Friday, November 22, 2013

Here and gone

Here Kitty, oil on canvas, 24" x 36" COLLECTED
Original Finger Painting
Recently, I posted on my Tumblr this image of my first Here Kitty Original Finger Painting.

It's been getting a crazy amount of likes and reblogs, which is satisfying. I remember when I first painted and showed this piece back in 2006, how much attention and compliments it received. (It was also copied by a few artists, but we won't go there.) Apparently, the blue cats in my Here Kitty Series strike a chord with people!

This image, along with others in the Here Kitty Series, are now available as high quality, collectible greeting cards from my Etsy shop. If you'd like to have them to share some light during the winter holidays, please order early. I'm running about two weeks behind at this point.

Which brings up something else I'd like to tell you.

I'm a pattern-seeking kind of guy. It helps when I practice psychotherapy, and you can definitely see it in my artwork. It's my way of making sense of the world: connecting the dots and making the invisible (or the glaringly obvious to the outsider), visible.

So, when I revamped my blog--twice!--in the last three months, and attempted to broaden the scope of Ivan Chan Studio to include not only art, but also design and psychology, I realized something.

My posts for my renewed blog were almost all about design.

I can't ignore this pattern, and where it tells me my heart is headed, and I've come to both a difficult and liberating decision.

I'm going on official hiatus, indefinitely, with my artwork.

I'll keep my Etsy shop open for a while, but I will begin closing it down over the coming months. If there's something you've always wanted, contact me privately as soon as possible, and either make me a Black Friday (November 29) offer, or check in with me any time to see if it's still available.

I'll continue to be active on social media such as Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, where I'll post about art, design, and psychology--but this blog, and the shop, are going into a deep hibernation.

If you find yourself jonesing for some of my original artwork (to commission or purchase), limited edition prints, and collectible greeting cards, you have several options on how to contact me. I'll trust in your resourcefulness.

And--not to leave on too sad a note--I'm working on a new project, which I'll announce in the coming weeks. Make sure you're following or subscribed to find out what it is!

My gratitude to all of you.

Invite Beauty,


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Industrial loft fantasy

It has long been a fantasy of mine to live in an industrial loft. I dig repurposed spaces, plus the idea of bringing the comforts of home into a hard, industrial space (or any place that might seem inhospitable at first) appeals to my jones for oppositional design.

This slideshow is from Houzz, which is one of my favorite destination spots online and through their mobile app. I just look through it for now--soon, I'll set up an "ideabook," where I can save my favorite photos.

Pinterest kind of has this spot for me, but I think the specificity of Houzz for interior design might make it more my go-to in the future.

Do you ever dream of living in an industrial loft? What about a gypsy trailer? Or going on safari and camping in those romantic tents?

Invite Beauty,


Friday, November 01, 2013

O Buddhamas Tree, O Buddhamas Tree!

Buddha Ornament by Z Gallerie
Religions experienced in other cultures are often syncretic, which is to say, they're a fusion of different belief systems: a spiritual mashup.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this Christmas ornament of the Buddha. The product description included the word "Zen," of course, which in English common usage connotes more an aesthetic than a religious practice.

Anyway, I thought this was kind of neat, and reflects our diverse cultural heritages.

Happy Friday!

Oh! And go buy some cards to send this winter from my Etsy shop, okay? Thanks!

Invite Beauty,


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Size matters

This short (6:42) video discusses micro-apartments or "apodments," which are small, studio apartments that have been decked out to be sleek and efficient.

I'm excited to see design respond to the changing needs of people. The cost of living is so high in some cities, it's like the arteries have become clogged for bringing in young professionals and keeping recent graduates: the city's future.

Besides the economic reasons, there's the sociological question of what it means for us to want or need our individual spaces so much that we will forego spaciousness for solitude. Has it become that hard to find a decent roommate or a best friend to join in the adventure of moving to a big city?

Design reflects our psychology. In turn, design influences our behaviors. I hope that the apodments will create space for us to be ourselves while still allowing connection with others; I wonder what kind of communal areas (and activities) will be embedded in this sort of architecture.

