Design for Yourself – The Good Men Project

Laveta Brigham

In the twenty-six years that I owned a home, messages bombarded me about how I should decorate, live, and own my home. “Build for yourself and your lifestyle!” If you can’t build a house: “Reno your kitchen and bathroom(s) and basement!” In the 00s, HGTV praised granite countertops, floating islands, […]

In the twenty-six years that I owned a home, messages bombarded me about how I should decorate, live, and own my home. “Build for yourself and your lifestyle!” If you can’t build a house: “Reno your kitchen and bathroom(s) and basement!”

In the 00s, HGTV praised granite countertops, floating islands, shiplap, and farm sinks.

In the 90s, it was wood floors, oak cabinets, large tubs, ivy wallpaper, and wallpaper borders.

In the 80s, decorative flowers everywhere required enormous pieces of furniture coupled with dark trim and formal dining rooms.

Every year, marketers couple decorating with living space design.

The marketing is understandable. Before the 80s, you could get a stove that lasted forty years. Companies needed people to envy the Jones’s so they could continue to make money. Appliances are no longer designed to last.

I once owned a refrigerator that imploded from designed entropy. The plastic pieces degraded so fast that we lost the door handle within three months of purchase. I could afford to purchase two new appliances for the cost of investing in degradable replacement plastic.

Beyond my appliance woes, peer pressure to upgrade rooms followed me like the creepy guy who refuses to take no for an answer.

I wanted a functional kitchen and to be able to cook while someone else did the dishes and cut up food. My kitchen (from the early 80s) penned me in and rendered me unable to move if the oven and dishwasher doors were open at the same time. Someone planned for exactly one person to maneuver in that tiny kitchen. Something about being chained to the stove, maybe?

I desperately needed my space to work better with two boys learning to cook. My renovation required only a few things — removing an annoying breakfast bar, moving a dishwasher, installing a large cabinet, and removing carpeting from a dining room. I required not much more than a saw, glue, a little electrical and carpentry know-how, and a lot of hard work.

It wasn’t a “new” kitchen. What satisfied me the most (and for years after) was removing an impediment, making the space more livable. It only cost us $1500 for the cabinet and new flooring.

My experiences in the forays of DIY, design, and staging left me with some inescapable conclusions about home design.

White is dirty.

Unless you live in a microcosm or a clean room where everyone wears hazmat gear and showers before entering, white will entertain and distribute dirt like monster truck mud rallies.

Granite is problematic.

Granite is difficult to clean, heavy, expensive, radioactive, and hard to match colors to be easy on the eye.

Open spaces allow grease and dust to infiltrate everything.

Kitchens of old were enclosed spaces for good reason. Every time you turn on the oven or stove, invisible particles of water, grease, and dust float throughout your house. If your living space is open to your kitchen, last night’s dinner coats your entire living room. Turning on an un-vented hood fan distributes the grease to the ceiling and cabinets.

Open shelving is filthy.

The more random stuff sitting on shelves in your kitchen space, the more you can count on that same grease and dust to require more cleaning overall.

Wallpaper in bathrooms breed mold.

Paper and water love to combine to feed the wee-beasties that live everywhere. Impregnable, impermeable wallpaper doesn’t exist. Even with a good fan, water settles on every surface in any tightly enclosed bathroom.

Gray walls in cold weather climates are depressing.

People suffering from Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SADD) need extra sunlight to get through the winter months because gray skies day in and day out affect moods. Adding gray everywhere to your house, your walls, and your décor while living in places that have shorter days is like living in a joyless box of doom. Sure, it might look nice, but there are reasons prisons aren’t painted cheerfully, either.

Separate tub and shower bathrooms look cool but require a lot of effort.

The majority of people pick one way to clean themselves. At a certain point, having two separate fixtures for bathing means a lot of extra cleaning. Wiping down a tub and shower enclosure takes about a half-hour to scrub clean. Human juice tends to collect everywhere when you bathe — and spending an hour (or two) cleaning a bathroom every week is too much work. And yes, we’re supposed to clean it at least once a week — more during Covid.

My takeaway from all of this? Don’t spend money on a look or because the design is popular. Take a breath. Look at how you like to live. Plan your space with intention before you spend money or purchase gadgets.


This post was previously published on Medium.

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