Joanna contacted us shortly before publishing our last trend report The New Care Economy to present her book The New Mindful Home. She felt her work resonated strongly with our wellbeing research and so did we when diving into her manuscript. The New Mindful Home is now included as a book tip in our report, and considering that we are about to start the season of joy, we thought offering a thoughtful giveaway could make a lovely change here on the Eclectic Trends blog.
“The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture has dedicated whole studies to ‘neuroaesthetics’ (how mood and emotion can alter when we are presented with an artistic stimulus we are attracted to, be it a piece of music or an object of home decor). These have shown that our conscious thoughts aren’t always attuned to our environment in the same way as our body is engaging with it, flagging the importance of listening to our design intuition to enable us to create a space where our physiology feels most peaceful – a place where you can come and just be. If you can create that feeling of escape at home, you might find it positively alters how you feel about the outside world, too.” – Joanna Thornhill
Creating a Sanctuary, Considered Living, Mindful Objects, Clean Living, Becoming Biophilic are just some of the chapters you can enjoy when browsing through her work. There are 135 pages that cover among other themes:
- Creating a friendlier home environment by bringing in softer shapes and silhouettes
- How to spot harmful toxins we might inadvertently bring into our homes
- Creating a dedicated area to practise mindfulness activities, portable or otherwise, regardless of our home’s set-up
- How to conduct a mindful audit of your interior
- Ideas for introducing crafting, doodling, or making into your day, regardless of whether you identify as ‘creative’ or not
- How to fill your home mindfully with objects that resonate with you and hold (or will allow you to form) happy memories
We asked Joanna a few questions to learn about her motives when writing The New Mindful Home. She took time to answer; before entering in the giveaway of two books, enjoy her insights:
Would you please introduce yourself?
I’m Joanna Thornhill, a London-based interiors stylist, writer, author, and creative consultant. I’ve worked in this field for over fifteen years, initially as a freelance assistant (in-house on interiors magazines and helping other freelance stylists on shoots). Now, my work is broadly mixed across styling for commercial and editorial clients and writing (creative content for brands, editorial for magazines, and monthly emerging trends reports for forecasting agency WGSN). I’ve also authored several books: Home for Now (CICO Books), My Bedroom is an Office (Laurence King Publishing) and my latest book, The New Mindful Home, also published under Laurence King. During the pandemic, my work has broadened somewhat, and I’m now also moving more into the teaching and consultancy space, mainly via courses and workshops.
What made you write this book, and why is it called The NEW Mindful Home? Why NEW?
Having worked in the industry for so long over the past five years, I found myself craving something a little deeper.
I was starting to feel jaded with the endless cycles of trends and of pushing clients’ customers or readers to buy new things for the sake of newness, with little consideration to the social or environmental impact these pieces might have. I also felt like social media had simultaneously democratised design – making it accessible for everyone, which is excellent of course – yet it also homogenised it, with many interiors seemingly created purely for aesthetics and with little consideration into how they might make you feel or whether they even suit your style and vibe.
At the same time, I was becoming more interested in behavioural psychology and neuroscience. I started to spot ways that the theories and science I was reading tied into home design, too (especially in the area of neuroaesthetics). I couldn’t find much to read out there that covered this topic with the interior design aspect front and centre, and I thought this could be a fascinating area to explore further. Luckily my publishers agreed, and eventually, The New Mindful Home was commissioned in the Autumn of 2019.
The choice of using the word ’new’ in the title was essentially to signify this approach to the topic, which at the time genuinely felt like a very new way of thinking about interiors. I wanted to explore how we can tread the lines between both spirituality and neuroscience and take into account many different factors in order to create a living space that not only supports our own emotional needs but the broader needs of society, community, and the planet, too – yet in a way that was wholly practical and not just full of lofty theories, but tips and the idea that anyone, on any budget, could put into practice in their own home.
What were your criteria when you started with the research of what ‘mindful’ means?
To me, thinking holistically and authentically was the key to it all: to my mind, to be truly mindful, we need to look beyond ourselves, and to the impact, our shopping or decorating has on the wider community, both good and bad. And also, I really wanted to help people figure out what living and decorating mindfully look like for them personally: for me, it was never about a particular aesthetic, trend, or colour palette – it’s deeply personal to everyone. A space which to me might feel wholly nourishing and supportive, could for someone else be a stressful nightmare. So it was important for me that the first chapter, in particular, examined this, with examples of how you might decorate to suit different personality types and traits (as well as how to identify your own personal traits and emotional needs).
My belief is that if you do this initial work in getting to know yourself, you’ve then got a really strong foundation to create a home that will genuinely support you as part of a broader picture of living more mindfully.
