Walking down the local high street the other day, I felt like a lone survivor after an apocalypse. Shops were boarded up with “for rent” signs slashed across their dusty windows. Those fortunate retailers that somehow managed to stay in business were closed until the end of the current lockdown (whenever that is). Cafes were mostly empty aside from one or two die-hard baristas serving takeaway coffees to the few stragglers that dared brave the deserted streets. Hastily, I finished my walk and made a dash for home heaving a sigh of relief as I slipped into lounge pants and slippers and settled down in front of the computer.
Like many, I haven’t set foot in the office for months and my home now functions as an office, alongside its other new functions - school, gym, restaurant, and bar!
As a longtime interior designer and architect, I’ve spent decades researching homes - visiting them, working out how to make them nicer, better, more functional - but something has definitely shifted in the past year. While I’ve long been aware of the centrality of home to the dweller’s sense of happiness and wellbeing, my vision was shared only by a select few in the industry. Lifestyle changes induced by the current pandemic have called into question the function of our homes. Whereas home used to be a place we returned to at the end of a busy day, it now assumes a greater role in our lives than ever. I’ve noticed that people are starting to feel differently about their homes, whether they realize it or not. Let me illustrate my point by way of example.
My clients, Jake and Romi, came to me just one year after they had completed an expensive renovation on their sea-view apartment in Herzliya. “Our home is exquisite,” explained Romi, “it would fit nicely on the cover of a style magazine, but I can’t explain... something is missing.” Jake elaborated, “we’ve put our heart and soul into this dream renovation, spent months visiting showrooms, pouring over catalogs, and choosing only things we absolutely love, so we can’t understand why it doesn’t feel like home to us.”
What I’ve just described is a familiar and sad story. So much disappointment could have been avoided if Jake and Romi had understood their design DNA before they embarked on their renovation. You see, most designers approach projects as they were taught in design school - functionally. Taking the traditional linear approach, they start with basic principles like lifestyle, budget, and the broad style preferences of the homeowners. A client in this day and age, for example, might express a need for a home office, an area to work out in front of the TV, and a relaxing outside space for morning coffee and possibly some work (weather permitting). The designer will ask questions like, “do you prefer classic or modern style,” “metal or wood”? Then they’ll look at some color swatches to determine a color scheme and, once the budget has been agreed upon, the designer gets to work.
Taking the traditional linear approach, Designers start with basic principles like lifestyle, budget, and the broad style preferences of the homeowners.
There are so many great designers around who will make good use of even limited space, dream up fantastically creative ideas, adhere strictly to the budget, and prioritize the homeowner’s style and color preferences. So how is it that stories like Jake and Romi’s happen so often?
My life’s mission has been to create homes that satisfy people’s deepest desires and longings. To do that, I’ve had to develop a way of understanding people that goes deeper than the surface level. Instead of asking, “do you like florals or graphic shapes?”, “do you like red brick or concrete?”, I started to really listen to my clients and to pay attention to what lay beyond their words. I noticed that some people need to express a sense of freedom while others need stability. Some are stifled in surroundings that lack an expression of joy while others crave spirituality or space. I discovered that it is possible to design homes that reflect these deeper needs. For example, a person who craves stability appreciates thick dividing walls and sturdy furniture and feels uneasy in an open-plan home. A person who loves their freedom feels more comfortable in a bright home with wide surfaces and expansive windows.
A person who loves their freedom feels more comfortable in a home with wide surfaces and expansive windows.
Through designing hundreds of spaces for clients over the decades, I learned that the best results (and the happiest clients) came about when designing according to the client's personality. How did I know their personality after just a handful of meetings? Well, that’s a long story and the subject of another article. What I will say is that I tapped into my intuition, a lot. At some point in my career I felt it necessary to formalize what I had intuited and create a practical methodology that others could follow. This was especially critical as I am also a passionate teacher of home design and wanted to impart this knowledge to my students giving them a practical framework to follow in their own design projects. After more than a decade of deep research, revisions and practical experience, the Home Being method was born.
Home Being is based upon my discovery and formalization of twelve overall design personalities. Once a person understands their design personality, they are equipped with the insight to design a home that satisfies their deepest feelings. I provide a quick test on my website to help users discover their three dominant design personalities. For those wishing to go deeper into the process of uncovering their design personality, I also offer one-to-one consultations. Most people are not in the slightest bit aware of their design DNA - why would they be? But my experience has been that when I design homes that honor the owners’ design DNA they sense it instantly. This translates into a deep sense of peace and wellbeing and a desire to stay in that place for as long as possible. Something that’s more important than ever in this pandemic age.
So back to Romi and Jake as I’m sure you want to know the end of that story. I won’t go into all the details but suffice to say I discovered that Romi was lacking a sense of security and warmth in the bedroom, while Jake (who grew up in Austria) was craving more elegance. Don’t worry, we didn’t have to rip out their whole apartment and start again! But I was able to add in some elements (without too much expense) that satisfied each of their deeper longings and, in turn, made them feel deeply at peace in their space.
It’s something that everyone deserves and it’s achievable no matter your budget.
For Romi, this meant painting the wall in a deep eggplant colour, and choosing a bed with a luxuriously soft headboard to match the warmth of the wall. The deep shades suffuse the room with warmth making Romi more confident in the space. For Jake, some tastefully symmetrical lamps added the elegance he was missing.
With a cohabiting couple, it can be a challenge to meld together different design DNAs; but once we understand the basic needs there is always a way. To satisfy Jakes’ elegant European sensibilities, we changed some of the light fittings to traditional style crystal chandeliers. We also made an elegant Japanese tea set a focal point on the coffee table. A traditional brown leather armchair in the office and an accompanying leather desk set made him as happy as can be in his workspace without offending Romi in the slightest.
Ideally, a home should be designed to reflect the inhabitants' design DNA from the outset, but for many reasons, this isn’t always possible. Fortunately, once we’ve identified the design DNA, it’s possible to vastly upgrade the feeling of home with some well thought out tweaks and adjustments.
The Home Being approach recognizes that a home should be much more than the sum of its components, it should be a reflection of the owner’s essence. Having a home that truly feels like home - or what I like to call a “Home Being” home - is not a luxury reserved for a select few who can afford it. It’s something that everyone deserves and it’s achievable no matter your budget. My mission is to make it possible and affordable for everyone to feel truly at home in their space.
I believe that every home should have a clear character or personality. By aligning the space, style, material, and color of a home to the “essence” of its inhabitants, it can express their inner power, radiating it back at them and making them feel satisfied, happy, and at peace within its walls.
Now that you’re spending more time at home than usual, and you also understand the Home Being philosophy, I’m sure you’re dying to know your design DNA. The good news is, it’s easy to find out! I’ve devised a simple, fast and free test that quickly identifies your three dominant design personalities and gives you insight into the elements you should incorporate into your home to maximize your good feelings. I invite you to try it out and I hope that it will mark the beginning of a newfound love affair with your home.
Take our fun, free test and discover the three leading Design Personalities that comprise your Design DNA. Get pointers and tips to help you create a living space in your own image.