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What Does A Designer Know About Divorce?


Sketchup Rendering

What does a designer know about divorce? Well, as it turned out, nothing. I only thought it was something that I absolutely did not want for my family, and I protested it as long as the law allowed. Those were the bleakest days of my life. Understatement.

Eventually, of course, it happened anyway. And, my life went on, and soon it actually improved immeasurably, once I made a decision that I was in charge of my thoughts.

What I do know a lot about is designing. It seems very mysterious to some people, and also very glamourous- which, I can assure you, it isn’t. Well, okay, sometimes it is.

Yes, some people have an “eye” and a “great color sense” but truthfully, there aren’t any big secrets to designing interiors. The only real rule is that if it looks good to you and doesn’t create a safety issue, you too can be a designer.

Oh wait, there is one secret. Your project will go a lot more smoothly if you follow what is officially known as “the Design Process.” As it turns out, this process pretty much applies to anything in life that you may be facing, or that you might want to change.

In the case of divorce, you might think of it as a “life remodel” or perhaps you want to completely raze everything and go straight to “new construction.” Or maybe it is that you know your health isn’t where it could be and you want to improve in that area- how would you design more energy and vibrancy into your life?

So, here is a simplified primer on what the steps of the design process boil down to, straight from my days of teaching Intro Interior Design at the local community college.

1) Assess and Discover:

Analyze the space and who is going to be using it. In the case of a room remodel, we would completely measure the room and take inventory of everything in it. In this phase we are looking for the strengths and weaknesses of the space.

Basically, we are taking a harsh look at the current reality. Not something most of us like to do when it means looking at ourselves, but it is so crucial to getting a beautiful end result.

Maybe your room has a great window and a nice view, but it is oddly shaped. We can’t change the shape of the room, so we have to accept it. We have to love that flaw for what it is. That is called defining the problem(s) and it is the key to success. Think of what it could do for you if you applied that principle to your life.

2) Design

This is where most people make the mistake of starting out. Would you start writing an essay before first knowing what topic your teacher wanted you to write about?

In interior design projects, there are a daunting number of choices when it comes to choosing colors, fabrics, etc. How much more limitless are our lives? Well, actually, I would venture to say that most of us tend to limit ourselves too much, narrowing our vision out of fear, overwhelm, or sheer force of habit.

This is the time to dream, to create a buildable and actionable vision and future upon the existing reality. How can I take my own oddly shaped room and make it into a place where my strengths shine?

In the case of rebuilding your life after divorce, how could you take the challenges and the pain of the “problem” and design a blueprint for a fulfilling solution that you love to live in? This blueprint will become the solution to the design problem.

This is where you find your WHY. What is it that you feel you were put on earth to do? Lots of people say to, “Find the WHY that makes you cry.”

Don’t think it is too late for you or that the weaknesses you discovered can’t be overcome. And don’t ever think that because you don’t have your ex-spouse anymore, that you can’t live your dream. You can.

3) Build

Yeah, this is where most of us fall down. Maybe our blueprint wasn’t specific enough, or we didn’t take the real design problem into account when we created it. Lots of us just don’t follow through on carrying out the steps of the plan.

If part of our life vision is writing a book, but we don’t even have the energy to get out of bed, our blueprint must include a solid plan to get our health up to speed. Whatever our dream, there are steps to getting there and our WHY is the fuel that powers us to take them.

We must commit to regular, actionable steps to move our life forward each day. Part of this is committing to the blueprint. This takes focus. If I am building the kitchen I have just designed (which, I’m quite good at, may I say…) I’m not going to plop a toilet right down in the middle of it as I go because I suddenly decided to.