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Black Summer brought the issue of indoor air pollution to the fore of everyone’s minds. Australians realised how much we value having good air quality in our homes, schools, hospitals, offices, shopping centres, and warehouses. This led to a massive uptake—and shortage—in air purifiers and face masks across NSW and the ACT. It also made every second person believe that they were an amateur atmospheric chemist, recommending all sorts of weird and wonderful solutions to air pollution at low or no cost!

With a new bushfire season already underway, it’s high time to look at the facts of indoor air pollution. What should we be concerned about? Why should we be concerned? And what does the latest science say about cleaning air indoors? Let’s take a deep dive and find out.

 

The sources of indoor air pollution

Fresh air is great and overwhelmingly beneficial. However, unless you live in a sealed dome with no windows (think Simpsons Movie, but for the opposite reasons), air from the great outdoors can be one of the biggest sources of pollution. Those of us who live or work near a quarry or mine or have coal trains driving past their property are already well aware of this!

Everyone everywhere is exposed to a range of pollutants every single year. The commonest sources, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), are bushfires, dust storms, sea salt, and pollen. To this we add neighbourhood sources like chimneys, bonfires, fertilisers, and agriculture generally. You know what it's like: you're sitting on the sofa, windows open, enjoying a nice day, then suddenly the wind changes and—BAM!—your house reeks of God knows what!

Funnily enough, indoor air pollution also comes from indoor and backyard sources. Not all of these pollutants are necessarily harmful—for example, cooking smells and scented soy wax candles. But some you need to look out for include wood-fired heaters, cigarette smoke, incense, paints, aerosols, solvents, dust, and diesel and petrol for garden tools. You need to be especially careful if you’re considering open burning of wood, rubbish, or vegetation on your property, not only for the air quality impacts but because it may be illegal without a permit.

A special mention for people with allergies is pets. Sorry, labradoodle owners, but scientists have been proving for years that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Or cats for that matter. That's because the allergens don’t emanate from the coats of these animals, but rather the proteins found in their urine and saliva. It’s not hard to imagine how pervasively these spread throughout the house!

 

Why indoor air pollution matters

No amount of air pollution is safe. For some, it is deadly.

In 2018, the World Health Organization told us that ‘3.8 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution’, and that’s just for cooking-related pollution!

But let’s narrow our focus to Australia. Here, wood-fired heaters are, literally, the worst. Three scientists recently wrote in The Conversation that wood heater smoke in winter is ‘the single biggest air pollutant in New South Wales and the ACT’ and is ‘[l]ike having a truck idling in your living room’. One wood-fired heater used for one year costs the health system $3,800, which, given one in ten Australians uses wood-fired heaters as their main source of heating (at least in 2014), adds up to $3.4 billion across the country.

And that’s assuming that every person using a wood-fired heater follows the law and uses clean, dry hardwood as fuel. Some people grab waste wood from construction and demolition sites instead, thinking they can save some time and money. But this wood is often treated with copper chrome arsenate, which, according to the scientists at The Conversation, ‘can increase incidents of liver, bladder, and lung cancers, and reduce the production of red and white blood cells, leading to fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, and blood-vessel damage’.

Another scientist writing in the journal Atmospheric Pollution Research revealed in 2011 that the average Australian wood-fired heater emits a lot of methane and black carbon particles (more than reverse cycle air-conditioning and even gas heaters). This contributes to the greenhouse effect which, according to the US Institute of Medicine, makes existing indoor environmental health problems worse and creates new ones to worry about.

Also remember that pollutants interact. For example, one large-scale study in China looked at a certain type of head and neck cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and ‘observed a significant addictive interaction between frequent incense burning and heavy cigarette smoking on NPC risk’. The same study reminds us that air pollutants can be even more threatening if you have a family history of certain cancers or diseases.

Finally, the NSW EPA reminds us that ‘older adults, children, and people with existing health conditions’ are especially vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution, no matter the source. So, plenty of reasons to be concerned about indoor air pollution!

 

How you can protect yourself and clean your air

Let’s be clear: it’s practically impossible to have perfectly clean air.

But, while we each must live with a minimum acceptable standard of pollution indoors and out, there are things we all can do to help reduce our exposure. Again, no amount of air pollution is safe.

So what can you do? Here are six ideas:

1. Close your doors and windows when outdoor air quality is poor or hazardous

This is a no-brainer. If your area is thick with bushfire smoke, shut your doors and windows!

The NSW Government also provides a real-time air quality index service and you can choose to subscribe to updates. When you check the weather, the Bureau of Meterology will tell you whether there's going to a poor air quality event to look out for as well.

2. Allow ventilation when outdoor air is fresh

Trapping all your indoor pollutants inside your home is not a good idea. When the air is fresh (and it is most of the time in most places in Australia), you should open your doors and windows. Let the pollutants dissipate!

3. Clean your house frequently and regularly

I think we’ve all had the experience of looking underneath our beds or behind our furniture and finding obscene growths of dust and detritus!

The best remedy against this is, unfortunately, more housework. Make sure you vacuum at least once a week, or more often (ideally daily) if you have pets or young children or both.

Also, consider wearing a mask when you do a deep clean. This includes not just when you're vacuuming problem areas, but also when you're using strong cleaning products or even when you do home maintenance projects like painting. If you're vulnerable to air pollutants, it's especially important to double check that your mask has been independently assessed and certified for its quality.

4. Make the swtich from wood-fired heaters

After all the evidence we just went through, this should be a no-brainer!

We’ll admit, it’s hard to deny that wood-fired heaters create an amazing vibe. For many of us, they remind us of our childhoods or are otherwise nostalgic. Unfortunately, cancers don’t care about our nostalgia!

5. Buy a good air purifier (or at least an air quality sensor)

If your family includes people with vulnerabilities like asthma and allergies, or you live in an area with notorious air pollution problems, you may want to consider buying an air purifier. Choice has some great independent advice helping you decide whether you need an air purifier and, if so, which air purifiers are the best value for money.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a purifier, consider buying a sensor instead. These are often hundreds of dollars cheaper and provide you accurate, real-time information about air pollution in your home.

Note that many of the higher-quality air purifiers also come with sensors, so it is unlikely that you will need to buy both.

6. If you have allergies, think carefully about pets

Pets are lovely. But, given hypoallergenic cats and dogs don’t exist, you may want to reconsider having furry companions in future if you have serious allergies. (You'll also obviate the need to think about pet-friendly furniture.)

