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Extra Virgin -  March 2010

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HomeWhat will you really need when the stamping, screaming, vuvuzela-blowing crowds are in full force? Valium? A panic room? A full-frontal lobotomy? How about a small corner of calm where you can relax and remember that this too shall pass.

It’s time to get your Zen on. Although it might sound like I’m advocating the wearing of some new-fangled riot gear (‘Zealous Enthusiast Negator’ perhaps?) I’m actually talking about the meaning of the word itself: ‘quietude’. The simple, nature-inspired elements of Zen have been a significant decorating inspiration in the West for decades, but if ever there was a time to bring a little ‘quietude' into your home, it’s when the World Cup circus rolls into town.

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Some calming ideas:

Removing fussy window treatments and replacing them with a Japanese style shoji screen or a simple blind not only lets in more natural light, but creates a feeling of openness.

Clear as much clutter as possible – pack things away in cupboards, or store in neat, matching boxes. Being surrounded by ‘stuff’ can make you feel hemmed in, and once it’s out of sight, your room will seem more spacious.

The sound of water is renowned for its ability to soothe, and who says a water feature can only be outside? Even an inexpensive fish-tank bubbler placed into a lovely bowl in the corner of a room can do wonders.

If, however, you’re planning a complete room make-over, nothing lends itself to Zen-décor quite like the bathroom, invariably the one place where you can go for a little introspection and alone time (at least we hope it is).

Here are some Zen bathroom basics:

Stick to simple lines, and fuss-free fittings.

Bathrooms are notorious clutter-zones, so make sure your new design incorporates as much hidden storage space as possible. Nothing buggers up the calm like a box of no-name brand ear buds, three different bottles of deodorant (I can just never remember which one is finished) and an arsenal of gummy hair product containers.

Make sure that there’s plenty of natural light; not always an easy thing in bathrooms, which often tend to be south-facing. Possibly consider a skylight or skytube if your room has a tomb-like gloom to it. To allow the light to penetrate all corners and keep the flow, use glass for any partitions. Think natural finishes like stone and wood when doing flooring and countertops.

If you find yourself daunted by clearing the clutter and the frills, and wondering how to place that pebble to achieve the just right effect, it helps to remember that, according to an old Zen proverb, “The obstacle is the path”.