Thursday, 9 August 2012

Home Sweet Home - Creating A Spirit Of Loveliness On A Budget

Source for this image here.

Now I'll be the first to admit that to some people, our home probably isn't "lovely" at all.  We live in a small high rise apartment with no garden, which is furnished mostly with second-hand or thrift store items that we have gathered along the way throughout the numerous house moves that finally brought us to our current residence several years ago.  It's not fancy or glamorous.  Nothing matches, and there is no particular theme to the style of each room.  It's quite cramped with all 4 of us in it because the rooms themselves are pretty small (our bathroom is so tiny that only one person at a time can fit into it) so there isn't much room for trimmings and frills.  But we love it.  It is home, and it's usually full of joy and laughter and lots of love.  To us, that's far more important than any material things. 

However, it goes without saying that part of a homemaker's duty is to create a pleasant, orderly and welcoming envirnoment for her family, and to that end, I "make do and mend" wherever I can to make the very most of what we have!  Our home may be modest, but it's clean and neat and comfortable.  It doesn't cost anything to keep our home tidy, so even when we were newlyweds, and later with our small babies, living in very poor accommodation, I still managed to create something of a home for us.  Not just a house - a place for our hearts, that was safe and warm and cheerful.

Over the years, I've picked up lots of small tricks that can help to make even the most humble of abodes feel like a palace, and today I thought I would share some of them with you.

In The Kitchen: of all the things that you can do to create a welcoming atmosphere in your home, one of the easiest can be achieved without you really even having to try!  Delicious scents make a wonderful welcome for anyone who enters your home, and you can provide these simply through preparing your meals!  Baking bread, hot coffee, a simmering casserole, roast chicken, gingerbread cookies ... the list is endless.  But even if you aren't baking, or need a quick pick-me-up for your home you can recreate the aura of home baking by using scented candles, or by warming some cinnamon or vanilla in a little water in a pan on your stove (watch it whilse you are doing so).   Just putting some toast in the toaster or making a mug of instant coffee can bring a homely scent to your kitchen too.

I also do try to keep the kitchen clean and tidy.  I do think, especially if you have invited guests into your home, and even more so if you are going to be sharing a meal with them, that it creates a very welcoming impression if you can at least have one tidy room - and the kitchen is the one that I feel makes the most impact.  After all it is the "heart of the home"!  It doesn't have to take long - just wiping down the worktops and sweeping the floor will make a huge difference, and if you have a little more time, wiping your appliances clean and shining your sink add even more sparkle.

Fresh air also makes a home feel lovely - although we haven't a garden, we can still create a feeling of openness and freedom by having our windows open and letting in the outside!  Even in winter we like to have our bedroom window open - and in the kitchen, where it can often get hot or humid, it's even nicer to have the windows open as much as possible.

In The Living Room: here is where there is the greatest potential (in our home at least) for unexpected clutter!  Everyone seems to congregate in here, especially in the evenings, and what with books, newspapers, laptops, craft items and pets, it can get a bit muddly!  I try to keep a handle on the incidental bits and pieces that appear each day by having miniature storage boxes suitable for placing items like unread magazines, DVD's waiting to be watched, knitting patterns and books, until their owners are ready to move them to be tidied away properly.  I also make sure that the dining table (we have only 2 rooms downstairs - the kitchen and the living room - the floorspace in our apartment is actually smaller than that in most trailers I have been in) is always kept clear.   That way there is always a feeling of space and orderliness that you notice as soon as you walk in.

I try to keep the cushions on the settee and chairs tidy too - and we have a "no papers, no feet" rule too - nothing except for bottoms goes on seats!  The cubs do like to lounge about though, as teenagers do, so they have beanbags that are kept in their bedrooms, that come downstairs for them to sit on when we are watching movies together.

A quick way to make your living room seem inviting and orderly is to keep similar items in one place.  Living rooms are the place where entertainment is most likely to be enjoyed, and that means books, craft items, DVD's and possibly even pets, are likely to be found!  If you keep like items grouped together rather than spread about in different locations it makes the room seem more organised.  I also don't like to see anything but books (or possibly DVD's and CD's) on shelves.  Things like papers, magazines, craft items and suchlike, are kept out of sight.  You don't need fancy storage either - I've learned that if you keep like items together, such as a series of books in the same binding, or boxed sets of DVD's, you can stack them quite neatly and they will look tidy just on their own.  Obviously if you can afford proper storage systems these are better, but even just the floor will do if you have nothing else.  Just keep the stacks tidy - and don't pile other items on top of them.

