Friday, 10 February 2017

Perfect simple: in praise of a simple life

Do you have a word or a philosophy that guides you?

After the comfort and solace I have found this winter in the concept of hygge (I have progressed from being somewhere close to dreading it to actually seeing value and richness in these slower months of hibernation, which is no small feat), I've been looking for something more – something that embraces the things I hold dear and that nurtures the instinct I feel for what is good, simple and authentic.

Maybe it's because I'm currently in the process of re-branding my business, which means that I have to focus both inward – what are my values? my strengths? my weaknesses? my ideals? – and outward – what do I have to offer that is unique? how can I bring my skills to bear in a way that offers value to others? Whatever it is, I've arrived at what I call ‘perfect simple’, and I'm curious about what it might mean for our lives, our homes and our wellbeing.

It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it, if we could move with the flow of our life rather than trying to control it? ‘Perfect simple’ is an approach that feels right to me, in part, because simplicity is what I aspire to, but also because even that word, ‘simple’, represents a subjective ideal. My perfect simple won’t be the same as yours, but that’s ok.

And this is not about acquiring things; if anything, it's the opposite. Maybe it's my age, but I'm starting to feel uncomfortable with this thing of acquiring more in order to have less. We buy things so that we feel we’re moving with the zeitgeist; we seek simple while spending our evenings glued to our screens. I seek a balanced approach to life with longevity that will outlast a trend.

My ‘perfect simple’, therefore, is a move away from this, and it’s a work in progress; it’s about approaching life as a harmonious balance. Putting digital life aside for conversations with children and partners (I am as guilty as anyone of not doing this enough); planning what I want to achieve, however small, so that it is a series of small steps instead of a mountain to be climbed; moving towards my goals with intention, learning from my mistakes and trying to make each project better than the last; making small, sustainable changes that benefit me and those around me; forging genuine, supportive connections with friends, whether old or new; appreciating the opinions of others, though they may be different to mine, in order to nurture balance in my own outlook.

It’s simply this: letting go a little, living contentedly with the day to day and feeling good about it. It’s harder than it sounds – so hard, sometimes – but I’m working on it.

My perfect simple goes a little like this:
// speak authentically
// move away from self-criticism
// stress less; slow down
// keep it simple
// seek balance in my home and my work

I would love to hear your thoughts about what it might mean for you…

Thursday, 19 January 2017

10 slow-living ideas for midwinter...

I am not a winter person. Give me year-round sunshine any day of the week: in spring and summer, I am more cheerful, less anxious, more productive. A tendency towards winter melancholy has led me to develop some survival strategies for these darker days; these are my favourites...

1/ Eat your oats. This is one of my favourites as it's all about starting each day right. I have porridge on the stove most mornings for my little ones anyway, and I can switch the toppings between banana and honey, raspberries and nuts (or whatever else takes my fancy) to keep it interesting. This, and a really good cup of coffee, gets me ready for the day.

Image courtesy of Savory Simple

2/ Walk. On the beach, in a muddy field, around the local park or nature reserve, wherever. Fresh air and daylight are so important to me in these dark, midwinter months, and it's a great opportunity to spend time slowly with my husband and children, reflecting, chatting, planning. (The promise of a cosy pub, afterwards, doesn't hurt either...)

3/ Plant bulbs. It's not too late to plant up hyacinths or paperwhites, and they are such a hopeful sign of spring. Failing that, a new bunch of flowers never fails to lift my spirits – such a simple thing, but then, sometimes the very best things are, aren't they?

4/ Have a bonfire. Irresistible to adults and children alike, the combination of comforting nostalgia and simply being outside in the fresh air is good for the soul. It's also a great opportunity to invite friends round for sausages and hot chocolate...

5/ Bake. It doesn't really matter what – cakes, biscuits, scones, bread – I find baking incredibly soothing and meditative (the process, the warmth, the waiting), and try to find time for it pretty much every weekend during the winter.

6/ Stretch. I try to go to a yoga class every week. That hour to myself is pure gold, and I really notice a peak in my stress levels if I don't manage it. Then, just five minutes of quiet – breathing, staying mindful – really helps.

7/ Fly a kite. It’s such a simple thing, but weirdly uplifting.

8/ Keep it cosy. Light some candles, gather blankets and good, woollen socks, pour a glass of wine or make some hot chocolate, run a hot bath – whatever it is is that makes you feel warm, nurtured and at peace.

Image courtesy of Toast

9/ Make plans for your garden. Whether it's a new patch or border of flowers or a different vegetable that you'd like to try growing, gather some gardening books and get inspired. (I love The Low Maintenance Vegetable Garden by Clare Matthews.)

10/ Tackle a small decorating or styling project. Sort out your bookshelves, clear a surface and curate a new collection of favourite things, make or buy new cushion covers, reframe some pictures and create a simple gallery wall. I find that anything which doesn't involve picking up a paintbrush is pretty soothing. The paintbrushes can wait until spring...

