Hi Friend. I certainly didn’t mean to step away from here for such a long stretch. There’s been many a thing keeping me busy lately, from hybrid homeschooling to madly designing the #HoodCanalCottage, not to mention national political near-catastrophe, environmental disaster, and of course this nagging pandemic. The world’s larger turmoil made sharing here feel rather small. Insignificant. Insufficient. We’re all dealing with A. LOT. Carrying so much. It’s been weighing on me.
Is it weighing on you too?
But I had a shift last week. As I sat with feeling really sad about all we’ve lost in the last year, I started thinking about the pockets in daily life where we can still find joy. Design can certainly be one of those places. So many other adult forms of inspiration, play and fun have been stripped from us – live theater, music, in-person art. Even the simple pleasure of eating a beautiful meal outside your home – gone. Moments of pure joy can feel few and far between. It is in that vacuum that design can take on even more importance as it’s an art form you live in.
Design can directly impact your mental and physical wellbeing. Design changes the way you interact with your environment and all the things that are in it. Design can offer pleasure and joy, but it can also improve your quality of life. I certainly found that to be the case as we finished our house. And then our yard. And then my office. Each piece of intentional design elevated my daily life – alleviating the grind and instead offering reprieve. Restoration. Maybe even healing – if only momentary. I can say for sure that design has helped my family maintain a semblance of mental and physical health as we perpetually shelter in place.
There have been so many days I feel like I can offer so little to help you weather these trying times, but I hope design inspiration I share here can offer you a bright spot, spark an idea, or might even inspire you to fully reimagine your home so that it becomes a space that nurtures you – mind, body and spirit. It’s hard, if not impossible, to go outside our spaces to nuture ourselves right now. So we might as well turn within.
This space – called the Dangar Island House is a current source of major inspiration for me as I work on the Hood Canal Cottage – I’m going to be sharing a HUGE update on my design progress in the next couple of days. But for now, please feast your eyes on this gorgeous Australian weekend escape.
Originally owned and designed by renowned design expert Karen McCartney (author of one of my favorite design tomes – The Alchemy of Things), this gem of a vacation house is perched among the trees on a small island about an hour north of Sydney. This three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is a study in simplicity. But the absence of bells and whistles is not a detraction. Instead, the pared-back design, clean lines and minimal decorative architectural details make every intentional decorating choice stand out. The local woods used to frame doorways. The bleached American oak floors. The strong black accents. Each choice stands on its own but also plays beautifully with everything around it.
The home’s open living space is dotted with iconic design classics including wishbone dining chairs, Noguchi lamps, Carl Hansen safari chairs and Serge Mouille wall lights. The clean lines and lack of clutter draw your eye to each one of them, their lines, curves and natural materials melding seamlessly with the surroundings.
The house’s serene feel is also thanks to the use of an extremely consistent color palette and beautifully curated mix of curiosities, art, and lamps. McCartney talked about how she intentionally designed all the house’s storage to be open, ensuring anything brought into the house had to be either useful or beautiful. That might not always be possible in the homes we occupy on a daily basis, as day-to-day life is often messy and trends towards efficiency over form. But what if we focused more on aesthetic pleasure rather than saving that extra five minutes? What might we gain?
As I return to this stunning home again and again (and again!), I just keep reminding myself to stick to essentials in my own design choices. Rather than try to overfill or over-design, you want to give key pieces space to breathe. And so often less is more – particularly in a space designed for escape. No one wants to be reminded of day-to-day clutter (or the mental to-do lists!).
The Dangar Island House was recently on the market. I’m not sure I could ever walk away from a gem of a spot like this. It’s actually not entirely clear whether or not it sold – if it did, I hope the new owners have a deep appreciation for the special qualities of this home. And I hope I can achieve that same level of exceptionalism with the Hood Canal Cottage.
Only time will tell!