Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design



Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Satisfaction is a difficult thing to gain (as the Rolling Stones have so memorably immortalized in their song). Everywhere around us, we are constantly reminded to be more, strive more, or just have more. As a result, we slowly, but surely come to want well...more--to the detriment of our finances, health and environment. 

Over the last month, there have been small reminders to take a step back from all of this. Last March, Graham Hill penned his New York Times op-ed piece on why he lives in a 420-square-foot studio, despite being able to afford a larger space. He writes: 
I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets. 
Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me.
Then, I came across essayist Anne Taylor Fleming's wonderful piece in the April issue of Los Angeles about her "starter" home in Brentwood, which Fleming and her husband have occupied since the 70s. Fleming lives in a clapboard box home with a pepper tree in the back and a lemon tree in the front. Her home has no granite countertops, nor does it have walk-in closets. It only has one bathroom. But from the way Fleming writes about her home, it is clear that those extra cherries on top don't really matter in the long run. She writes:
From the outside our city can look like a place where people show off, where they attempt to out-stuff one another. There are plenty of ridiculous mansions and sleek, privileged-looking people. But I have always thought about this is a city where you don't have to compete, where the quality of life can be high without all the trappings.
Hearing Hill's and Fleming's take on their homes are a wonderful reminder that one's quality of life cannot be pinned down by what kind of flooring you have on your foyer or which designer furniture graces your living room. Their essays instead point to a greater wisdom: that of reaching for satisfaction by slowly molding a lifestyle that reflects who we truly are. It doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to great design, but instead of asking "Who designed this?" or "What brand?" we should start holding ourselves to a higher standard and ask "Why should this furniture/clothing/random object have a place in my life?"


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