Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We-Design-Day: Designing for your life (and debunking bad design)

Since being laid up sick since last summer, I've not done much design or DIY work but I have been reading a fair amount and I am continually amazed at some of the "want to be design" advice I see being circulated.

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Now, it is no secret that I am a firm believer in marrying 'ability' with education. To be able to be called an interior designer, one must meet a strict set of educational and practical experience requirements. Many (most) of the popular articles, tips and such are being shared by decorators (not designers); decorators have a very valid place in the architectural world and I've worked with many good ones. I am about the technical side of interior design so often pairing my technical ability with a decorator is a good fit because interior styling isn't really my forte. Who does it bug? Mostly us designer types and poor unsuspecting people who hire designers but whose renovations fall short or expectations or fail to meet legal requirements.

That said, one of the other obvious signs of this is seeing articles like this one (pinned all over Pinterest) giving "Fifteen Lifehacks for Your Tiny Bathroom".

Now, it should be revealed that I have a tiny bathroom. A really, tiny, tiny bathroom. The en suite on our master bedroom measures an enormous 6'x10'. In this space, we have a small vanity, toilet and stall shower. It is the kind of bathroom that two people cannot be in (but in all honestly, I don't want to share the bathroom with my husband). There isn't wall space for art, towel bars or towel storage. Like I said, two people are hard pressed to fit in the space. We can't open the shower stall door without bumping the wall and if you lean to your left while seated on the toilet, you'll hit your head on the wall.

Looking at the pictures of this article, which I realize are meant to be applied to your own tiny bathroom and may actually only be suggested so that you can try to apply them in a small space, the bathrooms are huge, thus negating any potential credibility the article may have had. Some of the comments reflect that. To me, design, and sharing design, needs to be taught and shown in the light in which it's meant to be applied. This is how I approach design and I know not everyone does.

I can also tell you that a few of the suggestions put forth would not work in a small bathroom. Below is my unbiased, unsolicited opinion. (Number corresponds with the number in the article - the 'hacks' are applied to my own TINY en suite bath).

1. Apply a frame to a basic mirror: This wouldn't work in my small bath for two reasons: The first is it is a medicine cabinet (to provide a tiny bit of storage) and the second is because even if it was a flat mount mirror, the clearance around it wouldn't allow for more than a 1" wide "frame" and would end up throwing the proportion and scale of the space off by trying to crowd too many things into a small space.

2. Spice racks for holding necessities: Another "no go" because the I'd be forever banging my elbow on them and they'd interfere with the opening/closing of the medicine cabinet.

3. Coat hooks for towels: While this is a good suggestion, a small bathroom likely won't have the wall space to make the piece pictured actually work. There is only one wall where this *may* work in our en suite however the risk of me hitting my head on it every time I flipped my head over to put my towel on my head is higher and I wouldn't do it.
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4. Use small storage solutions: This was one of the things that inspired me to write this. Go take a look at the picture again and tell me if it will work. Understanding spatial relationships is a very big part of interior design. You'd never close the door - the little do-dads hanging on the door would bang into the crap sitting on the shelf (and likely the shelves themselves). The eyeliners - the door won't even close! There is less than 1/4 clearance between the door and the shelf... There is a reason medicine cabinets don't already have these kinds of things in place. Also, many of the doors used in bathrooms aren't metal - because you know, metal rusts when exposed to really damp conditions. Sticky strips might work to adhere them though, if you don't mind not closing your cabinet door.

5. Bobby pin strip: This would work. But from a purely aesthetic perspective, why would you want too? Stick them in decorative box, jar or other such thingy and display as useful art.

6. Second shower curtain rod: This is actually a very good idea and although it wouldn't work in my en suite (because the shower is a little less than 3' square and we're tall (I'm 5'11, my husband is 6'3)) in our small main bath, it might - but keep in mind that it still could be a slip hazard and a head bumping hazard (that's my inner safety representative speaking).

7. Shelf above door: Although in principle, this isn't a terrible idea, depending on the location of the door, this may not work or would throw off the symmetry of the room. Our door is mounted less than 2" from the wall so although I could place a shelf above it it may make the room appear lopsided. Furthermore, my door is 80" AFF, thus leaving only 16" for storage (assuming you've got 8' ceilings like me). I like the idea of storing my rolled towels up there, however, but I dislike dusting so I'm not sure I'd store anything that needed dusting.
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8. Create a Focal Point: This is a design concept that I've seen applied to bathrooms before and I think if your bathroom is of the right size, it would be fine to use (but not TWO focal points like the bathroom illustrated has - the 60's inspired mirrored sunburst and the vase on the table with the sticks in it - OH and what about the door the table is blocking? May we not need into that space at some point?) But I digress... In my 60 sq. ft. bare bones en suite, it would not. Anything that didn't belong in a bathroom or wasn't 100% necessary has very little point being in the room in the first place. I am not a fru-fru designer, however, so maybe it's just me. I dislike 'accessories' and stuff that needs maintenance. This is why I work in institutional design.

This is a long list so I'm going to end it here this week but do check back next week as I continue through the list and sort out reality from fantasy of the "Lifehacks" article. Thanks for stopping in!

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