While hunkering down, trying to stay out of the path of a novel coronavirus, some of us got lost in a maze of puzzles, livestreaming or Netflix binging. No doubt, we found ourselves gazing at our living spaces in a new light. Living there 24/7, we began to examine every stitch of furniture and the art (or lack of) on the walls. The walls! What do we love? What do we hate? What can we change?
OK, blame it on Zoom fatigue. It's inspiring a lot of stuff out of the usual comfort zone. Tie-dying? Check. Becoming a wine expert? Giving it a whirl. Acquiring another language? You've got time until your next trip out of the county. Mastering your barista skills? Oh, you've really been missing Starbucks.
Some are fighting boredom with change. Grabbing a paintbrush and dipping into a different color. Reimaging a room. Installing some shelves. Who even knew you could DIY?
The truth is, even a small improvement or decorative purchase for the home can make you deliriously happy these days.
Here are some ideas, kind of a random mix of what you can tackle -- even a little DIY.
Working from home
Now that many of us have embraced working remotely, we actually may not miss the commute. But we know what we're missing if we've created a makeshift space. Whether or not you create a dedicated home office, some tips are welcome.
New York Designer Daun Curry says that we need to consider comfort, function and livability in order to create a workspace tailored to our needs. Simple furniture is best, but you don't have to sacrifice style. The size of a desk or work table really determines the time spent organizing or rifling through documents and work accoutrements, she says.
"All should be easy to find and within reach," she says. "Think of your work station as a chef's mise en place: a place for everything, and everything in its place. Whether you're a minimalist or maximalist, find what works best for your process -- jars, binders, trays, boxes."
This is especially important if you don't have a dedicated office. So you need to tidy up at the end of the day. A rolling file cart may help.
As for feel-good inspiration, consider the color of the walls. Curry recommends a light, soothing palette, combined, if possible, with an abundance of natural light.
Also, the biophilia trend that has been growing in office design is also applicable at home. It's a refresh of the notion of communing with nature. "Fresh cut flowers -- even wildflowers -- add surprising cheer," she says.
You'll find lots of how-to tips for selecting furniture online. One excellent source is Room and Board (www.roomandboard.com). On the website (and on its blogs) you'll get guidance on finding the perfect ergonomically suitable office chair. Some of its bestselling chairs are from Humanscale, a New York City firm known for simple, functional, sustainable products.
Organize and display
So there's this blank wall in your kitchen. What's the best combination of form and function? A set of floating shelves is one solution. Shelves are handy for stacking plates for everyday use, or for displaying decorative crocks or vessels. And they offer a resting spot for that trailing vine you want to connect with.
Try out a patterned backdrop
You've lived with white or neutral walls. For a long time. You may never have considered wallpaper, but today you can try it out and not fear long-term commitment. Tempaper is the leading manufacturer of removable, environmentally safe and friendly wallpaper. Its eclectic patterns cover a range of styles and colors. You can create a statement wall, line a bookcase or highlight stair risers. The paper will go wherever your imagination takes it.
Bookshelves and more
Floating open bookshelves have been trending for some time. They are an integral part of design in European kitchens, often featured as the most fashion-forward cabinetry. One of the reasons these etagere-like models have been so popular is that they are so versatile, handling basic storage like books. They travel from kitchen to living spaces to bedrooms. Some have staggered shelves, which adds to their graphic punch. Some come in circular shapes; others are asymmetrical. They work well as room dividers.
Serve with style
OK, so you really miss entertaining. But while you're waiting to invite a few friends over for cocktails, why not treat yourself? How long has it been since you bought a serving tray or cheeseboard? There are so many options, which come in a range of materials, including wood and stone. We love the new stoneware serving trays at Jayson Home. The fresh blue and green tones and soft plaid patterns are pretty just sitting on the counter. But they'll handsomely set off that Parmigiano, smoked Gouda and blue cheese.
Swipe left or right
One lesson learned during the pandemic: how to properly wash our hands. For those who are especially skittish about touching surfaces and still can't find Lysol spray anywhere, you might consider a touchless faucet. It makes more sense now than ever before. Many faucet manufacturers have them. Most are modern, simple styles. We especially love them in matte black, like Kohler's Setra design.
Set your table with style
Change it up. Make an effort to set the table, to make it special, even if you're ordering in. There's a gorgeous new collection from Schumacher, designed exclusively for Williams-Sonoma. It includes stoneware made in Portugal, table runners, placemats, napkins, accessories and pillows whose patterns are inspired by textiles.
About that biofilia
Talking to plants was sooo '70s. But the benefits of living with them are well-documented. They are said to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure. And they can help you sleep better because they give off oxygen at night. A vase filled with flowers adds so much life to interiors. Just look at design magazines for some cues. If you fear you don't have a green thumb for plants, try succulents. They don't require much fussing.
Get lost in a dream. It's easier with the backdrop of a beautiful mural. These days, you don't have to hire an artist to paint a stunning landscape. York Wallcoverings is one company that produces gorgeous digitally produced works on linen. It just might be a tranquil water scene framed by lush foliage to transport you. There's even an ethereal cloudlike mural in indigo called Dreamchaser.
Go right round
Round serving platters may corral your favorite go-to herbs on a counter. Or use them to arrange charcuterie, restaurant-style. Cambria loves the shape for its quartz table accessories, and its Lazy Susan takes it up a notch.
Sink into style
Farmhouse sinks have been in vogue for some time. Thompson Traders, a company known for its bespoke hand-hammered kitchen and bath pieces, has launched a new collection with designer Kara Cox. The farmhouse sink pairs nickel with brass in a visually stunning design.
A new face
Replacing cabinets may not be an option. But how about refacing them? The latest laminate options are sophisticated, with stone and wood look-alikes that are most convincing.
Get a grip
Decorative hardware can breathe new life into kitchen and bath cabinets or furniture. Some of the most fetching options today pair black with burnished gold.
Enjoy the season
Summertime, and the living is ... still a little strange. But enjoy it while you can. Cherry motifs embody the season. At Sur la Table, there's a charming collection of dinnerware, serveware and linens printed with scattered cherries teamed with stripes and plaids, some in all-American red, white and blue.
Create a tablescape
Styling a mantel or tablescape is so much about collections. Good retailers do it well. Flamant, a Belgian-owned shop well-known in Paris, gathers a set of white ceramic vessels in varying heights and shapes. And it's magic.
So by all means, check out those mini tutorials or retailer websites or blogs, like how to create container gardens. Or how to style a bar cart. Organization meets aesthetics in the best way. The best part is, you'll have the ingredients to toast your efforts.
-- Anthropologie, 800-309-2500, www.anthropologie.com
-- Cambria, 866-226-2742, www.cambriausa.com
-- Cristina Buckley, email@example.com, www.cristinabuckley.com
-- Daun Curry, 212-480-2593, www.dauncurry.com
-- Ethnicraft, 917-513-0069, www.ethnicraft.com
-- Formica, 800-367-6422, www.formica.com
-- Jayson Home, 800-472-1885, www.jaysonhome.com
-- Kohler, 800-456-4537, www.kohler.com
-- Ornamental Moulding and Millwork, 800-779-1135, www.ornamental.com
-- Schumacher Collection at Williams-Sonoma, 877-812-6235, www.williams-sonoma.com
-- Tempaper, 732-920-2654, www.tempaper.com; some Tempaper products available at West Elm, 888-922-4119, www.westelm.com
-- Terrain, 877-583-7724, www.shopterrain.com
-- Thompson Traders, to the trade, www.thompsontraders.com