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Kevin W. Garcia

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You know what I wish I had more of? Focus. The moment I start working, it’s a repetitive struggle between concentration and distraction.

I can never seem to hold my attention long enough to go into a state where I can perform deep, productive work. I instinctively reach for my phone at every possible moment, and the slightest distraction instantly derails my train of thought.

We take every possible, gratifying opportunity to distracting ourselves with something other than whatever boring tasks we need to accomplish. Likely, our shortened attention spans are a result of the vast amounts of digital information we have to process all at the same time, every single day.

While we can’t exactly change our brains’ inclination to distraction, we can instead focus on eliminating the distractions themselves. One of the best places to start, which I’ve found to be quite helpful in its own simple way, is a clean workspace. That’s it. One little tweak, and focusing on your work becomes way easier.

1. Messy vs. Tidy

Neither of these qualities are necessarily better than the other. Some prefer (thrive in, even) desks haphazardly strewn with random miscellanea, and others, spotless and minimal.

It depends which works for you. Messy desks somewhat appeal to me, but whenever my own is in such a state, I start to feel cramped, like the space around me is too tight. All that clutter starts to compete for my attention, making me less focused when performing tasks.

In contrast, a clear work surface not only eliminates as much visual stimuli (hence, distractions) as possible, but also makes me feel as if the only thing in front of me is my work. For someone as easily distracted as myself, messy desks turn counterproductive.

2. Create a Minimal Workspace

The key is to eliminate as many distractions as possible, which means removing everything that has nothing to do with your work and retaining only a few select “extras.” By “extras,” I mean desk pieces, decorations, pet cacti, and whatever personal touches you want to give your desk.

This requires a bit of maintenance on your end. Try to avoid dumping all your stuff on the table the moment you get home, or clear them out as soon as possible if you do. Have a desk solely as your workspace and for nothing else if you have the luxury to do so. Point is: always keep that space clear.

3. Keep Everything Else Out of Sight

Store the rest of your non-work-related stuff in drawers or containers. Organizing your belongings will help keep you from leaving them on your workspace. It also gives you a sense of order and control, leaving you less to worry about when doing your actual work.

4. No Noise, No Gadgets

Some people work better with music, some don’t. In my case, it is not useful when my surroundings are noisy. Silence stimulates my creative muscles far more effectively .

Digital noise can very well be lumped together with physical noise: emails, social media, notifications from messaging apps. I like to switch off my laptop’s wifi and hide my phone somewhere I won’t be able to see it light up.

Human brains can only store so much in their working memory. Introduce extra stimulus, and your brain has to let go of some of the immediate information it’s holding. This is one of the biggest ways social media hinders you from focusing and storing information in your long-term memory. (Trust me, I’m a psych major!)

5. Clear Your Digital Workspace

Finally, keeping your digital workspace free from clutter is just as important. Disorganized files and messy desktops, and hundreds of stray folders eventually become overwhelming if not kept in check. Having a structured system for saving and storing your files also makes finding specific documents so much easier that you’ll be thanking your past self for being disciplined enough to do so.

My workspace has been mostly far from organized for the entirety of my student life up until recent years as a full-fledged member of the workforce. Paying more attention to creating that perfect, well-organized workspace has served me a great deal: a must-try productivity hack!

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Living in the city, the noise never stops—the perpetual buzz of traffic, our countless interactions throughout the day, the nonstop activity.

Then there’s the noise from our smart devices. Our phones keep us in constant connection with everyone we know, always a single tap away from bombarding ourselves with an endless store of information and audiovisual stimulation.

It isn’t really as bad as it sounds. That’s just how we live today, but it also means that real, quality silence —the kind we all probably need more of—has become much harder to come by.

We can’t control the world of noise around us, but we can control how much silence we actively try to bring into our lives.

Why Silence Matters

A lot of us simply prefer noise to quiet, but we can’t deny the benefits that silence has to offer. By reducing auditory distractions, we’re able to relax, recharge, and destress more easily. Reading, working, and even reflecting in silence help us to engage the complexities of our inner thoughts and emotions more effectively.

