So I recently left my marriage.
Anyone who’s been through divorce knows how overwhelming the transition can be, with changes big and small. Naturally I turned to the internet for tips on everything from legal and financial to emotional challenges.
One area I felt pretty confident about, given my background as a designer and feng shui consultant, was in the design of my new home. Now I want to share my experiences with this part of my divorce so that others who find themselves in the same boat may pick up a helpful tip or two.
With the good fortune of owning a furnished Airbnb unit, I had a place to go when I left the matrimonial house. Still, I had to tweak the design to make it mine and to create a welcoming new space for my kids, who suddenly found themselves having to split their time between two parents and two homes.
Tip #1 – Arrange the space with the new lifestyle in mind. With my kids’ welfare at the forefront of my mind, I decided to give up the one bedroom in the condo and put my bed in the common area, with a curtain providing some privacy. Since the kids are not with me half of the time and don’t give me much privacy even if I am in an enclosed room, this arrangement works just fine for us, at least for the time being.
Tip #2 – Get the kids involved in designing their new room. I turned the bedroom into the kids’ room to show them they belong in this new space. To give them a sense of ownership, I had them pick out their own bedding, taking them to Ikea to choose their favorite duvet cover. In a bedroom, the bedding sets the tone for the rest of the room, so I took my cue from their choices and decorated the room accordingly. I put a soft gray rug on the floor so my five-year-old could play with toys on the floor, stuck two sticky boards on the wall for them to display their art and photos, and built shelving to hold the beloved books and toys I snuck out of the old house.
Tip #3 – Make the new living arrangement as convenient as possible. So that they lacked for nothing in their new home, I stocked the kids’ closets with full sets of clothes picked up at second-hand stores for economy. I made sure they had enough socks, undies, toiletries, etc., to make the transition between two homes as seamless as possible.
Tip #4 – Personalize the space. Given that the art in the condo was chosen to suit the typical Airbnb guest, the space needed some serious personalization. I hung photos of my childhood, children, and family – including one that has the kids’ father (and my ex) – on a prominent wall. These photos make the place feel like my own special retreat and remind the kids that they belong to a family with people who love them. I chose a predominantly black and white palette for the photos to go with the industrial vibe of the loft, but then kept the recent family photo in color for some pop.
Tip #5 – Make a great first impression. I had everything meticulously laid out so that when they arrived at our new nest for the first time, one week after I had moved in, they immediately felt comfortable and at home.
Tip #6 – Program fun in the new home. Of course a home isn’t just a sum of all the things in a space. It’s also about the activities and experiences we share in the space. Since our move, I’ve opened up our home for playdates and get-togethers with friends almost every weekend the kids are with me.
Within an incredibly short span of time, the kids and I have adopted new routines and created new memories in our new home. I marvel at my kids’ resilience and adaptability, finding inspiration in their zest for life as I try to reinvent myself as a single mom.
With all the stresses that accompany a divorce, interior design might not be at the top of your priorities list. But done right, the design of your space can help support you in making this challenging transition a positive one. I know that seeing my kids play happily with their friends on our patio, having a serene space to quietly unwind after an especially stressful day, and feeling good about inviting my friends over for wine and dessert have made all the difference in starting my new solo journey.
Divorce is not easy, but with a soft well-designed place to land, you too will hopefully find new happiness on the road ahead.