Graphic of household items falling into a blender
Julia Lupton's humorous new book, co-authored by her twin sister, explores the practical side of household and work-space design and how it affects people's lives. Illustration by Ellen Lupton

Julia Lupton believes design can bring order to chaotic lives, but it has nothing to do with stylish furniture or the latest techie gadgets.

Rather, she views design as critical thinking – a way of looking at the work and home environments and reevaluating what works, what doesn’t and why.

Lupton, UC Irvine Chancellor’s Fellow and English professor, and her twin sister, graphic designer Ellen Lupton, recently published Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things.

The book takes a fresh, funny look at toilet paper, rolling luggage, stuffed animals and potted plants, as well as housekeeping, entertaining, parenthood and time management.

“Our lives belong to our families, routines and jobs,” says Lupton, a mother of four. “We wrote this book to help people feel a sense of control over their daily lives.”

In a chapter called “Objectile Dysfunction,” the authors question the utility of such household items as toasters and children’s sneakers with built-in wheels. And they offer parents somewhat counterintuitive advice on “How to Spend Less Time with Your Kids.”

“What we mean by that is you don’t have to shuttle your children to karate lessons and other activities that stress out your schedule and finances,” Lupton says. Instead, they suggest arts and crafts projects, play dates with neighbors, and even alone time.

According to Lupton, just rearranging furniture and getting rid of useless possessions can help people master their space. “It’s not about going to IKEA and buying a whole new set of furniture but finding satisfaction in what you already have,” she says.

Doing more with less is a concept likely to resonate in these tough economic times.

“We started writing this book before the recession hit, but it can definitely help a household struggling with financial hardship,” Lupton says. “There are so many ways to be creative and involved with life that don’t require writing a big check each week.”