I love my house, but it’s basically piles of concrete stacked on top of each other like a townhouse, and what’s not made of cement is made of glass. It’s a small opener, and I don’t have a central heater.
In the winter, it can feel like living inside a brutal refrigerator. But over time I’ve learned to adapt, adapt and overcome – gracefully, if possible.
This is how I stay warm at home, even in the worst weather.
Start by keeping cool air and warm air. Graphic stops (aka snake doors) are easy to fix for front and back doors – look for monochrome options at discount retailers or home stores.
Curtains also carry a lot of weight when it comes to keeping warm. While you want to open them up to get some vitamin D if possible, heavy drapes in velvet, sheer fabrics or window coverings can help keep cold air out.
Going through these basic steps, I have given up on the idea of heating all the rooms. All the warm air just escapes through the stairs, making my second floor landing very painful and everywhere else an icebox. My main strategy now is to burn myself (and my guests) as much as possible.
Hand warmers are important here: you’ll want one that’s powerful and easy to move around. I have a number of Dyson Hot & Cool units that target the space they need – their minimalist design is unobtrusive, and they come with remote controls so you can click them on and off.
Self-warming also means dressing warmly, which means loose layers. Merino wool thermals are a favorite, as are fleece-lined leggings (like these from Black Milk). I’ve also learned to see thick wool socks and ugg boots as accessories. On really bad days, I sell snowshoes.
Another thing? Move it. Even five minutes of yoga or conditioning (aka Cardio) will result in a slight burn. This is the one time of the year you want to do laundry.
Large layered rugs are the hot heroes in my living room – I have an inexpensive two-piece with a hand-sewn rug. This creates a great living space within a very large room. My sofa and armchair face the carpet so whoever sits on it will feel more woolly than polished concrete.
The double-layer arrangement is warm enough to stay upright (and makes yoga more comfortable when I want to hit the ground running). I also have a couple of cushions on the floor and a vintage leather ottoman that the dinner parties can fit into during an indoor picnic.
A warm welcome
Keeping guests warm is a priority. Next to the sofa is a large wooden storage box filled with throws that can be handed out to guests. There’s also a shiny velvet blanket – like this one from Citta – that I wear when I’m alone at home.
When the cold sets in, heated pillows are the go-to. This one from Salus smells of lavender and jasmine. And even though it’s mostly emotional, I also try a scented candle to add to the mood. This Firedoor collaboration with The Raconteur is very interesting.
Bed linen (or flannelette)
There is a science to making a beautiful winter bed, and it works the same way as stops and fasteners: warm air in, cold air out. Here, the goal is to trap the body’s heat inside the smooth layers, keeping it warm and breathing. A really hot tip: a warm shower before bed is a great way to speed up the process.
Start with a flat sheet of paper (I like flannelette because of its texture, but linen and hemp are also options). Then the layer on the loose weave or twisted; something with lots of holes to create warm air pockets around you while you sleep. A cotton blanket can be a good option here, or a mohair throw. If I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll tie another flat sheet over the weave like they do in luxury hotels.
Blankets, doonas, self care
Then comes the wool blanket: Seljak has a great selection of recycled ones, and I have a small collection of vintage Australian wool blankets that I’ve kept over the years. (This is always a must-see at the op shop.) Then it’s time for the doona top. Fold down the third part of the doona to create a volume similar to a cocoon, or place a decoration under the bed. (This makes it easier to push in the middle of the night if necessary.)
I have a shiny rug on the floor next to me in bed so when I kick my feet up in the morning (or midnight) there’s something warm to snuggle up to. Slippers are nearby, too. Like my sauna blanket – a sleeping bag-like blanket that I use mainly for muscle and joint pain. (Here’s one similar to my model.) As an added bonus, it gets really hot when in use, so now I make my own sauna sessions in bed to heat my mattress – just like a big hot water bottle.
A fun kitchen
I learned a long time ago that you can’t just be in a Pinterest board – and in most cases, use the trumpet view. Example: I used to have very nice metal chairs around my kitchen table. Then I realized that they were successful in dealing with the Antarctic cold from the concrete floor and replaced it with bentwood furniture with raised furniture. The best way.
That coolness seeps into everything made of glass, ceramic and metal – which is everything I eat with. Since no one likes a cold plate, I heat mine in the oven or microwave before reheating. (This also helps the food stay warm longer.)
One final piece of advice? Make the most of the warm air when and where you have it. When the oven is on, I go to the kitchen if possible to keep it warm. This might mean taking my laptop off the kitchen table during work, or putting dinner plates on the kitchen table where people can eat.
If all else fails, there’s always a hot toddy. Sit on the stovetop while it sinks, then put the drum back on to protect against the worst of winter.