We finally enjoyed a rain-free weekend here in London! So, this weekend was all about being outdoors, cosying up the house and stocking my kitchen and bar for the season – all of which has me feeling that Simply Eau-de-Vie lifestyle magic again, finally! And, all perfect activities for the second post in my series about preparing for a joyous pandemic winter: how to create cosy comfort at home.
Treat Yourself Like a Guest
The state of your home becomes even more critical to your mental health and wellbeing during the shorter, colder and darker days of winter.
So, I invite you to do something a bit strange: pretend that you’re about to be a winter guest at the dream home or resort of your choice.
What’s important to you in this special place? What are the sights, smells, textures and feelings you’d like to experience? What daily needs do you have that you’d like someone to anticipate?
Think carefully about your needs and write them down. Then, be your own guest. Prepare your home accordingly so that it is ready to support you throughout the season.
Your winter home should be like a nest; a space that is ready to provide you with comfort and a warm embrace. You can achieve that feeling by paying attention to texture, lighting and ambience in critical spaces of your home.
As the temperature falls, texture plays an essential role in your home in the winter. Cold and hard surfaces – like tiled floors – or textiles made of lighter fabrics – such as linen – can be warmed for the season by soft area rugs, velvet pillows, throws or lambskins.
Good interior lighting is essential in the winter as daylight is scarce. Soften harsh overhead lighting by using lower-wattage warm bulbs, as well as floor and table lamps. Position mirrors strategically to reflect more light indoors. And, soften evening interior lighting with candlelight or a fireplace.
Ambience is created, in part, through the combined effect of all of the above, and especially by anticipating your needs. Tidiness is vital in the winter months.
For example, you’ll need a ready place to stash bulky outerwear neatly such as boots, coats, gloves, scarves. Intentionally placed soft throws and pillows can stand ready to offer an extra snuggle of warmth on the sofa, bed and outside seating areas. And an adequate supply of candles, lighters or matches and firewood will last a season.
To create a home that will maximise joy and delight this winter, you’ll want to focus first on three spaces most important to your wellbeing: where you sleep, where you lounge, and where you bathe. (Don’t worry, the kitchen and dining room are also very important, but we’ll cover those in my next post.)
Where You Sleep
Everyone knows the evidence supporting the importance of a good night’s sleep; winter is no different.
So, begin curating your sleep by dressing your bed in soft sheets – either high-thread-count, flannel or silk, depending on your preferences. The point here is to select a fabric that won’t feel cold to the touch when you slip into bed.
While you’re at it, double-check your pillows – make sure they’re serving you well. I recently added two square Hungarian goose down pillows to my bed; they make for super cosy sleeping.
Top your bed with a warmth that is lightweight and breathable. Winter-weight duvets are available in a range of choices: goose or duck feathers and down, down-alternatives, and a range of weights, or combinations of weights.
My preference is a duvet with a high percentage (60%+) of duck down combined with duck feathers and at least a 13.5 tog; others may prefer goose down. My favourite thing about a duvet is how easy it is to make the bed through a quick fluffing; nice and simple.
If your bedroom needs more warmth than a duvet offers – as mine did when I lived in Massachusetts – consider adding a soft, down mattress cover under your sheets before adding the weight of a blanket (unless, of course, you love that sensation).
There are a few other bedroom practices that will benefit you: lose the phone, adjust the lighting, and invest in a cosy pair of slippers and a robe (also known as a dressing gown here in the U.K.).
First, as Arianna Huffington says in Thrive Global, put your phone to bed. You need your sleep and your devices need power; by keeping them out of the bedroom, you’ll both recharge.
I have slept with my phone on my night table for years, insisting it was because of the alarm clock. Two months ago, I took Huffington’s advice and bought an old fashioned alarm clock, leaving my phone downstairs to charge overnight. It turns out that the separation from my device is a good thing for my sleep! So, get an alarm clock and check your phone at the bedroom door.
Secondly, adjust the lighting. If you’re a light sleeper like me, you may want to invest in a silk eye mask (Cologne & Cotton make a lovely one) and blackout shades.
But, either way, as you get ready for bed, you’ll want to dim any overhead lights or light some candles. Romance aside, spending time in a candle-lit room before bed can help ease the transition from daytime to sleepytime. (And, it ups the ambience!)
Finally, invest in a cosy robe / dressing gown and slippers. It’s chilly outside, so give your feet something soft and toasty to slip into while you mill about the house before bed and in the morning, and outfit your body with a lightweight, but a warm, robe.
