367: How to Create Décor that Welcomes & Comforts: How to Embrace the Ethos of Slow Decorating
Wednesday October 18, 2023

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“The fastest way to a good life, is to slow down.” —World Institute of Slowness in Norway

Walking into a beautifully decorated home, an abode that welcomes you, gives you a hug and invites you to stay without saying a word takes time to curate. And even those homes that someone else has curated and we feel this way when we walk across the threshold into their home, it is their home, and not our own, filled with choices, items and details that they will appreciate more deeply than we ever could, even if we can understand why they appreciate it.

All of which is to say, curating a home for ourselves that gives us a hug each time we return home will take time, and so it is in our practice of patience and trust that the house will reveal what we need in time so long as we live consciously and feel our way honesty through living well in our homes, that we gradually begin to see and then feel how wonderfully loving and comforting a slowly decorated home can be to elevate our days and thus our lives.

Now, if you when you see the term ‘slow decorating’ you think to yourself, but I want to feel comfortable in my home now. I cannot live without basic comforts. I hear you and I completely concur. Which is why it is important to keep this approach of slow decorating in mind even more. Suzanne Imre from Neptune shares, “Slow decorating is about planning, considering, refining. It’s about having a strategy. A direction of travel, which helps clarify those decorating decisions (light or dark? Nickel or brass? Wood or tiles?). And it’s about enjoying the process as much as the results.”

And so it is with today’s episode/post, I would like to give you 10 tips to provide exactly that, your strategy moving forward.

Choosing to go the route of slow decorating is also a planet-friendly approach. Imre goes on to say, “This slower method also supports the desire for sustainability and preservation. If you have an unhurried approach to furnishing your home, you’ll likely buy less but better. And those pieces will have longevity.” This concept of quality over quantity has been the founding principle of living simply luxuriously and what inspired the TSLL blog coming to be, and it is just this concept that will serve us well, but also the planet should we choose to trust that with time, many benefits for many entities, ourselves, talented artisans, and the environment will be enjoyed. 

While I have known this concept to be worth putting into practice and have put it into practice with the three year journey of customization of Le Papillon as shared in this episode, I saw with my own eyes how choosing such an approach over years can create an amazingly special place when I had the opportunity to stay for a week at British interior designer Rita Konig’s North Farm in Durham, England.

~Note to readers: Be sure to tune in to the audio version as MANY more examples and specifics are shared with each point listed below.

1.Mine your life experience of where and why you felt at home in your past

For me, when I was decorating my kitchen, I reflect back to kitchens that have inspired me, such as Patricia Wells, Susan Herrmann Loomis and now Rita Konig. What little details made it more pleasurable to cook?

Just recently, at Rita Konig’s kitchen in North Farm (Durham, England), I took note of the large ceramic salt canister that was both beautiful and highly functional as I am always using salt in my cooking and my current container is always needing refilled. Having played with this idea before as I have seen large ceramic canisters in other houses that caught my eye, I made a mental note, and when I went antiquing I kept my eye out for a canister that was just the right size and beautiful as well. To my delight, I found a Delft pedestal canister for £10 (discover all of the treasures I brought home during my recent travels in the third and concluding Travel Diary post shared yesterday). And now, I have a functional as well as beautiful piece in my kitchen that also holds wonderful memories of my travel.

Saltholderdelft


2. Wait until you find what speaks to you, and it will speak to you

“The best schemes evolve over time spent in your home, living in your home, gradually working out how you best use individual spaces, then curating rooms that evolve with time, experiences, and travel.” — London-based interior designer Charlotte Boundy

Framed artwork found at places of great enjoyment while traveling or visiting

Part of slowly decorating is having patience to wait until you find the art, the piece, etc. that speaks to you, that when you hang it on the wall, place it in the spot that needs that one special piece, it just works and makes you smile when your eyes see it each time. Don’t rush and just purchase anything to fill space. Part of living with a blank spot that you do wish to fill is knowing what would work best there, and sometimes that takes time to know for certain, and then once we know, finding it. Similar to getting to know ourselves and investing in relationships and our life journey’s direction and path.

Case in point, I have a blank wall just after my foyer and leading into my living room, and when I photograph in that direction, the wall just looks bland, unfinished in an unattractive way. I have always known I wanted to hang a painting or framed photo there, but I have not been able to solidify what would work best. Fast forward to my antiquing excursion in Barnard Castle, and as I was poking around one of the shops, a beautifully framed painting of a shepherd, their small flock of sheep and dog set in the Lake District immediately grabbed my attention. Prior to my trip recently, I would not have appreciated that painting as much as I did on that day, and while on this trip, I had no intention of trying to bring home framed art, but I didn’t hesitate to purchase that piece and it fits this space perfectly, is different from other framed pieces of art I have in that same area, and so thus stands out a bit on its own. And yep, each time I spy that painting or walk by it, I smile.

~read the 2nd post in my Travel Diary series of my recent trip to England which details where I went in Barnard Castle for antiquing (explore becoming a TOP Tier Member to gain access to this exclusive content).


