Meet Anita: expert in design, hater of clutter

Submitted 10 months ago
Created by
Tom Haushalter

If you’ve been on DailyUV recently and wondered, wait, have you done something with the place?—first of all, thanks for noticing. And second, yes, but don’t give me any credit.

The feed freshened right up almost the moment Anita Hamalainen launched her whip-smart design-centered blog “Design L’UV.” An interior designer by trade, Anita brings her trained eye and crackling wit to the task of enlightening us all to the do’s, don’ts, and the, really, just don’ts of domestic design. Some of us (ahem) clearly need more help than others.

Anita, thank you for introducing me to the term “gawmy”—a Mainer’s way of saying something’s clumsy and unsightly. But if your father is (lovingly) the “King of Gawmy,” did your keen sense of design start as some rebellion from dad’s bad choices?

Very much so. I think my design aesthetic was directly influenced by both of my parents, actually. They were were elementary school teachers, so our house was furnished with family hand-me-downs and items from the Maine State Prison Showroom. The nicest way to put it is our Colonial-style furniture was very serviceable and kid-friendly. Also, my mom was quietly very sentimental. Our hutch, for example, was buried under dozens of framed and unframed photos, out-of-date birthday cards, and palm fronds from long since past Easter Masses. My dad now seems to glory in what a minimalist I’ve become.

Gawmy or not, what’s your biggest design pet peeve?

Hands down, clutter. You look away for a second and the piles of papers have grown exponentially, the dirty dishes have multiplied, and loads of clean laundry sit patiently in the hallway. You know the big reveal on HGTV decorating shows? The redesigned spaces always look amazing, but I’d love for the producers to return unannounced in six months to see what the transformed spaces look like after real people have moved in with their real belongings. I use hosting guests as a kick in the pants to deal with the constant accumulation of STUFF. By routinely dealing with the clutter, we reveal and celebrate our most prized possessions.

Can I tell you my biggest design pet peeve? Poor lighting schemes. I like to walk my dog at night, and the glare coming off too many windows is like the spaceship landing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Any tips on light bulb wattage, overhead versus lamplight?

I don’t pay a lot of attention to light bulb wattage. Rather, I aim for many lighting options. A key word in lighting design is “layering." The perfect lighting plan includes three types of light sources: task (e.g., reading lamps, under-counter lighting), ambient (e.g. recessed downlights, overhead ceiling fixture) and accent (e.g., decorative mini-pendants). You can turn them all on and illuminate the neighborhood for dog-walkers, turn on one light source depending on the room activity, or turn on a mix. I’m also a huge fan of dimmers: sometimes you want Operating Room light levels at the dinner table and sometimes you want less surgical, more romantic lighting. It’s good to have options.

Love your design board for the “new” Polka Dot restaurant! Reminds me of the mid-century mod trend that’s so hot. Be honest, in another decade, could faux wood paneling and shag carpet have its throwback moment?

Sheesh, I hope not. I really appreciate the authenticity of letting natural materials be themselves. In our first home we ripped out the worn builder’s grade carpeting and painted the OSB (oriented strand board) subfloor. We lived with that “flooring” for a year or two until we upgraded to a nicer option. Shag carpeting will come back over my cold, lifeless dead body.

Speaking of design revivals, I keep waiting for cruddy roadside motels to get the boutique treatment. The hipster set would eat that up, right? Million-dollar idea, or terrible idea?

It’s a great idea, and there are business opportunities in almost every community in America! In particular, I’m a huge fan of Hotel Coolidge and love its Victorian Hipster vibe. They could take it up a notch by going even further in a Steampunk direction, capitalizing on their proximity to the train station across the street.

And finally, please settle a score between my wife and me. I like to leave books tented on an armrest, or at least haphazardly stacked. I’m going for that “intentionally lived-in” look. She prefers tidy and is always reshelving. What are best practices for books-as-design?

I have to side with your better half on this one, though that’s my inner minimalist talking. On one extreme you have the person who carefully wraps his or her books in white paper for a completely uniform bookshelf. That reeks of effort and announces you don’t actually read your books, but you care a lot. Like, really really a lot. On the other end of the spectrum is my sons’ bookshelf: detritus falling off the shelves, dirty socks wedged between books and crumpled creations, and half the books are under their beds. The general message is Hey Mom, we don’t care at all. Like, really really don’t care at all. My husband has found a pleasant middle ground, though I admit I mocked him when he first arranged the books this way.

He grouped our tallest design books together: black books on top, white books in the middle, and a colorful mix on the bottom, with spines neatly aligned. This look suggests I admit that I care, but I’m not going to go bonkers with it. Get off my back already.

In general, to me the perfect room shows that you take pride in your space but yes, you actually do live in your living room. Stealing from yogic wisdom, good design finds the balance between effort and ease. Ommm...

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