DO Something New #1: Design Your Space

Welcome to the first instalment of our DO Something New series: a collection of journal posts inspired by the zest for home crafts cultivated in our community during the Covid-19 lockdown.

As a network of small, creative businesses and freelancers, our professional lives experienced unprecedented upheaval here at Gather Round: work and projects accelerated, paused or pulled altogether. Challenges reared their heads. Questions went unanswered. And so in our forced isolation, we, along with millions of others, sought solace in the ancient human needs of nature, nurture and nesting. Our social and professional obligations were replaced with new rituals of cooking, foraging, preserving, gardening, designing, creating and making. These centuries-old practices offered us a sense of purpose, and even defiance, in quarantine.

Do Inhabit, Detail

Since the DO lectures started in 2007, David and Clare Hieatt have been fostering a progressive ‘encouragement network’, by promoting ‘doing’ through ideas, talks, events and publications. What better way to reset our work/life balance than explore how we can start, or indeed continue, to do something new, and benefit from this time investment in our personal wellbeing?

As we inch out of lockdown into the next few months ahead, we’ll be indulging in Q&A’s with four DO Book authors. We’ll pick up some valuable ideas, tips and tricks, and learn how we can embed the restorative, soul-sustaining values of these at-home activities into our lives for the better.

Do Books The Wellness Library Helena Dolby
The Wellness Library, Helena Dolby

Our first guest is photographer, art director and co-author of DO/Inhabit, Sue Fan. Sue was born in Hong Kong but has since wandered the world, and now spends most of her time in altogether wilder places with her two dogs. Her philosophy, shared with her co-author Danielle Quigley, is that dedicating time to the space we live in can help us live a creative, considered and therefore more fulfilling life. Considering our relationships with our homes have been tested to their limits, we asked Sue why we should invest more time into our space, and how designing our interiors can be a free, fluid and meaningful form of self-expression.

Do Inhabit Sue Fan
Do Inhabit, Sue Fan

What encouraged you to write a guide about creating a ‘space for a creative and considered life’?

Miranda (@dobookco) and our Do Lectures family in Wales (@thedolectures) are the greatest encouragement network. I believe living creatively and considerately makes you more present and thoughtful. It’s such a beautiful way to go into every day. I think if we can help one person live and do better, that’s work worth doing. That’s what we hope DO/Inhabit inspires.

Sue, as a traveller, you describe yourself as ‘someone who craves sensory overload’. How have you appealed to your senses during this time?

I take a walk every day. Mother Earth provides everything we need and stimulates every sense. We can breathe in her scents, open our eyes to the colours and shapes of what’s growing, listen to the wildlife, walk barefoot, and forage for whatever is blooming at the moment; from spruce tips to linden flowers. My hope is, the more engaged we are with the earth around us, the more appreciation we cultivate, and the more we will want to protect her and see everything is connected.

Do Inhabit, Nature

Our spaces have been working hard, required to provide stimulation, focus and relaxation, while simultaneously shared with children, housemates or partners. Our relationship with them has been tested. How, after months of forced habitation, can we take steps to love our space once again?

It is all about perspective. If we have a space to inhabit, we should be grateful. The balance can be difficult, but we must remember to step back and see the beauty that surrounds us. Take the time to move things around, declutter, and open some windows or plant a herb pot. It is a time when the smallest things will make the greatest impact. Create a nook if possible, where you can stack some books, have a cup of tea, make it smell inviting, put a blanket over a chair, and get cosy. You will love it when you make an effort to put love into it. And if you have to share it? Realise how lucky that really is.

Working from home is part of the ‘new normal’. What are your top three tips for creating a productive workspace?

First, always create a space for everything – where your pens go, where your mug goes, where your notes go. Once you have decluttered and organised, add something which makes you happy. You want your workspace to be a place you want to be. It can be a sweet memento; a small vase, a favourite quote, a lichen-covered stick you found. And lastly, take the time to make it comfortable – a small sheepskin, a cushion on your chair, and good speakers for music or a podcast (depending on what kind of work you do, of course).

Do Inhabit, Office, Christian Harder
Office, Christian Harder

In the book, you explain the many ways you bring the outdoors in and find inspiration from nature. Why do you believe nature plays an important part in styling a space?

Nature helps us breathe better. Biologically speaking, it is good for the spirit, our senses, mood, and overall health. And of course, it’s beautiful AND affordable. It’s the easiest way to create a true sanctuary.

Before the pandemic, being busy was something of a mark of social influence and status. How can our spaces encourage us to slow down and engage in more quality time at home?

Once we have a space which feels like a sanctuary, we shouldn’t want to leave as much. When we create a space which feels thoughtful and inspiring, we will want to share it, spend time in it, live in it. By creating these quiet, cosy spaces, we can encourage ourselves to take baths, read books, share meals with and hold our loved ones. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want to sit in front of a fire or have a meal by candlelight. There is always time for quality. We just have to make space for it.

Do Inhabit, Our Style, Christian Harder
Our Style, Christian Harder

In the book, you refer to the concept of ‘prusten’. Why do you believe we should view interior design as something of a pastime rather than as a one-time Pinterest-based makeover?

It is human nature to crave change, however small. Swapping out a vase or a stone or a picture is like the change in seasons – we want to watch the snowfall, flowers bloom, and leaves change colour. We are constantly evolving. So should our space.

The lockdown has offered us time to consider the place we live in. Even when the temptation to travel and escape returns, how can we style our space to ‘inspire ideas, change and doing?’

Think about what it is you are actually craving when you travel. Is that something you can create in your own space? Make a mood board, always have a stack of postcards to send, and experiment with different colours, styles, and shapes. Take time to find what it is that genuinely warms your heart, and gives you joy.

Take walks. Find your inspiration. What do you think needs changing in your life?

What we do with our time matters. Our voices matter. What we stand for matters. Focusing on design and our space can seem trivial when the world feels like it’s on fire, but I truly believe we can’t be better people unless we put in the time to be better in all aspects of our lives. We need the balance of beauty to inspire us to be better and do better. Create a space you want to live in that inspires you. That encourages you to thrive. And then assess all the things you can slowly incorporate into your life to learn more, do more, be more. Make space for it. We have that capacity. It is the work of a lifetime. It is hard work. It is worth it.

Be creative in how you live. It is in you. Be considerate in how you live. It is everything.

Do Inhabit, Storage, Sue Fan
Storage, Sue Fan

Has this ignited new ideas, a desire for change and a spirit of ‘doing’ within you? DO/Inhabit is your pocket guide to creating a space which ignites your senses. It’s available alongside other titles designed to inspire action at The DO Book Co, and you can relish 10% off your selection with our exclusive code. Just enter GATHER10 at the checkout.

You can keep up with Sue’s adventures on Instagram @suefan, and find her and Danielle’s curated collection of nature’s treasures @wildhabit.