5 Life Lessons Reinforced by Merely Watering the Garden.

These days I’m seeing connections and relationships in just about everything…as well as developing analogies and refining metaphors to help explain my thinking. A bit like the movie character Neo seeing the code of the Matrix for the first time. That heightened sense of situational awareness I’ve described many times as both important…and highly undervalued.

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I think it just may be the key to living a more complete human experience…especially when you realize how often you’re actually the one to blame when your senses go numb. Creatively, I use many activities to stay what I call “emotionally and intellectually alive.” Music, art, politics, exercise, religion just to name a few. Travel is another. However lately, one seemingly ordinary daily activity appears to be reinforcing some essential life lessons without much effort at all.

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Every morning, or at least most mornings and the occasional evening, this ritual helps set or reset the timing of my molecular clock. It awakens and calibrates my senses in such a clear, subtle and elemental way. More proof that the human race is hopelessly predisposed to over complicating just about everything…and further evidence that there are valuable lessens in even the smallest of experiences, interactions and activities. Even while watering the garden.

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  • Consistency in effort is an essential element of care.

Merely possessing empathy for a situation or person isn’t really enough. The fact that you have the reflex to care (and still not act) doesn’t work in the garden…or with relationships for that matter. At some point, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and even get a little wet to make a real difference. And if you’re only going to care some of the time…don’t be surprised if something grows in the wrong direction, is somewhat stunted, or even dies all together.

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  • Most of the time, the right plant in the wrong setting will not be successful.

In nature, adaptability is often seen as a positive attribute. But what if something adapts to an unhealthy environment? Some things adapt to environments insufficient for sustainable growth. Thus, they are forced to limit how often they flower, and how well they grow in order to conserve the vital resources needed to survive. How often do we all do something similar? The trick is knowing when something is out of place, committing to the often evasive nature of a transplant…and having the patience to understand that it might take a little time and additional care, to reestablish something in a healthier situation.

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  • Over watering can lead to rot.

Plants like people can drown. Suffocation by over watering can limit the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the roots that feed the plant. How often do we try to solve problems, thinking we’re being helpful by throwing the same, simplistic solution at a problem? When maybe the better approach should have been to put in the effort to find more creative ways of fostering true growth…and full bloom. More proof that creativity is not always defined in an artistic sense…but in ones ability to develop multiple ways of solving a problem.

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  • Sometimes you have to carry the water.

If the resources for sufficient growth aren’t easy to access…you have to put in the work to find them, and bring them where they’re needed. In order to beautify parts of my yard, I have to fill two watering cans as there isn’t a hose nearby. It’s inconvenient, but worth the trip. Sound simple? Not so fast…if we’re going to be species that truly values and promotes love, tolerance and growth in each other I ask you this question: How willing are we to find ways to bring the necessary resources to places and relationships where care may be needed most? Real care is grounded in selfless service.

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  • Embrace the surprises that come with organic growth…but remember that weeds can grow faster than flowers.

Our obsession for controlled outcomes in the garden of life has gone to the extreme. So much so that so many things appear staged, forced and contrived. The concept of the English Garden has always appealed to me. Like life itself…it’s organized chaos. However, the less glamorous side of gardening is keeping the weeds and other negative influences at bay. It’s not nearly as sexy as tending to the growth of beautifully flowering plant…but it’s just as important. The same is true in life. The negative influences in your life are very similar to weeds in a garden. If gone unchecked, and allowed to fester, will inevitably overshadow and get in the way of all that is beautiful. Sometimes so much so, that the beautiful things in our lives just find other places to grow.

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Simple thinking? Maybe so. However, I am sure of two things. First, that most things in life and in the garden, in order to grow are in need of constant care. Nothing is automatic, and if it is…practice healthy skepticism. And second, that there’s a name for the sense of clarity, poise and beauty one finds in the midst of difficult and vulnerable situations… it’s called grace. And without fail I find her every morning…as I water the garden.

In memory of Nancy S., Ken J., Grace W. & Randy R.
All of whom made whatever garden they were in…that much more special.

 

Thoughts from Albert Einstein…on Design?