Do you live in a small space and wonder what you could do to make it wonderful? My own experience living in a 200 square foot studio apartment taught me how to design, decorate, and thrive in a small home, and I can do the same for you.

Contact me for a free consultation regarding your home design!

Invite Beauty,


Friday, October 18, 2013

Reframing the childhood experience

In the above photo (if you email subscribed, you might have to click the blog post title in order to see the pics I'm sharing; apparently, embedded Instagram pics only show up on the blog, not in emailed posts), you can see four works of art from my childhood. I did these between first and second grade.

I remember being a little upset that the art educator's assistant folded the tail of my cat print (bottom left corner) so that it would fit the paper we were printing on. I remember his expression, too, it was like, Okay, we're going to do this, don't lose your mind, and...there you go, done! Off you go...please don't have a meltdown...good...I'm going to back away slowly...

The art educator, by the way, was the one I quoted in my bio on Ivan Chan Studio.

Anyway, for those of you who are making art and wondering if your art is good enough or important enough, let me stop those gears from turning and tell you with a definite answer:


The making of art is by far more important than the art itself, and we all have a right to make art, and to do it without criticism, invalidation, shame, or other nastiness from others--and ourselves.

It is good enough that you make art, however you make it.

Is it important? You bet it is.

It's important that you do it, and it's important that it's in the world, and it's importance is solely decided by whether it's important to you. If you wait for someone else to find your art "important" or "good enough," you're just waiting for approval, and for that, I suggest you buy yourself some gold stickers and a leash, and hand them out to strangers, because you're giving away your power, self-acceptance, and self-respect to someone else to handle for you.

So where does the (re)framing part come in?

Frames can designate that something is special and worth your attention. If you bother to frame something, it says that you think what's being framed is important; beautiful, even.

If you have art from your childhood, or from now, do yourself a favor and frame it (or, if it's pottery, sculpture, etc., put it somewhere important, like a personal altar or a place that shows it off).

Notice how you feel, how it makes the art feel to you, and what it does for your space. A frame and a place of prominence can add dignity to your experience of the art, and yourself for making the art.

I would love to see your pictures of your own framed art or where you've placed something beautiful you've created. Please feel free to join me on Instagram, Pinterest (check out my board, Rooms with Visual Art, for tips on hanging art), or Facebook, and you can also add a link to your pics in the comments section below to share with me and others.

Invite Beauty,


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Looking at the finger and missing the moon, Part 2

I said WHAT movie?! But then, Barbra's nails? That's self-care.
(Image from YouTube)

Yeah, the movie that made me want to be a psychotherapist was Prince of Tides, and after I confessed it, I followed with, "because did you see her office? Beautiful!"

Right. So I was talking about the interior design of the therapist character's office (which is technically "set decoration," and done by Caryl HellerArthur Howe, Jr, and Leslie A. Pope). Remember this pic of the room in a previous post?

I wish there were more screen caps on the Internet I could show you of this office--go rent the movie if you want to see it.
(Image from
I'm not sure if somewhere in some primitive part of my brain I was like, "Must be psychotherapist to have nice office." However, the more evolved part of my brain didn't direct me to go the route of an interior designer immediately, either. I knew I needed to understand people and connect with them better first before I should be allowed to design the spaces in which they lived and worked.

If you don't understand the process of change and how people initiate and resist it, or how the environment plays a massive role in each person's identity, I'm not sure how you could be a good or great designer. I think bad design (and bad psychotherapy) begins with not understanding and accepting people as they are, and trying to make them as you would like them to be.

From The Sopranos. I bet the use of a glass coffee table is to provide both an useful surface as well as something that isn't a (visually) solid obstacle between the psychiatrist and the patient.
(Image from HBO)

So this brings us up to speed. As I wrote in the beginning, I love psychotherapy, and I'm not about to give it up. I also love art and I know, there's been a dearth of it here while I focused on my realized passion for interior design.

The recent overhaul of my blog has been to reflect this self-understanding, to clarify things for myself and for people who appreciate what I do in the world.

Alas, that lovely office I've been dreaming of won't happen until I'm licensed and can rent my own space. (I won't be a fully Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist until some time next year due to the glacial pace the Board of Behavioral Sciences is taking to approve submitted internship hours).

