The phrase “slow living” often brings to mind images of work-free days spent reclining in a hammock, pina colada in hand. While this may be the case at a beachside retreat in the Bahamas, the reality for most of us is that slow living takes many different forms in many different spaces. For some, this could mean long Sunday mornings spent reading in bed with loved ones, and for others, it could mean waking at dawn for the vim and vigor of a brisk swim.
Slow living means something personal to each of us, and one of the strongest ways we manifest these beliefs is by expressing ourselves through our homes. The slow approach to crafting a home is subjective to each dweller’s aspirations, but it always finds its foundation in our deepest values. It’s not about luxury or laziness, nor is it about forgoing our most beloved belongings:
Slow living isn’t about determining how little we can live with—it’s about working out what we simply can’t live without.Tweet
Our homes should explore life’s fundamentals and then seek to incorporate them into our surroundings. In this way, a home isn’t just a physical structure, but also a structure of our beliefs. A house should represent the heart, the kernel, the bedrock of our values—whatever brings us back to our cores. While “living essentially” can make us think of bare bookshelves or an empty wardrobe containing only white cotton T-shirts, we’re able to invite slowness and simplicity into our days without prescribing to a predetermined aesthetic; this is because slow living is less of a style and more of a deeply personal mentality.
The function of our homes should dictate the way we decorate them, not the other way around. Instead of either clogging our lives with unnecessary clutter—both physical and mental—or needlessly throwing out meaningful possessions, we can work to determine what brings fulfillment to our lives, and then surround ourselves with those comforts.
A person’s domestic space speaks of his or her innermost beliefs—consider what our belongings say about our character, be it a collection of inherited French antiques, a table long enough for a dinner party of a dozen, a smattering of children’s sketches posted on the walls or the absence of objects in a minimal space, leaving room for creative thought. The key to all these spaces’ hearts is that their aesthetics are shaped by their dwellers’ definitions of what brings joy and meaning to their homes. To us, this intention is the most important aspect of slow living.
While our homes can function as places we retreat to, we also seek to connect within them. In this way, they become active participants in our lives—living organisms that grow and shrink and change, just as we do. This happens not only with the ebb and flow of the seasons when warm winter blankets are thrown on beds or screen doors are flung open, but also as our own needs change over time and our communities evolve. Perhaps this is why that feeling of “home” follows us from space to space as our street addresses change: While the outward expressions of our dwellings change the form, their foundations—the people we share them with—stay the same. Our homes are community builders. That community could consist of a life partner, a sprawling family, a collection of housemates, or a humble party of one. Whatever form that community takes, our homes act as places where those people can come together and become closer.
Forming our spaces with this in mind can strengthen the relationships that flourish under our roofs. The ways we choose to cultivate our communities are as varied as the assortments of people they support: It could mean hosting elaborate Saturday brunches for your friends or late-summer barbecues for your neighbors or savoring an indulgent dinner cross-legged on the floor, blissfully alone. It could mean knocking out a wall to open up your kitchen or adding walls for moments of private sanctuary. It could mean longer tables for longer evenings. It could mean anything that means something to you, really.
We set out to visit 35 diverse homes across five continents whose inhabitants embody these slow values through crafting homes that wholeheartedly express their own beliefs—they are our old friends, our new friends, our colleagues, and our mentors. Instead of asking them to talk about the color of paint on their walls or the material they chose for their curtains, we invited them to share their values, how those ideals have shaped their homes and how their homes have in turn shaped them. Although there are many iterations of the ways we can create slower lifestyles, we’ve divided this book into the three main features that these dwellings epitomize: homes that cultivate community, homes that simplify our lives, and homes that allow us to live slowly and with intention. Each space encapsulates the spirit of all three, but we’ve allotted each home a chapter we feel best captures its family’s principles, and we’ve also provided some in-depth reading material to elaborate on their messages.
We sincerely thank everyone involved in opening up their doors, their minds, and often their pantries to show us how they approach and express slow living; it has been a pleasure. The following residences may differ when it comes to their sizes, inhabitants, locations, and aesthetics, but they all share one common denominator: Each of these homes is a vessel not for style, but for living. Welcome.