joy of nesting

joy of nesting
Shiree Hanson Segerstrom Design and Wellness for Women with Arthritis and Other Chronic Pain.

The Well Stocked Home

It takes years to accumulate the furniture, accessories, linens, cookware and serving pieces that make home life convenient and enjoyable. I’ve observed the different levels of efficiency of my own homes from my days as a new housewife, to new mom, to business woman, to my current state of working empty nester with the many degenerative changes that arthritis brings. 

Since I entertain quite a bit and host several family holidays throughout the year, I keep a lot of home related products on hand, both decorative and functional. My ways of entertaining have been vastly simplified over the past four years, preferring to set myself up for success, rather than disappointment that I can no longer stand for long periods of time.

Jeffrey Alan Marks

When you’re first starting out you of course need a lot of basics: furniture, dinner ware, mixing bowls and measuring cups, serving platters, a blender, a toaster, towels, sheets, prep knives, cookware, coffee maker, and canisters. But as time goes on you want more specialized conveniences like a great espresso machine, a Kitchen Aid mixer, a heavy roasting pan and rack, a large stock pot, a bread bowl, and a Cuisinart food processor. I remember years ago receiving a Kitchen Aid for Mother’s Day from my late husband. I felt I’d arrived. I felt like Donna Reed or Mrs. Cleaver, although a decidedly more liberated version.

Being an interior designer and homemaker, and loving to entertain, I’ve often pondered the things a couple might accumulate over the course of their marriage, to make their house a “well-stocked home”.

These are the things I’ve been accumulating over my thirty-five years of homemaking. I hope you find it helpful whether you’re building your own nest, or helping someone in an effort to build theirs.

The obvious initial furnishings to be purchased are a dining room table with two to three extension leaves; six armless side chairs, two larger, coordinating his and hers chairs with or without arms; a china hutch, buffet or breakfront; a comfortable three cushioned 90 inch sofa, or if room allows a 100 inch plus sectional; a unique and classic cocktail table; two 36 inch armchairs and matching ottomans, two smaller accent chairs, possibly wood framed in coordinating fabrics; one to two end tables to be placed between chairs, not at the end of the sofa which is cumbersome and potentially hazardous for people with problems with balance; a queen or king sized bed, two dressers, and classic, high quality floor and table lamps.

The well-stocked home can also utilize many other items that add beauty, function and comfort to everyday home life but these are the starters and will take many families five to eight years to collect.

Start with the best quality mattress and box spring you can manage. Sleep is the ultimate luxury, and the better quality the mattress, the better quality sleep you will get. You won’t regret it. The basics of bedding are a down comforter (down is preferable because it’s light weight and has great insulation), a duvet (a protective cover for your comforter to keep it clean since down comforters are not washable, two firm polyester pillows (for support for sitting up or reading in bed), and two down pillows for sleeping. If you have allergies to down, there are synthetic alternatives available. For aesthetics you can add two down filled decorative throw pillows. I like the rectangular ones because they not only look nice, but I can also use them for extra support to my lower back. A massive amount of pillows on the bed is inconvenient and passé. I never liked that look anyway. Too frou frou! A cashmere or ultra-soft throw is nice for throwing along the foot of the bed in case your feet get cold.

I love my electric blanket. I don’t keep it turned on while I sleep but it’s so, so lovely crawling into a preheated bed in the winter. Sheets with high thread count (300-400) have the most sensual comfort. Egyptian cotton is prized for its softness. As well, natural and even organic fibers are easier to keep stain free. Fiber’s matter to arthritis sufferers because it’s an auto immune disorder and allergies and toxins are daily concerns.

I love the look of white sheets, a white duvet, a pair of white pillow shams and color coordinated custom designer bed skirt and pillows. All the white has a relaxing, spa like appeal. I also like matching my bed skirt and armchair slipcover and coordinating it with my curtains and decorative throw pillows. I keep my bed sheets extra white with all natural Borax, which you add to your usual detergent every wash. Again, with arthritis, you definitely want to keep toxins to a minimum so choose laundry detergents that are less toxic such as Ecco, Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers.

Each person needs a night stand and individual lamp. I have mine set up with these great dimmers I found at IKEA. You plug the dimmer into the wall and plug the lamp into the dimmer. Since my night stands are slipcovered there’s no storage. Instead, I have a big basket next to the bed that holds my current reading materials, dental floss, extra prescription glasses, and a box of Kleenex.

