How to create a space with meaning and mindfulness, according to Shalini Misra
Misra is an internationally celebrated interior designer
Most of us spend the majority of our lives indoors and these spaces should be composed with two fundamental ideas: meaning and mindfulness. These two key words are prominent whenever I design a space. With this in mind, the well-known quote from 19th century Arts and Crafts protagonist, William Morris, is apt: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” In our modern time of mass manufacture and trends that create inexpensive products it is easy to obtain furniture and items that we don’t treasure and have little long-term value.
When designing your home or office or making changes to an existing space, keep these two words in mind: meaning and mindfulness. Addressing meaning, look at what is significant to you and your family. Put on display objects that have value through memories, practicality or beauty through craftsmanship. Adorn your walls with artwork that you will want to hand down to another generation and photos that capture special moments or landscapes and scenes that inspire you. Use pieces of furniture that are timeless, such as mid-century designs which feel contemporary no matter the period, or pieces handed down to you, that are heirlooms, and if you feel they aren’t quite to your taste look at upcycling them with a new fabric for the upholstery or repainting or restaining them. Be sure to maintain any specific features that were particular to their maker or period. This is a good way to carry furniture with a history through different periods and generations. Bring stories into your interiors with objects you treasure from people close to your heart or objects brought home from special places. Ensure that there is meaning in everything that you have and let go of those without meaning.
SM holiday house master bedroom
Mindfulness is a word that we hear often as we begin to understand that living hectic lives isn’t beneficial to our mental and physical health. We all need moments to decompress and recharge, to feel present. You may wonder how to incorporate mindfulness into an interior space, they may seem inapplicable to each other but by designing your space with it as the focus you can create a setting that promotes this concept. The crux of mindfulness is connecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. Consider all your senses within your space. In my interiors I mix materials to create a tactile environment, with fabrics or suede to upholster wardrobe doors, leather clad handrails, soft thick pile carpets to create warmth against your feet and sheer curtains to allow soft light in. Think of sight: the furniture, lighting, colours and materials must sit together in harmony. Opt for light colours on large surfaces with small areas of bold ones as they can be too intense used on large areas. Make the most of the views through doors and windows if there is a beautiful view outside. Bring nature indoors with potted plants, herbs, foliage and flowers as nature provides an instant connection to Earth, and is grounding and calming.
When planning the layouts of my projects I always start with the flow of the space, ensuring ample air circulation with windows and doors placed in optimal positions for inspiring views. When it comes to touch incorporate different finishes on hard and soft surfaces with leather flooring meeting timber or tiles, natural fibres such as wool and cotton velvet fabrics creating soft comfortable seating. When it comes to sound open windows to hear nature outside, and if possible install a water feature as the sound of water is calming. If you live in a busy area with a lot of noise outside, use double glazed windows to limit the noise entering your space. For smell and taste, intrinsically connected, bring nature inside to enjoy the smell of herbs and flowers and use essential oils in diffusers. When you first walk into a space what you see and what you smell are often the immediate elements that draw your attention.
New York Flat
Your space needs to assist you in being present, scale things down to those that are most important, remove irrelevant objects that create clutter. Store things you don’t need to use often in cupboards and keep beautiful or useful items in view. Streamline your interior so you only focus on the important things, not being distracted by uncomfortable furniture or disorganisation. By having an organised space you can increase your time to do significant things and relax. Your interior spaces are like gardens and need tending to in order to keep thriving. Remove things that no longer resonate with you and add things that do. As the space you spend time in thrives, so will you.
Shalini Misra is an internationally celebrated interior designer
Photographs: Ashish Sahi (Shalini Misra)