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
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