Photogenic rooms — the ones on TV, the ones double-tapped on Instagram — are not always comfortable. And comfortable rooms don’t always present well onscreen. Inspiration is terrific — essential, even — but don’t let a great room get in the way of good living.
In my former role as the editor in chief of House Beautiful magazine and in my work since, I championed the idea of prescriptive home design: the idea that the decisions you make for your home can and should support your goals. Family rooms can be designed to help make family time possible, bedrooms can be arranged to prioritize restorative sleep, and kitchens with the goal of eating healthier food. And rooms can serve a soul-enriching purpose, be it a space with layers of personal affects or a nook with a field of joyful color.
What this time calls for is flexibility and imagination — not keeping up with the Joneses, not stylistic cartwheels. Just small comforts. A home to bend to your will and not the other way around.
Loosen up. Drag a chair and a side table (or stack of books) to the sunniest spot in your home. Have a partner or roommate you enjoy? Bring a second chair. Give in to the dining-table-as-work-station, but put work-related things in a bin on the floor when you eat. Out of sight, out of mind.
Multitasking with small children around? Bring their favorite toys to the kitchen or nearby — they play, you cook. Swap art from one wall to another. Swap light bulbs and make one room moodier and another brighter. Rotate your living room furniture by 180 degrees. Is the sofa not facing the TV anymore? Even better. Encourage TV watchers (or yourself) to stretch on the floor while taking in the news; either you’ll get limber or you’ll find you watch a lot less TV. Pin up a piece of fabric, a tablecloth or a blanket for a Zoom background. A change of scenery is essential.
“The living space is never unfinished and never finished. It lives with those who live within,” said the Swedish designer Josef Frank. The point is: Try anything. Surprise your eyes. Change your foot-traffic patterns. Become reacquainted with your place.
Remember, nothing is permanent. This, too, shall pass. But you might just find that your improvisation is an improvement.
Sophie Donelson (@Sophiedow) is an author, editor and public speaker.
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