Thursday, February 11, 2010

Design is Elemental

I will postpone the continuation of my first entry and move on to a new one.

Sometimes my memory fails me but there are certain things that I can always count on to bring me back to certain times and places. Perhaps it is just me, but the things I recall most are most often attached to very specific pictures of how something looked, felt, sounded and sometimes smelled. Very elemental, I should say. Primal even.

Well there's some basis to that. Human beings are programmed to respond to beauty in things. Beauty that is translated in an object's inherent size, symmetry, proportion, color, lines, and shape. These are the things that draw us in. The details we look for and remember in something.

I can distinctly remember the green, long, sinewy and smooth blades of coconut palm leaves that my grandmother used to weave bracelets out of. I can still see her wrinkled hands, white and spotted, her fingers moving deftly, over and under, from which emerged leafy trinkets of rings and wristlets she gleefully presented to us. I remember the purple, yellow and green in the woven mat my parents creatively used as an area rug in the apartment I grew up in, as much as the cool, white ceramic tile patterned with orange swirls on which it lay. My first time in New York, I remember how small I felt and how straight, tall and endless the skyscrapers were. The things I remember most about the houses I grew up in were wooden window shutters with mother-of-pearl window panes that were as old as they felt and smelled, gray, rough adobe walls, the rich, beautiful red patina of polished wooden floors, cold concrete dividing walls I hated because I could not drill into them and hang my own picture frames. The pretty light that filtered through the stained glass windows of an old church.

Form, scale, color, texture, pattern and light. These are the elements of design. Elemental, universal. They are the parameters used by our minds that helps us decide what is beautiful and what is not. In all things natural and man-made, these are the things we see and respond to. The vertical lines on a towering hardwood tree that starts from curling, shapely branches and ends in the texture-filled, tonal arrangement of leaves in the canopy, through which light filters through. After that comes a certain pattern of grain and hardiness that end up in rich, warm wooden floors and carvings borne out of the minds and hands of architects and craftsmen. Down on the forest floor, tiny, colorful blossoms and creatures provide inspiration for a myriad of colors and patterns that can be translated into a sumptuous piece of fabric, an antique woven rug or a beautiful tapestry. Beyond the forest could lie verdant hills that inspire the architect and designer to select floor to ceiling glass instead of walls, to bring the outside in.
So next time you are out there, trying to select a new toss pillow, or artwork to hang over that bed, think about the things that inspire you, that draw you in. A love for the ocean can be translated into a rich, velvet turquoise pillow. A lifetime spent in another place can be brought back on the splashes of color on an abstract oil painting. Our interiors should reflect who we are and where we have been. In this way, they are truly a reflection of all that we are inside, and everytime we walk into that front door after a long day, we are HOME.