Aspiring to be clutter free

We live in a world of increasing ‘stuff.’ Our houses are crammed with kitchen appliances, gadgets, knick-knacks and fast-fashion clothes. The weight of this clutter can affect not only how you feel about your home, the environment but also your mental health as the weight of clutter stresses and weighs us down.

There is a cost – mental, emotional and environmental – to our consumption.  The attractiveness of flatpack items and fast fashion in terms of cost and being “trendy” are moving us away from buying items for life. In the UK alone, more than a million tonnes of clothes are disposed of each year with 300,000 tonnes going to landfill or being burnt. While many try and recycle, only 1% of fibres used to make clothes are recycled to make into new clothes.

Obviously we need things to get through our daily lives but we can all do more to ensure we are buying consciously. There are three relatively straight-forward steps to becoming more mindful about what we buy and use in our homes. The first step is to take a look at what is in your home today. You may be surprised to find the things that are already in your home, stored away. The second step is, having audited and edited those items, to create a home that allows you to manage and store your belongings that is practical and makes sense to your family.  Finally you need to create a process for dealing with incoming items.

Culling the clutter

Most people find the idea of decluttering daunting. There are a myriad methods of decluttering but the key is to see this as a journey, not a single day. The first thing to do is to audit your home. Pull everything out and work out what is working, what is working for you, what you want to keep and what you want to dispose of.  Here are some simple tips to start:

– Create a plan of attack and actually stick to it. It is easy to be overwhelmed but if you approach it bit by bit, you can achieve your goal. Tackle a room (the bathroom or the kitchen) or a type of item (your books or out-of-date food) every day or each weekend. Even do one thing on day one, two on day two and so on.

– Create a system for sorting items – keep, rubbish, donate, sell… and follow through on those categories. Otherwise the temptation is to simply move things from one box or place to another. Set this up before you start so you can easily process things. Use bin bags or boxes to easily store these items once you have made the decision.

– For items you are on-the-fence about or that hold sentimental value, put them in a box, marked with the date and store them. This gives you the ability to see whether you actually use the giant platters for the parties and whether you really miss that novelty sombrero when it isn’t directly in your line of sight.

– Consider how to find a home for or dispose of your items responsibly. Many charity shops are overwhelmed with goods, have a conversation with your local charity teams about what items are useful for them, look for some of the lesser known charities who may need specific items; look online and on social platforms for Free or Recycle/Upcycle sites; there are specialist companies and council sites that can help with broken electrical equipment – some even can generate you a little cash!

Putting it in its place

Having removed items that you no longer want, it is time consider how to stop them from building up again. To do this you need a system.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is an axiom for a reason. Creating places to put things is key to controlling clutter. Review your storage areas like cupboards and drawers. Are they properly set up to help you easily keep things organised in a way that makes sense to you? There are a lot of storage products out there so find the ones that fit your lifestyle and don’t forget the magic of labels to help you see what you have.

Creating a beautiful and stylish place for things to helps deliver an organised life without sacrificing your design and the feel of your home.  A stylish receptacle for keys, coins and glasses at the front door; a shoe rack to keep shoes organised; a coat rack with labels for each member of the family. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just think it through for your family and how you live your life.

Also consider a policy of “One item in, one item out”. No new items unless something has left the premises. If you are trying to downsize, consider making it more than one item out. There are inevitably times of the year where there will be large influxes of things – Christmas and birthdays, for example. Consider how to balance your gifts to other family members or even to give in other ways – make gifts, give a memory or experience. Sometimes time is the greatest gift we can give.

Look at having a capsule wardrobe. There are many books, blogs and videos on how to achieve this, but having a wardrobe that is designed to work well together is a great step to ensuring that you can keep your clothes from proliferating.

Designing for clean lines

There are thousands of products available that will help you stay organised. The point is to ensure that you have built-in sensible, accessible places for the things you use day-to-day. There is no point putting things in the attic if you can’t access them or find them.

