Perspective is Everything

There’s no such thing as bad information. I try to take in as much as I can. I try to consider all I take in. I don’t agree with all I take in. And I try to be accepting of and informed by all I take in. But I do have lines, and sometimes I have to draw them. Case in point: this essay on CityLab: “The Case for Rooms: It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design“.

I don’t want to be misunderstood. I fully respect the author’s training and her right to her opinion. I fully appreciate the history of architectural trends she presents and the reasons for them, from socio-economic realities to the availability and popularity of materials and the evolution of delivery methods. And I grant the correctness of the heating and acoustical challenges she attributes to open-concept designs. But tyranny? Really? As a term used for the purpose of expressing an opinion of a design trend, that’s a little over the top — to say nothing of politically charged.

Red Flags

Perhaps because the author’s use of tyranny heightened my sensitivity to her having some kind of agenda or axe to grind, I became wary of the logic (or lack thereof) of her ostensible argument. As a result, when she described the rising popularity of the bungalow and the Foursquare between 1900 and 1910s, this jumped out at me:

Working-class homes now had three to five rooms; middle-class homes, six to eight.

That’s a very peculiar piece of reasoning right there. Without any reference to the respective square footages of working-class or middle-class homes, that reasoning (or lack thereof) is the rough equivalent of the old joke about the call to the pizza joint:

Caller: I’d like to order a pizza to go.
Pizza Joint: Would you like that cut in six slices or eight?
Caller: You’d better cut it in six. I don’t think I can eat eight.

We can only imagine the author’s disdain had any of those working-class or middle-class homeowners opted to have fewer rooms in exchange for open-concept designs.

The Lost Art

The would-be design experts are entitled to their opinions. But so are the people for whom they design. If people felt tyrannized by open-concept designs, would they still be popular? No. Will open-concept designs ultimately go the way of the dodo bird, harvest gold appliances, and popcorn ceilings? Who knows? That’s precisely the point.

We have no more business telling the people for whom we practice our art that open-concept designs are tyrannical than we do telling them they’re no longer allowed to have tufted headboards, lace doilies, or fake fruit. That’s why, as I suggested in an earlier post, our work can’t be driven by trends espoused on social media or promoted on the Internet.

Rather, we need to reclaim the lost art of perspective. A little common sense, a little open-mindedness, a little acceptance will go a long way toward helping us keep our perspectives — and helping our customers keep their satisfaction.

Let’s step away from the agendas. We can be better than that.

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