First, let’s be clear about one thing: An undesigned home is not a home with no design.
It is a home that is, in many ways, very intentionally designed. But it is not traditionally designed.
Traditional design is is focused on the end result–a product.
In traditional home design, a good designer starts with a clear vision for a space (the product) and executes it as efficiently as possible. How the space looks is the biggest factor in determining its value. While there can be much to admire about traditional design and what comes of it, it’s an approach to creating a home that doesn’t work for us.
Traditional design done well requires skill, time, and money. Those of us who aren’t designers can sometimes get by with a lot of two and a little bit of one, but it’s hard for many of us to pull off traditional design in our homes. Unless we’re trying to simply copy an image from a magazine, it’s very difficult for us to create and execute a complete, cohesive vision for our home design challenges.
And yet–we all must design our homes, one way or another. It can seem as if there are only two options: To emulate traditional designers or to bypass the whole idea of design, filling our homes with whatever we can most easily find and afford. We think this is a false dichotomy.
We’re interested in exploring a third option: UnDesign.
UnDesign is focused on processes.
It’s not that we don’t have visions for the kind of home we want. We do. But our visions are more about how our home feels and works than about how it looks. And they are more about the how of design than the what:
How do we create a pleasing, comfortable, functional shelter from the world?
As self-proclaimed UnDesigners, we value the process of creating our home more than anything we put in it.
More often than not, we don’t quite know what we’re going to end up with until we are nearly done with a project. And “done” is a constantly moving target. Because the “product” reveals itself slowly over time, there are ample opportunities to make changes and do things differently than we originally thought we might.
There is time to reflect, to discover new paths, and to change course. With the traditional design process it’s tough to do that. You don’t want to make changes if you’ve gone out and bought the sofa, drapes, flooring, and 5 gallons of paint all at once. (We know this from hard experience.)
But UnDesign is not simply a different way to end up with pleasing spaces. It’s a way of interacting with our environment that allows us to grow in healthy ways. We want not only our home to be transformed by the process, but for our lives to be transformed as well.
We want us to be transformed.
When we’re in our best UnDesign groove, we’re collaborating, playing, experimenting, going off on tangents, and growing. We’re doing it in ways that add value to the world rather than subtracting from it. We’re having fun, not completing a chore. Because of that, our goal isn’t to get to the finished product as quickly as possible. It’s to make the process as rich and rewarding as possible.
The most elegant part of the whole thing? When we are able to stay true to our UnDesign values, we find ourselves arriving at beautiful, unique, and personal solutions that we love. Everything we’ve undesigned has been so much better than anything we might have created by using more traditional approaches to home design.
As UnDesigners, we value:
Don’t some of these values contradict each other?
They can. While we love to find perfect, responsible solutions to design needs at thrift stores, the truth is that we sometimes find the most functional and economical solution at Target. (And we take it.)
Even if the principles weren’t sometimes contradictory, there’s the fact that we’re human–which means, contradictory and definitely not perfect. We love simplicity and clutter-free spaces, but we also love our art collection and the riot of color it brings to our home. We can get as sucked up in what’s popular/what looks good as anyone else and find ourselves straying from our home design values. Like our home, we are works in progress.
UnDesign is our goal, our vision, our ideal.
Are we just making all this stuff up?
A little. Much of our UnDesign framework is based upon the ideas and work of Tibor Kalman, a graphic designer known in the 90s for his original approaches and challenges to traditional design. Kalman urged designers to use design for more than decoration and marketing. He wanted them to say important things that would make the world a better place. We do, too.
In the time we’ve been working on creating a home together, our feelings and ideas about how to best do it have shifted and evolved. For us, this framework of thinking brings together so many things we’ve found useful in various ways: minimalism, simplicity, recycling/repurposing, retro renovation, slow movements of various kinds. It’s something that’s helped us make sense of where we’ve been and provides guideposts that will help us move forward.
In future posts we’re planning to dig deeper into the how and why of UnDesign. As we do, we’ll link them to this page. We hope you’ll follow along as we see where these ideas about home design might take us–and you.