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“Elegance is not something that adds stress or difficulty to our lives — quite the contrary. True elegance . . . means confidence in who you are and what you love, grace in how you handle yourself, and openness to the best in others.” —interior designer Timothy Corrigan in his new book The New Elegance: Stylish, Comfortable Rooms for Today
In many ways, Timothy Corrigan’s defition of elegance is a cousin to simply luxurious living.
An understanding of what speaks to you, what you need to live your best life and how to dance with the world in which you are a citizen, partner, friend and community member, is a skill and a gift that we can all welcome into our lives. And when it comes to our decor, Corrigan describes in his new book succinctly and vividly how to welcome your own unique elegance into your sanctuary.
Today I would like to share with you Corrigan’s insights into cultivating an elegant home accompanied by a handful of decor images found in his new book. Having had the opportunity to peruse and read his new book which along with home tours also includes his expertise delineated clearly and specifically for Scale & Proportion, Symmetry, Architectural Details, Impactful Surfaces, The Layered Look, Art & Mirrors, The Power of Color, Mixing Elements and more tips and ideas for becoming your own interior designer, I hope you find a guiding compass of confidence to step into your own home and make the changes or updates that would align with your unique exemplification of elegance.
~Note: Upon reading Corrigan’s latest decor book, it was brought to my attention that his previous book was An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Lucé: Decorating a Great French Country House (2013), and I must say, as a Francophile who loves French country homes, I quickly put it on my wish list. That one looks to be a lovely read full of inspirational decor ideas as well.
Why Add Elegance to Your Home?
“Elegance adds immense pleasure to life. To seek elegance — in your behavior, in what you wear and surround yourself with —is a treat you give to yourself and, almost inadvertently, share with those around you.”
Depending upon how you most enjoy spending time in your home, you will invest in different ways. If you are someone who enjoys cooking and sharing your meals with others as a way to bring them together, then investing in a kitchen that is best suited to how you cook enabling you to do so effectively will not only bring pleasure to your life, but provide the opportunity to share with those you invite into your home.
In this way, elegance is a reflection of your true self to the world that you invite to cross the threshold of your home. It is not about one-upping or showing off, but rather cultivating a space that dances with you and the life you love living, a home that supports you through your journey and also enables you to soar. In other words, you are not burdened by your home when you choose to cultivate elegance, but rather nurtured.
Can Comfort and Elegance Exist Together?
“Comfort is not antithetical to elegance, but rather its support and backbone. No one can feel truly elegant (at least not for long) if he or she doesn’t feel at ease.”
When we talk about comfort, there is an underlying presence of security, thus enabling the inhabitants to fully relax and breathe deeply in their own space. Corrigan speaks to this need for security being at the underlying roots of all of his designs, “The notion of feeling cocooned, protected and pampered . . . is the one effect I consistently try to accomplish . . . an innate feeling of safety.”
Each one of us will define a sense of security slightly or significantly different depending upon how we most enjoy living our lives, but either way, knowing what that definition is for ourselves is a crucial key to decorating a home that is our place of refuge.
If books nurture you, then make sure you welcome them into your home in a way that pays them reverence. In other words, let them be seen, let them be scattered if that works best for you so that you have a book wherever you may sit down to relax, let them be orderly if simply seeing them brings you a deep sigh of relief, but either way, welcome books into your home. The same can be said for any pasttime, lifeline or hobby that brings you joy and comfort – musical instruments, photos from your travels, flowers from the garden, I think you get the idea. Go forth and bring your world into your home, and then the elegance begins to flourish.
How to Live with Beautiful Items in an Elegant Home
“The secret to avoiding polishing silver is not to put it away, but to use it everyday — then you won’t have to polish it . . . ” [in other words] “use what you have. Use it all. Use it now. Few things are sadder than piles of exquisite porcelain and china hidden away in a cupboard, or a large house in which many of the rooms go unused.”
From the porcelain teacups picked up along our travels to the china set handed down from your parents from your grandparents, use these beautiful, story-telling items regularly and often.
I will ease your mind right now and say, yes, you will break one at some time and be heartbroken, but it was being used and loved and appreciated and that how memories remain with us – the repetition of their story dancing about in our minds. And each time we use the item, the memory becomes more vivid and less likely to be forgotten if we wish it to be remembered. We cannot strengthen such a memory if we do not use the items.
