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“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” —Jane Austen
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #97
As the twenty-first century begins to unfold, and gradually we climb out of the Great Recession, the hope would be that we apply the lessons learned and refrain from making the same mistakes. For example, one of the many trends seen following the 2008 economic dive is that people began to seek simpler ways of living, often choosing smaller homes, living more efficiently with regards to energy, partly out of need, but also out of an awareness of what was truly necessary to live well.
In fact, in 2013 of the most popular posts on decor and living here on TSLL was Why Not . . . Live in a Smaller Home?. At the time I wrote that particular post I was living only in half of the space my house at the time offered (2600sqf), and I was determined when I moved to Bend to downsize for many different reasons, all of which are mentioned in the post.
I was surprised to learn after reading this post that while yes, people are living in more energy-efficient homes, they are now living in larger homes which negates the energy they were initially saving. Homes continue to grow larger as the economy improves, but I must admit I taking a different route and loving it.
After traveling and staying in London and Paris, I was mesmerized by how well 2-4 people can live in small apartments, less than 1000 sqf. As well, how few appliances and furniture are needed to live well and be truly comfortable. From the small refrigerators, lack of a microwave, galley kitchens, high ceilings to enlarge the rooms, large windows welcoming in ample natural light and air, the gift of living well doesn’t come from square footage but rather how one lives in the space they inhabit.
While I encourage you to read the post from the archives about the many benefits of living in a smaller home, I will only touch on what was mentioned and in today’s post take it one step further. Having moved into a house that is half the size of my former abode where I lived for nine years (see here the former), each of the points were proven to be accurate. With less time spent on cleaning, I have more time to enjoy doing what tickles my curiosities. With less space to decorate, I have more money in the bank to save. With a smaller yard to maintain, but still a yard, I have the benefits of playing in the dirt without the excess time and energy spent on upkeep. With less square footage to heat or cool, my energy bills are lower, and my social calendar is full and more of a pleasure because I am able to live in the town I have dreamed about and now have time to enjoy the offerings and invitations.
But it isn’t just about living in a smaller space, it is about how you live in the space you call home. No matter where you call home at any given time, even on an extended vacation, the key is to pay attention to the details.
1. Keep it clean
As I mentioned above, it takes fewer than 30 minutes to clean my house each week, but the time is reduced because of the daily upkeep. A piece of advice I read recently for habits of productive people was to complete any task now that will take fewer than two minutes. Direct, simple, but true. Whether it’s wiping the kitchen counters, putting away the dishes, straightening or recycling the newspapers that are spread on the table, or making the bed in the morning, the simple attention to small tasks throughout the day make the weekly and seasonal tasks of cleaning much easier and allow our sanctuaries to be places of refuge and comfort every day of the week.
The power of fresh flowers, as I have talked about endlessly here on the blog, complete my house’s decor. With a bundle of daffodils currently $1.49 at Trader Joe’s, I will pick up two punches for less than five dollars and have a bright, spring bouquet on my dining room table for two weeks (refill with fresh water every 3-5 days and they will last longer than realize). The absence of touches of nature leave a place cold and less welcoming, which is testament to the power of an inexpensive bouquet.
B. Place settings
What we eat determines our energy levels and overall health. And where we eat either encourages us to sit down and enjoy or to rush. Why not select beautiful placemats, proper plates, silverware and stemware and set up the table for the everyday? I recently picked up the placemats seen in the above image for less than $17 and am loving the clean, French-aesthetic they bring to my white table and chairs.
C. Moments to read, sip & relax
Creating vignettes organized around the idea of offering a reading or contemplation destination remind us to indulge in these pleasurable pursuits more often. Select furniture that is comfortable, reupholster if necessary to fit your decor, pick up simple, statement drink table pedestals like this one that don’t take up much space but offer a place to put your hot drink while you read the newspaper or your new favorite book, and you begin to create a home that allows you to enjoy the space well.
D. Keep the counters and tables clear
No matter how big or small of a home you live in, if the counters and tabletops are cluttered, the room becomes smaller, almost claustrophobic. One significant change I made in my kitchen after returning from Europe four years ago was to get rid of my microwave. In my old home at the time, I didn’t have a built-in, so the one I had was taking up counter-space. And since I didn’t use one for two weeks in the apartments I vacationed in because they didn’t have one and we went to markets each day, there was no need. I made a prompt executive decision to get rid of my microwave, use my oven to heat up left-overs and I haven’t looked back since.
The question to ask yourself with items you are leaving permanently on the counters is does it have a purpose or a need to be visible each day? If it doesn’t, find a home in a cupboard or get rid of it entirely. Your mind and being will thank you as more stuff equates psychologically to more stress.
E. Add a scent
Whether it’s the ever-changing scent that comes from the kitchen while you cook or the candles you light each evening to unwind and set the mood, add scents to create the aromatics of a home that is lived in and loved.
3. Let the daylight in
I’ve never understood how people can cover windows when they have them. Granted, for privacy purposes and at night, it is best to draw the curtains, but the benefits of daylight are immense. When you have access to daylight, let it in and let it in often. If you live close to your neighbors, be creative with sheers and blinds, but do what you can to let in as much light as possible. This will make the space appear larger, and the connection to nature will be good for your spirit.
I can remember the three large French-style windows in the Maida Vale flat in London lining the wall that overlooked the common garden. The window treatments were layers of light-hued sheers that would blow in the breeze and were outlined with heavy, velvet drapes for warm and depth. When the windows were opened each afternoon to cool down the apartment, the soft chatter from the neighbors who were enjoying the gardens below would be subtly heard, the soft breeze would clean out the stale air. The apartment felt large, the space was beckoning and the views were amazing.