By carving out our own personal quiet space at home, even for a few minutes to an hour or so, we’re giving ourselves a chance to get in touch with ourselves and take a break from the everyday noise.

Set the Mood

Choose the quietest part of your house where you feel most calm, or create one for yourself. Install soft, orange lighting instead of bulbs that give off a harsh white glare. Go for a neutral color palette that’s pleasant to the eyes. A room with windows will provide you with natural light, ventilation, and a feeling of spaciousness. Some scented candles and essential oils wouldn’t hurt either.

The biggest factor to consider, however, is clutter. The less, the better. Dirty and disordered surroundings make a space feel cramped and less welcoming. It isn’t hard to imagine how different you’d feel in a messy room versus a clean one. The tidier the room, the more you’ll feel a sense of order and composure.

Disconnect All Devices

Or at least your Wifi and mobile data. Eliminate as many distractions that you already have enough of during the day—notifications, emails, compulsive urges to check social media.

Many prefer their self-imposed quiet time just before going to bed. A convenient strategy, especially since gadget use has been shown to cause difficulties in sleeping. Aim to finish as much work as possible at least an hour before sleeping to give your brain time to wind down.

Be Alone

Besides the obvious lack of any possible interaction with anyone besides yourself, being alone (at least for me) makes it easier to put yourself in that desired state of calm and self-reflection.

Total solitude isn’t always possible, but when it is, you’re more likely to tap into thoughts, emotions, and ideas you might not normally engage with during the day.

Make a Ritual of It

If doing absolutely nothing for prolonged amounts of time bothers you, incorporate your allotted quiet time into a certain activity that you can do in silence: drinking coffee, taking a shower, eating, driving, doing chores. And if you have the patience for it, take 5-10 minutes of pure, uninterrupted reflection the moment you wake up to plan your day, or just before you sleep.

For the productivity-obsessed, the idea of a self-imposed quiet time would sound completely unnecessary and wasteful. But on days when I do have the luxury of allowing myself a golden hour of silence, I always feel refreshed and ready to dive back into the noise of the day.

Our possessions mean a lot to us. We value them because we need them to survive. We take care of them because they’re sentimental. They’re important to us because we feel like we’ve earned them.

I’d harp on the evils of materialism and our enslavement to the latest trends, but I doubt most of us are so intensely gullible as that. Still, many of us have way too much stuff, most of which we don’t actually need, and they restrict us in ways we wouldn’t immediately notice.

I’ve always known minimalism as an art form or aesthetic, but never as a lifestyle. It’s a simple life tweak that can help us not only adopt better living habits, but also make our decisions more meaningful.

Having Less Stuff Helps Us Focus on What Matters

Most of us might not be living waist-deep in junk, but I’m sure we all have stuff that’s been left unused years after promising ourselves that we might need them someday. Enter minimalism, which encourages us to reduce our belongings to only what we really need, and to get rid of everything else that we don’t.

Which brings me to minimalism’s most important lesson: focusing on what matters most in life. That’s pretty subjective, but to a minimalist, what matters most aren’t material possessions, but relationships, health, love, growth, contentment, and a host of other words that don’t solely depend on physical objects to attain.

The more things we own, the more attention we have to give them, consciously or unconsciously. They end up becoming distractions. By letting go of the things that don’t significantly contribute to our overall happiness, we gain more time and energy to focus on what does.

Own Less, But Don’t Deprive Yourself

Have we been taught that more stuff equals good? Maybe. Many practicing minimalists would recommend you pare your belongings down to only the barest essentials—a few articles of clothing, enough furniture and kitchenware to live comfortably. Most of them will also assure you that you don’t need to live on the extremes; you can own a lot of things and still apply minimalism to your living habits.

If you need a car to get to work, that’s fine. If you need more than seven shirts and a few pairs of trousers, that’s fine too. Want to hang a painting in your room? Go for it. The point of minimalism is to avoid excess. If you can truthfully tell yourself that these are things you need, that they will make you happy without getting in the way of the more important things in your life, by all means! Plus, buying less stuff means you can invest more in high-quality stuff that will last you longer.

