A few months ago I was excited to receive an email from a writer, Catherine McCormack, who was putting together a feature forHome Beautiful magazine called “secrets to a happy home”. She figured being the author of a blog called The Happy Home, I might have some tips. She figured correctly. I did have tips. Lots of them. And being the awesome babbler that I am I wrote only one thousand words of brilliant happy-home-creating wisdom. Whether or not they’re helpful at all is entirely different, but I wrote them, sent them off with a smile on my face and jumped up and down in Coles with joy when I read my name in its pages the day it came out. Of course, the issue came out on the very same day my entire blogged crashed and so any new readers who popped on to check it out would have seen nothing, but I was happy regardless.
Anyway, I knew when I sent it off that only a tiny bit would be included because that’s what happens in magazines – you use a fraction of the information you receive and then that is slashed even more to fit the layout – but I didn’t care if I had one sentence. My name was in print without it being a byline (an odd, but nice change). And I was there as an “expert”. Love that. So, because I’m knowledgeable about such things, I thought I’d post my entire answers so you can all live in happy homes. Ha! You might recognise a few of the suggestions… But you must pick up the issue to read other happy-home tips, drool over pretty homes and enjoy the last summery issue for a while (next issues in Magland will be March so they’ll be getting into autumn mood). And a huge thanks to Catherine for thinking of me and including myquotes (one of which is below) – yay!
What makes your home a happy one?
Happy occupants! And for us to be happy, we need to be surrounded by items and spaces that feel comfortable, are meaningful, welcoming and that reflect our personalities and lifestyle. Our home is not precious or perfect – we’ve been renovating for six years and still aren’t finished – but I’d like to think it’s a home that feels like us. There are signs of life with a (select few!) toys hanging around and shoes on the deck, casual and comfortable furniture, objects that reflect our passions and interests, and personal touches or creative ideas in every room. All rooms are treated as living spaces – not show rooms – and we do just that: live in them – so very happily!
Favourite decorating ideas for bringing warmth and character into a living space:
* There is something about handmade that always draws the eye and instantly gives off good vibes. Whether it’s a recovered old chair, framed family silhouettes on the wall, a stencilled floor, wallpapered tabletop or heirloom quilt, these are the things that not only make a space unique, but their specialness is felt. A few vintage touches have the same effect – there’s usually a story behind it and its imperfections give it that lived-in look which is the key to warmth and character. I’ve tried to do something creative or unique in each room – particularly if the furniture is pretty standard as it stops the space looking like everyone else‘s. And it’s so satisfying to look around a room and know you literally put your own personal stamp on it.
* I’ve learnt recently to pretty up the mundane – I like the basics to be pretty basic (ie, simply shaped, white or neutral) but I’ve discovered it doesn’t have to be plain. So now I look for textured or fringed towels, white waffle doona covers and matte-glazed earthenware. I also choose pretty tea towels, beautifully scented eco soaps and decorative vases for cooking utensils. It’s nice to see beauty in unexpected places!
* My rule is, if you absolutely love it, you can make it work! I have a lot of classic-style furniture and I mix it up with a few ethnic-inspired pieces, hand-me-down antiques and DIY revamped items, but because it’s all in a similar palette and kept as neutral as possible, it all fits together. So a piece of coral sits side-by-side Buddha, Moroccan leather poufs are paired with a cow hide, dainty tea cups sit on chunky wooden tables and I have a girlie Tord Boontje garland light above an industrial-style aluminium chair, but it’s all very laid-back and so works.
Kid-friendly decorating ideas that adults will love too:
I think the trick to kids and adults living in style and harmony is blendability! Let their presence be evident in every room, but don‘t let it overpower everything else. In my house, we have kids “stations” pretty much throughout: the kitchen has a magnetic wall with a double-sided activity board with chalkboard on one side/felt board on the other; in my bedroom they have a cube of my office shelving and their table and chairs; and in the living room, the bottom shelf of the bookcase is dedicated to their books. They have a select few toys in their rooms and I rotate them with others kept in the shed not just for mess, but so they have “new” toys regularly. The aesthetically pleasing and creatively stimulating (my favourite combination) toys reside in the living room: beautiful birch wooden blocks, a wooden train and a wheely bug. We can be creative and fun all the time without the house turning into a preschool.
A few other ideas:
* Low poufs, floor cushions or mini adult furniture (try Fantastic Furniture for mini couches; or Little Nest for kid-sized designer chairs) in the living room let little ones sit and draw at the coffee table, plus they’ll feel more at home on furniture their size.
* Adult fabrics in colours or styles that reflect the child’s likes look great in kids rooms, as does animal print.
* Chalkboard walls don’t seem to be losing popularity, but to make yours stand out, paint a large mural or streetscape on the wall or paint on furniture instead.
* Narrow walls in living rooms or in a hallway look great turned into vertical book racks – mix it up with kids and adults hard covers for a stylish library. (We’re about to do this in a small hallway.)
* Framing kids art is not new, but think of other ways to display their talents: have them paint an actual canvas, a bird house, vase or platter.
* Cow hides are perfect for young families – they look great, take a beating but clean up beautifully every time. Plus, they don’t feel as scratchy as you’d expect. (PS: check out Lou’s post here for a good online source)
* There are lots of decorative items that run the entire length of the age spectrum: world maps and globes (try Mapshop), assortment of letters and numbers on the wall; vintage posters (try Galerie Montmartre) and book pages; landmarks like large wire Eiffel Towers (especially if they can drive little cars under them!) or Muji’s City in a Bag.
* Vintage suitcases and recycled tyre tubs (try Heaven In Earth) make brilliant stylish toy storage.
* If you have the space, an indoor swing for old and young alike is too much fun. Just ask Gwyneth!