I still believe in doing single beds in the guest room. Guest rooms are so simple and fun. They’re kind of the room in the house where you feel free to pamper someone, guilt free. You need a night stand and a lamp and if budget allows it’s nice to provide the same luxuries you do for yourself such as high quality sheets, one firm pillow and one down pillow for sleeping per bed, an electric blanket, a down comforter, and a duvet. I also provide an individual oil heater. If the room has no ceiling fan an oscillating fan is a nice touch.

For dining and entertaining I like to keep one dresser or armoire in the house open for items pertaining to entertaining like tablecloths, napkins, napkin rings, formal silver, place cards, and an extra supply of candles like votives, pillars, and tapers.

Only put in your kitchen the items you can easily store. If you don’t have room for a Kitchen Aid, chances are wherever you store it, it will be too inconvenient to pull it out and it will go unused. If the laundry room is large enough and close enough to the kitchen it’s easy to set up a storage space for such lesser used items.

Some superfluous appliances I’ve accumulated over the years that I’ve really enjoyed are my Cuisinart ice cream and yogurt maker, my espresso machine, and swoon, my electric can opener. If you’re still struggling along with a manual can opener, it’s time to “catch up” on your modern conveniences women with arthritis! I don’t use a ton of canned foods but organic beans in non-bpa lined cans definitely line my pantry.

If budget allows seriously consider investing in your library at a young age. It takes a while to build but I’ve never regretted having my own library of fiction, biographies, business books, cook books, and design books. And bonus: built-in bookshelves appreciate the value of your home.

As time goes by, our financial means hopefully increase. Art, rugs, and high quality antiques (I know many people are anti antiquity these days but some of us do still invest in them) are big investment pieces and it’s a good plan to call upon a trusted expert who specializes in them to help you with details like aesthetics, budget, and appreciation. With such purchases you want to know they will retain their value certainly, but mostly, purchase to enjoy and use.

I admittedly have a ridiculous amount of things in my own home but I treasure and use them all. Well, I use most of them anyway. So many of the things I have came from a beloved family member or from my travels with my late husband. Some are quite valuable. Others are just comfortable old friends. The things that were passed down to me, I find hardest to part with.

My definition of a well-stocked home is a home that is evolved. It’s beautiful in a complex, multi-faceted way. It’s a mixture of era’s and styles and masculine and feminine elements. It has evolved over a period of twenty or more years. It has scale, unity, function, and non-function. It’s lots of books, baskets, extra throws and a few newspapers in the corner. It has a few nicks and maybe a tad too much furniture. It’s well stocked and lived in. Edited, but seldom minimal.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree’

And if you want more of arthritis related design and wellness, click here... "Pain Free Design and Wellness" and you'll get a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day!

Living an Amazing Life With Arthritis: Let's Get You Proactive Again!

Have you lost much of the joy in your life? Do the smallest tasks seem like a chore even if completing those means you’ll have happier circumstances? Would you like to live a life full of meaning and purpose? Do you know what that looks like? And let’s be truthful, do you even know what ignites your spirit anymore?

I’m talking to you today about living a vibrant, rich and full life and this is how it looks!

You enjoy life. You heart overflows with love for your circle of friends and family. You have the energy and enthusiasm to meet your responsibilities, you give back and you still have plenty of energy left over for play. Your home is beautiful and functional and supports your lifestyle and your self-care systems. It’s a comfortable haven for gathering friends and family. Your skin, body and hair glow from the great nutrition, exercise, down time and sleep you lavish on it. But man, it’s almost impossible to achieve or even maintain these things when you live a life with pain! I get it because I have been diagnosed with half a dozen degenerative bone diseases myself! You most likely take medications and if we can be truthful once more, they add to your problem. Cutting edge arthritis specialists now know that bone builders and pain killers create more problems than they solve! I’m not saying go off your medication, but if your doctor doesn’t know this by now, maybe it’s time to begin searching for one who does.

In my book Pain Free Decorating: Creating Nurturing Spaces for Women with Arthritis we talked about creating your self-care space and about the things you do for self-care.

