Sara Bird, a stylist, art director and co-author of “Home for the Soul: Sustainable and Thoughtful Decorating and Design,” joined Washington Post staff writer Jura Koncius recently for an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: What kinds of things do you like to do around holiday decorating to make it even more special?
A: Holiday decorating means we have more time to spend being creative. You can start a scheme from scratch or add to one. Decide to be brave and make a statement, or be more considered and curate homewares. Start a collection, make a themed look or area, or even finally get around to hanging pictures or rearranging home buys.
Q: How can I add soul to my home if I’m a minimalist?
A: Adding soul to your home can be achieved whether you like living with a lot or a little. It’s about having items around that you love and that mean something to you, whether this is a collection or just one beautiful find — a single flower, a favorite painting or a lone piece of furniture. It could even just be the color of a wall that makes you feel happy or touches you in a soulful way.
Q: Can your home have soul if it’s messy?
A: If disorder is a concern, bring some organization to busy spaces. Collect items together in a zone with shelving, glazed cupboards on mantels or tabletops. It doesn’t necessarily reduce the number of items, but it presents them in a better way and gives the home some space to breathe. Messy or not, our homes are far more soulful if they reflect the owner.
Q: How can you turn a small, soulless bathroom into a spa?
A: A bathroom is a brilliant room to really indulge in being creative. Think about what mood you would like to create. If you love lingering in a bath, what about creating a feature wall or ceiling with some amazing patterned wallpaper or tiling? If you like the glow and flicker of candles, why not indulge in a surface that shows the flame at its best, such as glossy marble or softer tadelakt plaster?
Look into reusing and upcycling if you want a timeless, vintage look. Taps in particular can look wonderful if polished up.
Finally, think about evocative and invigorating well-being ideas. Plants offer the appeal of nature in a small space, energizing and relieving stress. Scented items can also calm and restore, and they’re an easy way to bring a spa style to even the smallest of bathrooms.
Q: What are the keys to a soulful bedroom?
A: Designing a heavenly bedroom is about introducing subtle touch points to inspire us to wind down. First, try to connect with colors that make you relax. Plenty is written about how peaceful and sleep-inducing greens and blues are, but if you discover it’s a rich red that you find comforting, go for that.
Texture is big, too, whether you like crisp cottons, soft linens or fluffy faux fur. A bed dressed to suit your preferences will induce sleep. Add in layers, so they can be easily removed as you sleep.
Lights with dimmers will make it easier for the eyes to shut when they’re ready, so make sure there are side lights and overhead pendants for around-the-clock situations.
Have winding-down accessories near the bed, such as a place for books and drinks. Use scents to inspire sleep, and make sure the room is well-ventilated and at the right temperature. Getting ready for bed is not about a race to rest, but a slow and relaxing time for turning in.
Q: Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve turned to a mostly plant-based diet. I’d like to mirror that Earth-friendly philosophy in my home-decorating choices. How can we know what paint to choose, for example?
A: With the interior industry signing up for sustainable production and ethical manufacturing processes, it’s now easier to source eco-friendly ingredients. Most reputable companies disclose their environmental credentials online and in store.
Q: What advice do you have regarding how to cozy up a floor? My family room is on the ground floor. A previous owner installed thin carpet, which became a spot for mold and mildew because of a now-resolved water problem. The carpet is long gone, but I’ve looked at painted concrete long enough. I’d like to install engineered hardwood, and I’m thinking of adding a heated component to it. What do you think?
A: Flooring is an underrated aspect when it comes to interior decor, yet it’s a large expanse within the design of our homes. Covering with the same expanse of flooring seems like the obvious solution, but if you have a large room, it can feel too ubiquitous. Lay the wood, and install heating for temperature purposes, but add cozy pieces such as rugs to create zones, interest and a different texture underfoot.