Constantly Question the Value of Your Possessions

Your home is the best place to start decluttering. Go through all your belongings and ask yourself, do I really need this? Does this bring me happiness? Don’t be surprised if you struggle—you may need a few rounds of decluttering before you’re left with only the most important items. Be brutal.

Same goes to every potential purchase. By applying the same line of questioning to your buying habits, you’ll be teaching yourself how to make more mindful and deliberate choices. You’ll be spending much less on new stuff and more on new experiences—travel, education, books, that gorgeous bottle of whiskey you saw at the grocery the other week.

Everything Will Feel Lighter

By the time you’ve cleared out every possible space in your home, things will feel noticeably more spacious. After recently clearing all the clutter from my desk, focusing on my work became surprisingly less troublesome.

There’s just something that feels so good about having less clutter and consciously owning less. Everything that you do own seems to feel much more valuable. You’ll want to take better care of them, knowing you’ve committed to making them last as long as possible. It’s a satisfying feeling of freedom and lightness. That, you’ll want to keep.

Minimal Palette of Color Trend 2017

 

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Imagine two bowls. The first, made of immaculately white ceramic, embedded with intricate gold patterns. Clearly expensive. The second is wooden, old, lines of woodgrain and a few visible scratches being its only notable features. It’s safe to say most would prefer to own the first.

We’ve learned to view perfection and anything close to it as the ideal standard of beauty. We’re attracted to things that are new, precise, spotless, sophisticated, and defect-free. Anything less risks earning a second-rate status.

But beauty can be found even in the humblest of wooden bowls. The various chips, scars, and blemishes on its worn surface are seen not as unattractive flaws, but as signs of personal history and a simple, understated kind of beauty. This appreciation of a thing’s imperfections is what the humble Japanese aesthetic philosophy of wabi-sabi can teach us.

Wabi-sabi is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, which makes it especially difficult for many non-Japanese to grasp right away. It not only lacks a direct English translation, but is difficult to encapsulate in just a few words. Yet, it is a worldview that practically anyone can learn.

In essence, wabi-sabi is the acceptance of the temporary nature of things. It’s an awareness that nothing, especially physical beauty, lasts. It’s a bittersweet appreciation of impermanence that, as a result, embraces the imperfections brought about by time, wear, age, and use. At its core, wabi-sabi values authenticity and the natural world.

These imperfections are celebrated because they depict a more honest vision of the world. Small cracks, frayed edges, faded colors, faint blemishes—these bring to mind the fleeting nature and eventual decay of the physical world. They contain a measure of beauty that appeals to us for their lack of pretense.

A newly printed book is wonderful to look at. Its pages are crisp and neat, the cover in pristine condition, a new-book-smell wafting up as you open it for the first time. But an old hardbound book, printed long before you or your grandparents were even born, its pages now musty and yellowed, possesses an elegance that only age can bring.

Simplicity and modesty are also highly valued. A room doesn’t need to be large and filled with lavish detail and polished surfaces to be beautiful. Old, well-cared-for furniture and a few simple decorations are sometimes all we really need. A sturdy wooden table with a rough and unvarnished surface becomes beautiful for both its naturalness and dependability.

But that doesn’t mean we’re called to live in poverty. Wabi-sabi merely wishes that we do our best to unburden ourselves of excessive material concerns. It encourages us to distance ourselves from the relentless (and futile) pursuit of perfection, needless luxury, and wasteful spending. It doesn’t romanticize a modest life, but finds appreciation in it.

Wabi-sabi isn’t the same as being careless and sloppy. In fact, wabi-sabi values cleanliness. A room may contain very little furniture, but keeping it clean and orderly is probably the secret to bringing out the beauty of its simplicity.

Nor does it encourage leaving things in a state of disrepair on purpose. Wabi-sabi finds beauty in imperfections that arise not because of neglect, but from the natural and continuous weathering that results from age, use, and mindful care.

Many tend to interpret wabi-sabi as primarily a visual aesthetic, but to do so leaves a greater part of the philosophy out of the picture. While certain visual elements are consistent (earthy, rustic, minimalistic), wabi-sabi isn’t a style of interior design per se, but a mindset that guides our tastes.

