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How Slow Furnishing can improve your home and your life

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Slow Furnishing could be defined as a philosophy whose purpose is to take all the time necessary to harmoniously furnish your home. Without rush. Because if you slow down to really understand what you really need from your home, how you will use it, and how to make it look and work better for you, then you will end up with a space that is welcoming, eye-catching, relaxing, happy, and cost-efficient. But most importantly, a space that you enjoy spending time and money in.

Slow Furnishing: A trend born of the Slow Furniture Movement

In the research I did to find out more about Slow Furnishing, I came across the concept of Slow Home Design and Slow Decorating. Both linked to the Slow Furniture Movement (itself stemming from the Slow Food and Slow Fashion movements). The philosophy of Slow Home Design and Slow Decorating can be summarized as “a principle of slowing down to design homes and spaces that are sustainable, practical and functional”. The emphasis is on sustainability, handmade and locally produced, quality, limited editions, and sustainable trends (as opposed to ephemeral fashion). But nowhere is there any mention of the idea of taking all the time in the world to choose THE OBJECT that will finally give meaning to a room. And provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment like no other.

When I reflect on the idea of Slow Furnishing, I think of really taking time to find, restore, and collect things that will make my home beautiful in a way that’s unique and special to me. To search for instance for the right sofa that I’ll want to sink into every evening, even if that search takes years.

Sometimes a room can’t shouldn’t be decorated all at once

It’s a very human feeling to feel that urgency to complete a task, such as decorating a house so that it is functional ASAP. This urgency can be felt like a hunger that must be satisfied. But decorating your home is a process that should actually take time. For just as Fast Food can satisfy an urgent hunger, only Slow Food will provide true lasting satisfaction. And only Slow Furnishing or Slow Decorating will make your home a place that feels like you, a place where you feel safe and satisfied.

Because we must not forget that the satisfaction of living in a harmonious and enchanting place has a beneficial effect on our mood and our mental health. This should not be overlooked in favor of having a home that is immediately functional. Especially when the events of the last few years have shown us that a health crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic can keep us locked up in our homes. And what can be worse than not being able to go out, if not being locked in an apartment with which we do not feel a connection. In which we don’t like to spend time.

… and it’s okay

For example, there is no shame in living for years in a house or an apartment where the sofa is all torn up and worn out. Where the tableware is a mixture of plates of all sizes and colors. Or the shelves are simply recycled boards. And the ceiling lights are mere electric cables with a bare bulb dangling from them.

For instance, my wife and I waited 6 years to find the right ceiling light for our bathroom. And we don’t regret having waited all that time until we found it. This expectation was well worth the gentle teasing we received over the years that suggested that we enjoyed procrastinating. Because now every time we walk into our bathroom, we feel an immense sense of satisfaction. A victorious joy of having filled a loud void with this magnificent Art Deco ceiling light. If we had decided to make this room functional ASAP, we would have likely ended up purchasing an IKEA ceiling light for the simple purpose of lighting this room. The patience we have shown allows us today, to have not only a functional object but also something extremely aesthetic.

Because once everything is in place, “well decorated” (sometimes in a hurry in order to be quickly functional), that the need is satisfied, do we really want to start all over again one day, later? To keep on looking? Not really. We have closed a door, we have already moved on. But you don’t feel completely satisfied deep down. There is something missing.

It may be a long shot to quote Pierre Corneille in The Cid, when he writes “À vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire” (To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory). But you get the idea. After that, nothing prevents you from replacing your furniture and objects as time goes by. For example, slowly replace your four IKEA chairs bought four years ago with an eclectic mix of chairs found at flea markets. Or sourced from an online marketplace for antiques and vintage.

Slow Furnishing into practice

If you’re thinking “that’s all very nice Nicolas, but how do you actually put this Slow Furnishing idea into practice?” I can humbly give you a few pointers to follow:

  1. Make a list of the furniture and objects that you intend to replace soon.
  2. In one column put all the items you need immediately (e.g. sofa, bed, desk, wardrobe). In the other column those that can wait (e.g. ceiling light, coffee table, tea set, alcohol set).
  3. For each item in the “can wait” column, imagine what would be the ideal version you would like to have in your home. You can of course look for inspiration on interior design websites. Or by doing a simple image search on Google or Pinterest.
  4. Create a board via Pinterest, for example, in which you can keep your collection. I recommend aiming for a wide variety, so you don’t go looking for something that would be extremely difficult or expensive to find. Make for instance a top 5 style list for each item.
  5. Now be patient and start looking for items you like (rarity, price, origin, etc). You can check if these objects exist on online marketplaces like Ruby Lane, 1stdibs or eBay which are great go-to sources of information and inspiration. Personally, I’m a huge fan of flea markets or estate sales because there you can find things that you would not have thought of at first. I would say that 80% of the antiques and vintage decoration objects I own come from flea markets and estate sales, against 20% from online sites.
  6. If you don’t find something right away, don’t despair: the whole idea of Slow Furnishing is that it can be a slow process. You just have to accept this idea in order to free yourself from the temptation to buy right away.
  7. Let your intuition guide you, and when you find the object you are looking for, you will know it. Also, learn to mentally take an object out of its context, and imagine what it might look like when you get home. For example, this Art Deco lamp that we found did not immediately catch our eye because it was drowned in a very dense set of other objects. When we took the time to look at it more closely, we discovered its potential.
  8. Celebrate every little victory behind every new acquisition you like, and don’t get caught up in a compulsive buying spree. After each new acquisition, take the time to “reposition” or “reset” yourself, as each new imported decorative element will change the whole. It is quite normal to wish to modify these choices of furnishing as a new object makes its entry in your home, because this object will come to modify the look of your room.

I hope that this analysis has helped you to better understand the philosophy of Slow Furnishing/Slow Decorating and its importance in everyday life.

I also hope that the few tips to follow in order to put Slow Furnishing into practice will be useful to you and will allow some of you to make beautiful finds. I invite you to use the comments section below to share your feedback or your thoughts.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

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