When your home needs an ‘interior’s therapist’
Completed a Kondo-style decluttering? Anna Hart says it’s time to treat your house to the next big thing
When Rob, a 36-year-old tech worker from Los Angeles, moved out of the house he had shared with his girlfriend of 10 years, the task of setting up a new life among the remnants of his old one seemed daunting. So he enlisted the services of Anna Lobell (annalobell.com), an “intuitive interior designer” or “interiors intuitive”, who specialises in an emotional overhaul of one’s home or workspace after a break-up and at other “times of transition”.
Lobell had more than 10 years of experience as an interiors designer before she began introducing more spiritual and therapeutic elements to her service; today, she’s in high demand among customers seeking a “deep cleanse” of their homes.
“I wasn’t just moving into a new house – I was also moving forward into a new chapter, as a single person,” says Rob, who moved into a one-bedroom flat in Venice Beach six months ago.
“Anna helped me recognise both what needed to go, and what needed to be protected and affirmed. “The result was a home that was aspirational, in looking forward to what I wanted to bring into my life, and reflective in taking into account my life before that relationship.”
When Lobell was strictly focusing on design and aesthetics, she felt like there was much left “unsaid” by customers, and worried that by failing to properly address the psychological and spiritual impetus for the design revamp, she was only doing half a job.
It was never just about painting a few walls or adding some pot plants; her interior design clients wanted to bring about real, tangible change in their lives.
“It’s rare that I’d come across a client where there weren’t deep-seated reasons for them bringing in the services of an interior designer,” says Lobell.
“All my clients were going through some sort of transition, so I’d meet them in a limbo period in their lives. Decluttering and redesigning your home to make it a supportive environment physically, emotionally and mentally can change your entire outlook and your entire life.”
Today, Lobell begins each design project with therapy and meditation, before moving on to look at how colour and textures can be used to provide a supportive environment for the person they want to be in the future.
It is something Jennifer Aniston has said to be interested in. According to Grazia earlier this month, the actress allegedly wanted to “purge” estranged husband Justin Theroux from the Bel Air home they once shared and hired an “interior therapist” to help her reclaim the space and cleanse it from anything significant that was decided on as a couple.
“The most important thing about a redesign after a break-up is to start from within, and so I help clients get clear about why the break-up happened and help them take responsibility for their side of things, come to a place of forgiveness, and then think about who they want to be in the future,” says Lobell. “Moving on requires a lot of soul-searching and support.”
Lobell always recommends replacing a mattress and bedding after a break-up, but it’s also about helping customers rediscover their old tastes, after a period of time when they’ve perhaps had to compromise and live with artwork, furniture and clutter that isn’t really them.
Thanks in part to hit Netflix shows like decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up, experts like this are now in high demand in the UK. And one of the first lessons they teach is that getting rid of clutter can be a very emotionally cleansing experience.
“Every object in our home is an emotional trigger, and I work with a lot of clients who need a ’fresh start’ after a big life event,” says decluttering expert Vicky Silverthorn (youneedavicky.com), who worked as a personal assistant to celebrities including Lily Allen before setting up her own decluttering service.
“It’s not always a negative to break up, but it’s a time of change and my customers want to prepare for a new life.”
Both Lobell and Silverthorn recognise a causal link between physical clutter and psychological disarray. But are we using decluttering as a form of displacement therapy? It’s an intoxicating idea that we can fix ourselves by fixing our homes, but is this really true? “I believe in the mantra ’as within, so without’, that our environment is mirroring our internal state,” insists Lobell. “The objects we surround ourselves with have meaning and history . . . and we’re holding on to the past if we don’t reassess after a break-up or major life change.”
Morag Lewis is a 39-year-old paralegal who lives in Farnham with her two children, aged 12 and nine. After she moved out of the house she shared with her husband, she enlisted Silverthorn to help her create a new space for her and her offspring.
“What she does is so much more than a practical overhaul of a physical space; decluttering really can be a form of therapy,” says Lewis. “It was amazing to have the emotional support Vicky offered, to have someone with just the right mixture of empathy and clarity, someone to help you focus.
“There were lots of things - like old photos - that triggered memories, and it’s not healthy to dwell on the past, We all have to move forward and create new memories.”
Back in Los Angeles, Colleen McCann, a former fashion stylist and author of Crystal Rx: Daily Rituals for Cultivating Calm, Achieving Your Goals, and Rocking Your Inner Gem Boss, offers bespoke “wardrobe detoxes” for clients going through transition. Many of her clients report feeling “empowered and refreshed” after a session with her.
There will be those who ask if we really need experts to help us move on and whether this isn’t all just another new-age ruse to lull us in when we are at our most vulnerable.
However, you only have to watch an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo to see how much of what we hang on to and live with is about our emotional state, and how the process of clearing through clutter helps us to refocus the mind.
The ancient art of feng shui, which claims to use energy forces to harmonise individuals with their environment, can be traced back thousands of years - so maybe this is the latest reiteration of a deep human need to feel at peace with where we live.
“Sure, I could have tried to do it all by myself,” says one of Silverthorn’s clients. “But it would have taken me 10 times as long because I would have dwelled and dithered over every little thing. “And having the support, quiet patience and positivity of Vicky at a difficult time was worth every penny.”
For others it is simply a helpful way of remembering the person they were once. “It’s been really heartening to rediscover my own tastes and who I really am,” says Lewis. “I got rid of all our old bedding, and bought myself a beautiful floral set, and it brings me a huge amount of joy.” – The Daily Telegraph
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