Read Part 1 here.
Let’s drill down to why HGTV can paint a misleading portrait of Interior Design. As I’ve already said, I’m a fan of these shows, as surely as I love Pinterest and Instagram. Sometimes I just want to indulge my lifestyle fantasies. But I also want to emphasize how powerfully we can be influenced by scripted, packaged content. TV taps into our desires with no clear connection to what is actually involved in creating those aspirational visions.
A big part of the filter through which we engage this material involves dramatic camera angles and editing. For example, the length of each view shown during the reveal is perhaps a few seconds. And there are usually many brief shots strung together like a music video. With such quick editing, there isn’t enough time to assemble the space in your head. It’s hard to have a clear picture of how it’s actually laid out. It’s more of a splashy visual feast, untethered from real time and space. As beautiful as these renovations look on your screen, the reality is that we don’t truly know what a space feels like until we’re physically in it.
Here is a useful comparison. If you stay in AirBNB’s when you travel, it’s likely that photos figure hugely into your decision to rent a particular one. How many times have you walked into the BNB and thought it looked…different? Sure, you can tell it’s the place from the photos, but maybe it isn’t as large as you thought. The layout is not what you pictured. Maybe the place just doesn’t feel like it looked when you reserved it.
This isn’t all due to smoke and mirrors and clever camera tricks. The fact is space can be hard to visualize when you’re going off a limited number of handpicked photographs. We rely on our eyes so much, but we have other senses that don’t get to go to work until we are exposed to direct sensory input. Standing in a room will always be different than looking at pictures or diagrams of it.
All of this is to say that, like those AirBNB images, your TV only gives you part of the story. And unlike those AirBNB images, your TV program won’t lose its dreamy allure, because you’ll never actually set foot in those places on your screen. This isn’t an issue of intentional deception. It’s a natural disconnect that exists between a two dimensional screen and a three dimensional space. The screen flashes rapid imagery, scored to a pumping soundtrack. The three dimensional room will engage all of your senses. You can absorb and appreciate in your own time and manner.
I love the diverse creativity I can find on TV and social media. The landscape has changed so much over the years, and I feel my design practice is better for it. On the other hand, with so much content everywhere, I like to take a step back and put it into perspective so I’m not overwhelmed or misled into thinking I’ve gotten the full picture. I am sure that the homes in the Big Reveals are lovely, but for any given viewer, only a handful would actually work in real life. That’s why I consume this media in moderation, and with the same level of criticality I have with social media. I enjoy a lot of it, but only commit to memory to a small fraction of it in the long run.