Why do we love skulls?

Here at Home That Rocks, we are not ashamed to admit that we are slightly (slightly – really? Who are we kidding) obsessed with the skull. That’s right, we love all things skull and skeleton related. We even have a whole category for them on our website! But it is not only us at HTR that are obsessed with all things skeletal. So, what is it about this image, that is clearly associated with death, that we love so much?

O SKULL WHERE ART THOU?

Skulls have been a popular subject in the art world. They featured heavily in Aztec and Mexican art – a trend that has remained popular today, as seen in the Day of the Dead celebrations, and renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose paintings regularly featured skulls. Renaissance art regularly included skulls, especially on works that focused on religion and the divine. Artists studying still-life, such as Paul Cezanne, would no doubt get fed up with bowls of fruit – shook things up with odd skull arrangement. Then there is Georgia O’Keeffe, known for her large flowers and skyscrapers; moved to New Mexico and fell under the spell of the skull. Latterly, animal skulls were frequently incorporated into her work. We have Picasso with his black and white skulls; Dali’s ‘Women in Skull formation’ and Damien Hirst’s own Memento Mori (remember that you die) with his crystal encrusted skull – it is fair to say that the skull has and continues to be an inspiration for artistic expression.

SKULLS, SPIRIRTUALLY SPEAKING…

When we think of skulls, we think of life and death; therefore, it comes as no surprise that skulls are spiritual. In the voodoo religion, skulls play an important role and can have different meanings: a white skull represents life, healing and even resurrection; while black skulls can be used in rituals involving spells and hexes and represent death. But, for many, the most notorious spiritual skull is the sugar skull associated with Dias de los Muertos (The Day of The Dead). Despite what the name suggests, this two-day Mexican festival, celebrated in November, is a happy affair; where families and friends gather to remember loved ones who have died. It is a time to reflect, remember and celebrate the lives of those that are no longer with us. Many will leave gifts at the graveside or at an offrenda (shrine) at home. The sugar skull’s origin is that of a biscuit; elaborately decorated in bright colours and patterns and enjoyed by many. The sugar skull has since become a fashionable image in recent years, and can be seen on clothes, jewellery, tattoos, homewares, stationery etc.,

REBEL REBEL

The skull is often used to symbolise danger. When paired with crossbones, as seen on labels, skulls are used as a warning of poisonous or toxic substances. Apart from poison, the skull and crossbones (otherwise known as the Jolly Rodger) emblem is commonly associated with pirates, as a symbol to warn others of their presence and intentions. Other gangs, like the Hell’s Angels, have skulls emblazoned on their clothing and jewellery to enhance their cuddly image. In Elizabethan England, skull rings were popular with ‘Rakes’: men who were known to gamble, drink heavily or partake in other substances and have many affairs with many women. They were also known to be worn by prostitutes. The rings were used as a status symbol, of which could then be spun round to look like a plain band if they were in more ‘polite’ company.

It’s apparent that our love of skulls has spanned for centuries, and something I don’t think it will wane anytime soon. To feed your skull habit, checkout our skull section on the website.

HOW TO DISPLAY YOUR ART AND PHOTOS

Are you one of those people that have amassed a collection of art prints or possess hundreds of photographs that are just sitting in a box or drawer – I am that person. Well, no more! It is time for these pictures to see daylight! But there is no need to stick to the norm when it comes to displaying art and photos in our homes – why not have fun with it? There are a variety of different methods and styles when it comes decorating your walls with your favourite pictures and memories.

BRING ON THE WALL

Generally, when hanging any pictures in the wall we tend to favour any area that is eye-level; don’t be afraid use the whole wall – from top to bottom. For instance, pictures don’t always need to be hung above the dado rail. Rebel and hang them underneath the rail too.

 Frame a frame -well, door frame to be exact. Utilise the space around doorways creating an almost indoor gazebo look and a dramatic entrance.

If you have a large print or canvass, hanging them above a fireplace or mantel is ideal. This creates a fantastic focal point for your room, that will grab the attention of anyone who enters.

Be creative when it comes to hanging your frames. Hang them in shapes, e.g., diamond formation, zigzag pattern; or fill up the space with a grid formation. Do you have stairs? Hang your pictures where the incline with you as you walk up for a dramatic effect.