When designing your home for a clutter-free life, look for streamlined surfaces and practical storage solutions. More storage isn’t about more things, it is about ensuring that you can put things away: think labelled bins where the children can put their toys, for example. A new trend is to help children to organise by colour which while being practical is also beautiful from a design perspective. Use boxes and bins to separate and control items – you will always be able to find the remotes if they have a specific place where they live.

Consider your vertical space too. This gives you the option to not only create the illusion of a bigger space by lifting things up off the ground but to expand your storage space. You can increase your storage options too by using furniture like ottomans that have built-in storage or storage behind larger furniture such as mirrors and sofas.

Remember, the key to using less stuff in your home is to consider its role. Ask yourself: will you need to create space for it? Does it add to your life in some specific way? Is there another way to achieve the sense of having that item that takes less space (a photo perhaps)?

When looking to be more responsible in creating a clutter-free home, we actually don’t need to be more organised or create more storage and we certainly don’t need more products to organise us. We need to think more about the things we surround ourselves with on a daily basis and how we incorporate them into our homes so they are controlled rather than overwhelming and controlling us. Being more mindful about our consumption and what is in our environment can create a clutter and stress-free environment at home, decrease landfill and still give us a beautiful and practical place to live.

Peak fitness in the tech age

It used to be the most technical a gym got was the heart-monitor in the handle bars of bikes and treadmills. Now, the age of technology has not just entered the world of gyms but is being fully embraced – and it is not just classes on Zoom.

Today’s breed of machines for both home and professional gyms are embracing apps, sensors, video and streaming services to give you the best workout.

Smart mirrors are full-length mirrors that are actually LCD screens. They act as a normal mirror when not engaged so can be used for checking out your outfit or form. Turn them on though and you have access to a wealth of options. Most offer online classes from yoga to strength exercises and cardio – both on-demand and live. You can even train one-on-one with a personal trainer who can correct your form via a video link up through the  built-in camera. They also frequently come with a Bluetooth heart monitor so you can keep track of your statistics.

The new generation of high-tech bikes and treadmills take the experience of biking and running to a new level. They bring features that make feel like you are running or biking outside following an actual trainer. Their touchscreens don’t just show Netflix or moving graphics, they offer classes that are both live and on-demand that will help you achieve your fitness goals. You can join guided classes for beginners to run a 5K or run with other participants in a high-intensity work out. Some models also auto-adjust the incline and speed that is set by the class’ trainer so your workout challenges you and builds fitness.

If you are looking for all-over body fitness smart technology, the new generation of smart boxing gloves come with sensors built into the wraps worn under the glove. They provide data back to the app so you can not only track how many times you hit the bag but how hard, all in real-time. These often come with on-demand or live classes too, though at an extra cost.

For those wanting to build strength there are digital weights. These systems are essentially a full-size weight room packed into a machine that is barely the size of a TV. One model on the market features giant arms that extend out at the push of a button and offers 200lbs of resistance. This makes them suitable for those looking for strength or resistance training rather than a full weights work out. Many offer real-time feedback and will adjust settings automatically if they sense a weight or rep count is too easy or too hard. Continuing the trend they also offer online coaching.

Smart, interactive and providing real-time feedback, new tech-enabled gym equipment  for home or professional gyms bring the worlds of technology and physical fitness together in a way never seen before. All of this comes at a price. None of this equipment is cheap. However, in this new era, there is a class, course or experience for every who wants to achieve their fitness goals, be it at home or at the gym.

Building an oasis of calm

Our modern homes with open-plan layouts don’t always lend themselves to finding a place of peace to work or to get away from the family. How many of us have tried to do a conference call or video while trying to drown out the sound of the dog, the washing machine, someone’s piano lesson or an overly-enthusiastic board game? Or tried to sit at a cluttered dining table to write a report?

Creating pockets of calm and quiet in your home is becoming more critical. How do we go about building that space to concentrate or relax?

