home,  lifestyle

Home is where the art is

The current global COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated drastic but necessary self-isolation measures for everyone, which means that we’re all now spending an inordinate amount of time in our homes. While we may start to feel like the walls are closing in (or that we’re ready to start climbing them), I’m trying to use this opportunity to “get to know” my own home–to be grateful for it, appreciate what it is, and also think about ways to improve it. So here is what I hope to be the beginning of a series on my home, starting with where I spend most of my time: my living room.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by interior design and decor, and it’s been interesting to watch how my own style and preferences have changed over the years. For instance, I was really into traditional Japanese design as a teenager–I would’ve installed tatami mats and rice paper sliding doors were it an option! At this point, my style has wandered into what might be characterized as eclectic.

Several of these pieces of art were found during my travels, including the wood block print from Japan (top left) and the gnome sketches from a market in Florence (bottom right).

While I love my pink velvet armchair and my tufted bench, ultimately, what I consider the most important element of my home is my art. For me, the art I display is less about its actual aesthetics (though of course that is a component) but more importantly tells the story of my life: the places I’ve visited and the people I’ve been with. Even if that person has since come and gone, they’re still a part of my story and so deserve a spot in my home.

I love the vibrant colours of this painted skull from New Orleans, invoking the lovely memories of a trip taken with a former partner

I’ve discovered that I’m drawn to etchings, sketches, and other similar types of art, perhaps because of their seeming simplicity and lightness. I feel this has unintentionally informed my style more generally, as I find I have a penchant for light, clean lines, punctuated with pops of colour.

I love the sketch-like, almost unfinished quality of this piece I found while wandering the streets of Lisbon.

My love for all things animal has also informed many of my artistic (not to mention sartorial) choices, as I can’t seem to pass up a quirky animal piece, usually one portraying animals dressed as humans or nursing a cocktail. I like to think that that sense of whimsy has pervaded my living room, from my choice of colours (pink, turquoise, yellow) to my choice in art.

A collection of things that make me happy: a print from Amelie (one of my favourite movies), a stack of travel books (one of my favourite pastimes), and a lamp shade covered in dictionary clippings (because yay words)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always itching to travel. The travel bug bit me hard in my 20s, and I’ve been so fortunate to be able to explore a host of different countries over the last 10 years. As such, it’s become an important part of my identity and so has permeated my style even when I’m not trotting around the globe. For instance, I collected vintage travel guides for a time, which now sit in small stacks around the living room–I love the worn aesthetic of old books but also how they provide a neat window into different eras of travel.

I found this charming little piece of wood art in a store in Portland, a city for which I have great fondness.

While I do appreciate living above ground on the 8th floor, I do always wish that my apartment would get a bit more light. One way I’ve tried to brighten up the room is by hanging my large gilded mirror directly opposite my living room window to reflect light back into the space. It also serves the function of making the room feel a bit more expansive (and a place where visitors can check out their hair as they walk by). What’s wonderful is that from my bedroom, the angle of the mirror captures my little wall gallery, and so I can wake up every morning and glimpse some of my favourite art pieces.

This gilded frame has traveled with me from Vancouver to Chicago to Toronto.

The latest evolution in my decor journey has been a newfound love of plants. My mother has always been the consummate green thumb of the family, with her beautifully landscaped gardens and her carefully curated greenhouse. I’m not entirely sure what motivated my relatively recent foray into greenery. I’ve heard for people who get tattoos that after the first, you can’t help but keep collecting them. Perhaps such was the case with my plants–it might have been an orchid or succulent that was my gateway plant, and then all bets were off! I always seem to be gathering new plants and then have to try to find places for them to live (there are worse things to collect I suppose!). I don’t yet have my mother’s expertise in plant care, and I’ve lost more than few plants along the way, but it’s a skill-in-progress.

A simple homemade table, made from IKEA legs affixed to an unfinished piece of wood, offers a place for me to attempt to keep my plants alive.

I am learning to appreciate the value of evolution–that one is never really “done” a space. It should continue to be free to transform and adapt to not only one’s changing style but also ultimately one’s functional needs for the space. Having to be essentially confined to my apartment and work from home for what is an indefinite amount of time motivated a very recent change to my living room space. In an effort to improve productivity, I decided to carve out a little workspace in one corner. It’s typically filled with either plants or my Christmas tree, and so I had mentally closed off that space as a possible work area. But in the end, I’m quite pleased with my recent addition: a simple (and wee) desk and a cheerful yellow desk chair. It may not live there forever, but that’s part of the fun of it all!

A very recent addition to the living room motivated by my working from home for the foreseeable future

Having moved around and started anew in unfamiliar cities, I’ve often pondered what it is to feel like home. There are certainly a variety of factors, but an important one for me is feeling nested and comfortable. To that end, I’ve tried to create a space that feels like me–where I could feel comfortable being myself and also where someone who knows me could walk in and recognize me in the art or the colour palette (could someone recognize me from a pink armchair I wonder? I like to think so). A place that tells my story, even if the tales themselves go unsaid.

My sister painted this portrait of Gizmo, which is the first thing I see when I enter my apartment (right after the real Gizmo of course)

The source list

  • Sofa – Crate and Barrel
  • Coffee and side tables – West Elm
  • Tufted bench – Restoration Hardware
  • Rug – West Elm
  • Glass table lamp (with dictionary lamp shade) – Anthropologie
  • Media console – IKEA
  • Bookcase – IKEA
  • Pink velvet armchair – West Elm
  • Throw cushions – West Elm
  • White high chair – IKEA
  • Work desk & yellow office chair – IKEA

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