What To Do

by Maida Korte

“Yes, terrible things happen.  But sometimes those terrible things – they save you.” (Chuck Palahniuk)

            “I am a Russian interior designer.  Rip it out.”  I practice saying this out loud in the privacy of my car when I mentally review some projects after seeing them for the first time. This line would be reserved for the horrible and ghastly.  Now it is true that not every project is nasty.    Most projects are modifications of existing spaces that can be approached with enthusiasm, the clients understand basic costs, and a reasonable exchange is present in all conversations.   Changing the flow of a work space by moving one wall, installing custom cabinetry that produces a vigorous organizational solution, creating a command central for all the accoutrements of essential life these days, changing paint colors, re-staging and rehanging artwork, open up a floor-plan or designing a new lighting pattern are all in a satisfying day’s work.  But some projects, oh some projects just have no redeeming qualities and these must be delicately addressed.  No one likes to hear that their home should be burned to the ground.

            Years ago I bought a little house that had first an unsightly basement and second one that flooded. Family folklore now divides time into “before the floor” and “after the flood” where Mom lost her Beatle’s albums, the worst outcome possible.  I hired Ziggy, a local plumbing contractor, to come in and assess what was to be done to prohibit future flooding.  He spent an hour peering at the basement, the house, the yard.  He was a soft spoken man with a thick and attractive accent and when he was ready to give me the results of his examination he said with deep sincerity; “Well Miss Maida, I would move immediately.”  Some houses are just like that.

            I am generally undaunted when it comes to design.  I love a challenge so I roll up my sleeves and go at it with a ferocious tenacity.  The harder and more complex the project the more excited I become.  I always think that everything can be done and yet, as a project expands so do the costs.  This has gotten me into trouble in the past.  My enthusiasm rides ahead of the practical notions of business.   So, modifying my entire work methodology has been essential but depressing.  If a space is better by gutting it entirely and starting from scratch why not do it.  But not all clients have this kind of budget so I pare down the solutions and modify expectations. Perhaps the only person unsatisfied in this equation is me.  My right brain has a vivid idea that is real and brilliant.  Curtailing this inner man means sacrificing something I consider essential.  So my left brain argues with blah blah blah about budget and schedule and costs and a host of practical matters. 

            When young it is attractive to run head long into the forest with an almost cavalier approach to life.  Trip and fall and the response is to get up immediately, brush off, and keep going with abandon.  But tripping today results in lengthy recovery periods paralleled with a time of reflection. Examining things like what type of shoes to wear is boring when compared to the youthful exuberance of racing ahead giving no mind to the fallen branches of ideas never to come to fruition.  Working with clients on remodeling their homes is akin to racing in heels for me, something I have been able to do my entire life.  My daughters and I measure high-heeled shoes on whether we could run in them.  Up until now it would not have occurred to me to simply change shoes. 

            Recently I am considering flats and sneakers and this is life-altering for me.  If I wear flats is the world less round?  Is the horizon further away?  Will I feel short?  Are my ideas as compressed as my height?  Worthy considerations when life has been viewed from at least 2” up from the ground floor for almost forever.  The creative mind is propped up a multitude of ways and one for me has been my costume.  Having a “design uniform” has freed me from feeling that I start from scratch at every new project.  I had and have a platform I work from.  I eliminate myself from the solution by dressing a particular way.  Though crazy to write this fact done, it is true none-the-less.  If I robotically put on jeans and heels and t-shirt, my simple jewelry accoutrements that I rarely remove, I am set and my mind is freed to think about quartzite and shades of sage, and weathered oak. 

            Putting this same uniform into my approach to horrendous projects works if I can speak to myself in Klingon privately.  Naming what I would do out loud gives satisfaction to my inner artist and releases the tension that builds up when there is no expression available.  A clearing of the mind results in this loud recital in my car and I can look at what is possible, rather than what I want to do.  And this movement from the audacious to the realistic has allowed me to appreciate my new Rothy’s. 

One Response to “What To Do

  • So beautifully written Maida – words are art too, and you are truly and artist. More so you are the rare artist, who reflects without shame and grows without regret. At least none you show as you sprinkle sunshine every where you go. The beauty that surrounds us in our home is your doing as well – the vision of an exemplary artist. We know the beautiful mind you manage – the massive gap between thoughts that come and words you choose to speak. You are a wonder Maida created by a wonderful Lord whom delights in our delight in you.

    James and Kathy

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