I’ve been mentally rearranging my focus over the last few days of vacation (especially during yesterday’s 17-hour embroidery festival), determining what I’ll be devoting my time and interest to in the coming months. I’ve had design on the brain for the last two years — I just can’t stop exploring the creative process at work, and admiring the results of honest labor.  But I’ve let mild interest and my bizarre desire to know “as much as possible, everything there is to know” about previously unexplored elements trap me into studying things I don’t find all that interesting.

Case in point: Over the last two years I’ve explored all sorts of minimalist and contemporary design elements and histories, read three dozen books about small-space living, streamlining, refinishing and restoring and whatnot, and I’ve learned two very important things.

  • “Mid-century Modern,” which is the staunchly guarded Keep of the 50 most popular/oft-quoted design blogs/publications, reminds me of nothing so much as elementary school furniture and decor, no matter how big the designer’s name (or price tag). The visual is one sensory memory away from the smell of 22 sets of parkas, moon boots, and mittens dripping snow melt onto kid-friendly carpet all day, every day, from Thanksgiving through April Fools Day. Ew.
  • Minimalist often equals sparse, another word for “empty.”  Empty rooms look gorgeous in photographs and paintings, full of artistic light, with dreams and possibilities abounding just outside the frame.  But empty rooms are boring as hell in person. I don’t do boring in anything.

I’m letting go of the design obsession, which I don’t even really *like* all that much. And letting in something new.  Well, not new exactly, but recently brought back to focus.

I am a big fan of the Steampunk aesthetic — for years, I called it “old-fashioned, fantasy library style.” Example (beware the geekiness beyond this parenthetical note): one of the things that should have survived all of my trimming and purging of useless belongings is a set of blueprints I drew up as a young adolescent, blueprints for my dream home. It’s essentially a steampunky wizard’s cottage, complete with astronomy observation deck, rooftop herb garden, walls of rotating bookshelves with mechanical library ladders, a gas lighting system, and a circular fireplace with a chimney running straight up through the building to provide ambient heat and cooling to the whole structure.  If I can find the plans, I’d like to have them framed — they’d look awesome above a shelf with my brass hourglass, lapis  globe, and a carved wooden cigar box (filled with old snapshots from the 40s and 50s, of my grandparents and their shipmates).

I have a number of steampunky novels to rip through in the next couple of weeks. I’ve a couple of “I could make that” projects brewing in the back of my mind. I’m looking forward to building a new living space full of nooks and crannies, filled with tucked-away gems to inspire a well-lived, creativity-focused life.

Here’s to 2009 — out with the commonplace, in with the geek.