1 – Change your mood with colour. Colours affect humans. For your area of calm, pick restful, neutral colours that speak to you in a soothing way. Consider accents to promote specific feelings. For example, yellow makes people feel optimistic and happy while blue promotes creativity.

2 – Think texture. Using different textures gives people a richer experience of a space. It gives the eyes different areas of textural focus and engages multiple senses. Think about replicating some of the textural elements throughout the space, like wooden bowls to match a wooden shelf. Or white tiles on a fire-surround to pick up on a white tiled floor. Adding plants brings texture and oxygen into your space.

3 – Use negative space. This is the space between things. Hanging too many pictures or putting out too many design pieces excites and confuses the eye. Make sure there is space in your room so that your eye has places to “rest”.

4 – Light up. Humans react to light in a space. Think about how you can either maximise the light in your space or bring in more light. Place a mirror to reflect existing light or get advice on a good lighting plan. Think about the space at different times of day. How will it look and feel in the morning versus the afternoon? Consider layering your lighting with both standing and table lamps, or even incorporating dimmer switches to set the mood.

5 – Think of sound as a liquid. What steps can you take to control, channel or dampen the sound that travels through your home? Can you use bookcases or soft furnishings like rugs, cushions or upholstered furniture to dampen the sound? Refurbishments like lowering a ceiling where the TV is or putting in wide doorways to disrupt sound can help keep designated areas calm and quiet.

6 – Cull the clutter. Clutter is the enemy of calm. Think about what is necessary in your lifestyle. Does it have a place? It may be a cliché but “a place for everything and everything in its place” goes a long way to helping create a feeling of calm.

To make your home an oasis of calm you want to create spaces that function well, work together and flow seamlessly. The most beautifully designed home still needs to feel like you,  be practical for your lifestyle and circumstances and reflect your personality. It is a lot easier to find zen if your home is working with you, not against you.

All or Nothing

The pendulum of interior trends has swung between minimalism and maximalism for an age–and while neither will ever be genuinely off-trend, they can both go incredibly wrong. It’s essential to understand the features of each style that has given rise to their longevity.

Let’s explore how you can rock the ‘all’ or the ‘nothing’!

Why minimalism works:

Minimalism works so well because it offers your space two primary features of design: total functionality and a bold starkness. Creating a minimalist interior is a foolproof way of evoking a feeling of space to breathe and a gathering of your thoughts without the anxieties overcrowding can bring.

How can I encourage minimalism?

Less is always more–so exercise a level of restraint when choosing what to display on open shelving. Pare down your items until you’ve only a select few visible, alternate these if you like, but only have a handful visible at any one time. Remember the spaces surrounding can be as important as the focal ponts themselves.  Consider your interior as your own personal art gallery–mix it up when you’re bored with the current exhibition!

Celebrate the architectural bones of your house. Minimalism should be  about exposing what’s underneath–so use this opportunity to design around the features of your home, rather than to conceal them. Practicality goes hand in hand with minimalism, so make sure you’re using the most of the space your home has to offer, before welcoming in anything extra.

Practice the ‘less is more’ philosophy in your daily life–not just in your interior spaces, and you’ll find it transferring across to other aspects of your life seamlessly.

Why maximalism works:

We adore the unlimited versatility of maximalism. You can fill every square foot of a wall with artwork, and it will still look on-trend. However, the secret of maximalism is forgetting what you’ve read, heard and know about design–and filling your space will the pieces you love. This is incredibly important, as you’re going to be surrounded by them all the time.

Our only guidelines would be to take a uniform approach to an entire space, rather than just one area of your interior. As mentioned above–it’s all or nothing!

How can I encourage maximalism?

Create a gallery wall! A signature feature of the maximalist style. Fill your wall with bright, colourful pieces of varying shapes, sizes, and frames. Again, avoid listening to design trends and go with what you think looks good!

Go vintage! Maximalism is a fantastic opportunity to try a boho or eclectic style, and your local vintage furniture dealer will almost definitely have something that could be used as a feature piece for your space. While it might be risky, it’s important to remember that committing to maximalism can pay off incredibly. So why not!

While we’ll always have a soft spot for simple elegance in design, we’ll never shy away from using bold patterns.

Regardless if you want to go down the minimalist route, or express your personality with the brashness of maximalism, it’s your choice–get in touch today and see how we could help you!

Using Minimalism as a Stress Reducer

Far too often, our homes or offices become cluttered. Our belongings fill the rooms, and the space begins to invite a sense of claustrophobia.  It’s a  feeling best avoided–our spaces should be a place to feel relaxed, where positive energy is created, and visual discord doesn’t cloud our thoughts.

One particular way of easing the negative influence clutter can cause is by embracing minimalism. We’ve put together a few ideas for building a space that embraces minimalism and evokes a sense of tranquillity.

Space Enhancing Furniture

Observe the next house you enter–you’ll come to realise that we often choose furniture that’s larger than we need. Usually, the homes of most couples won’t need a vast reclining suite or that dining table with enough room for a dozen guests. Why not opt for more minimal and versatile furniture?

This could include console tables or an extendable dining table–they offer brilliant space maximising solutions and still have the potential to entertain guests when needed. Keeping your interior free of overbearing furniture – the space surrounding is as important as the furniture itself.

Maximise Efficient Storage

One of the best investments you can make in adopting a minimalist approach is efficient storage solutions. They’ll ensure everything is kept out of the way, and precisely where you need it. This could begin with creating a well-organised wardrobe, and the use of sliding doors–not only will they look more contemporary, but they’re also far more space efficient than traditional hinged doors.

Simplify Your Palette

While colour may seem arbitrary to minimalism, often in the best minimalist spaces, it’s one of the key factors to how the space will feel.

By having too many bright and or clashing colours, even the emptiest spaces can feel inhibited and stressful. In keeping a colour scheme to only a few hues, you can build a feeling of consistency without being overbearing. And by employing only a few colours, it doesn’t have to feel bland, as you can still combine textures that create a sleek impact.

Our homes should be the place where we go to relax. And a minimalist approach provokes this. In applying some of these decluttering methods, you’ll bring simplicity into your style, and see the benefits almost immediately.

BRING THE OUTDOORS IN

“There is no greater designer than nature.”

This beautiful quote from British designer Alexander McQueen is now more relevant than ever, as we come to realise how the time spent in solace but surrounded by nature, can feed our creativity. It has the power to remind us of what is truly important.  – and when we combine the elements of our natural world with great design, we open ourselves to incredible possibilities.

On May 8th this year we were to celebrate Public Gardens Day, giving us all the opportunity to be inspired by ideas that could be used to transform homes and workplaces alike. This sadly is under threat for obvious reasons, but we can still look to nature for adding life to our interiors.

Immerse yourself in natural light

It’s vital to encourage light into your space. It evokes feelings of warmth, happiness and the comes with the added benefits of Vitamin D. In promoting more natural light – be it through full height windows, opened out masonry apertures or generous skylights, you’ll forge a natural connection with the outdoors and your space will feel refreshed. 

Design A Living Wall Of Art 

A fabulous way to invite the magnificence of the outdoors into your interior is by incorporating a ‘green wall’. Textures, shapes and tonal contrasts these bring will add a playful and sophisticated look that will enhance your sense of wellbeing, look great and offer a cost-effective wall finish into the mix.

Build Your Green Family

Without wishing to state the obvious, the most straightforward way of bringing in the outdoors is by enhancing your space with carefully selected plants. Our advice is ‘less is more’ – you are better having magnificent signature pieces in key locations and in suitable height planters than an array of small plants that don’t sit well with the architectural surroundings. Certain types of plants will thrive in different environments, so do your research beforehand.

 

CONVERSIONS CONFER CHARACTER – ARE YOU READY FOR A MAKEOVER?

