Your new home marks a new chapter in your life so create spaces that tell your story in the most beautiful way for the years ahead
There’s a point when you’re in the process of moving house where the place you’re leaving no longer feels like home. Often, the furniture is still in place but the things that made those spaces feel like yours have already been packed in the moving truck.
Creating a warm and welcoming home is more than just the basics of seating, bedding and appliances. To truly offer a sense of sanctuary, your home needs to tell the story of your family while also meeting your lifestyle needs.
In short, it needs a little heart.
Stylist and author of Individual, Jess Bellef, says it sounds obvious but the first step is to work out the purpose of each room. Hopefully, you’ve decided this before the movers start lugging furniture around.
“On a practical level you have to think about the function of every space and make sure that all the pieces in the space relate to the activities in that room,” she says. “Only when a space is fully functioning and delivering on that function will you feel comfortable in that room.”
Once you have the essential pieces of furniture in place, you can consider the things that have meaning or add warmth to the room.
In open plan spaces, this will also require zoning for living and dining.
“If you can create zones within an open plan space, you can enhance the relationship that you have with that space,” Jess says. “In the living area, bring the sofas and armchairs together rather than pushing them to the edge of the room. When you do this, you are creating an intimate space that invites people in.”
Stylist and podcaster Jono Fleming has styled countless homes, including his own place in the city and his parents’ rural retreat in country NSW. He says the first thing to remember is that there’s no rush to create the perfect space.
“The biggest thing about developing your personal style is that it takes time,” he says. “Your tastes will change and sometimes you need to let go of things. It’s important to grow with your home and how you use it.”
Having said that, there are some shortcuts to creating a warmer, more inviting space when you’ve just moved in, whether you have a lot of money left over from the build, or not. Moving house can present an opportunity to take stock of what you have and decide on what you would like to keep - and what can go.
Often, you’ve collected things over time without realising it. It might be something obvious, like tin toys, or vintage movie posters, but it could just be a collection of Penguin classic titles or retro tea cups that have visual impact when grouped together. Finding the right spot to display the things you love is a great starting point.
“Make the space feel like home by creating moments throughout a room that the eye will travel from spot to spot,” Jono says. “Instead of having everything out and having a cluttered sideboard or bookcase, put them into collections and vignettes with room in between. The negative space between is really important.”
Jess says creating a great collection for display may still require making some hard decisions.
“It still needs to be practical,” she says. “Avoid turning your home into a museum of clutter. Use the things that you have, like your grandmother’s teaspoons, and incorporate them into your day to create that element of good feeling on a daily basis.”
For that sense of cosiness and comfort, which the Danes refer to as hygge, Jono says layering textures really helps.
“You can layer textures on top of each other and mix and match different textures - it’s a nice way of bringing in a personal touch,” he says. “Lately, I’ve started doing things like getting a natural jute rug in a large size - even the really big ones are quite affordable - and then putting a smaller rug on top to frame the space. It creates a beautiful look.”
Look for tactile materials, like softer textiles and timbers for that natural element. Sheer, floor-to-ceiling curtains will let in filtered light while adding a softness to your brand new space.
If it’s all sounding a bit expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Work with what you have where possible and add accessories like cushions, throw rugs and quirky secondhand finds for colour and personality.
“Secondhand shopping is an adventure in itself,” says Jess. “It’s not likely that the person down the street will have the same thing in their house. It’s creating a home on another level because you’ve put time and effort into it.”
Where you’ve moved into a larger home, a piece of vintage furniture could be just the ticket to fill out that space and add a little warmth. If it’s not the right colour or the fabric is a bit too worn, it may be worth reupholstering.
“If you don’t want the expense of recovering or restoring it yourself, you can try businesses like My Verona and Curated Spaces, which both have Instagram accounts,” says Jono. “It’s a great way to add some personality to your home and it’s really good for the environment. Often the older pieces of furniture are really well made too.”
The days of buying a full set of furniture have passed, says Jono.
“People think that they can’t use different timbers, that it all has to be a completely matching set of furniture but having it all matching will give it that showroom feel,” he says. “Mix the timbers but go with similar tones, so all light timbers or all dark ones. Using a blend of shades and tones will bring a natural element and warmth to your house.”
Finally, don’t forget your walls. Part of the reason why your house no longer feels like home when you move is because stripping the walls of prints, photos and artworks is often one of the first jobs on the list.
If you’re not artistically inclined, original artwork is more affordable than you might think. Check the #emergingartist and #australianartist tags on Instagram and you’ll find works to suit almost every taste and budget. Jess says hanging artwork you love is a sure way to bring joy to your space on a daily basis.
“Artwork is really important,” she says. “Empty walls make a room feel a bit lifeless. As soon as you add artwork, it’s that little splash of movement or colour that will make you appreciate the whole space a little more.”
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