Last month, I visited the newest, lifestyle focused addition to the Eslite Spectrum bookstore in Taiwan – their Songyan Store which is housed in a renovated tobacco factory. Think of the gentrification of the meatpacking district in New York City and a picture emerges of the potential for this new hub in Taipei to celebrate – as its stated aim – creativity in our everyday lives.
Eslite Songyan is a sprawling yet surprisingly singular space. Quaint but sturdy buildings located on the extensive grounds of the Songshan Cultural & Creative Park seamlessly integrate a traditional bookstore with a performance hall, an art cinema, a hotel and “Living Project.” The latter showcases Taiwanese and international products for their “happiness” proposition. I had enormous fun wandering around sampling Taiwanese handmade pastries and teas, looking at Caran D’Ache pencils and other art supplies, trying on French and Taiwanese clothes and perusing furniture, towels and other home goods. Integral to the happiness proposition is the idea that you can “do it yourself” so if you wish, like my daughter, you can try your hand at glassblowing, pottery, woodworking and other handicrafts. This store is seriously cool and fun!
However, I digress because the grounds also house the Red Dot Design Museum and the Taiwan Design Museum. On a gander, I strolled through a special Asian centennial retrospective on famous Japanese designer Sori Yanagi entitled “Beauty Born, Not Made.” Now, my understanding is that all designers, like Yanagi with his iconic Butterfly Stool and Elephant Stool, purposely design and make things. So this tagline piqued my interest. What did it mean?
When I visit an exhibit, I read all the little explanations that the curators so kindly provide. I read no less avidly to seek to understand this tagline; see my picture of Yanagi’s design ethos which are all one-liner that read like a quick philosophy of design. After mulling it over in my mind for a month (or it took this long for me to sit down from my summer holiday and actually write this blog!), I realized that Yanagi was equating the end-design with beauty, but not necessarily originality or creativity as we would think. He, of course, actually invented products that were both beautiful and original – the butterfly chair, for example- but he also adapted products so that they were beautiful, practical and not necessarily original- dinnerware and cookery. In looking at his designs, his definition of beauty is broad; design is beautiful because it is based on tradition, practical from a production and use standpoint, physically attractive in its form and lines, etc.
How does this apply to interior design? My favourite of Yanagi’s one liners is “Good design is not attained only by talented designers.” So without sounding kitchy, be true to yourself! Don’t worry about if you are doing it right, or if it looks designer-y. Start with a design style – the tradition so to speak – and play, adapt and fit it to how you live.
Here, I would like to reference Sabine’s recent blog, “Decorating with Obis“. Sabine’s style is modern with some mid-century thrown in and in her blog, she wanted to use obis in her home decor and she managed to do so, as table runners!
Perhaps the design process part involves incorporating two different styles. In my case, my husband’s style is very much like Sabine’s while I tend toward a more rustic, updated country style, particularly when it comes to the workmanship of solid wood furniture. So our home is a mix of Eileen Gray daybeds, white sofas and glass walls, shelving and side tables with a bit of French art deco as well as Chinese and Dutch Indonesian wood furniture as accent pieces. I was even able to incorporate floral patterns into the curtains of the bedrooms. Most importantly, everything ties together beautifully (although I am biased)!
Have fun designing your beautiful space!