Since the Sub-Prime Mortgage bubble burst and global financial markets plunged I have often been asked how it is affecting the interior design business. While the outlook does look pretty grim right now, I believe this is a time of change and not all change is bad.
The financial crisis has driven the proverbial nail into the coffin of the “consumer society.” Things need to change, and unfortunately the “change we need” will most likely be painful. The ideas of the pleasure principal and the growth principal (in terms of the belief that there was no end to our economic growth in sight) need to be reformed.
Going forward, we need to start consuming better, which often means consuming less and changing from a quantitative mindset to a qualitative one. You are probably thinking “Why is an interior designer advocating that we buy less — won’t that hurt her business?”
The answer is no. I am excited by the prospect of the coming changes; I often found the trend of larger and larger homes troubling. If you have a sitting room, fireplace, television and coffee bar in your master suite, when do you see your children? And if the children each have their own bathroom, a TV, a wii and their desks in their bedrooms, when does the family spend any time together? Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a home that required an intercom to find one another.
Our culture’s obsession with “more is better” and “bigger is better” is often achieved through the sacrifice of quality. Things are no longer built to last and we throw out old items without compunction and go to the nearest big box store to replace what we just threw out. I am a huge fan of vintage items and antiques for this very reason. People often ask me why I buy so much vintage, whether it is furniture or barware or clothing, and my response always is that the items are often as old, if not older, than me and look just as good.
Historically during times of crisis we travel less and spend more time at home. Flat-screen TVs, home gyms, and espresso machines allow us to share time with our family in a perfect bubble. The internet makes it possible for the world to come to us. The concepts of the home and family, friendships and “being together” are rising in importance. The success of social networking sites like Facebook testify to our need to be connected and re-connect in a society that moves extraordinarily fast and doesn’t often look back.
Downsizing our lives does not mean an automatic reduction in good design and style. If anything, good design becomes even more important in times like these. At the most basic level, good design provides a certain level of human comfort that makes your home a pleasurable place to be in and a true reflection of who you are.
The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones. — John Maynard Keynes
All human beings have the abilities needed to change the course of their lives. — Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner