Feel the pressure of everyday life? Can't afford the time or money for a Tropical Holiday? Then how about you making your home a more tranquil space to relax and even be Mindful in?
At The Open Plan we've been researching the mindful movement, along with Minimalism and Marie Kondo's slightly strange views on tidying, so here are the key points we've gleaned from these experts when it comes to designing your calm space.
Minimalism - Yes, we believe that "Less is more" and that Yes, we could all do with a little minimalism in our lives. Basically the less clutter you have the more attractive and easy to maintain your home will become. Coupled with over-consumption destroying The Environment and the acquisition of and any subsequent loss of an inanimate objects stressing us out, it's time that we re-evaluate how much stuff we have in our lives and how to place, store and look after it.
When it comes to interiors, the most beautiful are always incredibly tidy allowing each piece of furniture and decor to shine which in turn gifts the space with, well, more space. Clear floors, styled coffee tables and empty worktops always look less cluttered, more organised and well, not stressful.
Marie Kondo sites mess as visual clutter which overwhelms people causing a cognitive overload which can cause inaction at the thought, not knowing where to start or at the very least an unconscious low-level anxiety. Of course keeping on top of any household takes time and effort but if the end means that you'll be existing in a more calm and tranquil space at the end of each busy day, it's worth the effort.
Mindfulness<>Tidying - As the Buddhist Monk Shoukei Matsuoto explains in his book 'A monk's Guide to A Clean House and Mind', tidying and cleaning can be exercises in mindfulness. When your advised to do something to take your mind off things, this is exactly the same principle the monks use, where performing a simple (or mindless) cleaning task can help to distract and calm the mind.
Cleaning, like fishing or knitting, whilst still being activities, take little concentration and in that way can be seen as a meditative activity. So if time and or money prevents you from going to a spa you can give your over anxious brain a rest and refresh whilst polishing or ironing. Yes I'd rather go to a spa any day but approaching dull tasks in this frame of mind does help you to get the job done and help you to switch off for a while.
Experiences not Stuff - In his book 'Stuffocation, Living More With Less' James Wallman discusses the positive effects on a person who looks to put less worth on objects and more on living. For example a few months off buying clothes for me would certainly pay for a holiday somewhere fun, relaxing or adventurous which would not only benefit my mental state of health but would give me priceless memories and life-experiences that would far outlive the few seconds of adrenalin making a new purchase. So what if we could gear our spaces to bring us more pleasure and space to have fun? We all could do with a quiet space in sound and appearance or opening up a floor space where you and yours can play and stretch out on be it for a spot of Yoga or watching Marie Kondo do the tidying on Netflix.
Calm Interiors - So we've stated the obvious that a tidy home is a better home and that we could all do with a space to be more mindful in but how do we go about meaningfully transforming our interior spaces? Here's where you need to start
Step 1: De-clutter - YOU DO NOT NEED ALL OF THIS STUFF. What you do need is a good old fashioned spring clean. I find that making it into a personal competition to see how much I can dispose of, recycle and donate helps. I also find that a nightclub policy of one-in-one-out works well too. Got a new pair of trainers, donate the scruffy ones you've stopped wearing. Then recycle all of those old magazines, cables and half used bottles in the bathroom that are gathering dust (more things to bloody clean). This way you'll at least be attempting to keep the clutter in check.
Step 2: Storage - Marie Kondo would have you throw it all out if it didn't "Spark Joy" but in the real world it is hard to part with things. Still you must at least attempt to de-clutter if only to spend less time and money storing it all. Next, let's find an under-used space. Have an empty wall? Then install a shelving unit. Place a new cupboard (a vintage one is nice) or baskets in your bathroom, to keep at hand but out of sight, all of those noisy, ugly bottles and tubes. Need a new bed? Make sure it's a storage bed that lifts up to reveal litres of storage space and elevate things off of the floor so that you can clean without adding to the job by lifting piles of tat and furniture.
Grouping things together is an easy way to organise, so If you collect anything, be it seashells, books or Japanese teapots, do not scatter these around the home, instead meaningfully display them together which will make for a great focal point and speed up the cleaning too.
