A Room with a View

A great thought begins by seeing something differently, with a shift of the mind’s eye.
Albert Einstein

September is met with a mix of emotion, as it marks the official end to my second annual “Summer Hiatus”. Last year, fearing what life off of the lightening fast hamster wheel would be like, the idea of a hiatus was met with trepidation. But I promised myself that time would be devoted to meeting new people and turning my head in directions that would help to expand my view of the world – and my role in it. Now, determined to make it a tradition, I have come to cherish the fresh ideas and renewed creativity that comes when time and space is made for them.

Slowing down the pace allows the lessons of the universe – which usually whiz by in the blur of our hectic lives – to slow down too. As if suspended in mid-air, we are now able pluck them from space, explore them in depth and discover their wisdom. Circumstances also conspire, allowing us to apply what we’ve learned to life back on the wheel.

One lesson that seemed to slow down for me to explore was that of perspective. In my design life, perspective is a technical term to describe the view from a fixed point. Perspective helps to give the viewer a sense of scale, height, depth and position to an object, person or space. We might not give it much thought, but without perspective, there is no opportunity to guide the eye to a point of interest or suggest intent. Without perspective, a space is nothing but air, filled with a floating parade of senseless, unconnected dots with no relation to anyone, or anything.

This summer I was fortunate enough to expand my perspective on perspective. While traveling in Prague, I saw an exhibit at the Galerie Rudolfinum by the German born photographer, Barbara Probst. Upon entering the first exhibit room, I was met with large scaled photographs that, while technically accomplished, failed to clue me in to their purpose. It wasn’t until I walked further into the awaiting chambers that their brilliance started to unfold.

It was soon evident that each scene had been taken using several synchronized cameras – set up to capture more than the singular view initially presented to the viewer. In one instance, the photo of 2 girls standing in the Alpine snow revealed the scene as a fake when the lens of another camera caught the snowy backdrop propped up in a lush, green field. The girls’ solitary presence was also a ruse, when yet another camera captured people standing off set. The culmination to the exhibit was a small room lined with photographs. All shot at exactly the same moment in time from different cameras. Each photo contributed a valuable piece of a much larger whole, that would have been missed by a singular, short-sighted perspective.

Cleverly, Ms. Probst was asking us to question if what we are seeing – from a fixed perspective – is in fact, the whole story. By giving us additional vantage points she was helping us develop a more informed sense of the truth. By changing the way we look at things, even if it’s a slight look left or right, the story becomes very different indeed.

That understanding can be applied to the physical space we occupy and my role as an interior designer. Many times in the course of a consultation I’ll offer a couple of different ways to approach a room. Frequently, a client will say something like, “I never would have thought of that arrangement” or “I never thought to make that a focal point”. That’s because, sometimes, an external fresh eye (lens?) is what’s needed to shake up our own fixed gaze and reveal another sight line. A new vantage point can get one to explore new styles and colors. It can even clarify or define the purpose or function of a space.
It gives both content and context, and helps to connect the dots between space and inhabitant.

This understanding of perspective can also be applied to the emotional and psychological space we occupy. By opening ourselves up to new experiences, listening to the viewpoints of others or questioning the beliefs and loops playing in our heads we begin making those small (sometimes large) shifts that have us seeing things from a totally different perspective. What if we looked beyond what was right in front of us – looked to the side, looked under, looked up, looked behind the stories we tell ourselves, or that others tell us? With more sides revealed to us would we make the same decisions? Would we shift our perspective? Would we continue to connect our dots the same way?