Since Shelter-In-Place orders were given by many cities, counties and states in late March and early April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have already been quarantined together at home with your family or partner for some time.
You might have run into some challenges in working effectively from home and maintaining your interpersonal relationships due to these close quarters. I’m right there with you! So today I’m sharing some of my best tips for working and living together during extended quarantine.
Create Visual Separation
I live in a loft in San Francisco, which
comes with even more challenges than
for those who share a house or apartment, which at least gives you some
separation by rooms with walls and doors. So my first tip for those living and
working together in a loft, studio, or a single room is to create some visual
In a bedroom loft with no operable window, by
definition 50% of the wall area must remain open. My partner decided to build a
wall, and created a large window within the wall to meet this requirement.
But what if you can’t do any construction? A quick solution is to install a drapery track and hang retractable full-length draperies. If that’s not an option, another easy way is to place tall plants, standing room dividers, or a folding screen to form a visual barrier between areas. For added flexibility, put your plants on stands with wheels!
Create Sound Privacy
Visual separation is only the first step. If you both need to be on conference calls or Zoom meetings at the same time, or one partner needs to sleep while the other works, sound privacy is essential. Using noise-cancelling headphones are key!
Wired headphones are fine, but wireless headphones will maximize your freedom and ability to move around the space without interrupting your call. Also great for watching TV or streaming movies while your partner works or sleeps. If you don’t like headphones, place surround sound speakers close to your head to minimize sound transference.
Keep or Establish a Schedule
Not knowing when things are happening can
be a source of stress for people living and working in close quarters, so I
recommend keeping a similar schedule to the one you had pre-quarantine, or
establishing a new quarantine schedule.
Waking and sleeping at the same times each day is proven to be healthy for our bodies and minds, year-round. Having an established, set time when you’re going to be working and when you’re off the clock helps partners and children to be respectful of your needs, and stops those embarrassing video-conference background interruptions from happening as often.
Take Time Alone
Sometimes you just need some me-time. Before the quarantine, you might have gotten that during your gym session or on your commute. Now that those have been eliminated or taken a different form, it’s even more important to create time and space just for yourself.
A great way to do this is to take a walk
(with a face covering and socially distanced, of course). Go to the park,
around the block, walk your dog, or walk to the grocery store.
Another tip is to walk to your service
calls or essential in-person work activities. Yes, you can still drive or use
public transit, but why do that when you can be enjoying the fresh air, birds,
If you can’t leave the house, a good way to get some alone time is in your personal oasis, your bathroom. Make sure to let your partner know you’re going to be using the bathroom longer than usual, then light some candles or incense, dim the lights, and take a long bath or shower. Maybe read a book, listen to a podcast or some relaxing music while you use a face-mask or other beauty products. You’ll come out refreshed and happy.
Use these tips to make your quarantine life easier, and carry them over into your regular life, too, when you can get back to it. A happy home life makes everything easier!
Kimball Starr Interior Design creates beautiful, thoughtful spaces for home and work throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Nevada, and she can for you, too. Contact her today for a consultation!
The ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui seems mysterious, but it’s really about finding a balance between elements, and encouraging the flow of energy. One way this philosophy can be applied is in the creation and design of interior spaces. Here are a few pointers for beginners.
Incorporating feng shui goes deeper than Western design themes based on physical comfort or aesthetic. Feng shui emphasizes physical and mental health, success, and healthy relationships, all of which are brought about through positive energy flow.
Known as the art of placement, feng shui is about positioning different elements to optimize Chi, or energy. The term is comprised of two words: feng meaning wind, and shui meaning water. Both these elements are vital to human life, and also are expressed by their qualities of flow and movement.
The first step in designing with feng shui is to clear the energy that came before and still resides in the space. In Western terms, clear the clutter!
The next most basic part of the process is to ensure you have good air quality and natural light. This means removing anything that blocks light and air circulation in front of your windows, or providing options that allow in more light, such as sheers, in addition to drapes, which hold energy in.
Color is important in good design from every tradition. Use blues and greens in calming spaces, and reds and yellows to energize. Red is also known as a lucky color in Chinese culture, so utilize that to increase your luck.
Use the Chinese bagua map to analyze and create an energy map of your home. Traditionally this is based around compass directions, however, a Western method is to overlay your floor plan with a bagua map that has nine quadrants.
Align the front door with one of the bottom three squares, facing south, to maximize the sun’s energy each day. Then update each space according to its energy flow, by color and element in each quadrant.
Some general rules to go by:
Look at the big picture of the whole house, or if you’re doing a single room, how the space flows into other related spaces.
Place your bed, sofa and desk facing a door but not too close to it, to maximize power and minimize vulnerability.
Don’t leave cabinet doors open – they stop energy flow through a room.
Don’t place a mirror opposite your bed because it will reduce the energy in your romantic relationship.
Don’t use spikey plants indoors because they deflect energy. Leave those outside instead, and use rounded-leaf plants inside, providing an additional benefit of clean indoor air.
Use modern décor items as feng shui cures for specific needs, or to encourage the right kind of energy in the space. There are five major elements that affect energy in feng shui, each representing different aspects of a healthy life:
Wood – growth and vitality
Use wood items in your space to encourage
personal growth. Plants and wooden furniture are easy ways to add this element.
Metal – logic and intelligence
Increase knowledge and mental sharpness
with metal items. Add this element to your interiors with metal frames and
Earth – stability and balance
Helps to ground and stabilize. Bring the
earth element inside with crystals, stone items and landscape imagery or
Water – wisdom and serenity
Assists with clarity and relaxation.
Mirrors, reflective surfaces and aquariums can add a water element to your
space, and are cooling in nature.
Fire – passion and energy
Representative of transformation, expansion and volatility – hot in nature. Use candles and red objects to enhance your space with fire.
