Sometimes, mistakes are blessings


After spending decades in the design biz, I have to admit that there is one phrase that makes me shudder: “I want it to be perfect.”

In my experience, the quest for perfection is a dangerous, exhausting dance.

There is something that you need to know — it is a bit of a myth buster, so prepare yourself.

Every great designer makes mistakes. It is a creative process and the project may go wonky as it evolves. Walls get painted and then quickly repainted. Accessories are bought and returned.

Sometimes the snag isn’t their fault. A sought-after piece of furniture may arrive damaged or in the wrong fabric.

Now, here’s the big news. Often, those “mistakes” turn out to be the subsequent magic in the room.

One of my biggest blunders was a few years back. I custom-ordered an espresso-finish kitchen for a client that came in several months and tens of thousands of dollars later in the wrong finish.

Now, in my defense, I ordered it correctly, thankfully with my client by my side. It was, however, written incorrectly on the order, which I didn’t catch, and she signed off on the order. So that’s we how we came to own cream- (not espresso-) colored kitchen cabinets.

Bam — goodbye old vision, hello new plan.

Thanks to a crazy cool client and a shared belief that we would make something special from this mistake, we each began to conspire toward it being a gift, and it turned into a light-filled wondrous space. It became a perfect mistake.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of interviewing Candice Olson. You may remember her from the HGTV mega-hit show “Divine Design.” She churned out rooms that where so utterly beautiful that she became rock-star famous. Fans were so seduced by her transformations that she couldn’t go out and grab a gallon of milk without wearing a disguise.

During our interview, she confessed that the biggest challenge about airing a renovation that played out in 30 minutes was that people didn’t understand that it actually took several months of tweaking to get a room swoon-worthy.

When you are creating a space, or penning a thought or cooking a new dish, we all know it is imperative to have a plan. It also helps to make peace with the fact that things may go askew, and that this is often when breakthrough creative genius is born.

In fact, mistakes can lead to new discoveries.

Did you know that a clinical trial of a drug that was designed to treat hypertension revealed a rather troubling side effect — it gave the male patients an erection. Yup, they naturally had to scrap the drug, but they did however discover that this little blue pill, also known as Viagra, had market value.

Over 40 years ago, the adhesive leaders, 3M, made a glue that was too weak to hold anything but a piece of paper, and that disaster led to the invention of the Post-it.

So what is the take-away from all this? When your vision is thwarted, don’t panic ... just sit with the blunder a bit and see if it could be magic in the making.

Amy Archer

Amy Archer is owner of Sarasota-based Creating Inspired Design and writes the Barefooted Designer blog. She can be reached by email.
Last modified: March 25, 2016
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