3. Thoughtfully place books in every room

“A room without books is a like a body without a soul.”—Cicero

I have gone on and on about this recently, so I will spare you, but in summary, in nearly every room of Rita Konig’s North Farm, there were books, and they were thoughtfully chosen for each room. It wasn’t one theme or genre in a particular room, but based on the room’s function, certain titles were definitely chosen.

We don’t want to clutter our homes with books, but thoughtfully choose a handful, neatly stack them on a side table or console table, maybe find bookends that make you smile if you come across such items and remember that books not only provide interest to the onlooker, but offer something to do, to learn, to explore and encourage us to slow down and just be.

Approaching books in this way, after having perusing through nearly all of the books kin North Farm, reminded me that I don’t have to read every book upon its arrival, as it will give me something to do months and years down the road. So long as I welcome books and topics of interest that speak to me, I will always have my own personal library to pick from based on my mood and what I need to learn (or relearn).

As well, the books need not be all new. In fact, it is the vintage or consigned books with covers or bindings that are not easily found or no longer in publication that provoke interest and also provide depth to a home’s decor. Why? Well, not everything is from the same era, so to speak. You are remembering what was and valuing it and not always needing something new.

Entryredposterroundtable

4. Lampshades of all sorts

Of course, if we live in a more modern home, there will likely be ceiling lighting, but let me say again as I often do, we don’t need to use the overhead lighting, especially if it is not the kitchen or a workspace. In fact, I encourage you not to. This will motivate you to figure out what type of lamps – table or floor, etc. – would work best and where and it will also leave you on the hunt for lamp bases and shades that provide the proportion and function that adds beauty as well. 

Speaking specifically about the lampshades, purchase a few high quality fabric, pleated shades. I am currently in the process of doing that right now with a designer I have been wanting to work with for a couple of years, and after stopping into his shop in London finally found the style and fabric I know will work best for a lamp that has been in need of a shade for over a year. 

But not all need to be fabric or extremely expensive. Have fun and keep your eyes open at consignment shops. Shades can be playful, neutral or abstract. The key is knowing what works well in the space it will be placed. Pooky Lighting is a great place to start.

Librarylampshadeholes

5. Find vintage chairs and have them refurbished and reupholstered

Regardless of your preferred décor aesthetic, quality seating is worth investing in. You want chairs that are comfortable and make it incredibly hard to leave in the best sort of way (not because you can’t get out of them). And while you will likely have to pay a bit, or a lot, more money for a well-made chair, if you find a vintage chair, it will be less than a brand new version of the same style and you will be able to customize it with the fabric you love. As well, your chairs will provide interest for the eye as there won’t be a matchy matchy look, but clearly an intentional choice made with each chair you have added because it provides the type of comfort needed for that particular space. 

Slipperchairlibrarylewiswoodfabric

6. Include, display and use beloved collections or pieces from family and friends

We usually we know when or what will be inherited or given to us by family or friends that either have sadly passed away or what is far easier, simply don’t want what they are giving away. It is important to permit yourself to not accept something that you don’t want or like even if you love the person dearly. Be honest, because usually there is someone who would love it and they will be grateful you passed up the offer so they could welcome it into their home. 

The collections or pieces could be china, artwork, books and furniture, the possibilities are endless, but make sure it speaks to you, and provides a function. 

Ninacampbellteacupskitchen

7. Invest in China collections that are an investment but will be used and loved

Beautiful dishes, plates, glassware, mugs, tea cups and saucers, save up and purchase what you love and is well made. For example, I LOVE Gien and had to smile when I saw that Rita had a set of six Gien Filet breakfast cups and saucers. These are incredibly hard to find, but worth the search as they are well-made sturdy and beautiful in their French simplicity. And while a decent investment, one I would gladly make as they would be with me, and used, forever. 

Giensbreakfastmughangingscullery

8. Add vases, small and large and fill with petite floral bouquets, single buds or full, abundant statement arrangements

One of the many details I noted while watching the recent French foodie film The Taste of Things was the small, very small vases filled with petite chamomile blooms from the herb garden to adorn the dining table for elaborate multi-course meals. This was a reminder that vases of all sizes are needed and can be used to complete a table for a meal or a side table, and the flowers need not be expensive or even purchased, but simply picked from your herb garden. 


9. It’s okay if an imperfection occurs to special pieces while living in your home

One of the teapots I used frequently while at North Farm had a broken teapot top knob. It didn’t matter. It functioned as it needed to and it was a uniquely beautiful teapot. No doubt there is a story behind its being broken, and that lends itself all the more to the lives lived in the house. 

Of course, if you can fix it, or glue it back together, give that a go most definitely, that too will deepen the story and likely the smile when you spy it or use the item. 

It is hard to see in this photo, but the top of this teapot is broken; however, it does not hamper using it as you would for a cuppa to start the day.


10. Find joy in the journey of finding what works and what you love

“Decorating should be approached rather like gardening. It’s a life-long quest and never quite finished.” —John Sims-Hilditch, Neptune’s co-founder

Slow decorating, similar to the enjoyment of gardening, is a classroom in and of itself for life and how to live well in the everydays. 

If all we want is a ‘finished’ home, we will miss out on so many wonderful moments, connections and experiences that will elevate our everydays as we journey toward the vision we have in our heads of our finished home. 