Who said that pictures need to be hung on the wall? How about sitting them on the floor? Ok, that does sound a bit out there, but if you have a large frame and bit of floor and wall space that looks a bit lonely, then sitting your picture on the floor could be an ideal solution. This works particularly well in a room that has slanted ceilings – like a loft space. Speaking of the floor level – when hanging pictures on the wall, use the whole space: floor to ceiling!  

IN THE FRAME

The good ol’ picture frame, a display staple. Nowadays we can get picture frames of all different shapes, sizes and colours. Co-ordinate with the colour schemes of your rooms or be bold and clash!

How about throwing out the rulebook and shake things up a bit – scrap the frame altogether? Hanging clipboards on the wall can allow you change the images that you want to display, giving you more flexibility move your pictures around, or change them altogether! It’s different, that’s for sure. If hanging clipboards don’t sound like your thing, why not think about an easel? More commonly used for creating art, but can double up for display purposes and bring an added contemporary feel.

SHELF LIFE

Bookshelves are not just for books! Fill up spaces in the shelves with frames or ornaments. You do not need to look for any gaps – why not sit smaller photos or art prints on top of the books themselves! Or put up a few shelves, solely for displaying your photos and prints; floating shelves are brilliant for this or keep an eye out for ‘picture ledges’. These shelves have a groove in them for the frame to sit in, keeping them in place.

GO BIG, OR GO HOME

 Feature walls are popular, and frequently executed with patterned wallpaper or painted in bold and contrasting colours– wall murals are now another option. Many murals are available in contemporary designs, patterns and images – but why not look to the classics? Now you can have Van Gogh’s starry night or Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam adorn a whole wall in your room for maximum impact – expensive art without the million odd pound price tag.

WTF IS HYGGE?

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard Hygge before –  after all, it was Collins runner-up ‘Word of the Year’ in 2016. Well, in the past five years, Hygge has become extremely popular, with an explosion of books published on the subject in 2016; to everyone reaching for huge jumpers and big mugs filled with hot chocolate. So, what exactly is Hygge?  First of all, it’s pronounced “hoo-gah” – commonly known as Danish, the word Hygge originated from Norwegian or Old Norse, meaning ‘well-being; then appeared in Danish literature in the 18th century.

Hygge can be loosely translated to mean ‘cosiness’ – however, it is not just a word: it’s a concept. For many ‘cosiness’ conjures up images of log burning fires, wrapping up in blankets and sipping hot drinks, and the weather being miserable outside. But Hygge is so much more – you can even experience Hygge in the summer! In essence, it is all about feeling good about yourself, being together with loved ones and enjoying life. Hygge can be:

  • sitting with family an enjoying a film under a big duvet
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Reading a book with a glass of wine
  • Going for a picnic with friends
  • Hiking in the hills
  • Eating all the pastries

In other words: Hygge is about happiness – what makes you happy and takes the stress away. It is not about over-indulgence, but at the same, do not deny yourself anything either. With this mind, that there is no surprise that Denmark frequently tops the list of the ‘Happiest Country in the Word’.

HYGGE AT HOME

So how can we make our homes feel Hygge? Well, it is all about emphasising that cosy feeling:

KEEP IT NATURAL– light, natural or neutral colours in your home can emphasise feelings of relaxation. Colours such as: pale greys, light browns and pastels. Overly bright colours are not recommended for Hygge as they can be distracting.

COMFORT IS KEY– bring out the big cushions! Dress up windows or window seats with throws and pillows. Favour big comfy chairs and sofas – modern looking furniture can take away from the comfortable feel. Do the same in your bedroom, because Hygge gives a big thumbs up to lie-ins.

CANDLES– they are not just for romantic evenings or if you have a power cut. You can never have enough candles for a Hygge home. The soft lighting that candles create is perfect for a warm and relaxing atmosphere – although maybe avoid the scented variety.

FAIRY LIGHTS– if the candles pose to much of a fire risk for you, then why not try fairy lights. There are plenty on the market that produce soft lighting like a candle. Perfect for hanging up high, stringing them around beams or a tropical indoor plant.

FIRE – if you have a fireplace in your home – use it! What could be more relaxing than a crackling wood fire? Take advantage (especially in the winter) if you have an open fire or a wood burner. This does not need to be indoor only. Garden firepits are great for Hygge outdoors– go out with big blankets, and sit with friends or family round the fire, and a few drinks under the stars.