Beneath the aesthetic appeal of wabi-sabi is a worldview that teaches us to accept impermanence as an unavoidable reality. In this way, we learn to appreciate beautiful things more deeply for their transience. We learn never to take things for granted.

We aren’t exempt from this reality. Our lives are, in a sense, inherently flawed. Nobody stays young and beautiful (at least in the conventional sense) forever. Learning to love the imperfections we see around us in our daily lives helps us to embrace our own personal imperfections and, eventually, the fact of our own impermanence.

We must welcome these flaws that have been both present and inevitable since the start. But rather than feeling a sense of hopelessness and resignation, we should instead seek consolation in knowing that the beautiful things we sometimes envy and desire, like everything else, are no less exempt from the natural cycle of growth and decay.

Wabi-sabi is a valuable tool to help us live better lives.

If there’s one thing that kills the mood, it’s a smell that isn’t supposed to be there. Whatever turns your nose off—garbage, partially rotten food, molds, your dog—is eventually bound to be a source of annoyance.

And like many things, the solution doesn’t require you to dish out hundreds of pesos. Store-bought deodorizers work fine, but homemade recipes made from a few household ingredients do the job with just as much ease. Plus you won’t have to burn another hole in your wallet.

For all the DIY enthusiasts, we gathered some of the simplest, most straightforward, no-brainer odor-eliminating recipes we could find. Next to being budget-friendly, these recipes are all free of harmful chemicals that store-bought deodorizers could potentially contain.

Air Freshener Sprays

Pour 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a few drops of your preferred essential oil (or a combination of oils) into a small spray bottle, fill the rest with water, and shake well. Done. Spray.  The baking soda acts as the deodorizer here, and the essential oils, while completely optional, do the job of making things smell pretty.

If you don’t have baking soda, lug your oversized jug of Datu Puti white vinegar out and mix 1/2 cup of that with 1 1/2 cups of water, along with 10-15 (or more if you prefer a stronger fragrance) drops of essential oil.

To make your spray double as a disinfectant, bring in the vodka. Mix 1/2 cup high-proof vodka or rubbing alcohol (an alternative, but gives off a harsher smell), 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar, 3/4 cup water, and 50-60 drops of essential oil.

These recipes can be used for just about anything—clothes, fabrics, cabinets, rooms, or rugs. And whatever you do, DO NOT MIX BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR. Just don’t, or your bottle will start frothing at the mouth.

Deodorizer Jars and Disks

Clothes tend to take on a certain unpleasant smell when left unused in cabinets for long periods. Gently mix 1/2 cup of baking soda and 10-15 drops of essential oil into a bowl or jar and place it inside the offending cabinet. Make sure you keep it somewhere it won’t fall, because trust me, that’s one hassle you don’t want to clean up.

If you’re up for the challenge and have time to spare, you could even make your own deodorizing disks. You know, those white round things that we all probably wanted to taste when we were kids. They’re ideal for garbage cans, closets, and any enclosed spaces.

One easy recipe mixes 1 cup of baking soda, 4 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, 15 drops of lemon essential oil, 10 drops of lavender essential oil in a bowl. Pour the mixture into a cookie pan or any baking mold you have and leave it to completely dry. You could also bake some in the oven for a more durable deodorizer disk.

Finger Smells

I have this strange habit of constantly smelling my fingers after eating crab with my hands. Or chopping onions. Smelly fingers bother me like an itch that I have to compulsively scratch.

The age-old remedy of rubbing your fingertips with calamansi or some other citrus fruit works. Rubbing some salt along with it also helps. But if you have none of those, you can scrub your fingers with coffee grounds, used or fresh. More heavy-duty options include rinsing your hands in a vinegar or baking soda mixture. If none of these work, well, finger smells go away by themselves eventually.

Home Deodorizers

This works the same way as baking brownies and then having your whole house smell like brownies, especially condo units. Slice up some fruits, herbs, spices, and extracts of your choice, then toss them into a pot of water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for as long as you like, and your house will smell like whatever you placed inside your pot. A nice touch when you have guests over, and there are a wide variety of combinations you can experiment with.

