Sort it: Buy things you love and walk away from the rest

Ask yourself what do you need in the room and what pieces do you really love


“Attractive things work better” claims the title of a design exhibition currently running at the Danish Design Museum in Copenhagen (worth a visit if you are in that neighbourhood). It explores an idea put forward by design researcher Donald Norman. He maintains that things should be practical and functional, but to work well they also need to be attractive, enjoyable and fun.

This idea was tested by two Japanese researchers, Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura. They built two automated teller machines or ATMs. Both machines were identical in function – the number of buttons, and how they worked – but one had the buttons and screens deliberately arranged is a way they thought would be attractive. The experiment found that people thought the “attractive” ATM was easier to use.

The reason the researchers found the more attractive ATM easier to use was that things that are aesthetically pleasing make us feel good. And when we feel good our thinking is more creative and we have an easier time figuring things out. If things are easier we are happy. So while the ATMs functioned the same way, only one of them made users feel good, and happy to engage with.

So doesn’t it make sense to be with things that make us feel good?

Everyday design plays a major role in our daily life, from packaging to mobile phones to furniture, kitchens, windows and doors etc. We interact with someone’s design hundreds of times a day – so if it doesn’t function well then it will have a negative impact on the quality of our lives.

Home should be the one place you feel great, so surrounding ourselves with things we love, based on the findings of Kurosu and Kashimura, should be a great starting point. Often the things we love, over time, get lost in our homes. Rooms fill up, and when a space is not working our reaction is often to go out and buy something else to give it a lift. But this never works.

This is where the home audit can be really effective, tackling your home room-by-room to see what serves a purpose and what has simply ended up in the space. Ask yourself what do you need in the room and what pieces do you really love. Everything else should go. This will strip away all of the superfluous bits and pieces that have been building up and allow the room to function and look really well.

There is a rule of thumb when buying art that you should not concern yourself with the value attached to the painting but buy something that you really love. This is great advice – don’t buy anything you don’t at least like. If you want to spend your money wisely buy the things you love and walk away from the rest. When it comes to your home, don’t panic-buy. There is no hurry and your home should evolve with you, so take your time.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant

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