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Learn how to declutter, organise, furnish & much more
home, mindful home
let there be light
happiness begins at home
soothe your senses
enhance your home’s chi
bring the outside in
create a hygge home
fill your home with books
minimalism in your home inspiration
creating your haven 82
declutter your home
relaxing living rooms
space to live
heart of the home
functional family bathrooms
an ideal bedroom
and relax… with a spa at home
innovative work spaces
46 bathrooms 47
a place for everything
upcycle old furniture
knit a cushion cover
warm home, happy home
crochet a blanket
10 ways to warm your home
create lavender bags
make your own
A hygge home is a welcome retreat from day-to-day life
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CREATE A HYGGE HOME
hygge home Embrace the buzzwords and delve into the Scandi trends you’ve heard so much about for a calm, cosy, mindful home WORDS Ellen Finch
what is lagom?
he Western world has a rich tradition of trends in the home. Even now, people in the UK still live with the remnants of Victorian home life, like keeping separate front rooms despite the growing popularity of open-plan living. We’ve also clung to other trends from that period: bold prints seen in floral wallpaper, and beautiful Victorian patterned floor tiles are back in people’s homes as we decorate with maximalism in mind, and the recent move towards dark interiors also draws parallels from the era. It’s not just 19th-century Britain we draw on in our home lives, though. More prominently, we’re looking to the likes of the United States and its love of open-plan living to create social spaces that allow us to better host at home. And while low-cost, massproduced homewares pose challenges to our planet just as fast fashion does, people are, thankfully, increasingly more mindful about investing in classic pieces of furniture, inspired by the resurgence of mid-century style. But beyond Britain, the US and even mainland Europe, there’s an area of the Western world that’s perhaps had more of an influence over our homes than any other: the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Sweden. When you hear the word © Getty Images ‘Scandi’, what do you think of? Streamlined wooden furniture, white walls, plenty of cushions and a good dose of houseplants come to mind. The pared-back aesthetics of the trend are instantly recognisable, and they’re synonymous with a more mindful home thanks to their cosy but minimalist appeal, too. Scandinavian trends go far beyond white walls and expensive furniture, though. Two key trends have made their way into the English lexicon: lagom and hygge.
How many times has a parent or grandparent told you, ‘everything in moderation’? Lagom is the Swedish term that translates to something like ‘not too little, not too much’, and it’s a lesson in balance – something it has in common with feng shui and which we already know is a healthy approach to life. You can apply lagom to everything from food (enjoying indulging in treats, but not too much) to fashion (creating a limited capsule wardrobe with long-lasting, high-quality pieces you love), but it’s also a good method for creating a mindful home. The lagom approach to interiors is that you should create a calm, restful space that still plays with trends here and there. Think painting a feature wall instead of filling a whole room with a bright colour, or choosing quality furniture that will stand the test of time, but which you can adorn with flowers, ornaments and trinkets you can swap around from time to time. Sweden has a prominent design heritage. After all, what’s the biggest furniture brand in the world? That’s right: Ikea! While some might think of the homeware giant as cheap and cheerful, its underlying ethos is one of sustainability – not wasting materials and providing good Swedish design for the masses. Sweden has long been a pioneer of the notion of quality over quantity, with sustainability at the forefront of its mind. The concept of lagom draws on this; in the home, it’s the idea of curating a collection of carefully chosen pieces that you’ve considered worthy of taking a place in your home, and which you should treasure forever. What could be more mindful than that? Applying lagom to the home is also about tackling clutter. Too much ‘stuff ’ and you’re not practising moderation – that means it’s time for a declutter! A big part of Swedish design is all about storage, which helps to create a streamlined house where everything has its place. Some of the most iconic furniture pieces in the world include the Billy bookcase and String shelves – so it’s no wonder the Swedes are so keen on decluttering. Plus, clearing away out-of-place items leaves more room to decorate with plants, books and your favourite antique finds – which all make for a more mindful, more personal home.
declutter your home
Stuff. In an age of conspicuous consumption, although we may always want it, we generally already have too much of it WORDS Rebecca Lewry-Gray
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DECLUTTER YOUR HOME
memory lane, not drain
lutter is simply having more stuff than we use, need or have space for. For someone who regularly wears and loves high heels, 15 pairs may not be clutter; for someone who never does, even one pair is. It isn’t the same as untidiness, although when a home is cluttered, it is virtually impossible to keep tidy. And often it accumulates over a period, so you may not notice just how bad it’s become until a transitional time such as moving house or redecorating.