TEXTURES – mix it up and play with different textures. Look for wooden furniture or décor -driftwood would be perfect.  Lots of plants – feel closer to nature with various houseplants. Succulents or cacti are ideal if perhaps you do not have the best track record for keeping plants alive. You can never go wrong with blankets and throws – fluffy ones, bobbly ones, chenille – the options are endless!

RECYCLE – upcycling has become popular, which is great because with Hygge, nothing has to be perfect! Rather than throw something out, take the opportunity to be creative: repurpose an item or completely change how it looks.

PHOTO DISPLAYS – it is important to cherish memories; after all, Hygge is about being happy. Be creative and make a feature when displaying photos, souvenirs, children’s drawings in your home.

WTF is Wabi-Sabi?

Have you ever thrown away a cup with a chip in it, or a plate that has broken into pieces? Can’t use it anymore. Well, maybe that does not have to be the case –are you familiar with the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi?

The idea is that imperfection is something to be admired rather than being hidden away. The philosophy originates from the Zen Buddhist teachings of the three marks of existence: impermanence; suffering; and absence of self-nature. Translations of Wabi and Sabi have evolved over the years: with Wabi meaning, remote from society to rustic simplicity. While Sabi originally meant chilled or withered, to then mean beauty that comes with age. Now, Wabi-Sabi simply means “flawed beauty”.

Not commonly known, but people can adhere to the principles of Wabi-Sabi in their day-to-day life:

  •  Uketamo: the art of acceptance. It can be hard to let things go, but Uketamo teaches that regardless of what has happened, you must accept it – stressing will not help.
  •  Continuing the focus on acceptance, we should stop trying to achieve perfection. This can lead to stress and negativity; instead focus your efforts on achieving excellence. Knowing that you have done your best can be more rewarding.
  • There is nothing wrong with flaws – they make us unique, and that uniqueness is beautiful.
  • Slow down! Always rushing means that we a more likely to miss something. Slowing the pace means that we can observe more and appreciate more in our time.
  • Ware tada taru wo shiru”: these words can be found inscribed on a 17th century tsukubai (water basin), in a temple in Kyoto – translating as “I only know contentment”. To be content, is to be grateful – you are grateful for you are, where you are and what you have.

KINTSUGI

Wabi-Sabi is more commonly associated with pottery. Kintsugi, is the art of golden joinery, repairing broken pottery and creating a different look to what existed before. Although there is no exact date to when Kintsugi originated – it can be traced as far back as the 15th century. It is believed that a Shogun sent a unique bowl to China to be repaired, however, the finished result was clumsy, and the shogun was displeased. In their effort to make things right, local craftsmen worked on the repaired bowl to create a look that is familiar with the kintsugi that we recognise today. Traditionally, the lacquer used for the repair is gold in colour, but silver or platinum colours can be used too. Rather than discarding the object, the repairs create one-of-a-kind looks. It gives the object a story. Kintsugi ties into the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi with focus being on the beauty of imperfection. Now kintsugi kits can be bought anywhere, for those who want to try this at home. Or, if you are not keen on attempting a repair yourself, you can buy objects that have already been subject to Kintsugi.

WABI-SABI AT HOME

Now that you have adopted a Wabi-Sabi mindset, you can now incorporate this into your home. This is not Kintsugi pottery everywhere, but using adapting the principles of Wabi-Sabi  into Interior design:

  • Look for HOMEMADE or ARTISAN items – embrace authenticity.
  • CELEBRATE IMPERFECTIONS – With homemade items especially, objects may be crooked, or paintwork flawed. These give pieces a one-of-a kind look – appreciate the imperfection.
  • USE NATURAL MATERIALS – wood and stone are particularly good for Wabi-Sabi décor. The natural roughness and patterns in the materials, accentuate uniqueness, while tying in with imperfection theme.
  • PLANTS! – Bring the outdoors in. Wabi-Sabi celebrates nature, so this is good news if you’ re green-fingered. However, if you have not been successful with plants, then look at succulents: unique and hardy!
  • MISMATCH – do not worry about the décor in your home not matching. If you love it – show it off!
  • DE-CLUTTER – Wabi-Sabi is about simplicity. This is not minimalism, but by ensuring that your space is not crammed full of stuff, you can keep your living area and your mind tranquil.