Monday, July 28, 2014

how to ask better questions so that people in your life feel understood by you, and how to share information about yourself in a way that leaves you feeling understood by others.

Last week I was working with a client on a closet editing project. It was a day of questions, explanations and decision-making about beautiful designer clothes, shoes and bags.

Towards the end of our session I opened a drawer, ready to deposit a stack of neatly folded, rainbow-ordered (naturally) tops inside. The drawer was to have been emptied, but before setting the shirts down I noticed something, way at the back. It looked a lot like a delayed decision if I’m honest. Or like a rag.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that often what is most important to people is not immediately evident, nor is it what one might automatically assume to be the most significant. Values do not always announce themselves with bravado, but rather are revealed in time, through intimate conversations.

And so I held the scrap of fabric up, this thing that appeared worth-less, asked, “Is this important to you?”

Of course, it turned out that the “scrap” had in fact been a pocket square belonging to my client’s late father, whom she had lost years ago, and which was nearly the only physical item she owned to serve as a link to him.

Whereas her answers to the load of questions that proceeded this one had been willingly supplied, albeit a bit rote at times (Q: How do you feel about this dress? A: Ehh.) this one gushed forth. She was fully animated as she told me about her dad, about the wardrobe he used to sport. She caressed her cheek with the cloth, held it to her heart, and told me she thinks of her dad daily. She was utterly alive in that moment, fully present, and I was too, having gained new respect for an item that, without her explanation, I would have discounted.

It was sort of the cutest thing ever when, after having edited out of her closet an entire car’s worth (seriously) of fabrics and leather, she said she hoped we could make a space for this palm-sized suit accouterment. 

I happened upon the most important thing in the knick of time.

All of it was yet another example to me of how people yearn to tell others about the things that matter to them–as a method of self-actualization and a mechanism of relationship. And, it was a reminder of how that subject can often feel cryptic for those on the questioning end to detect

There is this sort of cycle that goes on: The subject at the forefront of your mind, the one you’re currently spending your days inspired or intrigued by–they won’t know it’s important to you unless they ask about it. But they can only ask if it’s on their radar. Which it may not be if you haven’t done an adequate job of illuminating them as to its significance. In any case, this can lead to resentment, feelings of hurt, and to greater distance in the relationship.

You, being a person of exceptional love, can be better on both ends–better to yourself by more readily supplying others with the information you actually care to relay, and better to others by being a more intuitive, enlightened listener.

You can confidently and assertively share with others your deeper thoughts and feelings. You won’t get hung up on waiting for others to arrive at the right questions. You accept as your responsibility the willingness to call attention to the subjects you deem worthy. You answer the questions you know the love in them cares to know, regardless of what their logical brains can put forth.

And you? Person of infinite goodness and eternal spirit? You can be patient with the ones you love. You open your mind to the possibility that something that appears to have little or no value to you is often what’s most treasured by someone else. You heed subtle hints, bow to casual musings, and listen for the words, “this matters to me.” You accept as your responsibility creating an opportunity for others to share their deeper thoughts and feelings.

You don’t default to standard questions like:

“How’s work?”


“What’s new?”

Instead, you ask things like:

“What’s feeling like the most important thing to you right now?”

“What are you most excited to talk about these days?”

“What one subject or question would I ask you about and listen to the response to most closely if I had all my wits about me/zero distractions/all the time in the world?

Tell me about that one thing.”

And you might add in there:

“I don’t care if it’s a pocket square or world peace; I’m all ears.” 



Thursday, July 24, 2014

I don’t know Ryan White Designs, but if his interiors are any indication, he may just be the most impeccably appointed male out there. 

As an owner of ladyparts, I naturally lean towards spaces that are feminine in vibe. Occasionally I like a nice manly room, but on the whole I find spaces meant for men are dark, cave-like, verging on oppressive, that whole thing.

Ryan’s work is–I’m going to say it–it’s truly innovative is what it is; masculine interiors that are fresh and light. They glide along with all the breeziness of Los Angeles and all the style of it, too. The result are the kinds of spaces we wish every man might come up with if left to their own devices.

(Bless them; they might just not quite be equipped.)

Consider Ryan the design inner guide/guru in a genie bottle for the man-person in your life starting now:   

modern office space with ombre wall, giant pencil art, and stylish filing cabinets.

modern office space with ombre wall, giant pencil art, stylish filing cabinets, and a desk made from two dog cages.

Perfectly styled shelves by Ryan White Designs

soft, layered bedroom with subtle masculine touches. soft, layered bedroom with subtle masculine touches Divine white bathroom with lots of natural light. Obsessed with this leather headboard, exposed ceiling beams and blue accents Gorgeous bathroom with basketweave tile and tons of light. Perfectly styled shelves with a coastal/masculine feel by Ryan White Designs Perfectly styled shelves with a coastal/masculine feel by Ryan White Designs Beach house outdoor furniture/dream lounge spot.

Yeah, I know.

K that’s all for now! Drink that seltzer and buy a new pack of highlighters; you’ve got the one life to live. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If we could build the perfect room from scratch, what would it look like? What features would it contain? Let’s have ourselves a little daydream…

One of my newest clients is a woman who has just downsized from a very large home to a moderately-sized townhouse. As we’ve been working to move her and her belongings into the new space, she’s been apt to remind me of the vast quarters she occupied previously; where before she had this many closets, she now has this many (less). Where before she had this many beds, now she has only this many (less). Which isn’t to say that the old way was better–on the contrary, she is exceptionally thrilled to be streamlining her stuff and her space.

It was with some hint of remorse, however, that she and her mom told me about her old kitchen–a proper chef’s kitchen it was! Pull-out this and custom that and fridges for everything. It even had one of those pot filler faucets! Her mom informed me. 

Pot filler faucets I thought. Hello (lightbulb moment and such). You know, those really are a feature to call out. Why haven’t I given them any attention in the past? 

Just in: your kitchen needs a pot filler faucet.

I do believe my neglecting the subject of the stove-adjacent h20 spout had very much to do with the fact that I had never considered them in practice. I mean I had never pictured them actually being used. Sheltered life I lead and all. The moment my client mentioned hers, the realization hit–those things weren’t just misplaced, naked pipes, after all, but totally utilitarian cooking tools!

The more I thought about pot filler faucets (I actually did, does that worry us?) the more enamored I became. 

Full-on, if I were designing a kitchen today I’d say, “It’s got to have that stove spout, let’s get that straight right now Johnny and you just hush over there Blandings” or whatever. 

Just in: your kitchen needs a pot filler faucet.

Think of all the trips you’ve made in your life from stove to sink and back again, carrying canisters of water filled to the brim that inevitably slosh onto the floor, or carrying under-filled measures of water instead, depriving your recipes of the proper moisture.

Think of the unwieldy soup pots you’ve lugged across kitchen floors– sure, they might have done your triceps a load of good, but did that mean dinner was on the table any faster? Did it?

Think of the headaches you might have avoided had you been spared the perpetual “should I carry the pot to the sink or make seven trips from the sink to the stove with the cup?” (Which almost always ends in believing you chose the dumbest option between the two, mind two. Doesn’t matter which you choose.)

Just in: your kitchen needs a pot filler faucet.

My client’s home is going to be the epitome of Live Simply when I’m through with it, and I still can’t help feeling like it would be that little bit more so if only it had a pot filler faucet.

What’s your vote?

Image credits: Alice Lane Home Collection, photo by Ashlee RaubachChroma Design via Decor PadCharmean Neithart, Photography by Erika Bierman Photography