monday serendipity

November 14, 2011

Some of my favorite design principles are: serendipity, meaning, and randomness. If, on a macrocosmic level, good design is about perspective and proportions and balance, then on a microcosmic level these variables of accident, personal history, and chance make all the difference. For it is with these factors that personality enters the design picture. Because they happen as a result of your unique life experiences, they are what make your home truly yours. Thus I wanted to share with you three design moments that illustrate these concepts.

When my brother was little – about 6 – he made an amazing sculpture out of sea grass and infamously dubbed it the “hanger donger.” So delicate, beautiful and rare it was, that my mother and aunt fought vigorously over the right to display it – until my mother pulled parental rank. It actually lasted a surprisingly long time on our dining room wall. Thus the name “hang donger” became vernacular in our family. So when Solvi presented me with the shell and sea grass installation above, it had to become “hang donger II.” It is precious to me because she made it, but also because of the memories it evokes.

Last Christmas my aunts and I all ordered paper wreaths from Sadiie A. (You can see it in situ here.) She very kindly also sent these adorable walnut shell boats as a little extra. We put them away for the kids to sail in summer, but then forgot about them, until my aunt rediscovered them this fall. With their walnut hulls and leafy sails, this nutty regatta is actually the perfect autumnal accent for the bathroom. I love the way they “float” on the shelf horizon. (Sorry kids.)

This minute picture is of my aunt Sheila as a baby. My grandmother originally had it in a locket, but when I was a child, I stole it for my doll house. Now my 3-year-old daughter has that same doll house, but she is as likely to mess it up as arrange anything. Thus this picture became dislodged from the doll house wall and started floating around our “real” house. After a few near misses with the vacuum cleaner, I decided that the design fates were telling me to find a new place for it. I just stuck it on the bathroom mirror, where I rather like it. To me this one tiny image contains a wealth of associations across the generations, fond memories, and even some secrets.

Stories like these make for a truly rich design experience. And the beauty of these details is that I didn’t have to think long and hard over them. There was no painstaking rearranging or Fung shui considerations. They happened naturally, guided by emotions and a sense of whimsy, almost by accident.

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