From In Treatment. I think this is an awkward setup (note his beverage on the floor and the distance of the tissue box, not to mention the floaty, unanchored feeling of the therapy space in the room), which I don't think is unintentional; it's a set, after all.
(Image from

In the meantime, I was hired to design the offices of a couple of local psychotherapists. I'll share those pics when things are a little more settled, and reflect on the process of collaborative design, where even when the result isn't what I want, it's what the client wants. And I'm okay with that.

From In Treatment. I love the warmth of this office, and the masculinity of the furniture. What the hell is up with the mug on the floor again? Dude needs a side table.
(Image from

Hey, connect with me here and on other social media (there are abundant links everywhere!) if you'd like to share a picture and talk about some design changes you'd like to make. I'd be happy to look things over with you and if you'd like to hire me, we can talk about that, too.

I've got the eyes of an artist, mind of a designer, and heart of a therapist. You can't lose.

Invite Beauty,


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Looking at the finger and missing the moon, Part 1

From Ordinary People. I think this is the origin of the crappy couch and passionate psychotherapist with poor self-care.
(Thanks to Ferdy on Films for the image)
Let's get one thing straight. I enjoy psychotherapy, both as the therapist and the customer (yes, I know people who use psychotherapy tend to be called "clients," but I think "customer" is far more accurate; if you disagree or would like to know why, please leave a comment and we'll talk).

When I was first considering the field, I talked with some friends of mine who were practicing psychotherapists and asked what inspired them to enter the profession. Specifically, I said, "Okay, tell me which movie it was--I know it was a movie and it left an impression on you, so which one was it?"

I admit, it was a little presumptuous (I hadn't been trained yet, what can I say?), but I got answers from people about the movies that inspired them. Ordinary People was a popular choice, followed by Good Will Hunting.

Good Will Hunting. Shit's about to get real. And another psychotherapist with poor self-care. Just sayin'.
(Image from A.V. Club)
Sure, some people talked about being influenced by their own therapists, high school counselors, Yoda, and just plain caring people who wanted to listen and provide a bit of guidance when needed.

However, I found that film--the myths of our modern world--had quite an impact on people's ability to imagine themselves into a career. It doesn't matter that the depictions were overly dramatic and for psychotherapists, usually involved unethical behavior.

The famous, It's Not Your Fault scene from Good Will Hunting
(Image from A.V. Club)
So when a friend asked me in return which movie influenced me to pursue psychotherapy (alongside my career as an artist), I said, Prince of Tides.

Next up on Sunday: WTH? Prince of Tides, really? Stay tuned for Part 2 of Looking at the Finger and Missing the Moon!

Invite Beauty,


Monday, September 30, 2013

You're bigger than your skin suit, Part 2

The High Line in New York, between 1999-2006
(Image by Joel Sternfeld from High Line)

Rat Park was a study conducted in the late 70's and published in the early 80's, which provided evidence suggesting that the environment played a large part in drug addiction, not the drug itself. Funny how this has largely been ignored (why have an "end poverty now" campaign when a "war on drugs" sounds sexier?).

The popular concept of drug addiction is based on a disease model, which tells the story of how we get diseased (addicted): drugs are addictive, taking drugs leads to addictive behavior because of how they act on the brain, and this in turn creates addicts.

This is based on studies of isolated, caged lab rats getting hooked up intravenously to heroin they could control. If you were put in solitary confinement, what would you do to escape that kind of punishment? And is this a realistic model to use for how people get addicted to drugs (among other things)?

Path of the High Line, photograph taken between 1999-2006
(Image credit unknown, from Highline)

Psychologist Bruce K. Alexander didn't think so, and he decided to bring the environment into the equation. You can read the 41-page comic book, Rat Park, by the brilliant and meticulous (damn, did he ever do his research!) Stuart McMillen, to get the story.

In short, your context matters, because it shapes who you are. Your environment matters, because it influences your choices. Design matters (see? I told you I'd bring it back to design), because it creates possibilities.

