“Chaos is Fear’s cousin. Chaos lives in every one of us. When I walk with fear & chaos, versus away, it forces me to use my talent of creativity as a conduit. I collect energy from anywhere I focus on, and I translate that energy into Art. Thus, allowing me to heal myself and anyone else who chooses to engage with whatever I conjured.” – Photographer Dorian “Scottie” Wilson, Los Angeles
Chaos. It’s a word used very aptly to describe the current state of the world, but what is it? What is chaotic energy? How does it impact us?
Art by David Umemoto
In folklore, it’s the time before. Before rules, norms, life as we know it, there was chaos. Traditionally it’s described as darkness or pure blackness. Presently, it feels more accurately described as a blinding brightness. Like being in the center of a photoshoot with millions of cameras going off at once, back to back, incessantly. Each with its own hellish flash. Somehow everyone is the star of their own shoot and part of an ensemble cast of 7.8 billion in tandem. But, after chaos should come clarity. That’s what the Greeks thought. If it truly is a time before, then we can rest assured that the bulbs will stop, our shoots will end, and we’ll see clearly. Right?
According to interior designer Jake Arnold, the chaos of 2020 is making us reassess what home is and what our paths are. “There’s one life, and you’ve got to run with it,” says Arnold. He’s seen changes with his clients and his team. Design is linked to mental health, and as people are finding themselves in more uncertain situations than before, they’re looking differently at their dwellings. “People are wanting calmer spaces… at-home offices, meditation rooms, and escapes.” Especially for those working from home, it’s important to set up boundaries that let them live at home without work, too. Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications for New York City Anti-Violence Project, an organization working to end the violence against LGBTQ people and HIV-affected communities, is familiar with that need for boundaries. In his Manhattan home, Cruz has set up a command center from which he’s taking on human rights infringements and keeping himself sane. Since the pandemic hit, the social butterfly took the time to create a sanctuary.
Art by David Umemoto
As Arnold says, “the whole narrative of New York living spaces has changed,” and Cruz is trying to change with it. He purchased all of the things he’d been holding off on buying but needed for a comfortable space. A desk, new sheets, and plants were the biggest change agents. Whether in a metropolis like Cruz, or the coastal south like yoga instructor David Richards, greenery and natural materials in a home make all the difference. Black bamboo and cedar have become integral parts of Richard’s life. The smell of cedar, sandalwood, and lavender brings the power of nature into him and create a sense of calm that only smell can. By bringing natural scents, materials, and textures into homes, people are making places that are not only beautiful, but livable – something Arnold says wasn’t always the case.
“[People] are using rooms that they’ve never used before.” As many remain grounded, the jet-set wants different things from their homes than they did prior to 2020. A beautiful but uncomfortable sofa may be perfect for someone who is home once or twice a month and admires his or her space in photographs from afar. It’s not great for anyone spending days on weeks on months at home, however. Comfort is king. In his own space, Arnold has taken a minimalistic approach to comfort. There are “a ton of throws, pillows, and textiles in a basket.” Accent lighting a la floor lights, lamps, and candles have taken the place of overhead lighting (something he’s never been fond of). “Lighting is the transformation for taking your space from day/work to night/relax.”
As we all try to walk with chaos as opposed to against it, we lean more into the fact that work from home may not be a phase. Many clients are looking at permanent WFH solutions, says Arnold, which means that multifunctional spaces and inviting vibrations are essential. While Richards has incorporated more crystals, like amethyst, into his home, Arnold has infused other natural elements into spaces across America. The “neutral” palette has changed. In lieu of beige, white, and grey, richer tones are in vogue. Deep greens, plums, and clay are the new neutral. Textures like sheepskin are critical in bringing more natural elements into spaces. The more you can do in a space, the better. Cruz works, rests, and fights systemic racism from his home, so it’s important he find some separation between activities. Arnold recommends screens, room dividers, and other movable boundaries to create space in between work and play. Backyards and roofs are becoming gyms. Playrooms are also becoming schools. Now’s the time to ask, as Arnold so appropriately put it, “what does my space do for me?”
While Instagram democratized taste a few years ago, Arnold is seeing a renewed celebration in individuality. Personal style is making a comeback. For his new LA apartment, photographer Scottie Wilson has incorporated his interests – hip-hop/pop culture, anime, video game - with his aura – blue, pink, green, and purple – to create a sanctuary. “The more time I can spend in my secret garden, the better.”
To say 2020 changes a lot is an understatement. It’s likely impacted every aspect of every human’s life in some way. The home has taken on a new role, one that’s surprisingly more critical than ever before. It’s a space that allows us to prevail outside of the chaos, one that brings safety, peace, and harmony. Whether we’re working, protesting, laughing, or loving from the confines of our area, it should be a space where our souls find the energy to soldier on. There’s a long road ahead of us. Might as well make our base a haven.