Design for the Rest of Us
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Elemental, My Dear
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Issue: # 3 October/2009

Welcome to the "Back to School" issue of
Design for the Rest of Us
So, how did you spend your summer vacation?  Maybe, like me, you didn't take one.  Well, that's not quite all true.  I keep my August officially teaching-free, at least in a formal way.  Then, September I was the student, participating in chock full days first in Louisville at the GE Monogram Center to learn about their wonderful products.  Then, there were three days in Boston for the East Regional IDEC conference for interior design educators.  What an education that was to learn about all the exciting projects at our design colleges.   
Now, back to my lesson plan!  Hope you will indulge me as I write about design concepts.  In this issue, the basics of design composition...the six elements of design.  Next month, the principles of design culminating in that ever so elusive result of harmony is explored.     
I invite you to suggest future topics.  The world of design is divine and I'd love to explore it with you.
It's Elemental My Dear
What makes Good design Good? 
The ancient Greeks considered beauty a science, a set of principles that were universal.  Aesthetics, the perception of what is pleasing to our eyes, is a series of objective standards, transcending time and culture.  We call those objects "classic" like the little black dress ala Coco Chanel.  Okay, skip the cigarette.  Other than Mad Men, so non-au courant. 
So, where does that leave taste and the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?  These questions continue to be debated in all design disciplines.
Design is intention.  Does a design accomplish what the creator expected it to? Does it bring about the intended reaction?  Is our intention to create harmony or chaos.  We should know beforehand. 
To create, whether it's an interior space, a musical score, or a painting, it helps to first be able to analyze the components of design. What are the most basic building blocks, or elements of a composition we call a design?  
For some, this will be a refresher; for others perhaps a new way to organize what may be instinctive.  Like playing jazz, first understand the rules then feel confident to break them.  Like a recipe, each ingredient plays its part.  A good cook follows exactly; a great cook puts a spin on it.
Line, simply put, gives direction to a space.  Horizontal lines create a connectedness to the earth, a sense of stability, like horizon we expect to always be there. Vertical lines are more dynamic and denote strength while diagonal lines provoke tension.  Curved lines evoke a sense of envelopment, or nurturance.  AbstractPhoto.jpg
Shape is two-dimensional and when depth, the third dimension is added, we have form.

Compare the serenity of Wright's Fallingwater against, well, you get the picture.
Pattern is a repetition of a motif, either structural like the intricate carvings of the Alhambra, or applied such as a striped printed wallpaper.  Some are geometric; others organic...realistic, stylized or abstracted.  A fave fabric of mine is the African kuba cloth shown here a plenty.


Texture describes the surface, either as a tactile or touching sensation or its visual effect.  When we play down color in design it's best to play up texture for interest.  Shiny and rough are just two shown here.
 OldPotsText.jpg  AbstractPhoto.jpg
is a comparison between two or more objects regarding dimension. We often use the size of a person as the point of comparison when dealing with the "built environment" such as architecture and interior spaces.
Human scale is intimate; grand scale makes the object monumental in comparison to us.  Grand Central Terminal is just one example.AbstractPhoto.jpg  Oh, we wee commuters.
provides not only visibility for mobility and activity but conveys a mood or feeling.  Light can create drama.  Without light there is no color.  Karim Rashid isn't afraid of either. AbstractPhoto.jpg
Color is thought to be
 the most recognizable design element, a powerful tool that gives a space personality. 
Are the colors we pick intense or dull, light or dark or actually without color like black, white and gray? Which color combinations are calming?  Which are dynamic?  
How do they effect our mood? (Another topic in the wings; note Webinar below).
See how much the textural basket ups the ante in this otherwise neutral kitchen.  No need to pump up the interior on the left with its vivid contrasting color scheme.
Take a look around.  What do you see? 
Are  your elements playing nicely together in the sandbox?  Or, is one a bully?  Maybe it's really a focal point which brings me to our next topic..."principles of design" in the next installment.   
Please share a photo for a second opinion. I'd love to see your choice of "good design" or "needs improvement" for my expert (and friendly) advice. 
Send a jpeg and your comments/question to 
Sign Up for this Upcoming Webinar!
The Psychology of Color
The most powerful design element COLOR has the potential to make or break a space.  In this one hour PowerPoint presentation, learn the impact color has on our perception and mood.  The symbolic, emotional and historical associations of hues are explored ending with a peek at trends.
Cost:  $40. 
Date/Time (Eastern Standard Time):
Session #1:  Saturday 11/14/09 - 11 am - 12 noon
Session #2:  Wednesday 11/18/09 - 6 pm - 7 pm
RSVP to: for sessions 1 or 2.  You will receive an invoice for payment to PayPal to be followed by a confirmation. 
Please note interest in either Session 1 or 2.
Susan Slotkis
Profiles - Personalized Interiors
For more information on the interior design services,  consultations, seminars offered and industry expertise, visit the website
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Until next month,