As with most things, people may think that only store-bought products can do a completely perfect job of solving a problem. With the amount of DIY blogs and tutorials you can find out there, this obviously isn’t true. So the next time your impulses tell you to run to the store for that expensive can of aerosol spray, look to your pantry and what you have before anything else.

Most of us have spent the greater part of our lives living in these spaces that, whether we like it or not, we’ve come to call home. Their place in our personal histories is undeniable. Yet our homes have even deeper connection to our identities, much in the same way that our choice of clothes and hairstyles, our painstakingly curated images on social media, and our carefully adopted behaviors do.

Wander through somebody’s home and you get a pretty good idea of what its inhabitants are like. Framed vacation photos and graduation portraits scattered throughout the living room provide a glimpse of personal history. Peek inside someone’s bedroom and its contents—titles lining a bookshelf, an old sports bag carelessly dumped into the corner, objects cluttered on a desk—further paint a surprisingly vivid picture of its occupants.

Looking closer, you discover their quirks and day-to-day habits, revealed in clues unwittingly left behind. You could make a fair guess of one’s attitude toward cleanliness by how organized their desk is. Or you could form in your mind the impression of a particular individual, perpetually in a state of hurry the moment they wake, from the piles of clothes strewn on their bed and a plate of breakfast left unfinished on the counter as they rushed out the door.

Most interesting, however, are the deliberate and conscious choices people make when designing their private spaces. While choice of decor may merely be the result of one’s personal tastes and preferences, oftentimes, what we choose to fill our homes with depends on the image of ourselves we wish others to see.

By lavishing a visitor’s eyes with sophisticated and clearly valuable pieces of furniture, what are we trying to tell them about our tastes? By displaying the trinkets and mementos we’ve collected throughout our travels for everyone to see, what do we wish our visitors to think of the kind of lifestyles we live?

But that isn’t to say we all aspire to some kind of narcissistic materialism. These objects that we choose to fill our homes with may also serve as an affirmation of our inner selves. They give shape to our identities in the real world, and allow us to, in a way, live out our taste and values. They’re real, tangible reminders of who we are.

And among the myriad of our possessions, a certain few hold an even deeper, less obvious importance for us. Our identities, personalities, tastes, values—everything about us—is bound to inevitable change. Our memories fare no better, liable to self-distortion and inaccuracy as time goes by and as our bodies age. Whether to remember happier times in our lives or, quite possibly, to remind ourselves of the kind of people we are and the kind of people we want to be, certain objects serve to secure our identities and personal histories within an otherwise fragile and temporary existence.

A simple, admittedly even shabby, wooden figurine given to us by a friend no longer in constant contact is proudly displayed on our desks. Our father’s old watch, now broken and beyond repair, would be the first thing we choose to save if our house was on fire. An image of our younger selves, staring at us through a graduation portrait, reminds us of the aspirations we once held. Our lives may be passing quickly, but these things we fill our most private spaces with are our reminders of things past. They anchor us in certain points of our lives so that we may never forget them.

Our possessions don’t define us, nor should we judge someone based solely what they own, yet it’s impossible to claim that material objects don’t play a meaningful role in our lives. Our homes and possessions have become inevitably tied to our own selves. They aren’t integral to our existence, but they have nonetheless come to help us with it in some way.

Lighting isn’t just a practical choice. It’s so important that every color combination, furniture piece, and pretty much any design element hinges on your room’s lighting.

Just as every individual design element plays a role in a room’s overall aesthetic, so too does lighting. How you light your room can greatly affect its atmosphere and the mood of everyone who enters it. A room can turn large or claustrophobic, cozy or energizing, romantic or sterile. Even a room’s colors are subject to subtle alterations by different kinds of light.

No matter how perfectly designed a room, everything will fall flat without the right balance of lighting. So for any professional or Do-It-Yourself designer, familiarizing oneself with the basic principles of lighting a room and its different layers is a must.

Natural Lighting

Sunlight is the easiest way to heighten the mood of your room. It saves you electricity during the day, makes your room feel bigger, and provides that familiar, satisfying feeling of physical and mental well- being.

