What does the way someone decorates their living space tell you about them?
This year I have been very interested in how spaces affect a person’s personality and so the idea of interviewing people about this topic really appealed to me. As an Interior Design student I feel that it is important to have an understanding on how an individual makes the space in which they interact with personal to them. I created a mind map with this idea of ‘living spaces’ in mind. This caused me to come up with a much broader idea of what a living space is; not necessarily a living room, but could be a bedroom, kitchen/dining room or even a mans garden shed. It is a space that someone interacts with and spends time in. My interest in how some bodies personality can be effected by a space came through in this mind map, as well as asking he question of how someone’s personality is shown through how they decorate their living space.
While creating this mind map I realised that there is going to be quite a difference in the people that I interview. One of the main differences I think may be between students and family/home owners. This caused me to think carefully about who I chose to interview and the questions asked. I am interesting in finding out students ideas of their student home versus their original home. I have decided to create a base set of questions about living spaces and their ideas on what their living space is. Some examples of these are; Where do you spend most of your time when your at home? Can you describe this room? Do you have a favourite piece of furniture? Do you have a particular item in your home that describes your personality?
I then made up some more questions for students that I interviewed, for example; What differences are there between your house at home and your university residence? How do you personalise your room at university? Do you have a notice board? If so, can you tell me some of the items on it?
I also created a set of questions to ask family/home owners, for example; How has your living space changed over the past 10 years? How would you describe something homely? Do you have a piece of furniture or an item that you have had for a long time? If so, is there a story behind why you have kept it?
When interviewing I understood that asking someone about their home is quite a personal thing and so took this into consideration when asking the questions. I was aware that some people would be more open to talking about their home than others. While interviewing I noticed that everyone was willing to tell me a lot of stories about their living space as it is a space that is very close to them, that they spend a lot of time in. I had my original set of questions, but these sometimes needed to be reworded slightly to achieve the information I needed. I found that the approach of an informal chat worked better, asking small questions of interest sometimes sparked off a whole new conversation and depth of information about an item of interest that they felt was personal to them.
I chose to interview two students, one male and one female. I also interviewed two homeowners. One of which was a middle aged couple with three children, the other a retired couple living on their own. I feel that this gave me a wide range that would give me a broad insight into the ideas of living spaces and what they mean to them. If I was to take this investigation further I would interview a greater number of people to see if the ideas were similar within each category of people, or to add a greater variety of people or example a bachelor.
Both students I interviewed lived in halls, this proved interesting as they both described it as their bedrooms and being their living space also as a “box room.” During the interview described their rooms to be very different. The female was a lot more descriptive, explaining about the memories she has on her notice board and how she has been slightly rebellious by putting magazine cuttings on her wall beside her bed and photos on her door as well. The male described how his room is still pretty bare and that he hasn’t really added a lot more to his notice board since freshers week, anything that is this is just timetables and a few union bands. The way in which they both described their rooms was really interesting. The boy had a tone in his voice that gave the impression of not really caring, seeing it just as somewhere that he slept and lived where as the girl gave a lot of detail into what she had on her notice board and wall, trying to remember as much as she could, showing there is obviously a lot on it. This gave the impression that she has tried to make it as personal as possible given the circumstances. When I asked about their attitudes to the main kitchen and dining space in university halls, both screwed up their faces slightly before continuing to describe that its often a bit messy and smelly but that its somewhere that fun takes place in as well. It took a while to get any specific ideas of how they had personalised it, this may be due to being a shared space with people that they have been forced to be friends with and so don’t feel it’s an individual thing. The male started to tell me stories about how many parties they had had there and their bottle collection. At times like this I felt it was important to let the interviewee tell the story and then I asked another question to bring the conversation back around to what I wanted it to be about. The girl described the people she shares the flat with and how they tried to have a cleaning rota at the start of the year but how it didn’t work. By her tone of voice ad expression I felt that she didn’t really spend a lot of time in the kitchen/living space and felt her bedroom was more of a living space this year. She was very descriptive when it came to asking questions about her living room at home and how she misses it a lot.
