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Emmy award-winning author Christopher Lowell is back with his second groundbreaking book, ready to inspire his millions of fans with hundreds of ideas that can transform their homes—and their lives. With his first book, Christopher Lowell’s Seven Layers of Design, Lowell introduced design basics layer by layer, demystifying and reassuring the first-time home decorator. Now he takes the process one step further, encouraging readers to discover ...
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Emmy award-winning author Christopher Lowell is back with his second groundbreaking book, ready to inspire his millions of fans with hundreds of ideas that can transform their homes—and their lives. With his first book, Christopher Lowell’s Seven Layers of Design, Lowell introduced design basics layer by layer, demystifying and reassuring the first-time home decorator. Now he takes the process one step further, encouraging readers to discover their own hearts’ desires so they can turn their dreams into unique realities.
Taking us by the hand, Lowell starts with his own experiences of self-discovery as a guide for the dreaming process. Next he provides a questionnaire that helps you identify your own sources of pleasure and fulfillment. Finally, he illustrates the process with exciting design projects built on particular themes. The longing to entertain friends in a cozy cocktail room transforms an awkward space into a “Martini Lounge”; dreams of living by the seashore become “Coastal Living”; the desire for travel and theatrical surroundings informs “Moroccan Mystique”; and a nostalgia for the mid-twentieth century finds its creative expression in “Retro Chic.” Each of these imaginative rooms not only expresses the creative spirit, but also feeds the soul.
As Lowell explains it, no matter what your budget, no matter what your talents, if you begin to understand the relationship between the interior of your mind and the interior of your home, you can create beauty in both. The sense of satisfaction promised by a home that you yourself decorated is not beyond your reach or your budget, if you follow the simple steps of America’s favorite design guru.
The Creativity Chip
What convinces us that we're not creative beings and that we lack imagination? Is it ego, the yearning to be praised, and the judgment of others? After all, we're told not to even try unless we are so obviously good at something that we'll be instantly rich and famous. "Get a real job" is the common refrain. At least that's the message we get from other people and from that two-headed dragon, the media.
Now, let's be clear. The world that the media continually shoves in our faces is real. But it's lopsided. If we see only one aspect of our world, we 're bound to be influenced by that point of view. And what we decide to believe becomes our reality. In fact, any time thousands of people buy into a belief, a new reality is created. The more people who share it, the more powerful and sustaining that reality becomes. Conflict occurs when people cannot agree on the rules. That's simple enough, right?
Two of my heroes, Will and Ariel Durant, devoted their lives to proving this very point. In more than a hundred published works they examined the sweep of world history and the cycles we continue to repeat. Then they took everything they had learned and distilled it down to one small book, The Lessons of History. One of these lessons is that mass beliefs can build empires in one century, then destroy those empires in the next. So if we agree that the mass belief system creates a reality, then doesn't it stand to reason that by changing the belief system, we change the reality? The answer is yes. So what does this have to do with creativity?
You Are Creative, Too I've said it before and I'll say it again. We are all creative. It's innate, like breathing. The body doesn't get its inspection sticker without it. There is actually a creative mechanism literally built into our brains. Like a microchip. Honest to God!
So where is this creative chip? Well, it doesn't blink in your navel, it doesn't beep going through customs, and you won't find that it came loose and got sucked up in the vacuum. But it's there, crushed flat as a pancake maybe, and stone cold, but it's ready to be rescued. Our poor creativity! We pile upon it the burdens of the world, as well as our self-judgments and those of others.
I believe creativity was bestowed on us as an antidote to stress. But our fear of being creative blocks it. So ironically, the very thing built in to reduce stress is actually stressing us all out. "So, if that's true, who got mine?" you might ask. "Somewhere in Silicon Valley there's a talent chip with my name on it," you jest?
Wait a minute, talent is a different thing. Talent is what you earn after being creative over and over again. It's a question of practice making perfect. But even that doesn't guarantee you'll accomplish anything.
Let me give you an example. One summer, a friend invited me to stay in his wonderful house. It was stocked with artist's supplies, a fabulous studio, a potter's kiln, and a grand piano. I was in heaven-at least for the first week. I'd sit at the piano to compose, only to realize that the vision running through my head wasn't music, it was a painting. Off to the studio I went. Halfway through a painting, I realized that the form on the canvas was better realized in three dimensions. Out came the clay. Now the music came to my mind, and I found my way back to the piano. The summer was winding down and so was I, after amassing two dozen half-finished projects. When the homeowner returned, I opened the door completely frazzled. With a knowing smile, he said, "Had enough?"
