I’m a furniture snob. It comes from nearly twenty years in the design business. But I’m not a snob in the way that many of my colleagues are. I don’t care about name brands (although I tip my hat to makers of fine things who’ve earn a deserved reputation) as much as I care about the integrity of the piece. That is: what is this item trying to be and does it work?
In my dining room – a tiny square where the cat likes to nap, where everyone has to draw in their chairs to pile in around the table – the furniture is a mix of the primitive, cottage-made and the formal and elegant. Using color, the craft of placement, and a curated mix of art and accents, the pieces compliment the scale of the room and each other. They function and they please me, two criteria never to be undersold.
However, why the curly French chairs and the boxy little corner shelf play well together is mostly due to their inherent honesty. As objects, these pieces have distinctive characteristics. We can change their narrative to a degree by shifting their context, but unless we get out a saw and start lopping away at them (thus rejecting their truth) we must honor the very things that make them unique. It is, after all, the contrast between the objects that makes for an interesting room.
If a physicist who played fiddle, an interpretive dancer with a passion for soup-making, and a human rights activist who blew off steam at the shooting range were stuck in an elevator together – well, that would make for a pretty interesting dynamic. Yet if they each felt they should imitate the other, then the highs and lows of their differences would fade away. In life, we do feel the need to find common ground for brief, sometimes awkward social encounters. Thus, the fiddling scientist, the prancing epicurean, and the gun-wielding idealist discuss the weather until the mechanic gets them safely out.
Design is where ideas and things come together. The illusive magic of imagination finds expression through tangible goods. The more sincere the objects, the more truthful the space. And the more varied and personal our collections, the more compelling and intriguing the design.
If you’re to be a snob about design, it’s better to be one about whether a space is interesting, rather than about what it cost. Buying quality is important, but purism of influences leaves me cold. We might as well be discussing whether or not it’s going to rain.