After 10 years' running my design business we had a three month slow period at the beginning of January 2018. This really gave me time to think and reflect about how I wanted to spend the next 10 years of my life, and what I wanted my company to look like. And while, financially, this period scared the s#$% out of me, during this time, I hired an executive coach, began meditating and reflected (and I mean some deep, at times ugly, non-instagrammable, tough reflection).
I eventually learned to embrace the downtime the universe was gifting me. I also had a chance to think about the work we do as creators of spaces and how much impact we can have on peoples’ lives. And slowwwwwwwly, I began to shift how I ran my life and my business. My personal and professional life began to transform in the best of ways.
At work, and in the world of interior design, my approach has been subtle. Instead of re-branding my agency and website as a holistic interior design agency, which I feel might mystify and scare a lot of people, I started a blog called “Beyond Spaces” that lives on my (very commercial) site. I use the blog to talk about all things mindfulness, consciousness and holistic design. On Instagram and in our newsletters we have been incorporating some posts that talk about Feng Shui, biophilia and the importance of nature and a holistic approach to design.
I have also began introducing these ideas and concepts into my conversations with clients whenever appropriate. Why the subtle approach? Because I don’t think the world is ready for it yet. Generally, people don’t clearly understand the importance of a mindfulness and spiritual practice. And without that kind of practice, which raises a person’s awareness and level of consciousness, they can’t begin to understand how deeply spaces can affect us.
I become a vehicle for a bigger, badder, smarter more powerful force to work through me, creating spaces that are more thoughtful, magical and perfect than I could ever design on my own.
With our office space clients, the conversation usually goes like this: in our first meeting, as I begin to let them know a little bit about us, I also talk about how a well-designed office space that incorporates nature, color, good lighting and HVAC among other things, can boost productivity by 12%. I typically get a smile back and that’s about it. No follow up questions, no "I want that in our space".
Nothing. Actually, in the past three years we have only had one client that approached us with the idea of creating a one-of-a-kind, retail experience, rooted in holistic design. I’m talking real “woo-woo” -- as my colleagues like to call it -- having a shaman come in to clear the space and bless it before we start the build. So, at this stage, it’s really about getting the word out there and sharing information with whomever is interested so that, slowly, more and more people become aware.
In my personal life -- of non-stop world of texts, emails, social media and crazy clients -- mindfulness is key. What does a mindfulness practice look like? Somehow, some way, find the time to slow down. For me, it’s a twice-daily 20 minute Vedic Meditation practice (meditation with mantra). This helps me release stress, stay calm, be more creative and heightens my intuition so that when I get that inevitable crazy client or contractor call, I am calm, collected and, from somewhere deep inside, I know exactly how to respond to keep things moving, positive and find solutions.
When I’m designing, I easily find myself in a place of flow. Ideas pop into my head, they begin to merge seamlessly together and I end up at the best design for my client. I become a vehicle for a bigger, badder, smarter and more powerful force to work through me, creating spaces that are more thoughtful, magical and perfect than I could ever design on my own.
For others that cringe at the thought of meditating, it can be exercise followed by a tranquil cool down period, a walk in nature, breathing exercises, or simply sitting on your couch staring at the ceiling. What’s most important is not "the what" but that we do something, every day, for at least 5 – 20 minutes to slow our minds down, be present and just learn to be. It is only from this place of calmness and no stress that we can be mindful designers, architects, employers and humans that change the world, one space and one conversation at a time.
For those of you interested in holistic interior design, I have included a easy to follow beginner’s guide about how to approach your projects. Here in downloadable form is The Beyond Spaces Manifesto.