A growing contingent of the spiritually (or design) curious are creating thoughtfully arranged spaces in their homes—on bookshelves, coffee tables, and even foyer tables—that, well, just make them happy.
Think of it as interior design-meets-mood enhancement, and you’ll find it in more apartments (and Pinterest boards) than you’d think. “It’s like anything in your house: The value is specific and personal to you,” says Kiran Rai, the New York-based designer and spiritual devotee who has multiple mini altars in her home. “It’s where you can meditate, or it can just bring you a nice level of peace and bring you back to your center.”
But most importantly, “you have the opportunity to build a space you see every day that brings you enjoyment and happiness,” she emphasizes.
While the components of a personal altar vary, there are some key characteristics. Here, Rai shares her own altars and outlines how to build your own… —Rebecca Willa Davis
(Photos: Emma C. Banks)
Bar carts, bookshelves, dressers… if there’s even just a little bit of space, you can fit a personal altar. Decide how public you want to make yours; some personal altars may feel a little too personal to place in the foyer, in view of the delivery guy. “My sister’s an artist and she has a very personal altar in her room with things that are just hers that she wouldn’t want a visitor in her home to see,” says Rai.
It doesn’t matter what you put on your altar, as long as they “actually speak to you,” recommends Rai. She suggests starting off by finding five things that give you a sense of comfort and peace. Consider candles, plants or herbs that will bring a certain type of energy to your space (be it sage during a bad week, or mugwort if you’re looking for clarity), pictures of loved ones, little statues, objects you like, or a meaningful book.
Yes, your personal altar can serve double duty as decoration. “If I’m doing something in a white space, then maybe I’m choosing a book for the altar that’s all-white,” notes Rai. But you can also have them reflect your current mood, or important events you’d like to commemorate or protect against: “During the most recent supermoon, I set up an altar in my front hallway so that it wards off crazy energy. And the 25th anniversary of when my father died is coming up, so I’ll do something for that—probably with a book that he had given me, something meaningful.”
“I’m interacting with my personal altars all the time,” says Rai. “This past week, I burned the candles, I burned the sage, and I was picking a tarot card to see how my day would be. But I can also go through phases where I don’t touch it for months.” Again, it’s all about what makes you happy, so don’t feel pressured to develop a bigger ritual around your home space than you feel comfortable with.
You probably already have a personal altar and just don’t know it. “It can be anything,” exclaims Rai. Any area in your house that address with care—”a place with fruits, plants, books, pictures… you’re building this little area in your home with all the things that you love,” that counts. In other words, don’t let the terminology hold you back from embracing and showcasing whatever it is that imparts a feeling of inner-calm.
If you don’t spend a ton of time at home—or just really, really need some good vibes when you’re out of the house—you can pull a Honey, I Shrunk the Personal Altar and create one that’s portable. Your purse, for example, could house a crystal and a little pack of mugwort. Or prep for a flight with things you love: “your own blanket, your own book, your own journal,” Rai ticks off. Think of it as yet another buffer between you and crowding seatmates or crying babies.
Need more home design advice? Here’s how to set up your space with purpose…
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