Nic-nacs, trinkets, ornaments and other trimmings can make a room look untidy very quickly if there are too many or they are not displayed well.  Again, if you display them all in groups of like items they will look tidier, but if you have a large collection, also consider rotating your precious treasures and only having a few on show at a time.  We tend to avoid having many trinkets and ornaments in our home - they make more housework, for sure, and although I love the ones we do have, I don't display them all at the same time for this reason.  We also don't have many wall hangings or pictures - they too can make a room look cluttered, especially if, like in our home, that room is furnished with items that don't match.

Un-matched furniture can be made to look more co-ordinated very cheaply and quickly by using large throws or covers to disguise it.  I don't particularly like these, because I find that they very quickly get rumpled and creased, and constantly have to be tidied up and rearranged to keep them looking tidy.  But they are an option if you don't have many people sitting regularly on your chairs.  Since in our home they aren't a great choice, instead, I've chosen to have matching cushions (which are plain), and plain window dressings too.  This limits the "busy" look of the items that as yet in our home, are a little "eclectic"!

In The Bedroom: now I believe that bedrooms are for private!  I certainly wouldn't invite any guests into ours.  But obviously as a married couple, we do spend quite a lot of time in our bedroom!  And I like it to be as lovely and welcoming as it can be.  A bedroom's primary function is for sleeping in.  And for that reason, it should be a haven of calm and peacefulness.  It should be furnished in such a way that when you are in it, you feel instantly relaxed.  For this reason, I like our bedroom to be quite bare and simple.  It is one of the smallest rooms in the apartment (Cubby has the largest bedroom, and Little Bear has a tiny room which she adores).  In our room there is just enough room for a bed and a wardrobe, and a very small night stand.  We have a built in cupboard with room for clothes in it, and the rest of our personal belongings are in the wardrobe.   Other than a few ornaments on the night stand, the room is bare. 

But the bed is very luxurious!  Papa Bear allows me free reign with our bedroom decor, so I've tried to make it very soft and feminine and relaxing to be in.  The bed has lots of pillows and cushions on it (including 2 V shaped cushions which are so great for lying in bed to read!).  The bedclothes do always match, but by having a simple theme (pink and white) with yet again, plain window dressings, it is easy and inexpensive to make the room look pretty and welcoming.  A quick dust and hoover, and that is all it needs to look organised.  And one last thing - we'd never have a TV in our bedroom!  We only have one TV for the whole apartment and that is downstairs in the living room.

In The Bathroom: (in England, the "bathroom" refers to the whole suite - the bath, sink and toilet.  In our home, these are all together in one room.  In larger homes, they may be separate, in which case the bathroom refers to the bath or shower - the room in which you wash - not the toilet).   As I mentioned above, our bathroom really is tiny.  It is difficult to give an impression of luxuriousness in such a tiny room.  However we've managed to create a feeling of true warmth and relaxation in it by having it painted a lovely warm yellow, with pretty "Mediterranean" coloured tile-effect vinyl on the floor, and a wooden blind at the window. 

Once again in this room, I try to keep the clutter to a bare minimum, and the patterns and colours quite muted.  But one thing that does add to the room is the mirrors - there are 4!  They are heart shaped and vary in size, and they add an illusion of space that the room desperately needs.  Once again, tea lights and candles help to lend extra warmth to the room as well.  And of course, plenty of deliciously scented bubbles, too!

It's not difficult to create a spirit of loveliness in your home - no matter how humble it is.  In fact we think that the loveliest homes are usually the most modest.  There you can sense a true feeling of what is most important - family and faith - and of real values, rather than superficial ones.  It's easy to get caught up in the material aspirations that surround us in the secular world we live in nowadays, but once you are safely within the welcoming walls of your own house, no matter how small or how humble, what really matters is that you are with the people you really love, in the place that makes you happiest - home sweet home.