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Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Is your space dragging you down?  Imagine, just for a minute, that you’re visiting someone’s home when there’s clutter and craziness everywhere?  Dishes are piled in the sink and on the counter, and the desk is filled with unorganized stacks of papers.  How did it make you feel? 

Now picture this.  You visit another friend, a friend who’s home is organized with a place for everything.  It has colors you love, and makes you feel instantly calm and peaceful?  Has this ever happened to you?  Your Space Matters.  Our environment has a significant impact on our well-being and our mental focus.  I can relate because I’ve been there too many times!  As we go about our day, following our crazy schedules, it’s so easy to get caught up in life and ignore this place we call home.

Then one day we wake up and notice that things around us are looking a bit worn and tired. There are rooms we avoid because we don’t feel comfortable there, but we can’t figure out why.  Sometimes we’re unorganized and often late for work or carpool because we can’t find the car keys.  Maybe, like me, your desk gets piled with papers and “stuff” to the point where focusing on work is a waste of time.  Does this sound a little bit familiar?

And worst of all, because we feel this way, it starts to impact the way we act around other people and how we respond to them…even if we don’t realize it.  You know what I mean.  The kitchen counter is piled with a PTA project that needs to be finished, so you’re stressed.  Then the kids start clamoring for your attention…and you snap at them.  Or you’re embarrassed to have friends over because your kitchen “doesn’t look as good as their kitchen.”

We’ve all been there at one time or another, and it’s not a fun place to be.  Now’s the time to sit back, take a deep breath, and make a plan to design a calmer life at home.  Here are my    3 secrets to make it happen:

Secret #1:  Define your values and priorities

Start by making a list of everything that HOME means to you. Do you want it to be a retreat to come home to at the end of a long hectic day?  Do you love to welcome family and friends?  Next make a list of your priorities in order of importance.  But be sure that they fit what you value most about home.  A good example of this would be loving to cook but dreading it because your kitchen is always a mess.  Or you love bright colors and your walls are painted dark green.

Secret #2:  Discover what works for you and your lifestyle

How do you want to live in your home?  If you love to be relaxed and casual, then choose furniture styles that reflect that.  When low maintenance is something you value, a clean and simple style with few accessories might be the way to go.

How do you want to feel when you’re at home?  Do you want to feel relaxed, unhurried, and stress free?  What about energetic, organized, and carefree?  Think about the lifestyle you have now, or even the one that you’d like to have, and create your home makeover to compliment that.

What do you want more of?  For me it’s more creative time.  If I don’t make an uncluttered space for that to happen, I won’t plan creativity into my day.

What do you want less of?  Maybe you want to spend less time cleaning or staying on top of the clutter.  Less accessories and better storage solutions would be the answer.

Secret #3:  Just do it!

Too often we make excuses….
I don’t have the time.
We can’t afford it.
I can’t live through construction.
I don’t know where to start.

So many times these excuses are just us getting in our own way because we’re afraid to take that first step.  Start with something simple and begin the process with what you already have.  Get rid of the outdated floral arrangements, move lamps and pillows to another room, or re-purpose a table for another use. 

One client realized she was spending less and less time in her home office, and instead working later and later at meetings and other busy work.  Her Ah-Ha moment came the day she admitted to herself that she really hated the way her office made her feel.  She was finally ready to make a change.  And guess what?  A new paint color was enough to soothe her feelings of uneasiness, and she’s now using her office again!

Make a habit out of getting rid of the excess and simplifying your life.  De-cluttering is liberating!

 

Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Whenever vacation time and holidays draw near, it’s time to start thinking about the guests that might be staying with us for a night or two…or more.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m a little less thoughtful about the way our guest rooms look when I know family will be staying there.  Like the time last summer when our guests thought we had three extra bedrooms and we only have two.  Sadly, the very comfortable inflatable bed popped a seam and the bed collapsed in the middle of the night!  This was definitely NOT a guest room that said “I’m glad you’re here. 

