When Retail Giveth, Mindfulness Goeth Away

Dining chairs

It seems every day we are bombarded with mailings from retailers who seem to have some ESP-sort of insight into what we will respond to and, if all goes well, purchase. This is in addition to the very real daily deluge of digital ads so targeted that we catch ourselves saying, “Wow! they really know me!” None of us can escape the reality that we are each well-studied, quantifiable, data-rich targets.

Have we bought into this new normal? Do we not really mind? Or have we merely accepted it as the cost of staying in the know, for finding the perfect scratch for every itch?

Hopefully, something as important and lasting as a dining table and chairs doesn’t fall into the “knee jerk love-at-first-sight” category (so much harder to return or exchange than a pair of shoes), but retailers bank on the contrary. How, then, should one approach a marketplace like this?

At the highest level there is simply the question of value. Will the money you spend return significant day-to-day, month-over-month value? Will what you buy — its look, its upkeep, its comfort — hold up? Let’s face it, a dining chair purchased online for a low, low price is not likely to be terribly comfortable or hold up over the long term.

Alternatives are another approach. Customization, or getting what you truly want and truly need, takes longer than dropping something into your shopping cart. In the world of design (regardless of what most retailers will tell you) every detail from the perfect dimensions to the fabric selections, trim, finishes, and materials can be customized.

When we have a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it, which for most of us is all of the time, it is easy to take the first and easiest path we find: “I guess that solid twill fabric on that perfectly fine sofa will work just fine with our existing paint color and rug.” That this almost certainly ignores a cotton fiber that isn’t easily cleanable and doesn’t stand up to cat claws, kids, and the sun, is an almost predictable outcome.

Despite the promises of the retail marketplace, there are often reasons — quality of materials, construction standards, and origin among them — why something can be had so readily and “inexpensively.” Some countries and companies are simply superior in terms of specialty focus, standards, resources, labor practices, and skill.

A professional interior designer will be familiar with the plethora of resources out there vying for your interest and dollars, will have already done the necessary due diligence, and can guide you through what has long-term merit and what most certainly does not. Mindfulness has become commonplace as a navigation tool, and is just as important in thinking about design as anywhere else. Staying mindfully attuned to what you value and what has value, is most aligned to your needs and intentions, and will be the most satisfying, will yield long-term happiness and avoid painful regret.

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