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All too often we’re drawn to the same people and resources for design inspiration. The same taste-makers, style gurus and lifestyle experts that really have nothing new to offer…yet are promoted as having the answers aimed at solving your particular design dilemma. But do they? Really? As today’s popular pundits advise you to keep pounding and purchasing on the trend treadmill…might I suggest we look beyond the usual suspects for some creative guidance. I love to study the artistic radicals…the creative pioneers…and the inventors. Individuals whose original thinking spawned generations of copy-cats, wannabees…and occasionally a true disciple of discovery. I have always been fascinated with how they worked, solved problems and saw the world.

It has been my belief for some time, that interior design is inherently more of an inventive process, than one of pure style selection. A personal journey of discovery that requires equal time be diligently dedicated to the discussion of the nuts & bolts that hold your life and a room together…as well as a celebration of beauty as defined by the individual. A thoughtful exercise rooted in functional and clever design, layered with innovative decoration that produces spaces of substance and style. And who better to provide us with advice on invention and original thought than one of history’s greatest minds…Albert Einstein. What? Not the design guru on the top of your list…well…maybe he should be.

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While researching the origins of personal creativity in both life and design for my radio show, I stumble upon ten life lessons from Mr. Einstein that made the design light bulb over my head almost explode. So profound were these lessons that I couldn’t help but share them with you, and offer my thoughts on how they can help you build more inventive interiors. So without further introduction are Mr. Einstein’s Ten Lessons on Life…with a bit of a twist from The Design Coach.

  • Follow your curiosity– First lesson here is ALWAYS stay curious. It’s how we keep growing, exploring and refining our interiors. Without curiosity, we stop the process of discovery and asking the important questions that keep our interiors fresh and a current reflection of who we are. Without curiosity we get stale and our rooms get stuck.
  • Perseverance is priceless-Although the assembly of the unique creative mosaic that is your interior is very much a journey…it’s important for you to remember to keep moving to improve your interiors. Even if you’re not moving quickly. The final vision for your space will evolve, change and be delayed…so be patient, be planned and be true to self…NOT a style. Take that path, and your unique style will naturally emerge.

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  • Focus on the present.- All too often we focus on the things we do not have instead of making progress on our interiors where we can. In today’s makeover happy media landscape, we feel that if we can’t do it all…then it’s not at all worth doing. Nothing could be further from truth. Focus on the functional and cosmetic improvements you can make today. But be sure to start in the right order…functional design before the cosmetic carnival of decoration…and make the most of the design in your day.

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  • The imagination is powerful. –Your ability to use imagination in the design and decoration of your interior is what gives your home its original signature. It’s the critical ingredient that makes it personal…so don’t bail on crafting a more creative interior. Take some risk! Stretch your thinking, and reach for ideas and resources beyond the page of a catalog, the digital idea book or your favorite “reality” TV show. Make it strange, make it crazy, make it work…but most of all make it yours.

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  • Make mistakes.- This is an easy one right? Throughout our design journey, our bad design decisions pile up like a collection of lost socks in a laundry basket, or clothes in the closet. The key take away here from Mr. Einstein is to not FEAR the mistake, because they’re going to happen. They are an important part of the creative process. More importantly, be mindful that most of the mistakes in decoration can be overcome…or even returned. Not as forgiving are mistakes we make with the function involved in our design. So, never forget that even a little planning…goes a long way.
  • Live in the moment. – Your interiors are only as beautiful as their ability to help you function and enjoy your home. Style is subjective…it always will be…so be skeptical of trends. Strive to create personal interiors that help facilitate the best memories and moments possible…and remember the best interiors allow you to surround yourself with the passions and the people that make life worth living.

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  • Create value. – The best interiors are built with a sense of passion and purpose. Here’s a thought: The quality of your interior is directly affected by your approach to buying, the same way the quality of your health is affected by your diet. Stress quality over quantity. I don’t care if it’s on sale if it’s not right. If it’s an accessory or a piece of art…it should mean something to you. Never settle for place holders or costume-jewelry design.
  • Don’t be repetitive. – Variation IS the natural order. Routine can be such a positive thing, but not if it keeps your interiors from growing and evolving with your lifestyle. This is why I cannot stand design style definitions like Traditional, Eclectic, or even worse, the gutless term Transitional? Who in their right mind would want to be that?! All of your rooms do not need to have the same look and feel, provided each one is in some way an authentic reflection of you.
  • Knowledge comes from experience. – There is no substitute for experience, and knowledge, if applied correctly, sharpens and quickens your creative intuition. But you have to work at it. Train yourself by actively searching and cultivating the nourishing experiences that lead to better interiors. And just for the record, this does not happen at the furniture store…and the best things in life happen off of a digital screen. Spend more time engaged in the greatest creative experiment of all…your life.