Well I’m here to tell you the key to getting your joy levels humming, being happy in your own skin and in your relationships, stems from one thing… well two things that are essentially the same: how you live at home and…how you take care of yourself while there.

Living at a higher frequency, looking gorgeously healthy in your own unique way and living a richer life is at its roots, about taking excellent care of you! It’s about valuing yourself enough to keep agreements with yourself. It’s about offering yourself the best lifestyle choices. In your case they are a plant based, 75% raw, organic eating plan, devoting yourself to the right kind of exercise for arthritis sufferers; and plenty of rest and rejuvenation.

So let’s talk a bit about the steps to take to make them happen for you. I’m not talking about perfection. In fact, perfection is a joy killer! But there is a certain level of advance planning and implementation that goes into designing a life you love. Let’s get started.

Develop a plan

Living with higher levels of joy requires some planning and implementation. These steps should be exciting. They should make you stretch your comfort zones a bit, like going on vacation to a foreign land. But please don’t go on a labor intense mission that’s going to make everyone around you miserable! That’s counterproductive.

These plans should be enjoyable in themselves, like when you take a vacation. You have to put yourself out there to experience new things and explore. So remember these words, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”! This is a new experience you are exploring. Strive for balance!

Action Steps for Home Design

Develop a budget
Develop a timeline
Develop a solid furniture layout with one or two great anchoring, large scale pieces that give you a sense of stability.
Use cooling colors like light grayish taupe, pale gray, light lavender, pale skin-toned “blush”, muted celadon green and pale cool blue.
Use warming textures and soothing elements like throw blankets, books, baskets and feather pillows into your plan.

Action Steps for Excellent Eating

Identify all the areas in your eating plan where you most often fall short.
Identify what tools you will need to inspire and give you the daily impetus you’ll need to follow through with them such as an easy to clean, easy to use juicer for green juicing, a sink basket for washing produce, etc.
Develop a sustainable eating plan that you will stick to and then hold yourself accountable!

Action Steps to Help You Prioritize Exercise

Identify all the areas in your exercise plan where you most often fall short.
Identify what tools you will need to inspire and give you the daily impetus you’ll need to follow through with them such as a stationary bike, a rebounder, two or three days a week with a personal trainer.

Develop an exercise schedule that you will stick to and then hold yourself accountable! I love to break mine up, rebounding or stay-biking in the morning, Yoga in late afternoon before dinner, weights on alternating afternoons.

Schedule Rest and Rejuvenation Time

The body’s healing mechanism is sleep and rest. With arthritis, it’s imperative that you get a good night’s sleep. The best sleep comes from keeping your room as a place for rest. Cool, restful colors, comforting elements and textures like throw blankets, feather pillows, books, good reading lamps, light blocking window coverings, and the thermostat set at a cool temperature create an ideal environment for a good night’s sleep.

Mindset tips

Once you have identified what a joyful life looks like to you, only then can you implement and sustain it.
Finally, once you have achieved it, be happy with what you have my friend and maintain it joyfully! Gratitude is energizing for you and everyone around you!

Live Beautifully. Eat Beautifully, Shiree'

Click "Pain Free Design and Wellness" for a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day because home is where it all begins.

Planning Your Next Home Decorating Project

Planning a decorating project or remodel can be a daunting task if you suffer from daily chronic pain so I've taken some of the pain out of planning for you today. I get it. You need your home to support you with the degenerative changes that arthritis brings. You want to choose things you’ll love and enjoy for years down the road. 

In writing this week’s blog, I hope to help my readers learn how to plan ahead and prioritize their home design projects. I’ve done several articles on various types of home improvements but how this one differs from the rest is that it’s aimed specifically at how to prioritize improvements for your special physical needs so you can build your own personal action steps, budget and timeline. This in turn, hopefully, will give you clarity as well as impetus to take those first daunting steps.

Universal Design

As an arthritis sufferer, you may already be familiar with the term Universal Design. It's defined as the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size ability or disability. 

The following items fall under this classification and can greatly ease day to day challenges for you particularly with arthritic hands but also when your sense of balance is impaired.

Swing handle kitchen sink faucets

Rocker style light switches 

Remote controls on lighting, window shades, heating and air, Alarms and sensors 

Lever-style door handles

Push button front door entries

Low-profile thresholds for transition from  carpet to flooring. 

