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Design for Slow Living

Ok before you read this, go grab a cup of coffee, find a soft and comfortable space to sit, close your eyes, fill your senses with the rich aroma, savour that first sip, feel the warmth of the cup on your fingers. Sound like a guided meditation? Well, so it should. So many of us are searching to find a way to simply slow down; our days are scheduled by the hour, with meals scattered in between (IF there’s time) and personal relationships and obligations pulling us in what seems like a hundred different directions. If there is anything I’ve learned to savour, through the assistance of guided mindfulness, it’s what might be considered the ‘little things’ – it’s that first sip of coffee in the morning, that last page of a brilliant book, that 10 minutes before the sun sets where the colour of the Dubai cityscape seems to melt into an incredible muted sparkling silver against the purple sky.

The home of Geraldine Clearly in Brisbane.

‘Slow-living’ sits wonderfully alongside the mindful activities which are gaining popularity and which you may already have implemented into your life– meditation, yoga, mindfulness – activities that are there to help us reconnect with the things we fail to notice, helping us to find peace and, sometimes, meaning in our lives.

Ok guru, you may be thinking, but how does this relate to design? Well, consider slow-living as mindfulness for your home. We are so busy searching for the calm in classes and memberships (all which I fully support, by the way), that we’ve forgotten to consider how we might be killing our own vibe as soon as we step into our home, the one space that is supposed to be our safe haven.

The home of Jennie Kayne & Richard Elrich in LA

Slow-living is not about walking around your home at a snail’s pace with eyes closed practicing deep breathing (although if that’s your thing you should definitely consider a little corner of your home to allow for that!) Put simply, it is creating a space that allows us to live thoughtfully, and with intention.

I was wandering the aisles of Kinokuniya, in Dubai mall - my safe haven from all chaos and came across a book by the founder of Kinfolk; Nathan Williams, titled Interiors for Slow Living. I’d encourage you to take a little peek at this book if you happen to find yourself in the book shop as I often do - it defines slow-living brilliantly:-

‘determine what brings joy to our lives and then surround ourselves with those comforts’.

Slow-living encourages the home owner or the designer to find the essence of what ‘our belongings say about our character’.

Horace Walpol - Strawberry Hill

A little nod to history, this is a room in which the Horace Walpole, the slightly eccentric owner of Strawberry Hill in South West London in the 1700’s, kept his greatest comforts, or as he put it ‘an assemblage of curious trifles, made by an insignificant man’

It’s something we discuss in length with our residential clients, we see the benefits and happiness it brings into each home. While it’s great to have a space that looks magazine perfect, if it doesn’t reflect your life and sentiments, then it’s not your home.

'Slow Living is not about determining how few objects you can live with but rather to identify those things that you cannot live without.’

If you are someone who finds pleasure in bijou or collectables on a search for an Interior Designer or Stylist, find one that knows how to, and wants to, incorporate them into your space. Personally, I crave a more muted aesthetic; and whilst I LOVE to spend time in places that are filled with intricacies and colour, my own homes have always been light, clean-lined spaces with minimal decoration. And for me, it works; after days filled with colour, shape and inspiration, nothing brings me to a ‘slow’ state of mind like a blank space with soft fabrics and geometric lines.

(Right and Above); the home of Irene Mertens, her partner Gabriel, and child Juul. Proof that having little ones doesn't have to stop you from going slow in your home.

Now, before you start putting out on display your collection of nick-nacks collected on your travels, or even just as dangerously - throwing out every decorative element in your home, you must, MUST consider the space you live in and how you intend to implement the ethos and behaviors of slow-living into your home. And of course, as Interior Designers we must tell you that it’s no good having a collection of miniatures displayed above the fireplace if it kills the balance of the room. Do consider slow-living from a design perspective, or you may end up with a cluttered, overloaded, or empty and un-balanced space.

The key to finding your inner ‘slow-goddess/ slow-godman(?!)’ is to consider ways in which you can implement slow-living into your life – or perhaps you already live a pretty Zen- and slow life. What are the moments you want to savour in your home, what is your intention? Couple that with being surrounded by items, colours, and a space that you love and that encourages your intention, and you are on your way to slow.

The home of Nathan Williams, founder of Kinfolk, and writer of 'Slow Living for Interiors'

The slow-living time I cherish the most in my own life are Saturday mornings. My husband and I sit around rather lazily; chatting about everything and nothing all at the same time, reading the paper, sipping coffee, with a no laptop/housework/work-work rule implemented until noon. This is our moment of slowing it down – and so I designed our living space in a way that allows and encourages this intention to exist, freely and without annoyances. There must always be a table large enough for a paper and an open coffee table book (no point collecting them if you’re not enjoying them, right?), lots of coffee and space to lay out a big breakfast with all the trimmings. The couch has to be deep, soft and very cozy for that post breakfast food-coma, with a coffee table close enough to reach for a little more caffeine... coffee is a big thing in our slow-living Saturday mornings! With this intentional little weekend tradition, I chose to design a relaxed living space, with open passageways and large, cozy seating rather than a formal entertaining space.

A slow-living space should encourage those moments, those values, and those objects that bring joy to your life. And it will be different for everyone, don’t think that your home should look like a magazine cover, make it your own cover - you should always take inspiration but, trust me, you will never be comfortable if your space is not a reflection of you. And if you choose to work with a designer to curate this space, find one (or call us, of course!) who embraces your life as it is, as you intend for it to be, and creates a beautiful space for you to enjoy… slowly.

Images courtesy of Kinfolk, Interiors for Slow Living

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