Do you remember Through the Keyhole, the TV game show?  In it David Frost/Loyd Grossman hosted a guided tour of a celebrity’s house, after which a panel of other celebrities were invited to guess whose home it was.  I just mention it to illustrate the point that a home reflects the personality of its owner.  We all strive to put our stamp on our place and signal to the world the sort of person we are, or would like to be.

A Victorian cottage with its original features – cast iron fireplace, stained glass fanlight and moulded plasterwork – comes with built in character.  All you need to do is bring it up to modern living standards.

That might involve installing central heating, double glazing, roof insulation and renewable energy sources but your overall investment would probably be no more than buying a ready to occupy modern property – and you may end up with something of real distinction that will always have great kerb appeal!

Moving up the scale, especially if you’re looking for a family home, you might consider a barn conversion. The scope here is enormous, although admittedly the investment will be greater and planning restrictions will be more stringent.  It would involve connection to utilities and substantial structural work – like the installation of a mezzanine floor.

That said, it’s ideal for those who like spacious open plan living and country life (great for the kids). And again, you’ll enjoy the distinction of original features, like exposed beams and roof trusses with the added benefit over a Victorian house of an amazing principal reception space suited to a variety of living space.

For the truly ambitious (and prosperous), there is the conversion of a former industrial or institutional property – think London warehouse or deconsecrated church.  Here, of course, you need the professional input of an architectural and design practice like ourselves.

Our own offices are a converted Victorian Mill, so we know of what we speak, and would be pleased to advise you on your residential project.  The costs would be comparable to commissioning an original architect designed house, but it is, once again, the uniqueness of the original features, be they Victorian Gothic masonry or a spiral ironwork staircase, that makes such residences truly outstanding.

We invite you to look through the keyhole at some of our case studies – just click here to view!

LET THERE BE LIGHT! – BRINGING THE OUTDOORS IN

Caves may have been the Stone Age equivalent of affordable housing – they were, after all, ‘ready-made’ – but man is not by nature a cave dweller.  His preferred habitat is more like the Garden of Eden – light, airy, green and spacious.

During the summer months I live almost exclusively in my conservatory or the patio that overlooks my back garden.  More affluent types lounge poolside or under the leafy shade of their wooded grounds. But you get the idea. We’re happiest in that crossover zone between indoors and out – secure in our home yet at one with nature.

All great architecture recognises and accommodates that fact.  In Roman times the villas of the well-to-do were built around atria – central open courtyards surrounded by enclosed rooms on all sides.  Some even had a central pool – anticipating Hollywood homes by centuries! – although theirs were generally used to collect rainwater.

The urge to bring the outdoors in can be seen throughout the ages in the arcaded courtyards of monasteries, colleges and stately homes.  Some stately homes also feature long galleries – enclosed walks where ladies could take their constitutionals without getting sunburnt – which back in the day was considered quite déclassé!

The concept of the atrium has also been enthusiastically adopted by modern architects, often in the spacious lobbies of public buildings, which might extend upwards by two or three stories.  For the trivia collectors amongst you the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai has the world’s tallest atrium at 590 feet, and the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada has the world’s largest atrium (by volume) at 29 million cu.ft..

Of course atria are just one way of bringing the outdoors in. Modern construction methods and materials – specifically steel and concrete – have made it possible to create glazed tower blocks with light flooded interiors (to the extent that some have to be fitted with projecting fins to deflect direct sunlight).

Historically the load bearing structure of a building was all in the outer walls.  In a modern tower block the main structural element is the pre-stressed concrete core, with concrete floor plates built out from it.  The external walls can therefore be light in every sense of the word.

Glazed steel matrices are another technique for bringing the outdoors in – notably in structures like the canopy covering the British Museum’s central courtyard designed by Norman Foster, which we have mentioned before in these pages.

So, let there be light, air and space!  Modern methods and materials make it possible and the architectural and design skills of SKK are at your disposal in realising your vision of bringing the outdoors in.