Step 3: Colour & Texture - We love colour but not in every room, so at least one space should have a humble colour scheme which is proven to be restful and restorative. Very simply you need the walls in a neutral colour, think the colours of the pebbles on a beach. Next, add in a dose of lushness with plants that not only recycle the stale air in your home but connect you to the natural world if even in a small way. However don't go overboard as plants need bloody dusting too. Finish this with a natural materials such as real wood (cladding and furniture), sisal (rugs and runners), clay or terracotta (pots and tiles) and stone (flooring and worktops). Go for white everywhere else.
So do yourself a favour: have a clear out, ditch the excess packaging and items you haven't used in years and treat at least one room to a calm makeover.
Should you need a little a little more help with Calming your home - Call us! As we'd love to help
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So now you know the looks you like but you can't avoid the technical side which will undoubtedly narrow down or pinpoint your stone choice. Follow our advice here...
How do you like your stone?
As well as the many types and uses for stone you also have to decide which style to have and know the following disclaimers…
Tumbled V’s Architectural
Tumbled stone is nearly always matt for a more natural look but is also tumbled or aged on the edges so that there are no sharp sides or corners. This style usually suits rustic, pretty or exotic looking spaces. Think country cottage or romantic roman baths. Most often, tumbled materials are limestones and marbles for floors and walls
Architectural stone is the opposite and has straight 90 degree corners and a perfectly smooth surface, often polished. This style of tile works best in sleeker, contemporary homes in granites, limestones, slates and marbles on floors, walls and for work surfaces.
Polished V’s Honed
Polished is again better suited to city or modern dwellings and can be had in all of the materials we’ve looked at including the Quartzites and Terrazzos. Again, be very careful if you’re considering polished for your floors.
Honed stone is suited to all properties that require a subtler and calmer vibe and for people who prefer a more naturalistic look. Smooth or pitted, the feel of stone on your hands and feet (especially when heated) is sensual and grounding for the user creating more relaxed interior spaces.
Your tiler will know to use a special stone adhesive but he’ll want to know what grout colours you want. Don’t be stumped, here’s what we recommend.
Always go for the closest colour match to the stone or light grey for creams and browns and mid to dark grey for slates, marbles and granites.
Also insure that the installer seals the stone, especially if it’s unpolished. This means a thin coat of stone sealant or wax being applied to protect the surface. This barrier does wear away after time so when your stone shows signs of aging, usually after 5+ years, you should clean and re-coat the tiles to keep them looking new forever.
The Small Print
Finally, care and cleaning for your newly installed stone will mean that you can no longer use harsh products such as Cif and bleach. These will destroy the stone over time. Instead opt for cleaners made specifically for stone or go to your nearest health food store and buy gentle, natural cleaners and sanitising sprays.
Next, invest in some good quality chopping boards as you’ll cause irreparable damage to the great swathes of beautiful stone you’ve just bought . Wooden boards are great as they have inherent antibacterial properties and is a natural contrast to the stone or grab a matching, smaller slab of the stone worktop and it will sit camouflaged on the worksurface for you to cut away on.
A note on sustainability: I believe that it’s important to ask about a stone’s origins. Natural is great but it’s appeal is tarnished if it’s a rarer stone that’s been depleted over time or if it’s air miles are alarmingly high, for example a lot of stone comes from China and South America. Where possible opt for British or at least European.
In conclusion, where your budget permits go for the real thing. There’s something for everyone you’re eschewing plastic and bringing the outside in which is always a winner in my opinion.
Stone for your Home – What to chose and where to use it
If like me, you love the feel of natural materials and want to introduce some luxury into your interiors you would probably like to install some stone in your home. You may have a redundant fireplace you want to re-instate, a bathroom that needs some glamour or want beautiful worktops for your kitchen, but where to start?
Let’s start with where you can use stone
Lay a stone floor and you lay a floor for life. Tougher than wood, easy to clean and it can be heated from beneath. Stone floors feel wonderful underfoot and beats its plastic imitations hands down with natural, undulating colours and patterns that cannot be matched.
