how to fall in love with your home all over again
Given we are now into February, and it will soon be Valentine's Day, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about rekindling our love for our homes. After all, lets face it - even the most solid relationships need a little injection of passion from time to time!
We've been in our house now for almost 3 years and for the first time I feel the need to make some changes, refresh things a bit, and re-think how we are using our home. Those of you who have followed for a while will know that when we bought our house, it was a complete shell, and we spent the first year of home ownership completely renovating it from top to bottom, a process which took over a year and a huge amount of sweat, blood and tears (I wrote about the renovation here if you fancy a look!). Once we were finally finished, we were so glad to have a functioning home again that we sort of stopped paying proper attention to the configuration and content of much of it. And after various house moves over the preceding years, we had accumulated a whole load of stuff that we simply put into our new rooms, thankful not to have to buy a house worth of new furniture and lacking the energy (and money) to begin rethinking our old familiar pieces, and established style. Sure, we got rid of some of the particularly tatty stuff, and we inevitably had to buy a few new bits and bobs, but we didn't really consciously think about how we were furnishing our home, or the feel or look that we really wanted. We just did what we'd always done.
Over the last couple of years, with full-on jobs outside the home, busy weekends and all sorts of other demands on our time, R and I have also stopped really "seeing" our home properly - we've got used to things being in the same place for so long that we've stopped noticing what we've got or questioning why we had made certain interior decisions. We stopped analysing why we were holding onto certain pieces, why we had put furniture where we had, and, importantly, whether our home could work better for us if used in a different way. Our home, we realised, had ceased to be intentional and had become a bit accidental.
Our study is a perfect example of this. This room was intended to be a home study for R to use when working from home, and a quiet spot for reading away from the TV. We wanted to use it to house books and papers, but also as a creative and inspiring space. Over the last couple of years it has morphed instead into a cluttered repository for craft materials, unwanted furniture, paper, computer equipment, countless wires and chargers, booze and lots of other stuff we don't know what to do with. The arrival of my teacher sister who is currently living with us, and all of her books, marking and other stuff further added to the clutter with the result that we now all prefer to work at the kitchen table, unburdened by stuff, with better light and more space. Now that I am working from home full time, we realised we had to make some changes to this room to allow us to work in there simultaneously, and make it an inviting space again. We want to get rid of stuff and increase the storage. We also want to improve the lighting and make the decor a bit more coherent, all on a very limited budget! Keep watching this space to see our progress.
Life is busy and hectic, and naturally, when there are more important things to prioritise, our homes tend to get a bit neglected, and we stop consciously thinking about them and the purpose we want them to serve. We stop examining our design and style decisions, and after a while, this can lead to us feeling dissatisfied and even falling out of love with our homes. I know this feeling all too well, and for someone as obsessed with home as much as I am, it is a bit dispiriting. Even after all the work and love we put into renovating our, and even considering how much I love spending time here, I have had brief moments recently where I have longed to overhaul everything and even thought about moving to give us a clean slate. Of course, neither of these options are feasible, and truth be told, I wouldn't really want to start again right now even if I could. However, if I am to continue my love affair with this home of ours, I realised I was going to have to make some easy-on-the-wallet refreshments to keep the flame alive!
I put together a few tips and ideas for refreshing and re-invigorating your home that I will be putting into practice over the next few months, and I wanted to share them in case you find yourself needing a home-love-boost like me!
1. Make a list. Go from room to room methodically examining what you like and dislike about it, making a note of any niggles if you need to. Think about the position and style of the furniture, the lighting, the wall colour, the accessories and the general feel you get from the room.
2. Address the niggles. Once you have your list of niggles, next ask yourself what you could do to improve the way you feel about them. Some of the questions I ask myself when doing this are as follows:
- Do I already own something else that would look better there?
- Would a piece of furniture from another room improve the feel of this room?
- If I rearranged the lights would the room feel brighter and airier? Could re-configuring the furniture create new perspective and more space?
- If I said goodbye to certain things that you've actually stopped noticing, would that improve the space, and would I lose anything?
- Do I really need that thing that I don't like but we have been using as "X" for the last 18 months?
3. Shed some stuff. Spend a Sunday afternoon getting rid of unwanted and unused things. People have talked endlessly about this since the Marie Kondo phenomenon, and although I'm not sure I am fully on board with her philosophy, there is definitely a lot to be said about simplifying and making space in our homes. Personally, the thought of our chocka-block loft brings me out in a cold sweat if I think too much about it, and I find the act of removing unwanted things from our home liberating and empowering. Enough has probably been said about de-cluttering by other people for me to add anything useful, but it is a great way of making me feel clearer and happier about my home, plus the idea of my unwanted and unused items finding a more loving home brings me joy.
4. Be intentional about what you buy. Before buying anything new, think really carefully about whether you already have something that you like that could be re-purposed or refreshed. Could you dye your curtains, or reupholster your chairs? Would it be cheaper to buy fabric and make some simple cushion covers instead of buying them? If you do decide that you want/need something new, be very clear about where you want it to go, what use it will serve and what sort of effect you want it to have on the room before taking the plunge. Research different options, scour Pinterest for ideas, think about whether it will go with your other stuff, make a moodboard. Then sleep on it. If it's expensive but you know it will transform the room, save for it instead of buying something cheaper that you like less (I find this very difficult because I'm so impatient!) Feel sure before splashing the cash. You want to be sure you will like whatever you're buying in 2, 5, even 10 years time rather than staring at it in 6 months' time and wishing it wasn't in your life (or home). If in doubt go for classic, rather than on trend, in a natural rather than statement colour.
5. Paint things. A new coat of inexpensive white paint on the walls can totally transform a space (hello magnolia rental flats everywhere). Similarly, painting furniture can make you feel totally different about pieces you already own. And painting furniture is often a good way of introducing a dark or dramatic colour into a room without committing to painting walls. We recently painted a cheap 50s cabinet a dark Swedish blue and moved it into a previously forgotten corner the kitchen, and it has made me feel completely different about that space. We usually choose a Farrow & Ball colour and then get our local Brewers to mix it more cheaply for us.
6. Invest in a couple of houseplants. Buy them as babies (so much cheaper) and let them grow into your space. The houseplant trend is massive at the moment (and thus I am a bit wary of jumping on the bandwagon), but they do genuinely make a space feel better. Something about the pop of green and the freshness that they bring immediately enlivens even the darkest room, creating atmosphere and interest. Grouped together they look even lovelier. I've successfully bought them cheaply from Amazon and ebay, and I hear that New Covent Garden Flower Market is a good cheap source too. At this time of year pots of inexpensive hyacinth, narcissi and muscari bulbs also inject life and energy, especially important on dark winter days.
7. Storage is king. Piles of papers, newspapers, DVDs, toys, rows of cleaning products and shampoos, boxes of recycling and general household crap stops rooms from feeling relaxing and coherent. We all have masses of this stuff, but it is possible to store it so that it doesn't detract from the rest of a room and create a feeling of unwanted busyness and mess. Once you've got rid of any unwanted stuff, invest in eye-pleasing storage to give it a home. Crates, baskets, wicker hampers, vintage suitcases, chests, cupboard drawers and wire storage all look lovely and are basically the way that I hide the piles of crap that I don't want anyone to see! Out of sight out of mind and all that.....
Does anyone else feel like they need to inject a little love back into their relationship with their home at the moment? If so, please leave a comment and tell me about it! And if you have any other tips, please share them!