Design lesson: Life's little luxuries
"Is there anything a bubble bath won't fix?" my aunt Pauline used to ask. Of course, in small town Arkansas, there were many problems a leisurely soak couldn't fix, but Pauline's sentiment was well expressed. Despite the uncontrollable weather and a chronic lack of money that made life difficult for farm families like hers, my aunt had learned to soften life's edges with small, inexpensive indulgences. And by visiting her each summer, I did too. Decades later, I'm still committed to my aunt's philosophy of enjoying everyday luxuries; it's true they don't fix every problem, but they certainly sweeten the days.
Kimberley Seldon's guide to everyday indulgences
1 Enjoy music in every room. Depending on my mood and activity, Stevie Wonder, Hoobastank, Ketchup, Tony Bennett, Buddha-Bar IV or AC/DC might be spinning at our house. Music can turn a simple card game - or even a laundry folding session - into a party.
2 Include fresh flowers and live houseplants in your surroundings. They improve interior air quality and remind us that, like people, they won't thrive on yesterday's attention - they need frequent affection to flourish. When my plants are limp, I know I'm too busy and that it's time to slow down and pay attention to what's important.
3 Display bowls of fresh fruit. Blue-and-white exportware filled with shiny red apples looks smart on a dining room table, a large glass cylinder filled with lemons is delicious in the kitchen, and a silver dish filled with figs is ideal for a coffee table. A full bowl of fruit is a symbol of abundance and a constant reminder to be grateful.
4 Take time to appreciate small details like sunlight through clean windows, the smell of fresh laundry or the perfect cup of tea.
Dos and don'ts
DO dine in a room you don't normally eat in. Breakfast in the garden? Of course. A picnic in front of the fireplace? What better way to enjoy a rainy day? And while you're feasting, improvise with tablecloths: use a matelassé bedspread for Sunday brunch; a flat-weave carpet suits afternoon tea (an idea that's centuries old and still favoured in Morocco).
DO keep a tempting selection of bubble bath on hand. Jo Malone makes two of my favourites: Verbenas of Provence for relaxation and Grapefruit for energy. Dim the lights, tune out the world and enjoy a long soak.
DO send handwritten notes. A faxed love letter may be cute, an e-mail from a friend may be thoughtful, but neither compares in quality or spirit to a handwritten letter. A well-appointed writing desk includes a selection of beautiful paper, an assortment of pens, stamps and envelopes, and a comfortable chair.
DON'T save the good stuff; use it every day. Enjoy your morning coffee or evening tea in your best china, entertain in the living room, and use the silver. (Bonus: Silver that's frequently used doesn't tarnish.)
DON'T forget candles, candles, candles. Historically, beeswax candles were an expensive luxury. Today they're plentiful and more affordable. Fill an empty hearth with fat cylinder candles and enjoy a blazing display. Line a mantel with a collection of candlesticks, varying the heights for interest.
DON'T deprive yourself of an occasional splurge. Purchase that beribboned guest towel that caught your eye -- then use it. Buy a dozen perfumed guest soaps and display them in an apothecary jar. Yes, you really do need linen sheets, as well as the lavender water that will make ironing them less of a chore.