Rule #1: Don’t be so busy that you forget to check out these things before you need them.  On the other hand, when I know that friends will be staying overnight, I might add a pretty new detail or two.  Can you relate to this?

Because I love to travel, I’ve spent many a night staying in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and with friends.  While I’m there I always notice how I feel when I’m in the space.  Do I feel welcomed?  Does it feel creepy?  Is it adequate, but could use some work?

welcoming bedroom

I know that, as an interior designer, I’m more aware of my surroundings than most people.  And I truly believe that each space has it’s own energy.  But these stays have let me discover a thing or two about what the “perfect” guest bedroom could be.  And in the end, it comes down to these three questions:

  1. Is it Welcoming?
  2. Is it Comfortable?
  3. Is it Private?

A welcoming room will let your guests know that you really want them to be there.  It has little added touches like flowers, magazines, and good lighting.  One friend introduced me to the idea of Pillow Presents, which are gifts you place on your guest’s pillow before they arrive.  I loved this idea, and started doing it when our family comes to visit.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  Sometimes I forget, and leave a little bag of candy.  Or completely forget and am reminded by my youngest granddaughter.  And now my daughters have started leaving them on our pillows when we visit!

luxury bedding

To feel comfortable, room size isn’t as important as the bed, the pillows, and the temperature in the room.  Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to these three things. Giving options to your guests is so appreciated…especially aging parents, pregnant daughters, and “hot flashing” girlfriends!!!  We’ve rented a house in Florida for a few weeks, and I’m already wondering if the bed and pillows will give us a good night’s sleep.

Finding a private space for everyone when your home is overflowing with guest can sometimes be a challenge.  When this happens it’s helpful to think out of the box and have a plan before your guests arrive.  But, basically, guest appreciate a place to store their “stuff”, and maybe get away from the crowd for a minute or two.

Do you have a checklist of guest room favorites?  Here is my Top 10 list.   Some were borrowed from my friends, hotels, and inns.  Others were suggested to me by family.

  1.   A comfortable mattress with mattress pad
  2.   Tiny paper cups at the sink, stacked on a pretty plate
  3.   A full length mirror, or at least a mirror for makeup and hair
  4.   A folding screen or some type of room divider if other guests will be walking by or sharing the space
  5.   Bottled water or a small pitcher and glass
  6.   Down pillows, or at least nice fluffy ones (some people sleep with two pillows)
  7.   A throw to cuddle up with for an afternoon nap
  8.   A place to hang your clothes and open your suitcase…and empty hangers
  9.   Lamps tall enough to read in bed
  10.   Blinds or draperies to cover the window at night

Do I have each and every one of these in our guest room?  Not at all!  But I’m working on it with each and every guest.  And when I travel, the list grows as I discover some new little nicety that I hadn’t thought of before.

In the end, it’s all about enjoying your time with house guests, welcoming them into your home, and being together making memories that will last a lifetime!

Your Design Action Steps:

  • Look at your guest room from a visitor’s eye…objectively
  • Make a list of what you see that is welcoming, comfortable, and offers privacy
  • Now make a list of what could be added to the room that would add to your guest’s comfort, and make them feel really welcomed

Remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top in luxury.

 

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to procrastinate on holiday preparations.  Sometimes it’s because I’m too busy with other things that were more important when I said “yes” to them.  Other times, the perfectionist in me keeps thinking “what if?”  What if a better table decorating idea comes to me later?  What if there won’t be enough variety of food?  Crazy, right?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to think about what can be done right now that will bring more joy and less stress to the holiday.  Remember, we want to avoid holiday chaos and focus on enjoying our family and friends.  The answer could be discovering the ONE THING you want to accomplish with the preparation and the meal.  For me, that would be enjoying our time together, staying calm, and living in the moment.  When I focus on this….and how long it will take to pull it all together…it’s time to get real and make a plan. 