What makes you feel good in these midwinter months?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Warm Minimalism

A few months ago, I came across the words 'warm minimalism' to describe a kind of simple, authentic style that I aspire to both for myself and my clients. It's such a lovely concept that I thought I would share it with you, together with a few thoughts on how it can be achieved.

A little bit old, a little bit new; pared back, warm, honest, comfortable. Warm minimalism is all these things. Acknowledging the contemporary yearning not for more, but for less stuff, it's the perfect way to move forward with your interiors without sacrificing the peace to be found in being nurtured, embraced by your home.

Interior design by Luft Design

It is, in many ways, a style that feels very familiar to me. I'm not a minimalist by any means, but I do like simple; I like clutter-free; I like well-made. I also love things, and prefer to have a fewer, better ones that I can look after and cherish than many items that I don't care so much for. I also feel that a simple home can be warm, elegant, inviting – as well as being compatible with children, with real life. The rich, moody walls that are one of the key elements of this style prevent the lack of clutter from feeling stark; the warm, wood tones feel robust and liveable.

Design by Brandler London for Swoon at Home

It's about choosing things that you love and displaying them carefully, beautifully, with space to breathe; about focusing on earthy, natural, tactile materials – wood, marble, jute – and letting them be the details that set off a space.

Interior Design by @withloveandwild

I really believe that there is so much joy to be found in simplifying rooms to their essential elements so that they almost become as much about what you leave out as what you put in, and redecorating is the perfect opportunity to do this. It's true that you need impeccably planned storage in order to make this style of decorating work, but the truth is, it's achievable – as long as you allow yourself to let go – and it's incredibly liberating to be completely honest with yourself about what you need.

I think one of my favourite things about this style is that the paired-back aesthetic is quite contemporary but the details are well-worn – beautiful paintings, strings of patinated beads, warm grey tones and wood panelling – which just makes it feel so familiar and cosy.

Interior architecture & design by Vincent Van Duysen

Above all, I think a good room (however you define those words), should be a place that nourishes you and provides respite and inspiration in equal measure – and that has as much to do with how it makes you feel as how it looks.

Monday, 9 January 2017

On being kind to ourselves

I love Instagram. It's the only social media outlet that I have ever felt vaguely comfortable with, which I think has something to do with the fact that images are the main communication tool: there's context, beauty, meaning.

I've noticed, though, that a lot of people have expressed worry that they feel a lack of motivation since the new year. As though a new year, in itself, should be a reason to get up and go, go, go. I feel it, too. And it's a strange feeling: when you are self-employed – when you're actually fortunate enough to be able to do your favourite thing, every day, and call it your job – it's easy to feel ungrateful and disconcerted when you don't actually love it every day. But it's still a job; there are good days, bad days, indifferent days. Days when you feel lucky, exhilarated – and ones when you don't.

I started to think, last week, that this was ok; I'm going to try to be kinder to myself about it and I hope others will, too. I hope we will tell ourselves that just because this or that week doesn't feel easy, it doesn't mean we've suddenly lost our way or our creativity. Two weeks away is a long time, and it's hard to go at full speed right from the off. Writing lists helps me: planning and scheming for the next week, breaking things down into 10-minute jobs and project-by-project tasks.

Today is a new day, a new week – let's go.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2017: simplicity & newness

Hello, thank you so much for stopping by.

Isn't the new year wonderful? All those thoughts of, "This is going to be the year!" Well, I've decided not to do that. I've written down some goals for the next 12 months, but apart from that, I've decided to slow down and stress less. To keep it simple. To consider all the good things and be grateful for them.

Now that you're here, I'd love for you to stay awhile. I'd love to get to know you and for you to feel that this is a place where you can stop by anytime, to rest, to breathe, to just be.

A little about me: my name is Nicola and I’m an interior designer. In my day-to-day life, I work with my clients to help them create the best version of their home – authentically, simply, beautifully.

I have a lifelong love of beautiful things and have been a devourer of images for as long as I can remember. Before Pinterest, before the internet, I kept binders full of magazine cuttings. My studies in History of Art & Architecture led me, eventually, to House & Garden magazine. Two years ago, when my children were very young, I took the opportunity to launch my interior design studio: I haven’t looked back. I love log fires, summers spent in France and winters on the north Norfolk coast, proper camping (but with proper coffee), beach walks, colour, texture and all things beautiful.

I also love things that are well made, handmade, old, honest, authentic; things that tell a story and make me feel good. I'm also shy and social media can feel overwhelming to me – I've never even been on Facebook because the thought of being that exposed online terrifies me. My home is everything to me – welcome.

I know your life is busy; I know there are a thousand calls on your time. So this journal is designed with that in mind – as a quiet, inspirational space where you can stop awhile and take the time to slow down and recharge. Good design is as much about how things feel as how they look, and I believe it can make you happy: the possibilities are huge.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Colour crush II

A little colour inspiration via Farrow & Ball, just because...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Colour crush I

With this week's grey skies, my thoughts are turning – most reluctantly, I have to admit – to autumn. And with that, the ever-evolving colour palette in my head is moving towards moodier hues, such as these lovely blues and browns...