For the past ten years I’ve been working as a writer and stylist in the interiors industry – mostly for magazines. During the course of this time, I’ve seen and stepped inside a whole spectrum of places. Some have been designed by architects and interior designers and others by keen renovators and decorators. And I started to notice that some places feel more like a home than others. And so the process began of trying to define the key characteristics of a home. The more that I researched, the more I realised how important they are not just in creating a shelter, but helping us to define our sense of self, and live our best lives.
My hope is that This is Home can start a conversation, and help us to rethink the role that our homes play in our lives. We’re at an interesting junction in this age of technology. We are saturated with images and inspiration on a daily if not hourly basis. Yet a certain sameness is pervading the interiors world. We are at risk of losing our own identities, and sense of self. It is time to embrace what is unique about not only our spaces, but ourselves too.
I want this to be a book that is just as relevant to someone who has been in the industry for many years, to someone who is creating their first home. The book poses questions that are timeless, and important touchstones for any type of project. This is Home is about to launch in the USA, and I am planning a trip there to do a book launch in New York and LA. In Australia, I’m looking to develop some products for Imprint House. An exciting time!
There are few words as evocative as ‘home’. It conjures visions of our ideal sanctuary. A happy place, filled with beauty, harmony and love. We tell ourselves that if we could just make it perfect, whatever we take that to mean, then life would be so too. But it’s a misnomer, of course. A home is more vital and nuanced than that. It is a work in progress, reflecting and adapting to the changes in our lives. If we think of our home as ever-evolving, mistakes are nothing to fear. They are how we learn and improve, and they become part of the stories that help to make our home authentic.
Develop a sense of style
It is easy to become attached to the idea of creating a certain ‘look’ at home. But a home is more complex than that. And so are we.
A sense of style evolves through the prism of our values. And when we let these be our guide, a visual voice emerges that’s fluid and permeable, and can adapt to the constant changes that are an inevitable part of life. It means that we don’t have to overhaul our homes every couple of years, which wastes time and resources. After all, looks are dated as soon as the are created. Instead, we have a way of seeing the world and making decisions that can contribute to a unique home.
If our values can help guide many of life’s decisions, how do we work out what they are? And what do we prioritise? A value is something that is important to us, such as family, community, sustainability, beauty, authenticity, nature, and so on. These are often deep-rooted beliefs that shape our lives. When it comes to our homes, focusing on what we value can help answer some of the big questions such as where to live and whether we decorate or renovate, and how we allocate our available funds. Our values can also guide the types of spaces we create. Do we want to prioritise quality, simplicity, artistry or innovation? While these values don’t have to be mutually exclusive, they provide a decision-making framework for the materials we choose, the plans we draw up, and the atmosphere we create.
At the start of any project, information gathering plays an important role. However, there comes a point where we benefit from setting aside inspirational images and finding our own way. This is when we need to learn to trust ourselves. Part of this comes from experience but, over time, it becomes instinctive. And we learn to trust the process too. When a project is too focused on the end result, there is little room for serendipity or happy accidents. And few spaces look their best when first finished – they benefit from the layers that come with life.
There is a lot to be gained from curiosity. Not only can we learn more about our interests, but it is a way to push our creative boundaries. When we talk to experts, we learn more about products, process and possibilities. While we can design spaces from a desk, we benefit from the experience of touching materials and talking to skilled artisans who work with them every day.
Temptation is always in our way though. New products. Old products marketed in new ways. Trends. Theories. The cult of people and places. We need to wade through all of this to stay true to ourselves. However, when we have a clear idea of what we value, trends fall into insignificance. When we see how others have decorated their home, we can appreciate it but we don’t feel an urge to replicate it. When we are surrounded by limitless choice and a constant steam of ideas, our values create a roadmap that is uniquely our own.
This is Home – The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton is available to purchase