Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Design as Process Not Product

In their blog This (sorta) Old Life, Cane and Rita talk about a concept they call UnDesign.

Here is a summary of what they mean by the term in their own words:

As self-proclaimed UnDesigners, we value the process of creating our home more than anything we put in it. More often than not, we don’t quite know what we’re going to end up with until we are nearly done with a project. And “done” is a constantly moving target. Because the “product” reveals itself slowly over time, there are ample opportunities to make changes and do things differently than we originally thought we might.

I think they're on to something.  

When we moved into our little cottage almost six years ago, we knew that our extra bedroom would have to be a workhorse.  

And a miniature one at that.

At the beginning, it housed Christine's queen sized bed, which completely overpowered the 10x11-foot space.  Here's her bed in her new apartment, where she actually has room for it:

After she moved into a house with other students at the end of her freshman year, the bed went with her, and we decided to buy a futon.  It seemed like a good idea at the time--all the advantages of a double bed without taking up bed space.  So we bought a high-quality futon from LL Bean and then splurged on a custom denim slipcover for it, complete with round bolster pillows to make it more like a couch.

Except it wasn't a couch.  It wasn't as comfortable as a couch, so I rarely sat on it.

And it wasn't as practical as a bed because even though it didn't take up as much space while it was in couch position, I still had to find room to store four pillows, a set of sheets, and a thick mattress topper to make it even remotely comfortable for someone to sleep on. Then it had to be opened and made up if someone wanted to sleep on it.

So a few weeks ago, I traded the futon to Alex and Ashleigh for a double bed, which is now ready for them if they come to spend the night.  I think they made out like bandits on the deal because they have an expensive futon AND a comfortable bed to sleep on when they spend the night at our house.

On to the workout part of the room.  We had our exercise bike in there, which I ride maybe a dozen times a year in bad weather, and Doug might use about half that often.  I wanted it in the basement because I don't care whether I'm surrounded by wet laundry while I ride it, but Doug fought me on it because he wanted it where there is a TV he can use to watch The Price is Right during his hour of stationary cycling pain.  I just couldn't justify that thing taking up prime real estate for a few rides a year.

I finally won that battle, but I lost the war because a few months after we wrestled the bike down to the basement, we got Jodie. The extra space was quickly consumed by a dog crate large enough for a Labrador retriever.  

And now for the sewing corner in the room.

I was originally sewing on a little linoleum-topped table that I got for free at the UDon't Need It sale a couple of years ago.  But then we needed the table at our beach cottage, so I piled all of my sewing stuff on the floor and moved the table to its new home on the porch:

With this year's UDon't Need It sale right around the corner, I was pretty sure I could find a replacement for it.  

Maybe not.  

I found four chairs, a salad bowl, measuring spoons and cups, and a fleece throw for my daughter and her roommates to use in their new apartment.

But no tables that would work in the space that I had.

I went back on the last day of the sale and searched again.

Still no table.  But then I saw a desk--a solid wood desk in perfect condition that was exactly the right size.  And it was only $1.  

Why had I ever thought I wanted a table?  A desk offered storage for all my sewing stuff instead of just a surface for me to work on.  So $24.09 later, I had new bin pull hardware to replace the 1960s scroll-y pulls.  I also painted the top to cover some scratches and make it look less like a 1960s desk:

I think this is an example of what Cane and Rita mean by UnDesign.  My decorating is as much about process as product, things evolve as I see how we actually live, and sometimes I don't know what I want until I see it.

Sometimes you win--with free vintage tables and dollar desks--and sometimes you lose...with expensive futons.  But I'm starting to realize that you can't always use money as the basis for deciding whether you've won or lost.

It has to be about whether it works for you or not, and--at least for now--this is working....  

But maybe someday Jodie won't need that crate, and I'll have about 8 more square feet to use for something.....

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