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  • Learn the rules and then play better. – The rules of design as it relates to the “Big 6” must be respected: Function, scale, composition, color, pattern and texture. Try to really understand and study their relationships in terms of your appreciation for a finished and complete interior. Then…get in the game and start solving the puzzle! Design, decorate and don’t ever stop. The more you do, the more you’ll strengthen your creative confidence.

Well there you have it…thanks to one of my new creative coaches Albert Einstein. Some sound advice on life and design inspired by one of the world’s most brilliant minds. Known for his eccentric hair style, and not as well known for the fact that he didn’t like to wear socks. I guess you could say from head to toe…like the best interiors and people…he was a brilliant mix of both substance and personal style.

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“Life is like riding a bike. To keep your balance…you need to keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

Coaching HGTV…

Today on the radio program I was able to articulate something I’ve been sensing for some time; Is HGTV and other design programming becoming all too formulaic? And has the real message of why and how we design to improve our lives been lost in a consumer carnival of false reinvention, reruns and redundant creative outcomes? Despite the ratings…have we grown a bit tired of the same old design shows?

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To explore this question I recently sat down with my team to take a straw poll of sorts. My team is comprised of people who think differently from one another on many subjects. Diverse in both age and economics…they always surprise and challenge me with new perspectives. Admittedly, the sample size is ridiculously small I know, but still…I wonder if the rest of you may be feeling the same way? So, this week I solicited their opinion for this blog and my radio show. All I can say is that I was both amazed and intrigued by the discussion. Having appeared on one of those shows the feedback has been very interesting. Although people loved the episode…a resounding number of them wanted more content. Hmmm.

A quick story. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Candice Olsen, and hear her thoughts on her design approach and television experiences. One thing from that encounter has really stuck with me. I remember her saying that when she was approached to do a design show, one of her fears was that the entertainment content would in some way trump or clown the authentic process of design. The real work. In other words, she was concerned that a television show, would not allow her to demonstrate what she really goes through to build amazing and personal spaces for her clients. And honestly, to her credit…her shows have always tried to show how design solves real lifestyle problems wrapped with great style. I respect her for not only saying that…but having the guts to share that with us. Which brings me right to the point. Where’s the CONTENT? All I can say is that from my creative seat here at The Design Coach, the process of design and decision-making is dramatic, exciting and informative enough, that it does not fit into a formula! And you know what…that’s what we all LOVE about art and design. It’s never the same! And every client, situation and project is different. Showcase that wonderful world, with the right content and the right “guide” and some production company will be filling a void that clearly exists in original AND informative design programming. But only if…they’re courageous enough to break from monotonous, matrix of current design television construct.

So folks, the radio show from this morning will be loaded onto my site www.thedesigncoach.com on Tuesday. I encourage you to listen and react. I think it’s time we had this conversation. That being said, for what it’s worth…here are six ways HGTV and other design shows could improve the content of their programming NOW! Listen, I too love what HGTV and other design programming has meant to me personally, and the awareness of design as a whole…but beyond the personalities and the promotions…should be a purpose!

Here goes…

  • Show more of the how the designer & the client arrived at the actual decision. Why did they rule out certain options? The editing process is the most difficult and interesting part of my job. Not only is it preloaded with dramatic discussions regarding budget, taste and function…but the personal opinions, quirks and requests are entertaining. In the end, people know that design is both a human and a creative exercise…and they want to see their struggles reflected in the programming. So…don’t edit the editing! The journey of design is as important as the destination.
  • There are way too many couples with no kids featured on these shows! We need some balance. News flash from flyover country…we breed. Shocking I know. There is nothing more fun, entertaining or again…dramatic…than trying to design for families. Their lives are hectic, complex and evolving…and we’re all just trying to make it work! And, don’t just show us the hosts families! Show us everyday families trying to find common ground with each other on the design of their homes and their lifestyles!