Let’s take a look at some simple steps to avoid holiday chaos:

What can you easily accomplish in the time you have?

Remember that people typically come to a gathering for two reasons: food and funYOU are hoping to create lasting memories. But be realistic about the amount of time you can spend planning and preparing.  When you’re completely exhausted by the time you sit down to dinner, it’s hard to enjoy the meal and your guests.  Take it from me…been there, done that!  My little Thanksgiving secret is that one year I went on strike in cooking the meal.  But that’s another story for another day! LOL!!!

As you plan your meal, remember to delegate a dish or two to anyone who offers.  Your party will be easier that way.  And the bonus for your guests is that it lets them try a new recipe as well as feeling helpful.

What should you buy? What should you DIY?

Sometimes you just can’t do it all yourself.  So you need to decide what can you buy and what can you realistically do yourself.  Costco, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market have delicious, prepared food that can fill in for side dishes you don’t have time to make.

This same mindset holds true for the table decorations.  Most of us dream of having our Thanksgiving table decorated with perfectly coordinated china, colorful linens, and beautiful centerpieces.  With a peaceful walk in the woods and a quick “shopping trip” around your own home, you can easily create a look that will wow your friends and family.

How to handle the clutter when guests are staying overnight?

I like being neat and tidy (most of the time), so a house full of overnight guests, luggage, and cramped quarters can feel a little crazy and chaotic.

Some of the ways I’ve managed to keep clutter to a minimum is to make sure everyone has a designated area for their family’s “stuff”.  At my house  that means all coolers are stored in the room off the garage and toys are kept all together.

Creating an out-of-the-way private space for guests to keep their suitcase will make them feel welcomed and keep the clutter to a minimum.

We all want the holiday to be a joyful, fun-filled and stress-free time.  We want our guests to feel welcomed and comfortable.  And most of all, we want to create cherished memories that last a lifetime as we give thanks for all of our many blessings.

5 Important Action Steps to Simplify Your Life at Home

5 Important Action Steps to Simplify Your Life at Home

Life at home is anything but normal these days.  Most of us have been cooped up at home, feeling more distracted than ever.  Some days it feels like a blessing, as if God hit the reset button just for us and we finally have time to breathe and regroup.

Other days we just wander around the house aimlessly, distracted by the news and conflicting reports on how to stay safe.  Between homeschooling and work-from-home the day is gone before we know it.  Focusing on anything is hard. 

Now that we’re spending so much time at home, suddenly we see our spaces with new eyes, and we’re definitely focusing on it.  After weeks of staring at the same walls, sitting on the same sofa, and prepping meals on the same island that became your home office and home school, we long to make some changes. 

Clients are telling me they’re finally ready to update their bathroom, change wall colors, or buy new furniture Here in our house, we’re working on all the projects that we’ve been putting off.  For years I felt the porch was too dark.  It was all I thought about when I sat out there.  So the project of the week was painting the porch!  It’s funny how such a simple change like paint color can bring peace of mind.

cans of colorful paint

Keeping life simple so we can enjoy it more is a lifestyle choice that’s becoming more accepted.  Do you ever wish you had more room for fun and joy in your life?  I know I do!  After all the tension, uncertainty, and distractions simplicity at home is a good place to start. 

After thinking about what I really want, (and the list was long) I narrowed it down to these 5 Important Action Steps to Simplify Your Life at Home…

Action Step #1: Re-evaluate Your Stuff

Too many possessions will complicate your life and lead to clutter.  Living in a cluttered space drains our energy, our attention, even our bank accounts.  And who wants that?  Have you ever spent time organizing the clutter and all of your stuff, only to find that after a week, it’s a mess again and you can’t find anything?

cluttered desk

Do you have a closet filled with clothes from 10 years ago?  A pantry filled with expired food?  Five sets of dishes?  Instead, think about what you really value in life and start to live a life based that.

