What is Design? answers from Charles Eames

From an insightful interveiw with Charles Eames.

qu'est ce que le design?

q. what is your definition of "design," monsieur eames?
a. one might describe design as a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.

q. is design an expression of art?
a. i would rather say it's an expression of purpose. it may, if it is good enough, later be judged as art.

q. what are the boundaries of design?
a. what are the boundaries of problems?

q. is it a method of general expression?
a. no, it is a method of action.

q. is design a creation of an individual?
a. no, because to be realistic one must always recognize the influence of those who have gone before.
is there a design ethic?
there are always design constraints, and these often imply nothing.

q. is it able to cooperate in the creation of works reserved solely for pleasure?
a. who would say that pleasure is not useful?

q. does the creation of design admit constraint?
a. design depends largely upon constraints.

q. what constraints?
a. the sum of all constraints. here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem: the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible. his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of service, of time, and so forth. each problem has its own peculiar list.

q. does design obey laws?
a.aren't constraints enough?

q. how would you define yourself with respect to a decorator? an interior architect? a stylist?
a. i wouldn't.

q. to whom does design address itself: to the the greatest number? to the specialists or the enlightened amateur? to a privileged social class?
a. design addresses itself to the need.

q. what do you feel is the primary condition for the practice of design and for its propagation?
a. a recognition of need.


A Happy List: I am Happy When Edition

Call it a Monday thing, or maybe I'm pre-tired for the activities of my coming weekend, but I'm having a hard time getting myself to do anything besides eat chocolate today. Turns out we have a good variety or chocolate around right now, so it does feel like productivity, in it's fatty sweet way.
But eating all the chocolate in my pantry will not happiness bring, so to motivate myself (and record my thoughts for posterity), I am here to make a list.
It's a Happy List--the "I Am Happy When--"edition.

I am Happy When--

1. I focus and work hard in my home. This looks like mopping the hardwood floors, having no clutter on the counters or tables or other surfaces, and looking out through clean windows.

2. I make a good meal for my family and we eat it together. I love chatting with my kids as we eat (sometimes choke down) vegetables. Vegetables indicate a dinner that is trying and not simply surviving. It is a much less stressful mode.

3. I run or go for a bike ride--especially if I drag my feet but go out anyway. 

4. I listen to awesome music with my kids and they like it. 

5. I get up before 8AM.

6. I go to bed before midnight.

7. I see someone I know doing something awesome and I remember that our stories are not written and done, and that we can make things happen if we really want to, and that if I start working hard now, I can still make lots of things happen.

8. I put my head down and work work work.

9. I make a decision and commit to something (especially applicable to putting together our home.)

10. I give gifts or treats to friends.

11. I drive into the city.

12. I'm hiking.

13. All our beds are made.

14. I try something (like an ingredient or recipe) that I've waited to try--even it doesn't turn out good. 

15. I take pictures.

16. I write in a journal.

17. I record things i think are beautiful.

18. I make my funny friends laugh.

What are some things that make you happy?


Staple it Together.

In short, we moved. It was a close move, so nothing changed, yet everything changed. We have much more space, we get more afternoon light, and we have a pond in the backyard. We ended up here kind of last minute and feel amazingly lucky. We don't know exactly how long we will stay in this house--it's a rental and we are growing more ready to buy a place of our own. I think that's partly why I am so anxious to make this place feel like a home--if we are only here for a year, I need to get a move on.
Here is our house at it is in our third week of living here.*
Some notes: the house was built in 1904, and was remodeled and added onto during the last ten years. It is simultaneously the oldest and newest place we have lived in. The floor plan is unique, so I'll try to explain where pictures were taken so it's not so disorienting.
 The living room/front room. The view above is what you see when you walk in the front door. We want to make this room welcoming. It is currently the store room for all our unhung artsy stuff.

 The piano room, I tend to call it. This room was the original dining room of the house. (view from living room doorway)
Piano room (view from corner of room by kitchen)
(view of piano room from corner by family room.)
 The kitchen. Its walls are actually the same soft sand color as the rest of the house but those lights make it look green.
 kitchen and dining room. 
 dining area. the windows on the right look out at the pond.
 the deck.
 the dock (the kids keep mixing up "deck" and "dock." I can see why.)
Yard, looking to the right.
 Bathroom/laundry room (Fun fact: we've never had more than one bathroom. Now we have 3!)
 Art closet. I am super excited about this. It will have its own post later. With a straighter photo.
view from the piano room: the family room/tv room. 
 That's our new, *luxurious* sofa L-shaped couch. We feel like Real Grownups since we got this l-shaped couch.
 Master bedroom looking right. in progress.
Master bedroom looking left.
 Master bath. Boom. Grownups.
 Flora's room (view from doorway) (ignore the draped fabric, I'm trying out curtain options? that's not a question, but asking you to ignore it kind of is.)
Flora's room looking right at the coveted cozy reading nook
 J & G's room (from doorway)
J & G's book/play nook

So we're feeling more settled, but there's still work to do. But I love this kind of work so I'm fine with that.
Not (yet) pictured: the creepy awesome basement. The kids have been riding their bikes down there. Brad has half an art studio down there. Also you can see the original foundation, a well, and the fondly named "dead body room." Jane wants to host a haunted alley down there, but only if she helps so she doesn't get too freaked out.

*I'm excited to do a more stylized, cleaned up version of a tour. Instead of waiting, I'm posting these. Plus it will make the next post more fun, right? 


Things are gonna Change, I can feel it, Or: Resolutions

My friend Aubrey has done it again. Each new year she chooses a word to focus on. I have loved this idea for a couple years now, but didn't quite feel inspired to do it myself. A few months ago I started thinking about it--what word would I choose? I thought about the things that are happening this year, and the things I want to make happen this year. I realized I keep setting the same goals over and over. It's not exactly that I'm failing--just not following through. It takes patience and consistency to make good things happen. The more I thought about it, the more I felt certain that I should choose a word for this year.

Cultivate. To me it means:
+take care
+take time
+be patient
+enjoy the process
+keep the end in mind

I have many specific goals for this year, and all of them, whether mental, spiritual, physical, or financial--come back to this word. Last year was a time to cultivate my vision, to hone it and refine it and figure out what little habits my vision would require. This year is the time to make the vision a reality, to make the vision real.
What are your goals/resolutions/visions for 2013?


Habits of a Writer's Mind

Taken from notes at a lecture on creative writing, circa 2002.

+Habits of a writer's mind+

1. reading voraciously and widely--it becomes the text in your head "that's what you'll write." read a lot.

2. Observing the world--the "antennae of the race;"
                                                                                  "imaginary gardens with real toads."

3. Keep a good notebook--record everything
                       "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts."

4. Write regularly. try a writing schedule--discipline
                       "Something almost always comes. And if it doesn't, I just lower my standard and write


Christmas Music Video Countdown: 9 to go

While we are back in the 90s, let's stay awhile and warm up with . . . TLC.
I actually remember this one. It used to get stuck in my head at random times of the year. Fun times.


Christmas Music Video Countdown: 10 to go

Christmas commercials. There have to a lot of classic ones, but for some reason all I could think about were the ones from Gap and Old Navy. Particularly this one from back in the day.
What are/were your favorite Christmas commercials?