Sage Living: Decorate for the Life You Want

By Anne Sage

Photographs by Emily Johnston


Anne Sage states in the opening pages of Sage Living that ‘Just as our personalities influence our homes, we can shape our environment to help us push through challenges or nurture aspects of our character that we’d like to see flourish’ and I couldn’t agree more.

Refreshingly, the author places emphasis on the well being of her readers as they develop a way of life and a design for their home that is not only fit for purpose but also expressive and uplifting. By treating a home as the environment for our personalities to thrive and our creativity to flourish, Sage’s stylistic ethos revolves around the individual shaping the best possible environment for their goals and dreams – a lovely and heart-felt concept for an interior design guide.

She discusses a home that transforms alongside our own aspirations and desires, guiding readers to not only create a space they love, but to create a space that will continually inspire them to grow creatively. Her introduction asks readers to look at their own perceptions of what is needed in a home from a materialistic as well as a sentimental perspective. During her own life transitions, Sage has asked herself questions about her style of living and states, ‘I’ve learned what’s important to me and what I can let go. I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of a mindful home to alter my outlook, boost my confidence, and empower me.’

With an unexpected emphasis on asking readers to mindfully consider their surroundings, Sage’s words ring very true and suggest the book is more of a journey of personal discovery than your average interiors coffee table book. In this respect, it addresses my own sentiments about the small home I live in now.

Just over a year ago James and I bought what at first felt like a shoebox of a flat. It has been a transition that often feels exciting and scary and has come with many unexpected challenges that we have learned to solve simply, or with the use of a sledgehammer.

Whilst decorating it and learning how we want to live, it has changed our perceptions of space, the carefully considered items we keep around us and the things we just don’t have time or space for. Simply having a limited square footage has made us more mindful of the place we call home and certainly more appreciative of every inch.

In the Sage Living chapter entitled ‘Celebrate the Small Space’, the author looks at the many creative rewards for living in close quarters, emphasising that a small space doesn’t have to skimp on style.

CELEBRATE The Small Space

Everyone has a small-space story to share. Maybe it was that year in college when the housing administration crammed four bunks into dorm rooms built for two. Or perhaps it was that first solo apartment, the one where the landlord charged extra for the closet because technically it could fit a mattress. Or it could be where you’re sitting now, in a one-room sixth-floor walkup that tries your patience and tests your resolve with its windowless rooms and airless atmosphere. We keep our memories of these spaces in our back pockets and pull them out at parties, one-upping each other with our tales of toilets in the shower, camp stoves on the counter, roommates at each other’s throats.

Indeed whatever the reasons for living small—the location or the low rent, by necessity or by choice—a dearth of elbow room can create a serious challenge. Yet like anything that requires extra effort, small interiors bring with them extra rewards. A studio apartment asks us to think outside the box for seating, storage, and sleep solutions, and it rewards us with the thrill of creativity and confidence that accompanies an ingenious workaround. Living short on space allows us to focus on longer-term aspirations, such as saving for a honeymoon or a house, reducing our environmental footprint, or getting a new business off the ground. And whether it’s a transitional consideration or a permanent preference, a tight interior demands that we think long and hard about the difference between want and need. We may start to appreciate how little we actually require to feel safe, secure, and happy.

Fortunately, limited square footage needn’t translate into limited style. In fact, the increased thought that goes into decorating a small space often results in a more curated, considered aesthetic. There’s no room for “meh” in a minuscule home. When every inch counts, every object is weighed by how well it meets its purpose and aligns with a desired aesthetic. You must learn to keep only what works and only what you truly love—a lesson that can benefit studio and estate dwellers alike.

So take advantage of the gift that a small space brings by stripping away the excess and celebrating what remains. List the ways you plan to use your home and how you can facilitate them—then look for areas of overlap where you can get creative. Can the computer monitor you work on during the day be the television you watch movies on at night? Can your ottoman and living room accent tables double as extra seating? When it comes to storage, where are the hidden opportunities, how can you tap them, and how much can you pare back your belongings according to only what you actually use? Finally, how can you define your desired aesthetic with as few pieces as possible? Approach the design of your small space as a poet does the composition of a haiku, and remember that the strongest statement sometimes springs from the smallest number of words.

This chapter highlights four small-space inhabitants who have eked equal measures of form and function from every corner of their abodes. They include a New Yorker who traded her tiny apartment for an even smaller one so she could indulge her love of travel; a prop stylist who left the family farm for the big city with the goal of taking her career to the next level; a photographer who channeled a laissez-faire mindset in her airy Portland abode; and an art director who relocated from Brooklyn to Seattle but retained the less-is-more mindset of the concrete jungle. Each buried old conceptions and unearthed new values in the process of designing a home that met her needs, and each can attest to the awareness and appreciation that comes with living large when you’re living small.

Heart-felt and written with a sense of expertise and a caring familiarity, Sage Living is the perfect interiors book to return to again and again for inspiration in design and quality of living.

Extract taken from Sage Living by Anne Sage, published by Chronicle Books (£18.99) 

Text copyright © 2015 by Anne Sage

Image credit: © 2015 by Emily Johnston

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