What happens when an interior decorator confronts her stuff?

As you may know, this June we moved Turnbull Interiors to our new Design Studio across the Street from where we were. While we’d been contemplating the change for some time, the actual physical act of moving unleashed a chain of reactions that have caused me to be even more aware of the huge impact my industry has on the health & wellbeing of our community and our planet.

It’s all about “Stuff”

Let’s start at the beginning….Interior design, decorating, renovation, home building…every facet of our industry is about “stuff”. It’s about building products, finishing materials, and stuff to fill spaces

There are thousands of options, all claiming and competing to be the “product of choice”. Twenty years ago, sampling this “stuff” made sense for us. However, with the vast amount of product now available, it’s impossible to cover all the bases and, what’s more, today’s technology has changed how we shop for products in the custom market.

Knowing how to find the “Right Stuff”

Global shopping is now available at our fingertips. The Internet allows us to source on a worldwide scale and once our research is complete, we can order the samples we need and have them on our doorstep for our clients in what seems like a blink of an eye compared to even 5 years ago. However, this adds what seems like an unbounded level of more options and can quickly overwhelm the inexerpieneced shopper. Today’s interior designer/decorator needs to have expertise in product knowledge and the experience about where and how to source on a global scale in order to find quality beyond box store options.

Take carpets for instance….I can design a carpet for you on my computer from a base of some 3,000 pattern options and within 5 days have an actual sample from Denmark for you to inspect. Pretty amazing!!! And those of you who have already had this experience with me have expressed how much you appreciated the “no guessing” approach.

So back to our own downsizing…

The need for less space without compromising product options triggered our interest in downsizing. Once the decision was made, our process of letting go began… Anyone who has moved from one home to another after a long stay in that residence will understand the journey that ensued.

We packed up what we really needed and began to donate what was expendable. We donated Product to charities such as Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army and others. Four Quilters’ Guilds (Midland, Orillia, Simcoe County and Kempenfelt Bay) were the recipients of enough high quality quilting cotton to make over 800 quilts for people such as those in Hospitals, in emergency situations and victims of catastrophes. We culled out what we needed from our thousands of fabric samples, wallpapers and custom design products and gave away our out-dated and discontinued books to Georgian College for their new Decorating Program sample room.

It’s what we didn’t give away or take that set me reeling!!

Despite our concerted effort to recycle, reuse, and avoid the inevitable, we still had to haul waste to the dump. No matter how I tried to rationalize that it was all “clean fill”, I know that all of us in this industry have to do better!

Which brings me to the real point I want to make…

Great interiors are not necessarily about answering the constant battle cry for materialistic change. (Please don’t think I’m against change…I understand completely that life is a process and that the only constant is change itself.)

There’s a distinct line between great makeovers and simply replacing “old” with new. Truth is, depending upon the “new”, there is a very good chance that it will become outdated long before some of the “old” you might be considering replacing.

If we could learn from Ellen Glasgow that “all change is not growth; and that all movement is not forward”, perhaps we could take a second look at what we throw out and find a new way to invoke change while embracing the old. Rather than discarding those valuable dining room chairs or classic sofa, you can have them reupholstered. Restore your fine wood pieces with new refinishing techniques. The sky’s the limit for face-lifting good quality furnishings.

Practicing what I preach

Moving 4,000 square feet into a space 1/3 the size was no small feat! I was determined to achieve our new look by practicing what I preach. By reusing the best of what we had thorugh a process of elimination, rearranging and renewing, we have create a much better space: light, bright and cheery to be in.

I will think twice about what I gather around me and while we have always been diligent about managing costly waste for clients, we'll be doing so with even greater vigilence. The best part of all is we love our new space – it feels so good!