a Beautiful Life
From the book Living
a Beautiful Life by
be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to
which every enterprise and labour tends..."
Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, November 10, 1750
daily rituals - making daily tasks into times of enrichment through
planning and special personal details - is a way to live a richer,
more satisfying life. It may seem an obvious point-yet it is so easy
to do! But in my work as an interior designer, I have found that many
people need advice about redesigning the small details of everyday
living: they need this much more than they need advice about how to
design a brandnew living room.
Johnson is a hero of mine. His life was not an easy journey, yet he
lived day by day with a sense of urgency, reverence and passion.
"The process," he insisted, "I's the reality." As
I've worked in the decorative arts over these past twenty-five years,
I've become convinced that only by paying careful attention to the
simple details of daily tasks and to our immediate surroundings can
we live vitally and beautifully all the days of our lives. It takes a
commitment to enjoy each day fully. And it takes respect for the
significance of grace.
Rituals" is my term for patterns you create in your everyday
living that uplift the way you do ordinary things, so that a simple
task rises to the level of something special, ceremonial,
ritualistic. Rituals can elevate the way you feel about yourself,
your life, and make you more peaceful and more free, more useful to others.
difference between feeling bored and feeling alive, I believe, lies
in a stimulating daily life that is elevated into a fuller experience
through pleasing details.
these small moments are handled lovingly and with thought and care,
they become life-enhancing and make you capable of doing more with
the rest of your time.
observed in my communications with people all over the world the
tendency so many of us have to concentrate our energies on things
that are for special occasions rather than on things we do, or use,
every day. In design terms, this translates into working to get the
living room just right, instead of concentrating on the rooms we
spend the most time in, day after day-the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom.
This 5-percent rule translates into a tendency to save up a sense of
the special for a few outstanding events each year-for a particular
party, anniversary or birthday celebration, a vacation. Such events
comprise at the most 5 percent of our living time, and the remaining
95 percent is often merely walked through, in wistful anticipation of
some later Joy. But what we all really want to do, I think, is live
in the present, really enjoy every day, not put our lives on hold for
that special 5 percent. We want to enjoy all the days of our lives,
and especially the time spent in the sanctuary of home. Life is not a
of rushing through our lives to get somewhere-instead of saving up
real living for later--I think it's important to remember that each
single day is all we have. Single days experienced fully add up to a
lifetime lived deeply and well. Today is your life-not yesterday and
not tomorrow. If we have tomorrow, it will be a gift, but what we do
today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our
tomorrows. If we make short shrift of our day-to-day lives, even if
we live to experience "later," I don't believe we will know
fully how to appreciate what we have. Living well is a habit, and
rituals improve and reinforce good life habits.
nimble writer of aphorisms Logan Pearsall Smith, in his book All
Trivi, said: "There are two things to aim at in life: first,to
get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest
ofmankind achieve the second."
events should be exclamation marks in our lives, but ordinary days
need to be celebrations too, as meaningful and beautiful as the big events.
personal touches added to the things we do repeatedly create rituals
that give us confidence and energy. You have power over your daily
life; you can set up useful systems that will help you sustain these
rituals in many satisfying ways.
I look back on my childhood, I see now that I had an early tutor in
this attitude toward daily rituals, and also in what became my
field-interior design: my mother. She created a beautiful home
environment, which helped me learn how to see and how to live.
Writers have to find their own voices. I had to learn how to see.
innate aesthetic sense affected everything she did. When I think
back to the meals we ate together as a family, I remember the fresh
flowers on the table, the food attractively arranged on the plate and
planned partly with color in mind. To Mother, truth was beauty lived
every day. Not only did Mother teach me to appreciate beauty by her
example, she also taught me an invaluable lessonthe importance of
creating beauty each day, and how to do it. By her example she
conveyed that beauty was essential for happiness and an alloy of love.
basic living needs are remarkably simple, and they haven't changed a
great deal since the Stone Age. We eat, sleep and I bathe. We do
these things every day.
up beautiful details in these three areas can make an enormous
difference to the quality of your life.
is a chapter in this book on each of these activities and ways in
which to elevate them into richly restorative events. With the
publication of Living A Beautiful Life, Alexandra Stoddard originated
the idea of creating an atmosphere of beauty and tranquility with
simple touches that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. As a
world-famous interior decorator, she has worked her magic on
interiors large and small, from mansions and embassies to cottages
and studio apartments. Through her writing and lectures, she has
encouraged millions to brighten their lives and their homes by
turning mundane tasks into small pleasurable rituals that add beauty
and joy to everything they do. Alexandra Stoddard's secrets of Living
A Beautiful Life are yours.
to Decorating: Index