I wrote a book 5 years ago, I cant believe it is so long now. It was in reaction to what it took to start a design business in a recession. For me it was all bout creating the right mindset and hustling everyday. They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. So I wrote a book and self published it.

This is a chapter from that book, it’s always fun to go back and see what you created 5 years ago and where you are now.

Space is defined by construction and restricted by the functions of rooms, and we perceive it as we walk through spaces. Divisions and restrictions are the foundation of architectural planning. Interior designers try to create unequal space allotments within buildings for aesthetic and human needs. It is easier to place windows and furnishings in a more rectangular room in than a square room. There are rules of measurement used to clarify what fraction of length-to-width is best.

Small spaces can offer a more nurturing feel, adding a sense of security. It becomes easier to personalize a smaller space, since it lends a sense of ownership. But a small space can become confining very easily. I am a huge fan of smaller spaces in this time of population growth and aging baby boomers. I advocate for smaller homes and sustainable living and growth for our children and our grandchildren. If we all use less, in the long run we will have more; it won’t be in our landfills.

Large spaces are needed as a byproduct of the confinement of the smaller ones. Wanting a larger space for whatever purpose can feed a need to be free; it can feel less restricting. At the same time, a larger space allows your mind and sensibilities to breathe; it can also make some people feel more insecure or enhance a sense of inadequacy. We can feel very small and insignificant in these spaces. Architects who have designed larger-than-life buildings allow us to experience just that, remembering we are part of a big world, or even bigger universe. This can be a very ethereal experience.

These issues can all be addressed by applying what we’ve learned to transform the space so it seems another way to us. I am a big fan of negative space, which is the use of nothing. How easy is that, right? But in practice, it can be very difficult to keep a space uncluttered when trying to achieve a certain functionality in a room. I adore negative space, as it lets the mind rest as your eye lands there. To create negative space, you leave a wall blank, or a countertop bare. You don’t fill a kitchen with cabinets everywhere; you leave some space unused. This concept filters back to the concept of stewardship for our planet. We don’t need everything – all the stuff, the clutter. By buying less, we slow the consumption of our natural resources.

Negative space also affords the mind time and place to rest. As it rests, it rejuvenates. You are able to think more clearly since your mind is not trying to classify or organize all it sees. Your mind can more easily process what is important. I think in small- to medium-sized spaces it is important to incorporate negative space, since those areas get cluttered quickly and easily.

Swinging to the other side of the pendulum, we can use positive space and fill it with color, texture, form and mass to alter a large space that is making us feel inadequate. We can use brighter, more intense colors since the space is larger and the color blends more easily with our surroundings. We can use wall treatments in a larger space and be overwhelmed with pattern or texture. The elements will actually make the space more comfortable, appealing and interesting. These should be balanced and proportionate to the space in which you are using them.

The element of space is a starting point that we add or take away to achieve a scheme or create a mirror of someone’s lifestyle.

Shape is the two-dimensional outline when we see a square or circle. Form is more how we would describe what we see as a three-dimensional object. There needs to be balance to shape and form, an angular table needs chairs that are rounded somehow. We use specific shapes and forms to achieve a feeling in a space. If we use of lot of curves and softer outlines, a room may feel more comforting or informal. The opposite would be true if we only incorporated thin lines in a wallpaper, or lightly scale furniture with no curves or pillows. They also need to be in proportion to the scale of the architecture to achieve the desired psychological effect, such as alert and attentive, or relaxed and secure.

We use shape and form in all we create to convey a statement of our attitude, or an idea. We can speak in terms of creating an organic effect, or use geometry to create more dimension. Using or creating geometric objects in a room or a painting adds interest and detail. I have to really think hard on what is appropriate for a space to be sure I am only adding a complement, not something that complicates. Use geometry sparingly, I think, unless that is the theme…

Space, shape and form also create the basis for the language we use when we imagine our lives. You and God are the architects and create what you want life to be. Whatever your imagination holds for you, for your work, establishes what is possible. You determine the shape or form your life takes on as you make choices and take action.

 Success Principle of Gratitude and Connection

When you start to think about your life and what you really want out of it, you may start to think “sure, I can do this…” You get out your pen and paper and make a cup of coffee or tea, and all of a sudden with pen in hand, nothing comes. You know what I thought? I thought, “Hmph, I already have an amazing life, what more could I ask for? I live in this cute little house near the river in the historic district. We are a mile from the ocean; we have two amazing kids; we are all healthy and happy. Then I think to myself, “Am I really living up to God’s potential  in me? What are the things I do want out of my life? Can I be doing more for others?” The answer I arrived at was this: As soon as I stop trying to grow and do more, and be more for others, that is the moment I give up on myself, and on God, and what is in store for my life. I have learned through many experiences that God is my first companion.

