Unaware at the moment, my personal journey in design started at a young age. I would decorate our humble homes in Puerto Rico. As a working single mother of 3 my Mom did not have the means or desire to decorate much when she came home after a long day at work. However, whenever she had free time she would get her sewing machine out to fix or sew something. She would also try to please me whenever possible and grant my requests of decorating our humble small house. We would shop at economic stores for curtains and inexpensive décor items. For the holidays, I would be in charge of decorating the Christmas tree. Decorating the humble houses we rented became my domain.
Both of my grandmothers never went to school. They never learned how to write or read. They were raised in poverty in rural Puerto Rico in the 1940’s-1950’s. However they wrote and spoke the art of homemaking and art. Maria Antonieta, one of my grandmothers was always making art, painting, or recreating the latest craft trend. While Grandma Ana Maria or Abuelita Maria how we call her, was always decorating her home with the latest affordable furnishing and décor. Grandma Ana Maria took care of us during the day while my Mom worked. She was very smart at keeping us busy with projects. Usually these projects were related with some kind of art and craft; coloring, knitting, threading, canvas, etc. She would buy materials and motivate us to create things. I also had the influenced of Titi Zaida, one of my aunts who lived next door to Grandma Ana Maria. Zaida was a housewife that would always be sewing. I used to love come over to her apartment and use her fabric scraps to “design” Barbie dresses. It was so much fun!!
I don’t have childhood memories of grand vacations, my Mom was never able to afford a trip to Disney or big amusement parks or anything like that but I do have great memories of time spent at home and one of my most cherished memories was picking items for our new house. After many years of hard work and saving money my Mom was able to take a loan to build a house. I remember going shopping for house materials, furnishings, selecting windows, cabinets and fixtures. Creating a home where we would live in, that we could call home was a great experience and amazing feeling. I should point out that this was especially exciting as we moved very often from rented house to rented house, in average we moved every 2-3 years. In hindsight that probably helped me prepare for my current army wife lifestyle.
In high school when it came time to decide where to go for college and what to study, I really didn’t have a clue! Well, I kind of wanted to go to photography school, but was advised to do something else. Looking back I realize that I was steered to believe that I was suppose to follow a career path that was important, meaningful and respectable such as Pharmacy, Medicine, Law, etc. At the time I was not educated on the value and importance of design and creative careers (don't get me wrong I still love reading and learning all about Psychology and Environmental Law, among other topics).
While attending college I would always find ways to express my creative side by volunteering to decorate college organizations events, redecorating my room or my Mom’s house. Similarly, when I joined the army I found comfort in the arts. I remember being stationed at a very primitive looking barracks for training while waiting to be deployed to Iraq back in 2002. I decided to decorate the walls by creating a “gallery wall” using what I had available, which was pretty much magazines and newspapers. Looking at my collage wall art made me feel happy and relaxed in the middle of uncertainty.
When my contract with the army was completed I got married and began nesting. My husband was deployed and I was working as a laboratory technician in my free time I started repurposing and painting furniture, decorating our home and blogging about it. I became addicted to home blogs and decorating. It was as if I had finally discovered my true passion.
I continued to work and even got a Master's degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability because I still had my doubts about a creative career path. I kept thinking “I would have to start all over again” “what if I’m not good enough” “design is a superficial thing, I feel so vain caring for home décor and pretty things when there is so much need in the world” “anyone can decorate or design, what do I have to bring to the table?” That was my internal struggle.
As an army wife, I have to look for a new job as we move from state to state, and most times getting a job offer would take a long time. So every time we moved I resorted to design. I would decorate our new home, blog about it and obsess about design again until I would get a “real” job. It was becoming a pattern until I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. While thyroid cancer is currently an easy to treat type of cancer and I am completely healthy now, it did make me reevaluate my life and what I wanted to do with it. The same week I was diagnosed with cancer I was supposed to start a graduate certification to become a medical technician, which would help me become more “hireable” every time we moved. I had also recently learned that the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) had an interior design program I qualified for, so I decided to drop out of the medical technician program and apply to SCAD instead. I have to point out that all of this was really possible due to my husband's unconditional support and encouragement. I couldn't have afforded or been brave enough to do all this on my own, so it is an understatement to say that I am very fortunate and extremely grateful to my loving husband.
My time at SCAD helped me discover why and how design matters. Design is just not about aesthetics and pretty décor, design is about planning and taking into consideration many aspects that affect and influence the way we live and our wellbeing. A good design should be able to increase comfort, facilitate your lifestyle, support wellbeing, and increase quality of life. Furthermore, I discovered that design could be found and applied in science, biology, chemistry, nature, social structure, public spaces, and even social movements. Interior design is more important and influential than I had thought. My intentions are to share more on these topics here on the blog and what I have learned under a design for wellbeing column.
Design matters to me, because as you may have noticed through the childhood memories I shared above, I associate creativity with home, with family and with being happy. I have a personal connection and inclination for pleasing aesthetics and well designed places; it positively affects my state of mind. Interior design matters to me because it can improve my wellbeing and happiness, it matters to me because I know now that design can be a meaningful, improve the life of others and the world we live in.
Whether you notice or not design may be affecting your life in more ways than you may think.
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