Remember: not having a cat or dog doesn’t mean you can’t have any pets whatsoever. Consider birds, reptiles, rocks, or even an aquarium! It's a different experience but can be incredibly rewarding.

An important note: Indoor plants are great, but they won’t make a difference to your air quality

I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of spouting this myth in our blogs. But since reading this meta-study by Cummings and Waring in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, I’ve learned that indoor pot plants do not improve indoor air quality in modern buildings.

The myth started when people played Chinese whispers with the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study (and the lead author published a provocatively-titled (and incredibly lucrative) book for laypeople, How to Grow Fresh Air). This study—conducted to investigate one way astronauts might be able to enjoy cleaner air in small, sealed space stations—quickly evolved into a myth that plants of a certain size, species, or distribution would filter the air in your home by a certain percentage.

Today, we know that it's just not true. Looking at volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Cummings and Waring checked out twelve different studies about plants as air filters and expressed very high confidence that indoor plants make practically no difference in typical buildings (in the US), given the way modern buildings are designed. They say that, depending on the species, you would need to place between 10 and 1000 plants per square metre on a building’s floor space for plant filtration to be as effective as ordinary ventilation. That's a lot of plants!

But the study isn’t a total repudiation of the air-cleaning power of indoor greenery. The authors suggest that green walls ‘may create a more effective means of VOC removal because of their size, exposed rhizosphere, and controlled and continuous airflow’. However, more studies are needed before we can be highly confident about that. Plus, green walls are too expensive for most of us!

Image courtesy of Patrick Blanc.

Also, it’s not a one-way street. Plants emit spores, bioparticles, and simple gases like oxygen, but they are also capable of emitting VOCs themselves when under stress. (This sounds scary, but there's no evidence suggesting we should be concerned. These emissions are mainly for plant communication and to attract herbivore-eating predators to help plants save themselves. But hey if you don’t take care of your plants and feel like you need the barest justification to go artificial, then this is one!)

To summarise: plants are great for many, many reasons. Just don't expect them to do anything for your indoor air quality!

To conclude…

Boy, that was a long blog! Congratulations for making it this far.

Being a furniture retailer, air pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on noise pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Indoor air pollution: Why it matters and what you can do about it

The NSW Environment Protection Authority reports that many people who call its hotline complain about excessive noise, especially late at night and early in the morning.

This may seem petty, but noise pollution is an issue we should all consider. It’s not just annoying, there are some serious health impacts that can accrue over time. If you’re looking for a quieter life, read on to find out more about the sources of noise pollution, why you should care, and what you can do about to reduce the impacts (including with your home furnishings).

 

Sources of noise pollution

As you can imagine, there are plenty of sources of noise pollution. Let’s look at them in terms of whether they’re external to your home or inside it.

External sources are usually the noisiest. Among these, transport (cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, trains, aeroplanes, helicopters, and so on) is usually the noisiest of the everyday noises. Depending on where you live, other noises include industry, agriculture, and the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as neighbourhood noises like barking dogs, hooligans, parties, your neighbour’s conversations and latest Netflix obsessions, yard work (leaf blowers and high-pressure hoses especially), and construction.

Indoor sources may seem more innocuous, but cumulatively these can lead to a surprisingly noisy home environment. These include slamming doors, flushing toilets, hot water systems, TVs, desktop computers, musical instruments, sound systems, exhaust fans, vacuums, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, fridges and freezers, food processors, burping and farting husbands, loquacious relatives, argumentative kids, crying babies, and even light bulbs!

The light in my bedroom hums at a constant, identifiable pitch. Sometimes it’s loud enough to interfere with my music-making!

Note that a lot of noise properties, like loudness, are perceptual. This means that it isn’t just the perceived loudness of a noise that matters, but also its timbre, your mood, and the time of day. Some people are irritated by babies crying, for example, and others don’t care to hear their neighbours’ garage band jamming on an otherwise quiet Saturday evening (even though they might find it perfectly fine on a Sunday afternoon).

 

Why care about noise?

Noise pollution is just plain annoying, and for many of us that’s enough reason to care. But hey, I want you to get something out of this blog, so here’s some science to make our huffing and puffing at the neighbours feel justified.

Let’s look at the health effects of noise pollution. The Australian Academy of Science tells us:

Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a range of health problems ranging from stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss.

We measure noise in decibels (‘dB’) and safe levels of noise are usually regulated by the government. SafeWork NSW tells us that noise shouldn’t exceed 85 dB when averaged over an 8-hour period or 140 dB at any point in the day. They suggest that ideal maximum noise levels are 70 dB for routine activities and 50 dB for high-concentration work or effortless conversation. That’s a whole lot of meaningless numbers, so to put that in perspective: breathing is 10 dB, whispering is 20 dB, a library is 40 dB, conversation in the office is 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner is 70 dB, a food processor is 88 dB, a trumpet sounding at full volume is 100 dB, a thunderclap is 120 dB, and a teacher’s aide screaming at schoolkids is 129 dB. Noise starts becoming painful for the average person at 110 dB (coincidentally the decibel level of live rock music) and you’ll rupture your eardrum if it gets to 150 dB.

Also keep in mind that decibels are a logarithmic measurement. This means that, for example, a conversation in the office (60 dB) is half as loud as a vacuum cleaner (70 dB), while a thunderclap (120 dB) is 32 times louder than that. (Finally, my high school maths is useful!)

 

What you can do about it

Surprisingly, your home furniture and decoration options can have a significant effect on the noise pollution you experience.

But first, the most effective solution. Scientists say that most noise pollution comes from outside the house entering through the windows. This means that noise pollution will be best addressed by installing double- or even triple-glazed windows. These windows are essentially windows with multiple panes of windows with air or inert gas in between. This enables the window not only to block out a lot of noise, it allows the windows to become far more effective insulators, making your home thermally efficient and helping you save on your energy costs. It’s more expensive than normal windows, but it’ll pay off in the long run. (Plus, if you have musicians in your family, your neighbours will appreciate them too!)

But not everyone wants to replace their windows. What’s a cheaper, more stylish solution? Why, our interiors, of course!

The magic to noise absorption is fabrics. Carpet is great for this. If you don’t have carpet, consider covering your floorboards or tiles with rugs. Just add upholstered furniture, such as sofas, and you’ve got a far more noise-absorbing home environment than before.