Where clutter is a result of holding on to things for sentimental reasons, it can be incredibly difficult to give them up. A widow or widower who sees every item as symbolising a previous partner and their life together can easily end up with several rooms full of stuff they no longer need. If a downsize is called for, it can then feel quite traumatic to deal with. If you have lost someone special or are cherishing a whole crateload of artwork from numerous grandchildren, buy an attractive (but not ludicrously large) box for memories of that person or people, and prioritise the most important things to go into it. You should be able to fit several of these boxes, along with wedding and special photo albums, into an ottoman or storage chest that becomes your designated nostalgia zone. Just don’t fill it up and be tempted to buy another two!
Besides being difficult to live amongst physically, dealing with clutter on a daily basis can affect other areas of your life and be very draining on a personal level. If simple admin tasks mean long hunts for relevant documents, or you end up missing a gym class because you failed to locate both trainers, it might be time for a declutter. Cluttered surroundings can have an impact on how we feel about ourselves and result in a cluttered mindset. On the other hand, decluttering frees up valuable time, space and emotional energy. When your surroundings are lighter and brighter, your mind and spirits get an instant boost.
get the gear Have the following to hand when decluttering:
get to the route of the problem
Strong bin bags for obvious rubbish and recycling.
When the realisation you need to declutter hits, it is worth asking yourself a few questions. When did the clutter start building? What kind of clutter is it? How is it affecting you? What has stopped you from tackling it before? What difference will getting rid of it make? Truthful answers can help you to declutter more effectively, as well as help avoid it building up again. As an example, a freelance writer once realised she had managed to accumulate every publication she had ever had an article published in – for the best part of 20 years. For her, this represented her career and achievements, but it was also taking up most of a spare room. Her solution was to edit this down to what would fit on one row of a bookshelf. This one small decision immediately freed up considerable space in an area previously piled high with boxes. Similarly, people may hang on to wardrobes full of clothes that haven’t fitted for years ‘just in case’; or have a special eggboiling gadget and more than half a dozen egg cups littering up a cupboard when they live on their own and prefer scrambled. There’s usually a reason for knowingly hanging on to things we don’t need or use, and often that involves an attachment to another time, place or person. Working out what this is, be it an ideal weight, or memories of a big family breakfasting together, can help you to realise what you are really holding onto, and conversely help you let it go.
At least four different boxes marked ‘Charity’, ‘Friends’, ‘Sell’, and ‘Keep’. (When you’ve filled them, be sure to action these boxes promptly rather than leaving them sitting there for weeks. Anything you keep also needs to be put away properly). A shredder for personal paperwork that you no longer need. A file with different sections (car, home insurance and so on), so important documents can be filed immediately rather than shifted around. A suitcase, clothes protector bags and scented sachets for seasonal wardrobe decluttering.
back to basics
There’s no getting away from the fact that if your home has got into a very cluttered state over a number of years, it will likely take some weeks (even months), plenty of motivation and a definite plan of action to reverse the trend. Decide on an amount of time you can realistically spend on the job in hand – be that six hours at a weekend or even just half an hour a day – put it in your diary and stick to it. Create an atmosphere you find personally motivating, perhaps playing your favourite music, and gather together the things you need, such as bin bags, a paper shredder or boxes to organise items. Enlist a friend if you feel you’d benefit from objectivity or some physical help with moving heavy items, and offer to take them out to lunch as a thank you (or perhaps they would like some of the things you’re getting rid of – win, win!).
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CREATING YOUR HAVEN
a place for
everything …and everything in its place. We share the whys and hows of creating a perfectly organised home that’s packed with purpose WORDS Amelia Smith
e’ve all seen them. Those people who seem astonishingly organised. People who can instantly lay their hands on a pack of batteries, an elastic band or some leftover euros, because they know the exact location of every little thing in their home. Well, it’s those people, let us tell you, who are doing it right. Having an organised home – where everything has a place to live and is always living there – comes with benefits that extend far beyond being able to find things quickly. In order to achieve this almighty feat, we’re breaking it down for you, from storage solutions to sensible shopping. So follow our simple guide, and take control of your home, before your home takes control of you.
embarrassed about inviting your friends over as you’re ashamed of all the mess? Improved organisation could open up your home to being the next spur-of-the-moment party pad. Friendships are important for your wellbeing, so create a space you’re proud of, where your friendships can flourish. When trying to engage in mindfulness, clutter is the enemy. The piles of paperwork and mountains of shoes scream out to distract you and make you feel guilty for not having already tidied them. Clearing the clutter means clearing away distractions, so an organised home enables you to focus on yourself, your senses and the present moment, more easily. In short, an organised home can make for a happier, healthier, more sociable and more mindful household. It’s a no-brainer!
