finding a balance

I've been kind of a snoop these last two weeks. I’m in the process of surveying my friends for do's and don't's on classes I’m building, most likely offered on-line. I've gotten over feeling intrusive. At first it felt so odd to ask people about their design habits or desires or frustrations. I’ve never minded asking people how they live, especially if I am designing for them, yet asking about design habits is different. It seemed more personal….which I suppose it is.

How can I design a class without knowing what people want to learn? So I ask. From the answers, I've determined there is generally a lack of interest in finding the balance between the function and the esthetic nature of a space. It's the sort of thing I think about every day. In the branch I bring in from outside, or the color of a square on the wall. Hmmmm, maybe because I'm a designer and a kid at play? Yep. Duhhh.. Yet I believe everyone is a designer. I contemplate the inclusiveness and the difference between taking an account of how we work or live and making artistic choices in changing a space. 

Steven Covey in his book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, taught me: "Seek to understand before being understood". Those simple words changed my career at a crucial time and helped me remember to listen first. Really listen. How does my client feel? What drives him or her or brings happiness to their lives? When I have these questions, then I can design. Before, I might as well be threading a needle in the wind. Only through the eyes of my client, can I view the world I am entering, if I am to design for them. I become an actor of their life and sometimes I am two or more actors if their is a family living in a space. Or the public impressions of a business are my eyes. The constraints of the space, the existing furnishings, the way entertainment time is spent or meals are eaten or if there's a need for a work station among children playing with toys, this is all evidence. From all this investigation, the bones are built. The first steps are the functional bones. After the bones, then artistic decisions are garnished from 'who is the client?'. What inherent and driven styles emerge? Is the client aware or not of their style? How to learn and design the functions of how a space will be best designed, is the first step. The second, is feeding the soul of the inhabitants.

How might I teach this balance of function and esthetic? I ponder one question I would ask a person wanting to design on their own or work with a designer: 

Do you know your own style and use that knowledge, when you remodel a space? 

If you don’t know who you are, how would you decide what surrounds you? Hopefully not only by what's in the catalogs. It seems natural to me that before looking at what the market suggests, we explore our history and present life for the many signs of what makes up our very unique individual life.

I am always changing my style, but certain pieces always stay with me. I have a little gypsy-hippie from my Mill Valley days. Also a bit of South Pacific Mid-Century Miami. I like woods more than metals so I suppose a bit of wood elf is in me too. I set one of my bonsai trees on a pedestal and imagine I'll create more of a Zen like space someday. I am past, present and future.  

I believe if you find your style, you are ready to begin an interior.