So, 2020 began with the proverbial bang, and January has turned out to be a pivotal month for my career, which will account for many a conversation in the future, I’m sure.
This article, however, is about Interior Design Masters and the way it lends itself to a number of reflections about creative work as well as interior design.
A reality show about interiors and the creative process
The first season of Interior Design Masters landed on Netflix International on October 19 2019, and I binged it over a weekend, having loads of fun.
It all boils down to two main reasons, the first one fairly personal, the second a more objective one.
The judge, Michelle Ogundehin
The first element I loved about the format was appointing Michelle Ogundehin as the series judge. I might be biased because I’ve admired Ms. Ogundehin for over a decade since she took over the role of editor in chief at Elle Decoration UK. Her monthly editorials were an inspired mixture of feeling and sharp design instinct, and I’ve kept the majority of them in a binder.
To be honest, I’ve also pre-ordered her first book which sounds like a perfect and natural expansion on those same editorials.
The same balance of honest heart and a strong sense of what commercial interior design is, is what brought some of the highest moments in Interior Design Masters because Ogundehin manages to convey some very direct and invaluable lessons to the contestants while always feeling and showing compassion for their passion, effort, and journey.
It is a pleasure to watch and a great teaching opportunity for anybody with a strong interest in the business and a creative approach.
Business lessons for creative types
The second reason why Interior Design Masters is so interesting to watch is that most of the key teaching moments in the show apply to any creative professional doing commercial work and something not all creative professionals have come to terms with.
‘Listen to your client’, ‘Ultimately the design has to work for the client’, ‘A signature design is not always the right answer to the brief’ are just some of the hard truths all creatives have to face, sooner or later.
And yet, so many designers, architects, decorators, stylists tend to ignore these truths, often ending up with designs that don’t fulfill the brief. Or that won’t survive the first week of real life.
The Interior Design Masters judges never condone these mistakes. And that is something I loved.
What I loved a little bit less was the way some interior conundrums were addressed…
Interior conundrums and my solutions
While watching the show there were a few conundrums that contestants were met with that I felt were not addressed properly, and that I feel I would have come up with the right solution for. I’ve decided to write about them here as a little exercise.
I get it. To create conflict in the show, writers need to get contestants to make a few dumb mistakes, here and there. However, it’s a pain to watch an excellent show when people in it come up with the least efficient and more absurd solutions to problems!
Here’s a list of a few instances when a simple interior conundrum was not addressed properly and the solution I would have come up with. To be clear, my solutions might not be the absolute best, but I thought it’d be a nice exercise to detail them. Maybe this will help anybody who’s facing the same challenges.
Episode one – show homes
Conundrum: how to style rooms to inspire a viewer to desire to own the place and live in it, without scaring them off.
My approach: I feel the ego should be left outside of any such project. Show homes are not designed to wow guests but to entice as many people as possible into thinking, “I want to live here!”. It’s only natural that this kind of project should be very market-oriented and a little bit expected.
My solution: I think the best way to approach this is by sticking to nuances from a single palette for the whole project, creating cohesion from room to room. Decor-wise I would pick a few grounding pieces (think a big sofa and two chairs for a living room), accessorizing them with props that a prospective buyer could easily pick within any budget.
Episode three – the skateboard store
Conundrum: how to display as much merchandise as possible (as per the owner’s request) while not making the store look unnecessarily cluttered?
My approach: when a client demands something impractical or counter-intuitive, my first reaction is always to research what lies beneath this request. What is the client’s actual need and/or priority behind it? What reasoning led them to believe they should ask for this? In this episode, it turns out the skateboard store was famous for having the most complete range of specialty products in the Country, and its owner believed he had to display them all to be relevant.
My solution: truth be told, you don’t really need to display every single item you sell in a store, but you should edit and curate a selection of items that carefully reflect your full range. It’s very much about careful editing and inventive storage. For example, board wheels could be stored in deep drawers similar to hardware shop ones, with a sample wheel at the front of each drawer. Any shopper could see all available wheels at first glance, while the display would be streamlined and organized.
Episode four – dorm rooms
Conundrum: how to make the multifunctional storage units work in a tight space?
My approach: think about the client; they hold all the answers. And this instance isn’t different, the clients being students (of course) who’re living alone for the first time, and maybe don’t even know what they’d like/want yet. But what’s their daily life like? And what would make it easier? Answering these questions should be the first step in designing these rooms.
My solution: raising beds on tall storage units is a good idea to make the most of tight rooms… but only insofar as the storage units are not too tall to climb and are fully equipped with deep drawers mounted on castors, inner compartments, and shelving behind every door. I would have made it super easy to fill with the student’s possession and sort them, and stupidly quick to open and put away. Fewer props around and more smart choices in the black canvas of the rooms.
Conundrum: how to paint props and furniture fast without compromising on quality?
My approach: balancing priorities, duh.
My solution: this kept blowing my mind throughout the series. Watching all that brush painting when spray painting would have been much faster and more effective. Brush painting is ideal when you have the time to do proper brushwork, to let the item sit and dry, and to do fine detailing. But when you have to mass-paint big props and items, spray paint is the only smart answer. Just think about it, Frank. With spray paint, you could have had your lighting fixture in the country home living room instead of having to go with Cassie’s rattan solution!
And that’s all for my first blog post of 2020.
What about the rest of the year? Let’s just say I hope to be able to publish a blog post roughly every two weeks. I will attempt to cover different topics to reflect many interests I have, keeping a reasonable balance between tutorials and more personal reflections. Like this piece, although I hope it will be useful to somebody out there.
What not to expect from this blog:
- any artifice;
- the kind of mock-intimate discourse like we knew each other. I have honestly no control over who lands here and no clear idea of who you, my reader are, so I see no point in pretending otherwise.
To be perfectly honest, I wish you’d surprise me if we ever met IRL.