Right now, I value being active outside.  I no longer want a lot of stuff that I need to dust or maintain.  And that includes house plants, books, and nic-nacs.  Slowly these things are going to new homes.

Action Step #2:  Look at Your Time Commitments

learn to say no

Review your list of values and set priorities.  Then use your Best YES (and your Best NO) to help you decide what is good for you and your family.  You can start bringing joy into your life by doing the activities you actually love doing (gardening, being creative, relationships with family and friends, etc.). The things that no longer serve you can be off your plate!

Action Step #3:  Focus on Your Goals

goals

As women, we love to be people-pleasers and over achievers.  Can you relate?  We set all these goals for different areas of our lives and think we need to work on all of them at the same time.  This is crazy, and a recipe for a mental explosion!  You want to be homeschooling Mom of the Year, lose weight, decorate your house by yourself so everyone has their own “work space”, plant the garden…The list goes on.

Take a deep breath and know that there’s a better way.  And that is called FOCUS.  I like to make a brain dump of all the things I want/need to accomplish.  Then I’ve learned to choose one important goal for each area of my my life: personal, home, and work.  Once a goal is completed, I can move on to the next one.

Mentally release the rest of the list for now.  And don’t beat yourself up with negative thoughts if you fall off the wagon and binge eat or stop a project for a day or two.  Just focus on your ONE THING again until it’s done.

Action Step #4:  Eliminate artificial and toxic ingredients

health

Eating clean, intermittent fasting, plant based are all the internet talks about these days.  We work so hard at it.  Somehow we forget that just as we watch what goes into our bodies, it’s equally important to watch the ingredients in our cleaning products, our skin care products, and our makeup. 

My journey began with the simple need to find a product for my clients that would clean granite counters and stainless appliances without leaving a “greasy” residue.  Chemical cleaning sprays began bothering my breathing, so I switched to “clean”.  And now unexplained skin issues have made me start looking at the chemicals in skin care products and makeup. 

Do yourself a favor and start checking ALL labels.  Not just on food.

If you want to learn more about clean beauty, visit my website: www.beautycounter.com/randidestefano 

Action Step #5:  Stop Multi-tasking

chaos of multitasking

Have you ever caught yourself checking emails, watching TV and trying to carry on a conversation with your kids?  Chaos, right?  And nobody likes feeling stressed from doing too many things at one time.  Just like focusing on one goal at a time leads to success, working on one task at a time has the same effect.  Being focused on one thing at a time allows you to do your best work, and no one feels like you’re not paying attention to them.

“Simplifying your life will bring balance, freedom, and joy.  When we begin to live simply and experience these benefits, we begin to ask the next question, Where else in my life can I remove distraction and simplify life to focus on the essentials?” – Joshua Becker-

To learn more ways to Simplify Life at home, follow my Instagram page: www.instagram.com/simplifylife.randi

                                                                      And my Facebook group:   Simplify Life

 

Fall Table Tops That Set the Mood:  How To Do It Yourself

Fall Table Tops That Set the Mood: How To Do It Yourself

 

I have to admit that Fall is my favorite time of year.  Why do I love it?  Because, finally the temperatures begin to cool down and the leaves change to vibrant gold, orange, and red.  I love spending time on the porch having a glass of wine with my husband in the evening, enjoying our tree house view that changes daily with different colors.  But most of all, I love entertaining and creating Fall table settings that set the mood for the evening.

The moods you create can be endless…completely your choice!  One mood might be warm and cozy like the table setting above.  I loved it the minute I discovered it on One Kings Lane.  The swag draped down the center with glowing candles and fresh flowers make me want to pull up a chair and sit there all evening!

Have you ever gone to a dinner party at a friend’s home and they’ve really taken the time to create a beautiful table setting?  How does it make you feel?  I hope that it makes you feel as if you’ve entered a special place that welcomes you, because they want you to feel special.

Remember that you don’t have to hire a professional floral designer to create it for you when it’s so easy and so much fun.  But there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you want to learn how to do it yourself.