Otherwise, it’s about lifestyle adjustments:

  • Look at your noisy tech. Not much you can do about things like fridges and freezers, but consider computers, TVs, sound systems, computers, and yes, your light bulbs, and turn off anything you’re not using (by the power point if necessary). The cumulative effect of switching off is astounding!
  • Really, does everyone need to hear the video you’re watching online? Or the computer game your son is playing? Or the music your daughter is listening to? Or the latest podcast your husband keeps insisting that you must subscribe to? Get your family to use headphones or earphones.
  • When you are listening to or watching something communally, turn the noise down. You might love MAFS, but your neighbours might not!
  • When there’s noise outside, shut your doors and windows. If your doors and windows don’t shut properly, spend the money to get them fixed. Also consider buying some draught excluders to block any noise which might escape underneath your doors. You can use these to block noise from noisy rooms inside the house, too.

 

Conclusion

Being a furniture retailer, noise pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on indoor air pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Indoor noise pollution: Why it matters and what you can do about it

Whether you love it, hate it, or have never given it much consideration, green thought—or 'biophilia', as trendy designers call it these days—is here to stay. Why? Because we’re becoming increasingly aware of just how drastically our consumption patterns are impacting all life on Earth.

Yep, it’s a big issue. Some fancy academics have even called it a super wicked issue (seriously!). But that doesn’t mean we can defer the big changes to the powers that be and keep going on day to day as we always have. After all, every one of us is part of an ecosystem—every one of us has an "environmental impact".

If you're looking for an opportunity to help improve your relationship with (the rest of) nature beyond KeepCups and reusable grocery bags, the family home can be a great place to start. And contrary to what some might lead you to believe, it doesn't have to be expensive, difficult, or pretentious. All it requires is thought and care.

Research your materials

When selecting base materials, keep in mind that plastics, steel, and aluminium are derived from non-renewable resources which require a lot of energy to refine into commercially usable products. Timber, meanwhile, is a natural resource which regenerates much faster. Make sure you look for sustainable timber options, however, as deforestation is also a major environmental issue (and also a contributor to the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19).

When you’re looking at upholstery, you need to consider your circumstances. Do you have young kids or pestiferous pets who will tear your furniture to shreds in no time? Or do you live in a calmer household that is more of a haven for fabric furniture? If you don’t need quite the durability that polyester offers, consider using fabrics or blends composed of natural fibres, such as cotton, linen, or jute, in your home. At the end of their life, they’ll biodegrade much faster (and more safely) than polyester.

But remember: there's no point opting for natural fibres over polyester if it just means you'll have to replace your furniture more frequently. Buying new sofas every two or three years versus every ten or twenty (or more) is not only much more wasteful, it's much more expensive.

 

Virgin or reclaimed timber?

There are many reasons why a person might choose to dismiss reclaimed timber—also known as recycled timber, salvaged wood, upcycled timber, and so on. But if you really think about it, most of the reasons are vanity-related: for example, “Virgin timber has a cleaner, fresher look”; or, “Reclaimed timber looks cheaper and I think it's less durable than the new stuff”; or even (though rarely as self-aware as this), “I've never had reclaimed timber before so I don't want to try it”.

These reasons don't stand up to scrutiny at all!

Firstly, reclaimed timbers add character to your home. Now, I understand that to a lot of people the phrase “add character” is a signal to switch off, being, as it often is, empty marketing waffle. But the thing is, reclaimed timbers really do add character to your home, because they’ve lived lives as other products. Ben and Celeste, our company directors, reclaim high-quality timbers which have been used in shipping pallets, fence palings, roof trusses, wall frames, horse rails, and even the wooden bleachers from the old Cal Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. A piece of timber can’t get much more characterful than that!

Secondly, reclaimed timbers can be made to suit any style. A cursory look at our furniture styles will show you heaps of examples.

Thirdly, let's debunk the myth that reclaimed timbers are categorically less durable than virgin timbers. Sure, there's no denying that rotting planks salvaged from shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean aren't suitable for furnishing your home. But we're sensible enough to not pick those timbers—there’s no point having characterful furniture if it’s just going to explode (quite literally) in a couple of months, after all. That’s why we only reclaim timber which is strong and trustworthy enough to survive the vicissitudes of family life.

And finally, just because something is different doesn't mean it's worth trying. Life's no fun if you spend it in a cocoon!

Ivory breakfast stools

 

Make it yours and make it local

An ethos of my family has been to always buy the best of what you can afford. That way, things last.

How do we apply that to furniture? Enter our custom-made collections. Rather than buying pieces off the floor, consider the spaces in which you live and let your imagination run free—what reclaimed, Australian, hardwood furniture would be best for your dining room? What size? What shape? And how about the fabric furniture? Perhaps you’ve already got some sofas you love, but you’re considering a statement fabric chair to tie your living room together. Regardless of your circumstances, if you take the time to consider what would really be perfect for your home, as well as your favourite fabrics, colours, and furniture styles, there’s bound to be a solution in either of our custom-made collections. If you make wise furniture decisions now, they’re going to pay off for many, many years, reducing the amount of wasted furniture going to landfill.

There’s another big benefit from going for custom-made furniture: you’re buying Australian-made products. This means two things. Firstly, you’re supporting local jobs, local businesses, and ultimately our local economy. And secondly, you’re significantly reducing your greenhouse gas footprint by erasing overseas transport from the production process. Win-win!

 

Lagom: just enough

So, by now you might be imagining a more eco-friendly home, possibly with custom-made, Australian-made fabric furniture and reclaimed timber furniture. Good on you!

But before you rush out to your nearest store to spend thousands in custom-made furniture for your entire house, stop and think: you're still consuming. You're still buying a whole lot of stuff, and probably dumping other perfectly usable stuff in the process.

The fact is, not buying anything is by far the best way to reduce your impact on the environment. (And how many retailers are honest enough to tell you that?)

At the same time, though, it’s not very fun to sit, sleep, eat, etc., on the floor when you’ve just moved out, or to see your kids do the same when they move out. In other circumstances, things break down (or simply break) and suffer other problems which mean that every now and then—and sometimes much sooner than we'd like—we do need to buy a whole lot of stuff.

Regardless of where you find yourself, there are some common-sense things you can do to reduce your impact and save money. For example:

Try care, maintenance, or repair first.

This is for pieces you already have that are still functionally good, but just need Howard, Guardsman, Miller, or Warwick to do some work on them. If the job’s a bit bigger, you might want to speak to one of our friendly staff to see what options are on the table (as it were) for you.

