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Focus on Form and Function: A Q&#38; A With the Authors of 'Design Your Life'

Ellen: One way to know an object is badly designed is when cleaning and taking care of it outweigh the pleasure and value of using it. The chocolate fountain is an example of this. . . . Another example is the toilet paper dispenser in America. Most are spring-loaded, and they require two hands and multiple arm motions to remove the core and put new paper on them. Therefore, in households around the land, you see people not putting new paper on them. This can make people angry, but it's a design problem.

Can you explain how, as you put it, you can "control the actions of those around you by placing objects carefully"?

Ellen: Flat surfaces invite people to pile things: keys, paper, coffee cups, etc. We all want to keep these surfaces clean, but when you clean them off, it entices people put things on them. So when you want to deter that, put a beautiful object on it, like a vase or a bowl of sea shells. You should then have places where you allow people to put stuff, where you create a space and an opportunity so the clutter doesn't go everywhere else.

Among the rooms you analyze is the living room. Is there something fundamentally wrong with the living room? Do we really need it?

Julia: The living room keeps coming under attack as wasted space. Yet it keeps reappearing. . . . We seem to need a space that is largely uncluttered and somewhat formal as a breathing space. . . . Even as we want to use every inch of the house productively, these more formal spaces keep getting taken back to be what they are: beautiful, empty places where activity is not -- a visual moment of rest in the house.

What is the most recent gadget you bought?

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