Reflections on “Good” Design with Michela O’Connor Abrams
Sitting down with a design industry icon and publishing powerhouse is a humbling experience. But Michela Abrams, former CEO of Dwell Magazine, made it easy. Her enthusiasm for all things home coupled with her extensive experience and knowledge were matched only by her genuine warmth and approachable style. She had much to share with Luxury Portfolio readers as we reflected on design and its impact on the home space, today, and in the future.
Q: You are known for your passion for good design. What does “good design” mean to the affluent today?
A: “Good design” is many things and encompasses many attributes. I believe Anders Toxboe says it best, “Good design is not just what looks good. It also needs to perform, convert, astonish, and fulfill its purpose. It can be innovative or it might just get the job done.” When we refer to design, it is easily thought to be just aesthetics but that is far from the truth. Something can be beautiful and fall short in every other area in which it must perform.
Q: What are the top design trends for the coming year? What’s hot?
A: Believe it or not “small is the new big,” continues to be a global design trend. Gone are the days of McMansions being the pinnacle of success for those who can afford them. Specifically, younger generations like GenX and Millennials see big as the new bad. Once again “good design” informs global trends in architecture and design. Prefab building systems are being perfected in the custom home market and starting to take hold in cities everywhere. Finally, living “off the grid” becomes more popular as the distributed workforce becomes more pervasive. Mountain tops, islands, forests, lakes and the like are being sought out for that oasis of good living.
Q: On the flip side, what do you see going out of fashion?
A: Again, huge homes are out of fashion. The rare behemoth being built where two or three homes once stood is only a developer’s media moment because the “new affluent” want sustainability, authenticity, modernity, privacy and natural connection to be the priority in their dwellings. Prestige is alive and well in a home of modest size. Along with that, planned developments of thousands of cookie-cutter homes only differentiated by their gratuitous gable are on the decline.
Q: What, in your opinion, makes a house, a home?
A: A house is a structure and a home is architecture with people living in it. Each of us desires certain colors, textures, views, angles, comforts, etc in our homes but most of all we want home to be a place we want to be by ourselves or with everyone else we love.
Q: Looking to the coming year, what are you most excited about?
A: I am most excited to see modern architecture be more understood as good design, and good design be understood as a balance of the best and most valued ingredients in our lives.
Michela O'Connor Abrams is the former CEO of Dwell Media, the award-winning media company founded in 2000 by Lara Deam. Michela's 15 years of leadership at Dwell led to General Excellence at the National Magazine Awards, finalist in the corporate category for the prestigious National Design Awards, and National recognition for both circulation growth and newsstand sales. In 2005, she conceived and launched Dwell on Design, the largest design show in the U.S. hosting 25,000+ design professionals and enthusiasts in 2011. She has led the development and growth of Dwell Media's digital platforms including web, mobile, and tablet products which were recently recognized as '#1 Most Innovative' in Affinity Research's August 2011 survey.
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