The High Line in 2011
(Image by Iwan Baan, check out his photography)

What surrounds you can support you or suppress you. Cages take many forms. They can be as big as a city. They can be as invisible as a belief. They can also be transformed into a gorgeous park.

The High Line: from abandoned and neglected to connected and loved.
(Image by Christina Hicks)

Give a damn about the design of your room, your office, your neighborhood, your town, and your environment, and you will be rewarded. Ugliness disconnects us from ourselves and each other, and can lead us to withdraw and find ways to numb our pain. Beauty, on the other hand--beauty, and the urge to make beautiful, attracts support, resources, and gives birth to the reality of a better present with the probability of a wonderful future.

Invite Beauty,


Thursday, September 26, 2013

You're bigger than your skin suit, Part 1

Cover of Rat Park, by Stuart McMillen

When I wrote in a previous post about orchid listening, my point wasn't that I took care of orchids better (there are far more talented and skilled people than me), my point was that I listened to orchids.

I paid attention to what the orchids I rescued liked and didn't like, and I took into consideration their native environment in order to duplicate closely that environment, so they could feel at "home" and thrive.

This is similar to how I practice psychotherapy. I try to get the context of an entire person, because I don't see problems as being purely embedded in people. Problems are more often in the environment around people, and can be experienced in the relationships people have to their environment.

By environment, I mean everything outside of our bodies--other people, food, medicine, air quality, politics, culture, history, etc. Check out the graphic below (or just glance at it if graphics make you go bleary eyed) based on the research and teachings of psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, founder of Ecological Systems Theory (forgive the flawed info on Wikipedia, but the links give the gist):

Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory
(Image from Center for Information and Communication Sciences)

And is it just me, or did some old religions have this concept down already?

Props to the East! Find out more about this mandala.
(Image from Wikipedia)

North Rose Window, Notre Dame
Shout out to the West! North Rose Window of Notre Dame
(Image by Photo Tractatus on Flickr)

Yes, you're the center of the universe. I'm the center of the universe, too. It's a spiritual paradox, or a mystery. Don't worry too much about it.

All this talk about contextualizing people leads me to rats, which will lead me to design. Trust me.

Note: I'm posting Part 2 on Monday. If you miss me in the meantime, please consider following me on TumblrTwitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ where I post more frequently about the things that catch my art+design+psychology heart.

Also, for your convenience, try the follow icons to your upper right or below my signature.

Next up on Monday: You're bigger than your skin suit, Part 2. Taking the High Line to Rat Park!

Invite Beauty,


Monday, September 23, 2013

Orchid listening

During my psychotherapy internships, I worked in a few offices where orchids were the de riguer gift for counselors and office workers.

They're generally inexpensive, pretty, and easily accessible (you can buy them at grocery stores and flea markets, not just nurseries or specialty growers). The blooms usually last a long time, too. So why wouldn't you give a gorgeous, living plant to someone instead of a bouquet that's going to wilt over a couple of weeks?

Well, because they die when they're not cared for in the fashion to which they're accustomed!

This is where I step in. I rescue orchids.

I can't save all of them. Sometimes they're too far gone--commonly due to excessive or inadequate watering--and when I finally get them, only the top is alive, or the last part to die, because the roots are rotted away or dried husks.

I also have limited space. (They're very popular gifts.)

However, the ones I can save, I save by listening. I observe and use my intuition as to their care, while following general guidelines for their species (they're tropical epiphytes). This attentiveness and adaptation to their needs brings them back from the brink.

Orchids thrive when they're given the right environment, and they reward your space with beauty. I love seeing orchids in rustic pots and planters (like the wooden milk bottle crate above), because the roughness contrasts with their elegance. Similarly, I enjoy seeing them in glazed pottery, because it enhances their exotic nature.

Plants are a wonderful design element, and they add much to our lives.

Wouldn't it be nice to add to their lives, too, by not treating them as disposable bouquets?

Invite Beauty,


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Design hero: Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson, star of Secrets from a Stylist and blogger at Style by Emily Henderson
She's kind of rockin' a Cameron Diaz look here, no?
(Photo by Angela Kohler)
Emily Henderson won Season 5 of HGTV Design Star. She was a professional photo stylist, which means it was her specialized job to arrange things artfully, like a 3D collage, for a photo shoot.

