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Mindful Minimalist Living

A North Kingstown family pares life down to the essentials

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A few years after holistic health coach, raw food chef and self-care strategist Katie McDonald lost her father, she reassessed her family’s living situation and sought a solution that would best fit the lifestyle of each individual around her. In an homage to the past with an eye on the future, Katie, her husband and their 16-year-old son decided to make the place her parents had called home for 20 years their own. The decision was made with careful thought and consideration, and resulted in a best-case scenario for the loving family.

“We wanted to honor my parents’ love of this land, my father’s memory and the property that the extended family considers home,” Katie says. “We also needed to have our home reflect the three of us.”

The McDonalds were well-versed in home design before moving to Saunderstown. For 14 years, they lived in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright – arguably the best known architect in the country. Built in 1908, the home embraced Wright’s “organic architecture” philosophy: structures designed “purposely in harmony with humanity and its environment.” In their new home, the McDonalds, too, sought to introduce elements of the outside into their new digs, so they commissioned 3SIXØ Architecture based in Providence to execute their modern aesthetic while capitalizing on the serene
surroundings. “The true artwork is nature, so we provided a minimalist, quiet canvas to showcase its allure and beauty,” Katie explains. “Simplicity quiets our minds and soothes our souls in what can often be a harried and frantic world.”

The renovation included removing walls, adding windows and orienting the view toward the water. “Our architects at 3SIXØ took the time to understand who we are and how we live,” Katie says. “They helped translate our vision into reality.”

As the kitchen is Katie’s sanctuary, the new design features an elongated window over the sink highlighting a Japanese garden and the Narrow River beyond. Simple cabinetry sans hardware, sleek concrete countertops and ample storage (to house and hide the chef’s juicer, dehydrator, Vitamix and other gear) provide “space to create, nourish and linger.” An alcove in the kitchen, one of three in the house, serves as an altar. “This gesture reminds me of the sacred ritual of preparing and eating food,” says Katie.

In a sentimental nod, Katie’s father’s former office now serves as a meditation room and doubles as a tea room for her husband, who studies the art of Japanese tea ceremonies. “I love this room’s textural simplicity and its function,” she says.

For those who think a minimalist, mindful home is impossible in today’s chaotic world, think again. “Asking yourself how you want to live, how you want to experience your space, [and] what you need to feel supported by your home, are questions that help craft a house that elevates you,” says Katie.

“Approach your home with fresh eyes and ask if it still reflects who you are now. A guest room that only collects junk could be a room devoted to a hobby you love.” For example, the McDonalds transformed the dining room into a library because they knew they’d get much better use, and joy, from their books, than they would from a room reserved for formal meals. Says Katie, “Consider who you are and your family values when renovating and decorating.”

Katie advises deliberately choosing each item in your home for its function and beauty. “I teach my clients to embrace their homes as an opportunity for self-care. Not everyone is going to resonate with our minimalist approach. The point is to create a home that nourishes you.” And lest you think anyone is perfect: “Full confession, our basement is a holy mess!” Katie concedes. “Thought I would keep it all real.”