Invisible elements of a good design

Design, as everything in life, has a series of invisible elements that make a good or bad design. Today, I would like to talk about these invisible elements. People usually let themselves go by what they see and then decide if they like it or not. But be aware! Not everything you see is true. In interior designing, behind all things you see there is a huge effort to achieve wellbeing and quality of life.

A good design, like my favourite architect John Pawson says, “is the simple expression of complex thinking”. In other words: less is more. A space that does not show all the effort that has been put into its design will really flow.

What makes a design so different from another? What makes design move us or make an impact on us? What is it that makes us want to stay in a place or makes us want to run away? I am sure many of us have experienced this feeling. In design, we all part from the same starting point: paper, pencil, computer, materials and people… and from there, everyone ‘walks’ different ways.

I would like to start my list of invisible elements talking about the distribution of the space. Take this house. In it lives a family: the father is an economist, the mother is a psychologist or a lawyer. They have children. When they get home, the first thing they do is leave their bags and shoes in the cupboard in the hall, which has been designed for this function. Afterwards, they go to the kitchen and open the fridge (something nearly all of us do when we get home, don’t’ we?). Then, they put on some music and make themselves comfortable and at home.

As in a movie, this house has its own script, with its main characters and locations. The scenes that we interior designers create are aimed to project the script of these person’s lives as simple as possible. The elements have to guide the people around the house without them even noticing!

How can we achieve a good distribution? We can summarise it in three ideas:
1) getting to know the inhabitants and their routines;
2) making the energy flow among all spaces, which should all be well communicated, and avoiding curbs and zigzags, etc;
3) creating each scene, bearing in mind all the natural elements (light, noises, sea, mountain, moods…).

Next in my list of invisible elements in design is light. Light can be turned into the most powerful and magical invisible element – I would even dare say it is the most important of all!

As mentioned many times before in our articles, light has an incredible emotional power. Imagine the following situations: for example, what would happen if the lights suddenly lit up in the cinema while watching a movie? For starters, it might be difficult to see the image projected on the screen, but at the same time you would probably feel unprotected and we would look at each other timidly or with curiosity.

And, what would happen if the light was shone on only one person in the audience? The emotional power of this light would be very intense: tension, thrill, solitude… as in a Hitchcock movie!

How would we feel if all the lights were blue? We would create a ‘cold’ atmosphere; red or orange lights would make us feel a bit ‘loving’… And if we turned all the lights off we might even feel scared.

What I wanted to explain through these examples is that, in any interior, lighting should be studied to detail. Otherwise, the project will be a failure. A good design without a good lighting is not a good design.

Finally, did you know that natural light is white? Children always draw the sun yellow, and, when thinking of the sun, most of us also imagine it yellow… But, yes, sunlight is white. Why? Because it is the addition of all colours. Again, complexity becomes simplicity! You might be thinking why I am writing about white light. The answer is simple: because another of my essential invisible elements when projecting an interior design is the colour white.

White as a concept and as the starting point of an interior design project; white as the beginning of a creative process, white as the ‘colour of forever’! Don’t be fooled by trends and fashions: for a design to be comfortable, practical and orderly it has to be timeless and not be a slave of fashion.

Atrezzo, colour strokes, contrasts… can be great interior design options, but white should always be their starting point, which will help us create visual comfort. Do not feel afraid to experiment with this colour, because there are thousands of materials, textures and colours that will contribute to making it richer.

White is also about sensations. What about waking up late on a Sunday, snuggling under wrinkled white sheets, opening a good book, drinking a nice, hot tea in a beautiful white china cup, and enjoying the thought of having a calm day ahead of us?

Let’s also think about white in the world of fashion. White reminds us of the summer – although according to the chromotherapy theory the colour of summer is red, because it regulates vitality and energy.

The same thing happens in the world of high cuisine: most of the world’s greatest chefs use white crockery to exhibit their works of art, because white highlights the contrast of colours and textures. The same happens with white table linen which always looks fresh and new!

In short, to achieve a good design, what elements do we need? Order, comfort, light, calm and magic… lots of magic.

How can we create a space full of emotions and with a personality of its own? The answer is easy: achieving the perfect balance among the invisible elements, which are distribution, lighting and white (in my case as my fetish colour). And, above all, getting to know the people who are going to live in the home you are going to create.

This is, in short, the philosophy of slow design: a ‘slow’ design that does not mean ‘inefficient’ but careful and with conscience; a design that is inspired in the people and its surroundings. It means going back to our roots to create an exciting future!

*Presentation at PechaKucha Mallorca, 28 June 2012



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