As I wrote in a previous post, to style something is to create an aesthetic experience--and in photo shoots, form is prioritized over function. You ever look through a catalog and think, "It's going to take hours to remove all the pillows from that freaking bed before anyone is going to sleep"?

(I can't find the credit for the image, but it's from a post on Smirk.)
That's because the image is styled. It's not meant to be functional, it's meant to be artistic and fire up your imagination, or be "aspirational," according to Emily. This means that the final picture should make you want what it's selling to you: a lifestyle, a moment, an experience, things, etc.

The part I like about how Emily styles on her show, Secrets from a Stylist, is that she makes it functional. She interviews people (her "style diagnostic") to figure out their styles based on the objects, colors, textures, and time periods to which they're drawn. She then decorates and designs accordingly.

Check out the "before" pic of the living room of Glee's co-creator, Ian Brennan, from Emily's first episode:

Nice...airy...but kinda bland, right?
(Image from Take Sunset)
The room feels forlornly empty and devoid of Ian's personality; sure, you know where to sit, but you don't care. It's like having tubes of paint sitting on a canvas. There's even a fireplace (you can't see it, on the right) that's being ignored!

Below, check out the space after Emily has her way with it. It's shot from a different angle to highlight the inclusion of the fireplace as a focal point.

Yeah, baby.
(Image from Take Sunset)

Notice that the sofa is facing the fireplace, because fireplaces were the first TVs! I could stare at a fire for ages, as if I were watching a Firefly marathon. Not only that, but she's placed a big ol' painting of President William Harrison to make sure you know: look here, this fireplace is for you, so enjoy.

And did you realize how awesome that window surrounded by the built-in bookcase was? Look at those panes! I love how Emily reveals the architectural details and features of the room by simplifying (she removed the curtains).

The bookcase itself is highlighted by carefully chosen art objects and books. Nothing is cluttered and there's a lot of space for the things to breathe, and be contemplated, on the shelves.

I also enjoy the way Emily combines the different things that appeal to Ian, and makes everything a unified whole. There are organic, cross-cultural elements, such as the wooden side table from Morocco, and inorganic objects like the metal trunk coffee table. The contrasts highlight the differences purposefully, and make the room harmonious versus clashing. It's a good example of oppositional design theory.

She does love her blue outfits, but you know what? It's one of her best colors! Ian himself is highlighted by the design of his living room. 
(Image from Take Sunset)

Here's Ian and Emily. Check out how he literally fits his space now--the room is an extension of how he looks and dresses, which is to say, how he expresses himself stylistically. He belongs here.

Rather than styling to sell, Emily styles to help her guests on the show connect with their space--and themselves. Her guests see their self-expression (style) expressed throughout their environment in a cohesive and beautiful way, and learn what it's like to be comfortable in their own skin (or abode). As Emily would probably describe it, it's like dressing your home like you would dress yourself.

This is about helping people to reestablish control of their environment, and to create congruency between their internal and external worlds. By emphasizing people's positive choices and strengths in their surroundings, they can feel like they belong in those surroundings.

Joke as anyone might about "control issues," but we all want some control, especially over our own environment. Think about that the next time you open a window for a breeze, straighten your desk, or miss your hamper trying to swish your socks in (and leave them wherever they fall)--and how someone else living or visiting with you might want to do something different.

The 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama was discovered when he chose objects placed before him that belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. What we choose says something of our psyche, no?
(Image from the movie Kundun)

It seems that a lot of life is about learning to accept ourselves, what we love, and the way we want to be in the world; sometimes that requires help from empathetic people to reflect back to us how truly wonderful and beautiful we are--and can be, when the path is cleared.

Thanks to Emily Henderson for being a guide on this path, and for sharing her secrets!

Invite Beauty,


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thereabouts: My Sunday surprise! Part 3

Man Cave
(From one of Jennifer Bertrand's Pinterest boards)

Jennifer Bertrand (Season 3 winner of HGTV Design Star) describes her project above as a "man cave," and says that what makes a man or woman cave is a room that makes you happy because everything you love is in it.

