Authenticity in multiples, as a design problem.

I have long critiqued generic opulence - like Marriot hotel lobbies (even nice ones -which may be the reason for the rise in boutique hotels.) Anyway, generic opulence is when things look nice and fancy but they look like they could have come out of a 3D printer, for they are so . . . predictable? or at least the same everywhere.

Well, just when you think we have transcended this problem with one-of-a-kind air b-n-b's  . . . . smack! I read an article recently about the appeal of space-sharing and airb-n-b-ing as no matter where you go in the world they all tend to have the same look, so that it feels familiar and homey (pic above). Which struck me as sad. Where is the fun of not staying at a Marriott when all the places you stay at are like the hipster versions of Marriotts. 

So this big question kinda haunts me. Can you scale authenticity? I'm trying to do that right now with PIKKA. Hand-made, one-of-a-kind tables that you buy amazon style on a website that ships right to your door. But its new and i don't know if it can work and i don't know at what point does a thing go from unique and cherished to ubiquitous and clique. 

One reason we love Starbucks is we can get the same cup of coffee in Minneapolis, New York, New Dehli, and Beijing. That consistency is great when you are jonesing for coffee, but is it inauthentic? it doesn't seem like the coffee is un-real. One thing I hate about Starbucks, though, is the insides feel corporate, not homey, predictable - that part feels inauthentic. I do know the trick about making a good brand is consistency of experience, so on some level Starbucks is stuck with their stores now veering too far off the corporate track. 

I heard some wisdom on a podcast the other day, a business owner shared his skepticism about central government socialism as it made decision from a great distance from the problems - it made macro solutions. The businessman instead said we need mirco-solutions. Washington or my state capital doesn't know the on-the-ground problem of my neighborhood. My mirco-hood needs micro solutions. I like the theory of mirco-solutions. The problem is, its kinda up to me find the micro-solution. 

Heres another related thought, my architect friend, Ben Awes, shared with me about his process in desinging a building or space, and the process is deep. Oftentimes, he said, people bring him a list of products: granite coutner tops, shiplap, or what have you, but great design is the process of marrying the people and their values with the land-space/building-space they are working with. Of course we all want to be with the times, but the product list without deep considerations, gets a trendy house not a great house. The problem with the trendy house is that you are back to the Marriott lobby, looks good but printed out of a trendy-house printer. 

So how to break free of that? Sadly its work. The upside to central controlled socialism is that most of us don't have the burden of responsibility the down-side is that it is usually oppressive and ugly. Beauty necessitates the hard work of knowing what you want/value and marrying that with the environment. Its a mirco-solution. 

So, it occurs to me, my job is to make authentic things. The peoples' job is to design true spaces and hopefully enough of them want to buy my authentic things so together we can make many, many beautiful and unique spaces. 


Congrats on reading my longest post ever. I would love to hear your thoughts.