If you need to buy something, buy well and only get as much as you need.

Lagom, or “just enough”, is one of those trendy words much of the meaning of which is lost in translation. But it is a beautiful (and wallet-friendly) way of living, and should already be in your vocabulary if your home is inspired by mid-century modern or some other Scandinavian furniture style.

If you just can't stand a piece which still looks good and functions well, do what you can to prevent it from going to landfill.

For example, there's probably a relative out there who would be happy to adopt your piece. Maybe one of your kids will be moving out soon, and you might use a spare room or hire a storage unit for your old furniture so they're in a better position when they've left. Or, if you don’t have neighbours, friends, or family that could use it, there are always charities out there that are willing to take your stuff for you. For example, a little while ago we donated over $15,000 worth of furniture from our Penrith store’s stock-to-go room to Women’s Community Shelters, furnishing crisis shelters for women and children suffering homelessness and family violence.

 

Where to go from here?

I know this is a long read, but I’ve got a couple of closing thoughts to share with you before you go.

The main idea of this blog, and a lot of 'green thought', is that we've got a bit of a relationship problem with pretty much everything on this planet. We pretend humans and nature are two separate things, but really we humans are as much a part of the environment as bees, coffee trees, and all other living things. It's no good thinking about humans and the environment; instead, try thinking about humans in the environment. Change just one word, and you’ll see the world—including your home furnishings—in a completely different way.

Finally, don’t just take the ideas in this blog as food for thought. Digest them, absorb them, and use them to inform your way of thinking whenever you're about to buy something. Think about questions like “What is it made of?”, “Was it made locally?”, “Could I go for a reclaimed/recycled/upcycled/etc. version?”, and most importantly, “Do I really need this in my life?”. With these questions to guide your decision-making, you might find that not only will your consumption patterns change, but you'll find yourself in a growing movement of people who are striving towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

How and Why You Should Consider the Environment When Selecting Your Furniture

If you’re interested in learning more about indoor plants, you’ve come to the right place!

In this blog, we discuss indoor gardens: what they are, how they’re beneficial, what they comprise (spoiler: you’re allowed to have artificial plants too!), and how you can get the kids meaningfully involved in the project.

What is an indoor garden?

We define indoor garden as any systematic arrangement of plants (and fungi, if that’s your thing) in the house. There need to be at least two or three plants before you can call it garden with a straight face, though your garden need not be located in a single location like a kitchen windowsill or sun room. Indeed, an indoor garden may run through the whole house with groups of plants here and there.

What are the benefits?

Given there is some initial cost to an indoor garden, is it really worth it?

In our opinion, indisputably so. As Tonia Gray from Western Sydney University has written, “[c]ontact with nature can enhance creativity, bolster mood, lower stressimprove mental acuitywell-being and productivity, cultivate social connectedness, and promote physical activity”. What more could you want?

Images courtesy of Glowpear.

What are the options?

No matter the ultra-crisp images of rainforest-like indoor spaces you might see on Instagram and TV, indoor gardens come in all shapes and sizes. While healthy gardens are better than unhealthy ones, beyond that there aren’t really any gardens which are objectively better than others. You just need to find which plants will be best for your garden based on two considerations: type and purpose.

Type

Indoor gardens consist entirely of real plants, right? Wrong. While many indoor gardeners value their real plants more highly, these take time and can be expensive to maintain (especially if you’re going for a lot of flowers). So, more often than not, you’ll see people maintain some sort of mix in their garden. For example, while a person (who may or may not be me) may have bowls of fresh fruit and pots of herbs and office-friendly plants in their home, they might also have artificial magnolia flowers at the centre of their dining table.

Also, don’t feel like you’re lesser by mixing artificial plants in your indoor garden. Having artificial flowers, fruit and foliage in key spaces of your indoor garden will not only help it keeping looking lush all-year round, it will help keep the garden child- and pet-friendly.

Purpose

Most components of an indoor garden can be classified into one of two purposes: consumption or decoration. The former includes everything edible, be they herbs, veggies, fruit, or mushrooms. The latter includes everything which is not edible, though most edible gardens also happen to be quite decorative. Think flowers, foliage, and decorative fruit.

As with the former category, most indoor gardens don’t align exclusively towards one of the two purposes. It might be, for example, that you have an impressive cactus collection while also growing one or two herbs you use with your favourite meals. Alternatively, you might big on the microgreens trend but also interested in hanging artificial decorative plants here or there. It’s all up to you!

How do I involve the kids?

This is easy: make them responsible for a plant!

Involving your kids in your indoor garden has a lot of positive consequences. In addition to the benefits already discussed, encouraging your kids to develop reciprocal relationships with other living beings is great sustainability education, being so visible and hands-on and encouraging an ethic of care.

Kids being kids, you’ve got to choose the right thing—something cheap, easy, edible, and fast to grow. You’ve also got to give kids a say in what they grow, lest you kill their interest from the outset (because it becomes a chore rather than a choice).

One great set of options we’ve spotted are the mushrooms and microgreens grow kits supplied by Life Cykel. Like us, this company has a strong focus on minimising waste, and they even help people run school fundraising schemes, giving kids a healthier and sustainable alternative to chocolate boxes.

Image courtesy of Life Cykel.

However you choose to do it, involving your kids is a great opportunity for your indoor garden to become a family project and will help your garden quickly establish itself as an essential part of family life. Now get planting!

How To Create An Indoor Garden (and make it fun for the kids!)

Unless you’re already familiar with the ones you’re browsing, home fragrances can be hard to shop for online. But don’t worry! Despite what the naysayers say, there are ways you can shop online for home fragrances without feeling like you’re gambling. You just have to know what to look for!

Start by considering where and how you want to use your home fragrances

Before you even look at the fragrance, think about how you want to use it. Do you want it to be an instant refresher? If so, go for a home spray. Do you want a faint but consistent home fragrance? Go for scented décor or a reed diffuser. But if you want something more powerful to use occasionally over several hours, candles and oil burners are your best bet. Finally, if atmosphere is what you’re going for and scent is secondary, go for tealights instead.

By choosing the right form of home fragrance, you’ll have already narrowed your options helpfully!

 

Look at what the fragrance is called

The name of a fragrance is usually a good indication of its character. A great example is our Aussie Outback range. The name evokes so many ideas, and if that’s the right sort of character you want for your home, then you’ve got a potential candidate.