Me, I can't stop staring at those lovely bulbs! I find this color scheme both soothing and masculine.

Jennifer's set design for KC (Kansas City) Live

I love set decoration. I really, really love set decoration. And set design. So I'm loving what Jennifer did for the tv show, KC Live. It looks welcoming, and combines yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) aspects for a balanced feel that's comfortable.

A dreamy screened-in porch

I love a designer who thinks outside of the box (or white room). Notice the cabinet on the left? It's attached to the wall and actually floats above the bar, and the legs create a boundary for that space. The bar itself sits on shelving that's supported in part by two stacks of books.

And can we say SOFA SWING? It echoes the floating quality of the cabinet, and is nicely decadent inside a room rather than outside on a porch (although it still reminds us that it's a screened-in porch). 

I bet if we could stand farther back, the lack of legs on the sofa gives the room an airy feel, which is amplified by the walls of windows. 

Jennifer's dining room

I wonder if this has changed since she took the picture. Designers' homes are oftentimes the labs for their experiments, and nothing stays the same for long.

And there's that signature painting she does! It's not only bold and dramatic, what thrills me is how the petals bend onto the adjoining wall to the right. This is a designer who uses her creativity to break through limitations that would normally stop others. She also cites Craig's List as a hot go-to for affordable decor and furnishings (I second that). 

Figures she's also an artist, right?

I'm so happy Jennifer decided to follow me on Twitter, because it gave me a chance to find out more about her and become inspired by her triumphs, struggles, and imagination. 

Here's to design improving lives, supporting us through difficult times, and for me, most importantly--connecting us to each other.

Next: Design hero, Emily Henderson.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Thereabouts: My Sunday surprise! Part 2

Jennifer Bertrand's completed White Room Challenge.
(image from
The Season 3 contestants of HGTV Design Star lucked out in their White Room Challenge and could shop at Michael's (an arts and crafts supply store) with $500. The theme was to design based on a country, and Jennifer got assigned "Italy."

Holy wow, right?! She painted those designs freehand. Sorry it's a little blurry, but I wanted to blow up the pic so you could see it better. Okay, that sounded like a good idea while it was still in my head.

Cut to the chase, she won Season 3 of HGTV Design Star! Soon after winning, she and her husband became parents to Winston, a boy with special needs stemming from two rare medical conditions known as lymphatic malformation and venous malformation, and his care took precedence over her show, Paint Over.

Isn't Winston adorable?! 
That trach helps Winston to breathe, and according to Jennifer, the malformations make fluids gather in his neck, giving him a "Jay Leno" chin at times. She cracks me up!

Jennifer and her husband, Chris, were both teachers before embarking on their careers as interior designers (with no formal training, which delights this self-taught artist to no end). They had both auditioned for HGTV Design Star, with Jennifer getting the chance to compete on the show.

I think this was a Thanksgiving pic.
Yes, it's another photograph that's blurry because I enlarged it--but it's completely justifiable because I have a weakness for candid family shots where everybody isn't smiling. A crying baby is classic!

I love Jennifer's energy, honesty, friendliness, optimism, generosity, and humor. There's been a lot written and said already about her family's experience on the interwebs, so I'm going to focus on Jennifer's design work.

Next up: What'd I just tell you? It's going to be about Jennifer Bertrand's design work!

Invite Beauty,


Friday, September 13, 2013

Thereabouts: My Sunday surprise! Part 1

Season 3 HGTV Design Star Winner, Jennifer Bertrand

Bear with me as I overhaul, like, everything on this blog. Notice the snazzy new blog banner? I like it. I hope you do, too. I'm surprised at how much coding I can figure out when I set my mind to it, and how much HTML and Photoshop skills I can recall.

Thanks to She Sews Seashells for the feedback and encouragement while I redesigned this blog.

The news I'm finally getting around to sharing with you (besides creating my Pinterest boards--please go look, re-pin, and follow at your leisure!), is that I had a nice surprise this past Sunday when I found out Jennifer Bertrand was following me on Twitter.

