For Monika Kimsuroff and Jill Singer, founders of online design magazine Sight Unseen, the pandemic has brought a new appreciation for the myriads they’ve collected over the years. “We used to sit in our homes and our stuff really brought us comfort, it made us feel less lonely,” Khomsurov told BBC Culture. That sparked the idea for the duo’s book, How to Live With Things: A Guide to More Important Interiors, published this week, in which she and Singer offer their advice on “how to maximize the visual and emotional impact of your space” through Object.
This involves taking a more deliberate approach to both acquiring and living with things, prioritizing honest communication over what Khimsurov calls a “keep up with the neighbours” attitude. “It’s the basic idea that something can very easily be imbued with meaning and memories,” she says. Whether it’s something a friend made for you that reminds you that you’re cared for, or it was purchased while traveling abroad, she notes that objects allow us to relive moments, or feel close to loved ones, at a glance. “As far as subject aesthetics are concerned, we tend to be quite agnostic,” Singer adds. “The whole point is to build an interior around your personality.”
Surrounding yourself with valuables is, of course, only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to carving out a personal space that makes you feel good. Lindsey T. Graham, a social and personality psychologist who specializes in how we influence—and are affected by—the spaces we live in, suggests taking an intuitive stance from the start. “First, go into space, and see how you’re feeling right now,” she told BBC Culture. Don’t overthink it, just ask yourself, ‘Am I feeling stressed? said’s mother? Am I ready to calm down? Or am I awake? Then take a step back and think about who you are Wants to feel. Noticing the mismatch between the two will provide clues as to what needs to change in order to create an environment that will truly support you.”
home sweet home
From there, it’s about choosing the right tools to achieve the desired psychological effect. One component is lighting. “Lighting can instantly change a place,” says Graham. “In addition, there has been a lot of research on its effect on our circadian rhythm, which affects our mental and physical health.” Much of this research focuses on using different colored lights to evoke different moods. “You can buy warm or cool light bulbs,” environmental psychologist Sally Augustine, PhD, told BBC Culture. “If you’re trying to create a calm atmosphere where people enjoy spending time together, for example, you’ll want a warmer, softer light, whereas for something that requires focus, you’ll want the light to be cooler and more intense.” Warmer light is most effective when emitted from a low level—”for example, from table or floor lamps”—explains Augustin, while cooler bulbs should be placed in ceiling fixtures or overhead light sockets.