The Power of Paint

Kyle, the other half of New Minimalism is here to welcome you to the Chill Zen Room.  Take off your shoes, kick back and stay awhile.  This is now clearly a room to relax and unwind, but it hasn't always been this way...

When Cary and Cam moved into their apartment, they knew that the small room connecting the kitchen to the living room had great potential.  Cam dubbed it The Chill Zen Room early on, but in practice, it was serving more as a glorified hallway.  Cary asked me what we could do to  define the room from the rest of the home, to make it a stopping point, rather than a thoroughfare.  After some thought, I determined it just needed a little extra pizzazz and some key furniture replaced.  Enter, painting project! 

Changing the paint color is a tried and true strategy to completely transform a space.  If executed correctly, it has a relatively low investment for a high reward. 

Above are before and after shots of the Chill Zen Room, as viewed from the kitchen doorway.  Looking through the space and into the living room beyond, you can see how the room integrates with the rest of the apartment.   By choosing a high-contrast color, you can't help but stop and linger in the room for a bit. 

Notice in the after photo, we chose two different paint finishes in the same color.  We painted the walls a flat finish and the trim a glossy finish to emphasis the difference in depth.

The dark, earthy color creates the perfect backdrop to display Cam's incredible photography. You can view more of Cam's work at his online gallery: Steep Ravine.  The brown leather and wood tones of the furniture strengthen the ode to mother nature.

 We all agreed it was time to replace the overstuffed, circa '94 cream armchair that had followed Cam from apartment to apartment.  After a few weeks of searching, we scored this super high-quality leather loveseat on Craigslist for less than $200!   We anchored the reading corner with the wool rug, and intentionally placed it on an angle for a causal air.

Remember when starting a painting project on your own: it is all about PREPARATION.  Have patience, as this takes some time.  But once you prepare well, then painting is a breeze.  (Tip: for the most eco-friendly waste, opt for old newspaper rather than plastic drop-cloths).

So go forth, readers, and embark on those bite-sized design projects that make a huge difference in your space.  

Even if you don't choose a completely dramatic color, paint has a freeing power, symbolic with a fresh start.  And we could all use a little refresh, now and then.


The Desire to Accessorize

Kyle, the other half of New Minimalism here to talk about something very important: personal style.

The other week I found myself at the mall. 

I was there for a quick stop to get my phone upgrade.  Somehow, before I knew, it I was checking out at the register of Aldo with a handful of impulse accessory purchases! 

Did I black-out for a moment?  I run a business called New Minimalism!  How could this have happened?! 

Let’s take a step back to dissect:

I had an upcoming international trip that I was eagerly anticipating.  This trip included attending a music festival, and I was excited to express myself through my clothing in a hot climate for once, OMG. 

Finding myself at the mall, I was susceptible.  Suddenly my existing wardrobe seemed dull and unexciting in comparison to all the shiny, of-the-moment merchandise at the mall.  The window displays worked their magic on me and I was lured into Aldo.  I ended up purchasing a pair of sandals, a necklace, a pair of sunglasses and earrings, all made of so-so quality.

Evidence of the impulse-buy on Instagram.  All minus the fanny pack, which has been a faithful companion for years now.

Evidence of the impulse-buy on Instagram.  All minus the fanny pack, which has been a faithful companion for years now.

There is an innate human desire to express oneself through personal style and adornment. 

The earliest examples of jewelry adornment in human history date back 7,000 years!  While jewelry was a form of currency or financial investment, it was worn primarily to convey “social status, wealth, and power.” 

And today, while clothing and accessories surely still relate to a desire to convey social status and wealth, I assume that most people, like me, simply enjoy expressing themselves creatively through their clothing.  This is not wrong.  Hey, we have to wear clothes so we might as well make the best of it, right? 

But with a personal pursuit towards minimalism and more simplified lifestyle, where do I draw the line?

The answer relates to our 11 Principles

#7 Move past the myth of choice. Excessive choices can leave us paralyzed or dissatisfied. You understand that creativity flourishes within constraint.


Can you have a capsule wardrobe that still expresses your personal style?  Of course!  Like any life-simplification effort, you have to first ask yourself some tough questions:

  • What do you value the most
  • Which items earn the high esteem of making it into your wardrobe
  • What clothing do you feel the best in? 


6 Steps for a quick, 1-hour wardrobe decluttering. 

1. Select your top 3 outfits: 

  1. your top outfit for work

  2. your top outfit for play.   

  3. your top outfit for maxin’ and relaxin’ at home

2. Pull out these 3 outfits, and arrange them on the bed/floor. 

3. Complete them with underwear, shoes, accessories and all.  Arrange little flat versions of yourself.  Heck, go crazy and use grapes for eyes and then let them hang out until your partner comes home and becomes sufficiently freaked out.  (Ok, sorry, I took it too far.)  

4. Back to the 3 outfits: consider these your “guiding light”, the epitome of your style.  In contrast, assess each individual item in your closet.  Does it stand up the “guiding light outfits”?  If there is any hesitation with the garment in question, the answer is DONATE!  Be firm with yourself, act like your own personal trainer. 

