The Downtime Agenda

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  • Words — Julie Haslam
  • Images — c/o Council of Objects

Carefully chosen objects can transform your home, and even your mind, into a calmer, happier place. Elise Short, owner of online store Council of Objects shares her insights into the intrinsic value of quality over quantity.


What do you do to relax?
I love taking my dog, Gracie, for a walk in the morning. Seeing her happy makes me happy. I don’t take my phone, so that I properly leave the world behind. I also really like chatting with random people at the dog-park. And pretty much every night, I run a bath. It sends a message to my body to ‘switch off’. I actually generally find water to be relaxing and good for alleviating stress, and in summer, swimming at the beach is one of my favourite things to do.

How do you think objects around the home or office can influence our moods?
For me, this is often about daily rituals. I start the day drinking tea or coffee from a mug hand-made by my friend (and talented Adelaide ceramicist) Susan Frost. It is burnt orange in colour, elegantly shaped, and it’s a perfect fit for my hand. Incorporating this lovely object into my morning ritual ensures that I start the day by appreciating the moment rather than worrying about the tasks that await me. There is even an accompanying milk jug, also burnt orange, which is delicate and petite and just so pretty.

More generally, what tips do you have for creating a calmer home environment?
Clutter should be avoided and instead each room should feature just a few key objects that you love. Of course, this will look different for everybody. Personally, I feel extra happy with carefully selected art pieces around me. A well chosen vase and a colourful bunch of flowers is also a great contributor to most rooms – making the room seem fresher and better cared for, and just generally helping you to better appreciate being at home. In fact, plants generally are great for the home. They bring nature inside – and almost all of us associate nature with relaxation and perspective. Especially if you live in a small space like an apartment, this can really soften the environment.

What makes the ‘perfect’ object for you?
It’s important to me that the COO website only features hand-made items from local makers and designers who take care and pride in what they produce. I think these objects have so much more intrinsic value than mass-produced items. I also think that objects with personal significance, and sentimental value, are good for our headspace. This could be something small but lovely that you bought for yourself as a special treat. But my favourite objects are those that are beautiful for beautiful’s sake.

Do you think online shopping can be a particularly good downtime activity?
Definitely. People working in offices who can’t get out to shops during the day can transform their headspace in just 5 minutes by visiting the right websites. The right ones will be full of nicely styled and even inspiring images – and you don’t even need to buy anything to achieve the shift in mindset. I really focused on trying to make the COO website a calming and welcoming space.