Sort it: Make your home work with your ever-changing life

Designs for your home need to adapt to changing needs


I love spending time on and in my garden. It’s a rolling project that shifts and evolves each year as the garden matures. Some things have worked and others haven’t and each year something surprises me and inspires a whole new direction.

Gardening requires patience. Everything needs to settle in and establish itself. Colours need to work together and fit into their environment. And nature has a mind of its own, so working on a garden is a constant balance of your plans and the direction that nature takes them in. It’s a lot like home design and decoration. Your plans for your home need to work with the constant flux of life. You design your home at a particular stage of your life and very quickly your needs are different. Children are older or your circumstances are different and you need your home to fulfil a new set of requirements.

With gardening the pace is slower; everything slows down over the winter allowing us time to reflect. With our homes, however, there is always something we feel we should be doing.

We’ve all made decisions under pressure and regretted them. Like trying to get a room ready for a particular event or just before a new baby arrives – we just want everything to be finished. But this is where the mistake is. A home should evolve. It should have the ability to shift and change as we do. When you first move into a house, for example, it really is great if you can live in it for a while and get a feel for the space. What works, what doesn’t and what surprises you about it.

A completely finished and perfected scheme can have the effect of making us feel a little uncomfortable, like a show house which is fitted out with perfectly co-ordinated furniture and accessories and beautifully dressed shelves but missing something critical: personality.

Home design is all about looking as far into the future as you can and catering for as much as you can predict. But it’s also about knowing when to stop so that there is room to move forward or adapt when we need to.

I read an interesting article about art recently, which explained that some artists try to give their work a slightly unfinished look to allow the viewer bring their own interpretation to the piece: this is how we will really connect with it.

My advice is to step back from home decoration briefly and instead observe for a while. Perhaps you are planning on buying something or maybe you are planning on decorating a room. Spend a bit more time in the space, perhaps clear it out and see how it feels. Take each step of the process one at a time. Your home, like a garden, is an ongoing project and every year things come and go.

Some things will work, others won’t. The important thing is to identify them as they arise and react to them and, every so often, you might even discover something that surprises you.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant

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