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“Living at home.” It might conjure some image of sleeping on the couch where you spent childhood holidays. For those of us long past college, the Spring of 2020 may be the first time we are actually living at home. Not our parents’ place but our own. Not living in the dark—literally—where we leave for work before sunrise and return after sunset. But living at home, in all its honest messiness and possibility.

Designers at home: we are getting really good at improvisation. I have a new appreciation for the creativity it takes to repair rather than replace, to pull a great meal together when ‘making do’ is the only option, and for undervalued household objects that are really well designed.

This story begins with trying to open some aluminum spice-tins. My daughter was cooking. The cinnamon tin had a rolled edge at the cap while the clove tin did not. The tin with the rolled edge cap opened very easily; the other cap didn’t budge after trying every possible tool and trick we knew: vice grips, hot water, screw drivers, soap. It was a simple difference but such a huge one. The experience inspired me take a little walk (while she cooked!) and give attention to the design details I take for granted. Just by acknowledging the ordinary objects that bring the beauty of good design to my everyday experience: paperclip, pepper grinder, corkscrew, safety pin, a well-balanced spoon, that Japanese knife, this simple silver candleholder, the Oxo peeler…. I felt like we exchanged a little bit of spirit and soul.

Covid-19 is an em dash for the lucky—a pause longer than a comma, shorter than a period. A pause that is just long enough to look around and be thankful. This time we have, this pause, is a pretty good opportunity to take stock of the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn’t and use our design noggins to make everyday design better designed for every day. My notebooks are filling up; most likely yours are too. We probably all agree that design has an essential responsibility to make the world better. Let’s share our ideas. We have a unique chance to change everything we wanted to change before, starting right at home.

 

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