how an organised home can make your life better
ready to organise? rethink your space
Knowing where to begin when the piles of stuff have spread to every room can be tricky. Go right back to the beginning: find a floor plan of your home, or if you can’t find one (don’t worry, lost items will soon be a thing of the past) simply sketch one out – it doesn’t need to be to scale. Consider the purpose of every room and give it a clear name. Is the dining room also the playroom and the study? Is your guest bedroom empty and unused for most of the year? If one room is used in several different ways, you’ll typically have an awful lot to store in there. It may be worth breaking habits and utilising your rooms differently. In this example, using the guest bedroom as a study for the majority of the year means you can store your work materials in there, freeing up more space in the dining room. The more effective your storage is, the easier it is to maintain an uncluttered space. Look at your floor plan again and discover places where you could fit additional storage. “Built-in storage is a great way to make the most of every inch of your space,” says home design expert Laura Crombie. “It’s especially useful in awkward areas such as beneath a sloping roof in a converted loft, or even in the wasted space under your stairs. Bespoke designs aren’t always as expensive as you may think, and as every piece is made to measure, it’s a more sustainable option, too.” Also, consider getting creative with your storage by investing in innovative dual-purpose designs. Think storage headboards,
Having an organised home can improve your life in more ways than one. Brace yourself, because once you’ve read this, you’ll soon be grabbing a bin bag and emptying those shelves for good. Having an organised home can make you feel happier – yes, really. A study by psychologists Saxbe and Repetti found that women who describe their home as ‘cluttered’ and filled with ‘unfinished projects’ were more depressed, fatigued and stressed than those who describe their home as ‘restful’ and ‘restorative’. Clutter is a list of jobs slapping you in the face every time you enter the room. If you’ve ever felt that sinking feeling of coming home after a long day to a house where there’s just stuff everywhere, the link between clutter and unhappiness becomes evident. Banishing clutter can therefore make for a happier and calmer household; a simple solution with huge impact. An uncluttered space can make you physically healthier, too. A study by psychologists Vohs, Redden and Rahinel found that people working in a neat office were twice as likely to choose a healthy snack over a sugary treat than people working in a messy office. Sugary snacks act as a comfort in reaction to stressful surroundings. So tidy up your home, and sticking to your healthy eating plan could become a whole lot easier. As if you need any more reasons to declutter, an organised home can even make you more sociable. Have you ever felt
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Create a home for everything to help keep a tidy mind
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CREATING YOUR HAVEN
A simple guide to decorating and furnishing for a home where focus can flourish WORDS Amelia Smith
o matter the size, shape or location of your home, it’s the single part of the world where you have complete control of your surroundings. One of the biggest joys of moving in to a new place is the anticipation of decorating, and the prospect of starting from scratch to create a space that works perfectly for you. With excitement, many people dive straight onto Pinterest for décor inspiration. While this can be useful, your first step should really be with yourself. How do you want to feel in your space? What will you be doing there? A mindful home is one where you feel connected to nature, where your mind has space to breathe, and where you can focus on the present moment. We’ve gathered four simple ways to curate a nature-inspired, light and comforting space, where you can leave your worries at the front door and instantly feel calm.
Several studies have shown that the colour on our walls can affect our mood. Hospitals are usually painted blue to promote calmness; children’s classroom’s are bright and colourful to encourage energy and imagination; and TV guests wait in a ‘green room’ to prevent nerves. Before you even think about which paint colour to choose, ask yourself how you want to feel in your room. If you want your living room to be a space where you can put your feet up, chill out and tune in to yourself, choose nature-inspired colours such as greens, blues and neutrals. Greens promote relaxation and optimism, and blues make you feel centred, calm and hopeful. But it’s not all about the paint colour you choose, it’s about how to use it, too. There are many ways to use paint to encourage a mindful home, so here are our top three ideas. One principle of feng shui is that imitating nature in your home will lift your mood and optimise health. Sticking to a single colour for your walls, furniture and accessories creates a seamless space with few distractions, enabling you to focus more easily, just as you would in an empty field. Alternatively, painting a darker shade on the bottom of your walls and lighter shades up top and across your ceiling can help to visually heighten and expand your room, creating the feeling of space. Finally, think outside the box and paint your window frames a happy shade of yellow – this will encourage a warm light, and draw your eye towards the outside. Using paint to create the impression of a simpler, larger and brighter room gives your mind more space to breathe, in an attempt to mimic the restorative nature of being outdoors. But colour is personal, too. If your favourite colour is bright red or hot pink, don’t banish it from your home completely. Choose neutral walls and furniture, and embellish with colourful accessories, which you can display or stow away as your mood sees fit. After all, it’s important that your home surrounds you with things you love.
