The difference between a house and a home is how much you love living there. LaunchPad explores the innovative technologies that help you care for your space more effectively.
A side effect of living in the 21st century is the surplus of new objects that we surround ourselves with: the chargers, gadgets, cell phones, televisions, cords, and various electronics that are introduced to the market each year. My apartment is not large by any means, so with space at a premium I have to carefully choose what objects I bring into the space.
At a glance, I have 47 objects in my living room (not including books, which would bring the count into the mid-hundreds). A handful of objects are tucked away in a filing cabinet or shoeboxes stored on the bookshelf, but the majority of these objects are on display, out in the open.
A few of the 47 are solely aesthetic: The art hanging on the wall, for instance, has no practical use other than to look good and, in turn, make me happy. But mostly, the design of these objects fulfills a practical purpose and an aesthetic one. In other words, the objects are practical when they’re being used; when they’re not in use, they act as works of art that blend into the style of the room, as opposed to adding more clutter.
If something is well designed, it can fulfill multiple roles. My dining room table doubles as my desk during the day. My coffee table, in the shape of an S, can be turned on its side to become a laptop stand, and my side table is a filing cabinet. The ambidextrous nature of my furniture ensures I keep the total count of objects to a minimum, and that there’s no overcrowding in a space easily brought to capacity.
That pragmatic aspect of design can sometimes overshadow its aesthetic. But for an object to justify the space it takes up in our already-cluttered lives, it has to do more than fulfill (sometimes multiple) roles: It has to resound emotionally, so that we want to incorporate them into our space and leave them out in the open, where we will remember to actually use them.
That emotional resonance is key. Design that only serves its function without aesthetic consideration is utilitarian, pragmatic to the point of being boring. It’s much better to choose a product that fits into an aesthetic you love.
It’s not just preference that makes incorporating good design a smart idea: Donald Norman, the director of The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, argues in his 2005 book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things that the emotional side of an object, a pleasing aesthetic that encourages an object’s use, can actually be more important than its practical elements. Norman writes, “Attractive things do work better — their attractiveness produces positive emotions, causing mental processes to be more creative, more tolerant of minor difficulties.”
In short: An object that you like to look at is actually easier to use! So next time you’re trying to decide between two purchases, don’t feel obligated to choose what’s cheaper “as long as it works.” It’s not at all shallow to spend a little more for something that looks exactly right, especially when it’s something you’re planning to use every day.
Tatum Dooley is a writer living in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Aperture, the Awl, Canadian Art, Maisonneuve, Real Life Magazine, and Quill & Quire.