Lockdown two is here, so we thought we’d delve into our Unwinding gift edit to help you all prepare for relaxing evenings at home. We caught up with stylist, photographer, blogger and writer, Abi Dare (aka These Four Walls) to ask a few questions about creating the perfect home environment for relaxing. Abi is a big advocate of Scandinavian style – and we all know those who live in the Nordic countries are experts at slow living and mindfulness. Read on to discover Abi’s top tips for unwinding at home, including the hunt for the perfect candle.
What are your top tips for creating a home environment that is perfect for unwinding?
First and foremost, ignore trends and other people’s opinions, and focus on what makes you happy. For me, that’s calming neutrals, soft textures and no clutter, but for others it might be vibrant colours and lots of pattern. There really are no rights or wrongs when it comes to our homes, and the only thing that matters is that we like them – especially at the moment, when we’re spending more time in them than ever before.
One thing I would add, though, is that if you’re currently working from home it’s important to establish some kind of separation between work life and leisure time. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated home office that you can shut the door on then great, but there are things you can do even if you’re having to work from the kitchen table or sofa. It could be something as simple as putting your laptop away in a cupboard or playing a favourite tune – anything that signals to your brain that the working day is over and it’s time to relax.
We love all the Scandinavian influences in your home. Do you adopt any Nordic philosophies for slow living/mindfulness/relaxing in your home?
The Danish concept of hygge is very important to me and always has been. It’s often misunderstood as ‘cosiness’, but it’s so much more than that – it’s a wider sense of wellbeing and contentment, and it’s impossible to translate into a single word. It’s about savouring small everyday moments, whether that’s snuggling up with a book and a blanket or having a giggle with friends on Zoom.
I also try to embrace the Scandinavian love of the outdoors, even in autumn and winter. I love wrapping up warm and heading out into the garden with my morning coffee, or sitting by the firepit with a drink in the evening. I live in the middle of a city but there’s always wildlife around – birds calling from the trees in the morning, bats fluttering overhead at night. There’s something reassuring about the fact that nature is still there doing its thing, despite the strange times we’re living through at the moment. And even if you don’t have a garden, there are ways you can incorporate a bit of the outdoors into your home – adding houseplants and dried foliage, putting an armchair chair by a window so you can look out as you relax, growing a few herbs on your windowsill… It all makes a difference.
We’ve noticed that you love lighting candles around your home – do you have any tips for choosing the right candle for a room and when/how long to burn for?
I love scented candles and choose them based on the season and my mood, so I tend to light different ones at different times of day – perhaps something zingy and uplifting in the morning, and a calmer, cosier scent later on. Candles aren’t just for evenings, and I normally have one or another burning most of the time. It’s important to burn candles for at least an hour at a time, though, so that the wax can pool evenly. That will give a better burn next time around and ensure the wick doesn’t get buried.
How do you like to unwind and relax at home?
I love sitting back with a cuppa and a book, or playing board games with my husband. I’ve also recently started weaving, which I find very relaxing. There’s something meditative about the repetitive motion of it, and it’s great to have a creative hobby that’s totally separate from my work, with no deadlines or pressure. I can lose myself in it for hours at a time, and if whatever I’m working on doesn’t turn out as planned then it really doesn’t matter.
What is your favourite space/room/corner at home for relaxing and unwinding? What is it about this space that makes it ideal for unwinding?
The living room – it feels like a little sanctuary, with soft grey walls, linen cushions and yes, lots of candles! I also love the way the light falls in that particular space – I can sit for ages and watch shadows dancing on the walls, and it changes throughout the day.
You’ve recently completed a renovation of one of the bathrooms in your home that we love! Do you have any home spa rituals or routines that you are planning on enjoying during the November lockdown?
Thank you! We don’t have space for a bathtub in there so long soaks are out, but I do enjoy a good drench under the shower and again scent is important – at the moment I’m using a body wash that smells like the Scandinavian coast, so I can close my eyes and pretend I’m somewhere else for a few minutes! I’m also planning to sort out my skincare routine during this lockdown – it’s something I’ve neglected for too long, and having a nice new bathroom seems like the perfect opportunity to start looking after myself a little better!
What three items would you add to your Christmas list from our Unwind gift edit?
I’d add the Ferm Living Tusk camomile candle (the scent sounds perfect for unwinding at the end of a busy day, and I could reuse the pot as a vase afterwards) and the beautiful Pion speckled mug. And who could resist the Coco Chocolate ‘Gin & Tonic’ chocolate bar...?