A few months ago I saw an ad in Seattle Homes & Lifestyle magazine calling for designers to enter a contest. The grand prize is $10,000 and a 10 day all-inclusive trip to Paris with a stay at a posh hotel. Say no more, thought I. The contest was entitled “What Inspires You” sponsored by a new social media company for designers called Design Sherpa. Instructions were to submit a photo and a 100 word essay on what inspires you about the photo. I grabbed a picture that I had snapped one cool, foggy morning and scribbled some words about how the 2 subjects in the photo represented what my husband and I were able to create using salvage and sweat and what other possibilities still lay ahead.
I essentially forgot about my entry until a few weeks later I received an email telling me I had made the top 100! Exciting! Then I found out that an uber talented designer friend of mine from the mid west was also a top 100 finalist. Round 2 whittles the field from 100 to the top 10. To be selected as a top 10 finalist, you had to write a 350 word post on any design topic that shows your unique passion and writing style. I didn’t even have to think hard about what I would write about. For some reason, it just came to me. A few revisions later and this is what I came up with:
When I was a teenager in the 1980’s, I spied an overstuffed, purple, velvet sofa in a home store in Portland, Oregon. It was terribly avant-garde and I pined for that sofa. I spent countless hours scheming ways to earn enough money to buy it, then ached over the fact that I still lived at home and such a purchase was out of the question. It took a few years to get that sofa out of my system and in some ways it felt like unrequited love. Fast forward a couple of design decades and I am baffled at what I saw in that piece.
But what if I had been united with that first love? What if through the years I lugged that thing with me to college, my first house, my current house? Would I still love it? As my style has come into focus through the years, with some trends firmly filed away under “never again”, I believe that I could still be satisfied with such a relationship. The thing that I’ve come to understand and love about furniture is that it can change and evolve with you. It’s not too precious to alter! Reupholstery can replace purple with paisley. Or rolled arms can slim down if you trim the frame. Twenty years ago I would have had no idea how to accomplish these things but over the years I learned to reupholster and now it is not only my occupation but my passion. The mystery has been revealed and I am able to transform even the most hideous of styles.
As we become more aware of the impact our consumerism has on the planet, approaching design with an eye toward reusing what we already have is important. But more than that, it’s honest. I believe design should illustrate a life and lessons learned along the way. Though it’s tempting to toss a sheet over past regrets, with vision and effort they can become celebrated. Repurposing and revitalizing allow our past loves to remain stylish and current while contributing to a unique and inspired design story.
Well, I just received my rejection letter this morning. (sniff, sniff). It’s crummy timing, actually, as I’m really struggling lately with why I’m working so hard and seeing such little results. I’ll wrestle through it. In the meantime, I’m purging and organizing my house today which does wonders for the clutter in my head as well. I wonder if I’d feel better after a hug from a purple velvet old friend?