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  • More conversations with the contractors, design talent and clients to show actual problem-solving. The contractors and the artisans are the creative SUPERHEROES who really make design happen. Showcase them! And I don’t mean contractors turned show hosts! People who are actively practicing their trade NOW! One of the biggest deficits I see is how homeowners communicate, or don’t communicate effectively with their contractors. What a huge opportunity to demonstrate the best and worst ways to get the job done.

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  • Show us how to make it personal…not just beautiful. How many times can we keep seeing the same design solutions with a different host or client? Can’t we do better? One of the best things about this business is that EVERY client is different, and the world of design is too diverse for the same solutions to appear in multiple shows. Take us to the finish line…and show us how to complete a room, not just build great spaces. And if you’re in need to new ideas…we know an army of creatives that will light your audiences hair on fire!
  • Celebrate the best design vendors and manufacturers in our business! I am so privileged to work with some of the most amazing resources and people on the planet. Why are those artisans and influencers who really drive the design landscape, so difficult to find in today’s popular programing? How fun it is to be able to explore the constant creativity of our industry from the comfort of your home? Moving on…
  • Less formulas. We’re on to you. And if you want to keep us…a combination content and charisma will keep us coming back. Caricature is fun…but thin, and not very fulfilling. You only have ½ the equation. It’s time we all recognize that there’s a difference between candy and real desert.

Next, seven shows HGTV or another network should contract to produce NOW! Ok, these are working titles…and I’m not saying they’re perfect…and I would love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see!

Here’s mine…

  • He said, SHE shed: Husband vs. Wife design a She-Shed and a Man Cave for each other. Each work with a designer and contracting team to build these spaces. How well do they know each other? How will they turn out? What special touches can they include that make it a true labor of love. Or, where did it go horribly wrong? I could go on forever.
  • Design Deconstruct: Show us the amazing reveal at the beginning of the show!!! Then, show us how you got there! I just had a women today say one of her take-aways from my radio show this morning was that the networks rarely show HOW the client arrived that design decision. This IS what it’s all about. Design junkies and casual enthusiasts alike LOVE shows that inform and entertain.
  • Accessories in Action: So many people cannot afford to remodel, but still want to refresh their interiors. Mixing your new and old accessories creatively is a huge challenge for so many! Can’t you show us how to do that?! At The Design Coach we do it everyday! Take us shopping with you and show us how buy and place the elements that make your house a home! And not just those you find at a fly market, fix and flip.
  • What am I going to do with that?!!: Inherited pieces the design team can reinvent and repurpose into a client’s existing or new design. This happens to us ALL the time. Even Candice Olsen has to work around recliners the husbands insist on keeping. SO DO WE!!! From taxidermy to beer can collections…show us how to stylishly and creatively use the unwanted, the uncommon, and under-appreciated. Real design is more of a quilt than new bedspread…show us how to stitch it together.
  • Field Tripping: Take us on field/road trips and showcase and interview the people, manufacturers and industry influencers who are changing and defining today’s design! Seriously, this is a no brainer. Who doesn’t like a road trip?!
  • You’ve got to be kidding me?: Have kids draw on paper their dream room…and have the best design talent and/or celebrity designers pull it off on a budget! Have the kids help, there’s a million philanthropic angles here, and nothing more entertaining than dreaming with kids.
  • The Fantastic 5: The budget is 5K. That’s it!! Not everyone can afford to remodel and real design is about prioritizing and getting the most out of the money you spend. It’s not about how much you spend, but where you spend it! Show me, teach me…don’t just “makeover me happy.” That’s not a thing. But it sounded good.

I could go on all day. And you know what, when I come up with a few more…I’ll just keep throwing them out there. Messages in a digital bottle. Fifteen plus years as an artist, contractor, retailer and design professional have taught me many things. None more true, or important, than maybe the real mission of my business, is to not only inspire my clients to create personal and meaningful interiors…but to coach the industry, and those who influence it, from my perspective in the trenches of design. Please join the discussion, we love HGTV and design programming so much…but we need to talk.

