Reducing Stress with Good Design
April 4, 2019
Or, how to stress out an architect with a tv over a fireplace.
Design is a choice. Sometimes, you may choose to not spend time making things look good. Or, sometimes you may go to the extra mile, figuring out a way to make something more beautiful or better functioning.
The person who put this television above this fireplace also made a choice. I imagine you can guess which path they took.
Let me back up a bit, as the intent of this post isn’t to roast this poor person who hung a television off-center, crooked, and in a way that ruined my eyes for days on end while I was on vacation. I’m sure this person is perfectly lovely, and had a million other things to worry about, and so just hung the television where there was power, or cable, or enough structure behind it to mount the attachment. Whatever the reason, the television is up there, and it works, and life goes on. The fact that I couldn’t stop looking at it, and was getting irritated is a “me” problem and most definitely not a “you” problem.
My intent here, is to talk about the power the choices you make have. Most people aren’t like designers. They see this television and they’re like, “Cool, this rental house has a television.” Some people may notice that it is off-center and be a little bothered, but they’ll move on and forget about it. And then there are architects and designers who wake up in a cold sweat when they live next to this thing for days on end.
Basically, it is a spectrum, but for the majority of us, being surrounded by better design choices just makes you feel better. A positive experience in a space is often the absence of negative experiences. It is a great compliment to me when someone comments that a space I designed is very simple or “clean” — it means that the effort spent ensuring distractions were limited paid off. It means people can focus on reading that book, looking out at the ocean, playing with their kids, or whatever else floats their boat, and not spend mental energy on wanting to move a crooked television over.
Our physical environment impacts us on a daily basis. There’s a great scene in Christmas Vacation where Chevy Chase, completely exasperated at the insanity that has taken place over his holiday, chops off the wobbly newel post with a chainshaw. “Fixed the newel post!” is one of my favorite quotes because it captures the underlying irritation that things that don’t work, or look bad, can have on us.
That is why I do what I do. Good design can often be invisible and often takes a lot of time, thinking, and creativity to get things right. There are few of us who have the mental or physical resources to get everything right all of the time, but that certainly doesn’t mean we wouldn’t all be better off if we tried. When a client hires an architect or designer, I know that one of our primary jobs is to we reduce the anxiety that their physical space might create for them. It is a joy, a privilege, and a damn crusade.
And please, for the love of all that is good in the world, can everyone please spend the time to never install a television like this in your home.
Love, your friendly and deranged architect.