THE GREAT CONVERSATION…a profoundly shallow but deeply satisfying approach

My daughter goes to a classical core knowledge school which would definitely frown on how I am about to co-opt a sacred concept. THE GREAT CONVERSATION is the name given to the exchange of ideas that has been going on for thousands of years now. The ideas are the BIG IDEAS like God, our world, relationships, truth, knowledge, existence, hope, despair, purpose – in short, who we are and why we live. Never unwilling to be utterly shallow, I am going to pretend that the “how we live” portion of it refers to interior design.

Like many of you, I cherish a great conversation. Whether participant or listener, I just find it exhilarating. If I could transport myself back to any time period, I might have to choose the Algonquin Round Table or French Salon Society. I can only imagine that the exchange of ideas was heady, witty, fast, furious and challenging, As an interior designer, I think it is important to design great spaces conducive to great conversation. So, here are a few of the questions to ask yourself when you are imagining or re-imagining your space. Does it have a focal point around which it is set up…a fireplace, a picture window, a great piece of art, an amazing view, a wonderful colored accent wall…something that invites people into the space and helps define it? (Hopefully not a 50 inch television screen.) Are the chairs and/or couches comfortable and within close enough proximity to each other that conversation can feel intimate? The need to shout is usually a conversation stopper. Are there tables handy for putting down one’s cup of tea, martini glass, shot of anisette, or any visual aids that might be part of a great conversation? Does the color scheme, whether calming or provocative, seem thought out and deliberately chosen? Is the lighting flattering and easy on the eyes? Does the space reflect a little bit of who you are as a person, i.e. you like to travel and you collect cultural artifacts, you are a book lover and a couple of your favorites are artfully displayed on the coffee table? If you can answer yes to these questions then you are ready to invite guests over and start a great conversation…or even a mundane one. You never know where either of them will lead.

And, of course, my fond hope is “if I build it, they will come.” I may never get Dorothy Parker, Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau or Salvador Dali, but if I can picture them comfortably hanging out in any of the many conversation areas of my home until the wee hours, who knows what amazing people will wind up in my salon.