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The New Guy

So the team is divided on the new guy at the office. He doesn’t talk much, it’s safe to say he seems a bit stiff. And what’s with that subtle smirk? Is it a sense of confidence…or just plain creepy? Either way, he’s here to stay…the boss found him, and apparently really likes what he brings to the table. Meet mini-James Dean. 43 inches of pure, plastic rebel. I found him out of place at one of my salvage haunts, and thought I would make him our new studio mascot. And like the legend himself…a true icon. At least he is for me.

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Our design shop, at its core,  has always been bit different. Over the years, I’ve always seemed to surround myself with the same basic team profile. Hardworking, no-nonsense design talent that eagerly runs through walls for me and our clients on a daily basis. People who understand that our design is only as good as our ability to deliver it into the home. A fearless posse that loves chasing interior innovation.

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After all, the best design ideas…okay well, any design idea for that matter…doesn’t mean much on paper. Especially when they’re as aggressive as ones we dream up for our clients. And there’s the dedication of our contracting teams. The experienced and skilled “outlaws of the mind” that really make it happen for us. Having come into the business as an artist and contractor…born of the paint, dirt and dust…I am still so inspired by their willingness to follow us, figure it out, and head confidently by our side into the decorative unknown. A combination of Master Craftsman, Madmen and Mad Scientist…what they help us produce is often times nothing short of artistic alchemy.

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This is where I see  a little bit of us in our new studio mascot Mr. Dean. We’re different. We embrace it…and we design and create with an edge. A collective chip on our shoulder, yet still grounded so that we never take a creative opportunity for granted. Regardless of the size of the project. As a small business and a design underdog of sorts, we’ve had to fight for our standing in a fickle, discretionary, competitive and ever-changing industry. Over the years, our journey as a small shop with very big ideas has evolved, and even changed names a time or two. However, one thing has remained the same. Our passion to design for people, and not just their projects is what really drives us. We understand that we’re hired to put our clients style above our own, and to use both our edge and our experience, to deliver outrageously beautiful and personal creative outcomes.

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It feels good to know who we are as a team. Professional, but not pretentious. Rebellious, questioning and courageous, we offer an alternative approach in an industry full of copy-cat creatives…and sometimes insufferable egos. So while the majority of our industry is obsessed with portfolios, posturing and parties…we’ll just go back to work in our blue-jeans, white t’s, flannel and leather…and get after it in our Studio & Workshop. And just like Rebel himself, we’ll embrace that we’re the kids from the “wrong” side of the tracks. However, from the looks of things here at The Design Coach…every client interaction these days makes us feels as though we’re on the right side of the artistic rail.

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Key thoughts.

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Over the years I accumulated dozens of keys from my various office locations, shops, job sites, etc. People looked at my key chain in amazement. Okay, more like bewilderment. The number of keys was borderline obnoxious…like something a Shawshank Redemption prison guard might have carried during lights out. When questioned, I always seemed to give the same response…”I’m not sure what they’re all for…but I know I’m going to need all of them sooner or later.” The truth was…most of those keys unlocked doors to places that I no longer needed to open. Places that led to where I am today, and to which there was no need to ever return. Remember, but never return.

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Which made me think; As we age, don’t we all go through life carrying around a clumsy set of psychological keys that are of no longer any use to us? Like a ring of functional souvenirs from important places from our past. I guess these days I see a connection in just about everything. Which leads me to ask two important questions: How many of those keys should we really be dragging around with us? And, when does the weight and clutter of those keys, begin to hinder our ability to find the ones that unlock new and exciting doors?

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So today was the day I decided to take them off my ring, lighten my load, and keep…for the time being…the ones that really mattered. Such is the great experiment that is life and design. More proof that the exercise of editing…means everything.

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Tending to the details…inside and out.

The end of 2015 has been an absolute whirlwind. Between the HGTV appearance, expanded radio show, opening of the new Studio & Market, and our demanding project schedule…I can honestly say I’m looking forward to getting back to work. No really. We’ve all worked so hard to get to this place. And now that the design studio, workshop and retail market are up and running…I am excited that some of our most meaningful work is ahead of us. That being said, the end of year finds me making preparations to take advantage of the amazing opportunities we’ve been given. And as I have mentioned before…my approach, especially in the new year, will start and end at a molecular level. I guess you could say I’m tending to the details, tinkering with the engine…and it feels good.

