Luxury is defined in the Collins English dictionary as "1. indulgence in and enjoyment of rich and sumptuous living. 2. something considered an indulgence rather than a necessity.” I suspect that this will be updated in the next revision of this mighty tome. Now that we have experienced the crippling might of a global pandemic, civil unrest prompted by racism and with further economic upheaval potentially ahead, a new definition of luxury might read: that which was previously taken for granted but has now been discovered to be essential. And this spans everything from the pragmatics of easy access to healthcare to filling your home with creative inspiration.
For, prompted by a single cough, life as we knew it was interrupted. The world appeared to stop turning and we were tested and challenged as never before. At first, we collectively struggled to adapt to this new abnormal. Our lives were stripped back to the minimum while our homes did time as office, school, nursery, gym and restaurant. But however we occupied our days, whether thrust into working from home for the first time, or unexpectedly replete with free time, we had to reassess our priorities.
MICHELLE OGUNDEHIN ON WHY WE SHOULD BE REDEFINING LUXURY AT HOME
We're all in this together, some newspaper headlines consoled. Except that we weren't. Some fared much better than others. Although it wasn't always solely along the expected divisions of wealth vs scarcity, homes replete with Zoom-ready backdrops or access to a garden. Rather, the ability to appreciate the everyday moments that lend life joy before these recent catastrophes — the pleasure of the sun on your skin, the sound of the rain, an uplifting artwork, the comfort of cushions — became the truest barometer of survival 'success'. Because whether confined to home or not, what you look at everyday impacts you both emotionally and physiologically — wake up facing something inspirational, and you’ll have a better day; patients with a view of art or greenery heal quicker than those without.
Nevertheless, at first, we all pined for our immediate gratification rituals; those habitual actions that lift the spirits after a working day: non-essential shopping, pints in the pub, excursions to check out a new exhibition, pop-up or movie release. A month or so on though, and our yearnings switched to the more intimate details of life; precisely those simple emotive pleasures that we may previously have taken for granted — the smell of freshly brewed coffee in a favourite cafe, swimming lessons with the kids, hugs from our relatives. Peace became hinged on finding moments of silence, not seeking continual distraction. Happiness meant leaning into fulsome acceptance of what was happening, not dwelling on a perception of lack. Sanctuary was being able to stay close to those we cared about and to be surrounded by the things that we love. In short, we began to understand what we truly valued.
More so than ever before, our homes need to feel like places of solace and support. They should become increasingly, not less, personal; rich with cherished possessions and decorated to make your heart sing. Crucially, such decoration must include art, where this is defined simply as that which lifts your soul when you look at it. And this is where the Affordable Art Fair comes in (I’ve listed some of my top picks below) because for art to be good, it need not be expensive. After all, true value is seldom a function of cost alone. Indeed, a painting valued at a million pounds is worthless to you if you do not love it, whereas a £250 collage becomes a priceless masterpiece once spotted and fallen for.
In the same breath, our children’s drawings often fall into this category. As such I always advocate framing a selection accordingly. This honours your child’s nascent creativity and elevates to treasure-status precious mementoes of their childhood. Besides, the naïve expression of youthful brushstrokes sometimes creates the most sophisticated art of all. What’s wonderful is to then sit these alongside other purchased pieces in a tableau of your taste. There is something extremely validating about finding the links between art chosen from the heart, something not usually perceptible unless they are grouped together.
My other top tip is to have fun with unconventional placements — at the bottom of the stairs, by the shower, opposite your bed. We look at these spots more often than we think, and the creation of a happy home lies in never missing an opportunity to give yourself a lift when you least expect it.
Frankly, when the world seems to have gone a bit bonkers, having your own lovingly curated corner of the world is to have a space that actively supports and sustains your wellbeing. In fact, it is my fervent hope that one positive possible consequence of the recently enforced lockdowns will be the rise in appreciation of just how impactful our surroundings can be. In the words of Deepak Chopra, "You can't make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural and enjoyable." Seen in this way, creating a personal sanctuary is not frivolous, it's fundamental to health and happiness. And quite possibly, the best future definition of luxury yet.
Many thanks to Michelle, what a thought provoking article; we will certainly be viewing our décor with fresh eyes and considering how we can inject a little sanctuary into our spaces. And if you would like a slice of Michelles consummate taste in your own home, browse her top 5 picks from our online marketplace. Alternatively, view the #MyPersonalSanctuary wall for insight into the places that warm your heart and make you feel luxuriously relaxed at home.
Featured art from first to last:
Profile image of Michelle Ogundehin
Anastasia Savinova, Brussels, 2016, Giclee, H 70cm x W 50cm, £400, Michele Mariaud.
Brussels artwork by of Anastasia Savinova, within an interior space.<
Clare Packer, French Landscape, 2018, Collage, H 41cm x W 47cm x D 2cm, £500, Kittoe Contemporary Limited.
Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as a thought-leader on trends, colour and style. Originally trained as an architect and the former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK, she contributes to many prestigious publications worldwide. She is also the lead judge on the BBC2/Netflix series Interior Design Masters, and the author of new book Happy Inside: How to harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness — a game-changing guide to living well for anyone in search of a more balanced life.