Face it. We are in the dregs of winter: That no mans land between the hubbub of the holidays and springs dramatic bursts through the clouds and out of the ground.
By ANDREA DARR
Special to The Star
But it doesnt have to be so dreary. Our homes can become beacons in the blizzard. We can use cabin fever to create warm, welcoming spaces that are a refuge from the world, now and year-round. Lets settle in, cozy up and cultivate some quiet.
First, everything in your home has energy: you, your couch, your belongings, big and small.
Practitioners of feng shui, one of the five arts of Chinese metaphysics, believe that the objects in your home send out subtle vibes. Bad vibes can emanate from broken things and antiques that carry the unknown energy of previous owners, and good vibes often come from plants and other natural elements.
Take notice if theres a shift in mood when you bring in something new, or if you dont like going into a certain room. Sensitive people can pick up on the energy of objects but not know why, says Tisha Morris, feng shui expert and author of Mind Body Home.
She recommends getting rid of outdated, cracked and broken things, as well as objects that cause undesirable emotions that drain our energy.
Our subconscious picks up on this 24/7, she says.
To get rid of negative energy, Morris uses a method called space clearing, a process that involves salts, sound and sage. Its a newer concept to people, although its been around for eons, she says, adding that a trained expert should perform the task.
Without the aid of a professional, you can simply focus on making your rooms balanced and supportive. If youre regularly bumping into a table, its out of flow. Your bed should have a headboard and nightstands on each side. Art and accessories should be energetically congruent, Morris says, meaning subdued in the bedroom but louder in public rooms.
Its all about how you make your home more supportive as opposed to a challenge, Morris explains. It should replenish you and make you feel comfortable and safe.
Space and stuff
Why not look around and see if moving furniture around would give your room a fresh new feeling, says Ursula Terrasi, owner of Scandia Home on the Country Club Plaza.
Consider reorienting your couch. Scoot your favorite chair closer to the fireplace or position your dining table to face out a window with a beautiful view.
Dont let what youve done in the past dictate the future, she adds.
Not every inch of space needs to contain something. Negative, or empty, space gives the eye a place to rest and gives more significance to the objects you do display, Terrasi says.
Stick with items that you love or to which you have a personal connection. Everything else is clutter, defined by Morris as stuff you no longer use or love. Keep it simple.
Flickering images and a never-ending flow of information invade our homes constantly.
While technology is a helpful link to the outside world, it also can be an overwhelming intrusion to the sanctity of our homes. You have probably experienced the frustration of getting your kids to put down their video game remotes and your spouse to stop checking email or curtailing your own addiction to Pinterest.
To create a calm atmosphere and an attentive family, put boundaries in place, whether its a time frame or space set aside for a particular activity.
During dinner, no devices should be at the table. Same goes for in the bedroom. In other rooms where people gather, using a gadget can be OK if it doesnt bother or cause resentment in anyone around.
If you need your devices for work, designate a separate space so you can leave that room and re-enter other parts of the home, Morris says.
Once the cold, blue glare of your electronics is minimized, add some warm yellow light.
The demise of the incandescent bulb makes this a bit tougher, but some LEDs are getting closer to the right color.
Cree LED bulbs currently offer the most flattering light and save you 85 percent in energy costs over an incandescent (available at Home Depot, ranging from $9 to $13 per equivalent bulb).
For a layered look, mix sources of light. I will use a halogen spotlight to highlight objects, says Daniel Houk, an interior designer with Trapp and Co. I will also add table lamps for warmth in a space and almost never install a table lamp without the addition of a diffuser on top of the shade. I do not want my clients looking down on a lamp to see a naked bulb.
Of course a candle immediately quiets a room with its entrancing, dancing flame.
Whether you choose tall, elegant tapers, a grouping of pillars or a sprinkling of votives, candles instantly create a warm and cozy mood, Terrasi says.
Personal preferences will steer you toward scented, unscented, beeswax, colored or even faux candles that operate on timers or remote control.
Flameless candles work particularly well in wall sconces that can be programmed to turn on the minute you plan to arrive at home in the evening. Now, if only they could pour you a glass of wine, Terrasi says.
The scent of a candle can enhance your mood by pleasing your olfactory sense, calming or exciting you and even evoking memories.
I will choose a candle over any source for a homes scent, Houk says. I believe the chosen scent is important because it becomes a staple in the home and speaks volumes of the owner.
As you do when choosing a perfume or cologne, try three or four fragrances before making a decision.
Houk likes Agrarias bitter orange for fall and winter and lavender-rosemary for spring and summer.
Terrasi recommends Frasier Fir by Thymes, Feu de Bois/Ski House by Lafco House + Home, Sir Elton Johns Fireside Classic Candle by Nest and Legendes DOrient and Ambre by Esteban Paris.
Whatever scent you decide on, Houk suggests sticking with a single one throughout your home.
What promotes quiet relaxation more than snuggling inside the coziest of blankets?
I have a personal belief that the right textiles in colors and patterns you love have a natural restorative power, Terrasi says. The self-described textile addict appreciates natural fibers such as cotton, linen, merino wool, cashmere, silk and down.
All fabrics are amazing in their own way, but I have to confess my favorite is mohair, Houk says. The silk-like fabric is luxurious yet practical year-round. Coming from goats wool, it insulates in the winter and wicks moisture in the summer.
The textile you choose should depend on its application: baby alpaca for a throw, silk where you need some shimmer, and cotton or linen sheets.
Adding living, breathing or moving things to your home can soothe and replenish your soul. First, consider plants.
The challenge is to determine how much natural light your home provides before spending a small fortune on the wrong plants, Houk says.
Plants are categorized into low light for a north-facing room; medium for east-west light; and high for southern light.
If you want an easy-care plant that gives you design options, Greg Schroer, horticulturalist at Family Tree Nursery in Overland Park, suggests air plants, which are really popular. Because they absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, they can go almost anywhere a mist bottle can reach.
People are doing things like hot gluing them to wood boards or sticking them in terrariums, Schroer says.
A fish in a well-observed place can also give you pause for reflection. A bettas graceful fins swaying in the water can entrance you, or a goldfishs iridescent orange may brighten your day.
If you like the addition of water without the pet care, consider an indoor water fountain.
Van Liews in Kansas City, carries a variety of tabletop and wall fountains.
All you need is an electrical outlet and water, Nancy May says. The tabletop varieties are made of concrete and weigh 35 to 45 pounds, so you need a sturdy table to set them on. May recommends keeping them away from carpeted and hardwood floors in case water spits out.
Fountains that hang on the wall are made of resin and just as durable as concrete (although they can fade in the sun) and are easy to hang. May advises using distilled water and cleaning them regularly to keep slime from building up.
More ways to create quiet
Creating a calm environment at home is just the beginning. Quiet your mind with these tips from zenhabits.net.
• Meditate for at least two minutes a day (to start with).
• When you feel the urge to socialize online, pause. Give yourself a little quiet instead.
• When you feel the automatic urge to say yes to an invitation, consider saying no instead, unless its something that will truly enrich your life.
• Dont take music on a run or walk. Instead, give yourself space with your thoughts.
• When someone talks to you, instead of jumping in with something about yourself, just listen.
• Make time for the people closest to you. One-on-one time is best.
• Pay attention to sensations of whatever youre eating, drinking or doing.