A spa is the place we go to with the specific aim of indulging in relaxation, so naturally this is the perfect place to begin looking for mindful decorating inspiration. What is it about spas that enable us to switch off, that entice us to tune in to ourselves and our senses more than any other space? Before you’ve even put on your robe, chances are you’ll have been surrounded by natural surfaces. From raw woods to stone tiles, and bamboo to pebbles, our favourite retreats ditch bright and colourful synthetic materials, opting instead for natural surfaces in neutral shades. And this is easy to re-create in your own home. For your walls and floors, stone tiles such as sandstone, limestone or marble instantly bring a sense of calm. We recommend choosing stone-effect porcelain in your bathroom, as it’s more water resistant, less expensive and can look surprisingly similar to the real deal. If you want your kitchen to be a space where you can get home from work and unwind, exposed wood cabinets and stone worktops are the way to go. Bamboo furniture is also a huge trend at the moment, going hand in hand with our desire for sustainable living. From shelving to decorative mirrors, it’s the perfect material for adding a relaxing vibe to your living area or bedroom. So choose natural surfaces as the base for your space, so you can tune in to that spa-like serenity every day.
let in light
New-build houses are often smaller than houses built in previous eras, with smaller windows too. This, combined with the fact that we’re spending more time than ever indoors, means that many of us are not getting enough natural light. The NHS states that
Choose natural materials and comforting textures
HAPPINESS BEGINS AT HOME
happiness begins at home Create space in your home for doing the things you love, and your happiness levels will soar WORDS Laura Crombie
if you want to… exercise more
re you always vowing to get fitter, but never seem to make it to the gym? Or do you really want to read more books, but then can’t quite find the time? With our busy lives, we’re all guilty of making excuses for not being able to find time for new activities and hobbies, but what if getting fitter or reading more could ultimately make you feel happier, calmer and more in control of your life? The great news is that almost everything you would love to do more of, from reading books and exercising to crafting and cooking, can be done in your home. And let’s be honest, we’re much more likely to commit to a potential hobby or pastime if we don’t have to go out, or even take off our pyjamas, to do it! All you need to do is follow these simple steps to create dedicated spaces in your home for the activities that you really want to do more of but never quite get around to. No more excuses!
You’re far more likely to stick to an exercise regime if it’s easy to do – and there’s nothing easier than working out at home. You don’t need to worry about the weather, or how you look in Lycra! Most televisions these days are smart TVs, which means you can access sites like YouTube on them. You’ll find hundreds of free guided workout videos on there, from 20-minute relaxing yoga sessions to hardcore HIIT routines. Stash an exercise mat behind the sofa and a couple of hand weights in your TV unit, and you’re ready to go. Most of us don’t have loads of space in our living rooms, so you’ll probably have to push the coffee table out of the way before you start (but that counts as extra exercise, right?). If the weather is good, then get out into your garden to benefit from the fresh air. You could do running intervals up and down your lawn, or even hop on the kids’ trampoline. Find something you enjoy, and you’ll be getting fitter – and happier – in no time.
if you want to… read more
if you want to… cook from scratch
The great news is that you really don’t need much space at all for a reading nook. In fact, all you truly need is a comfortable chair, a good lamp and somewhere to rest your cuppa, which you probably already have in your home. Take a look around and see what could be used. A spot by a window would be ideal, so you can make the most of natural light during the day. It may be that the most difficult part is finding somewhere free from distractions – it’s hard to concentrate on a book if the television is blaring and the temptation to scroll through Instagram is right there. “Create a tech-free reading zone where you can curl up and really lose yourself in your books,” says Amelia Smith, deputy style editor for Real Homes. “You could move a comfortable armchair into the space under the stairs or onto the landing, and then add a side table and floor lamp for optimum reading conditions. Look for any unused space in the house, then add a small bookcase or floating shelves and turn it into your own mini library.”
It’s all too easy to rely on ready meals or takeaways for dinner after a busy day at work, especially if your kitchen is more Kitchen Nightmares than Masterchef. But once you start cooking from scratch, you’ll find it costs less and you’re eating more fresh food – you could even discover you’re a budding Nigella or Jamie Oliver. “If you can’t afford a brand-new kitchen, then there are plenty of things you can do to make the one you have a more enjoyable place to cook,” explains home design expert Jason Orme. “You need a good cooker and hob, so look for ex-display models or buy second-hand on sites like eBay or Gumtree. Add a couple of wall shelves topped with refillable glass canisters to keep those essential ingredients close to hand, and reorganise your cupboards so that the pots, pans and utensils you need are within arm’s reach.” Find a dedicated space on your worktop for propping-up recipes books (or your phone or tablet), and invest in a smart speaker, like Amazon’s bargain Echo Dot, to play your favourite tunes while you cook.
