Patti Lorenzi Cowger.jpg

Patti Cowger

Dear Readers, this column is just for you. Every other week, I’ll answer one of your interior design questions. Just send me an email with your question and I’ll reply right here. This week’s question:

My daughter thinks she wants to be an interior designer. Can you recommend a few books that I can buy for her for Christmas? Any other advice on this would also be appreciated especially if it could help her decide if this is what she really wants to do. She is 22 years-old and just got her degree in philosophy, of all things.

My mind is spinning with advice. Let’s start with books. For now, skip the many style-oriented books like Tropical Style, Country Style, Scandinavian Style, Mediterranean Style, Signature Style, etc. Skip the ones filled with pretty pictures or the how-to inspirational books. While they are entertaining and great for picking up and idea or two, they only show what has been designed. Sometimes they also tell you why. But they don’t explain how they’ve been designed. Many considerations were made and steps taken before these rooms were photographed. At this point, your daughter doesn’t need to know what these considerations and steps were but to just know that they exist.

History books can test her level of interest. Look for titles along the lines of “The History of Art and Architecture” or “The History of Interiors.” You might also pick up a couple of books about individuals who made diverse contributions to the design world like Frank Lloyd Wright, Sister Parish, and Mark Hampton. Try “Andrea Palladio: The Architect in his Time” by Bruce Boucher.

There is much cross-over in the fields of architecture and interior design. Having a general understanding and appreciation of architecture will enhance and stretch your daughter’s abilities. A designer who understands the past, and how it evolved to the present, can produce authentic work with layers of personalized creativity.

A degree in philosophy is not only an admirable achievement, but is loaded with abstract, logical, and mathematical thought. So is interior design. Many people think that design is all about those pretty pictures. The truth is, some of those pictures make it into books or magazines because they are colorful or wild, attract attention, or are selling merchandise. They don’t all reflect good design and your daughter needs to be able to recognize this.

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Her clients won’t want such drama or flair unless it is built on a solid foundation. This is where her background in philosophy, and the historical references I mentioned, will help her achieve a successful career. She might find “The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry” by Jay Hambidge interesting and forever useful.

On a personal note, I’ve had three careers. I assume, or at least hope, that people know when they’ve found their true calling when thoughts of their work are constantly floating about in their minds — in a good way. After 28 years in interior design, the subject is on my mind, in one way or another, during many of my waking hours. I can’t control it. This is the type of passion I hope for your daughter.

If she gets hooked on the types of books I’ve suggested, then text books, by way of design school, may be her next step. This formal education will develop her skills, stimulate her creativity, and teach her the practical matters that the pretty books and magazines have left out.

Patti L. Cowger is a credentialed, award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net

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