Our mission when starting the Stay at Home Series was to prevent us from falling out of love with our homes, and instead find new joy and inspiration from them. A sentiment shared by Fran Hickman, who believes that if you look after your home, your home will look after you. Founder of eponymous interior & architectural design studio, Fran explains why the key to happiness is linked with the symbiotic relationship with our homes and shares how reconnecting with nature has kept her inspired.
You've been sharing picturesque photos, where are you spending lockdown?
I’m currently out in the countryside staying in a beautiful converted 17th Century barn. I usually come out here at weekends, but it’s been an idyllic place to be during lockdown as the fresh air and countryside inspires me. There’s something special about being in touch with nature and I’ve enjoyed reconnecting and going for long walks.
How have you designed your home and workspace to boost productivity?
I have a tidy desk, tidy mind mentality. I like everything to be in its place in order for my mind to be free to think. It is why I find great peace in a traditional Japanese ryokan, where you live with the essentials and adapt the space from morning to evening to suit. I often tap away on my laptop lying on a rug either outside or inside with a door or window open for fresh air. Whilst our projects on-site have slowed, we remain open and are fortunate to be working on design proposals, full decorative schemes and drawing packages.
What changes have you made to the barn to better suit you living there full time?
I’ve definitely been getting creative with the space as it’s now become more permanent and I can see myself spending more time in the countryside in the future. Over the last few weeks I’ve taken the opportunity to decorate and make it feel more like home. It’s important to make your space comfortable and to declutter. This will help to enhance productivity and create calmness.
Please could you share your best design advice on how our readers can transform their homes during this period?
If I was to give one piece of advice whilst many of us are sharing spaces where we work, reflect and play in, it would be to keep the space clean and tidy for yourself as well as for those that you live with. I read in Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things that 50% of our happiness is genetically determined, 10% by life circumstances and situations and the remaining 40% by our daily actions. That 40% is up to us to determine and I believe our relationship to our homes, particularly in lockdown, is key to our happiness. I often tell clients that if you look after the space, the space will look after you. Everyday home comforts such as good bed linen, fresh flowers and ground coffee are easy to bring into play. A relatively inexpensive way to bring life to a room is by adding more plants. It’s a great way to liven up your space with maximum style! We’ve also been keeping the doors and windows open for a lot of natural light. It helps makes the space feel warmer.
Have you managed to find a lockdown routine that works for you and keeps you inspired?
Mealtimes and exercise are helping me shape each day differently during lockdown. Breakfast is always baked oat cake which cooks in the oven whilst I try to start the day with a virtual yoga or pilates class. Lunch is homemade soup and salad (my favourite is courgette and wild garlic) with the salad dressings I brought back from Japan, which make everything taste delicious! I tidy all sight of work away and go for a walk around local fields early evening. I have the good fortune to be staying in a rented barn in Chiltern Hills and I'm very much enjoying spring!
What are your lockdown indulgences?
I have been watching a classic movie by the fire each evening. Last week I deep dived into LA classics like Chinatown, Mulholland Drive, Sunset Boulevard, Blade Runner, Double Indemnity, The Big Lebowski and LA Confidential. I listen to a long article on the app Audm to go to sleep leaving Paul Dolan’s Happiness by Design and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing waiting patiently to be read on my bedside table! I just treated myself to five first edition David Hicks books, as we are working on an early 1960s apartment in Manhattan. My library is essential to my work and encourages me to study, rather than superficially lift from areas of interest.