CREATING YOUR HAVEN
if you want to… take up crafting
Whether you want to learn to knit, create your own greetings cards, or even just do some colouring in, crafting is proven to make you more mindful by forcing you to concentrate on the here and now. If you’ve got a spare corner, perhaps an alcove in a bedroom or some empty space on a landing, buy a slim desk and chair to create your own crafting corner. Invest in a desk tidy or organiser for stashing away your bits and bobs. A corkboard is great for pinning up inspiring pictures and instructions, but you could also use magnetic paint or chalkboard to create your own noticeboard on the wall behind your new desk. If you can’t find space anywhere inside the house, you might have a corner of the garage that can be cleared out to add a desk and some storage. If your hobby takes off, you could even invest in a garden room where you can escape and craft to your heart’s content.
A small but well-organised desk is all you need for crafting
if you want to… start meditating
The great thing about meditating is that you can do it almost anywhere. But when you’re first starting out, it takes a while to truly focus on your thoughts and ignore distractions. To give you the best chance of relaxing, choose a spot that’s free from technology and as quiet as possible. If the washing machine is on and the kids are playing on games consoles downstairs, then take yourself up to your bedroom, light a couple of scented candles and lie down on your bed. You might find it helpful to invest in blackout blinds to help you switch off during the daytime, but a comfy eye mask works just as well for a fraction of the price.
If the hobby you want to try isn’t in our list, you can still create your own happy space to dedicate to it. Write a list of everything you’ll need, then work out how much space you’ll need. The easier it is to get stuck in to your chosen pastime, the more likely you are to do it and the more enjoyment you’ll get. Prioritise space for the things you love and you’ll feel happier in no time.
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sense of satisfaction Upcycling can do more than just refresh your furniture – the process itself can also be very fulfilling
The activities that bring us the most joy are those that leave us feeling satisfied, whether that comes from finishing a new book, knitting our first scarf or managing that downward dog. But by juggling work, caring for family and looking after a home, we can lose track of what it is we enjoy doing. “I had lots of hobbies in my teens, but after I started work and bought my first home, I found I didn’t have the time or money to do much during the week,” says Amy Cook, an upcycling convert. “My sister offered me some old chairs and I realised they’d look great painted. I bought some sandpaper, a small tin of paint and a brush from Homebase and gave them a completely new look. It didn’t cost much to do but the sense of satisfaction I felt when I’d finished was huge. I sold the chairs for £20 each, which doesn’t sound much, but it felt great. Now, I keep my eye out for second-hand furniture and have even taken items out of skips to upcycle and sell on. I have a chest in my lounge where I keep dust sheets and all the other equipment I need, and I try to do some upcycling at least twice a week.”
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CREATING YOUR HAVEN
Follow these simple steps to create a home that will calm each of your senses, helping you to feel relaxed and contented WORDS Laura Crombie
f you’ve ever tried meditation or mindfulness, then you’ll probably have been asked to clear all of your thoughts by concentrating on each of your senses in turn. The idea is to focus on what you can feel, hear, taste, smell and see in that particular moment. By acknowledging what our five senses are experiencing, we’re said to let go of unwanted thoughts and bring ourselves back into the here and now. But achieving this kind of clarity in day-to-day life is easier said than done, especially when there are piles of washing to be done and meals to be cooked. Luckily, by making small changes to the way we interact with our homes, we can create spaces that will soothe each of our five senses. Making your home somewhere that pleases each of your senses allows you to reap some of the same benefits that you would by practising meditation or mindfulness, but with minimal hassle. Because, let’s be honest, how many of us really have time for meditating every day?
