As you can imagine, 3 o’clock in the morning has become, I wouldn’t call it a friend, but a close acquaintance of mine the past few weeks. And while Lilly suckles and Kevin snores, I try to find interesting and inspiring things to fill my idle mind. The other night I came across an interview with Charlotte Moss on the Youtube station Inside the Business of Design. One thing she said that really resonated with me was, “It’s the magic that happens between the chairs, not the chairs themselves.” The sentiment of the quotation was borrowed from the French musician Claude Debussy, who famously stated that “Music is the space between the notes.” And while it is a familiar idea, I hadn’t taken the opportunity to think about it and what it means, especially in the context of design.
Essentially, we are talking about the role of negative space in creating a composition. As a photography major in undergrad, I had the opportunity to study and think about negative space as it applies to two dimensional visual arts. But it is amazing how this concept carries such significance across art forms, of course the traditional visual arts, painting, photography, etc, but also to three dimensional concepts like sculpture, architecture, theater, and even into a fourth dimension, if I can call it that, in literature and music.
Art truly is about what is not there as much as it is about what is there. Certainly, the subject matter, the principle players or positive spaces are the stars of the show, but the true beauty in art comes not just from the main actors, but from the entire composition. In design, the primary pieces speak loudly, but the spaces between them say just as much. It’s about the interaction of space and form, a relationship between the tangible and the intangible. And like a conversation, meaning is not interpreted from just one person talking, but from listening to the other, and from hearing and feeling what is not said.
This idea got me thinking about what makes designers and artists unique. In a sense, we all start with the same things: certain tools and materials. But it is how we use these tools, form and arrange the materials that differentiate our voices and our art.
This is why a client works with one interior designer or another. When discussing a project with potential clients, I try to have conversations that are real exchanges of ideas, and to discover if my voice is the right one to express those ideas. The challenge, and the fun of it, is the fact that if you give two designers the same room, the same direction, the results will be completely different. They could use the exact same fabrics, furnishings, accessories, etc, but the space would tell completely different stories. After all, the home is far more than a collection of things, just as art is far more than the primary subjects. It something bigger, more magical.
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