My feng shui instructor shares that in the bedroom, it’s important to use things in pairs to attract a partner. One nightstand and one lamp isn’t appealing to a second person – it would make them feel as if you didn’t take them into consideration. Likewise, arrange your bedroom furniture so that two people can easily move around without conflict. This not only attracts a mate, but facilitates a healthy relationship.
Nothing is so instantly pleasing as looking at before-and-after photos. Today we’re talking about transforming a living and dining area so that the spaces flow into each other.
My client’s San Francisco Bay Area condo has good bones, with strong Craftsman lines and gorgeous built-ins. We wanted to highlight those, creating a masculine, comfortable, modern classic living room.
To increase circulation space and take advantage of the natural light streaming through those beautiful wood frame windows, I replaced the bright blue sofa with a sky-blue custom-made chaise lounge, and a sheepskin rug. Now it’s the perfect corner for a cup of coffee with a book, or just to daydream.
I used a mix of primary colors with neutrals to create interest and bring out warm tones in the wood, especially the fireplace. An oversized octagonal animal-hide footstool doubles as a surface for a tray of drinks. The deep blue rug is cozy underfoot, while a pair of leather club chairs makes room circulation a breeze, across from a red velvet sofa to enjoy the view.
Because the living room flows directly into the dining area, I continued the primary color palette and touchable fabrics, covering the dining chairs in a buttery yellow velvet, and the chair backs in a complementary pattern. We refrained from using any window dressings, to maximize light, views, and the Craftsman wood features. Now it’s both classy and comfortable when our gentleman wants to welcome guests, or just enjoy the spaces on his own.
Kimball Starr Interior Design transforms individual rooms or whole home spaces. Contact her today for a consultation!
It’s spring again! Today I’m sharing ideas to envy and inspire your patio, courtyard, front garden or city back yard.
Wouldn’t it be a lovely way to start each day, walking along a colorful garden pathway like this one? Pick a theme or mix-n-match geometric shapes and patterns.
A log pathway works well with Craftsman-style homes, or any garden space that emphasizes natural materials like wood.
Outdoor Living Rooms
In my client’s Palo Alto condo, I created an outdoor room against a living wall. Sheltered by a modern umbrella with a built-in light, comfortable outdoor loveseats and chairs with pillows in colorful, sun-safe fabrics pair easily with a striped ottoman. The two color-changing cubes act as cocktail tables, providing additional light and a techy taste of fun.
The tiling on this outdoor patio acts as an area rug, defining the living space. A pair of chairs, footstools and a table complement bench seating, nestled into a sunny garden corner.
Add lighting to your outdoor spaces, both for safety and beautiful effect. Wall-washing outdoor fencing with uplights and downlights creates a cool effect against wooden slatted fencing and greenery.
Here’s someone who really went all-out on their lighting design, creating a pathway to the pergola, and a canopy effect with string lights. Tall stake-lights provide area lighting just behind the seating, while table candles give that perfect intimate touch.
Courtyards and Patios
In another design for one of my clients, a private interior courtyard in this Folsom Street San Francisco home looks like you’re actually somewhere in the Mediterranean or Morocco, with an intricately tiled water feature in front of a high wooden privacy fence, hung with multiple planters, and plenty of seating options. Truly a city oasis!
In advance of Earth Day on April 22, and also because we’ve been dealing with a global pandemic that’s keeping us indoors more than usual, we’re talking about wellness design for interiors.
Wellness is much more than just going to a spa or doing yoga, it’s a movement that values a whole spectrum of healthy lifestyle choices, from exercise, fitness, and nutrition to living in balance, developing healthy social connections, emphasizing relaxation and joyful experiences, and valuing mindfulness and slower living. It also means creating and living in spaces that nourish our mind and body. Here are a few concepts to get started.
Biophilia means that people have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and life, an inherent human connection to the natural world. Biophilic design harnesses this affinity to create more natural environments in which to live, work, and play. Designs that connect us to nature are proven by research to inspire, boost our productivity and contribute to better overall wellbeing.
In my design work, I frequently bring the outdoors in and create indoor environments that reference nature. A few years ago I donated my services to redesign this chemotherapy treatment room at Marin Cancer Care hospital.
This mid-century living room is made more inviting by a driftwood sculptural wall feature with air plants and moss, softening the hard edges of modern design styles.
Color has a strong influence on the mood of a room and how it makes you feel. Lighter colors are considered to be airy and make rooms feel larger and brighter by bouncing light around. Darker colors are more formal, feeling intimate. Neutrals of black, gray, white and brown can be used on their own, or to establish a balance when combined with active or passive colors.
Active colors like orange, yellow and pink are bright and excite the mind, boosting creativity, while red is known to stimulate the appetite. Passive colors like blue and green are cool, calming the mind and aiding mental focus and relaxation. Colors should be customized to your own personal tastes.
Make sure your colors also coordinate with each other, so that you aren’t disturbed by moving between spaces, and are pleased when viewing spaces in the same line of sight together. A good designer will take all these things into consideration when creating your home’s interiors.
Light is one of the most important elements in home design. Living spaces designed around natural light sources, smart lighting systems to better match the natural rhythms of our bodies, and artificial lighting that mimics daylight are all ways to address our need for appropriate interior light.
Natural daylight provides a tremendous health and wellness boost, improving productivity, alertness, and even mood. We need vitamin D from natural daylight to absorb calcium and other minerals in food. Daylight inhibits the production of melatonin, which ensures that we get tired when it’s dark outside, while cortisol does the opposite, making us alert and focused, triggered by daylight. Getting the balance right is key to enjoying your home.
Kimball Starr Interior Design can create a healthy and beautiful home environment just for you – Contact her today for a consultation!