Calm, unfussy décor will undoubtedly soothe your sense of sight, but creating rooms that you can truly relax in is all about choosing colours you really love. Property expert Jason Orme explains: “There’s a reason that high-end, architect-designed homes are often very pared-back inside with lots of white surfaces, and that’s because the simple décor allows the structure of the building and its connection to the outdoors to shine through. If neutral spaces appeal to you and make you feel instantly calmer, then that’s what you should choose for your home. Similarly, if you love nothing more than the idea of hunkering down in dark rooms that are decorated skirting board to ceiling in inky colours, then that’s what’s right for you. Instagram and Pinterest are brilliant for browsing through hundreds of homes to see what appeals to you the most – and the great things is that you can nosey around them all without leaving your sofa!” Amelia Smith, deputy style editor for Real Homes magazine, says certain colours are proven to make us feel calmer, especially those that are inspired by nature, like blues, greens, creams and greys, while punchy shades, such as red and orange, will energise us. She adds: “Nature-inspired shades are a great choice for a mindful home, as they’re visually soothing and create a sense of calm. If you’re planning to redecorate, then use those shades on your walls for maximum impact, but if you’re after a more affordable update, choose accessories like artwork, cushions and throws to introduce splashes of those colours without breaking the bank.” Finally, while we’re on the theme of nature, never underestimate the power of plants. They have a real calming effect to look at and are even good for your health as they produce oxygen, which will help improve your home’s air quality.
eye of the beholder
Making your house look visually calm is the first step to creating a mindful home. Take time to walk around your home as it is now and notice how different rooms make you feel. Does that unfolded washing in the bedroom cause a spike in stress levels? Are you anxious about the pile of unopened letters in the hall? Do you feel angry about the colour the previous owners painted the living room? These are visual alarms that stop you from feeling at peace, so addressing them should be your first priority. If it’s the clutter in your home that makes you feel anxious, then make sure everything has a home, whether that’s a linen bag for laundry that needs ironing or a box for stashing away unopened letters. Think about what storage solutions you need to keep clutter in order. Have a five-minute tidy every evening before you sit down to relax and you’ll be amazed how much calmer you feel, especially if you’ve got kids and feel overrun with toys. The old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is true in this instance, and you’ll feel noticeably less stressed sitting down in a room that looks well organised.
do you hear what I hear?
Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, there are bound to be external sounds that affect your quality of life at home. Perhaps you can hear a busy road, a train line or aeroplanes flying overhead? Maybe you can set your alarm by the delivery lorries that stop outside? Or do you feel like you know the neighbours
SOOTHE YOUR SENSES
Take time to appreciate how your home stimulates your senses
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outside in There are so many style points and wellbeing benefits to filling your home with greenery WORDS Jennifer Morgan
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BRING THE OUTSIDE IN
ur homes are becoming greener in every sense. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see spider plants hanging above baths, cheese plants given quirky names, and carefully curated collections of succulents. “Our lives are becoming faster; we want (and get) instant gratification for the things we do online,” says Judith de Graaff of urbanjunglebloggers.com and co-author of Urban Jungle: Living & Styling with Plants. “But taking care of houseplants keeps us grounded and slows us down. We learn patience as plants don’t grow a new flower in seconds, taking weeks or even months to bloom or grow a new leaf.” Instagrammer Mimi Jenkins of @plantlovinghome believes there’s something about having living greenery within the house: “It just gives you a feel-good factor, especially when not much plant life is surviving outside.” Houseplants are a great way of bringing the outdoors in when it’s dreary weather – the opposite of how we strive to take the indoors out during summer months. “I always think a home looks much more alive and lived-in with plants,” agrees Claire Bishop, houseplants buyer at Dobbies. “The craze for houseplants has a lot to do with social media, with stylists and homeowners using them in lifestyle images. But we are also more conscious of the effects plants can have on your environment and mental wellbeing.”
“I always feed my plants from March to September,” Claire advises, “which is the traditional growing season. This helps with strength of new growth and flower production. I also lift the plant pot out of its planter to water, so the roots aren’t left sitting in wet conditions as this can cause them to rot. The most common problem is too much love – overwatering. Many of the on-trend plants at the moment thrive on neglect!” Music to our ears! “The craze for succulents and terrariums is still huge, with hanging designs and planted mason jars,” says Claire, “but there’s also a revival in retro plants such as the cheese plant, string of beads or string of pearls, spider plant and snake plant.”
shopping for plants
“There are new plant shops popping up everywhere, but your local garden centre is usually a good place to shop for plants,” says Judith. “When you adopt a new plant, make sure you like the look of it and check the label or quickly search its needs online. You’re looking for a fresh, healthy and bug-free plant. If in doubt, ask for help to find the perfect plant for your home and lifestyle.” But what if you want to go bold and create a living wall, perhaps in an extended kitchen? Claire has shelving units at home that she layers plants – both upright and trailing species – on, giving the effect of a living wall while making it easy to change and maintain. “Living walls are true pieces of art and require some in-depth plant knowledge,” recommends Judith. “However, you can buy a prefab living wall with an integrated and automated hydroponic system. If you want to keep things simple, buy yourself a Neon Pothos, and guide its branches onto your wall with small adhesive hooks. It’s beautiful and easy. Or go for several wall planters that you can fill with crawling plants, like Philodendron scandens, Tradescantia, ivy and Boston ferns.” If you’re looking for more ideas for displaying your new houseplant collection, Selina Lake, stylist and author of Botanical Style, says: “Plant them up in a mix of containers, such as galvanised metal, concrete planters or baskets, then arrange in groups on a windowsill or display trolley. Why not use old wooden crates that can be stacked together to form the perfect place to arrange your houseplants on?” “To turn your own urban jungle into a success, start small and let it grow with you,” Judith says. “Make it personal and meaningful, and love each and every plant you choose.”
