This past week's bathroom contest--plus all the rain, which always puts me in a reflective mood--has got me thinking about what we mean when we talk about "good design." When we clicked for Enrique or Guido or any of the other entrants--and it was a great crop--what we were voting for (other than the triumph of distraction over work productivity)? Was our choice primarily aesthetic--did we select the person whose individual taste most matched our own? Or somehow ethical, rewarding the one who did the most with the least and de-valuing those spaces that already had "great bones" to their advantage? Did we favor iconoclasm, or reward with our vote(s?) those clearly familiar with the vocabulary of design? Professional or savant? Homey or hotel-y? Or, as some have commented, did we perhaps vote based on visible tallies, seeking to push one entrant over the top and refraining from a "throwaway vote"?
Forgive me if it's a little early in the day for philosophy, but that vessel sink may be deeper than you think: what we value has something to say about our values. As with any form of specialized knowlege, we can dive in to design as a way of increasing our pleasure and that of our guests, or we can use it as a wedge to separate ourselves from others--it's the difference between show-and-tell and showing off. What I loved about all the rooms we saw this week, even the ones I didn't like, was their owners' evident, infectious pleasure in both the process and the result.
How much of "goodness" is objective and how much subjective? Are you a believer in the Golden Mean, or do you prefer things a little jolie-laide? As for me, it's a mix: I love the proportions--and, yes, the pedigree--of my Eames chair, but I also love the horrifying lamp with the great story. And my diastematic partner, recalcitrant hair and all, is the most beautiful person in the world.
I don't know exactly where attractive sink fixtures fall on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but I'm pretty sure they're on there somewhere. This week's contest was, for me, more evidence of the truth that design is never frivolous, even when--especially when--it's fun.
Image credit: Clint Sprott