What I Didn't Learn In Design School

Design can be taught.
Creativity can be faked.
But, sincere ingenuity stems from a person's core...

Sure, 4 years of textbooks and classes taught me some valuable technical skills and some savvy technological ones but at the end of the day and the end of my degree the instinctive and primal passion that guided me on this course held its own and, frankly, had nothing to do with any of that. Now, I'm not discounting the experiences and knowledge I attained because it is certainly necessary and definitely refined and polished my raw onset skills and abilities. It is imperative in this growing process to be exposed to and have access to such valuable resources, information, and constructive criticism from others that have gone before me. What I am saying is that sometimes the greatest designs throw the book down...

The 7 most important things I never learned:

1. Editing- "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory."- Coco Chanel
the same is true for design. Know when to stop. This isn't a formal rule it is an aesthetic feeling. Trust your gut. And know that sometimes a chic, simple strand of pearls (or clean, tailored lines and minimalistic accessories) are appropriate and sometimes layering every piece of jewelry you own (or piling on eclectic furniture and decor items) is equally as fabulous. Don't listen to what others opinion on the matter is, just like you didn't listen to your mother when she told you that polka dot shirt and tutu was not appropriate to wear to kindergarten with those light up sneakers.

2.Scrapping- know when to scrap an idea. Sometimes you find something you love so much (a chair, a layout, a space plan, a fabric, etc.) and can't imagine your life without. You focus the ENTIRE design around this nucleus. This wellspring of creative life. AND IT DOESN'T WORK. Frustrated, stubborn, and hell-bent you push and prod and force and squeeze and make excuses and go roundabout ways to fit a square peg in a circle opening. You pitch a design fit. This may be at the beginning stages of the design or right before installation. Sure, you can keep pushing and it will probably work and even look okay or great, but, the design will never be whole and you will never be completely satisfied because the design could have been EVEN GREATER if you allowed yourself the freedom and creative ability to release that initial idea and embrace the possibility of change. Yea it sucks. Yea it's easier to throw away a piece of sketch paper than a rendered floor plan. But that's life. That's growth. That's development. That's maturation. That is what is necessary to be a great designer. Know when an idea is not going to work, release it, and move on.

3. Don't Look at Other Designers for Inspiration- this is a double edge sword. It is one thing to look at other designers and admire their work and aspire to attain their level of creativity and acclaim and it is another thing to imitate, emulate, redesign and reinterpret what has already been done. Yes, Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler among others are all kinds of fabulous; but, they are that way because they are unique in their own right and pushed boundaries and claimed their own turf in a brazen unapologetic manner. They got to where they are by following their OWN heart and vision not by mimicking and reinterpreting the been-there done that creative endeavors of others. So, my suggestion? Look to individual pieces and elements to speak to you and direct your creative design musings. Let the parts form the whole and let it organically develop. Don't let a glossy photo from Elle Decor inspire a basically identical redesign of someone else's organic process.

4. You CAN Have More Than One Style- and it is totally OKAY to mix and match them. Variety is the spice of live, love. I am a firm believer in eclectic groupings and design mixtures. I read a statement once, I believe by Donatella Versace, saying that jewelry should never match and should have the appearance that it was acquired over time. The same is true for interior design. Pick pieces you love and that tell as story and let them accumulate as you go. Matchy-matchy is never a conversation starter.

5. Design is NOT a 9-5 Gig- this one also sucks. But as much as I am a firm believer in leaving your work at work and compartmentalizing your life into neat, tidy little sections. In order to be a great designer you have to leave your mind open and receptive to inspirations and ideas whenever and wherever they come to you. This doesn't necessarily mean working like a maniac til 3 in the morning and being a recluse work-a-holic...or maybe it does in some cases...it does mean keeping your 6th sense keen and intuitive and aware of all to colors, lines, shapes, lighting, textures, etc. that surround you consistently and allowing those elements to be filled away and stored and documented for use next day at the desk. Shutting your mind off with your computer will never prove fruition in the creativity department.

6. Don't Care What People Think- don't jump on bandwagon design trends just because its chic today. Burn your own trail. Embrace your own vibe. Trust your ideas and intuition. And then put the side blinders on and proceed forward with vengeance. Constructive criticism is appreciated and considered but ultimately it's your design aesthetic. And there are no rules.

7. Nothing is Permanent and No Surface is Safe- Everything can be changed, altered, touched-up... transformed. Who says you can't paint stripes or polka dots on your ceiling? Who says you can't mix and match curtain panels? Who says you can't repaint and reupholster antique furniture with wild and crazy colors and patterns? Who says you can't rip apart a pillow you like to frame the fabric as wall art? Who says you can't paint each stair riser a different color? Who says your front door can't be lime green? Who says you can't put a painting inside your fireplace? Who says you can't paint a chevron design on your wooden floors? Who says you can't change that, touch that, alter that? If you feel it, do it. Don't apologize. and don't look back.

Break Boundaries, Break Rules,


  1. This is a great post Christina! Darling, you are an undiscovered talent and when you burst onto the world wide design scene, YOU will take no prisoners! Keep doing what you are doing. It won't be long now!

  2. Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words! Such an uplifting encouragement to me! and thank you, sincerely, for reading my blog!


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