How to make your home a source of comfort during COVID-19

Stuart Nordin, interior designer at Stuart Nordin Design, suggests making your own art and finding the purpose for each room in your home.

living room with two white chairs and green plants and big windows
Photo by Helen Norman

With the rise of the global pandemic, we’re all living in our homes a lot more now, maybe more than we ever have. 

You might be starting to notice clutter has piled up, furniture doesn’t feel quite as comfortable or certain paint colors seem outdated.  Even if you don’t have that newfound free time everyone seems to be talking about, you can still make changes to your home that have purpose, especially in heavy, emotional times like these. 

We caught up with Stuart Nordin of Stuart Nordin Design (which serves Washington, DC, Northern Virginia and Richmond), about how to make your humble home an even happier one with changes, touch-ups and room makeovers. Highlights from our conversation are below. 

headshot of stuart nordin interior designer
Photo by Matthew Kleinrock

How do you define your interior design style? What elements do you find to be signatures throughout your work?

I always struggle with this question because I think my style is an oxymoron! Simple and eclectic, refined and relaxed, comfortable and curated. My goal is to create spaces that are timeless and that my clients love to live in. I don’t really follow trends, I’m most inspired by the people I work with and their life experiences and stories. I love incorporating things that are special and unique to each family I work with, and I think that’s a great way for anyone to decorate. 

If someone is looking to bring those simple, refined and relaxed design vibes into their house during COVID-19, what first steps would you suggest?

This is a perfect time to clean out clutter and repurpose or donate things that you don’t really need or really love. Sometimes we collect or inherit too much stuff (even I just did a 10-bag donation to Goodwill just from our attic). Eliminating the things that aren’t working or just taking up space (and could instead be used by someone else who really needs them) is a great place to start. Clutter equals stress for me. Too much stuff equals stress, so having a clean and organized home is definitely the first step in creating a relaxed space. 

The next step would be looking at each room and thinking about how you want to use it and how you would most enjoy it. For example, if you have a fireplace in your living room, is there a great spot for you to snuggle up with loved ones to watch it, or get cozy and read a book by it? If not, start there and build from that greatest wish for that room. 

laundry room with little boy and white cabinets and blue walls
Photo by Helen Norman

How does comfort and relaxation play a part in your design, while still making the spaces look elegant and organized?

Your home should be your haven, where you feel totally comfortable and at ease. I always look at each room and try to figure out how people can be happiest in it. The key is to identify the purpose of the space (gathering, entertaining, relaxing, working, etc.) and go from there. Let’s say you want your family room to be where you and extended family celebrate birthdays and holidays. You know you need seating for 10 people on these occasions, so we would make sure we had a sofa that was comfortable and maximized seating, maybe some upholstered ottomans that could be moved around for extra spots to sit, a few accent/occasional chairs that have a more decorative feel, but also provide more places for people to sit during large gatherings. I tend to always do a neutral sofa. I feel like you can’t go wrong with that, and it provides a base from which to build. You can also do throw pillows in a print and mix of colors that you love, and then you can use that same palette to do something similar and fun on the accent chairs. All of the colors are related, so the space feels harmonious, even if there are a lot of pieces involved.

For me, there needs to be a common thread in everything to tie it all together, otherwise things feel chaotic and unbalanced. I personally prefer a neutral base palette that is punctuated by beautiful accents such as art, rugs, sculptural lighting and more. 

What are a few of your favorite things to add to a room to really bring it to life?

I think art is the most important thing. Many people are intimidated by the thought of buying art because they don’t know what will “work” in their space. For me, that is the wrong way to go about buying art. You should just buy what you love and I promise you will find a perfect place for it. There are also misconceptions about how much you need to spend on art. Some people think that unless it is a popular name or costs a lot of money that it’s not “worth” it to buy art. Not true! There are so very many wonderful artists out there. Online, in local galleries, in schools, in craft shows, in vintage shops and antique stores. You just need to get out and look, when we’re able to get out again! For now, you can look online. I love almost everything Studio McGee has in its online store, and estate sales are another wonderful place to find treasures. 

Another thing you can do, especially while we have more time at home, is to try your own hand at making art. Pick an artist whose work you like and give that style a go. My Modern Met has a list of the best free online art classes that are happening now and is definitely worth a try. 

dining room with yellow and white curtains and large bouquet of flowers
Photo by Helen Norman

For those who might be looking to redesign their rooms now, what colors, patterns and fabrics would you suggest for spring/summer 2020?

My peonies just popped and I am loving the pinks! We all need uplifting colors more than ever right now. I suggest going with neutrals for your foundation pieces (sofas, arm chairs and more), and layer in the colors that make you happiest. Natural fabrics, especially linens, are always my go-to. I stain, treat and knit-back everything to make it last.

Do you think this pandemic, especially with people spending more time at home, will influence interior design in any way in 2020?

I do. I think we’ll see a lot of vibrant colors coming out. I think we’ll see more functionally decorated interiors that are beautiful and bright, and not so cold. 

Why should people love the home that they’re in, and what are a few ways they can change up a space to find a new way to love it?

Well, we’re spending so much time at home we should definitely love being there! This may sound silly, but music is another element to add into your home to shape the feel. We always have music playing at our house. Sometimes it’s just in the background, and other times we’re blasting it in the living room and having a family dance party. Bringing the outside in is also another good way to change things up, especially seasonally. You could add small citrus trees indoors now that the weather is warming up. Plants add life and color to a space, and who wouldn’t love picking lemons in their living room? You can literally make your lemons into lemonade. (So corny, I couldn’t resist!)

Any last bits of advice for readers in terms of redesigning during COVID-19, or just how to continue to love your home?

Look at each room in your home and think about how you really want to use it. Donate anything that isn’t working for you. Clean out the clutter. Get organized and only buy things that truly make you happy or feel inspired. This is a great time to tackle home improvement projects inside and out. Be active, be productive and go with what you love. Take care of yourself and be well everyone!

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