“Many indoor plants have air-purifying abilities, helping cleanse the air we breathe from various toxins, releasing fresh oxygen and making our living environment healthier,” explains Judith. “With more oxygen, we can concentrate, relax and sleep better. Taking care of houseplants is also relaxing: watering, pruning, feeding and checking up on them from time to time slows us down.” But what about the not-so-green-fingered among us? “It’s all about providing the correct conditions for your plant,” says Judith. “Light, water, humidity, temperature, soil type and drainage are most important. The majority of common houseplants thrive in bright, indirect light, so should be close to a window. Most succulents and cacti need direct sunlight and appreciate a sunny windowsill, while the Sansevieria, Dracaena or Pothos can do with shadier areas,” adds Judith. “Plants like Aloe or the peace lily are very easy and don’t require much skill.”
3 houseplants to try
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) Removing toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia in the air, peace lillies are toxic, so keep away from pets and children. Bedrooms or humid bathrooms are ideal. They require little attention and are hardy. Give them a good soaking and let the soil get fairly dry before watering again.
Boston Ferns (Nephrolepsis) This is one of the best plants when it comes to removing formaldehyde from the air. It’s non-toxic, and the feathery ferns look beautiful spilling out of hanging pots. Keep in a cool environment and give it lots of attention. These plants thrive in bright spots but keep the soil moist and directly out of the sun.
Aloe Vera (Aloe vera) Known for its health benefits, a lesserknown benefit is how well it removes benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Great for the bedroom as it produces oxygen at night while processing the carbon dioxide in the air, giving you purer air and a chance at a better night’s sleep. Water deeply every two to three weeks.
living rooms Designed with comfort in mind, achieve the dreamiest room for lounging around in and unwinding WORDS Linda Clayton
pen-plan living may be trendier than gold pineapples and flamingoes combined, but the smart DIYer leaves one or two walls intact. And here’s why. You may yearn for a sociable hub that brings the whole family together but, trust us, one day (maybe every day), having a quiet sanctuary to escape the hustle will seem heaven sent. It’s also a room where the kids can crank the telly up to full volume without ruining your coffee break, not forgetting the number-one role of the living room: sofa-surfing your way through a Netflix binge. Plan the layout of your living room by establishing a focal point. The beautifully framed fireplace is a popular contender, preferably with a real wood-burner (much more efficient than an open fire). A stunning piece of art or a gallery wall can also work. Arrange the seating around said focal point, but in a way that encourages conversation. Too far apart and it’ll feel like you’re at a job interview rather than having a cosy chinwag; crammed in will fast-track claustrophobia. Even your closest friends and family will thank you for respecting their personal space.
The television is one of the most notoriously tricky objects to position in a living room – it has always brought relationships to the brink across the land. Almost every home has one; some are bigger than a small country. Unless you have the funds for a super-swish television that doubles as a work of art (hello The Frame by Samsung), aim to conceal. Try placing it against a black backdrop, or on the same wall as the door to the room so it’s not the first thing you see when you come in. Decorating your living room is a thousand times easier since the advent of style-led social media like Instagram and Pinterest. The former tends to be more open about the sources of furnishings, wallpapers and so on. And let’s not forget the inspiration value of glossy interiors magazine Real Homes (www.realhomes.com). Once you’ve got a look or colour palette that appeals, start tracking down the big-ticket items first. You’ll want flooring and sofas that will last a decade or more – both physically and in your heart. And don’t forget storage. Hiding away the less attractive side of living – be it a games console or a lifetime’s subscription to a footie mag – will improve the enjoyment factor therein.
make yourself comfy Accessorise living rooms with layers of colour and texture – dialled up or down to suit your mood
Cabinet © La Redoute
Cushion © Cath Kidston
Wall art © Hurn & Hurn
Lampshade © Clarissa Hulse
Poufs © Nordic House
RELAXING LIVING ROOMS The ombre trend has moved from hair salon to living room, and we love it. To achieve the perfect colour blend, look for paint shades that come in gradients – for example Dulux’s Gooseberry Fool ranges from 1 to 6. For a subtle effect, choose two consecutive numbers, or skip a couple to make it more obvious. Paint the wall in your two chosen shades (use string to mark the horizontal dividing line) and leave to dry before adding a second layer of thick paint, where they meet. Finally, use a dry brush to blend the wet paints across the divide.