Who's Jennifer Bertrand? She came to my attention in Season 3 of HGTV Design Star, when she knocked my socks off in the "white room challenge."

It's white. It's a room. It's a challenge. IT'S THE WHITE ROOM CHALLENGE.
(image from

In this challenge, you get a white room filled with white (IKEA, it looks like) furniture--which isn't always the same furniture across seasons. Your task is to decorate and design the room using a themed set of supplies (like, "only things found in a pet store"), which have to be purchased in an hour with a limited budget.

Next: The White Room Jennifer Bertrand designed!

Invite Beauty,


Sunday, September 08, 2013

And the point is...

A moment from Food Network Starrecapped by Justin Warner here.
(I haven't seen this show or read the article.)
Listening to the judges critique the contestants reminded me of art class. Part of how we learn in an art class is by listening to what the teacher says to other students!

Eavesdropping is a class requirement. And it's easier to hear what someone else did that could use improvement rather than hearing it about ourselves or our own work.

However, if we can get past our egos (and shame) about receiving feedback, our lives and our art--in whatever form--will improve by leaps and bounds. That's my takeaway.

Next up or thereabouts: Design Star season 5 winner, Emily Henderson!

Invite Beauty,


Saturday, September 07, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Fast Forward through a Reality Show

Image from Candice (the blonde pointy one) Olson's blog post.
Continuing from yesterday's post, my point is that "reality shows" follow a formula.

So, I forwarded each episode to the middle and I got to skip, well, the purpose of the show, which is to depict normal people under extreme physical, emotional, and overall psychological stress, and went straight to the judging, where I could see the finished design and also hear the judges' feedback.

Even though the judges were critiquing designs and design processes that would never happen in a real design job, and what we see on television is greatly abbreviated (a friend of a friend was on Chopped and revealed that the judges actually spent an entire hour giving feedback about each dish, so I imagine it's probably similar on other shows), it's still helpful.

Image from
I love it when they disagree with each other! Just as I disagree with whoever set up those chairs for season 5. When the judges confer, they huddle, and it looks undignified because they just lean over and it looks like giraffes at a watering hole rather than awesome designers conferring. Not so elegant.

Image by world-renowned photographer Frans Lanting
Next: There's a takeaway from all of this.

Invite Beauty,


Friday, September 06, 2013

Realism is not reality

In between work and studying for my psychotherapy license, I've been plunging into all things (interior) design. I decided to subject myself to HGTV Design Star, which has now been re-branded as HGTV Star.

It's a "reality show" where people compete to win their own HGTV show.

For the first few seasons, I watched every episode from start to finish. As is my usual experience when watching anything that happens inside a space, I want people to get out of my way so I can check out the interior design!

Could you move over a little?
I don't care for drama, and the idea of putting people through an artificial emotional wringer to squeeze out extreme emotional reactions for my viewing pleasure is unpleasant and, to borrow from Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues, "inventing a crime that didn't exist to enforce your theories of discipline is Neanderthal in its conception." Yeah, that about sums it up.

Anyway, the great thing about "reality TV" (and it does deserve the quotation marks) is that it's not reality! See, in reality, lives don't follow a plot! Realism is a genre. Okay, if I keep typing exclamation points, I'm going to accuse myself of dramz.

Next up: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Fast Forward through a Reality Show.

Note: The screencaps are from Prince of Tides, credit for set decoration goes to Caryl HellerArthur Howe, Jr, and Leslie A. Pope. It'd be a bad pun to say I'm giving them props, but set decorators are really unsung heroes on the set and they deserve to be acknowledged for their talent and work.

Another note: Gratitude also to for posting about the Prince of Tides set, which is personally significant to me (more later).

Invite Beauty,


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Little changes lead to big changes, Part 3

Has anybody ever done this before? Blabbed on for so long he needed to re-post the image he was talking about a bajillion paragraphs ago? Okay, getting back to the point--see that desk chair? It was sitting at the foot of the bed, against the wall. I thought it was kind of ugly--like, it could have been pretty but then it took a hard turn and the design just went to one of the Oriental furniture hells. 

