If there is one thing I took and ran with from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this is it: "Decorate your closet with your secret delights." Marie Kondo wrote one page on the matter in her book, advising to "transform your closet into your own private space, one that gives you a thrill of pleasure." Who wouldn't want to do this?
And after discarding and donating three quarters of my wardrobe, I was surprised to find that the clothes I loved and decided to keep tended to be brightly colored and patterned. This was a slight revelation to me, as I typically think of myself as a boring dresser (too many black and grey clothes). I took it as a sign, and accordingly, made some minor adjustments.
I have longed to figure out a way of incorporating wallpaper into my home, and was really pleased to find out that Hygge & West came out with a line of removable wallpaper tiles. I ordered one single tile with Lina Rennell's Raindrops pattern and tried to figure out how to make it work in my closet. I ruled out just placing it directly on the wall; my closet hardware would obscure the tile ruin the effect of the pattern. We had an extra IKEA frame sitting around, so I painted the backboard white and placed the wallpaper tile on top. My husband rigged a hook so the frame would sit evenly on the closet hardware. You can still see the hardware, but it's much better than the white cavern it was before.
I love this pattern. It suggests movement, has some gradations in the color, and is relaxing to look at. The white frame and painted backboard highlights the wallpaper tile and allows the pattern to have a more formal presence. Wallpaper = art! And art in the closet? An amazing mood lifter. I start and end my days at my closet, and it's a great place to reset.
Now I spend a lot of weekend mornings hanging out in my closet. Our bedroom is the sunniest and warmest room in the house, which has been a refuge on these wintry and freezing days we have had lately. I am usually perched on the underused bar stool I swiped from the kitchen, listening to podcasts and records while catching up on my favorite blogs. I keep a few books out on my dresser/desktop as a reminder to finish reading them.
Oh yes, and the new Sleater Kinney album is pretty much the best. Beautiful album art and some of the strongest voices in rock and roll today, if not the last two decades.
I believe that you can improve your life through thoughtful design. What I like most about interior design and decorating is that it allows me to create a space that is both relaxing and conducive to a healthier life. When I come home after a stressful day at work, my home helps me mentally reset.
I often struggle with the cognitive dissonance that flows from desiring both a well-composed home and a less materialistic way of living. I have made some efforts to pare down what we have, while at the same time consciously acquiring new objects. But, the way my immediate surrounds look has always been a priority for me, so it is admittedly easy to fall into the trap of believing I need that one thing to feel more content in my home.
The inherent beauty and functional design of an object is important to me. Does that mean that I am materialistic? I don't desire objects merely for the sake of possessing it; the utilitarian function of the object is as important as its aesthetic qualities. In some instances, the aesthetic value of an object, such as art, is the most important quality.
It's just stuff - I know. For me, it is more important to spend time with the ones you love, work on projects that are meaningful to you, and take care of your mental and physical being. Our home sets the tone for all of our pursuits.
Minimalism is a concept that is hard to define. It could mean only having a bare minimum of objects necessary to live. It could also mean paring down the excess of objects you own and importing greater significance to the objects that you choose to keep. Minimalism could be driven by a desire to be free from materialistic aspirations, or a recognition that we should be mindful of the limited resources in our world. I think minimalism, in its varying forms, is a response to our storied relationship with objects.
My grandmother in large part raised me, and I remember how she held onto old jars, clothes, and bits of what was otherwise considered trash. She was born in South Korea prior to when the country was industrialized, and her tendency to keep everything was undoubtedly borne out of necessity. She was not a minimalist by any means, but she was a utilitarian to the core. She created new purposes for old things and never turned to the convenience of consumerism to fulfill our household needs. She cooked, she sewed, she gardened. In memory of her, I am still learning how to be a mindful person.
I write in this blog for many reasons, but mainly to capture the many, many thoughts and ideas that I have about interior design. Nothing here is intended to be prescriptive. Below are just a few things I try to do from time to time, and a somewhat public way of holding myself responsible.
Living With Less.
Using what we have. I already own a lot of things. Toiletries, clothes, furniture, kitchen tools, books, random dollar store purchases. I'm trying my best to use up what we already have and even let go of "needing" what I used to buy compulsively, such as makeup. If you knew me well
two years ago, you would be shocked that I have not purchased a single item from Sephora during 2014. Hashtag humblebrag here.
Reuse, repurpose, recycle. We have a large home for two people, which means that we lots of room to store old things that we hardly ever use. As we have been renovating our home, I "shop" my house for furnishings and decorations. Unused items find a new life elsewhere: the slightly chipped sake bottle set now holds our mouthwash, the metal mixing bowl and clothing line is transformed into a hanging planter, an old dresser into a vegetable planter. And although it is contrary to the notion of decluttering, I take a moment before immediately putting things into the trash or recycling bin to think of new ways to use what is otherwise refuse.
