04.27.2019 Culture

Interior Design as a Spiritual Practice

Anna Lobell
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I have been working as an interior designer for almost 15 years. In this role, I am invited into people’s homes during major life transitions. Some of these transitions are self-created — couples starting a new life together, families outgrowing one space and moving into another, people who have lived in the same space for 20 years and finally feel the need to renovate — and some of the changes are reactions to outside circumstances like financial gains or losses, aging, and divorce. These transitions spur the need for a change in environment, and it is always a fascinating process to witness and be a part of.

Over the years I have become aware of the ways our living spaces can influence and shape us, and how becoming more intentional about that process can lead to a richer experience and deeper sense of self-awareness. Times of change are our greatest opportunities for growth, and transforming the space in which we live can be a catalyst for deep spiritual work when the process is approached with intention.

Mindfulness is the key to any spiritual practice. Whether the impetus for change is self-directed or reactionary, the possibility for mindful action is always present. The first step is asking questions: Why am I doing this? What is my desired outcome? How do I want to feel? What am I calling in? What am I ready to let go of/move on from? There are no wrong answers to any of these questions, just opportunities for self-reflection and greater clarity.

We live in a world that is overrun with visual stimuli, and it can be very difficult to sort through all the available options and come to a decision on what we like, independent of the opinions of our friends, families, neighbors, and mothers-in-law.

And, while it is often difficult to control many of the environments we find ourselves spending time in on a day-to-day basis, designing our homes gives us an opportunity to create a space that supports and nurtures us in exactly the ways we desire — but first we have to get clear on what those are. Meditation, journaling, and taking the time to talk about our desired outcome is key. Do you need to create space? Nurture your creativity? Energize? If you are creating space for more than one person, have conversations about what each of you needs, and see how and where these desires can overlap and support each other. The deeper you go with this, the more intentional the process of designing the space will be… and the more rewarding.

Once clarity of intention is achieved, the next step is birthing the vision. The practice here involves all the senses — how can your environment enrich your intention? This becomes a practice in the art of seeing and of intentional interaction with all aspects of your environment. How do certain colors make you feel? What shapes are you drawn toward? What fabric textures feel right to you? Which ones turn you off? Does a color or pattern remind you of your childhood? Is this a good thing?

You are in the process of creating a space that is the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. It will hold your secrets and your most intimate moments. Don’t be afraid to make choices based on what you respond to, because there truly are no wrong choices. This is your space, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else feels about it as long as it is an authentic expression of you.

If you are feeling stuck or the process becomes difficult, it might be a good time to gently observe where you are having difficulty making choices in other areas of your life, or letting yourself choose things that might seem different or strange to the people around you.

My advice is always to lean into that, making the bold choice or the one that makes you a little nervous. If you’re drawn to a hot pink sofa, do it! That sofa will be a daily reminder of your brave decision to embrace your authentic desire, and it may inspire others to do the same. Conversely, if you truly desire a calm space filled with neutral tones and minimal décor, embrace that! Just make the decision that feels true to your heart.

It’s easy to dismiss this process as superficial or materialistic, but these inquiries can be deeply informative and available to any budget. If you are unable to transform your entire space, consider choosing a new paint color that feels more in line with how you want to feel, or adding some plants if you feel that you and the space need more life. Keep asking questions and paying attention to the way you do things. If you hate your sofa and the feeling of hating it comes into your mind every time you see it, think about how many times a day that thought is taking up space in your mind. If you keep putting off paying attention to your space and have been living out of boxes for months, how does that reflect the ways you take care of yourself in other areas of your life? Does that suit you just fine, or is it something you would like to shift?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Give yourself the space and time to be mindful about your surroundings. One of my greatest teachers says “Energy flows where attention goes.” Put some attention into your environment and let yourself receive the energy that flows as a result. It will very likely change your life.

Anna Lobell is an interior designer based in Los Angeles. She is passionate about the ways in which design and spirituality intersect, and the possibility for life-changing transformation they can create.

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