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Musings No. 1 - On the subject of mood boards, but first...
It’s hard to write about mood boards without confessing to our first -failed- attempt to redesign our home’s interior. The endeavour sputtered out after a couple of confusing months during which we struggled to communicate what we wanted to do with our home, or to fully understand what vision the designer was trying to describe.
I dreamed of a contemporary spin on a Midcentury Modern interior, and our young designer (let’s call her Blanche, which is nothing like her real name) was enthusiastic about the idea as I showed her around our home, masked and hand-santised due to the ongoing pandemic. I really wanted to know about Blanche’s creative vision, and equally wanted to firm up and share the unfocussed images, colours, textures and shapes that played across the screen of my imagination.
After that first visit Blanche produced a 3D render of our home. She used software designed primarily for architects; it could approximate shapes and colours of furniture, but the images were always rather angular, shapes were approximate and colours lacked depth, variety or texture. The software was great for indicating the position of doors and windows (when planning an extension or to remove a wall) but for interior design (where the questions we ask are more like “what kind of feature wallpaper will match which colour and texture of sofa?”, or simply “will these curtains work?”) the 3D rendering proved inadequate.
We had video calls in which I would struggle to fall in love with the rigid, souless images, that reminded me strangely of early vector graphics from retro video games my brother used to play. In return I would attempt to verbalise ideas, gesturing with hands from our side of a Zoom meeting.
I sensed that something was not right, and increasingly struggled to stay positive. That made me feel guilty, and concerned that my anxiety would poison the project. I’m sure Blanche felt something unpleasant developing too. Her ideas weren’t hitting home, and she didn’t seem able to express what was happening any more than I could. It took her a long time to generate revisions to the render, maybe it was a flaw in the software, but also I could tell that her early energy for the project waned, as my private worries increased. Blanche started to cancel appointments -last minute- saying that previous work was running over schedule and then finally, sadly, she explained that there had been a family illness, that made it hard for her to concentrate on the work. She resigned from the project. It was a sad way to part company. We offered to put the project on pause, but she advised us to press on without her.
I secretly, and perhaps rather meanly, feared that the family illness might have been a cover story to escape from a project that just wasn’t working, but it could equally be that this confident, pleasant young woman was not able to operate at her best during an emotionally challenging time. Either way, it seemed unavoidable.
The false start had been unnerving, but educational: I felt sure interior design did not need to involve such a leap of faith; surely there was a better, more effective way to communicate stylistic ideas than those blocky, artificial shapes in the 3D render. I still had strong ideas about Midcentury interiors, but this time I knew I needed the help of a more experienced professional; someone who could develop a vision and express it in a way that I would understand. We needed someone with a wealth of experience creating interiors for family homes in their entirety, someone with a strong sense of process and an excellent track record for project completion. And, we needed an interior designer who had the confidence to communicate with us, even when things might not be going smoothly - after all, how many projects really go without a hitch?
I allowed myself to search outside of my immediate geographical area. There might be a travel expense involved, but a lot could be achieved online, and I needed to talk to more people to better understand what was happening. I am so glad I took that step; that’s how I found FAWN and fell in love with their mood boards.
Right from the start, working with FAWN was different. We received a questionnaire that gently encouraged us to think about what we wanted in more depth. My brief was still pretty basic (or so I thought): We still wanted Midcentury to be an anchoring style aesthetic, but from what I’d seen, that style was predominantly too dark, or too orange - and does anyone really want to live with that?
The questions guided our early thoughts about what we wanted our interior to feel like, how we function in our space and such. These were questions I had not thought about before, and my responses were surprising, even to myself.
Simple questions, like “What colours do you like?”, and “What colours do you not like?”, were more challenging to answer than you’d think! I always considered that I like all colours, I mean doesn’t everyone to a certain extent? I answered that pastels were my least favourite… but I believed that any colour can work given an appropriate position within an overall scheme.
I felt like that didn’t provide a great deal of guidance, but I didn’t want to close down opportunities for our new designer to exercise her artistic talents by exploring colour schemes that might surprise and interest us. As long as they didn’t involve too many pastels…and I learned that the next step; developing mood boards would bring these ideas into sharper focus. I have a LOT to say about the visual communication phenomenon that is a mood board, but that will have to wait for another post.
So by now we have successfully re-launched our project, with our new design team; FAWN. Already the experience is totally different from our first attempt. Writing about it helps me gather my thoughts, communicate my ideas and struggles - to you, to myself and to my design team. It’s not always easy to share thoughts and fears or to coordinate creative visions, but the better we can develop open and trusting communications, the easier it will be to clear away obstacles, solve problems, tackle unexpected changes, and enjoy the shared creative endeavour.