Few living rooms are complete without some kind of low-level table on which to place books, wine glasses and a candle or two, but is an ottoman or coffee table best? An ottoman is upholstered, and thus softer on tot’s head/legs when they’re dashing around, and comfier to put feet up on. The downside is they’re harder to clean and meet spills like a sponge. A chunky coffee table is responsible for many a trip to A&E but it will wipe clean and, depending on the surface, major scuffs or stains can be sanded out.
MAKE YOUR OWN
old furniture Transforming old, worn pieces of furniture into items you’re proud to have in your home is good for both the environment and your mental wellbeing WORDS Sarah Gane
t’s no secret we’re in a climate emergency. The way we consume things like fashion, food and homewares is unsustainable. According to research by the Reuse Network (reuse-network.org.uk), ten million household items are sent to landfill every single year. But what if we were to do things a little differently and learn to love our things for longer? Upcycling is not a new concept in itself. Taking something that has seen better days and giving it a new lease of life has long been used by people as a creative way of making do or making something completely unique. For Elizabeth Morris (@ElizabethDotDesign on Instagram), it was something she was aware of from a young age: “Throughout my childhood, my mum was often updating items around the house, repurposing furniture we already owned. I loved getting involved, choosing items from auctions to paint for my bedroom. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, so when it came to furnishing my own home, I naturally went looking for items to upcycle.” This approach went on to have unexpected benefits, as she explains: “I realised that so many people want to fill their homes with unique furniture, but don’t have the time or tools to do so – that’s where my business began.” She launched Elizabeth Dot Design and sells beautiful upcycled furniture through her Etsy store (etsy.com/shop/elizabethdotdesign).
making presents for people, before it evolved into a full-time business. “I’ve always had a creative streak and enjoyed making things… I’d been painting wooden gifts for friends and family when I saw an empty milk bottle in the kitchen at work and I thought I’d try painting that.” The results were really positive, as she explains: “When I posted a picture of it on Facebook I was inundated with requests to make more. That was just over four years ago, and I’ve run Tilly and Sage full time ever since.” For Stacy, it’s the creative challenge and satisfaction of the end result that is so appealing: “I just love turning someone’s ‘rubbish’ into quirky items for the home and saving another item from getting sent to landfill.” So far she’s rescued everything from jars to old gin bottles: “I’ve recently started making soap dispensers out of [them]. All my friends and family save them for me… some of the bottles are gorgeous, far too nice to throw away. Instead I upcycle them so that people can get enjoyment for years to come.” But her most popular item so far is the festive ‘cars in jars’. “These came about because I had some old Matchbox cars that I didn’t want to part with. I transformed them into Christmas ornaments and they’re a big hit every year. I love scouring vintage fairs and car boot sales looking for the cars!”
look to the past
Vintage items are also used as a starting point for Suzanne Whitelock’s stationery projects. Her business, Pulp Paper Heaven (@pulp_paper_heaven on Instagram / etsy.com/uk/ shop/PulpPaperHeaven), specialises in beautiful handmade notebooks, each one made by reusing original prints saved from the pulping machine. “I’ve [always been] drawn to past times,” she tells us. “Glamorous movie stars from the ’30s, the shapes of fashions from the ’20s to the ’50s, furniture, household items, sewing patterns, and books and magazines.” As a child, Suzanne used her pocket money to buy treasures from markets, jumble sales and charity shops: “I love the colour and illustration quality of a lot of vintage print. An old book can have a magical air when you think of the many hands
fix up, look sharp
“What I love most about upcycling is seeing a tired piece of furniture transformed to fit within a modern home,” says Elizabeth. “I specialise in mid-century pieces, which often look amazing without any paintwork, so I prefer to seek out the pieces that are damaged, stained or broken. I really enjoy the process of fixing these well-built, solid items that have years of use left in them. The paint finish is the final step – I often use bold, graphic designs to hide any imperfections I’ve fixed, and ensure any salvageable wood grain is highlighted.” Former PR manager Stacy, aka @TillyAndSage on Instagram (tillyandsage.co.uk), also started out upcycling as a hobby,
UPCYCLE OLD FURNITURE
Â© Elizabeth Morris
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