Give it away. If I can't figure out how to reuse something, and it's in good enough shape for somebody to use, I try to give it away to a friend, freecycle it, or take it to a donation drop off.
Nurturing skills. Learning new skills helps me appreciate what I already have. This year, I finally figured out how to use my sewing machine and made cloth napkins from unused fabric. Also, despite my black thumb, I successfully propagated a cutting from my pothos plant.
Making something out of nothing. It's not really a true statement, because you do need some raw materials and a little ingenuity to create something new. However, I am always thrilled to take a leftover scrap of food or material and turn it into something unexpectedly enjoyable.
More to come. Our bathroom is nearly complete (!)
We are on Week 3 of our upstairs bathroom renovation, and I am dreaming of our mattress. We are still sleeping in my office, while a wonderfully quiet and dark room, lacks an actual bed. After a few nights of sleeping on our leaky air mattress, we decided to pull out our old futon pad and pile just about every thick sleeping bag and blanket in our possession to make a comfier bed. But, I'm quickly finding out that I am the princess from The Princess and the Pea. I know. Waah.
The discovery of my need for a cushier sleeping situation coincides with the realization that we will have a brand new, small nook in our hallway upstairs. Chris pointed out that due to the expansion of the master bath footprint, we will have a newly defined space off of the bathroom, about 8" deep and a little more than 2 feet wide. I immediately thought that shoe storage or a tall medicine cabinet would be an ideal use of the space, but where is the fun in that?
I kept thinking about what we do upstairs. We sleep, bathe, get ready for the day, do laundry, and get ready for bed. At night, we have a little ritual, where we enforce our no-screens-after-10 policy and sip on tea (or something a little stronger) while we chat. We usually begin the process downstairs in our kitchen, and then come upstairs with cups of hot tea and maybe a little sweet snack.
So after exhaustively thinking through all of the possibilities for this new, tiny space, I started to really like the idea of having the equivalent of a hotel mini bar in my house.
I know I know I know. A bit excessive? Yes. Indulgent? Yes yes yes yes yes. But I look at it this way: Why wait until you are on vacation, far away from home, to actually enjoy a little slice of luxury and convenience? Why not work in a little breather when you can?
So this is what I'm thinking (sources forthcoming):
Ever since I read about Anna at Door Sixteen singing the praises of IKEA's RÅSKOG, I have been trying to come up with excuses for using it at home. This little guy, coming in at 7 1/2" deep and about two feet long, is perfect for storing glasses, mugs, tea bags, and other treats in our forthcoming nook. I want to hang the wall cabinet at about table height so it can double as a counter for preparing our favorite bedtime tea. There is also an electrical outlet nearby, so this little nook will also function nicely as a charging station.
I love this idea because it uses up very little space while recognizing the importance of our nighttime routine. Also, I'm pretty sure there will be a Toblerone bar involved, one way or another.
What’s your mindset when you are considering changes in your home?
I used to be overly concerned with our home’s resale value, and the likelihood of whether we would see much of a return on our renovations. Truth be told, our renovations have been a little unconventional. We spent a lot energy making sure the changes were attuned to our needs and preferences, which doesn’t always match up with those of other people.
When my husband and I designed the new kitchen, we used butcherblock countertop, and someone suggested that we update it later with granite. I’m sure granite would make our kitchen slightly more marketable, but right now, I’m really pleased with our choice. The wood, which was an immensely affordable option, brings a warmth to the kitchen that other materials can’t match.
Another consideration is permanence: are the changes something you can live with forever? I think in some respects, the lifetime expectancy of an architectural or design element is something that is a mandatory consideration: think hard to remove tiles, flooring, fixtures, roofing, plumbing, etc. But everything else? Tastes change. Furniture can be rearranged, given away, or repurposed. Hardly anything lasts forever.
But here is the reality: my husband and I are not going anywhere anytime soon. We have lived in our house for nearly a decade and have spent so much time and effort into making it a really enjoyable place to live. Why not enjoy it now? Why spend so much time worrying that we won’t get the most return on our investment, or that we made the wrong decision when we painted our dining room? (We did, and we changed it when the time was right.)
At the moment, I have a few basic goals with any change I make in my home. Will it help me be more functional? Is it easy to clean? Aesthetically pleasing? Priced reasonably per use? An efficient use of space and energy? Worth keeping or letting go? These considerations have nothing to do with the future, near or distant. They have everything to do with how I am living now.