I’m a voracious consumer of home and lifestyle media. For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected magazines and saved, favorited, and followed as many home, garden and lifestyle blogs as I could fit on one screen. But recently, I read a headline that lured readers in with a promise of revealing the 10 major decorating mistakes they were making that were ruining their home. And something inside me snapped.
Ruining? Major? Are there actually major decorating mistakes that anyone makes at home that are such a big deal that you need to scare someone about them? I don’t think so.
I decided a long time ago that we would never run headlines that made people feel like they were doing something wrong. For me, design is about support, community and lifting each other up — not about intimidation. It’s what inspired me to write a mission statement for our 10th anniversary, and it’s what continues to inspire me to focus on content that is inclusive, open-minded and supportive. And while I’m consoled by the fact that there are indeed blogs and magazines that don’t follow that format, the majority of big publications do.
So today I wanted to stop our virtual presses for a moment and use our corner of the Internet to declare both our support for and dedication to one mission and one mission only: to inspire, support and build community around the idea of home.
Small steps and small decisions turn into big change, and I want to talk a little bit about the changes we’re making to ensure we focus on empowering people, rather than taking away their confidence to make great decisions for their homes.
*Images above are from our “What I Love Most About Our Home” post.
I often wonder why clickbait that lures us in with guilt and intimidation is so pervasive. But whenever I research why, the answer is clear: because it works. Maybe it’s the catchy title or the promise of solving “problems” we didn’t know we had, but people love to click on these types of articles- especially when they’re in list form.
I don’t have a problem with numbered lists as a concept (especially when they’re not geared toward ranking or judging). I love diving into a long list of great ideas, people to follow, and clever projects that help people get things done. But when lists seek to intimidate people, rather than empower or inspire them, that’s where things get problematic for me.
I’m aware we all have, collectively, much bigger fish to fry than the problem of guilt-inducing design headlines, but if you’re like the rest of us here at D*S, you want to create a home where you feel safe, welcomed, comforted and at peace. And articles that attempt to scare or guilt people into design or buying decisions aren’t doing that, period.
Here’s what we’ve learned from watching this upsetting trend — and listening to our readers for the past 12 years — and what we believe about design now:
- Home is a place where you should feel safe and supported. Anything that tries to make you feel otherwise isn’t focused on your happiness.
- Trends come and go: There are entire organizations of design professionals who are paid to determine color, pattern and style trends every year. These highly educated teams use a few primary tools to make those predications, the majority of them being rooted in the history of art and design. Almost all styles have their roots and inspirations in something that came before, and people who spend their time studying these cycles know better than anyone that nothing is every really “out” forever. Yes, you may not want to live with a hot pink sofa for the rest of your life, but convincing people that something is “out” or “bad” is often part of a commercialist/retail-based way of thinking that encourages people to buy more and think less about whether or not they actually like something. The bottom line is: if you love something and it matters to you, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about loving it. Only you know what’s best for your home.
- Design content can, and should, be something that makes everyone feel empowered, not intimidated: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about decorating after publishing thousands of home tours, it’s this: there is no one right way to do anything. Some of our most beloved home tours have trends, colors, layouts and design decisions that might be considered “wrong” or “out of style” on paper. But when you combine them together in a space that’s designed with love and personality, they always work. So rather than pointing out what doesn’t work, why not point out what does, and why?
- Telling people they’re doing something wrong doesn’t make anyone a design authority: My deepest suspicion about why a lot of publishers feel the need to publish negative titles like “10 Things You’re Doing To Ruin…” is that they feel it will make them seem like they know more than the person reading. Bloggers and editors are so often told by their own bosses, ad networks and colleagues that it’s important to have “an authoritative voice,” but that comes most naturally with confidence and experience. Keeping an open mind when I see someone create a home that I would have never thought to design or decorate a certain way always makes me feel inspired and excited. I don’t need to be the best or most authoritative design advice-giver online: I just want to be one that you feel comfortable and safe talking to.
- Mistakes are a part of learning: Of course, we all want to avoid costly mistakes whenever possible, but small mistakes are a part of life and they’re often the best way to learn what you like and what you don’t. And in the realm of big-time life mistakes, the wrong color paint on a wall isn’t one of them. (And if you DO end up with something costly that you need to fix without spending a lot of money, bloggers like us are always here to help with quick fixes and DIY repair ideas).
So, what does this mean for our content at Design*Sponge? While we’ve always focused on positivity as much as possible, going forward, we are committed to providing positive, constructive and supportive design and life ideas, advice and inspiration that will empower you to make changes at home and in your personal life. We don’t know all the “right” ways, but we do know a lot of people and projects that will give you the motivation you need to take risks and try things out in your home.
I always want to work harder to make DS a place where people feel safe to be themselves and share their ideas. Thank you for being a part of this community and working with us to push ourselves harder and keep improving on our goals to make everyone feel welcomed and celebrated here. xo, grace
*Thank you to our friend and woodworker, Jack Decker of Vernacular Design, for sharing some words of wisdom above.