Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cost cuts: Could you really do it?

Do you think you could give your living space (a room, an apartment, a studio) a complete makeover for $300 or less? Do you think that you could put art on the walls, curtains on the windows, new/repurposed furniture, paint, and all the other cosmetic and aesthetic modifications that would classify what you've done as a makeover? Do you need a designer to help you through it?

The general optimistic wish (of which I have many, always) is that this is one part cash to two parts inspiration. And yes, you could change the look of a room, but that doesn't necessarily indicate that it's design-worthy (whatever that means). See, there are a lot of luxuries that design blogs don't share with people, and I often emit an empathetic shrug or sigh on behalf of folks who can't imagine how they'll get it right, and for myself. I'm under no illusions that my time (which is money) and financial constraints prevent me from sanding down that vintage desk and repainting it. I also know I have no lawn or garage in which to do it, and I certainly don't have a vehicle with which to transport it from the thrift store or antique shop where I originally purchased it. And even if I had all those things, could I really turn trash into treasure or would my house be strewn with half done projects and dreams unfulfilled? Can I afford art, local or otherwise? Is good design really within reach?

This might all sound incredibly Debbie Downer to you, but I'm really just trying to convey a point. When you read design blogs, or craft blogs, or even fancy magazines you don't really get to see the whole picture. You see the before and after, generally with ideal lighting and not a thread out of place...and certainly with significantly more time and cash spent on setting the scene than the editors willingly admit. These inspiration sources do a generally poor job at also delineating the process by which people actually see a project through from start to finish. Most people don't want to read that in a blog anyway; tl;dr. But it's important to note that what we're provided on the surface is a very microscopic pixel of the big picture.

In the case of the New York Times article I shared above, my hypothesis has been (mostly) proven correct. Could all these big design talkers really actually do what they convince the masses they can do? Can you really give a living room a designer-y new look on a mere pittance? The answer seems to be no, not really. At least these designers couldn't. I'm not suggesting that anyone maintain a constant sense of skepticism about design, design blogs and magazines. I do think, though, that it's important for everyone to balance pragmatism with imagination...because when I do that, I'm spared a significant amount of frustration, time and money.

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