4. Add complementary layers
From textured and complementary hued pillows and blankets as well as rugs that designate which rooms begins and ends where, be patient with yourself as you select these necessary details that turn a house into a home. However, rest-assured, your patience will pay off with a curated home that is welcoming and restorative.
5. Add mirrors
Large and small. From floor mirrors to large round mirrors at the end of halls to give the illusion of more space, having the reflection that mirrors provide reduces the choices (a mirror is a mirror) and adds the idea of a larger home.
6. Organize and decorate with trays
From trays on side tables to trays on the central coffee table, trays allow you to add a signature touch without cluttering the room. And while at first it may be intimidating to style your own tray, don’t worry, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Read this post from last year about exactly that: How to Style a Tray.
7. Keep the colors simple
Monochromatic goes a long way to creating a sophisticated, chic look. Now the details can be colorful, but keep the fundamentals within the same color family.
8. Light fixtures
One of the simplest ways to change the look of a room is to change how the light works in the space and change the decor that offers the light. Whether it’s a ceiling light, why not make it a pendant? Or a table lamp, just change the shade and paint the base. I love to shop here for a variety of different light fixtures as they had personality and align with my decor tastes.
9. Determine the energy you exude in the space
No matter how beautifully a home is decorated, if the energy of the space is negative and narrow-minded, nobody will feel at home. Even if you’re living by yourself, the energy you bring into the space affects how you feel in the space. Design with love and appreciation for the space you have. Cultivate a space that lifts you up and allows you to leave your home each day feeling confident, supported and strong. A space is powerful, but we ultimately are the ones who give it the power.
Do you sing in the morning when you’re starting the day? Do you play music that is up-lifting, watch shows that are insightful? What do you read? Do you read? Allow your home to be the space where you are filled up with what you want more of in the world and thus yourself. If you live with others, cultivate an environment where others feel they can be themselves and mindful of others’ different way of doing things. As well, create an understanding of being mindful of the shared spaces: picking up after yourself, putting your dishes away, etc. And if you do live by yourself, be selective about the energy you allow into your living space. Why? Homes are spaces that collect memories, so make sure the memories you inspire to occur in your home are memories you want dancing around in your head as you reflect on the space you live.
10. The food made and enjoyed
Our home is a place of comfort and that includes the food we find and prepare there. While from time to time, I too will order in take-out, primarily, my meals are made at home, by me, with curiosity about a recipe or made from memory as it is a tried and true concoction that will leave me satiated and re-energized. Part of making a space with four walls a home is the food that is prepared and served within them. Even if your skills are limited, select food that is both healthy and delicious. Stock your cupboards with real food and the basics to help you prepare any meal on your capsule menu (more on TSLL Capsule Menu is coming soon). And always remember, a well-lived life begins with a healthy you, and a healthy you is largely dependent upon how and what we eat. So why not become the chef in your home?
11. Reading material
Line a shelf in your kitchen with your favorite cookbooks, build shelves for a library or a wall of books in your office or living room, bring in information, never stop learning and encourage those who visit or live in your home to want to pick up a book, a magazine, a newspaper and read. If you create a space that is welcoming to sit down and do so, it will not only be more likely to happen for others, but for yourself as well.
All of these simple touches make the space you call home all the more beckoning at the end of each day. No matter how big or small your space, respect it, and understand the power it can have of your everyday life. Harness this power to support you, inspire you and leave you a more fulfilled individual each day when you wake up and get the day started.
Most importantly, the quality of life we live is determined by how we spend our time, what we value and the relationships we build. A bigger home doesn’t necessarily ensure this, but a well-cared for space with attention paid to the details that enliven the everyday experience certainly do.
May we all find and cultivate our very own home sweet home. Have a wonderful week, and thank you for stopping by TSLL blog.
~Seasonal Flowers, currently in Oregon, tulips!
- Regular: a multitude of colors, some double and single, single varietals come in a larger array of colors, and the double options while limited in color variety add depth to any arrangement.
- Parrot tulips: unique regardless of color due to their frilled edges and are variegated to some degree
- French tulips: the longest stem and largest blooms. Most expensive due to their size.
FUN FACT: Did you know that tulips like to grow for a short period after they are cut? (as reported by the Examiner)
How to care for a cut bouquet, per my own experience and a dose or two of Martha Stewart’s advice:
- Choose a tall vase that will offer your tulips support. The heads are beautiful, but heavy as we know.
- Buy tulips that have fairly closed buds. Only blooming enough as to reveal their color as they will last longer. Tulips in which the bloom is full will likely only last a couple of days.
- Remember what you cannot arrange tulips with. Don’t mix with “any member of the Narcissus genus, including paper-whites, daffodils, and jonquils, which emit a substance into water that will shorten the lives of the tulips.”
- Clean vase, filled 1/3 with room temperature water (tulips like shallow water).
- Add flower food or make your own! Martha’s recipe: 1 teaspoon sugar + 2 drops liquid bleach in one gallon of fresh water.
- Cut the flower steps at a 45 degree angle, removing any white stem tissue and leaves which will be placed in the water.
- Refresh water and recut stems daily or every couple of days. Keep in a cool place. Martha’s tip for droopy tulip heads: place a pin through the stem just below the head and then pull it out immediately. Why? “The holes let air escape to expedite the water flow.”
- Don’t forget single bud vases for small side tables and desktops.
~image via TSLL instagram~
Images: TSLL Instagram