MOOD:  Do you want your dinner party to be formal or casual, rustic or festive, simple or elaborate?  The food that you plan to serve for the evening may be the deciding factor.  Don’t you love how the rustic setting above uses food in fall colors as part of the setting?  Even the use of fresh herbs in a vase adds to its farm-to-table appeal.  But I especially love how this table setting makes me want to sit down with friends, share a delicious meal, and have great conversations.

The table setting below, shared from BHG, takes the opposite approach from the traditional settings above.  I call this “opposites attract” with its use of the sky blue tablecloth pared with a simple arrangement of autumn leaves.  Doesn’t it make you feel a little more festive and ready to party?

FOCAL POINT:  It’s important to have a focal point to your table.  And it’s a lot more fun to ditch the traditional floral arrangement to be a little more creative.  That’s right!  It’s time to think outside the box.  Take a walk in the woods.  Shop your pantry and cabinets.  Stretch your imagination!!!

Keep placement in mind when you create your focal point.  Remember that guests like to see your face when they’re talking with you.  Arrangements that are too high or too wide are beautiful to look at when you enter the space, but not so practical during dinner.

INDOORS OR OUT:  When the weather is beautiful and the air is crisp, it’s nice to have the option of setting your table outdoors.  My friend, Donna, has a lovely front porch that’s perfect for a long table to fill with friends.  Tom and I love serving cocktails and appetizers on our porch since the table there is too small for a large dinner crowd.  But that doesn’t stop me from creating a Fall table setting that sets the mood for the evening!

Each time I see this Southern Living outdoor dining space, my heart sings!  I love the lights, the pots filled with mums and grasses, and the rustic setting.  What a fun way to spend an evening with friends!

In the end, when all is said and done, the table you set and the food you serve is never as important as the people who share the table with you.  Remember that life is about the moments spent with people you love, the laughter shared around the table, and the memories you create when you’re together.  Happy Decorating!!!!

 

KITCHEN…The Heart Of Your Home

KITCHEN…The Heart Of Your Home

 

I want you imagine, just for a moment…that your kitchen is not just a place where meals are made and dishes are washed.  It’s a place where memories are made.

What would it be like…if instead of running to close the door to your kitchen when friends stopped by, you couldn’t wait to show them the best room in your house?  A room that’s the heart of your home, where people WANT to congregate.  A room where everyone is always laughing and happy.  A room where you’re proud to entertain family and friends.  Does this sound like the kitchen you have right now? 

Everyone who’s ever hosted a gathering in their home can tell you, that no matter the size or shape, your kitchen is ALWAYS going to be the place to hang out.  And in some kitchens it can become pretty crowded…and warm!  So what allows one kitchen to pull off the perfect gathering while others just don’t work as well?  Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about creating a kitchen that is truly the heart of the home, the “center of everything”.

A Heart of the Home Kitchen might have:

1.An open flow into the family room or dining room

2. Island for prepping and serving food, especially during a party

3. Stools at the island

4. Enough walk space between cabinets and/or island (36”-48”)

5. Homework space for the kids
6. A place to sit and have a conversation
7. Uncluttered spaces: a place for everything
8. A message center for charging devices and message taking
9. A place to feed pets
10. Medicine storage
11. Table space for eating, talking, or playing games

12. A prep sink so others can help with meals
13. A desk for paying bills, searching for recipes, collecting purses and keys

Your Design Homework:

  • Using the list above, check off the items that you already have in place in your kitchen.
  • Of the items you don’t have, ask yourself if they’re really important to you.
  • If they are, make a plan to include them in your next home makeover project. Remember that some items on the list can serve more than one purpose…a table can serve you for eating meals, doing homework, having coffee with friends, etc.

Though some items on the list might require a higher budget than others, remember that you can start from where you are with the little things.  When you’re happy and excited to entertain family and friends, and your home reflects your personality, your enthusiasm will carry over and memories will be made.