Case in point, I purchased a teacup and saucer on my trip to Devon two years ago. I only have one, and if I break it, well, it’s gone. There is nothing that will replace it, but because I have used it so much (see it here), not only do I have pictures of it in use, but I have used it so frequently, I can describe in detail that mug and all of those wonderful memories come rushing back.
How to Use Each Room in an Elegant Home
“Each room has a specific purpose, guaranteeing it will be used. And if something you own doesn’t work for you, give it away. If a room doesn’t function for the way you live, change it to make it work for you.”
Similar to letting go of limiting beliefs and ways of life, so too can assuming a room must be the room the architect or previous owners planned it be and used it for.
Case in point, when I when through my-now-home the first time with my real estate agent, he noted that the small room close the rear entrance would make a great office, as it was wired to be so (internet cables, etc.). Immediately, in my mind, I said, nope. This will be a mudroom. Well, and here again, I would make it a mudroom that would serve my lifestyle and be in many ways, a rear foyer to the home as I will enter it each and everyday from the garage.
“Too often, we succumb to visions of how we want to live —in a sleek, white space, a country cottage, or a grand manse — then we feel bad when we can’t live to those fantasies . . . Never buy into a trend.”
As we go through our lives and if we are paying attention to when we are soaring and what helps it to feel this way, we come to realize what we need in our life’s routine to feel not only grounded and secure, but comforted and strengthened. Such knowledge guides us through the decorating and appointing of each room’s purpose as well.
Budget and Elegance
“Great design is not about the size of your space or the budget you spend. It is a reflection of knowing who you are and what makes you comfortable, and living confidently and happily with the objects you choose to assemble.”
My apologies for using my own journey for my examples, but quickly, many readers may remember that my previously own home was 2600 sq feet. Since then I moved into a rental four years ago that was under 1500 sq feet, and it was through living in nearly half of the space that I realized what fit me and my life the best. Now, I will also share that during my first year of teaching, I rented a cottage that was 500 sq feet in Minden, Nevada. That, while thoughtfully designed to make for a cozy and safe home, was too small for my life. But again, we learn as we go.
My new home is just under 1600 square feet, perfectly tailored to my life and the life my boys need with a small, but not large yard. There will be times in our lives when we have a choice and other times when we do not, just as we may be making less money than we would like to live the life that would be more comfortable. However, along the way, we can live with elegance.
I have found that my time living in rentals — NW Portland, Nevada, NW Bend and even in college — has given me time to experiment, but also explore new ideas (remember that red wall I talked about in my first book? yep, that was a rental, and while I loved it for one year, one year was long enough). Each time, wherever I call home, I have been determined and in a variety of expected and many unexpected ways successful in creating a sanctuary that let me relax and unwind no matter no how much or how little money I earned each month.
~POST TO READ: 7 Simple Ways to Create a Sanctuary
Invest in Quality for a Home of Elegance, But Mix and Match Price Points as Well
“You should always buy the best-quality items you can afford, but not everything in a room needs to be expensive. A mix of items of different prices, different eras, and differing qualities is far more appealing.”
From mixing antiques with yard sale finds, custom furniture with shabby chic family hand-me-downs that you will never want to let go, knowing how to marry these two ideas is a skill that becomes easier with time.
Much like wearing a quality pair of shoes with a simple pair of jeans and a tee, finished with a tailored blazer, the balance needs to be struck to work well and exude the elegance you seek. Not everything needs to be new or antique, but it needs to speak to the function you require in your life as well as be perceived by you, the inhabitant of the home, as beautiful. Maybe it tells a story that you never want to forget – a framed photo for example or playbill from a play you saw with your grandmother when you were young – or maybe it was an item you saved up for over months, even years, and serves as a reminder of your journey. Whatever you choose to welcome into your space, never forget that quality will last and memories can provide a comfort of confidence when you look about your home.
The Gift of Cultivating a Home of True Elegance
“I can assure you that spending each day in beautiful rooms, rooms full of personal items and objects you love, will bring meaning and solace to your life, satisfaction, and even joy.”
Wanting to spend time in your home is the goal. Weekends need not be for escape from our home and everyday life when we create a space that we love spending time in whether we are with others or alone.
The decoration of our homes will take time, but with a map of what to look for, a reason for why you want to bring items into your sanctuary and what you want (and need) your sanctuary to do each time you return home, will make the puzzle you are working on bringing together much easier to complete.
~Learn more about Timothy Corrigan’s book The New Elegance: Stylish, Comfortable Rooms for Today
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Derry Girls, Season 1 & Season 2, on Netflix