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Don't Buy The Mannequin*

This weekend I accompanied a friend to a housewarming in Columbia Heights. The building was a lovely new condo building (about 2 years old) located along 14th Street in NW, Washington, DC. The lobby and common areas were outfitted with sleek, contemporary finishes and the same was to be true within the condo. While a very nicely appointed condo, it was quite obvious that the owner had gone into a furniture store, saw an arrangement of furniture, liked it and subsequently purchased said floor furniture arrangement; sofa, coffee table, side tables, rug, pillows, and lamps. With that observation made and tucked away, I stated that the condo was nice (It was.) and begin toasting and mingling with the other guests, as one does at these types of events. And as it happens at these types of events, the inevitable question of “So what do you do?” found itself around the room and landed smack dab in front of me. When this happens, I always prepare for the avalanche, the impending bombardment of now-that-I-know-what-you-do,-I’m-totally-interested-in-you questions, i.e. “Oh! How did you get into design?”, “Do you walk into a space and immediately think of how to improve it?”, “What’s wrong with this place?”, “What would you do different?”, “I just recently bought a place and am looking to buy new furniture…” questions/statements/solicitations. I’ve gotten quite used to the avalanche, as with all my friends and their friends’ and their friends’ friends’ friends being either attorneys or tech people or Hill staffers, it’s very rare that they meet a “creative” (as I’ve been deemed on more than one occasion). On this particular night, the gentleman directing the question(s) towards me had just recently moved to Washington and sold all his furniture and was looking to replace it. His place was currently all but empty except for a chair and a TV and he wanted to pick my brain. My good friend, Chloe (an attorney), was standing about a foot away and has advised me countless times not to work for free and to adopt an overarching policy of “No Discounts” with friends, family, and everyone in between, so bearing that in mind, I left the gentleman with this little piece of advice, “Don’t buy the mannequin.” “Don’t buy the mannequin.” I use this analogy as a regular part of my discussions with design clients for the same reason that most people when clothes shopping do not buy the mannequin. It’s easy, boring and has none of the shopper’s personality. The mannequin is usually dressed to sell. The furniture you purchase for your home, should speak to your personality. Before buying, one should consider what they would like their home to say about them. Do you have a favorite color? Try to incorporate that color into the design scheme via art, accessories, or even a painted accent wall. Do you have art or objects from distant travels? Think about how you want to display these pieces. Is display shelving appealing? Think about how you function in your home. Are some areas more high use than others? Those high use areas will require more durable fabrics and furnishings. Are you a neat and tidy person? If so, glass cases/shelving may be appealing to you. If not, you may want to consider armoires and chests that conceal the items within. All of these questions will give you a better understanding of how you live in your space and what will work best for you. Incorporating the answers from these questions into your buying decisions will also create talking points with guests. It will allow you to talk of your travels without sounding like a showoff. When guests visit your home, it’s an invitation for them to learn a little bit more about you. The things you buy or display tell a story about you, your career, your education, the type of art you like, your favorite sports team. Don’t allow the story your home tells be one that someone has conceived for you. Don’t buy the mannequin. *also posted on DC Ladies website under Home and Garden, Lifestyle

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