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

— Mary Stevenson

Over and over I get goose bumps with this realization, that if you have faith you will never be alone, and when you are trying something new or difficult, you are not alone. With the recent recession, we were close to losing everything, our marriage was difficult and the children were small. I have always prayed, but now I learned to act with my prayers. How much faith do I have? I live in Florida, one of the areas hardest-hit with foreclosures during the recession, and what did I do? I launched an interior & residential design firm during a vacuum in the construction industry. My family was supportive, but regularly asked what was I thinking. That was 2011, and now we have become the premier residential design firm for our little section of the state. When I felt most alone, deep down I knew I was not alone; I had the greatest partner I could ever want or need. I don’t think I could have done it any other way than to hand over my anxieties and fears to God and in return be given strength and grace to carry on.

Gratitude is most certainly the first step in the process. This can sometimes be the hardest thing to do when you feel like there just isn’t that much to be grateful for. Or you may feel like saying, “I’m already grateful for all this in my life, why do I need to continue repeating it?” What this first step is about is getting your head in the right place. This is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight for most. From my experience, things will happen in your life, or people will come into your life and make you not so grateful. This is why we have to continue the practice. We have to continue to remember the good things so they drown out the bad. Please just continue, when you catch yourself saying, “That no good, good-for-nothing cheat of a boss, or friend, or client…” Stop and say, “I am so grateful for the friends and co-workers who appreciate me and support me for my skills and assets and all I have to offer. I am so grateful and joyful to continue on a path of growth and abundance for the good of everyone around me.” Take a deep breath and say it again … keep saying it until it pops into your mind on its own.

This is important because you are retraining your mind to become open to more things to be grateful for. Think of it this way: We are energetic beings and we attract like magnets those we want or ask for in our lives. So let’s become more aware of what our real intentions are. If you are saying negative things or thinking negative thoughts, then your magnetic personality will attract more negativity into your life. If you approach your life and people with a positive attitude, you will attract more positive things into your life. Try it and see if it works for you. There is more to being grateful, but for now figure out what there is to be grateful about.

So here’s the thing about gratitude: Saying and doing are two different things. Yes, even with gratitude. You can say you are grateful for all you have in your life. I absolutely recommend that, right now, you sit down and list all that you are grateful for. You need to do this on a regular basis. I am hoping that this is already a part of your routine. List out what you are grateful for in your relationships, your work, your craft, lifestyle, your income, your friends, your health. All that you walk through in a day, see kindness and light in it and be thankful for having these blessings.

Now good for you. What I am all about is taking action, really showing how grateful you are for having these things in your life. I just had this conversation with my son. He wanted yet another pet. Currently, we have two dogs and a cat and I am the primary care giver for all of them. The kids take them for walks and give them the occasional bathing, but I’m not sure how clean they actually get. Quite often, I find the shampoo bottle has not moved. My son came to me absolutely in love with his friend’s bearded dragon (spiny looking little lizard). He wanted to buy one. He has his own money and promises for hours that he will care for this little creature. My son can be very passionate and emotional. It was a long day of “no.” I know full well I would end up caring for the thing and was adamant about not letting him have one. In the conversation about the pets we care for now, my argument to him was that I want to SEE him be grateful for the pets we have now before we get any more.

I hear everyone say how much they love Blue and Oscar and Pigpen, but I see no one actually showing it. I explained that, to be truly grateful for what we love to have in our lives, we must show by caring actions. To really show gratitude for them, we must shower love on them, walk them, feed them well, because we value them in our lives and want to keep them around for a very long time (my husband may think otherwise of Oscar; he’s not so smart and eats all the wrong things). So the deal with my son is that until I SEE him DOING the things that help take care of the pets we have on a CONSISTENT basis, he will not receive more pets, or anything for that matter. I more or less believe that is how the entire universe works. You must show your gratitude with action. I hold a strong belief that God feels the same way about simply handing things to us.

What are you doing now to foster the gratitude you have for what you have in your life. This whole abundance thing is more than simply saying and thinking about what you want in your life. It is all about the actions you are willing to take, the responsibility you are willing to own, and the positivity and grace you are willing to share with others. It is about the persistence, strength and courage to take actions to level up your life. Practice what you are grateful for.

I hope you have had the chance to write down what you are grateful for, even if it is only a few things. Keep it simple. At first, it will be things like “I am grateful for my health, I’m grateful for my best friend, I’m grateful for dinner.” Make this a habit. I tend to have to work from lists. I have so much going on in my life that I am easily distracted and need to retreat to my list to get anything done. When I wake up in the morning, I write down three things I am grateful for. This is the hardest when I am tired or sad or feeling overwhelmed. But the action of continuing this small habit changes my outlook for the day. What it does is creates an energy, or a feeling from which you launch the rest of your day, your activities and how you interact with everyone you come in contact with.