7 Designer Life Lessons from Barcelona

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I woke up in the same old bedroom,
the sun shining and another year older. 
At the strange age of 30,
I realized that the year was halfway over
and most of my goals were wildly incomplete. 
As an Artist and Decorator,
the only time changes in my life seem to occur
are when they follow an incident of inspiration. 
So, this fall,
I took it upon myself to travel somewhere far away
to get the large jolt of inspiration I needed. 

What I didn't expect?
To find 7 life lessons that were design lessons too.

 

The 7 life lessons that Barcelona taught me in a week

about life after 30 and designing spaces you'll actually live in. 

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1. LESS IS MORE.

LIFE LESSON: You really don't need much in the way of material things to be happy.  Frankly, while travelling, it was the time I SAVED doing less to my hair (and having less indecisive outfit moments!) that really made ALL the difference.  I spent more time DOING things I wanted to, then getting primped and PREPARED to go do those things.  

DESIGN LESSON: A small hotel room illustrates what is NECESSARY.  A simple room with a bed, a closet, a bath room to stay fresh and a small kitchen or kitchenette to prepare food is all you REALLY need. Putting too much into your spaces is only going to make it more cluttered then helpful. Scale back - Keep it simple.

 

2. LIVE TO BE INSPIRED.

LIFE LESSON: This is a tough one.  Sacrifices in our everyday life tend to get in our way a lot.  Running around the streets of Barcelona showed me that culture is often everywhere.  If you plan your outings around places, events, and even people who inspire you MOST, then you'll move forward EVERY day. (and feel less like you're wasting your time!)

DESIGN LESSON: Your home should be JUST as inspiring as the life you lead. (Maybe even MORE so!) Although good design principles and matching colours are a big part of designing your space, you should really allow for those artworks or items that inspire you to be WHO YOU ARE.  Incorporate that elephant sculpture you picked up while travelling through India or that quote artwork you snagged on the streets of NYC.  Allow your favourite things and moments in life to INTEGRATE with your furniture and finishes.

3. PLANS ARE ONLY GUIDELINES NOT RESTRICTIONS.

LIFE LESSON: Flexibility is the key to stress relief.  The harder I tried to stick to the "plan", the more Barcelona said "HELL no!"  It was only in the moments when I stopped trying to force things that magic was made.  Everyday life is exactly like that.  Learning to let go was the hardest lesson, but the one that DE-stressed me the MOST.

DESIGN LESSON: Every time a renovation starts, the plans never stick!  Something unexpected gets found in the walls, or that sofa you bought looks HUGE despite the 4 times you measured your space!  Allow for the possibility that what you thought it would look like, might not actually be how it turns out.  The end result is far easier to LOVE, if you understand that a few surprises are for the best!

4. ENJOY THE SIMPLE THINGS. REALLY.

LIFE LESSON: A cup of coffee.  A walk on the beach.  Dinner and laughs with a friend.  Stopping to consciously enjoy EVERY moment no matter how small, changes your whole outlook on life.  Barcelona taught me that this lesson is the most important one during your everyday moments.

DESIGN LESSON: I found this lesson to be connected greatly to function.  Building your space around those little things you love is REALLY important.  If you enjoy a relaxing bath, build your washroom around it.  Love nature and sunrises? Put together a little patio nook in your backyard or on your balcony so you can savour that.  


5. THERE IS A LOT OF PEACE IN SOLITUDE.

LIFE LESSON: Time alone is not a bad thing, it's actually a GREAT thing.  You can de-stress and even soul search better when you take a little time to all by yourself.  My favourite thing to do in Barcelona was to sit on my chair, on my little balcony and just listen to the sounds of the street; feel the warmth and the sun - and just ... think. 

DESIGN LESSON: With all the open-concept floor plans, don't forget to carve your self a little bit of space that is secluded.  Maybe it's your bedroom or a den, but having a small spot to go to that's private is very key, especially when you live with other people.  

6. PUT YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY AND YOUR ENERGY INTO WHAT COUNTS.

LIFE LESSON: Think of it this way: your money should be spent on what sets your soul on fire.  Why waste money on things that really aren't important to you.  Don't focus on the things that everyone else tells you you SHOULD spend it on.  Spend it on the things, or events, or people you LOVE.  Whatever truly sets your soul on fire or inspires you, CHOOSE that.  

DESIGN LESSON: If you could care less about extravagant coffee, then don't add a $2000 coffee machine to your kitchen that you'll never use.  If your favourite thing to do at home is watch movies with friends then having dinners parties, maybe splurge on a sofa and tv and forgo s dining table.  Build your space around what YOU DO, not what that space would traditionally have.  

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7. DETAILS MAKE THE BIG PICTURE GRAND.

LIFE LESSON: This lesson was more about relationships, than anything else.  Opening a door, sending a card, making a phone call, or treating someone to dinner.  It's those super arbitrary  things that make a friendship or romantic relationship amazing.  It not the most expensive birthday gift or a free week vacation, it's the comments and little gestures that add up to "I care."

DESIGN LESSON: A repeat of anything in your space will always help tie it together better.  It's the attention to small connections that will actually make your space feel well designed.  Whether it's a palm leaf cabinet knob, that matches a palm leaf artwork on the wall, or a rope carving on a column that matches the rope trim on your sofa pillows, THOSE LITTLE DETAILS are EVERYTHING.

Life is fluid and imperfect so don't be afraid of designing your space the same way!  
Remember: It's the smaller details, the simplicity, the inspiration and the flexibility in both life and design that make it beautiful!