When we color and design our world and spaces, we are reflecting a core characteristic of who God is and what he does. It’s the first revelation we know of him. He’s a creator. He created the material world we live in. He formed his people in flesh. And from this creation story, we witness a God who cares about the physical nature. Who makes all things beautiful. Not the shallow kind of beauty that exists to disguise a broken reality. Not the false kind of beauty sought after by those seeking perfection.
The beauty God brings to his creation is life. Life, breathed into existence with his very spirit.
Spirit-filled beauty looks different than other kinds of beauty. It’s living and active, rather than stagnant and sterile. It’s relational and emotional, instead of solitaire and self-centered. It’s inspiring and stimulating, not apathetic and boring.
This is what distinguishes great art. Not that it looks perfect or professional. It’s the life that is evident in the piece. The spirit of the artist recognized. The emotion captured in the strokes.
It’s the same with environments.
Have you ever walked into a beautiful home that was magazine picture perfect? Where everything was in its place. And coordinated. And cute. And custom. And straight. And clean. And stylish. Admittedly, the perfectionist in me envies this on first glance. Oh to have everything in its place for even an hour! Better yet, Oh to have a place for everything!
The problem with these kinds of homes is they don’t look lived in. If life is messy and broken and imperfect, then the spaces where life happens will reflect those realities.
Environments where life isn’t evident lack a certain authenticity that brings about true beauty.
A spirit-filled environment is living and breathing. It’s active and productive. It ought to reflect the people and activity that dwell and frequent the space. It ought to reveal what is valued. It ought to inspire the souls toward creative and faithful living.
You don’t need a lot of resources to make this happen. God made beautiful things out of mere dust. Creativity needs only to start with spirit. And the beauty that follows will flow from within.
Here are some tips toward creating the spaces where you live and work with design that is intentional rather than impressive. Color that reveals, rather than conceals. Beauty that is illustrative, not arbitrary.
1. Create your environment to reflect everyone who dwells there. Choose colors and objects that represent the personalities and interests of all family members or residents. Collaborative style takes some compromising, but it will foster an environment everyone is comfortable in. And when you enjoy and find comfort in your space and contribute to the way it looks, you are more likely to contribute to its upkeep and live faithfully within its walls.
2. Choose colors that reveal part of your story. Colors that make you happy or calm. Colors that remind you of something or someone important to you. I include hues of Uganda. In particular, orange is splashed throughout my house to remind me of the dirt roads that took us to unforgettable places.
I know someone who uses green in her home because she lost her young son in an accident and green was his favorite color. What a sweet way to surround herself with memories by letting her son’s spirit color her world.
Or maybe you live in a place where winter settles in long, so you need warm and inviting colors to sustain you during those months. Or may you live by the sea and hues of blues and whites cool down your spaces.
When you let your colors reflect who you are and where you’ve been, it’s as if you’re writing your story on your walls and stitching it into your design.
3. Identify values you want to communicate in your environment. Let your space tell what you believe in, what you hope for, what you work toward.
In our home, togetherness is reflected in our shared bedrooms and open doors. We want our kitchen to reflect ideas of welcome and hospitality through its wholesome food and extra chairs around our long table. We hope honest dialogue is encouraged through our open spaces and conversational seating.
Intentional design is thinking through what you hope to accomplish in each room, then understanding how color and furniture placement help you toward that value or goal.
4. Reduce the use of technology as much as you can in your home. TVs and computers hinder creativity, so don’t make them central players in your house. When we are sitting and absorbed in someone else’s story, we stop living ours. When we’re designing fantasy teams, we’re neglecting Team Family in real life. When we’re connecting on Facebook, we’re ignoring those we’re with. When we play video games, we miss out on the creative play of the great outdoors. Technology demands our time and attention in a way that keeps us from the creative work of our hands. Don’t center your rooms around the TV or computer unless it’s an office or media room. Play more music and encourage creative play.
6. Use decor that is meaningful. Choose accent pieces for your furniture and walls that again illustrate your story. Pieces passed down through your family. Framed pictures of the people you love. Fresh flowers and real fruit that bring bits of God’s creation into our internal spaces.
The most treasured things in my home are the items that have come from my grandmothers. I toss my salads in my great grandmother’s wooden bowl. My fruits and vegetables are kept in my Grandma Pippin’s dough bowl. And my children wrap themselves up in quilts made by their great great grandmother.
7. Choose low maintenance design. Do what you can to minimize how much your space drains you. Create functionality in each room. Consider your activity and patterns of living, and shape your space in a way that makes sense for that. We have a high traffic house between our children, Mark’s projects, visitors, home church, college students, and parents as neighbors. I have to keep that in mind when I make certain decisions. Choose fabrics and carpet that hide wear and clean easily. Use paint that washes well. Have cleaning supplies conveniently placed. And take the time to organize your closets and cabinets for efficient use. Your home should energize you and motivate you in your work and play.
Spirit-filled, creative environments have less to do with how they look and more do with how you live within them. But as creatures who live and relate in the physical world sometimes we need our surroundings to inspire us toward the kind of living we’re called to. So above all breathe life into the spaces you live and work with a spirit of grace. Actions of love. Words of prayer. Songs of praise. And faith that instills hope.
And may the bodies we care for and the places we live be a dwelling for God’s spirit to creatively work in and through us.