That’s great! But where do you put the trash can?
Let’s face it. There are many more glamorous tasks in the design of your home than picking out where the trash can should be. To be honest, in our first home, I postponed for years where the permanent trash bins should be in the kitchen. Years? Yes, you read right—years. I got by with a supermarket bag hanging from random hardware which was then thrown straight into the outdoor garbage bin. Whenever we entertained, we brought out the bigger trash containers which were then cleaned and stored in the closet for use at the next dinner party or barbecue. Coming up with a location, and just the right garbage bin to place there, was just simply not on top of my list. All of the bins I found seemed to be either too tall, too small, wrong shape, wrong color, too much decoration or too plain—all this until: the day I decided I needed to solve this problem and give ourselves a trash can in a dedicated spot. I thought it would be a task I dreaded, that it would somehow ruin the flow and feel of the room, but you know what? It didn’t. When I finally made it a priority, when I finally approached the problem and gave it some thought, I found a solution.
I started out by identifying places in my kitchen where I could put a trash can. Then I thought about the size that the trash can should be so that it would be large enough to be useful while not big enough to be overpowering. Now that I was making progress, I thought about the shape that I would like to see there along with what color it should be—in other words, I thought about if the trash can was something I wanted to stand out through a funky shape, a bold color, or a feature with some kind of pattern, or if it was something I wanted to have blend-in with my home decor. Feeling prepared by this knowledge, I now felt like this was a task I could easily accomplish and so I was able to shop for a specific item that would solve a specific problem in our home.
When approaching a design problem, oftentimes the problem is not that the task is too big (or too small), oftentimes it’s that we set out to solve a design problem without first giving thought to a solution. It can be much more alluring to flip through pages of a magazine or postpone the task for another day, but when we stop and give thought to what is actually needed, and why it’s needed, we begin to answer the real questions of our design problem.
As you prepare how to figure out the best products for your home decor, remember that it's actually a quest to solve a design problem in your home through the purchase of a new item. Consider these questions aimed to help you brainstorm your way into a design solution:
What kind of item do I need to add to my home and what problem do I need it to solve?
Whether you are buying a dinner platter, or a new home office desk, there’s always a problem that the new item you are buying needs to solve. Maybe it’s a smaller purchase like a vase to fill with freshly cut flowers from your garden, or maybe it’s finding the perfect sofa to satisfy the entertaining demands of your newly-remodeled living room. In either case, identifying the need for the item you are looking to purchase, along with the problems you need this item to solve with go a long way in helping you select the most appropriate product. Let’s consider this item and need for example: I need to buy new seating for my living room and it needs to sit 6-8 people.
Where is the best location for this item?
Sometimes we have our house set just right, we’re so comfortable with where everything is and how everything looks that it’s hard to think of where we would place any new object in our home. However, just as the seasons change outside of the home, so do our own personal needs change within the home. As our needs change within our home, we need to make room for adding new things into our home, as well as being flexible of letting go of things that are no longer useful to us. In the case of our example above of new seating needed for entertaining, we know the general location will be in the living room. Let’s now take a closer look and determine the traffic flow of the living room, identify the natural light sources, as well what will become the main focus of the room. Now that we have a general idea of how we enter and exit the room, we can map out the areas where it would make the most sense to locate the new seating, and where traffic flow into and out of the room will be maintained. We can also consider window heights and if we want to interrupt, or preserve, the view from any of the windows. Now that general locations are starting to feel more concrete, we can look around and identify what we want to see, and what we need to see, from the comfort of our new seating. The answer to these questions can now start to inform the placement of our new seating arrangement in the room.
What size would be the most useful to my home?
Scale is an important factor in interior design. While some of the best designs feature a play on scale, it’s important to identify when a play on scale is important and when it can actually become a bigger problem in the design of your home. For example, I have this dream of having a big sectional sofa that features a corner chaise. However, it has not yet been the most appropriate solution for any of the places I’ve lived in. While being able to locate the sectional in the room has been feasible in my case, it would also have meant sacrificing traffic flow and placement of other items in my living room, a compromise that I personally was not willing to make. While the size of an item may fit in a given room, it’s also worth considering whether it will also provide the most efficient and useful investment of the space within your home.
Do I want this item to stand out, or to blend with my decor?
Sometimes our goal is to create an accent in the room—something that draws people’s attention to it, something that becomes a conversation piece in our room. Other times, our goal is to maintain unity with the other design elements of our home and create a more calming and soothing mood within our rooms. While both approaches are valid, it’s important to know which look and mood we are pursuing in order to bring unity—whether in boldness or serenity—to our home.
What kind of shape would be appropriate?
Should it be round, square, rectangular? Should it be symmetrical or asymmetrical? Should it have legs or reach all the way to the floor? Having a general idea of the shape that is desired will help you narrow down the look and feel of the new item you are searching for. The size of the item will also inform the shape of the item, and the shape of the item will inform the scale, so don’t be afraid to let one of the answers to this questions inform another one in the list.
What kind of colors, finish and patterns should this item be?
Color, finish and pattern can be some of the most fun decisions when selecting an item for your home. Sometimes the answers are straightforward: a solid, neutral-color fabric, or a bold, orange wallpaper with a large scale pattern. Whether you want to express serenity or create visual stimulation, colors and patterns are a great way to help you express your own personality through the items in your home.
What kind of quality and durability will best fit my needs for this item?
When bringing new items into your home, it’s important to remember that you are bringing new items into your home. These items will live with you everyday and will be subject to wear and tear from their daily use in your home. Is this an item that you need to last for just a weekend entertaining engagement in your home, is it something that will get seldom use from an occasional guest, or is it something that you and your family will use daily throughout different times of the day? Is it an item that will get used only indoors, or will it be subject to outdoor use as well? Knowing what kind of use is required for a new item will help determine the quality and durability that needs to be inherent in this new item that you are purchasing and putting into use.
What is the price range I can spend on this item?
Knowing the kind of quality and durability that is required of products will often inform the budget for the product purchase. Whether it’s a generous budget or a more restrictive one, establishing the budget early on will help you set clear expectations of the new items you are bringing into your home, as well as helping you plan for future needs within your home.
As for me and my kitchen trash can, I opted for two medium-sized bins (one for garbage, one for recycling) with removable lids in a soft, neutral color from The Container Store placed discreetly in the corner of the kitchen under some artwork, and to be honest, when my husband walked in and saw them his response was: they look like they belonged there all along. Mission accomplished! Now on to finding the perfect place for our indoor plants.
By Wendy Gonzalez for Modern Ornament