
This last point hit an especially personal note for me. I was raised in homes decorated by my mom – a Latina woman from Guatemala, and renovated by my dad – a wonderfully talented self-taught craftsman whose appreciation for historic detail is second to none. So our homes were always filled with a mix of traditional details, and bright textiles and pattern. I loved it. My parents let me paint my walls mint green growing up. But after several years of working in the interior design field, my idea of what was “elegant and elevated” design had been so skewed that I had lost appreciation for my own parent’s design aesthetic. And when I designed their living room, I really pushed the design in a direction that eliminated a lot of the color and vibrancy that reflected them (my mom especially). She had wanted to paint the walls a color, and paint the ceiling blue – I pushed for all white (we compromised by going with white walls and a soft yellow ceiling). She wanted a brightly colored sofa – I pushed for leather. She wanted colored frames for the art with colored mats – I went traditional with wood, black, and white frames. She wanted a rug with lots of yellow and red – I found a white rug that had “pops” of yellow and orange. I told myself I was bringing in enough of her design with textiles and small moments of color.
I essentially designed her living room in a way that I felt would make it more acceptable to this narrow view of design I had formed. Unpacking even this one small instance of white-washed design has been difficult. But reflecting on it, along with a recent exposure to more varied design perspectives, feels like it’s cracked me open to appreciating, respecting, and craving more of the design I grew up with. This isn’t to say I’m ready to paint my living room orange (my parent’s family room is a bright orange, with yellow painted woodwork, and cobalt blue trim). I definitely know that my design aesthetic skews more quirky, traditional victorian. But I’m ready for bolder patterns, more deep color, and less minimal neutrals. I want wallpaper, contrasting trim colors, vintage rugs with deep colors, painted walls, and walls more filled with vintage and traditional art.
By the way, my mom has since painted the ceiling of that living room blue 🙂
SO, after all that reflection, let’s take a few looks at some rooms that have been making my heart and eyes feel happy lately.
That photo on the left is just – WOW. The wallpapered ceiling, the blue walls, the deep carpet colors. All of it. The photo on the right speaks to my need for more floral wallpaper.
WALL MURALS – where have they gone, how do we get them back, and who can I hire to paint one in my home? And that photo on the right has so much fun happening with the wallpaper and rug, while still feeling neutral because of the color palette.
So into the idea of two-tone anything, and the painting at the back of that hutch is dreamy. And the bathroom on the right is just the perfect mix of traditional and updated.
The kitchen and dining room on the left still feels neutral but the dark paint in the hutch and the mix of furniture, plus the gallery wall all keep it feeling warm, organic, and interesting. And I loooooove the warmth and texture on the walls in the photo on the right.
So into moody painted cabinetry and warm wood floors right now. It’s a winning combo. AHHH and dark wainscotting! I need to do this somewhere in my home, I feel very passionately about this!
This little moment of countryside charm is so endearing, and I want to be there, sitting in those mismatched chairs. Both of them at the same time. On the right, my dream lobby. You know, if I ever have a home that has a LOBBY. The painted ceiling is everything.
More dark moody cabinetry, more tone on tone. All delicious, all lovely, all things I want more of in my home.
THIS CUTE OFFICE NOOK (you know, with some painted cabinetry). And a breezy space filled with charm, a vintage rug, and warm terra cotta tile.
The common uniting thread between all of these? Deep colors, little to no empty wall space, lots of pattern, and heavy vintage influences. I’m dubbing this phase of my design aesthetic – Vintage Traditional Maximalism.
In the end, I think I’m truly more of a design enthusiast that is just experiencing some design discontent. Working for Emily these past years has taught me that our homes are design playgrounds, ever evolving – just like our own styles. But that comes directly to a head with Mac. All he wants is for our home to be DONE. For me to stop pulling us back and forth, switching directions, and revisiting spaces that are already “finished” so we can just live in them. On the one hand, playing and designing is part of my job. And I really enjoy it. On the other, this house isn’t just mine, and Mac has his own design aesthetic which has been severely underrepresented thus far throughout the house (has anyone ever met me? I’m a steamroller). And to be honest, I’m not sure how to remedy those two different opinions. GRANTED – our house in been in flux for a long time. Once we “finish” one area, we move onto another, and subsequently that “finished” area becomes storage for whatever space we’re having to clear out to work on. And we haven’t really had any downtime to just live with what we have. So maybe I’m just being restless and impatient. I mean, honestly, that’s probably a big part of the problem, haha. It just took writing this whole post for me to get there. THANK YOU FOR SITTING IN ON THIS THERAPY SESSION.
I guess this post doesn’t really have a thesis. But like, who else needs a support group for design discontent? And who has any advice for remedying the design differences between Mac and I? Maybe this is why interior designers go into interior design – designing a space just once isn’t enough!