June 16, 2014

The Comfort Zone


comfort zone

a place, situation or level where someone feels confident and comfortable

1. the temperature range within which one is comfortable

2.  the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity

When creating design plans for my clients, I usually try to push them just a little bit (or a lot of they want it!) out of their comfort zones.

I think things are more interesting when they challenge us a little…  When what we would have normally done isn’t the road we take.  When “pretty” isn’t everything.   

Comfort zones obviously vary pretty widely.  For many of my clients, a little step outside might mean going with art that is scaled unconventionally, an “off” color thrown into an otherwise typical color palette, or mixing in a modern piece of art or furniture in a traditional home…  in others, it might mean a house of glass, a house with sand floors or a factory-turned-home:

{Elle Decor… One of my favorite stories about an architect who renovated an old cement factory in Barcelona}


What defines a step outside of the comfort zone for someone on a personal level is that it’s outside of his or her own comfort zone.  It shouldn’t make her sick to her stomach or cause serious anxiety…  but she or he should be slightly nervous, have “am I really going to do this??” thoughts and maybe even be little giddy.

I love to try to get outside of my own comfort zone.  There are a few decisions you might remember that I’ve made in the past that were outside of my comfort zone at the time:

1. Wallpaper in my old kitchen

2. My velvet green sofa

3. The coconut bead chandelier in our old dining room


When I had finished with the projects and saw the results, it was as if I couldn’t have made any other choice.  The things that had seemed like such “risks” were truly just little “something specials” in the rooms we’d done.  They didn’t seem outlandish or crazy AT ALL.

In making those decisions, I’d expanded my comfort zone and in a way, became harder to surprise.  Typical design choices started to bore me.   It made me so much more open to taking risks and knowing I’d be happy with them.

 In our new house, there were a few things I debated with myself about:

1. To remove or not to remove the wall between our family room & kitchen.

{so much more conducive to our lifestyle!!!}

2. To move our refrigerator clear across the kitchen so I could have my range and sinks on their own walls:

{we love having our little fridge/ microwave station a bit removed from the main area of the kitchen…  I also learned that while conventional wisdom is always great to know about, it’s COMPLETELY okay to throw it out the window if it works for you.  Convention isn’t the only -or Best- route. }

3.  Should we really paint the house black??

{Makes me happy every time I come home now… And makes me want a new roof 😉 }

4. Not doing matching sofas in the living room.  This one I pretty much had decided on from the get-go but I’ll share my internal debate… I knew two different sofas would provide more interest in the room & would be functionally different (i.e. one is leather & taller and older people seem more comfortable in it, and the other is lower and deeper and great for snuggling)  than two matching sofas would, but I also knew that two matching sofas would be so much easier.


Making these decisions was easier for me because at that point, I knew that my  so-called “risks” would make me happy.  I like to sit in my house and look around and think about things.  I enjoy having a black house because not only had I ruled out so many other colors is basically became the only color left for me, but also because it still surprises me in a good way every time I come home.

I’m not at the point yet where I’m going to stare at a black canvas in an art gallery, sipping champagne and declaring its brilliance… but what I like has definitely changed and will continue to over the years.  It’s just like developing a palate for new foods…  The more you try and experience, the more eager you are to taste new things.  And the more you learn about it, the more you can appreciate and understand what it is you’re tasting.

And from there, it’s so satisfying to try to start cooking your own new things using what you’ve learned.  (I.e. creating/designing/composing/whatever it is in a way that incorporates your new and ever-expanding limits.)

{I’ve always loved this little vignette by Tom Scheerer.  I think I’ve seen it with a more normal lamp but I ADORE the quirkiness of the leg lamp!!  I wonder what his clients said when he suggested it?!  love!!}

And that’s not to say that I think design has to be shocking to be good.  Not at all.  Because I do think that sometimes there’s a bit of an Emporer’s-New-Clothes-thing going on with some homes just being “out there” and “so different” yet actually slightly terrible that get a ton of praise, maybe because of who designed it or how much was spent or where it’s located or published or whatever.  So I think it’s walking that line that challenges us.  Keeping it meaningful and real while still pushing your limits.


{image from here}

We’re working on a few projects right now which are WONDERFULLY stretching both me & my clients outside of our comfort zones and I’m loving it!!  It’s so much fun to get to “what if?” constantly for my profession and to dip into new areas and design styles.  I know something’s going to be really special when I get chills on my arms and that’s been happening a lot lately, so I’m really excited.

As far as comfort zones go, where would you say yours lies compared to the average person?  safe? middle ground? riskier? out there?

I’d say mine is sort of on the transition between middle-ground and every-now-and-then touching the risky side.  Would love to push it out farther!!

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