5. Keep a short list of any wardrobe “holes” you create and need to fill.  Like if, for example, you finally donate that black sweater that you’ve worn to death and everyone in your life is secretly hoping you get rid of anyway.  Write "black sweater" on your shopping list to keep you focused while you shop and keep your favorite outfits working for you.

6. At the end of your decluttering sweep, be sure to put all donations in a bag by the door so that you actually take them with you on your next trip out.  Schedule the donation drop in your calendar to really hold yourself accountable.

Before (left):  too many choices, earring pairs separated, chaos. After (right): individual accessories have room to shine and displayed with pride.

So, back to the mall. 

What was the result of my impulse purchases?  The necklace and sunglasses served their purpose on the vacay and have since been donated to the Goodwill, the earrings I kept, and the sandals, the bulkiest of all my belongings on my trip, followed me all throughout Croatia and Copenhagen, and returned to the States unworn!  Turns out that chunky, platform metallic sandals (yes), were somewhat impractical for stomping all around Europe.  I never even tried to wear them.  They were an inconvenient daily reminder that impulse buys are not worth the trouble Thankfully, Aldo accepted them as returns. 

The moral of the story:  know that there is an entire industry dedicated to making you feel like you need more things. 

Marketing teams are paid buckets-o-money to do just that.  So you must enter the consumer world with your armor on, shielding you from the power of savvy marketers (and avoid it all together whenever possible).  And like most things in life, there is a middle path.  You can be a stylish minimalist, just as long as you clarify and prioritize what your version of style is.

We Didn't Buy a House, But We Found Our Home.

Not the house, but man would I love to live there.

I fell in love with a house. 

A cottage really.  Nestled in an adorable neighborhood.  Perfect yard.  A five minute walk to library, groceries, restaurants, bars with live music.  Funky town.  Great public schools (we don't have kids yet, but houses come with a million year mortgage, guys).

It all felt so easy at first.  First house we ever looked at.  Offer accepted (after a mini bid-off).  Inspections are good for the most part.  A few problems, but manageable.  Then there is a lot-line issue.  Then there is an appraisal issue.  Which triggers a bank issue.  And then another.  

It stopped feeling good.  At all.

Over two weeks I was consistently the most stressed out I’ve ever been.  I recognize what a total and complete privilege home ownership is, so it's not that I’m looking for pity but I acknowledge that the most stressful event in my life is one that I had control over, that I chose for myself.

And then there was a fear of having gone too far and having dragged others along with me.  But it couldn't touch the fear of knowing that my gut had started shouting “no” and if I didn't listen I would have to live with that regret.

The American dream is still alive and well.  Just this past week we worked with a crazy talented, smart woman who just paid off her mortgage.  And on the Peninsula nonetheless!  For some people, it's perfect, the undeniably best route.  

But we're all different, and I spend my days preaching from my little soapbox about how we ought to embrace our differences and preferences and make our own version of our perfect life.

In my perfect life, home ownership is about lazy Saturday mornings in bed.  About memorizing the trees on your property, the names of your neighbors pets, about having an open door policy where you just might arrive home to see a gaggle of friends already inside waiting for you.

This home was going to mean a double commute living 35 minutes from our closest friends.  It meant him leaving for work and hour earlier each weekday and me leaving at the crack of dawn on the weekends for clients in Palo Alto.  It meant no lazy mornings or friends.  It also felt really tight, a little lonely, pretty scary.  

Then to top it all off, Kyle and I had a photo shoot of my apartment.  The weather was perfect.  The 75 degree air made the linen sheers dance as the soft breeze came in the window.  The apartment was freshly cleaned, we picked a bowl of lemons of the meyer tree in our yard. 

I looked around our apartment and thought “Shit, I already am home.”

At home in our lovely apartment.  Photo by Ryan.

It was deep and profound and true.  And therefore, just a few hours before removing contingencies, we decided to keep our rental and our life as is.  

I feel: liberated, light, abundant.  I feel like Cam and I received an incredible education in our finances, our shared values, our long term dreams, and how we each handle hard situations...  It brought us together and it rocked us to the core with gratitude for this life that we currently are living.  It just so happens that for Cam and me, that perfect life doesn't include owning a home.  At least not yet.

So we're staying in our apartment. 

Maybe for a just a little, maybe for a long while.  And even though it is “just a rental,” I know now for sure that it is also home, and I'm doubling down on creating my perfect life within these walls.

So I've ordered some fabric to make the shower curtain of my dreams.  I bought a wall mount for my ukulele so I can put it next to my bed.  I found the sweetest print in the world from my favorite Hawaiian artist to close it all out.  I’m in the market for the credenza of my dreams.  I’m going to tend to this space and specify it love it the way I like. 

And then I'll call the landlord when the sink clogs or the disposal breaks, and I'll be eternally thankful for our five years and counting in our current home.


PS- If you're in the Bay Area and looking for a realtor, I could not possibly recommend Matt Hughes more highly.  He went above and beyond for us every step of the way, was always looking out for us, always available to us, an amazing communicator, and, more than anything, he was totally supportive when we decided not to buy (even after he'd put hours upon hours of work into our deal).  Seriously, he's one of the good ones:)