I think I have always been equal parts nomad and homebody. I get this giddy high off of travel and have a sick love of getting up before dawn to catch a flight. But returning home to a clean house, carving out space for my travel finds, and printing photos from my trips is equally satisfying to me. And yet, long after the dust settles on my luggage and the novelty of homecoming fades, I have found that I truly love my life at home just as much as on the road. But it has less to do with easing into the comforting routines of domestic life and more to do with the desire to find inspiration all around me, whether trekking across the world or padding across my living room.
The thing about inspiration, is that even the smallest detail can awaken big changes, fresh thoughts, and enlightening experiences. A new spice inspired by a past trip can lead to a new meal, which can become a family favourite and eventually be passed down to the next generation. A collection of bud vases on a window sill can act as a rotating seasonal display, beckoning us to stop and observe the subtle changes in nature’s shifts. An old book, a printed photo, a fresh scent or a new album on repeat can alter a room’s ambience in a heartbeat, or modify our mood in a second. Done intentionally, the results can be far-reaching and inspiring on so many levels.
Here are 5 ways easy ways I use regularly to create a more inspired home. My hope is that these suggestions will serve those who pass through your home as well, inspiring everyone long after they’ve lingered in the space you’ve created.
The thing about inspiration, is that even the smallest detail can awaken big changes, fresh thoughts, and enlightening experiences.
1) Bringing Outside In
There are a variety of ways to bring the outdoors into our homes, and I enjoy many of these at different times throughout the year. Here are a few:
- Clippings from your yard, garden, neighbourhood or regional parks (when legal). Use at a place setting, in a vase, hung with twine, or placed on a mantle or shelf. Observe what happens to the piece over time. Don’t hesitate to bring in something that is dead! My dried up hydrangeas have an old-fashioned sepia look that I love. Dry dillweed from my garden has a spindly, delicate appearance that never fails to fascinate me.
- Live plants, big or small, edible or not, healing or just lovely to look at. At this very moment I’m eyeing a terra cotta pot filled with mint in my garden that I’m tempted to bring in and set by my kitchen sink where the light is good and the aroma will serve as a fragrant pick-me up. Also a reminder of the months I spent sipping sweet mint tea in Morocco! Living plants can require anything from minimal effort to a mountain of care, so pick something that works well (as in, won’t die easily) within your space, is suited to your lifestyle, and gets you excited to enjoy it.
- Nature finds like shells, rocks, driftwood, even bugs! My kids love adding to a revolving collection of natural elements (revolving because eventually I throw pieces out that have become dusty or broken) and observing them at the table or on a shelf. Last winter while up in the Sierras, I came across monstrous pine cones that reminded me of the hefty sort found under the pine trees at my Grandparents’ prairie property. I hauled an arm-full down from the snowy hillside and used them in my winter decor at home. Every time they caught my eye, I recollected fond memories of my childhood on the Canadian prairies.
An old book, a printed photo, a fresh scent or a new album on repeat can alter a room’s ambience in a heartbeat, or modify our mood in a second. Done intentionally, the results can be far-reaching and inspiring on so many levels.
2) Coffee Table Books
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved coffee table books. Whether they were filled with fine art prints, photographs of exotic locales, or detailed illustrations, these hefty tomes filled with rich visuals transported me to other worlds and eras. While I own a number of cherished coffee table books, I really enjoy the act of borrowing half a dozen or so at a time from my local library. Whatever topic might be of current interest to me, I often go in search of beautifully designed books that nurture my curiosity of that field. I tend to seek out books that focus on photography, culture and place, nature, gardens, architecture, fashion, home decor, and food. I find that having books like these in my home keeps me from becoming bored and reverting to my phone for visual distraction. There’s just something about turning the pages of a book that scrolling down a screen can’t beat. The inspiration is curated, the tangible quality of the books is enticing, and the fact that they can be borrowed for free is a temptation worth indulging in.
3) Dress up Your Meals
If you are not an owner of easy to use, minimal fuss table linens, you are missing out! I bought my first linens and tableware (tablecloths and wooden napkin rings) while traveling in Russia when I was 16. I gifted the table cloths to friends and still use the hand-painted napkin rings every fall. Whenever I travel, table linens are an easily packable find that I can use every day and won’t collect dust on a shelf. They remind me of my past adventures and flood my home with inspiration. But I also have really inexpensive table linens from Target and World Market (napkins specifically) that get used more than almost anything else. Cloth napkins remind me of my Grandma who, when I was a child, always had a drawer of beautiful cloth napkins that elevated even the simplest of meals. We switched over to cloth napkins a couple of years ago when I realized how easily they altered my kids’ attitude at the table. Fabric feels special and offers an opportunity to take more care during a meal, linger over a dish, or engage in meaningful conversation. I make sure to have darker hued napkins to use with my kids, and throw them in with daily load of laundry. Nicer napkins are pulled out when we have guests or I want to use something other than the basic cotton versions we use as a family. Even if you are just sitting down to dinner on the couch with Netflix in front of you, a cloth napkin will instantly elevate the experience!
4) The Sound of Music
Wherever I travel, I always purchase local music. It’s an easy way to recall my memories and the experiences I’ve had while on the road. But more often than not, I find myself using music to set a mood in my home. Classical at breakfast and while the kids do morning schoolwork, jazz in the evening especially if I’m cooking with a glass of wine in hand, old hymns on Sunday that not only turn my heart heavenwards, but remind me of late family members who have left a legacy of faith behind them. I also use music to compliment whatever we are studying with the kids for school. History, cultural, and geography studies are all enhanced with music. Music helps us focus, inspires us to create, stirs up memories, nurtures relationships, and makes even the most mundane tasks feel just a touch indulgent. Music heightens the senses, and when harnessed with purpose, can bring new inspiration our way no matter how uninspired we feel.
5) Substitute a Staple
I’m a creature of habit, and once I like something, I’m hooked. For YEARS. It takes a lot for me to change, but I know that trying new things inevitably leads to a more fruitful creative process and inspired life. One of the easiest ways for me to infuse my life with fresh inspiration is to try substituting a staple ingredient with an alternate variety or one of a higher quality. Take salt for instance. I’d been using pink Himalayan sea salt for years. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I still use it from time to time. But when one of my friends introduced me to Maldon Sea Salt as one of the few ingredients used in the simplest of green salads, I was mindblown. I couldn’t believe how distinctive the flavour was and now use it in everything from homemade sourdough bread to stir fry to salad greens. It’s amazing how one small shift in a staple ingredient can make me want to eat simpler and allow the salt to enhance the flavour of very simple ingredients. Now I tend to use minimal spices because of how just a small pinch of Maldon salt can wake up a dish without hardly even trying. If you prefer not to swap out your staple blindly, ask friends or family what brands or versions of kitchen staples they use and ask to try a sample. You might be surprised and find yourself both inspired and converted!
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” — Goethe
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