I firmly believe that a home should feel. I am admittedly not an interior designer, but simply a kindergarten teacher/artist who has seen how designing a responsive space can cultivate community and facilitate joy. With this background, I understand the importance of intentionally setting and carefully executing one’s vision to generate beauty and functionality.
In 2018, my husband and I sold our possessions, opting to keep only what could fit in our 2009 Toyota Corolla. We were stunned by how much crap we had; things we hadn’t seen in years or things that were as burdensome to get rid of as they were unuseful to keep.
That year, we lived out of two suitcases (each). I learned a lot about what constitutes necessity. I learned a lot about what we need to survive and what we need to thrive. We tend to carry a lot of weight in our possessions, and letting go can be difficult because we ascribe emotional value even when they no longer have practical value.
When we decided to settle down, we knew we wanted to build a home. Not a home full of trinkets and hand-me-down furniture (no shame in it, but we had some hideous worn down pieces that needed replacing). We needed our new place to live and breathe, and wanted it to facilitate the life we were manifesting; one full of rest, art, music and love.
Often we approach decorating our homes first with colors and aesthetics, but this can lead us to collecting “things” versus cultivating a vibe. In the past, I’ve set up spaces out of necessity. When I moved out on my own, I slept on the floor for a month before I could afford a mattress. I used to approach my space from a sense of scarcity and a need to fill the space with things that “everyone should have” versus things that spoke to my heart and lifestyle. I had a lot of internalized trauma from my childhood and when I finally started working and being able to provide for myself, it led me to feeling a weird attachment to my possessions.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to practice mindfulness and minimalism, two guiding principles in the compass of my design lens, as a way to subdue my triggers. Mindfulness forces me to ask questions like, “What is the utility of an item I bring into my home? Does it facilitate the habits necessary for me to cultivate joy in my living space? Does it spark joy (as my OG, Marie Kondo would say)?”
Minimalism forces me to analyze my relationships and attachments to things. People, places and things have their place in a particular space and time of my development. We experience pain when we hold onto things that are no longer for us. Minimalism forces me to ask questions like, “Do I need it? Is it distracting? Am I holding onto it just because it once had utility?”
I also recognize that how I treat things is a reflection of my own mental health and wellness. When I’m stressed or struggling with depression, my home gets messier. I’ve learned to pause when my home is out of order or in disarray, to analyze where I am emotionally – a practice which has helped me become more attentive to my needs and take care of myself with more vigor than I used to recognize was necessary. My home has become a barometer of balance and presence in my life.
With the vibe in mind, we set out to create an oasis that perfectly fit our needs. We started in the living room, the room that we both spend the majority of our waking hours in (at home). Our living room vibe is called “Vintage Black Glamour” (a nod to the popular book by Nichelle Gainer).
When you walk in, the colors pop out immediately. It features salmon, teal, cream, silver and gold, fur and greenery. There are vinyl records, books and plants to greet you as you walk from the entry to the couch. We wanted to create a space for collective entertainment and connection. My husband and I both get a lot of joy from black literature, film, art and music so we designed our space to indulge in exactly that.
Two pieces in particular, which are the foundation of the room, and which we’ve kept through previous apartments, are Spike Lee movie posters. One is my all time favorite Spike Lee movie, Do the Right Thing, and the second is a movie we saw on our first date, She’s Gotta Have It. That night was one of our first passionate, intimate moments and the poster has become a reminder of the passion we entered our relationship with.
Another key piece is an Ikea couch. This couch is easily the most expensive item we’ve purchased together, but after years of uncomfortable, cheap couches, we decided to go for it. It was admittedly difficult and a bit tense to swallow the cost, but sitting on it with him now brings such immense warmth to my heart, it was most certainly worth it.
Our next area of focus was the bathroom. For me, the bathroom is a zen space. I practice so much self love there that I needed it to feel like a place I could spend hours. I make it a habit to recite affirmations and intentions daily, and I wanted this space to facilitate confidence and self esteem. In designing it, I visualized my best self leaving for work with a smile on my face and pausing to look in the mirror to acknowledge all the power I was exuding to conquer the day ahead.
The theme of the bathroom is “Keeping it Juicy” because staying meditative and hydrated are the highlights of my morning. When you walk in, you are greeted with peaches, lemons and palm tree leaves. The fixtures are rose gold, the counter is bare, and the walls demand your attention. The cabinets store all things grooming and self care, neatly stacked into clear boxes which makes them easy to access but not cluttered.
One of my favorite pieces is a waterproof speaker I keep in the shower. You can often find me soaking in a bubble bath, jamming out to Sade or rapping along with Meg the Stallion, which help start or end my day in a great mood.
Another key piece is the chakra alignment gallery wall, designed with concepts and imagery of the seven chakras and art found on Society6 (gotta support indie-artists) representing each chakra. Another favorite is one that I made, featuring a quote from the song Juicy by the late, great Christopher Wallace, “You know very well, who you are, don’t let it hold you down, reach for the stars.” A perfect affirmation and a classic hip hop song to start each day with the energy of a bad ass confident ass hustling manifestor.
The last room of interest is our bedroom. The theme is “Sweet Simple Dream.” I struggle with insomnia and often fight sleep because I have trouble winding down from the day. My day jobs (teaching and writing) pull me toward technology and can be quite distracting to my personal life if I’m not careful. It was important for me to cultivate vibes of decadence around rest and relaxation.
The room is intentionally minimalist. It pulls in natural elements like wood, sunlight, low light and mirrors to establish the vibe. The main color is white which, along with the natural elements, reduces overstimulation.
One of my favorite pieces is the diffuser my husband bought me for Christmas. Almost every night he fills it up with water and puts on a scent, like lavender, to set the right mood for sleep. (This is a man who understands that when I have not had enough sleep I can be very emotional, and I love him for that).
For the bed, another favorite, we purchased a cheap, very comfortable firm/plush mattress on Amazon and a comforter set which can be layered for more or less warmth. Getting in bed feels extravagant every night. I sigh with gratitude as I tuck myself into the sheets and close my eyes.
You won’t find a tv and other auditory devices here, as we decided to minimize technology in this particular space for the sake of sleep hygiene. I also try my best to limit my use of my laptop or phone while in bed, though I still struggle to limit my use of the phone in particular. But hey, I am most definitely still a work in progress!
And so is our home. The laundry basket is often overflowing, you will likely find stuff lingering on the counter for days longer than it should, the fridge can get overcrowded, and we don’t yet have enough storage space for our growing book collection. But this is a space I’m honestly so excited to return to each day. I’m learning to lean in to that excitement and practice excess in joy and pleasure over consumerism. We delight in hosting here, and our friends love seeing the way our space continues to manifest.
In many ways we are still settling in and we’re doing it slowly, which helps us minimize impulse buying and deeply think about how the smallest thing speaks to the vibe. At the end of the day it’s all about the f*cking vibe.