You may be wondering how we decide what to write about each month. These topics are inspired by our work with clients. You are our teachers. We learn about life (and ourselves) through our work with people, and then we share what we discover with others. In essence we have made Create The Good Life into a learning machine: information and experiences flow in, we reflect upon these, and then tailor and impart the learning to others through our advising.
Recently we had the privilege of working with a young couple who had returned from the trip of a lifetime. Journeying around the world for a year, they had a chance to see firsthand the various ways people organize their lives. They returned with a desire to consciously create the kind of life that reflects who they are and what they care about now. They called us asking if we could help them to arrange their apartment along those lines, as well as help them sort out what to keep from the past, what to let go of, and what to invite in as they furnished their home.
We love this kind of work; it was our daily bread for six years in Portland where we designed home remodels and coached clients through the process. Our homes not only provide us with basic shelter, they are where we go to recharge and how we express who we are. They need to function and nurture. With this in mind, it took us a little over two hours to discuss how our world-traveling couple could arrange each room in their two bedroom apartment to better suit their needs and their essence. Given they were renting, it wasn't a question of how to change the space, but how they could best fit into it. We also helped them define criteria for sorting their belongings, and then rearranged the living room using the things they already had. It was fun because the results were instantaneous. We could all feel the positive shift in energy as their living room transformed into the welcoming gathering spot they were seeking.
Over time our design work has shifted from designing spaces to helping people redesign their lives. While we often focus on the attitudes and behaviors that contribute to happiness, the physical environment matters too! Our living and work spaces literally set the stage for our well being. Below are a few simple guidelines to consider. Look around where you are right now and see how they might apply.
Don't Live in Leftovers, Get Current—Things around you should reflect who you are now. If they don't, it's time to put them away, or pass them along to others.
Clutter Diminishes, Simplicity Expands—The more visual detail in a room, the smaller it can feel. Done well this can make a room feel cozy and interesting. However, if overdone, done poorly, or not well maintained, these details can make a room feel cramped. A simple well-ordered space feels more expansive.
Closed vs. Open Storage—Closed storage where you can't see what's inside (ex: a cupboard with doors) helps to quiet a space, whereas open storage, like book shelves, enlivens and/or clutters a space. You can create instant closed storage by putting an attractive cloth neatly over a pile or across open shelves.
Light = Space—A well lit space feels bigger and is more useable than a dimly lit space. You can soften harsh light if you need to make a space homey. Use lighting that fits the function: overhead for general room lighting, table lamps or spots for task lighting, low level lighting for mood lighting, etc.
Think Vertical—When looking for more room, go up. An extra shelf or thoughtful stacking can give you more space for storage and display.
Asymmetrical Balance—Arranging things using asymmetrical balance creates more dynamic and interesting spaces. Examples include a big painting balanced by lots of little ones, rows of books broken up by bold sculptural elements or a tall vertical balanced by a horizontal. Remember to play with the whole range of scale from really BIG to the teeny tiny.
Don't Forget Color—This is a fun, powerful, and relatively inexpensive design element. Be sure to surround yourself with colors that reinforce what you want from the space: bold and bright for active places, soft and cool for resting places, etc. Find a piece of multicolored fabric that you love and use it as your guide for coordinating colors in a room.
You can see many more space design principles on the archived web site for our previous business, Living Spaces.
Look around the space you are in right now. What about it supports your well being, and what does not? As you experience various spaces throughout the day, notice with your body, your eyes, your nose, and your ears how the different qualities of a space impact you.
Pick a small space that is important to you and that you are free to arrange, like your desk, a nightstand, or a book shelf. Edit out as many things as you can that you don't like about it. Arrange what's left until it makes you feel good. Have fun, play. Now look at the things you eliminated and see how many of them you have to keep (recent tax return, client files, piles of money, etc.) and how many of them you could store, pass along to friends, recycle, or donate. How does your body feel about your newly arranged space?
Wishing you oodles of space for well being!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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