A couple of months ago I was contacted by Anita Martinez Beijer, a Swedish Author, Photographer and Interior Designer, who wanted to tell me about her new book that was published earlier this year. The book is called Home Life Around the World (affiliate link) and Anita basically spent two years travelling the world in order to find out what “home” means to people and to discover more about the relationship we have with this private and intimate space.
Anita, who is extremely passionate about homes and life at home, was keen to find out what makes a living space somewhere we call home and she wanted to learn more about how we relate to and interact with our home. The book explores the qualities we treasure in our homes and the dreams and wishes we have related to our homes.
Having worked in the interiors industry for many years, Anita was keen to look beyond stylish interiors and nice decor and delve a bit deeper. She wanted to look past those homes designed to conform to established trends and instead focus on homes that are truly personal and reflect the people who live in them. She says “I felt that in Sweden there was a general anxiety about making homes truly personal. I became curious and wanted to know more about differences or similarities in how people elsewhere in the world view their homes.”
Anita set off on her journey around the world specifically looking for people with an interesting story to tell. She decided to focus on places she had never visited before as she didn’t want to have any preconceived notions about what it is like to live in a certain place. She ended up visiting a variety of homes located in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Uruguay, Mexico City and New York. She was invited into the personal homes of architects, designers, photographers, other creatives, food and art lovers as well as people who are passionate about the environment.
You can explore a healing space, a consciously minimal home, a Wabi Sabi home, a peaceful haven, an industrial space or a colourful home. What unites all of the homes in this book is that they are truly unique and individual and, I would say, a little unexpected.
The homes that Anita visited certainly don’t look like the kind of homes that you would find on the pages of interiors magazines. They don’t all feature the latest trendy furniture and accessories. They are not all painted in Farrow & Ball’s most popular paint colours of the moment. They really are truly personal spaces that reflect their owners and I think this is what I liked about the book most. It’s not just pretty pictures designed to make us envious of how other people live. You can’t be envious of these homes as they are so personal to the people that live in them, that they probably wouldn’t work for anyone else.
Something else that was apparent from reading Home Life Around the World was that for nearly all of the people interviewed, home was somewhere that made them feel safe, comfortable, confident and where they could be totally themselves. Some of the people featured said that it’s the living things -people, pets and plants – that define their home and a couple said it was the energy inside your home that counts.
This book provides a really great insight into the values that support us emotionally and help us achieve a deeper sense of well-being in modern society.
I really enjoyed the format of Home Life Around the World, which is pretty much a transcript of the numerous interviews that Anita carried out with the homeowners. They shared so many personal stories and insights and as a reader I felt privileged to learn so much about them, the way that they viewed their home and what it means to them. They also shared some really great advice and for someone like me, who is still on that journey to discover my own personal style, this really helps to give me more confidence when it comes to creating my home.
I didn’t realise at first but Anita actually self-published this book. She conceived the project, conducted the research, planned the trip, contacted the participants, did all the interviews, shot the portraits of the homeowners and the interior images of their homes, wrote the book, designed and produced it, managed the entire project and self-published the book. And she even sold her own home to make all this possible! Now if that isn’t proof of what a passion project this was for Anita I don’t know what is.
Home Life Around the World immediately struck a chord with me, even before I had read it. When Anita contacted me and explained the concept behind the book I was excited to read it. When I lived in Bristol I used to walk to and from work every day even though it took me an hour (the traffic was so bad that it would take just as long to get the bus, so I figured I may as well get some exercise and save myself some money).
In the winter, when it was dark as I walked past the houses on my way home I would often glance into people’s windows and sneak a peak of what it was like inside their home. I know this makes me sound like a voyeuristic weirdo! But I really love seeing how people live and how they use the space inside their home.
I often thought about writing a book that featured quick snapshots through the window of how a family interacted with one another in the living room of an evening, or how a couple sat at the dining table together for their evening meal, or how a lone old man sat in his chair to read the newspaper by the fire. It just really intrigued me that all these people used their homes in very different ways.
Obviously I’d never be able to write such a book as spying on people through their windows is simply not acceptable. But Anita’s book perfectly captures the essence of what I was thinking (and it’s not done in a weird or creepy way lol!).
If you’re still looking for a present for someone special who has an interest in home interiors, then Home Life Around the World would be an excellent choice. And to prove it I’m going to leave you with some of my favourite quotes from the book.
If you’ve already read this book let me know what you thought? Or perhaps, having read this review you’re now considering this for your book list. Either way, I’d love to hear your feedback.