Case in point, I will forever remember the gentleman at the antique shop who I visited no less than five different times in three days as I plotted how I would be able to bring home the gros pointe embroidered stool. He and I have remained in contact, and definitely shared a good laugh or two over the sale and packaging of this item. 

The first day I spotted the stool.

If we are only focused on acquiring, we miss the human connection, we miss the opportunities to deepen our appreciation of what is really needed to live a deeply fulfilling life. 

So many of the pieces of furniture and décor in my home have a story behind them, a person I think of fondly, and this could not have happened without time, a journey of slowly decorating a home that has become a sanctuary more loving and welcoming than I had imagined and even hoped for. 


Approaching our home’s décor slowly, not rushing, but savoring the journey of discovering what brings us true comfort, what delights us, what brings us restoration, can actually save our budget over time, but also save us down the road from buying to replace something that didn’t work out as we had hoped. While some may point out that our homes are full of things and things can be replaced, and we may eventually have to or want to move, I have to push back and say, until you know the comfort that can be felt from a thoughtfully decorated home, a home that encourages you to be truly who you are, supports your dreams and passions, you have not experienced such a priceless gift, and while, yes, the items – furniture, décor, etc. cost money, because we have taken our time and selectively chosen and found said items, we welcome not only an ‘item’ but a story and a piece of ourselves we want to retain whether it reflects part of our past to treasure or a hope for the future. And within that past and future, we select pieces that encourage us to live well in the present moment. It is difficult to describe what such a home that we thoughtfully decorate over time looks like exactly because it will be unique to each of us, but when we cultivate this for ourselves, we give ourselves more life and energy to savor well each day of our lives than we would if we were just existing, just surviving. Our homes, no matter how grand or petite, have a power, should we wish to unearth it, to nourish us so that our confidence in our dreams is stronger, our mind more open and full of possibility and our curiosity awakened. 

And here is the thing, you will never entirely finish decorating your sanctuary, because so long as we grow, living and savoring life as we journey, so too will our homes evolve in how they can best comfort and nourish each of us. 

I guess a better way of describing slow decorating is to call it mindfully decorating. It cannot be rushed, but we must consciously be aware in our everydays so that not only do we know how to live well, but then to find and discover the items that will play the role we have a need for in our sanctuary. 

Wishing you a wonderfully treasure-filled journey of discovery for not only your home’s décor but how you live most contentedly.

SIMILAR EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Petit Plaisir

~Funny Woman, tv series

Episode 331


~Explore all episodes of The Simple Sophisticate here in the Archives

Stoolhome

8 thoughts on “367: How to Create Décor that Welcomes & Comforts: How to Embrace the Ethos of Slow Decorating

  1. Hi,
    If you haven’t returned from London yet, try and have lunch at the River Cafe. I am a very long time friend of Ruthie Rogers.
    She was the owner and founder of the Cafe. Ruthie has a podcast, ‘Table 4’ which would
    be terrific if you introduced yourself to Ruthie and she did an interview of you. Go to the River Cafe website and listen to her
    fascinating interviews: Martha Stewart, Michael Caine (who eats there often), David Beckman, and many, many others. I love
    your taste, and especially the recipes! The Salmon and sorrel was wonderful.

    1. Taryn,

      Thank you for sharing ALL of this and I have noted the correction on last week’s This & That (interesting to note, that was what was quoted from the book’s description and not my finding – I wonder if there was a reason they claimed this). I appreciate your introduction to her podcast and the suggestion! I will definitely explore what you have shared. 🙂 And will definitely be listening to her podcast. What amazing guests!

  2. Shannon~

    Thank you for this episode. I know I have mentioned our housefire a lot, but I was reminded of how we had to quickly replace things, and I am now left second quessing….and subsequently replacing…many items. This proves your point about taking your time to purchase items that speak to you. Sadly, that journey was not joyful. Instead it was very overwhelming. However, now I can take much joy, and time, in creating a cosy environment for all who enter one item at a time.

    Enjoy your new treasures!

    ~Michelle

  3. While reading the post,(will relax with a cuppa later to enjoy listening:) ), I realized the ‘slow decorating’ approach is a perfect metaphor to use on how to approach one’s self, something you have shown us for many years now. Knowing yourself, using your space(you, your brain, body, and spirit), to its best advantage, lovingly choosing the elements to enhance the space, having patience and faith, really rooting into the process and outcome, and , most importantly I think, being committed, all elements we can apply to just about anything in our lives–gardening, wardrobe, cooking, reading, relationships. Thank you, Shannon, love it when the lightbulbs spring to life.😊xx

  4. Hi Shannon. I know that you may be jet lagged, but it’s so important to get names right. The actress in Funny Woman is Gemma Arterton and you mangled her name numerous times. I enjoy your podcast, but details are important. Please double check your information and do better next time. Thank you for your work

  5. Thank you for providing such a lovely experience to listen to and look at. I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast episode and the photos. It filled my heart and has inspired me to reach a little higher and wait a little longer for the beauty in life. I’m so thankful for people like you who take the time and make the sacrifices to put such lovely things out into the world.

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