Likewise, if you’ve got something like Freshly Cut Pine Tree (see our home spray above), then you’ll know straight away that it’s going to smell like Christmas! 

Look at the details: the fragrance notes and ingredients

Given a fragrance like Aussie Outback might mean so many different things, how do you get a more precise idea of what it actually smells like?

Well, you look at the ingredients. In fragrance language, these are called the notes. For personal fragrances, these are often divided into ‘head’, ‘heart’, and ‘base’ notes—basically, what you smell first, second, and last. This will give you some idea about how a fragrance will develop. Home fragrances don’t often describe themselves in these ways, but if the right story is told about the fragrance then usually you can still get a pretty good idea. For Aussie Outback, for example, the description is as follows: “a rich floral blend with notes of fresh green grass and green leaf fused with lemon pine and eucalyptus”. Now that tells you a whole lot more about the fragrance you’re about to buy!

 

Finally, realise there’s no perfect way to shop for fragrance

This is the case even if you shop in-store. After all:

  • You’re not going to find out much about a scent by smelling the tip of a spray bottle.
  • The smell of something in-store isn’t going to be exactly the same as it is in your home.
  • And candles smell different in solid wax form compared to when they’re burning.

Even when at home, things don’t smell the same all the time. How a home fragrance interacts with the other fragrances flowing through your home will change over time. It’ll change with the windows being open or when you’re cooking something, for example. So there’s always going to be some uncertainty with buying fragrance, be it in person or online. It’s okay to feel uncertain.

Nevertheless, with these tips, you can rest assured that the home fragrances you pick online will no longer feel like random choices. Now go shopping!

How To Pick A Home Fragrance Online

When I asked about pet-friendly furniture in our Facebook group, someone said,

Either have pets or furniture...You can't have your cake and eat it too!

But many of us really do want to have furry friends and lovely furniture. So, what do we do?

 

1. Know your pets

The most important thing about choosing pet-friendly furniture is to know your pets. It goes without saying that a goldfish isn’t going to cause carnage like a pair of kittens in one of their crazy moods!

But pet-friendly furniture isn’t just about protection from the rough and tumble of pet life. It’s also about considering how your pets like to live, and what sort of furniture they tend to take to in your home. For example, is your dog happy to sleep in a standard dog bed? Or does he or she prefer certain chairs, sofas, or hard surfaces where they can feel comfortable and safe?

(Of course, if you're thinking about furniture in preparation for a pet yet to arrive, it's impossible to know. In these cases, it's always better to be cautious.)

 

2. Choose furniture that will serve the needs of you and your pets.

Here’s where knowing your pets comes in. If you’ve got a bit of a grandpa dog who spends his days lazing about and getting cuddles, then chances are you can opt for practically any fabric you desire to upholster a new sofa or chair—though, fabric protection is always recommended, and you should probably get washable slip covers if he’s got a leaky bladder (as old boys tend to at their age). But if you’ve got a middle-aged cat with claws to sharpen who still thinks she’s six months old, then you’ll definitely need to be looking for more durable materials—think strong, high-quality leathers or commercial grade fabric. If that’s going to be an issue, just opt for materials that don’t look shabby when they’ve suffered a bit of wear and tear.

If your pets are more into tables, then it’s worth considering what the table-top is made of. Going for glass, marble, or similar materials is going to be easier to wipe down before dinner than wood, especially considering how much fur sticks to timber furniture after it’s been freshly nourished with orange oil. But there are other considerations with these materials, too. Putting to one side any aesthetic grievances you might have, glass table-tops can become dangerous if they crack, and tables with genuine marble are incredibly heavy and tend to be pricey. Additionally, your pets may simply prefer the feel of timber table-tops. Again, it’s all about knowing their needs and yours.

3. Create diversions

OK, so if you don’t want to buy new furniture—or you’re really paranoid about your pets destroying your precious pieces—then you’ve just got to give your pets something better to sharpen their claws on. The classic example is catnip spray. This is a wonderful way to divert a cat’s attention from your lovely fabric chairs and sofas to the scratching pole they never use (nice sofas must be better for sharpening claws, apparently).

Or, if you want to be hardcore, you can buy specially-made pet repellents. But beware: many of these are ammonia, citrus, and/or vinegar based, so your pets mightn’t be the ones who think your house stinks! And that’s not very homey now, is it?

4. If you still haven’t any luck…

OK, so you’ve tried everything, but your pets are frustrating your every move. What can you do?

First, let me empathise. I know exactly how you feel. It took me a long time to save up enough money to deck out my living room with custom-made, Australian-made living room furniture (the Melrose range specifically). Within a week my kittens (as they were then) had scratched, it seemed, every part of the sofa they could reach. They even tore a hole in the underside in my gorgeous fabric chair so large they could climb in and sleep in it like a hammock!

Do you want to know how I fixed the issue? Well…

I realised the problem wasn’t with my pets, nor my furniture, but me. It dawned on me that having lovely furniture is, well, lovely, but having a space where my cats could feel at home and be themselves is even lovelier. So here’s my advice: you don’t need to enact a set of domestic by-laws regulating the manner in which your pets are allowed to use the spaces you so kindly provide for them. Instead, maybe it's just about learning to live and let live. That’s family life, after all!

Top 4 Tips for Pet-friendly Furniture

There are so many furniture styles out there, it can get quite confusing sometimes! I

n this blog, we give you a handy little intro to the distinctive features of each of our furniture styles to help you explore your interior decorating options, whether you’re redoing your whole house, your room, or even just part of one.

Classic furniture embodies timelessness and simple elegance. Known for its clean, simple lines and hardware, classic furniture these days is halfway between old-fashioned traditional and modern contemporary furniture. Start your classic-style room with an elegant wingback chair and you'll be there in no time!

Country style furniture combines natural materials with locale-appropriate colour schemes to create a warm and inviting atmosphere in the family home. Though, you've got to give some thought to what exactly you mean by the word "country". Regional NSW is quite different to le Midi, after all!

Country style ladder bookcase

French country interior design is perfect for indecisive people. If you love the feminine aspects of shabby chic and French provincial interiors, but at the same time find yourself drooling over the masculine lines of industrial style pieces, this style is perfect for you.

French provincial, while technically a sub-category of French country, is an elegant and unique furniture style that favours nature-inspired textiles and a consistent colour scheme: off-whites and creams rather than neutrals, and gold. Lots of it.

