Friday, November 7, 2008

The nature of the beast

What is design? How does it differ from decoration?

Design is improving the functionality of the space or the room.

Decoration is solely improving the appearance of the room.

For example, say you have a kitchen with new cabinets, new floors, new laminate countertops, everything is current, everything looks good.

Decoration only considers the surface treatment and the looks of the place. Decoration would paint the walls and add window treatements, perhaps upgrade the countertops and the floors. Design fixes the problematic layout, tailors the kitchen to the owners, adds amenities that improves the function. Decoration would paint the cabinets and walls and maybe change the flooring. There is nothing wrong with decoration, sometimes that is all that is needed.

Design considers questions: how many cooks will be using the kitchen? How will the household be using this room? Is universal design an immediate or long term need? Design considers the maximum length of the triangle and the length of the shortest and longest legs. Is the lighting adequate, both ambient and task?

This is the reason we are so often disappointed with home decoration shows on television. These shows never consider much beyond "how does it look?". They leave a poorly functioning room poorly functioning and throw a lot of things at it that don't help even one bit or confuse you as to the rooms function. Does a household with a seven year old boy need a killer entryway? With expensive Stueben glass on a pricey table? Wouldn't a room with toy and coat storage nearby be more appropriate? It can be drop dead gorgeous, but it had better function and be tough.

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