10.30.2009

The Room That Started It All

I was reading this post at House of Beauty and Culture—about a mother who responded negatively to her child when asked why they don't have the same "things" as the opulent, ancestral Longleat House— when I started to think about the room that launched my own fascination with style and well, pretty things.

The Cathay bedroom at Vizcaya was my first serious design love affair.  It struck a chord, to the point where I was begging for a re-creation of the jester-like chinoiserie draped bed. I furiously plotted a room-renovation. It was my first design undertaking; I was OBSESSED.  To this day, I still love the bed, and the heavenly combination of powdery aqua and gold, with peach thrown in for good measure (for which I still have a weird affinity). Delicious.



All of this got me thinking about creativity.  I recently had a conversation about my cousin, who, like the beastly mother at Longleat, goes to great lengths to discourage what she sees as opulent displays of wealth and excessive materialism.  When her youngest daughter (similarly infatuated with a fairytale bedroom) wanted silk drapes, she denied— "It's not my taste." When she saw my rack (or 10) of platform stilettos, she declared it a clear marker of someone with a "problem."  It's one thing to be financially limited (and she is NOT); it's another to have moral opposition.  My question is this. Is it possible to foster visual creativity with a staunchly anti-materialist and frankly Puritanical attitude?

From On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins:
Creativity can be defined simply as making predictions by analogy... Everyone has different life experiences. Therefore, everyone develops different models and memories of the world in his or her cortex, and will make different analogies and predictions.  If I have been exposed to music, I will be able to sing songs in new keys and play simple melodies on new instruments.  If I have never been exposed to music, I will not be able to make these predictive leaps... Our predictions, and thus our talents, are built upon our experiences.

12 comments:

little augury said...

What a great quote- and the eye's of children are not Yet corrupt, little eyes, big dreams. When a parent-of all people is not a dreamer and cannot accept those of others, God HELP the Child that's got his own. That room is a confection-I can see you dreamed on the grand scale & well.This is a wonderful Post.I don't know if you read the Blushing Hostess- but I think you would like. She just wrote on a tattoo-that post in ways ties in.Ah-to be able to wear stilettos again-sorrowfully they are gone from the wardrobe-all but 1 pair-too good to release from my clutches- I do take them out and look at them. G

home before dark said...

Interesting thoughts today, Lauren. My mother was a very practical woman, a child of the depression. Creativity was not a virtue; it was simply frivolous, unwarranted. Literature opened my eyes and I am still looking! I think we come more hard-wired into ourselves than I ever thought possible as a young person, so I stand in opposition to Mr. Hawkins. As a former teacher I saw too many instances in a poverty of experience, rich talent and creativity could not be silenced nor stopped. Your cousin's daughter will have to choose someday whether she answers her heart or need for her mother's approval.

Jill said...

The world is filled with beauty...why not embrace it?! I have no use for those who scorn the splendid array this world has to offer.

{Tara} said...

What a great post...and a great question. This is sort of my problem with uber-modern design: it seems a shame to entirely replace form with function...and then convince yourself that that the aesthetic of form alone is attractive. Maybe I'm just a decadent through and through, but for me the most inspiring and moving design comes from a place of excess {or at least a love of excess on some level, even if you can't literally afford to live excessively...}...maybe excess of imagination?
hope you have a fabulous Halloween!!
xoxo
Tara

Karena said...

Lauren, this is wonderful the bed is divine. Take a look at my site for some paintings that would work in settings such as these! Contemporary art in traditional settings is a love of mine.

daniel Hale said...

I believe creativity is the ability to melt down all that you see and take in and somehow re-form it into something new and, yes original. It can be a voracious eater though. Needs feeding all the time. I was very lucky to have parents that convinced us that we could do/make anything and I fell for it! Ruskin said some things about firmness,commodity and delight. I have always thought he was pretty dead on as to what at least I strive for/search for in design. I suppose it is different for us all. Congrats on a very thoughtful and thought provoking blog. Thanks, Daniel

Lauren said...

Little Augury- Dreaming is so important. Honestly, it's probably one of the things that strikes me as saddest- when a parent actively discourages aspirations and dreams. I am off to check the Blushing Hostess in a minute! And I also have clothes I just take out to look at! Not the shoes just yet (they get plenty of wear), but certain articles of clothing. I have a dummy who wears all of the clothes that I'm too clumsy for, ha. At least she has no arms and can't spill drinks!

home before dark- Hawkins' definition of experience is broader than the quote makes it seem. For him, "experience" is what one sees, hears, reads, etc., from the smallest most seemingly insignificant exposures to the most formal, structured lessons. (He has neurological justification for this but doesn't get too technical, I HIGHLY recommend the book if you're at all interested- it's quick, definitely a fun read.)

So even someone who seems to have a "poverty of experience" might have more "experience" than is evident (through literature, listening to lots of music, looking at images...)! Even a person in a disadvantaged situation is able to seek out these experiences on some level. For Hawkins, it's just a matter of picking up on the "patterns" (not unlike learning grammar) of a particular discipline. Easier within the context of encouragement, but not impossible otherwise.

I agree with you about my cousin's daughter. It's just disturbing to see someone try so hard to moralize art or aesthetics in any form. I guess what I'm trying to say is: there's nothing inherently disgusting about silk drapes. As a child, she knows nothing about the implications of status, gender, and "self indulgence" that her mother has tied up with these drapes, yet they're being branded as "disgusting" in her mind, at a very young age.

Lauren said...

Jill- My sentiments exactly!

Tara- Guess I'm a decadent too, ha! I DO appreciate the form of various purely functional items, but then again, they're functional items that I don't use, so I just have them for form, and that kind of kills the "functional" aspect, doesn't it?

Daniel- Have you read Hawkins' book? His thoughts are very in line with yours, although he presents it in the context of an argument grounded in brain science- it's very interesting. But, yes, I agree- creativity does require constant feeding. You're so right, it IS a voracious eater!!!

Maria Confer said...

Wow, this room is so incredibly inspiring!! I can see how it sparked your creativity.

lululetty.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

Thombeau said...

I recently posted a picture of this bed, not knowing where it was from. Thanks for posting this!!

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