Hamptons style is for those of us out there who want to enjoy summer vibes all year round and who don't like our spaces cluttered with too much stuff. It's timelessly chic and saves you money. Win-win!

Industrial style furniture beckons those who crave a masculine, rustic look. It's bound to please hipsters, thrifters, industrialists, and anyone else who's wheelie into dark woods and metals. What's more, it's perfect for families—this furniture looks better with use.

What's more, if you don't want to go hardcore industrial, you can always industrial-pieces with accessories. Try some gorgeous wall art or pretty ceramics to soften things up a bit!

Mid-century modern is an infusion of American functionality with Scandinavian simplicity and natural design, and has been making quite a comeback in since Mad Men. We recommend this style to those minimalists out there who are into organic shapes and timelessly chic, muted colour palettes.

Shabby chic brings out the feminine in all of us. Yes, even the boys. Floral fabrics, prints, and fresh or artificial flowers breathe life into this decorating style, especially with whitewashed furniture pieces made from reclaimed (or carefully distressed) timber.

And now we leave it to you to explore each of these styles. Click on the categories for our favourite products in those collections and for some handy decorating tips suited to each style. And last, but definitely not least, be inspired!

How to Tell the Difference between Furniture Styles

Dining chairs are an easy and affordable means to refresh or develop your dining room aesthetic.

Yet, there are so many different dining chairs out there that choosing a set for your dining room can be pretty daunting. So whether you’re first moving out of home, or your current dining chairs are falling apart, or you’re simply falling out of love with them, check out this easy guide to take all the stress out of the shopping.

START WITH THE PRACTICALITIES

There’s no point thinking about how to make your room look inviting as a place to eat if you’ve got little idea about the functional aspects of your furniture.

If you’re buying a new dining table with dining chairs, the first and foremost constraint that you’ve got to come to terms with is the room itself. What shape is it? How large is it? If, like most people, your room is a rectangular prism, then rectangular dining tables are probably the way to go. If your room is closer to a cube, you could go for something more adventurous, like a custom-made square dining table. If it’s a spacious room, you should go for a larger table. If it’s smaller, or you’re in a unit, go for a smaller table (circular ones are pretty cute in these settings). From there, you can consider things like sideboards, mirrors, display cabinets, artwork, and other furniture pieces or homewares that you might want to include in the dining room. We won’t go into that here.

Once you’ve sorted out the table, you sort out the chairs. Firstly, how many people are you expecting to host at any given time? Secondly—and you’ll need the measuring tape for this—what’s the maximum chair width that allows you to seat that many people at your table? And thirdly, what is the maximum seat height for your dining chair that will allow 300 mm from the top of the seat to the underside of the dining table? (Or, more clearly: measure from your dining room floor to the underside of the dining table, deduct 300 mm, and that’s the maximum height for the seat of your dining room chairs.)

You consider these questions because 1) you’ll need as many chairs as the number of people you’re expecting to host, 2) those chairs will have to be correctly proportioned so that you can fit the maximum number of people at your table, and 3) you want the people sitting in those chairs to be able to fit their legs comfortably under the table. There’s no use having a pretty room if people’s legs are jammed under the table every time they try to sit, or if every time a guest comes over they have no chair, or worse still, they can’t even fit at your table because the chairs you chose were too large!

 

THEN, CONSIDER THE AESTHETIC QUALITIES

Your dining chairs don’t have to match your dining table. Your dining chairs don’t have to match your dining table. Your dining chairs don’t have to match your dining table.

Did I mention that your dining chairs don’t have to match your dining table?

Yes, dining tables can come with dining chairs. In fact, these dining packages, as they are so called, are one of our specialties. But you’ll notice that even with our recommended dining packages, we like to mix and match dining chairs with dining tables. You don’t have to have Tuscan dining chairs with a Tuscan dining table. You could go for French Cross dining chairs, instead; even in a contrasting colour. Another option is to move away from timber dining chairs and go for fabric in a matching colour—for example, our Gallery chairs with the Tuscan table. Another option still is to be more adventurous—for example, by going for chairs in a similar but noticeably different tone and texture to your dining room furniture. Really, the (dining chair) world is your oyster!

Now, what to do with those old chairs? Landfill isn't the answer. There will be some person, family, or charitable organisation out there that will be willing to give your old dining chairs another life. Consider storing them for your kids until they’re ready to move out, passing them on to relatives, selling them at a garage sale, or calling an organisation running a community shelter to see if they could use them. Alternatively, keep them in your garage for your own use. Having spare dining chairs may come in handy down the track.

Happy dining!

How to Choose Dining Chairs

It doesn’t take a design expert to know that bad lighting can instantly ruin even the most beautifully styled interiors.

Get it right, on the other hand, and you can transform the look of your home with the flip of a switch. Here are our seven best tips for success:

1. Don’t go overboard overhead

When it comes to interior lighting, most of us are guilty of almost exclusively defaulting to overhead lighting in most rooms of the home. But this can have the unfortunate effect of making people feel as though they are on stage or at a convention centre. "Lighting shouldn't wash down on you," says renowned interior designer Barclay Butera. "It's harsh and unflattering."

Instead, try layering the lighting in your home. Use a combination of ambient lighting (such as natural daylight, overhead fixtures and pendants, all of which gently and evenly light up a room), task lighting (like floor or table lamps in a cosy reading nook), accent lighting (such as adjustable, recessed lights that draw attention to the architectural features of a space) and decorative lighting (like chandeliers, candles and other 'feature' lights sources, designed to create drama and interest all by themselves).

Courtesy of HGTV.com

2. Incorporate task lighting to define the space

You and your loved ones will be forever complaining about eye strain unless you install appropriate task lighting in key areas around the home. To cover the basics, equip your home office with a great desk lamp, ensure kitchen benches are well lit so that no-one loses a finger preparing dinner and, finally, install floor or table lamps in your family's favourite reading spots (such as in bed, in a comfy armchair, or at the end of a sofa).

3. Size does matter

You wouldn't pair a giant, luxurious corner modular sofa with a coffee table the size of a shoe box. As with every other area of design, proportion matters when it comes to choosing lighting fixtures. "This a common mistake I see homeowners make," says Studio Ten 25 designer Abbe Fenimore. "A too-small chandelier over a large dining table or an oversized lamp on a table next to a sofa will make the area look disproportionate."

