Per­cep­tion is re­al­ity


“Ev­ery­thing you see or hear or ex­pe­ri­ence in any way at all is spe­cific to you.”— Dou­glas Adams, author, scriptwriter, es­say­ist, hu­morist, satirist and drama­tist

There is usu­ally an au­to­matic, in­stinc­tual re­sponse to sur­round­ings or fac­tors that af­fect our per­son, whether a sin­gle ob­ject, a tex­ture, color, mood, or a com­bi­na­tion of stim­uli hard to put one’s fin­ger on. It is im­por­tant to be con­scious of our per­cep­tions, often cre­ated for us in con­trolled pub­lic en­vi­ron­ments, and weigh them against our phys­i­cal and emo­tional re­sponses, oth­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ences, and the lim­i­ta­tions we may be set­ting for our­selves in en­joy­ment, depth of ex­pe­ri­ence, dis­cov­ery and out­ward pro­jec­tion.

Things are not al­ways as they ap­pear. Mar­keters, ma­gi­cians, and artists count on mak­ing you see things as they­want you to see them. As a main­stay in the his­tory of dé­cor, the tech­nique of trompe l’oeil (“trick the eye” in French) is ap­plied through paint­ing on can­vas or walls to cre­ate an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion. The mind at­tempts to fill in the de­tails of some­thing it ei­ther thinks it al­ready knows or does not quite un­der­stand— a tech­nique that works well when used in­ten­tion­ally. How­ever, if what we want the world to see is dif­fer­ent than what is be­ing por­trayed, therein lies the rub.

A re­cent anec­do­tal ex­pe­ri­ence of this sub­ject was had at the­mercy of a stylist. Seem­ingly open to what he might sug­gest and cre­ate for wardrobe ad­di­tions, what un­folded was a re­al­iza­tion of very pre-con­ceived no­tions about fig­ure and style and as­sump­tions for what “worked” or would not work. It was a cathar­tic op­portu- nity to make a shift in think­ing. Per­haps you are one who does not like prints, or as­so­ci­ates cer­tain tex­tures or col­ors such as gold or olive, boucle or vel­vet with some­thing neg­a­tive fromthe past. What if you were open to the pos­si­bil­ity that an en­tirely new re­al­ity could be cre­ated, one that re­quired the shed­ding of those old no­tions? What if you painted your walls a dark color with depth, against your fear that it might make the room feel smaller?

Think about the story you are liv­ing right now. Is it more hap­haz­ard and dis­parate, or highly or­ches­trated and cu­rated? Was it a con­scious cre­ation or heav­ily in­flu­enced by fam­ily, friends, so­cial groups, media, or ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions? If the nar­ra­tive no longer fits or serves you, then change the per­cep­tion. Thomas Jef­fer­son said, “That which we sur­round our­selves with be­comes the mu­seum of the soul and the ar­chive of our ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Often our val­ues are demon­strated or per­ceived rightly or wrongly in our per­sonal and busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments with the artwe choose, the ex­pres­sion of color, or the col­lec­tion of fur­ni­ture and be­long­ings. Guests seek and find cues through key el­e­ments such as ma­te­ri­als and fin­ishes, im­agery and mo­tif, fur­nish­ings, fix­tures, art, and ob­jects. Rightly or wrongly, first or last im­pres­sions can re­sult in value judge­ments. When this ap­plies to our home, it might merely cre­ate mis­con­cep­tion. When this is ap­plied to our busi­ness space, it can be the dif­fer­ence of re­turn pa­trons and rec­om­men­da­tions or not.

It is bet­ter to di­rect the per­cep­tions. As in­te­rior de­sign­ers and style-mak­ers, we can change per­cep­tion into the re­al­ity that can be experienced: new con­texts for old par­a­digms, be­lief sys­tems and as­so­ci­a­tions. In­te­rior de­sign­ers are well-adept at craft­ing the per­cep­tions of those who ex­pe­ri­ence a space. How might you write your story or the story of your busi­ness? How can your per­sonal or busi­ness sur­round­ings re­flect that story?

Heather Van Luch­ene, ASID and Steffany Hollingsworth, ASID are part­ners in HVL In­te­ri­ors, LLC, an in­te­rior-de­sign firm of­fer­ing professional res­i­den­tial and hospi­tal­ity de­sign ser­vices. Both are New Mex­ico-li­censed in­te­rior de­sign­ers. They can be reached at (505) 983-3601 or info@hvlin­te­ri­


Suite at the Covent Gar­den Ho­tel, London, with in­te­ri­ors by Kit Kemp

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