How do you integrate that idea of mindfulness in your home, and what effects can you feel?
Personally, it’s been a fascinating journey – I’ve come to realise that certain earlier design choices I’ve made in my own home, based purely on intuition, actually tie right in with some of my research, and the reason they work has foundations in our psychology itself. For example, my favourite cosy corner in the house is actually in the perfect spot psychologically for feeling safe, or what in Feng Shui would be known as the ‘commanding position’: it’s in the centre of the house, but with a wall behind me, so my brain isn’t subconsciously scanning for background dangers, and its placement means I can indirectly see both the front and back door to the house – so again, subconsciously this satiates my brain as it knows I’m not in direct ‘line of danger’ from outside threats, yet I’m in a position where I could escape if needed. These subconscious thoughts are hardwired into us and going back to our caveman roots, so designing our spaces to help lessen or eliminate these potential triggers can make for a much more relaxing space.
And on the flip side of that, it also helped me to become aware of why certain design ideas, furniture placements or colour choices I’d made at home had never quite felt ‘right,’ even though on paper they should have worked and, with this new understanding, what I could do to change them. So during the lockdown, for example, I ended up redecorating over half the house as I realised that my needs had changed: as we’d lost so much stimulus from the outside world, I was craving more colour and interest in my home, so out went the greys and in their place a much more warm, soothing, nature-influenced palette and even more artwork and accessories. For me personally, I have a very busy mind and am prone to over-thinking and anxiety, so conversely, if I have a ‘busy’ space full of things I love, this actually comforts and inspires me, whereas more minimal schemes don’t give me enough distraction and can lead me to ruminate – so for my brain, stimulating external space = calm inner headspace!
Finally, I now have a far better understanding of what colours and tones do and don’t work for me: as a stylist I’ve always been able to pull together colour palettes, but I now instinctively understand what colours and styles just won’t work for me, even if I objectively like them, which makes it far easier to make confident design choices. And that’s where my styling work becomes a real benefit, as I get to play with creating all sorts of schemes that wouldn’t work in my home, but would be amazing for someone else!
Mindfulness has become a widespread term in the past 24 months. Do you agree, and do you think there is an evolution of the idea of ‘mindful’? If so, what would it be?
I literally handed in the final draft for my book just days before the first UK lockdown, so I definitely noticed the term mindfulness suddenly becoming extremely mainstream within a very short space of time – previously we had been worried that the title would be too niche, yet those concerns quickly dissipated and went the other way, as I started to worry that the book might come across like we were jumping on a bandwagon or ‘riding a trend’. And of course, the term mindfulness has been greatly capitalised since the start of the pandemic, with many brands selling anything and everything with claims of boosting mindfulness and wellbeing (often with little to back it up). I see it as a similar trajectory to greenwashing – you have to dig beyond any appealing sales pitches and figure out if what you’re buying really is as wellness-boosting or planet-positive as it claims.
“In terms of an evolution of the term, I think we have moved away from – and need to remember – that ultimately, taking a mindful approach comes from within and can’t be outsourced to a cushion or a candle. Yes, there are many items we can use as tools or visual prompts to aid mindfulness, but it requires us to do the work, too, and as I say, when it comes to mindful design, you have to do that initial research into your own traits and needs in order to gain the most benefit. “- Joanna Thornhill
I also think there’s a danger of the idea of mindfulness becoming conflated with self-centredness, in part due to the over-use of the term self-care. As I say, I believe that truly taking a mindful approach needs to be holistic: if you are purchasing pieces for your home, it’s really important to take that mindful moment before impulse purchasing to think about whether this something you truly want or need but also, what’s the impact of this purchase? Who made it, were they treated fairly, and is it sustainable (or used from recycled materials)? It’s not about being perfect but taking a moment to think, is this the best I can do right now. I think this is the aspect of mindful design I’d like to see included more in the conversation.
To enter in the giveaway of The New Mindful Home book, please read the conditions:
- Leave a comment below, and let us know what is it that resonates with you and the book.
- The draw closes on Sunday 05 (8 pm CET).
- We will announce the two lucky (random) winners on Monday 06.
- The publishing house sends your copy to the postal address. We will contact you for further details, please check your email (and spam) on Monday 06.
- This promotion is in no way sponsored.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING IN!
UPDATE: Mil gracias for taking part everyone! We have contacted the two random winners on Monday 06, December 2021.
THE NEW CARE ECONOMY
Consumers have become hyper-focused on wellness and self-care in the past 15 months. As a result, they are more interested in less transaction-based communication and more in what a brand can do for them. How does this spirit look translated into design?