See this body? Wouldn’t you LOVE to have it? You can’t, at least not if you’re a relatively average human being. If you’re a kazillionaire, you can take this photo to a world renowned plastic surgeon, and you might possibly get similar results. Or maybe you’ll end up the size of this model before she was photoshopped – if you’re lucky. At this point, especially amidst movements like Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” we’re pretty aware that this is unrealistic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be the best we can be – we can exercise, eat healthy, and learn to be happy with our bodies, our shapes, our sizes. We can shine with the confidence of a size zero, even if we’re a size 14, and people will think we’re stunning. We don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, even though the magazines would like us to think so. Magazines have been de-mystified over the past few years, but what about the catalogs we thumb through for ideas for our “dream home?”
Home décor catalogs are just as bad, if not worse, misrepresentations of reality. Go find some of those “inspiration pictures” you’ve clipped from the pages of the latest catalogue from your favorite furniture or design source. Take a look at the images. Visually stunning, right? Bright and happy? Clean? Take a closer look – do you see any cords running from the lamps to the outlets? Are all four corners of a room visible? Are there creases in the sofa or pillows? Are there sippy cups on the coffee table? No? That’s because it isn’t real life. Catalogs use this trickery to convince us that it’s possible to attain perfection if we spend all of our money at the store they’re advertising.
My favorite example of this tomfoolery is a particular home organization store – let’s call it the Storage Shoppe. As someone who has experience professionally organizing people’s spaces, I am a huge advocate of their products, and I’ve spent a fair share of money attempting to achieve a perfectly organized space. Here’s a photo from their recent catalog…let’s analyze, shall we?
At first, we see a beautiful closet – which any human being would LOVE to have. It’s so bright and cheery and green! Wait a second, not only are the closet walls painted green, but the entire wardrobe of the closet owner is some shade of brown or green. Have they disavowed wearing any color that isn’t some version of grass or moss? I’m pretty sure most people have at least three colors in regular rotation. And it is also pretty likely that folks own more than seven shirts. Let’s get real – a closet like this just can’t happen. Chasing kids around prevents perfectly starched and pressed pants. Most of us don’t have the time to measure the inches between each hanger to check for proper (and equidistant) spacing.
Okay, so we can’t have the “perfect space” as dictated by our favorite catalogs – just like we can’t have the “perfect body” as dictated by Conde Nast publications. Does that mean we throw in the towel, sit on our frumpy grandmother’s couch and gorge on ice cream? Heavens no. We take what we have and run with it. In the example of the wonderfully organized closet, we can’t have a 100% monochromatic wardrobe, but we can get a unified type of hanger, face all our shirts the same direction, and color code. And, it may not look like the catalog, but we’ll be proud and our friends will be impressed.
Perfection shouldn’t be our goal in design, or life really. That sort of lofty standard can lead to shattered expectations and an awful lot of discontentment. Realism is a much more appropriate aspiration. Your home should reflect your personality, your hobbies, your habits. If you have kids, go ahead – aim for a great storage system and a place for everything, but don’t let that stray shoe in the living room throw you off when guests come over. It is a reflection of your day-to-day living. No one wants to see perfection regurgitated from the pages of a catalog, just like no one wants to be friends with little miss “I only wear green.” Instead of striving for perfection, strive for personality. THAT is a major key to good design. Is it 100% impeccable? No. Does it represent you as a person – who you are now and who you aspire to be? If your home’s design can pull that off, that is perfection in itself, and that kind of perfection is worth striving for.
Thanks to Claire–Room Fu’s Decorologist and today’s guest blogger–for this awesome post!!
Excellent article, CB! You are spot-on and I appreciate the sentiments but take exception to only one thing. Karim Rashid ONLY wears white and pink. And I, myself, spent an entire summer only wearing shades of blue and white.