And it isn’t just about cramming as many windows on the wall as you can. Consider how much sunlight you want coming in, the position of the sun at certain times of the day, where the sunlight will hit the room, and room temperature. As the sun travels its course throughout the day, the colors of your room will also change subtly. You’ll want to consider this when choosing the size of your window and which side you’ll want it facing.

Other forms of natural light from candles and fireplaces (for those cool places in the Philippines) also fall under Natural Lighting. These are great alternatives to artificial lighting when you’re setting a warmer, more intimate atmosphere.

Ambient Lighting

The first layer of artificial lighting in your room to consider is Ambient Lighting. It’s your room’s main source of light, strong enough to illuminate everything in the room, but not so bright that it borders on unpleasant. Think of it as the starting canvas or “base lighting” of a room, which will serve as the foundation for the rest of your lighting scheme. Chandeliers and overhead lights are common examples.

A room’s ambient lighting doesn’t have to come from a single light source though. Doing so can result in the light being too focused at a single, glaring point. Spread out your light sources and layers, each consistently diffusing the light throughout the room. That’s why wall sconces, track lights, and the like can also serve as Ambient Lighting.

Task Lighting

Now think of the specific activities you’ll be doing frequently in a room. That’s where Task Lighting comes in. You need a functional source of light while you’re reading in the bedroom, preparing your meals in the kitchen, putting on makeup, or any other activity that requires good lighting. Think bedside lamps, vanity lights, and undercabinet lights.

Task Lighting only works if it serves its purpose effectively. Tasks that require concentration like working or illustrating need lighting that promotes productivity, alertness, and mental stimulation, while more relaxing activities like bedside reading go better with a calm, soothing source of light.

Accent Lighting

And finally, designers will add touches of Accent Lighting throughout the room to draw the eye to certain features, details, and ornamentations of the room. This is what really gives a room its character and depth, the icing on the cake if you will. Think of wall sconces flanking a wall’s centerpiece, or a recessed light over a painting.

Because Accent Lighting seeks to place greater emphasis on certain design elements, they will always be more pronounced than the room’s Ambient Light, and will often direct the light in a certain direction. When designing a room, think of the first things your guests will look at the moment they enter a room.

Together, these three core layers form the whole artificial lighting scheme of your room. First think of the room’s purpose, color scheme, and decorations before finding a way to seamlessly merge these elements with your lighting. Plan your ambient lighting first before moving on to the rest. Done right, a room’s lighting can effortlessly transform a room’s atmosphere and personality at the flick of a switch.

Take a look around: at the tumbler keeping your coffee warm, the chair you’re sitting on, the room you’re in, the screen of this strange device you’ve been staring at the past few seconds. Someone, somewhere out there has either made your life ten times easier or noticeably less enjoyable (to my desk and chair at home, my stiff neck sends its regards), all thanks to design.

The most obvious examples are those we barely give a second glance. Take the humble paper clip, a common detail in everyday life that usually never merits a second glance. But the reason people are still using it today since its birth sometime in the 19th century is it does what it’s supposed to do in the easiest, most straightforward way possible.

Another example is door knobs. Imagine carrying a heavy stack of boxes and trying to open a door with a round, twist-style door knob. It isn’t exactly a monumental effort, but to people with physical ailments or disabilities, alternatives like lever-style door knobs and push-pull doors make getting around on a daily basis much, much easier.

Design is everywhere. It’s entwined into our daily routines, constantly pointing us in the right direction and improving the quality of our lives behind the scenes. It exists without us really noticing it’s there, and that’s the beauty of it.

Take a look at smartphones. Notice how some of them use an envelope symbol to tell you that this is where you send your messages, or an address book for your contacts. Kids these days probably haven’t even seen a real-life address book, yet the meanings of these symbols have become so universal and familiar to us, and designers know this.