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One idea. One thought. One expression of pure emotion…another thoughtfully withheld behind a furled brow and crooked smile. One pencil and key stroke. One inspiration off the paper and into a passionate, personal and practical plan. One satisfying creative resolution…and another as elusive as a jittery bird on a windswept and wavy branch. One laugh. One sigh. One quiet moment of satisfaction…another much louder rallying cry for a better collaborative creative effort on the part of the contractors…and the clients. It’s amazing how clear everything sounds when your internal strings begin to adjust to the right pitch. Like it or not…willing to accept it or not…we are all living instruments in need of emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical tuning. As life plays out, we need to fight to consciously control the pace of the beat, hit the appropriate notes with good timing…and when inspired…attempt to reach the high notes with a confident and calm consistency. It is in this effort to find life’s ideal rhythm, that our instrumentation is influenced, and even under assault. From the daily, digital diatribe that is our social media feed, to the tireless and bombastic 24-hour news cycle, or barrage of programing that seems to value caricature over content…it’s no wonder most us are operating with a flashing overload light in the middle of our forehead. As if our lives aren’t challenging enough, starring in the one-man-band that is our demanding personal and professional lives. Then, to make it even more interesting, that rhythm at times seems all too dependent upon technology that allows very little distinction between the two.

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So, where does one go to find life’s perfect rhythm? To find balance? To find the right sense of timing? I’m not entirely sure. But lately, the thoughtful attention to the smaller details seems to be making all the difference. A rededication of sorts to the regular tuning of a natural, internal mechanism that improves my situational awareness, and greases the gears of my personal and professional transmission. As my analogies begin to both layer and stray a bit…I’ll get to the wrap: It’s so important to increase your level of sensitivity to your environment. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, get out of your comfort zone and recalibrate to what you’ve experienced. That activity has a wonderful way of cleaning off your emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical antennae…and helps you dial in on a clearer and more human signal. Trust me, if you don’t, life will most certainly find a way to do it for you. Indifference I’ve learned is the real enemy…and empathy may just be the most enriching experience of all. Empathy is the gateway to serving others. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Understanding and helping each other get to where we want and need to be? And certainly not always where the industry and the experts say we should go. The trick is to use technology to quicken the human connection…rather than to dull it…or even worse, manipulate it. To use it to assist us in an empathetic tuning process…and not distract us from it. But, I guess that speaks to the quality of our feeds. Probably the topic of a blog for another day.

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It is in this spirit that I welcome the coming of the new year. The opportunity to return to the studio in search of new ways to connect people with the promise of creativity. To relish in the making with our hands and time that which, as of now, only exists in our minds…and to champion the true beauty that only comes from the balance of substance and style.

2016

Audio Blog: In his own words . . . .”Why I do this…”

Doing the “diagnostic” as I call it, has been one of the ways I’ve been able to evolve, grow and learn not only as an Artist and Design Professional…but as a Husband, Father, Son & Friend. I get it, it’s never an easy thing to do. To look at yourself in the mirror, beyond the cosmetic, and conduct an honest self-evaluation of your behavior, your communication and truly measure the level of intellectual honesty related to giving your life, and those in it, your best effort. The Fall, for whatever reason, seems to put me in this place that resembles both one of humility & hope.

In the audio blog below, via my weekly radio show on WLKG 96.1, I reflect on lessons learned in my first year on the air, as well as a number of topics that reveal what’s at the heart of The Design Coach. To deliver to you, in as many ways possible, the ideas, inspiration and information to design not only an interior, but a relationship and life with creative confidence. In an industry OBSESSED with perfection, I hope to demonstrate that life’s accumulated rust is actually your personal patina worth acknowledging and sharing. It might sound like a tall order…but like any endeavor worth pursuing…we’ll just have to take it one step at a time.

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Thanks for making my artist’s smock…feel more like a cape.

