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Thoughtfully designing to enrich our lives, not just make them more convenient

I’ve often spoken with our owner Pascal about just how little the everyday person that doesn’t work in the design field thinks about how design impacts their daily life. Design is a discipline few schools expose young people to and as adults often the only time we even notice design is when we’re inconvenienced by bad design (think a kitchen island that is too large for its space and eliminates the ability to flow through) or temporary changes to good design (think a lane closure for road construction that causes a bottle neck). 

We correctly romanticize places like Italy and Paris as centers of history, culture and beauty. But it seems that rarely do we consider the design features that make those places so beautiful and appealing to visit and apply those principles to our built environment. 

Obviously we can’t retroactively construct centuries old buildings to replicate the history of Italy and France but there are lessons we can take from these places and apply to our own communities and homes. One such lesson that we too often miss is that design built specifically around ease and convenience does not necessarily make our lives better, it just makes them easier and more convenient. The narrow streets of Florence aren’t conducive to smooth flowing traffic and easy surface parking but their walkability and charm offer something much greater.   

This morning I stepped inside of a coffee shop that had a long line of cars wrapped around the building waiting in line at the shop’s drive thru window. The staff was in headsets and their primary attention was understandably directed towards the drive thru window and trying to crank out drinks for the expanding line of cars as quickly as possible. Drive thrus are convenient. But I would argue that as a design feature they have not made our lives inherently better.  The coffee shop itself felt impersonal. First off, why place much emphasis on interior design when I’m assuming well over half of gross sales come from orders placed through the drive thru? Secondly, when the concern of the customer base is getting a decent coffee drink quickly and without getting out of their vehicle, and the primary role of the staff is to provide that service rapidly, the interaction is purely transactional. There’s no bond between customers and their environment. If the shop closed they’d simply go to another one with a drive thru. 

How does this relate to furniture and what we do at Ohio Hardwood Furniture and OHF Interiors? We make loads of design choices when we put together the interior of our home. From big decisions like whether to knock down a wall to open up a space to small ones like where to place a candle on our mantle, all of these choices impact how we interact with our most intimate environment- our home. 

At OHF, when we work with clients we always ask how they would like to use the space in which a piece of our furniture is being placed. That seemingly small piece of info allows us to consider design choices that will allow you to use your space in a way that brings you more happiness. If a client suggests they’d like to use their living room to host social gatherings and yet their current space has a large sectional and recliner angled towards a TV, we recognize that their current set up is incongruous with the desire for more social interaction. A better fit for this space will be a seating arrangement with a sofa and chairs positioned to face one another and encourage eye contact and conversation. 

In my own home, my wife and I felt we too often ate our dinner on the sofa in front of our TV. This habit also led to us frequently ordering takeout food. Ordering in and sitting in front of the TV was easy and convenient. But rather than bringing us joy it made us feel lazy, less connected to one another and less healthy.  We used design to encourage us to eat more often at our beautiful dining table. We replaced the coffee table in front of our sofa with a soft ottoman, eliminating the surface where we’d eat our TV dinners. We also added a number of house plants to our dining area, giving the area added color and charm. Now we communicate with one another more during sit down dinners, eat healthier and have rediscovered the simple pleasure of working together to make a meal and enjoying it with one another. 

At OHF we do our very best to be thoughtful about design’s role in creating home environments for our customers that allow them to enjoy a lifestyle that brings them joy. For us, that means more than helping pick the prettiest fabric for a sofa. It means getting to know your values and working with you to create a built environment that cultivates real happiness. 

For design consultation questions reach out to us at 330-657-2095.