Reflecting Design Marie Kondo Interior Design

Marie Kondo – Is She Relevant To Interior Design?


Given the popularity of Marie Kondo and her bestselling book about ‘tidying’ and ‘de-cluttering’; The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, one might wonder, is there a takeaway here for furniture, home decorating or interior design? Kondo has fashioned a career as an ‘organizing expert’ and her ideas have a pseudo-philosophical imprint. Among these one statement, possibly her most well-known, might be consider by designers:


“Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service.” – Marie Kondo.


There is a difference of course between designing an interior and de-cluttering a living space. What they have in common however is the place of objects and how they occupy a space in the long term. Kondo asks us to evaluate the sentimental significance of what we keep, letting go in time of things that do not “spark joy.”

Marie Kondo

For Kondo considerable thought is given to clothing, which makes sense since a wardrobe is a key source of clutter and disorganization. Kondo is systematic, to the point of promoting a preferred folding method for t-shirts. She promotes purging your wardrobe.

Again there is a difference between fashion and furniture. The anticipated lifespan for each is not the same. Fashion works on an annual cycle, for furniture or an interior design – a paint colour, a sofa, a renovation or a move, is likely to last a decade or more. No one buys furniture expecting to throw it away next year – having “thanked” the object or not, irrespective of cost. Even Ikea goods are expected to survive two years 😀 . And so when Marie Kondo encourages purging a similar approach is not realistic or desirable for your home décor. We need therefore to be more thoughtful with our decorating choices.

Nonetheless we can borrow something from Marie Kondo’s statement. With some distinction “spark joy” is an idea we might well think about when we are shopping for an interior. Kondo’s idea would imply that we surround ourselves with things that give us joy or make us happy. Presumably these are things we like aesthetically or interest us intellectually. What makes us happy then is an expression of our personality. The result is a more personal interior, for better or worse, like it or not aesthetically.


Interior design by Russell Lewis

Authentic, means true or honest. The implication being a residential interior that is reflects the people who live there, not the designer, a design magazine or an ‘influencers’ opinion of what is good. A kind of professional superficiality pervades interior design now. There is a similarity in the result that suggests a text book approach. Interior design magazines present homes as manicured lifeless spaces. Rooms look like ornaments.

Coffee table books used as decoration, fireplace mantles crowded with nick-knacks having neither craft, artistry or charm, fake artwork – not painted by an artist but created to fill a space, picture frame walls full of images that mean nothing to the owner – all effect but no substance, the over-use of pillows, or inversely minimalist interiors, where the omission of personality is equally questionable. White rooms seem a particularly egregious example of this. Even hospitals understand the value of colour to mood and health – they have left behind the practice of off-white painted walls.

A key starting point for any residential interior designer must be a questionnaire asking what a client likes, what are their interests. Not likes in design but likes in life.

A key starting point for any residential interior designer must be a questionnaire asking what a client likes, what are their interests. Not likes in design but likes in life. Equally one might ask the same of oneself. What do I like? As Kondo suggests, we are looking for things that have sentimental value. Not sentimentality in a corny sense, but as something that resonates with our personality. No doubt this is a difficult ask for a hired designer where time is not unlimited and resources constrained. This might in the end be an argument as to why one should take a personal interest in their home decor, although this is not always possible. Particularly when you have 4000 sq ft at hand.

Whatever one might make of Marie Kondo’s views one can certainly relate to the idea that joy should inspire what we collect and hold on to. Hopefully by following this idea we will create interiors expressing personality and character. Kondo is Japanese, being tidy is a necessary virtue when living in small space as many do in Japan. Oddly what we might understand in a typical Japanese interior does not gush personality or seem inspired by joy. The rule of thumb in Japan might be, if you haven’t discarded it, hide it in a closet.

Against all of Kondo’s advice there is interesting research that draws a correlation between creativity and mess. The study from the University of Minnesota suggests ‘messy’ participants were more ‘innovative’ and more prone to ‘original choices’. The idea being that disorderly environments may stimulate a release from convention, this being the seed of creativity. This being the case bring on ‘mess inspired by joy – a compromise I hope to see more in future. 😉


The Author: Matthew Buck is the creative energy behind Reflecting Design and Odlum Entrance.

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