An interview with Fremont-based interior designer Rebecca West, author of Happy Starts at Home (Bright House Books), who says a clean and well-organized home has benefits far beyond its walls.
Your book explores the philosophy of how our living spaces affect our lives. Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean by “happy starts at home”?
Your home needs to support the life you’re trying to live, the relationships you form, all of this. You need to feel good waking up, empowered to take on the day, as well as feel good returning home to that space at the end of the day.
Whether you’re a homeowner, apartment renter or condo leaser, what are three small steps that can be taken immediately to increase the positive impact of a home?
The first thing should be to get rid of all obstacles in the home. This means getting rid of gifts that you hold onto out of guilt but don’t really like, expensive purchases you feel you should keep but they don’t make you happy, etc. Rearranging the furniture is a great way to see things from a new perspective, and lastly, add a fresh coat of paint. This can transform a space.
Are there any specific challenges you find with clients living in the Pacific Northwest?
One way to combat our constant gray weather is to incorporate a lot of texture in your space. Nubby quilts and fluffy throws add dimension. In small spaces, you don’t want a lot of small things; this reads as clutter. You want fewer, larger things that all do their job. Having items that are scaled correctly for the room and are artful is very important.
West designed this condo for a couple who downsized from their family house, but wanted to keep key elements of their previous home in their new, smaller space.
What are the common mistakes you see your clients make in how they attempt to organize and lay out their homes?
Scaling is the biggest one. Small rooms don’t need a small rug and a small lamp and small artwork. One perfectly sized rug and lamp add art to a smaller space.
What’s the biggest misconception your clients have when it comes to approaching how to organize their homes?
That homes have to be perfect! It’s much more a matter of taking small steps and making your home incrementally better. People let the fear of perfection prevent them from even starting anything. Another big misconception is that you can buy a cute organization system and then, magically, you will be organized. This is not the case. You need to first figure out what needs to be organized and determine a system based on this.
Tips to declutter…an apartment?
Choose pieces with multipurpose design, like coffee tables that double as storage, or tables with folding ends that change from workplace to hosting area.
Many people are extremely concerned with blocking the view. It’s OK to put furniture in front of floor-to-ceiling windows! Keep chairback height at around 32 inches and don’t be afraid to layer with an arc lamp, for example.
In homes, stuff tends to collect over time, so create a schedule to get rid of things. This is great to do around the holidays, as it can double as a gratitude exercise. It’s important to create a cycle of energy in the home that is annual so that things flow out as well as in.