The hoopla is gone, now. It's back to work as usual. And yet, there is cause to celebrate—many things we feared did not come to pass during Y2K. So with a huge sigh of relief, we can look to a fresh start and a new beginning here in this first year of the "real" new millennium.
In what ways can we start fresh or begin again? There are many ways to answer this question. Some of them emotional or spiritual, some of them physical. Although it seems to be less fashionable these days, when I was growing up it was fairly customary to write a list of New Year's Resolutions. This list often found three avenues of resolve:
1. Changing or improving one's attitude, actions and behavior toward others. This often meant rooting out the "natural" person and becoming a kinder, wiser, better person.
2. Personal things to accomplish. This might include becoming more physically fit, or doing that project that has laid dormant for so long—perhaps writing a personal history, or a visit to an aged relative before it is too late, or reading some books that have been gathering dust.
3. Physical improvements to our surroundings. These may include a commitment to tackle the to-do list of home repairs, or to set a goal to replace worn-out carpet, purchase new window treatments or furniture, or even update the home office with a new computer.
NEW INTERIOR BEGINNINGS
New beginnings that have to do with the home often have effects on many other areas of our lives. When we update a room or an entire house, office or work space, we may benefit with a new perspective. This change is sometimes called a paradigm shift; it's looking at life with new eyes.
This happens because we are trying out new solutions to interior design problems, and it carries over to other areas of our personal lives. With something as simple as a new window treatment, a new color or pattern on the walls, new flooring, furniture or accessories, we feel that we also have a new lease on life. Just having something new seems to give us permission to look for other solutions that can change the inner workings of our lives.
How can we help our customers achieve this healthy fresh start? It begins with our own attitudes. After the holidays are behind us and we've met our clients' deadlines and those of our own personal needs, we often are in need of freshening up our own attitudes. It may be helpful to look at our own surroundings and determine how we can give ourselves a fresh look
THE VACUUM LAW OF SUCCESS
In Catherine Ponder's book, "The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity," she gives an interesting law that has merit here. It is called the Vacuum Law of Success, which means you must first create an empty space so the new things you desire can have room to materialize. In other words, when you want something new, you must first remove the old. This means some serious house-cleaning and de-junking.
January is often the best time of year for cleaning things out—especially if anything new has been added to personal or household possessions, then it becomes imperative to get rid of the item that has been replaced. Give it to a charitable cause, preferably one that will reuse or recycle that item.
Another thing we as design professionals can do is to update sample books and get rid of any discontinued samples, price lists or catalogs. Rearrange the office, file the stack that is gathering dust while waiting to be filed. Better yet, upgrade to a computer and work toward a paperless office.
When we feel good about our work and personal environments, we can pass this healthy attitude along to our customers. We cannot say to a customer, "Why don't you get rid of all this old junk?" But we can ask key questions that will get them thinking about how they can begin again with a fresh look and a new paradigm for the new year. For example, we can ask, "What are you thinking of replacing?" (The key word is replacing.) And then we support them in their response, giving them positive feedback about what newness they desire to achieve and how we can help them accomplish it.
A FRESH LOOK
What is the definition of a fresh look? As winter wanes, we often think of fresh ideas in association with spring and new growth. We think, perhaps, of uncluttered interiors where the mind can expand with enthusiastic possibilities and the body can feel renewed as with a breath of clean air.
As we put away holiday decorations and do a bit of serious housecleaning, many people begin looking forward to the flowering bulbs of spring and the lighthearted, happy way they make us feel. Translating that to the interior is an upbeat task because the result is a space that, simply put, makes people feel good.
LIGHT AND AIR
One of the first things to consider is the amount of sunlight and fresh air that can be taken into the room. This means planning for window treatments that will stack off the glass and adjust to the needs of the room's occupants.
In this age of regulated, air-conditioned and heated air, many people long for a bit of old-fashioned window-opening. Look for ways to increase light and enhance the light-reflecting properties of the colors and textures in the room. Are the windows themselves beautiful, or could they be replaced and made a part of the interior architectural scheme?
With greater emphasis in many interiors today on simple spaces and less decoration, making the windows themselves great is worthy of consideration.
COLOR IT FRESH
New-looking rooms usually are filled not only with light from the sun, but with light values and crisp value contrast. Value is the amount of light or dark in a room. High values are the lightest variations of a hue; low values are the darkest.
Low contrast means there is little difference between the values. A low contrast room can be high key—all light values, which look the freshest; mid-tone—all middle values, or low key—all darker values.
High contrast means there is a great difference in the values—light versus dark—such as white and China-blue, for example. High contrast rooms also can have a fresh quality because the addition of white seems to make everything seem lighter and brighter—and certainly more cheerful, crisp and clean.
White is said to be a catalyst color, giving life and action to interiors. White surfaces are easy to live with, especially when they form a background for a delightful pattern that is cheery. White and tinted off-whites also tend to recede visually, making an interior space seem larger than it really is. This space-expanding quality increases the effect of cleanliness, and nearly any room that is clean feels fresh.
LIGHT AT THE WINDOWS, WALLS, FLOOR
Finally, fresh ideas seem to flow when the natural light source isn't darkened by using too much decorative fabric or dark colors. Keep the values light and the lines uncluttered at the window. Light from the sun left unencumbered is emotionally reinforcing, filling us with solar power and enhancing our own energy levels.
Light colors on the walls not only seem to move away, but also are easy to live with. Trimming the woodwork with white or using white-background wall coverings makes a room appear sharp and clear.
Light colors and values underfoot—in area rugs and carpeting—give a sense of walking on air, a stress-reducing experience. Rooms that feel fresh give us a happy outlook and a bit of confidence. Together these qualities make fresh-looking rooms worth creating!
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.