I wrote an email to someone this morning who has never once lived in a house that felt warm and inviting. Despite his best efforts, whatever those may be, cold and impersonal seems to be the central motif of his living space. It’s strange, but it’s like he can’t escape it.
I don’t know much about interior design, and I don’t care to know much about it, but when I move into a new house, my first order of business is to make it feel like mine, a place I’d want to make my bed. And now that I’ve settled into my new apartment, I’m thinking maybe I have a pretty good sense of what it takes to make a house feel cosy, inviting, a place you’d want to live. So, copy and pasted from the email I wrote this morning, here’s my big advice for all you interior designer wannabees. Listen up!
The first step to making a cosy house for yourself is to forget about size. Don’t get a house with rooms you don’t really need. Don’t get taken in by how nice a room looks when you’re viewing a house. “Oh, what a beautiful sun room.” Yeah, a sun room that once you buy the house just sits there and does nothing. You walk through the sun room on your way to the TV room, but you never actually do anything in the sun room. You end up spending $30 a month to heat a room you never use. Way to go. So don’t get a house unless you’re absolutely sure you’re actually going to make use of every room in the house. Rooms that aren’t lived in are like gardens where nothing grows.
If you need space to store stuff, don’t store it out in the open. Put your junk in the basement or build a garage in your backyard and put it there. This should be obvious, but converting your living space into storage space does nothing to make a house feel warm and inviting. In this way, a smaller house is better, because you don’t end up using it for storage, not as likely, anyway. In our new apartment, we don’t have a huge amount of space to work with, and that means we won’t be filling our rooms with junk. We have to keep things cosy or else the house quickly turns into a junk heap. We have a huge, cold basement, conveniently out of sight, which we use for storage. And that’s the way it should be.
Another thing that makes a house feel good to live in: wood. Avoid dark-stained wood, open all your windows, and have as much natural looking wood around as possible. If you fill a room with dark-stained wood and dark furniture and dark curtains and dark carpet, guess what? It’s a downer. We couldn’t avoid some dark-coloured wood in our place, but there isn’t much of it, and it’s spread out. When the sunlight comes through our windows, man, the whole place lights up. When sunlight hits natural wood, something happens. You feel like you’re outside. The air feels different. Dark wood, dark furniture in general, creates a cold, unfriendly vibe. Don’t do it.
It took about two weeks to get our apartment in order, picking just the right rug for our living room, a soft-lit reading lamp, crap like that, but it was worth it. It’s a warm apartment, it’s got personality (being an old house, by default it has more personality than most modern houses), and it feels good living here.
Other tips: Find yourself a really comfortable chair, something that just feels good to sit in, and buy it. If you have hardwood floors, rugs are nice. And cook with rosemary. It makes a house smell great. I hear putting paintings and pictures on the walls can be nice too. And plants, if you like plants. If you’re a collector of knick-knacks, get help; there’s something wrong with you. And of course every room in the house should have books.