I find the comparisons between interviewing male and female students really interesting. They were both very different to interview and so something that should be taking into consideration when choosing the candidates for interview. A different style of interview was used with the male, as he was more relaxed and at times I had to ask a few short questions to keep the conversation going. This was something that I was expecting to happen and so had prepared for it. I feel that a group interview may have been interesting to find out if people open up more when bouncing ideas off each other and so keeping the conversation going. This is something that I would try and achieve if taking this investigation further.
The interviews with the family and elderly couple where a little different from the students. I felt a little more under pressure for it to be more formal although it soon relaxed into an easy conversation. I found both very willing to speak to me and tell me about their homes and life in them. It was very interesting to notice while I was interviewing the couples, in both cases the female spoke more than the male. After thinking about this, I reckon it may be due to the traditional role of the woman in the house while the man is out working and so she spends more time in it and so it may be more personal to her. This really interested me and again, is something I would like to investigate further. Throughout the interviews I learned how in one case the kitchen was described as the main “hub” of the family home. I think this may have been due to the layout of the living and dining/kitchen space being open plan. The lady described how the kids come home from school and sit and the kitchen table instead of going into the living room. She felt that they initially went to the space they felt most comfortable in, but maybe this was due to the food and tv both being in this space! While I was interviewing the kids were running about a bit and so caused a bit of distraction and I felt that I had invaded the space a bit, but was still welcomed in. It was a space in which the woman was relaxed but I felt she felt a little under pressure to have someone in her house while asking questions about it. She pointed out the different pieces of furniture that she was talking about it making it easier for me to understand how its personal to her. I was interesting to be able to see the space she was describing, giving me a greater understanding. Again, this is something that could be taking further when interviewing in the future; seeing the object that is being described. Throughout the interview the lady started to relax and the kids started to pay interest into what I was talking about, with the little girl wanting to show me her dolls house! (ironic)
When I went to the elderly couples house they seemed slightly nervous, or in need of reassurance that they were giving me the right answers. Im not sure if this was due to how my questions were worded or if it was due to having a neighbour in their house. They were incredibly welcoming though, offering me tea, coffee and biscuits causing the atmosphere to relax. They were both very interested in what I was interviewing for and gave me very detailed answers in describing the stories behind different pieces of furniture, painting and ornaments that they felt were personal to them. Again, it was really helpful to be able to see these objects and made it easier to understand the stories behind them. When they were describing how the décor has changed in the past 10 years it was a bit more difficult as I couldn’t see what they were speaking about when describing what it used to be like – maybe some photos may have been useful? It was interesting to hear the stories about how much their living space means to them and all the memories that come with it. They had lots of photos of grandchildren and children around, along with photos of themselves from their wedding etc. They said they living room was the main space that they would spend time in in the evening, but more the kitchen during the day. They said that they had been in this house for 37 years and so it means a lot to them, but that it has changed quite a lot since the moved. They described how a few of the décor changes were influenced by their daughter, for example they got a new kitchen and bathroom fitted. These were both a lot more modern than their own living space and so shows how they don’t necessarily feel at home or totally comfortable in these spaces. The kitchen still showed signs of their personality though, with photos and paintings on the walls and objects on the windowsill.
Though out the interviews with both the students and the couples I became aware of many different factors that have an impact on the results of the interview. This ranged from the sex of the interviewee to the location of the interview. With the students I was speaking to them outside of their halls where as with the couples I was in their homes. It was also interesting when I was interviewing the couples it was more of a discussion and conversation where as with the students it felt a little more like an interview. The students were more willing to speak right from the start in comparison to the couples being a little unsure at the start but soon becoming very willing to give me lots of information. With all of my interviews I used the medium of noting down points while interviewing, but still tried not to spend lots of time writing all the information down. I found that I was able to remember lots of what they had told me from the pointers that I had jotted down. I then made a mind map for each to gather my thoughts and see the comparisons and contrasts between the 4 different people. In conclusion, I have found this really interesting in gaining a greater knowledge into the process of interviewing and how much has to be taken into consideration when planning and doing the interviews with different types of people.