He then taught me something that I have never forgotten. He said, "Having talent is one thing, but without a clear dream it is completely useless. And, nothing is sadder then creativity without focus." I had been completely self-indulgent and, although I had released a ton of creativity, I never gave it a place to land long enough to do anything worthwhile. I thought that sheer talent and good tools were all that was needed. What I had not done was clarify the dream before bringing it into reality.
Another year, while working in summer-stock theater, I met a veteran actor who had once been famous worldwide. He had accepted a small part in a Chekhov play that seemed far below his once-celebrated stature. During rehearsal I asked him, in essence, what happened? This is what he told me:
There was a time in my life when all I could do was dream about being an actor. It was at the epicenter of every thought. Finally the day came where I landed my first part. My performance won rave reviews and I was catapulted into stardom. But fame became my motivation rather than the dream. And before I knew it, my career slowly went on automatic pilot and stayed that way for years. My performances began to loose their passion. I had become a caricature of myself. The passion for my work was replaced with the paranoia of being a has-been. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to dream. It wasn 't until I hit bottom, when I felt I had nothing to lose, that I finally surrendered my ego, said good-bye to my fear, and allowed myself to dream again. It was my dreams that saved my life.
Here was a man who had once been in full possession of his dreams. But due to ego and fear, he had lost focus. Fear took over the dream.
To change the point of view of others and fly in the face of an accepted reality is no small task. To go up against a mass belief system means you need to have both a powerful dream and thoughtful plans to execute it. Well, having said that, what about our smaller dreams? What about the dreams that have nothing to do with leading a nation? What about those little subconscious private and personal desires like, I'd like a better life, to be happier, to feel safer, to have a hand in my own destiny? Compared to a dream that could change the course of history, these small dreams seem rather-well, reasonable. But wait a second here. If they're that reasonable, how come there aren't thirty million Americans having amazing lives, being supremely happy, fearlessly safe, and creating their own extraordinary futures?
Could it be that even these small personal dreams also require a measure of conviction, faith, and courage to carry them out? Well, who wants even that much responsibility? Who'll risk even that much for a dream? Who's got even that kind of time? The good news is "I've got a dream." The bad news is "So, what do I do with it?"
In medieval times, war may have surrounded many castles, but the moat and the drawbridge kept harm beyond the gates. Inside was a safe, self-contained world inhabited by all those who shared a single belief-a family, if you will, of like-minded people dreaming about a better world. This is the sense in which your home should be your castle. It's the place away from the Sturm und Drang of reality. Your walls keep out the sights and sounds of the world around you. It's your haven to dream, to create, to experiment, and to be at peace. At least it's supposed to be.
For many of us, the home was once a dream place-an icon of unlimited possibilities. But as the home changed, the environment did not. Home stopped being a place to dream or a mechanism of support. It no longer supports possibilities. It's a daily reminder that dreaming has ceased and the walls are closing in. And for many of us the home is simply a motel: a place where you check in for the night. It's just another pit stop in the rat race, or a convenient place to stash your stuff.
Why? Once again, it's all about fear. We're afraid we don't have the money or the time, and that we wouldn't know what to do to our homes even if we could. It just doesn't mean enough to risk the effort. And to top it off, to make a home a support mechanism to nurture who we want to be means we have to figure out what that is. How, pray tell, do we do that? Overloaded and overwhelmed, we retreat. We have decided that to dream isn't worth the effort. We decide that it's easier to accept the humdrum reality around us instead.
This is where your home can provide the most constructive and meaningful focus. Making your home a place that will support and nourish you-one that reflects your heart's desire-can be the most significant thing you do for yourself and your family. Because whether we like it or not, we are how we live. Everything we surround ourselves with is a direct reflection of who we were and who we currently are. In fact, so powerful is the correlation between one's mental interior and one's home interior that some of us are afraid to invite people over for fear that we might expose our real selves. Many a sitcom episode has followed this very premise.
Your home is indeed the perfect metaphor and the ideal arena to get in touch with your personal creativity. It's not about decorating, painting, or buying stuff. A sofa or a lamp in and of itself won't change your life. The meaning behind it could, however, change everything. It's not about your fear of color; it's about fear of choosing. It's not about finding one's personal style; ultimately, it's about finding one's self. And since the home, the place where you live, should be the very center of your universe, it only makes sense to begin there.
It is within your power to make the environment you call home not just an accommodation, but a place that feeds the very essence of who you want to be. You have the opportunity to create a new reality for the future.