Anyway, I took out the previous large, leather executive office chair with a very high back that blocked the window (and emotionally felt like the first sore-thumb thing you saw when you entered the room), and put this chair there. Ba-bam! It's now pretty! Talk about the importance of context.

In this position, the chair's back is center stage and brings attention to the (modern and East Asian) lines in the room: on the windows, in the shelving unit (also on wheels) underneath the desk, and the Expedit shelving unit behind it (picture coming up). 

I couldn't remove or change the desk, which felt too big for the space, but the dimensions of the chair (low and wide compared to the executive chair), seemed to adjust the sense of proportion and helped the desk "fit" into the rest of the design.

The dark wood of the chair also softens and warms up the modern coolness of the metal and frosted glass of the desk, making the desk blend with the bedding and photograph. Even the chair pad looks complementary, as it matches the color palette and linearity that's been highlighted with the chair placement. And isn't it nice that you can see through the back of the chair, adding to the spaciousness of the room?

And now for some styling (i.e., decorating for aesthetics rather than for utility):

Knowing my mother, she probably found the lamp at Target or somewhere and got a great deal. I love lamps, and I love this one! But if I tell her she'll try to give it to me, so shhh. The little Japanese dolls might have been gifts or something she picked up on her travels.

Are you digging the reflections on the frosted glass desktop? Okay, good, because I meant to capture them in the frame. I adore these glass persimmons with the little bits of gold inside them. The burst of color in the gray palette makes them like the beloved cherry blossoms that bloom in the dead of winter--a delightful surprise.

Plants are awesome. Indoor plants help to filter the air of toxins and even if they didn't, they're darn pretty. This is a begonia in a lovely planter, which is on a small tray (in case of overflow when watering). My mom actually went outside and pruned the tree outside the window to let in more light for the begonia and also to increase the airiness of the room. 

And here's the ubiquitous Expedit shelving unit you can find in a lot of homes and design blogs. I'll show a close up in just a minute:

We added the calligraphy scroll above (yes, it's convenient to have a mother who practices calligraphy, and it's also very convenient to have a mother who has a calligraphy teacher who gives gifts of his calligraphy). The scroll was rolled up and stored in another room, but we thought it'd be perfect to complement the shelving unit and anchor the other side of the room. My mom decided to leave the wall above the bed (lengthwise) blank, so it wouldn't be cluttered. She hates clutter.

The little ornate stool to the right of the shelves was a gift from one of her friends. At first I didn't like it and didn't think it fit in the room, but after placing it there, I think it works fine. My mom styled it by putting old Chinese books on it and makes it look beautiful and fun. 

In the first shelving unit I added wheels to, I didn't want the wheels to be seen so that the unit could "float" a little. Well, that made the unit wobbly when you moved it around (especially on carpet). I compromised and put the wheels farther out on this unit, which is why you can see them underneath. The wheels specifically sold for Expedit shelves have huge brackets and were too industrial for what my mother wanted. 

Once the wheels were on (which required removing all the stuff she had in the shelves first), I styled the unit by putting books she wanted to keep and some art objects back in, and used some of the book covers to reduce visual clutter and add punches of color to the space; this is a trick I learned from working in a bookstore years ago. You can also lean framed photos or artwork against books, too.

We did such a good job of de-cluttering that we ended up with one empty cubicle! That's for my mom to fill in later. The top of the unit was originally loaded with stuff (including that big rock in the top left cubicle), but I cleared everything off and just kept the white fountain to help keep the design clean--there's nothing like losing the impact of beautiful things through crowding. One of the secrets to good design (and most artforms) is editing. 

My mother added a small, slatted bamboo scroll in front of the fountain (I think it might have part of a sutra on it), which you can see in the wide shot including the calligraphy above. I had strongly suggested that she not over-decorate or clog up the top of the shelves, but I thought this addition didn't detract from the simple beauty of the fountain or the modern/minimalist/Asian aesthetic of the room's overall design, and which I knew she enjoyed.

And there you have it. From putting on some little wheels to redesigning and redecorating an entire room to make it feel cohesive, welcoming, and calming. 

Hm. This post was actually fun. Whaddya know!