It's Not About the Stuff
"It's Not About the Stuff." That was the provocative message delivered to an industry audience by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy, at an early breakfast meeting during High Point Market last week.
Maxwell founded Apartment Therapy in 2004 after realizing through blogging just how much consumers needed a helping hand and no-nonsense personal advice when remodeling and decorating their homes. He claims that today, Apartment Therapy is the most trafficked site in the space with 7 million unique viewers and 35 million hits per month.
Maxwell - who has been a designer, writer and teacher - gave an eye-opening and thought-expanding presentation which addressed the industry's most persistent problem head on - its consistent failure to connect with consumers' emotional base and their needs for genuine information, education and motivation to convince them that their home is the most important investment they can make to improve their life experience for themselves and their families.
Unlike the consumer electronics and travel industries, the home furnishings industry has been unable to capture the consumer imagination and spark the desire to create their own personal world long before they tap their bank account.
He believes that to make a home welcoming, comfortable and enjoyable is "not about the stuff" you put into it but about expressing the life you have now and want to have tomorrow.
Creating a home, he contends, is an ongoing process expressing levels of personal growth, not a one-time purchase decision. He also believes in the full use of a home.
Designers and manufacturers, he believes should start talking about "eating spaces", for instance, instead of dining rooms, which continue to be made, promoted and sold by industry at a time when consumers have long abandoned such distinction and food is consumed just about everywhere in the home where it's comfortable - in bed, in front of the TV, at a desk, or in the kitchen, where most communal family meals have long been taken instead.
Home is about finding our own path by instinct and intuition, to feel comfortable in our own skin - not just in a place but in life. "It's not about the stuff".
Coincidentally and on the same wave length came a presentation by Deborah Needleman, editor-in-chief of the WSJ Weekend and "Off Duty" sections for the Wall Street Journal. She previewed her upcoming book "The Perfect Imperfect Home."
In it she describes and illustrates how natural born style leaders live in their homes: comfortably and on their own terms by ignoring rules if they restrict the use of the spaces they live in or if they don't want their homes to look "staged."
As examples, she used the Duchess of Devonshire's habit of leaning artwork at or below eye level, where she feels she can see and enjoy her favorites better. Oscar de la Renta thinks nothing wrong with piling best loved books not just on coffee tables but also under them if that makes them more accessible in or near a favorite reading spot.
I think the point both presenters made was not to let "stuff" get in the way of life but making it work for you.