If only living simply were a simple process. We wouldn't need the burgeoning new genre of books devoted to a simple lifestyle.
Two worth adding to the shelf are Sarah Susanka's
The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters
(Random House, $25) and Sarah Nettleton's
The Simple Home: The Luxury of Enough
In different ways - Susanka's book is primarily text, Nettleton's is beautifully photographed by Randy O'Rourke - these two books remind us that a house should reflect one's life and one's dreams.
If, like Cinderella's stepsisters, you feel shoehorned into a poorly fitting space, something needs to be done. You could remodel your house, you could remodel your life - or you could do both.
To end up with a simpler result, it's necessary to understand that bigger houses lead to bigger lives. As Susanka says: "When we own stuff, we have to maintain it. We also have to earn enough money to procure it, house it, protect it, keep it clean and insure it against theft or loss."
In writing her best-selling "Not So Big House" series and venturing into self-help terrain with
The Not So Big Life
, Susanka has been on quite a journey. She has abandoned her overstuffed, overstressed life and fine-tuned the ways in which small changes reap big rewards.
These are among the design tips she offers her architectural clients and readers:
If your kitchen feels isolated and uninviting, add an interior window or enlarge the doorway. Once the room feels connected to the rest of the house, people will love congregating there.
If you long for a library but don't have room, carve out book storage by lining a hallway or a landing with shelves. Or rim a room with a high shelf that can hold books you love but aren't planning to read immediately.
Create vistas. When you have a place to look - out a window, into another room - your home will feel much more engaging.
Don't forget mirrors. Bathing a room in reflected light will change its mood.
Pay attention to how you enter your house. If you access it through the laundry, you won't be rewarded with a sense of peace and welcome. Rearrange your traffic flow so you enter through a space that allows a serene transition from the busy outside world.
Create a space that's just yours. Stake out a corner of the dining room, claim a table in the guest room, or convert a walk-in closet. Susanka feels it's essential that each family member have a place to read, create and dream so that a house is an inspiring place to be - for everyone.
Like Susanka, Nettleton is a trained architect who believes in "learning what matters for you and your family and skipping the temptation to add on costly options that you might not really need."
As she points out in
The Simple Home
, it's all too easy to splurge on granite countertops when improved daylight might make your kitchen far more luxurious. You can be seduced by fancy furniture when built-in storage could cut down on the amount of furnishings you need, and the amount of clutter that accumulates - allowing you to lead a much more magazine-perfect life.
The luxury of enough is a wonderful concept. It marries enlightened living and smart design in these key ways:
The simple home is flexible. With multipurpose rooms and furnishings that can move from space to space, a lot more living takes place in a lot less space.
The simple home is thrifty to maintain. When floors can be broom-swept and cross-ventilation reduces the need for air-conditioning, a house is more enjoyable to live in and more affordable over time.
The simple home is sustainable. By using doors from salvage yards and reclaimed rock for a fireplace, you can reduce a house's impact on the environment - and add character.
Distilling all your thoughts on how you want to live is a complex process. But as these two books show, the end result is a house in which simple pleasures create luxury on a daily basis.