"Imagine that you have to leave your house forever with only a moment’s notice—what would you take with you? Imagine that you have three hours’ notice—now, what would you take? Imagine that you have one day’s notice—which of your things would make the cut? This is a bit extreme, and I hope it won’t become a real-life scenario for any of us, but it brings out definite answers where once there were question marks."
It was this interview that Carmella Rayone McCafferty--writer and designer--sparked our interest. How is it that a family of five could downsize from a four-bedroom house in Florida to a 665-square-foot cabin in Wyoming? Her blog Assortment logs this journey.
"People think they have to give it all up and have one spoon and one fork to achieve the simpler life. In truth, what you need to do is figure out what's important to you. A good way to begin is to actually pack up your family—or create packing lists—for what you'd need to live in a camper. Start by defining the basics: plates, bowls, cups, clothes, towels, beds, lamps, soap, toothbrushes. Then widen the circle of inclusion by adding the things each of you really want, the extras that make your life sing: favorite books, games, hobby supplies, art, rugs, pillows. But select these items being mindful of a lack of space. What really matters to you will start to become clear."
Our Q+A with Carmella
1. How do you makes choices for what you purchase for your home? More specifically, your home textiles?
When choosing things for our home, I first consider the actual need, then I consider how best to fill that need, and what the budget is for it. Often, I’ll try to find the item either thrifted, from Craigslist, or Ebay, or from an independent US maker or small company that I’d like to support. In this way, I’m putting our dollars, however big or small, toward reuse or the sustenance of ethical small business. In reality, this can’t happen every time, but it is where I like to start.
In textiles, I have an affinity for natural fibers, with cotton, linen, and wool being the top three choices. I appreciate how the beauty of these fibers deepens with age and how their hand becomes so soft and reassuring.
2. What attributes in textiles do you look for?
Aside from textiles being made of natural fibers, I look for quality construction. I want to know that the stitching isn’t going to come loose after many washings. I also appreciate prints, patterns, and colors that are inspired by the natural world, and not by the current home trend. I’m interested in timelessness and inherent beauty.
3. What do you look for in sheeting and towels?
I so appreciate buttery-soft sheets! A tightly fitted bottom sheet and a generously sized top sheet make for a very relaxing bed. No tugging and re-tucking every morning!! With bath towels, I look for quality. I want the towels to look as good in three years as they did when I first bought them, with no fading, pilling, or fuzzing. Though we’ve always used terry cloth bath towels, I’ve recently become intrigued by the less-bulky Turkish cotton towels.
4. How long do you expect products to last?
When I pay for a quality product, I expect it to last for years. This quality is harder to find in our day, but it can be found. It’s inspiring to look around the marketplace and see old things like well-maintained antique quilts and upholstered goods with much life still left in them. The point being that quality lasts.
5. What color do you tend to buy most?
My over-all color palette is a neutral one. I enjoy the calm of whites and creams, with the natural tones of wood and stone. Then, it’s fun to interject color in whispers or bursts, whatever the mood requires (we have an orange armchair in our living room next to a creamy-white slipcovered sofa, for example). I’m not much of a seasonal decorator (no fake eggs around the house at Easter), but I do like changing pillow covers to give a fresh perspective to the room throughout the year. Replacing our wool rug with a braided jute rug in spring and summer gives a lighter, fresh feel to the living area as well.
6. How does living in a smaller setting affect family dynamics?
Living in a small home gives us the opportunity to really live together and share life. Our family is close and we enjoy being around each other. But, each of us also appreciates personal alone time (yes, there are those times when going into another room and closing the door is ohso- good). The boys have curtained bed nooks where they can hide away with a book or watch a movie on the portable DVD player. And, occasionally, we purposely arrange for two boys to overnight with friends for the weekend to give the one boy at home personal space. I’m an early riser and enjoy the morning to myself when the house is quiet. My husband carves out time for himself in the mountains or on the lake.
7. Do you follow design trends or blogs?
Yes, as an interior designer, I do keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the design world. But, I try to use what I see as a tool to help define our home and clients’ homes more fully. I never want to decorate according to a trend. I believe our homes should reflect the lives, travels, and experiences of those who inhabit them. I appreciate publications that showcase ways we can do this better, and designers who demonstrate how to do this well, with all budgets.
Some of my favorite design magazines are:
Cottage Living (I still have a collection)
Garden & Gun
Some of my favorite design blogs are:
Velvet & Linen
Elements of Style
Cote d’ Texas
For the Love of a House
A Country Farmhouse
8. What book are you currently reading?
I’m currently re-reading An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, because it’s inspiring and so beautifully written.
9. What’s your favorite word to use when describing your aesthetic?
Simple. Natural. Fresh. Authentic.
My life is not one of great pomp or circumstance. I've not scaled a corporate ladder; I've not acquired a pile of credits; I don't have a collection of achievements to keep dust free. And thank goodness. For I don't want this life to be a showcase of what I've done, but of how I've lived.
A regard for journey has lead me to be a curator of moments. A love of words has made me into an artist of phrase. An affinity for small spaces, architecture, and interior design has formed me into a student of home and a creator of places that feed the soul.
I am a woman, a friend; a soul mate to one, and a mama of three.
Photo credits: Carmella Rayone McCafferty via Assortment