The past year has certainly turned our world inside-out, and for many, our work rhythms have been re-established from outside-in. With working from home on the rise, daily commutes have shifted from hours spent sitting in traffic to seconds spent walking 14 steps down the stairs (to be exact). We’ve become well acquainted with which area in our home gets the best natural light at what time of day and we’ve mastered the art of the ‘upper-third getting ready’ trick for the countless hours we’ve spent in Zoom meetings where pants have become, well, optional.
Creative professionals across the world have had to adapt to new ways of fostering creativity from within the confines of their own living spaces. But let’s be honest, for the creative type, what better space to be inspired than the one you’ve curated and designed for yourself?! You control the ambiance of the lighting, dictate the mood of the playlist, stock the pantry with your favorite snacks (Goldfish anyone?), and have permission to burn the candle scent of your choice until your heart’s content.
Speaking of master home curators, Havenly’s VP of Creative & Design, Shelby Girard, has found a rhythm all her own when it comes to rituals for fostering creativity, both personally and professionally. Shelby recently traded in her Brooklyn flat for the East Coast country(ish) life, where she and her husband stay busy fully remodeling their Connecticut home in her signature style: warm minimalism with Parisian flair. When she’s not hunting for vintage treasures, installing cabinets, or creating inspired content for Havenly, you can find her browsing a design book, wine (or handcrafted cocktail) in hand, in an all-neutral outfit to match her home aesthetic.
We sat down with Shelby to learn more about what her day-to-day creative rituals entail. Here are a few tips and tricks for the taking…
How do you begin each day to start fueling your creativity?
I begin each day with one very important practice: coffee with oat milk!
I usually get up and get straight to work after pouring myself coffee. I love listening to a podcast first thing in the morning—typically “The Daily,” but another recent favorite is Domino’s “Design Time.”
I work on the East Coast with most of my team a couple of hours behind, so I find that the first couple of hours of every day are my most focused. I typically use this time for uninterrupted creative work, catching up on design news or articles, and trying to get ahead of the day.
What tends to spark ideas for you? Where do you find inspiration?
Nowadays my main source of inspiration seems to be through Instagram – seeing what other brands are doing from a content perspective and exposure to interesting interiors around the world. The city, restaurants, hotels, and travel have always been a huge source of inspiration in the past, but with all my time spent at home now, it’s all coming through the screen.
Pre-COVID, I used to travel for work 2-3 times a month, and I swear long flights always helped spark ideas and creativity for me. There’s something about being forced to sit still for 3-4 hours with nothing to do that really gets you thinking.
How do your surroundings play a role in fostering your creativity?
The design of the space I’m working in definitely contributes to my creativity. Having a good amount of natural light is key, as are lamps with warm, cozy lighting. I can’t imagine doing design work in a sterile office, a cubicle, or under fluorescent lights.
I think our workspaces should be as inviting, warm, and comfortable as our homes, just with more functionality, so that’s how I’ve always approached the design of my personal office and the Havenly HQ as well.
Do you find there are areas of your home that help you ideate and concept better?
Different areas of my home serve different purposes in my process. Quiet weekend mornings on the sofa flipping through a design book or magazine definitely help spark ideas, and going for a walk around my yard can help clear my mind before diving into a big project, but my office, in front of my large monitor is really the best place for me to design. I need a large screen to visualize my ideas so the monitor is key.
In terms of personal projects in my own home, my husband Chris and I often will walk around each room in our house during the evening, with a glass of wine and a measuring tape, and discuss in detail all of the possibilities of what something could be.
We’ve decided to wait on renovating some spaces in our home rather than doing everything immediately, and surprisingly, a lot of the initial ideas we’ve had for certain spaces have really shifted over time after multiple “walks with wine,” along with just living in the space and challenging our expectations of what something could be.
Are there any specific rituals you go through to transition into design or creative time?
When I’m getting into a design project I always like to start with a blank screen and a playlist. I’d love to say I’m great at focusing on one thing at a time, but that’s not the case, particularly as the day goes on.
I typically have about 100 tabs and windows open at any given time so clearing it all, closing slack, ignoring email for a bit, and starting fresh somehow makes me feel like I’m starting with a clear head and much less distraction.
Typically I find myself a bit more worn down mentally in the afternoons or evenings so I might browse for inspiration or save some ideas and products for a project, but mornings (or weekends) with coffee and music are my most productive in terms of actual design work.
If I’m hitting a creative block I might get up and make some food, or just change the scenery; go to another room, open a design book and browse for some inspiring words or images that spark something. On a good day, I’ll take a small break in the afternoon and do a quick Pilates workout (Melissa Wood Health!), which is like pushing a reset button and re-energizes me for the rest of the day.
Are there any products you swear by for fostering creativity?
A large, true-to-color monitor! It sounds lame, but that function is key to my creative process. I don’t use headphones when I’m at home but when I’d travel, quality noise-canceling headphones for flights is a game-changer.
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