Another pro tip: everything looks smaller in the context of a showroom than it will in the average family home. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can eyeball it unless you're really confident. Instead, snap a few photos on your phone and bring along your measurements when shopping for lamps, pendants and other lighting fixtures, so that an experienced staff member can help you make the right choice.

4. Create atmosphere and drama

Decorative lighting is, as the name suggests, primarily there to create an aesthetic rather than achieve a functional objective. For example, chandeliers and candles might not flood a space with light or even be bright enough to read by, but they do wonders for creating atmosphere and intimacy throughout the home.

5. Work with what you’ve got

Okay, this may seem like an obvious one, but it needs to be said: stick with the existing style of the room. Whether you've got a country, French provincial, coastal, industrial, minimalistic or shabby chic look going on, make sure you work with it and not against it. So, think about where in your home you want to place your new lamps, for example, before whipping out your credit card to ensure they don't clash with your existing decor.

6. Watch the wattage

"Mood is everything," according to expert designer Barbara Barry for HouseBeautiful. "Who wants to dine in bright light? 60 watts for the dining room. I want it bright when reading, so 75 to 100 watts for the living room. It's nice to have options — if you don't have dimmers, then have some variety from 40 to 100 watts, so you can change the mood for the occasion ... The best lighting is at eye level, not overhead, which creates shadows. And the best light is diffused light from a white or off-white lampshade."

7. Look out for shadows

It's the little things: a floor lamp that is too tall will blind passers-by; too much overhead lighting casts highly unflattering shadows on people, as well as make them feel like they're in a dentist's chair; and poorly positioned lights in workspaces can result in your shadow being cast over whatever you're trying to do. Plan ahead to avoid regret!

BONUS TIP: Remember to watch out for light pollution

Unnecessary outdoor lighting, or indoor lighting escaping through windows and glass doors, doesn't just leave you with excessively high energy bills. It creates problems for human health, biodiversity (especially in urban areas), and astronomy. Look after your family and local environment and turn off those lights when you're done!

Courtesy of the MAAS.

7 Ways to Light Up Your Family Home

Looking for ways to transform your house into a home? Candles are just what you need! Whether it’s for their ambient light or pleasant fragrances, candles are perfect for creating a cosy vibe and reflecting the personalities of the people in your family. Here are four ideas to help your transform your home with candles:

 

1. Use them

So many people have candles on display but never use them. I get it. Sometimes it’s nice to have a really pretty candle that looks fresh out on display. But candles are there to be used! It’s in the burning that the cosiness is created, after all. Don’t make my mistake and have a nice pillar candle on display for so long that it starts gathering sticky dust…

If you struggle to remember to use candles, try putting your candle stuff in a drawer nearby. If you have your lighter/matches, wick trimmer, and snuffer all in the one spot near your most prominent candle display, then you will be more likely to remember.

 

2. Maintain them

Follow the instructions! We go into detail in our candle burning tips blog, but essentially you should burn it for 1–4 hours, trim the black ‘mushroom’ of the wick after use down to 5–6mm (much easier with a candle wick trimmer), and use a snuffer to extinguish the flame. More obviously, don’t leave them unattended, exposed to drafts, or near flammable surfaces. It’s really not that hard, though out of laziness a lot of people seem to pretend it is!

Also, candles look far better when you maintain them properly. You'll enjoy neat wicks, soot-free candle holders, and a flat wax surface rather than ugly, semi-molten, very obvious rings from times when you’ve extinguished the flame too soon or otherwise not maintained your candle properly.

 

3. Group them

Candles especially nice paired with other décor, including other candles. If your candle comes in a box, you could display the box (especially if it’s pretty). Three is the magic number here, though with the right décor you can have any number of things (including, by the way, an even number!).

 

4. Find a holder for them

If you want to make more of a decorating statement with a candle, try housing it in a holder. This will also obscure the pillar if you don’t like the look of naked candles.

 

Bonus tip: think about colour

If your candle wax is coloured, you may be more limited. You might even be limited by the colour on the label on the jar or holder, if there is one. Our candles are generally white, as neutrality avoids this issue, but if your candles or candle jars are strongly coloured then have a think about whether or how they fit in with the rest of your décor.

(P.S. your candle being a different colour to the rest of your décor does not necessarily mean it does not go! I’ve had a candle poured into a reclaimed green wine bottle before, and it actually worked really well even though the rest of my home featuring mainly reds, dark timbers, and warm whites.)

Candle decoration ideas for every home

Keeping up with the Joneses can get pretty tiring. And expensive!

Fortunately, there’s an easy alternative that happens to be perfect for this time of year: trans-seasonal decorating.

Trans-seasonal decorating basically means that you decorate your home in such a way that it feels neither summery nor wintery. Whether it’s because you’ve gone ultra-neutral, or because you’ve got a good balance of summery and wintery colours, trans-seasonal homes tend to feel the homiest all-year-round. It’s also perfect for those of us who love a certain base range of colours, textures, and styles, but just want to make little updates every now and then.

So, how does one go about creating a trans-seasonal home? Like most home decorating, it comes down to the essential elements: colours, textures, and styles.

Colours

Trans-seasonal homes are safe homes, when it comes to colours. Choose the colours of nature: beiges, greys, navies, taupes, olives, and any of the colours of our timber furniture are perfectly safe. If you feel like repainting your walls (and good on you if you’ve got the energy to do this!), go for warm whites or terracotta tones, which will help your home feel warm and inviting all year round.

After you’ve chosen your base colours, choose your accents. If you’re feeling on-trend, you could try painting a feature wall or buying some homewares with Pantone’s colour of the year: 19-4052 Classic Blue.

Pro tip: if you add these pops of colours using cushions, coasters, or other home accessories, you can make your home feel more summery or wintery in a matter of seconds. Swap sunlight yellow cushions with wine stained coloured cushions on your sofa and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Textures

Trans-seasonal homes are also safe when it comes to textures. This doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match, it just means that you should probably avoid going for anything too extravagant. So, up the ante with the plainer weaves and embroidery, and tone down the velvet. Unless it’s a statement piece, of course!

Also, consider your quilts, blankets, rugs, linen, and the like. As well as it being practical to change these with the seasons, it makes style sense for the trans-seasonal home. After all, you could hardly call a home with thick throw rugs lying around “trans-seasonal” when it’s 47 degrees in the shade!