When presented with something new, people need to be able to quickly learn how it works and how to use it. People know what to do when they see a handle on a door or a switch on the wall, but for more complex devices like smartphones whose functions aren’t inherent in their physical design, this isn’t so obvious. How much people end up liking and wanting to use something will heavily depend on how easy it is to use. No matter how beautiful or cool the latest smartphone looks, if it’s a pain in the butt, people will find something else. That’s why designers need to place accessibility and ease of use above all else.

image by Julian Hayon | unsplash.com

But design truly stands out when form seamlessly meets function, when something does what it does well and looks good doing it. Apple designs its products for their customers. They guide you every step of the way and make sure you understand how their products work without much effort, even if you’ve never held an Apple device in your life. They cater to your experience of the product. That, plus gorgeous aesthetics, is why so many people choose Apple.

The same principles apply to interior design. Most people think that an interior designer is there just to make our rooms look pretty. In truth, they design for people, just as much as any other designer does. They’re tailoring a room for a specific person with individual tastes and needs. If they’re designing a room for someone who loves order, that room should strive for a symmetrical visual balance that evokes order and familiarity.

image by Gabriel Beaudry | unsplash.com

Likewise, a bedroom that’s practically in-your-face with garish colors and visually un-relaxing elements isn’t a room you’d like to come home to after a long day’s work. No matter how beautiful and perfect a room you’ve just put together, if it doesn’t fulfill the needs that room was meant to fulfill, then it isn’t a good room.

Design matters and helps us in meaningful ways, whether overt or unnoticed. It has the subtle power to influence our behavior and how we interact with the world. So to all the people we’ve never met who’ve made all our lives so much easier with all the cool stuff around us, we thank you for it.

One word: simplicity. For a style so deliberately and compellingly lacking, minimalism never seems to have had any trouble at all calling attention to itself, in a good way.

Minimalism says more with less, doing away with unnecessary and distracting details while highlighting only the most essential elements. It can speak for itself without trying to be loud. The understated grace of a minimalist room can, arguably, show even more of a personality than a room overloaded with visual stimuli.

We’re drawn to order, and minimalist spaces give us a sense of stability and comfort. They’re clean, timeless, and pretty difficult to get tired of, especially when all you need after the day’s noise and clutter is a quiet, calm haven.

Whether starting from scratch or giving your room a revamp, here are a couple of things to keep in mind to achieve a minimalist space.

Simplicity

Think of a Buddhist monk’s modest quarters or a sterile hospital corridor. They’re minimal in design, but not quite what we’re going for. Minimalism strips the room down as much as possible, but never reaches a point of bareness or complete utilitarianism. Rather, it invites you with a sense of warmth and comfort. Keep every color and furnishing simple, but stylish.

Order

While browsing enviously through photos of minimalist rooms, you’ll notice clear floors and tabletops and zero unnecessary clutter lying around. Organizing your belongings and keeping them out of sight is central to maintaining clean and ordered surroundings, a defining characteristic of minimalistic design.

It’s even better if you can unobtrusively (and tastefully) incorporate your storage into the room’s design, like sliding cabinets built into the walls. Try to keep up a daily habit of putting things back where you stored them instead of dumping them around to “put away later.” Clear surroundings promote a clear mind.

Color and Texture

Neutral colors add to a room’s simplicity and stay easy on the eyes. Choose colors like beige, gray, and white, which are warm and inviting enough that they come off as aesthetically pleasing, rather than lifeless. The overall color scheme of the room should fall within the same tone and stay similar to your base color.

At the same time, you’ll want to avoid a room so monotonous that nothing stands out. Add subtle, contrasting textures that match your color palette to give your room more depth. You’ll also want to accent your room with a touch of color here and there, but do so sparingly and keep the colors understated.

Palette Minimal in Boysen Color Trend 2017
Palette Minimal in Boysen Color Trend 2017

Bear in mind that mixing too many textures and colors will cause the room to lose its simplicity. Avoid overly complex patterns and loud textures as much as possible.

Furnishings

Paring down your room means keeping your furniture to a minimum. The more objects in a room, the less sense of space there is, and the more cluttered it will feel. What furniture you decide to keep should either stand out or blend into the room.

Consider the design of your door and windows as well. Should your window frames be plain and inconspicuous? Should the door be one of your room’s accents?