Home is where the dream is. And if your home is indeed a mirror of your life, then doesn't it follow that by changing your mental interior, you can change your surroundings? And, conversely, if you change your home interiors to reflect what you want to be, will your mental interior change too? The answer is a resounding yes.
Okay, so what are dreams, anyway? And why would I want to get trapped in the drama of having one of them in the first place?
A dream, in its infancy, is simply an idea. Gosh, we have lots of ideas every minute of the day. An idea certainly isn't an elaborate plan by any stretch of the imagination-it's merely a thought, a flash, a fancy. So you can get an idea without having to drag conviction, faith, and courage into it, right? Yes, you can have thousands of ideas. But ideas aren't dreams.
Let's put this into musical terms. If an idea is a single note, then the dream could be as big as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Or it could be as simple as the song "Happy Birthday." An idea is simply a piece of a dream. The individual notes, by themselves, mean nothing. What we do with them can and has, with the right inspiration, affected all of humanity. A part is only as good as its whole. So knock yourself out! You can have thousands of ideas. They'll rattle around in your head, take up space for a while, then get stuffed in your brain's dead-letter file. Depending on how long you're willing to ignore them, they will vanish. No one, including you, will be the wiser for it!
Think about this: Every single invention that exists on this planet was the result of someone's idea. Something as dull as a kitchen sponge may not have changed the world but it certainly seems hard to imagine our world without one. Imagine trying to get early support for this brainstorm? "So this sponge thing? Well, it should be rectangular; it'll absorb stuff and, oh, by the way, it's currently living at the bottom of the sea. Whaddya think?"
Some ideas might have been better not acted upon at all. How about the person who invented those "popcorn" ceilings-what were they thinking? Imagine the pitch: "What's great about it is that your entire ceiling will look like cottage cheese-with sparkles!"
Well, never mind-we can all smile at someone else's predicament while emphathizing with their embarrassment. It is out of fear, or potential embarrassment, that we let our ideas stagnate. Our alternative is to live in the inherited world of everyone else's ideas. So in answer to the question "Are dreams necessary?" let me put it this way: It's like sex in a marriage; it's not mandatory, but without it the marriage can be joyless.
Locked within the center of one's dreams is one's heart's desire. Suspended somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious are our dreams. Sequestered there are the secrets of the spirit and the wellspring of our personal creativity. By not finding this secret garden we render ourselves defenseless against whatever popular mass reality exists. Armed with only our fear, we can journey through an entire lifetime without ever finding our point of distinction-the very fingerprint of who or why we were even here. Or even more frustrating, we start dreaming so late in our lives that we run out of time. Spending your life without personal joy, unable to feel and implement your heart's desire, to me is the ultimate tragedy.
Dreaming with Your Heart Dreams are flexible: They can be changed at a moment's notice with no questions asked. And you can dream anywhere and at any time. Dreaming is not for the sleep-deprived, however; that kind of night dreaming is usually disorienting and often fueled more by our anxieties than our inspirations. So, if you need rest, take a nap. Creative dreaming is more meditative. When done effectively a good session of dreaming can get the blood running and excite the imagination. But if it is ignored or repressed, dreaming will flicker out like a candlewick.
So how do we reach this creative plane? Therapy? No, that's far too intellectual. Dreams are a matter of the heart-the center of how and what we feel. Just simply relax and meditate. You don't have to go to an ashram or form a human chain. This is not a religion, a cult, or a parlor game. It's just you thinking about your heart's desire.
What you are doing is creating your own personal sense of reality that will be your spiritual space to dream in. The longer you consider your heart's desires, the more ideas you'll get. Beware: The part of your brain that's been in charge these many years might get a little territorial, even try to sabotage your dreaming by persuading you that your dreams are unrealistic flights of fancy. "Snap out of it, you look childish, what if someone hears you?" It's the equivalent of your own head telling you to get a real job. That's when you need a little faith. The only antidote to fear is creating a place where dreams rule. I call it the Faith Place.
When the same ideas keep circling back through over and over again, they become inspirations. These inspirations, at the moment, are not to be acted on physically. They are simply considerations-possibilities. Think of them as creative prayers. Left unfocused, these ideas will evaporate unless they have something concrete to be attracted to; what we are talking about attracting them to is your physical surroundings.
The interiors depicted in this book are living proof that creative dreaming works. They were all inspired by ideas that erupted into fully blown dreams, then finally resulted in fully manifested environments. That's how a fully resolved dream becomes a dreamscape. And that dreamscape is your home.