So, what I’m suggesting is that you let your trans-seasonal home adapt to the weather. When it’s warm, use a thin throw rug for the cooler evenings and early mornings, or no throw rug at all. When it’s cool, then you’ve got every excuse to get cosy under a thicker throw. Or two. (We don’t blame you.)

Styles

Don’t think of trans-seasonal decorating as a style. Think of it more as a methodology that is applicable to a broad range of styles. This means you don’t have to choose between industrial and trans-seasonal, or shabby chic and trans-seasonal, or whatever your preferred furniture style is and trans-seasonal. It just means that, rather than going for eccentric decorations that feel a bit silly as soon as they’re no longer on-trend, you think hard about what feels the most homey to you, and what will endure in your home (and, alternatively, what is going to be easy to change if you feel like your home needs an update).

If you're looking for even more tips, check out our blog about how to create everlasting style. See you there!

How to go about trans-seasonal decorating

Ah, multi-generational living: it’s either family life working, or trying to make family life work. The burden often befalls the middle-aged, who find themselves juggling ageing parents, infant grandkids, adult children who are for whatever reason reluctant to move, and those who boomerang home when things go south like during COVID-19, hoping (and expecting) to find their room exactly as it was five, ten, or even twenty years ago—all while hoping to downsize!

Whether you’re middle-aged or not, catering for everyone in a multi-generational home can be difficult, even if there are only two generations (parents and children). But never fear: a bit of thought and care for your interior design may be all you need to make life easier. Here’s what we recommend*:

 

1. Get to know your family

No, we don’t mean finding out what members of your family like to do on the weekend (though, if you don’t know that much, that might be a good start!). We mean getting to know their interior design preferences. Ask questions like: what makes (or could make) home a happy place for them? Which spaces are essential, which are preferable, and which are not? Can certain needs or wants be met conveniently outside the home (for example, at a local library)? Is privacy and independent time key, or are communal spaces and family time more valuable?

If the person you’re talking to is seven or senile, then make sure you ask these questions in an accessible and meaningful way. Asking your kids to critically analyse the floorplan of your home after they come home from school on a Friday afternoon probably won’t get you far; asking them after dinner on the weekend about their favourite family activities, meanwhile, is apt to lead to better conversation.

 

2. Plan for common rooms and exclusive areas

Common rooms need to be open and accessible to every member of the family, including pets. “Accessibility” in this sense includes not only physical accessibility—such as wheelchair-friendly flooring—but the notion that there should be things in common rooms for everyone. This means everyone needs a genuine say in whether an area should be a common space and, if so, how it should be designed.

This also encourages a better use of space. For example, I grew up in a small duplex with essentially only one common space, which meant we had no separate lounge room, dining room, or home office, let alone other more niche rooms. But we didn’t really need it, either. Our common room had plenty of bookshelves for the readers, a PlayStation for the gamers, and a desk in the corner as our work area. The sofas were arranged so as to naturally bifurcate the room into a general living area and a general dining area. So if you’re in a multi-generational home, consider consolidating the functions of your common rooms to create more space while bringing people together as they live, work, and play.

At the same time, everyone should have their own space. Exclusive areas, funnily enough, are designed to exclude other members of the family, giving everyone their own space and the opportunity to decorate their own space the way they like it (even if other people have to put in all the effort and money). But of course, there are exceptions. Many partners sleep together. Plenty of kids bunk together (I did for 15 years). And sometimes the only solution is to create hybrid rooms, for example by furnishing a space with sofa beds. Ultimately, there is no “normal”; and unless you live in the ideal home for your needs, being able to compromise is key to making sure everyone has a space private enough for them.

 

3. Safety matters

When you’re planning your rooms and getting to know your family, you also need to find out how to make your home safe. This isn’t just about pool gates and security cameras, though they matter too—it’s about all sorts of things.

If you’ve got toddlers or pets (and, let’s be real, they behave in exactly the same way), then you need to kid/pet-proof your home. No medicine, alcohol, or breakables within reach. Timbers need to be frequently cared for; fabric upholstery needs to be protected (see more here). And precious décor, such as antique chairs, glassware, and vases that older folks tend to cherish, need to be stored safely in an exclusive area or perhaps somewhere even more secluded like a storage unit or a granny flat.

Speaking of grannies, accessibility matters. Even if you don’t need accessibility features now, when you’re doing renovations you want to think into the future. You might be perfectly mobile at 50, but if your bathroom reno is meant to last the rest of your life then you might want to think about hand-rails in the shower (they’re useful for mobile people anyway). In the same vein, you might be fine living in Stair City right now, but if you have a condition which may bind you to a wheelchair in the future the it’s best to prepare for that now.

Even if the wheelchair situation is unlikely, there’s a greater chance that you’ll need to accommodate prams (as I have recently discovered) or walking frames. Your entry table might be styled perfectly, but it’s no good if your guests can’t even push a pram down the hallway to your common area. So the key consideration is to make sure your common areas are spacious enough to allow everyone to get around.

Finally, health (human or otherwise) should be a key consideration. Indoor air pollution, for example, should be on your mind if you’re housing infants or the elderly, especially those with respiratory conditions like asthma, but it affects us all. Ditto for extreme cold and, more relevantly to most of us, extreme heat. The takeaway: make sure you’ve got systems in place for air conditioning and purification.

(P.S. make sure your spaces are clean and cleanable! No point having air filters for dust allergies if you can never clean under your bed, or if you only do so once every couple of years.)

 

4. Remember: house size matters, but it isn’t everything

If you’ve got three generations in a three-bedroom home (and only one bathroom), not everything has to be doom and gloom.

Clearly if you’re one of two parents with four kids and two in-laws then a three-bedroom home isn’t going to work for you. But if you’re a single mum with two kids and your own mum living with you in a two- or three-bedroom house, there are ways to make that work. Think bunk beds, sofa beds, and other ways to use space more efficiently by planning common rooms and exclusive areas (or hybrids of the two) like we mentioned above.

Done successfully, multi-generational living can instil in us family values in the best sense: a love of family, the ability to adapt to suit everyone’s needs, and the willingness to trust and confide in others, allowing everyone to live together longer and more happily.

But instilling such values doesn’t always happen naturally. As you can appreciate having read this blog, it takes time, effort, and no small amount of thought. Moreover, there will probably be some money involved, and some tough decisions along the way. But if you have faith in yourself, your intelligence, and your mission, you’ll find multi-generational living can work for you.

 

*And by the way, all of this will be a lot easier if you own your home.

How to make multi-generational living work in any home

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