From the ancient times to present day, there is a connection between the finishes of our environment and how we experience the space. After observing Gratz Park Inn and 21c here in Lexington, KY, we see two very distinct environments largely contrasting in tradition and modernity.
Gratz Park Inn was tradition and classic in every aspect. The wooden floors, wallcoverings, and traditional furniture pieces created an experience that was welcoming and inviting. It almost had the feeling as if I was walking into someone’s home, very personal and private. The front desk of the lobby is a little hidden at first, with no signage or wayfinding.
On the other hand, 21c located downtown was a breath of fresh air. It had such a unique modern flair as soon as you walked into the building. Viewers are greeting by this enormous light installation hanging above from the ceiling and really sets the mood for the environment. But with all of the modern renovations of 21c the designers were able to capture some of the original finishes and preserve them. 21c exhibits a great fluidity between preserving the historic and modernity. It really is a captivating, inspiring place.
Our environments have the ability to affect our behavior and create experiences. One of the most influential aspects of our environments are finishes. As harsh surfaces with neutral colors creates an unwelcoming space, an environment with plush soft finishes and warm colors creates a welcoming comfortable space.
Similarly, finishes can create experiences in the sense that they are able to tell a story. They allow viewers to gather a sense of their beliefs values and culture. One motif that is still extremely relevant today, is the greek key. Used in the ancient times, the Greeks would utilize finishes throughout all their interior environments. The Greeks being people of nature, many of their finishes were natural and depicted elements of the natural world. The sea was a huge part of their life, so in honor and remembrance of this close connection to the water, many of their finishes resemble waves. The Greek key resembles the wave, the fluidity and continuation of life as well as the repetition of symmetry and balance, highlighting the important elements of greek culture.
As our world and society is ever evolving, the conversation about design and decoration is always one hot topic. Being educated within the design field, I feel I have a better sense of the separation between the two. First of all, there is much education and training to become a registered interior designer. Interior designers must undergo an undergraduate degree in the related field, then they are eligible to take the NCIDQ after two years of professional experience. Decorators on the other hand, can simply take up the trade seemly overnight. Without generalizing, there are some amazing decorators that have extraordinary talents.
Another element that separates decorators and interior designers is the wealth of knowledge, not only in aesthetics but how materials and finishes will create an experience and affect the behaviors of its users. Decorators tend to only reach the surface of the issue whereas designers dig deep down to provide a solution to the problem.
Florence Knoll is a great example of diving deeper than the aesthetics within the workplace environment. She was trained as an architect but referred to herself as an interior designer. She completely changed workplace design as it was once known. Besides making the workplace aesthetically pleasing she wanted to create the office space for its workers. How comfortable was it for users to be sitting at their desk all day long? How did workers interact with one another? Was there a space within the office environment to encourage social interaction? All of these things Florence Knoll addressed are far beyond the paint color of the walls, or fabric of the furniture.
However, to create a beautifully successful environment, designers and decorators must come together and share their knowledge and talents. A space can be so functionally designed but until those final touches of aesthetics are applied, the space is not complete.
Throughout history, finishes have made an impact on environments. It not only created an interior to support the lives of those living there but they also create a window for future observers to understand their culture, beliefs and society. As civilizations rise and fall, we see repetition of certain finishes within their environments.
During Pre-historic times, the people would create wall paintings along the earthen walls. They would use their hands or other handmade tools to create these paintings. They utilized the painting not only for decoration but as a way for storytelling. During this time, written language was nonexistent so they would draw along the walls to tell stories, teach lessons, and express themselves. Similarly, the Greeks utilized walls to tell stories. The Greeks created frescoes, a technique that uses wet plaster applied to walls. They created these beautiful frescoes within their interiors. In many instances, the frescoes depicted elements relating to the sea. They would utilize motifs of waves, resembling the sea, and vibrant colors of blues and greens. For the observer, this creates a story of their strong connection to sea.