Domestic stone flooring comes in tile form from 1 x 1cm mosaic to a whopping 100 x 100cm tile and everything in between. As a general rule for a slick look use larger scale tiles, closer together to avoid having many joins and for a more casual or rustic look smaller from 5x5cm to 30x30cm tiles work well as they come with more grout lines and pattern options.
Things to watch: Avoid high heels and dragging furniture around. Also, unless you and other users are completely aware of the danger in having a polished floor in wet areas DON’T DO IT. As Bon Jovi said “Slippery When Wet”
The recent trend to have bare stone or brick has seen a resurgence of stone clad walls in the home. This might be a hotel style shower lined in limestone, a rough slate coated feature wall or a marble backsplash in the kitchen. Slabs (larger scale pieces) are generally used for walls but mosaic or 10x10cm tumbled (softer looking edges) tiles look expensive and can offer a neutral palette to jump start your décor from.
Things to watch: Vertical plane stone, especially textured, can gather limescale and be trickier to clean but if you love the look, cleaning lightly and often is the way to keep your walls looking good.
Marble, is so sought after for worktops at the moment from edgy East London family homes to high-end apartments. The most popular, grey and white stone is called Bianca Carrara just so you know. However there are other beautiful surfaces if you're wanting something a little different. Grey and brown coloured limestones and granites are favourites of mine with their soft grey into taupe hues. Match these to off-white or mid colours to achieve the anti-dote to a harsh, shiny, footballer’s pad.
Things to watch: All worktops can get damaged by cutting, chemical cleaners and acidic food and drink. Granite is usually the toughest, whilst marble can get marked by everything from lemon juice to red wine. Again, if you love the look you can buy specialist stone cleaner in all larger supermarkets these days and for goodness sake always use a chopping board as stone can get scored.
In bathrooms and especially in Wet Rooms, stone can look stunning on the walls and floor, but you do need to consider the slip-rating of stone. An ideal R-rating (short for Ramp Test) of 10-12 is best for a domestic bathroom, this can be achieved by either adding an anti-slip product or going for smaller tiles. However products like Lithofin’s ‘Anti-Slip’ can only make a smooth stone slip-resistant and the company do not offer a R-rating for this. The alternative is to have a matt (honed) stone or better still a matt stone in smaller tiles with lots of grippy grout lines.
Things to watch: See above, a gorgeous looking spa experience in your home and whilst you’re at it, get yourself a gorgeous stone sink too.
Stone – What’s your type?
You probably have a good idea of the stone you like already having seen it in mags and on Pinterest, but what do you know about it and is it the best option for you. Let me take you through the main contendors.
A hard-wearing granular composition which comes in colours from yellow to chocolate brown. It can have a smooth or characterful pitted appearance and often comes with bonus fossils.
A smoother stone with distinctive veining throughout. Comes in a fascinating array of colours from whites and greys to blues and reds. The most expensive marbles are the ones that have very little variation and veining but I say bring on the character an save yourself some money too
The hardest wearing natural worktop, formed of larger pieces bound together under the Earths natural compression and heat. It’s mostly seen in it’s shinier, polished form but look out for the softer unpolished versions too
Formed of layers in the earth compressed to a hard blue, purple, green, grey or black surface. I love slightly textured slate for floors and smooth for worktops which when treated has a lovely eggshell type sheen
Man-handled material No1. Terrazzo has been around since Roman times and, as with marble, is having a resurgence since its last heyday in the 50s and 60s (think classic Italian cafes). Made from chips of stone and/or glass, embedded in cement or resin and polished, your surfaces can be made in any colour and will be as hard as nails. Again, see how well those old, Italian café floors are holding up
Man-handled material No2. Crushed stone particles are bound together in resin to form a stone-like slab which feels just like the real thing. The added bonus is that the colouring and patterning are more consistent and you can (sensibly) cut and pour any food and drink onto it making it the toughest worktop here. It comes in huge array of colours too. Also, recent versions with marble style veining are becoming increasingly popular and convincing so it’s a good alternative to the more porous, Bianca carrara.
One of London's Best Interiors Bloggers (Ideal Home magazine), The Open Plan Interior Design, London produces contemporary interiors for homes and business' and this very useful home interiors blog