aesthetic surroundings

Proof of the health of varied interests (from publisher's marketplace deals page):

President and executive creative director of Coach, Reed Krakoff's FIGHTER, a look at the fighters of the UFC, showcasing both their fierce athleticism and their surprising sensitivity and grace, filled with black and white photographs and candid interviews, to Megan Newman at Viking Studio, in a good deal, for publication in Fall 2008, by Kate Lee at ICM (world English).

I spent a number of years in the field of art and an overlapping number of years in the field of interior design. Anyone who walks into my house knows design is important to me. That's not to say my house is magazine worthy, but living in surroundings which express who my family is and what we're about is something I simply cannot survive without. I'll eat crap food (ask anyone--the last thing I care about is what I eat--based on taste, anyway) and drink shit beer (Coors light in a can, anyone?)

But two things I cannot tolerate: bad design and bad wine.

I know little about wine beyond if it's good, I can taste it. But the names get tossed from my mind as soon as the bottle ends up in the recycling bin.

Design, though. That's different. I know good design when I see it, and can have a reasonably intelligent conversation about it. I watch the trends and read magazines. (House Beautiful is the current best on the American market; don't waste your time with anything else. It's chock full of trends, and not just in design, if one "reads between the lines" as it were.) Furthermore, I know what I like and why. I'm a much more competent designer than I am anything else: artist, writer, mother, wife. So, when I go into folks' houses and see bad design, it makes me cringe on their behalf. I feel sorry for them that they live in such squalor (it might be clean, but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work). I also understand that they may not know the principles of Feng Shui (more common sense than anything) or what colors work with what, but get help, people!

Pretty is subjective; does the room work? is objective. Watch people at your house in parties. Where do they congregate, beyond the kitchen, when lured with food or drinks? People gravitate toward small groupings, so provide the opportunity for them to clique up.

Where do your kids hang out? Do you love to hang out in your bedroom at the end of the day? Is it hard to cook in your kitchen, or easy?

Have a room you don't use? We have a 16 room house and use every square inch of it regularly. I have a small kitchen table, on purpose. There's just the four of us. When there's one more guest for dinner, we head into the dining room. I have no pretty front living room--my "pretty" room is at the heart of the house, drawing people forward from the front hall. It invites people to sit because they do without my asking. Our front room is a playroom. I don't like big plastic toys any better than anyone else, but we have kids, so to me, that speaks to who we are. What kid really wants to go down to the dank basement to play? They don't and they won't. My kids play because they have premium space to play in. (Besides, their toys get dragged everywhere anyway.) It's only for a few years, and then we're adding a pool table and fireplace--still a playroom. :D

I think this alternately informs and harms my writing. Sometimes I neglect setting (crit group members are rolling their eyes at sometimes) because I see it so clearly in my head that I forget to mention it. But does it work is a proven method to aesthetic, and I think my experience in design has trained me to take a pragmatic approach. I may love a certain sofa, but if no one sits on it because it's too unfortable, or god forbid, too precious, then what's the point? Same with a certain line of text. It may be the most poetic form of prose ever written, but not if anyone says, "Cool line, but what does it mean?"

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