Where You Lounge
Even in a small space, it’s essential to create a dedicated nook where you can relax; this could include your couch, a favourite chair, or a daybed, for example.
If your furniture fabrics are lightweight, such as linen or cotton, carefully select some velvet throw cushions, preferably down-filled, and a soft blanket throw for warmth, as well as visual and textural appeal.
Add in a coffee or side table, topped with candelabras, a few candles of varying sizes and a hidden box of matches. Hint: Nkuku has a lovely selection of candelabras and seasonal wares.
Neatly stack your selection of winter reading atop, which is something else that’s nice to prepare ahead of time. If you need a hand selecting your winter reads check your local bookseller’s website, or use more global resources like New York Times bestseller list (my go-to) or the Booker Prize site, the Oprah Book Club List, or Good Reads.
I’m sure this is old-fashioned, but I love a useful tray. They’re invaluable for carrying hot drinks, cocktails, snacks, books etc. from the kitchen to your cosy nooks or patio, and they add a little formality, which is sometimes really nice at home. I set them up on my coffee table, side table, and even on the daybed so that everything is within easy reach while I lounge.
Drafts are another challenge in the winter months, and there’s nothing more annoying than sitting on your couch feeling the cold air breeze by you. If you have large windows or doorways that are drafty, in addition to insulating window strips, invest in some winter-weight window treatments. They will save you some money on your utility bills, and they also add wonderful texture, ambience and privacy to interior space.
About eight years ago, tired of window drafts and eager for a better ambience, I invested in several sets of lined velvet curtains. It was a significant expense for me at the time, but with regular dry cleaning and care, those curtains still look new and sumptuous while doing a terrific job blocking winter drafts (and in a different house!).
Your living area is a natural place to bring the outside in; add touches of the season through tasteful displays of seasonal fruit, such as a bowl of apples, acorns, pears or small gourds, for example. Bring in seasonal greenery, a low-maintenance indoor potted plant, or fresh cut fresh berries or flowers.
Then, if you have outdoor space in which to lounge, consider how you may extend its life into winter.
First, think about adding warmth, such as a heater or a fire pit. (This will also add lighting!) For example, although my London patio is small, I have placed a standing heater adjacent to my dining table and chairs, as well as two tall outdoor candle lanterns and an assortment of smaller votives for light and ambience.
This year I’m also loving sheepskin throws/rugs for their added texture and warmth. Along with small blankets to wrap up in, I use the sheepskin throws to warm the seats of the patio seating. I like them so much that I placed one inside on a daybed and another atop one of my favourite reading chairs – just super cosy! (Hint: Ikea has a brilliant sheepskin throw on sale right now for only £25!)
And don’t forget to make your patio visually inviting with plants and lighting. Even a few evergreen plants dotted with fairy lights can transform an ordinary outdoor space into one which is magical and welcoming, and that’s what we’re after this winter.
Where You Bathe
If you’re like me, when you arrive at a room in a good hotel, you take a look at the bathroom. Yet sometimes at home, the bath is an overlooked area when it should be a priority space for supporting wellbeing. Frankly, it’s way too easy to set the scene for a cosy bathroom, so why overlook it?
A hot bath before bed, with bubbles, can warm you, relax your muscles and help you transition to sleep; it’s also a terrific wintertime pick-me-up.
Adding lavender to the bath is helpful for nighttime relaxation and inducing sleep; eucalyptus is beneficial in treating a head cold (Moulton-Brown makes the best version of this); and mineral salts are a godsend when you’re achy. So, take time to source some aromatic bath bubbles, salts or body gel/scrub that are to your liking and place them near the bath ready for use.
Just a few finishing touches and the bathroom will be ready for winter: a bath caddy to hold a book, a cup of tea or a glass of wine while you bathe; and candles or dimmable lights to soften the lighting and allow your eyes to relax. Place a rug or mat to cushion and warm your feet as you step out of the bath, and a big, plush towel to envelope you. Oh – and don’t forget to place your robe and slippers conveniently nearby! Ah – such bliss!
Hopefully, you’re now ready to snuggle into your home for the winter and it’s well-prepared to support your wellbeing. If you want further inspiration, please check out the Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking; it’s an excellent resource for cosying your home and your lifestyle.
Check out Part 1 of this series on preparing your heart and mind for winter. And check back next week for the final post in this series: Stocking Your Kitchen & Your Bar for the season.