So, I’m really struggling to select topics for this blog. My mind is so active as of late that it can be a challenge to stay focused. So much is happening around us…and in our industry. Julie and I are thrilled with the final visual outcome of the Studio & Market. Early customer reviews are extremely positive toward our small corner of the creative universe. Thanks to so many people who helped us put this together. And thank you to our valued customers and clients over the years who shaped our vision. My creative team feels at home in the new space, and I feel as though I’ve reached a kind of professional and personal “base-camp.” A place where I can plan for some glorious accent to an artistic peak I hope I NEVER reach.

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In the opening of this new venue, comes a sense of personal and professional accomplishment that feels a bit strange. A mental cocktail of equal parts artistic emotion, rational business strategy and mid-life rebirth. With the recent HGTV appearance, the radio show going to an hour and the new store…I feel like I’m living out loud…but not living loudly. The work is speaking for itself, breeding a tempered optimism that fits like a glove. Measured and empowering. Just another example of the molecular transformation that occurs as a result of any meaningful journey…that is often times more relevant than the arrival at the intended destination. Let’s be honest, I’m wired differently. I understand this, and have finally learned to embrace it rather than apologize for it. And increasingly, I’ve become obsessed by the prospect that a driving force behind The Design Coach is to encourage others to be brave in their design. Whether it be the design of a home, a room or a life. Too ambitious? Perhaps, but the tide of patrons and their reactions to our latest work tells me otherwise.

 store frame web

From my new desk, there is no sound more satisfying then the audible gasp of a new customer as they walk in the front door. Nothing more gratifying than seeing them stop in the welcoming sea grass entry, as they gaze and attempt to take it all in. And although this special space is small by the standards of today’s commercial cathedrals to design…it’s packed with love, substance, style and our collective passion for sharing great ideas. As I write this blog entry, and engage with visitors the exchanges are both humbling and exciting. “I walk around and I just can’t stop smiling.” one customer whispered in my direction, as though it was our little secret. Yet another shared, “Your store reminds me of a happier time in my life. I don’t want to leave.” What do even say to that?! Then there are the customers who know us from our previous venues in Chicago and other locations…their responses often include comments like “We’re so glad we found you!” and “We couldn’t wait for you to open.” All the while, they have no idea that every sincere and positive encounter encourages us to continue this creative journey. In the design of this space in particular, I intently applied the advice I often give my clients. Design from your mind, decorate from your heart. And it’s already paying off in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

  Brave3       Brave2

As I have said time and time again, two things NEVER seem to go out of style. Personality and risk. Personality in an interior has the ability to invite you in and tell a special story without speaking a word. Rooms without a personality are typically forgettable…and what’s the use in that!? In my world, risk and visual surprise in an interior is absolutely essential. Both exciting and polarizing…I actually prefer the right mix of both in the interiors I design, the one’s I visit and my own. The only real question we should be asking ourselves when introducing “riskier” elements into our design is “What’s the right percentage?” Seriously, no joke, some of us are drowning in a sea of accessories who’s brand name ought to be Yawner, and copy-cat interiors resembling the performance of a mime, rather than that of an accomplished artist. The myth is that money guarantees interesting interiors, and lives for that matter…it doesn’t. The shame is that some of us have just stopped trying because we think beautiful means expensive. I’m here to tell you with the right coaching and inspiration, EVERY interior, regardless of the budget can be beautiful…as long as it has a sense of purpose and possesses the visual anticipation of a parade.

And as I sign off on the last paragraph of this blog entry I hear another great comment. “I love this place…they always have the best ideas.”  I respond by saying “So kind of you to say. Thank you, and please come back soon.”  Interactions like that mean SO much to independent business owners. Please remember that. Kindness and commerce CAN coexist. And it can be contagious if we’re all willing to be infected. As for me, encounters like those I had today seem to turn my studio smock into a Design Coach cape. I feel creatively bullet-proof…like a design superhero. And all I can say is that if you want ideas…you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be serving them up all day…every day at our thought provoking Midwestern design saloon. Intoxicating and arguably therapeutic, there’s always an open seat at the bar…literally and digitally. Hope to see you again soon.

Brave1      Brave5 

In memoriam of Carl Schwebl,

one of our first customers in Lake Geneva, WI

Thank you for inspiring us to believe that the biggest of ideas

can come from the smallest of places.