S@H: What prompted your quest for a simpler life?
JC: My first decorating job was for a big magazine. It was the '80s, and in every house we photographed, so much money was spent on fabrics, ribbons and bows, but it was all tasteless. It was such a consumption-driven society. The obsession to have the latest and greatest had become more important than having a well-functioning, pleasing environment. I began to realize there was another way -- you didn't need to spend a lot of money to have a good-looking home that reflected good values. What could be more beautiful than flowers from your own backyard?
S@H: Tell us about the values of simple living.
JC: It's not just about aesthetics; simple living is a philosophy, too. Rampant consumerism takes a toll on the environment, so simple living embraces composting; having one car, not two; and buying fresh produce over packaged food (and whenever possible buying locally). What's also intrinsic is a consciousness about not being wasteful. I'm talking about reusing old, discarded pieces of furniture by sprucing them up with a coat of paint, and saving fabric remnants to use on jeans or for other sewing projects. It's a creative way of living, really.
S@H: Why do you think the quest for simple living resonates with so many people?
JC: I live in London, a rather big city, with three children. That alone is stressful, but then consider we live in a century in which technology is impeding our need for respite. Cellphones and laptops promote the notion you have to be available at all times. I'll admit technology can also help you live simply -- dishwashers, for example, allow you to spend more time doing the things you love. But a bigger impediment is that we live in an era in which there is so much choice it's bewildering. We walk into grocery stores and movie rental shops, and we're inundated with products -- made to believe we need them all. We're seduced by advertising. Shopping has become a hobby. I believe we need to pare down, to seek out what is essential and good to look at.