Nine Ways To Find Your Balance
Emma from the award-winning interiors website All Up In My Space talks us through creating a mindful, balanced home...
Balance. It's elusive, right? Some would say downright tricky. It conjures up mental images of toned women in all-white workout gear, smiling benignly at bowls of un-dressed salad. In reality it might be simply finding more time to create, or chilling out once a week by yourself, or putting your phone down an hour before bed. With 74% of us in the UK saying we feel overwhelmed or unable to cope, there's a real need to not only find balance, but to hold onto it and build it into our every day.
For me, that starts at home. Home is our resting place, our recharging station and the hub around which life is lived - when our homes are balanced, our lives feel more balanced too. My own journeys on Instagram @thecrapflat and through my blog, All Up In My Space, have made me think about the spaces we create in new ways, especially looking at how we can use them to sustain better mental health. So, without further ado, here's my guide to decorating your way to relaxation and balance, one carefully-placed throw pillow at a time.
Define your happy
What makes your heart sing? For me, it's clean lines and neutral tones in a colour palette of anaemic toast (mmm, toast), but maybe for you it's inky blues and evocative art? Maybe you yearn to wake up in a room that feels cosy; maybe space is your thing; maybe you want one of those under-floor fish tanks with a trapdoor like Bond villains have. Whatever it is that gets your calm going, it's worth taking time to find it. Hit up Pinterest and Instagram, flip through interiors magazines and - most importantly - shop your own home, taking note of the things you already own that give your heart a little flutter of, 'Thank flipping goodness I got/kept/stole that'. It's so easy to get sucked into trends and newness, but a space that's all yours should start with a deep, emotional understanding of what you truly like.
Get your moodboard on
Could you write 500 words about the space you want to create? If you had to, could you confidently explain what mood you want to evoke for your living room? Truth be told, you'll probably never have to do either of those things, but my point is about knowing your needs and taste, and stepping into those before you make a purchase. Enter the moodboard. I'm a lazy moodboarder, so I screengrab and bung things into Powerpoint, but if you're so inclined you can collect fabrics and images and textures and tones and have a ripe old time getting creative.
Lay it out
You can create the most beautiful, zen-like space inside, but if you wake up facing a window that looks into somebody else's bathroom, you're never going to feel the benefit, so consider this with your layout. I spent many years waking up to dressing gowns hung on the back of a bedroom door, and can vouch for the negative effect it had on my day. Same goes for furniture placement – nothing's guaranteed to dent your Qi quite like not being able to move freely around your space. Notice how you naturally move through it and then make the space work around that. And if you have to wake up looking at the back of a door? Make that door the best door you've ever seen.
Not in the workout sense – I'm talking colour. We established long ago that I get my calm kicks from warm neutrals and toast – where do you get yours? I can't imagine feeling calm in a room painted neon, but maybe you can..? There's no judgement here. Painting a room can feel like a big decision, so if you're not totally sure what chills you out, close your eyes and think of the last time you were really relaxed – where was it? Can you take any tonal inspiration from there? Once you have a vague idea, explore that colour palette, grab some swatches and see which ones speak to you. Maybe you carry one palette through each floor of the house to help with flow, maybe you switch it up completely from room to room – if it works for you, I'm here for it.
Existing, as I do, on a plane of beige and white, texture is important. It helps to stop a space looking stark, and creates a sense of warmth. Layers invite you to snuggle up, fabrics soften hard edges and wood grain brings in a touch of nature. Even within those parameters there are decisions to be made. Do you prefer a raw linen or a silky satin? Do you fold your throws or artfully cast them askew? I favour a relaxed look and feel that doesn't make me want to tidy it up every ten seconds. Consider multiple blankets and soft, squashy pillows; play with one colour over several textures – there's a big game being played in textural, plaster-like wall paint right now too. Find what you love and go hell for full-grain leather.
You know what? Circles calm me. Straight lines calm me. In fact, anything minimal and un-fussy calms me. So I carry those shapes through my whole space. You'll find circle prints in the bedroom that mirror a round table in the living room – it's about creating a sense of continuity through shapes. That cohesion helps your brain to recognise its surroundings, meaning it doesn't need to look for threats and can therefore stay calm. Sounds a little meta, but I swear there's truth in it.
Love your stuff
Choose wisely, move slowly – that's my motto. From the furniture to the rug to the print on the wall, everything needs to give you an emotional or functional benefit to warrant its place in your space. And if it gives you both, all the better. As an habitual impulse-buyer I'm learning to see something I love and wait to buy it. If I'm still thinking about it a week or two after I've seen it, I know it's the one. Shopping this way means I'm taking more time to think about where I'm buying and who I'm buying from, meaning I really appreciate the stories and craft that go into certain pieces.
That's not to say everything has to be hand-made – I love some of the pieces I've bought from big brands and high street stores, and am learning to not go overboard when I shop just because they're less expensive. Which connects in no way to my point on plants, which is: fill your space with plants. If you can look after them and keep them alive, they'll clean your air and make things look nice. Heck, they'll even lower your blood pressure.
Smell the goodness
My flat has an unusual smell, gifted to us by years of blocked drains and a small but persistent damp problem. For this reason, and because I have a serious home fragrance habit, my place is loaded with candles and oils and diffusers, usually with a relaxing scent profile. Choose natural fragrances with no nasties in them, to keep your air as non-toxic as possible – a plant-based soy candle or paraben-free spray should do the job. I'm also a big smell-fan of the OTO Balance Oil, which is blended with calming lavender, chamomile and cajeput. And a pillow mist is the ultimate pre-bed ritual, too – if you get into a spritzy routine, your brain starts to associate the scent with sleep and it will help you drift off better (that is if you're still awake once the 30% CBD takes effect).
The absolute most crucial part to creating a sense of balance at home? Make time for yourself in it.
Since launching my blog and Instagram this year, my life has become a whirlwind of deadlines and phone-time and meetings and events and last-minute changes and all the things that balance-professionals would say balance isn't. So when I'm at home I make sure I find the time for breaks and breathers. 20 minutes for a steaming bath here, a quick roll-on of my OTO oil there – finding balance in my space has been as much about taking myself and my wellbeing seriously as it's been about finding nice things. Try lighting a candle at the end of your working day, then once that becomes a normal thing to do, try taking five minutes to do some breathwork. Before you know it you'll be stepping off the tube and straight into calmsville.
What makes your relaxing space is totally unique to you, and finding out what that is can be an empowering part of the journey to a balanced life. There's power in getting to know what you love and why you love it, and a huge sense of relaxed achievement to be found in looking around at the space you've created that's your little part of the world. Take your time, trust your gut and stay well clear of anything that looks like an un-dressed salad.