Not that we don’t appreciate good design. Our appreciation sells books and magazines, it drives blogs…after all, some of the most popular have gorgeous photos all over the place and tell us about all sorts of things that will make our life more beautiful. And this post could be appropriate for any of the topics I write on since it addresses beauty, especially beauty in our everyday experience. Not just in gardening, but in life, although I chose to consider that garden part of giving thought to good design.
We often settle for far less than we could, or should. The reasons why could range anywhere from whether we consider our own selves worth the effort to being too busy with other matters, to a bit of a laziness. But whatever the reason we could have better design and appreciate our own lives more if we “settled less”. In other words, if we decided that everyday good design mattered to us.
In the garden I was specifically thinking about that old complaint about foundation plantings, and which could extend to overuse of “lawn”. Really, any part of the yard that suffers from unimaginative, uninspired spaces.
Does that mean everything has to be professionally “designed”? Not what I’m talking about at all. Just some attention paid to using spaces in the best way for you and your family. That is a big part of “design”.
What Defines Everyday Design?
I could give you a point list, but a better illustration comes from walking into a store that makes its business from this “everyday” design type of ideal.
First example- When I walked into an IKEA store I was blown away by how simple clean lines and useful inventions create a well designed living space. It wasn’t dependent on expensive materials or intricate combinations. Instead thought was put into making good use of space, ease of maintenance, and people friendly usage. That same ethic creates a great landscape.
Second example- Target household supplies and products. Tar-zhay for a reason. Good color combinations, fresh looks, clean lines, all for an affordable price. You don’t want to spend hours putting it together and taking care of it, and that can be how many people want their front gardens and back yards: they want them to work and not take lots of their time and effort. There is nothing wrong with that, but it can look great and work like that too… and that is what I mean by everyday design.
Third example- Martha Stewart. I mean, she has built an entire business empire around the concept of incorporating good design into a simple and easy combination of color and look. I say simple and easy because it is edited to a workable number of colors and decisions that speak of a specific basic look. And from there the sky is the limit in terms of how detailed or how much effort you want to take in any direction: fixing your food or making your bed, or lounging out in yard under a tree. A little forethought in colors, plantings, how you want to use your space and it can all work.
Where Do I Start My Design Efforts?
Anywhere you want, but personally I would pick the front entrance and then the front yard as a whole after that. Think curb appeal, but not for everyone else, or to sell your house, but because you deserve something welcoming every time you look at your house after coming home from somewhere else. Your yard should welcome you.
I truly believe that.
Then second, I would work on a personal space in your backyard. On facebook, a friend from “way back when” just bought a new house. You know what impressed me? She created an instant personal space by hanging outdoor curtains around a covered patio or lanai type area. It seemed like a perfect place to take time out and enjoy whatever was going to come next in her new garden…which was all in the planning stages.
It is that sort of “everyday design” that I mean… making the space beautiful, even though it might not be the landscapers choice of a “to-do” list. I think that a to-do list gets accomplished by taking that sort of simple action, though.
What steps can you take to get some good design in your front yard today? A well chosen pot for the entry? Fill it with soil and choose just one great plant to fill it if you don’t have time to design something more complicated, or go for it and put your effort into that and do some trim and cleanup in the rest of the entry. Take pictures of what makes a good design for you and draw your plans for this season…. make your yard more you, and little less every one else on the block. I guarantee that it will brighten everyone’s day, including your own.
Originally posted in April of 2010