In some cases it’s also advisable to use different colors when transitioning from one flooring type to the next. 

Space Planning 

Space planning is one of the best services interior designers offer their arthritic clients. First, identify traffic patterns. Place largest pieces first. Don't place furniture on an axis. It destabilizes the space visually. For arthritis sufferers, we want stability. We want at least one large piece to act as a visual anchor. 

Resist the urge to use end tables at the end of your sofa. This is one of the areas where our hands and feet get caught up, turning a corner or rushing to answer the phone or door.

Test sofa and chair heights before purchasing. Make sure the seat height is comfortable for you. This varies from person to person. Test the depth  of the seat cushion so the knee breaks where the cushion ends. Today's sofas are often too deep to sit comfortably for any length of time. 

Avoid seat cushions that are too soft. Go for a solid core with a dacron or down blend wrap.

Inspire Yourself  

At about four o’clock one day this week or whenever the light is prettiest in your home, turn on some of your favorite music, light a few candles, and get a tablet and pen. I like Pink Martini or Frank Sinatra for home decorating, background music. And I mention four o’clock because that’s when the shadows are longest and the light is warm and golden. Please make sure your home is clean and tidy for this exercise.

Walk around and look at things objectively. Since you’re doing this during the prettiest time of day hopefully you’ll be able to observe the positives. Try and look at things in different ways, maybe try looking at the room in the reflection of a mirror. The idea is to get a fresh perspective: to see the room with new eyes, like a visitor would see it.

Focus on just one room at a time, preferably the living room, to start. You can move to the dining room next, and then the entry since it’s relatively small. After that move to the master bedroom, guest rooms and so on.

As you’re walking around the room, identify the features that are really lovely. These are the things you want to call attention to visually. If it’s a handsome fireplace, a striking painting will help define it. If the fireplace is lacking a mantel, consider making that one of your next investments. If it’s a beautiful view, note if anything is detracting from it. Think of ways to call more attention to it. 

Now identify the things you don’t like. Maybe the room’s worst feature is its carpet, or paint, or sofa. Or maybe it’s as simple as outdated table lamps. Write that down too.

Now comes the planning part. Pull up a chair and sketch out a rough draft while it’s fresh in your mind.

Rules of thumb…

I believe prefer to have my client's refurbish whenever possible (painted, polished, recovered, cleaned, or refinished) rather than replacing them. My philosophy is about “building” a home’s décor over a period of decades. Not replacing everything every ten to twenty years. I always say a home ages gracefully with a variety of eras and styles in it. One way to achieve this is to keep what you have in good condition and occasionally refurbish it. If there’s no hope in refurbishing the item, then you know it will need to be replaced. It will probably take a bigger chunk out of your budget and that’s why you have to plan this out and prioritize well.

Prioritize it…

You’ve identified the room's best and features and how to call attention to them. You’ve identified the room’s worst features and know whether to paint, refinish, recover, or completely replace them. Go through the lists and identify the most important three to four projects and plan to update them for fall.  Having these projects identified and prioritized is a good step forward. Good for you. Always keep in mind the items that made the cut. They are your starting point. As you make decisions, always be thinking “how will this work with what’s already in my home”.

You’re ready to put your plans into action.

Tricks of the Trade

·        Buy yourself a binder and a set of divider pages. Label the divider pages with the project’s name such as paint, carpet, sofa or lamps. You’ll use these for receipts, estimates, orders, magazine clippings, paint chips, etc.

·         Start a page of contacts and phone numbers.

·         Make a list of tools, products or materials you’ll need.

·        Write up a projected budget based on the priorities you’ve listed and a corresponding, projected timeline.

·        Make contact with any sub-contractors or outside help you’ll need. Get references. Be sure and let them know if you have a deadline. Educate yourself on the current prices in home décor, and then share your budget up front to save you both from being frustrated.

·        Keep projects on task by calling or emailing your contacts daily or weekly. Treat your subs and professionals like you hope people would treat you or your family if they were in similar situations.

·        Do the necessary shopping via local retail stores wherever possible.

·        If you have a finish date in mind, allow plenty of time. September, October and part of November are the busiest time of year for home decorating projects. Measuring, getting estimates back, ordering materials and arranging delivery and installations take time. 
     Click "Pain Free Design and Wellness" for a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day because home is where it all begins.

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully,


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