Wall ornaments, light fixtures, and paintings accent a room nicely, but try to keep the walls as clear as possible (same goes for the floors). Again, keep the designs and colors as simple and similar to the room’s color scheme.

Quality

Because minimalist rooms contain fewer elements, the quality of everything you see will be far more noticeable. Furniture made from high-quality materials and their craftsmanship will shine through effortlessly, while cheaply-made products tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Despite the simplicity of your room, investing in better decor will lend your room a natural sophistication.

Cutting your room down to size to achieve a minimalist look that works will always be a challenge, especially if you’re the type who always seems surprised by just how much stuff you own. Besides its obvious visual appeal, minimalism offers more than just aesthetic. Hopefully, it gives your thoughts, emotions, and daily life just as much order and comfort as well.

You’ve finally—painstakingly—decided on a color for the room you’ve been dying to renovate. You’re just about ready to begin and show the world your impeccable taste in color, except you’ve never done any painting in your life.

Don’t sweat it though, you could hire someone else to do your paint job. But sometimes, especially for more straightforward projects like repainting your walls, going DIY is both cheaper and simpler (especially with a lot of of practice) than most people think.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re considering trying your hand at doing your own painting. But in the end, the best way to a perfect paint job is really always just more practice.

Prep the Room

Clear the room of furniture as much as possible. It’s an added effort, but the tiniest of accidents will ruin your furniture, and this tends to happen more often than you’d expect. Remove all wall fixtures too, like socket covers and light switch plates, instead of painting around them.

Then lay a drop cloth over your floors. Alternatively, you can use plastic coverings or, if you have neither, newspapers. Just be careful: paint can slide off plastic and onto your floors, and can seep through cloth or newspaper if you aren’t careful.

Prep the Walls

Before any painting, it’s an absolute must to clean away all dirt, dust, and grease from your walls. If necessary, sponge your walls lightly with water and a mild detergent. Make sure every hole and crack is filled, and do a final sanding to flatten out any possible bumps. The goal is to get the wall as smooth and debris-free, for the smoothest paint job possible.

Cutting In

Before working on walls and ceilings, use a brush to fill in around 2-3 inches of paint over areas around doorframes and trim that are too narrow for your paint roller. When dipping your brush, make sure you cover only half or a third of the bristles, so the paint doesn’t dry at the base and shorten your brush’s lifespan. Dab some of the excess paint on the inside of the can, or you can loop a rubber band over the opening of the can, and use that instead to wipe your brush after dipping it into the paint.

Gently press the brush about an inch from the edge you’re cutting in, releasing paint from the brush. Slowly work it towards the edge of the wall, gliding just a few bristles over the length of the edge as carefully as you can. This applies to room corners as well, except you don’t have to be as precise.

You can also use painter’s tape (alternative: masking tape) to protect the trim and doorframes, but it’s best used as a safety measure only. Painter’s tape serves as an added cost, and there’s a chance paint can still seep through the tape, especially when you use masking tape.

Painting Walls and Ceilings

As a general rule, paint in a zigzag or “W” pattern when using a roller. Start as close to the cut-in as you can, focusing on distributing the paint and coating the wall as uniformly as possible. Try to finish painting your strokes in the same direction for a more even coat. Go for longer strokes, lightly lifting the roller off the wall after your last stroke, so as not to leave any hard edges.

Make sure you start right after cutting in the corners of the room while the paint is still wet, and finish one wall at a time before taking breaks. Letting the paint dry will result in an uneven coat.

Depending on how dark the old wall is or how light your new coat is, you may need to do more than one coat of paint.

Finishing Up

Make sure you air out the room properly once you’ve finished, unless the paint is odor-less, which allows people to be in the room comfortably while it’s being painted. However, if you are not using odor-less paint,  leave a few buckets of water in the room to absorb the remaining paint vapors, or light a scented candle to burn away some of the fumes, to help speed up the process.

If you plan on working again the next day, seal your paint cans well and wrap your paintbrushes and paint trays in plastic wrap or plastic bags, taking care to keep them as airtight as possible. Done right, and the next time you come back to them the paint will still be wet and fresh.

If you want visual instructions on how to paint a surface, watch the video below.