When I was in college, I had a lucky pen. It sounds silly, I know, but I was convinced that notes taken with my pen increased my fact retention, and essays written with my pen netted me a better grade. There was just something about the combination of the body (ergonomic but not in your face about it), the ink (smooth navy) and the ease with which it glided across the page that made it perfect, or at least perfect for me. I could stop thinking about the pen altogether and focus on what I was actually writing. And that's really what good design does: it allows you to do your task in the most beautiful and efficient way possible. I write about design every week, and yet I rarely think about WHY good design is so important to our lives. Why we bother to endlessly search for the perfect coffee table or sofa. It may not seem as weighty an issue as many we face today. Having a flawless table certainly isn't going to ensure that there will always be food on it, or loved ones sitting around it, but being surrounded by comfort and beauty unequivocally makes our daily experiences better. There's nothing superfluous about beauty and nothing mundane about utility. Our lives are the sum of our days. Making ordinary tasks pleasurable and everyday surroundings inspirational is, I think, the surest way to increase your satisfaction both short and long term.
When something is both beautiful and functional, it earns a place in our lives, and becomes a part of our experience. We live in, on, and around design. Our lives change and evolve and so do our things. Good design isn't dependent on having lots of space or money; it comes from necessity and creativity. The spark you feel when you discover a new idea incites emotion, love or hate, but never indifference. Hate can indicate a lack of understanding, but indifference is the kiss of death. When something excites you, you've gotten to the essence of who you are. Things have meaning because they express ideas, and manipulating ideas is the purest form of communication. Like a Rorschach test, what someone visualizes putting in an empty room is very telling about how they view the world.
It sounds heavy, I know. I'm not making the argument that every vase you buy is slowly boxing you into a certain style where you'll be stuck forever. Just the opposite — noticing what makes you happy (and unhappy) on a gut level is a clue to what you're all about, and listening to that instinct can help you create a fulfilling, productive and fun space.