Dyslexia and Interiors

I recently came across a photograph of my Great Grand Father taken around 1904. He was an artist and the photo is taken in his studio in London. But something jarred with me right away.

I live in a house with no pattern at all, no  pattered cushions or pattered curtains or bed linen. I dress in plain blocks of colour and actually feel quite unwell if I try to wear patterns. I’ve never really given it much thought, despite people often mentioning my ‘minimal’ or ‘ordered’ taste.

Looking at the vintage photo all I see is the wallpaper jumping out at me, confusing my mind into a chaotic tangle of thoughts. How on earth could Great Grand Father paint in such a decorative room? And very well he painted too as he exhibited at the Royal Academy Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute.

With help from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, I have been on a fascinating trail to try and identify the wallpaper in the studio. My findings will appear in The History of Wallpaper Review later this summer.

But back to pattern versus plain. As I spend a lot of time specifying wall colour, I thought I would do a little research into why some people are comfortable surrounded by pattern and some are definitely not.

I was diagnosed a ‘dyslexic’ when I was very young and have chosen to work in areas where right-brained individuals can thrive so therefore don’t give my label of dyslexia any thought…until now.

When you look up ‘symptoms of dyslexics’ on the web you will see lists containing  attributes such as being intuitive, sensitive, perfectionist, artistic, and often very orderly. All very nice. Something else I hadn’t clocked until now which made me smile – dyslexic children are often first to learn and identify colours! There are of course many other indicators including being very light sensitive, often ambidextrous, thinking in images rather than words, having a strong sense of justice and interestingly often left eared. Well I tick all of those boxes and more but then something popped up which may well answer the question as to why I choose to live in an uncluttered interior.

It is actually common for dyslexics to feel anxious in decorative interiors. They contain far too many random visual stimuli which can led an ordered mind of a dyslexic to become extremely anxious. Our minds which operate on visual imagery receives an overload of information which needs to be ordered and the task becomes overwhelming and leads to confusion and stress.

For me, this answers a lot of personal questions and for interior designers, it is important information to bear in mind. If your client includes decorating a  bedroom for a dyslexic child you could quite easily create a stunning room in your eyes but one which creates a lot of tension for a child. It is less likely to happen when working for a dyslexic adult because they are likely to have discovered their preferred ‘style’ which will almost certainly be very clean and simple i.e one where they feel at ease in.

So perhaps the Father of Modernism, Albert Loos who famously wrote, Ornament and Crime, was perhaps a fellow dyslexic? Well I would like to think so anyway…

Decorating with Yellow

I have “empty room syndrome” today. I get it whenever I clear a room of furniture. The room didn’t look particularly scruffy when it was “dressed” but now it’s empty it really is asking for a new coat of paint. Well this is good news because I can choose a new paint colour.

I am trying to recreate the sensation I felt when I saw Wolfgang Laib ‘s  hazel nut pollen art installation last year. I would defy anyone to look at this work and not feel gloriously happy, rooted to the spot and completely mesmerised.  The colour of the pollen simply could not be improved.

Wolfgang Laib's Hazel Nut Pollen

As it’s a highly saturated colour I will only be using it in a small area (plus yellow “grows” and intensifies when on a wall).

I am going to mix my own yellow – the reason I am doing this is because it’s a pretty tricky colour to handle. It is all too easy to get greenish undertones in yellow paint because if you try to darken yellow by adding black, instead of turning a darker more intense hue, it actually turns green, very easily and quickly. Plus, you may not see the green under tones until you have painted it all over your walls…..

yellow + black = olive

If you buy ready mixed paint, ask the manufacturer if there is any black in the formula and if there is avoid it unless you want a greenish tinge.

Another thing to bear in mind is that yellow has a high LRV (light reflective value) so it bounces back most of what hits it. It is therefore greatly influenced by surrounding colours – even from outside. If you have leafy green trees outside your window, the yellow will take on a greenish tone. If you live opposite a red brick building, the yellow will look very golden. Lots to consider but get it right and you’ll not be disappointed.