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The Conscious Home - a conversation with Abi from the Simple Folk & Gemma from Folk & Kin.

Back in November we welcomed Abi and her family from sustainable clothing brand The Simple Folk and Gemma the creative lifestyle photographer behind Folk & Kin to our cabins. During their stay we talked about what a conscious home means to us and how living spaces and people are entwined. 

The conversation is about different relationships with the concept of 'home' .

What does ‘home’ mean to you..?

Abi - A sanctuary. A safe place to switch off from the outside world for the whole family. For us, this means a non-toxic haven with natural and organic materials that support our health and well-being. It also means a soothing space with a calming, muted palette. We are all introverts and HSP's (highly sensitive individuals) so not having too much sensory stimulation is vital.

Gemma-Home to me extends beyond the structure of a house. It's a deep emotional connection to a place where I feel a sense of belonging and comfort. My home is where I establish routines and create a sense of stability. It's where we celebrate milestones, share meals, and bond together as a family. It’s the familiar creaks in the floorboards and chatter of my children’s voices from the other room. It’s where I feel most safe.  

Rachael-For us a home is much more than a space that has a beautiful aesthetic, we are creating a home that evolves as it’s built to fit with our lives. This involves a level of refinement which isn’t possible unless you create your home for yourself and eludes to a slower paced way of life. It's about enjoying being within the walls you have created and the connection you have when you design and build something from scratch, completing every single element yourself, from mixing the concrete and digging the foundations to choosing and finding door handles and furniture.

In your opinion what are the important aspects that make a family home function?

Abi- The space has to flow and function for your family's particular needs. When we moved into our Edwardian Home, we quickly set about removing false walls and fireplaces and restoring original features to return the flow/energy of the house to its original beauty. It had had 3 extensions over the years but the space had never been reconsidered as a whole. We added sliding doors, removed a doorway, reconfigured the kitchen, and installed a double-sided wood burner to bring the space together.

Gemma-I feel good communication is so important for a functioning family home. Giving family members a chance to express their thoughts on how they’re feeling helps resolve conflicts and nurtures a supportive place to live. We also try to be as organised as possible with the girls routine as I feel a well organised home offers stability and predictability. Creating a nurturing home filled with warmth, comfort, and security is equally important. Along with shared traditions, mutual respect and lastly love and empathy. I feel these are the foundations to a functional family home, where we all feel valued and understood. 

Rachael- I particularly find having a feeling of space and high ceilings make the house work well, when we lived in the cabin over lockdown it didn't feel particularly small as the space was designed to feel bigger using large windows and high ceilings. Also the more storage the better and having things the children can utilise to burn off energy such as a table to run around or a sofa to jump on! Having a space to create is really important as well.

How do you controll the clutter that comes with family life?

Abi- We definitely aim to practice minimalism but even so... our kids love to make creations from the recycling. As parents, we love our children so much that we want to give them the world! With the very best intentions, we do indeed sometimes try to provide a world of stuff but new research is showing that this might actually undermine their curiosity and development. We’ve personally found that simple, non-toxic, sustainable, and high quality rubber and wooden toys made with neutral tones give our children exactly what they need for open-ended, free, grounded, and joyous play. A few wooden blocks can be anything you can imagine them to be whereas a cement mixer, well, it’s always a cement mixer. We’ve also found that when in nature, toys are not even needed as there are rocks to collect, flower crowns to weave, chickens to cuddle, and trees to climb.

Gemma-This is something I find tricky as we have three children and a dog but I do try to create designated spaces for different items and make sure everything has its place. I use storage baskets and shelves and have decent storage in the loft and garage. I read recently that to help with clutter we should adapt the “one in, one out rule” So for every new item that comes into the home, consider donating an old one; and we try to encourage everyone in the family to clean up after themselves daily. 

Rachael-We are both not naturally tidy people and the house can be tidy and organised one minute and then chaos the next! I love these little crates from Hay to organise little bits and bobs and using baskets / boxes to store toys. We try to keep the toys to a minimum and concentrate on art supplies / craft items.

Does everything have to be uniform in your space or is there some fluctuation in this?

