Friday, July 31, 2009

Clothes Maketh The Home

Just as clothes maketh the man, so do our everyday attire affect the way we think of our homes, and in turn the way we decorate it. This is because the clothes we wear are a reflection of our personality. The romantic individual may wear dark, rich colours that hint at his or her passionate nature--and use the same colours in the home. Urban dwellers might favour clean, streamlined designs that are fuss-free and low-maintenance--both in interior decor and in clothing.

But since the home is meant to be a shelter from the stresses of the outside environment, and indeed, since we often think of our home as a place where we can truly relax, one great way to turn the home into a truly stress-free place is to take our cue from the clothes we wear to relax.

What kind of clothes signify relaxation to you?

Gentlemen and ladies of old used to have smoking jackets that they could wear specifically to relax after dinner in the lounge (so named to protect one's clothes from the smoke of cigarettes). Usually worn by the upper classes, smoking jackets imparted a sense of sophistication and languid relaxation. Much like the leisure suits of the 1970s, such clothes specifically signified that the wearer was unwinding at home after a day of work.

The modern equivalent is much more varied, and at the same time, less formal. It could be the casual clothes we wear around the home, or to sleep: a T-shirt and shorts or jeans, a well-worn dress, or your favourite football jersey, paired with a comfortable pair of bermudas. Maybe your exercise outfit, or your yoga clothes, for those who work out at home. The more old-fashioned among us might vote for pyjamas. Others prefer the elegance of a bathrobe or a yukata (a Japanese summer kimono). These all have one similarity: they are comfortable, simple clothing that make us feel at home--where we are free to have a leisurely meal, read the newspapers, or catch a nap.

Wouldn't you feel even more relaxed if your home decor matched the ambience of relaxation?

That way, even without having to change out of your officewear at the end of the day, you are automatically 'clothed' in the stress-free environment of your home the moment you step inside. You are encourage to leave your worries at the door, and treat the home as the needed stress-free zone it is supposed to be.

First, consider the kinds of clothes you wear to relax. Most of us go for casual wear, but these can make a statement in your home as well. Clothing in tropical weather calls for plain cotton, as it is soft and allows the skin to breath. Linen is also comfortable to wear, as is silk, but these are expensive. Nonetheless, using these fabrics to accentuate your home softens the look, making it more homey. Cotton curtains are light and easy to clean, and can add a touch of casualness to an otherwise formal interior. Linen adds a touch of nature, while silk has a unique sheen, and adds a luxurious touch.

If you are a fan of yukatas, consider using a similar fabric in curtains, or in throw cushions. One unique way is to duplicate the motif of such clothes (often geometric or simple nature designs) in your home somewhere, perhaps by papering a part of your living room wall in it.

For those who prefer to wear exercise clothes at home: a sporty decor incorporating some exhibits of your favourite activity--be it yoga, judo, golf, or table tennis--immediately helps you to look forward to relaxing at home. Bright, bold colours help to energize the spirits and spur us to start exercising immediately.

In particular, sportswear is that sector of clothing that is both comfortable and relaxing to wear, while continuing to be at the forefront of fashion. Sports merchandisers and makers of sporting goods present new and fresh designs every season, hoping to entice customers to buy yet another jogging outfit, or more football jerseys. The upmarket clothing chains have polo shirts with neat, discreet labels that sell a lifestyle of leisure and healthy sports participation. As retailers do, so can the home decorator. Fashion trends in casual are just as important a consideration in creating a relaxing home, since nothing is more depressing than a home that looks dowdy, mismatched, and outdated.

Other than the use of colours typically used in sportswear--bold blues and navy shades, white, cream, reds and greens--consider using the newest trends to add freshness to your home. Knitwear is often used in sportswear, but can be easily adapted for the home, for example, in a rug, or in a throw for accentuating your sofa. New materials that are used in sportwear, such as spandex, make an interesting addition to your home decor. Wrap your sofa in a spandex blend fabric, maybe in a darker shade, for that sleek, shiny look that is warm and comfortable as well.

Right now, casual fashion calls for clothes that you can slouch in, with an emphasis on beachwear, especially since spring is here and all of us await summer with anticipation. Therefore, give your home that sunshiny, holiday feeling with cheerful colours. Colourful striped patterns on your sofa, or your curtains, give the impression of being away at the beach. If you have a lounge chair, make it the focus point of your living room. Better still, string up a hammock in a corner of your home (taking into consideration the support needed for this) or on your balcony. Wear flip flops in the kitchen. And for the final touch? Place a pair of sunglasses on the living room table.

The fact is, fashion design's principles lie in tailoring clothes to suit function, body type and aesthetic preferences. It is similar for home decor: the function of the room, the lifestyle of its occupants, and their aesthetic preferences determine the final appearance of the home. Good design ultimately comes from the balance of space and form, the use of colours and attention to detail. By taking inspiration from the clothes you wear to relax, and keeping in mind these precepts, you will be able to sculpt a home that is both comfortable and fashionable.

Bonus: For those of you who wish to relax in surroundings with an Old World feel, imitate the leisurely class and decorate your home in dark woods and and dark silks, perhaps by installing a home bar. Or go retro with a 1970s look: let your home be a place where you can 'chill out'. Then buy a smoking jacket made of velvet or satin, or a leisure suit, and you are set to make your home the best, most relaxing place on earth.