Design, Entertaining, and Ikigai

The word “ikigai” keeps popping up in my reading, in my social feeds, and on the lips of my trusted friends. It’s a Japanese word — literally consisting of “iki” (to live) and “gai” (reason) — and it describes a way to find pleasure and meaning in life. I’ve been reading up on it, and I gotta say I like it.

It’s an approach to living, a philosophy that can help you pinpoint “a reason to get up in the morning.” Different people teach it in different ways, but the basics are built on five pillars:

Pillar 1 – Starting Small

Pillar 2 – Releasing Yourself

Pillar 3 – Harmony and Sustainability

Pillar 4 – The Joy of Small Things

Pillar 5 – Being in the Here and Now


Now, finding your own personal ikigai means finding your appetite for life, giving you an eagerness to greet the new day or a new project. But of these pillars, it’s those last two that speak to me most. Probably because they have an awful lot to do with my ikigai — which, you won’t be surprised, is “bringing beauty to people’s lives.”

“The Joy of Small Things” includes both items and actions, and this means the little things we do in our homes to make them special and personal. This isn’t about what you see on Instagram or in a friend’s house, but what makes you, personally, happy.


We often talk about grand dinner parties here, but think about the way you set the table when friends come over for burgers on the grill. Things don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. You can gather flowers in your yard (or your neighbor’s, with their permission) or from the farmer’s market, and you can arrange them any way you like. On the table, pull out some collection you love but haven’t seen in a while. Do some little things that make it special for your guests.

But also, you should make sure those little things are an extension of you. For example, I attended a brunch in Italy where the host was an art lover. He rolled out brown craft paper on the tables and put out brushes and paints. It was amazing how the guests got into it, and what great conversation came out of it.


Once you’re taking joy in the small things (Pillar 4), you can’t help but live in the here and now (Pillar 5), because you’re not focused on some big project you don’t enjoy. When you’re doing something that contributes to your happiness — your life purpose — then every small thing you do can be a joy.

Even if you haven’t made it your life’s mission to bring beauty to others, you can certainly take joy in small things in your own home, and by doing little things for others, and for yourself.

What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? Tell us in comments!

Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at

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