Abi- This is a great question! We get a lot of comments about how everything goes well together in our house but it's not intentional. I guess when you follow nature's lead, by default things end up blending well.

Where do you find quiet places in your house?

Not often with 3 small children but when we moved, having an office space was a must. It allows us to get clear work time without the distraction of family life around us. 

Gemma-Having a clutter free environment helps me focus and feel more organised, but it doesn't necessarily mean everything has to be uniform all the time. I find a balance between order and a bit of controlled chaos works best and is probably the healthiest option. I feel I’ve had to relax a lot in this area with having a big family. 

Rachael- I love the idea of having everything uniform and a minimalist home but this just isn't us. We love so many different styles and although we often lean towards a modernist aesthetic this particular style is often incorporated with antiques which catch our eye from many different eras so it ends up being a juxtaposition of textures and styles. The part of the barn we are living in at the moment is influenced by the colours in the painting: 'A Bigger Splash' by David Hockney but we also have a huge pink antique buffet in the space too.

Is your garden as important as your home space?

Abi- Yes but we haven't quite got there yet... We moved in 2021 and it has been quite the project. The previous owners were not keen gardeners and so it's a blank canvas. We are outdoors people and spend dawn until dusk outside Spring-Autumn so indoor/outdoor living is really important to us. We can't wait to create a beautiful garden.

Gemma- Outside, my garden is another peaceful part of the home. Doing simple gardening tasks like planting, weeding, helps me feel calm and centred, it's like a form of mindfulness. Taking care of plants and watching things grow feels therapeutic. 

Rachael- The garden is a very important place for us. We love choosing different plants and it's a space which we don't really plan it just comes together. In the Summer we are outside a lot and like our house it's an evolving space. We love Piet Oudolf's garden designs and we use lots of natural, native plants and grasses mixed with wildflowers.

What daily rituals make your home feel like a comforting place?

Abi-We love to cook food together with all the children joining in. The kitchen is a hub in our house and the ritual of preparing meals together is not only beloved bonding time but also an oppotunity to discuss and learn nutrition. We always make and share one family meal and eat together every day. 

Gemma-In my home, I really value those quiet spots that give me a chance to unwind and relax. My bedroom is a very peaceful place where I can read my books. I have soft lighting and a fresh neutral space making it the perfect place for getting lost in a good story.

Rachael-I love mornings in our house, when we wake up we come downstairs with the children and light a candle in the darker months and listen to a story, it feels like a gentle way to start the day. Also taking moments of joy like a couple of minutes break with a cup of tea or coffee in my favourite mug.

The Simple Folk is a lifestyle brand inspired by gentle parenting, minimalism, free play, natural and organic materials, and eco-friendly living, a minimalist line of nature-inspired, ethical, organic, and high-comfort play clothes that are easy to wear, easy to wash, and easy on the senses.

The pieces are designed to be timeless, simple, sustainable, and luxuriously soft, so that each garment can be loved over and over.They take a stand against conventional farming practices that pollute the planet and our well-being. Their garments are made using thoughtfully-selected organic  fabrics and OEKO-TEX® certified dyes.

Comfort and feel are a huge priority for the label, so they always choose the softest fabrics they can find. To make the pieces even more luxuriously soft, many of the garments are carbon brushed (literally with a brush made of carbon metal, instead of being softened with harsh chemicals in a wash).

The photographer behind Folk & Kin is Gemma, her photography is nature led helping to portray stories through honest, natural photography. Gemma is greatly inspired by the coast and the ever changing elements and finds deep connections and inspiration through her love of nature, slow living  and the arts.

As a conscious photographer, Gemma is committed to being an advocate for nature and the natural world. To ensure that her work has a positive impact on the environment, she has developed a sustainability policy, that includes using sustainable materials, reducing waste, minimising the use of energy and water, utilising digital and online formats to share her work, and limiting the need for printed materials. Additionally, she will support and promote nature preservation initiatives by donating a portion of her profits to Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Through her photography, Gemma is dedicated to creating beautiful images that positively impact the environment.Gemma is based in the Lake District but travels all over the UK and beyond.

All photographs are by Folk & Kin and all clothing is by The Simple Folk

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