The Unexpected Joy of the Mismatch
Jan 21, 2015 | by Michael Champlin
As a designer I spend a lot of time attempting to make disparate things harmonious. It’s the job of a designer, after all, to arrange a wide variety of “stuff” in some kind of cohesive way, whether it’s information, furniture or textiles. We’re tasked with finding harmony in chaos, stillness in a loud room of ideas, styles and interference. So when we find things that just _fit_ together, we’re relieved; things that just work together give us some reprieve from our daily struggle. There was a time not too long ago where I found great peace in the fact that all my spoons looked the same.
I pride myself as a minimalist, after all.
Then three years ago, through a combination of fate, happenstance and questionable financial decisions, I found myself with a roommate for the first time in more years than I care to admit. It didn’t last long, and after a couple of months he left town for a tech gig in San Francisco, and left me with a huge apartment and a really random collection of “stuff”. I’d given up my matching spoons in a breakup, and now had a drawer full of the most discordant utensils I’d ever encountered. My drawer looked like the box of silverware left over after they sort things at the thrift store. Though I had plenty, there were scarce two matching forks in my entire kitchen. I was, in a word, distraught.
Despite my life being in a state of change and turmoil, my time in that apartment was incredibly happy and fulfilling. It was a time of emotional and professional growth for me; I started writing again, I hatched personal projects that helped me grow as a designer. I also came to love my collage of a home. There was a weird homemade desk made from two old cabinet speakers and a big piece of coffee-stained oak, an ornate fireplace mantle where I bookended my collection of cookbooks with brass candlesticks, a light fixture I improvised from an old telescope tripod and a broken desk lamp.
And then there was that drawer full of mismatched forks.
In time, I’d come to love those, too. If I was cooking (I cooked a lot in that house) and found myself needing to beat some eggs I’d go to the drawer and peruse the specimens, finding the perfect long-tined fork for the purpose. Eating Mac and Cheese? That called for something more rounded. For each fork, a place and a task.
In the end though, it’s not all about function. Each of these items, whether forks or candlesticks or picture frames, had a story. Somewhere, at some time, they’d been well-loved. Maybe even part of a matching set. But now, they’d found themselves here, in this cozy (if a little drafty) home I’d carved out for myself. I came to see a lot more of myself in that drawer full of silverware than I ever could have imagined.
Perhaps it’s less about finding items that fit together harmoniously and more about finding the harmony in a mismatched, patchwork life.
For our readers: Do you like to mismatch styles, eras, colors? Tell us about your display philosophy in the comments…