And once again it is Friday,and I end up writing a book review. The passage of my time is marked only by weekly events like Book Friday, Roast Dinner on a Sunday and Quiz Monday (TV quizzes back to back for the whole evening: love it)
Without external pressures of groups, meetings and more, I have noticed my interests becoming more insular this year. My home matters more, and I like it to be a sanctuary, a safe space. I couldn’t bounce back from days like last Thursday and my mini meltdown without the security of going home, snuggling into my chair, grabbing my crochet from the nearby basket and, like some modern day Madame Defarge, collecting the names of all the people who’ve crossed me that day. I have a new blanket on the go for this lockdown, a Winter Sunset stripe blanket that has reached the delightful point when it is long enough to keep me warm as I crochet. This is excellent, but puts me under time pressure to get it finished in the next two months rather than run the risk of sweltering as I stitch in the summer. And I have plans for a completely different blanket to stitch during the hottest part of the year: a new hexagonal blanket for my bed.
Those who have ever met me will know that I like cosy, comfort and colourful homes. My living room is blue, my downstairs cloakroom red, for heaven’s sake, and the only house I ever lived in that lacked colour was the new build we moved into when we were first married. Magnolia *shudder*.
But my personal colour preferences aside, I totally recognise that home needs to be a calming and nurturing place. A home full of chaos, excess and Stuff will never be a place where people can relax quiet as easily as a carefully collected home. And a home full of the latest interior design style, with no story or personal value attached, will also never feed the soul and let it rest. That’s the thrust behind Home For the Soul, that we need, given the perilous state of the Earth and the over-use of non-renewable products, to find a way to decorate and furnish our homes that will not cost the Earth but will create spaces ready for slow living, for comfortable being, for nesting.
Home For The Soul: Sustainable and Thoughtful Decorating and Design is written by Sara Bird and Dan Duchars. Sara Bird is a style editor at Country Homes and Interiors, one of my favourite magazines, and together Sara and Dan photograph, write and present beautiful interiors. Their website, The Contented Nest is proper eye candy for any interiors devotee, with a heavy bent to pared back, comfortable scandi and fashionable monochrome interiors. I’ve included links to their Instagram pages below as well, also inspiring eye candy for a tired homemaker.
The book is 22 by 26 cm, hardback with glossy pages like so many design books now. It’s obviously designed to work as a coffee table book, with full colour photographs throughout. The aesthetic is very natural, textural, calm colours and understated, but I really love the emphasis on natural materials. There is a lot of wood, stained or plain, and nothing too shiny, chrome or polished here. Every picture has an element that I want to feel, not look at, to know how soft the sheepskin is, whether the leather armchair is supple butter-soft leather, or a harder, drier leather.
The book is separated into two parts: The Elements and The Homes, although the most emphasis is placed on The Homes, of course, with over three quarters of the book showcasing real homes, with real people living real lives.
The Elements focuses on the basic structure of creating and collating a soulfull home: colours, textures, display and furniture as well as a chapter on A Sense of Wellbeing, which really could do with being a book on its own since it’s about the small changes that bring about a happier home life: slowing down, introducing plants inside, surrounding yourself with happy memories and creating your own heirlooms with crafts like needlework or painting.
The bulk of the book is about real life homes, with ten homes featured. Some are scandi inspired, white wood and painted floors while others are more rustic, wood lined and yet others have dark painted spaces to cocoon in. The copy is very interiors magazine, and third person (Sam says that sustainability and slow interiors are a higher priority) which is sad, as I would have liked to hear the voices of the owners coming through. What, for example, made Clare set up a small office nook just off the kitchen? Why did Marion choose a grey scheme for decorating? What does Marion do when she falls in love with a small, bright red bowl at a market? I’d also like to know the family that lives in each space: who has children or pets, what age or size and how do they keep tidy or clean, but that’s just me being obsessed with how to keep spaces clean despite children….
I think this desk may be my favourite spot in the book. I love so much about it: the plants, the radio, the pile of notebooks, the lazy arrangement of cards and paper on a loose wire across the space. The desk shows use, and a lot of it, while everything is there for a reason, even the Buddha. This, but a whole house, is the feel I’m after. And that’s something no money can buy. It comes from choosing carefully, collecting well and keeping only that which sparks something deep inside.
Home For The Soul is available from Amazon and all good book shops. You can follow both designers individually on Instagram at Sara Bird and Dan Duchars or as a team at The Contented Nest. Eye candy, eye candy. They’re also on Facebook.
Today’s header is a spread from the book. I chose this because I like how the plants and ornaments are crowded together, seemingly with no pattern. Arranging little things around the house is such a relaxing thing to do, and even something as basic as a pot of brushes or pens can look good when styled like this.
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How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.