This may come as a shock, but environment your environment affects your mood.
You’re perfectly entitled to eye-roll here, because, well, you’ve lived through the past two years and have likely become all too attuned to the way that existing within the same four walls can make us feel stuck, sad, stir -crazy or just garden-variety bored. What might not be so obvious is that there are plenty of ways, large and small, to manipulate our home design and environment to make us feel better — calmed, comforted, energized, inspired.
“A lot of the work I do feels like therapy,” says Nike Onile, founder of Toronto-based spatial design firm Studio Ode. “When people work with me, they’re always going through some sort of transition in their life.” A recent client had built a home with her husband of 12 years, only to find out that he’d been cheating on her for their entire marriage. “After they broke up, going into that space represented that life,” Onile says. She made it her mission to transform it into a place where her client could find happiness again. “She thought she was just doing a renovation, but it really had everything to do with, ‘What do I want my life to look like now?'”
This can be as simple as becoming aware of the objects that surround you. “People do not realize that the things they look at every day interact with them back,” says Onile. Maybe your dining table reminds you of a great-aunt who wasn’t that nice to you, or the half-finished DIY project in the kitchen continues to stress you out. “It’s not a coincidence that people go to hotels and have the most incredible sleep,” says Onile. “There are no reminders of your life — the things you need to clean or do or that you failed at. It’s a neutral state, and you rest. ”
The first thing Onile does is find out how her clients’ homes currently make them feel — chaotic, anxious, lonely — and how they want to feel moving forward. Then she figures out what needs to come into the space to achieve that. Or, most often, what needs to leave it — like that couch you bought with your terrible ex that you can not afford to replace. “You’re telling me that every morning, you invest the energy in looking at this couch and hating the fact that you’re in this space with this couch? Do you know how expensive that is? Go on Kijiji and find a couch, ”advises Onile.
She’s also an advocate for spending money on everyday things that delight you, citing a friend who hesitated to buy $ 20 plates she adored. “You eat every single day! Sometimes six or seven times, especially during COVID, ”she told her friend. “If a $ 20 plate can bring you joy seven times a day, that’s worth it.”
“It’s not a coincidence that people go to hotels and have the most incredible sleep. There are no reminders of your life — the things you need to clean or do or that you failed at. It’s a neutral state, and you rest. ”
By playing with flow, you can update your space without spending a cent. For instance, “move the art in your hallway into your office, because it inspires you,” suggests Onile. When she’s feeling stuck, it helps her to “create a sense of open- ness,” so she recently moved her coffee table into storage and her rarely used dining table into her spare bedroom, which opened up her living space, making room for friends . “I want my life to feel abundant and full of people,” she says. “What limits us is this idea that your space has to be permanent or you have to put things in the space designated by the builder. Your life needs to dictate your space. It’s a three-dimensional thing, and it needs to evolve with you. ”
The first step is setting an intention. “Let’s say you want ‘adventure,'” says Onile. “You now have to explore what adventure means to you.” If watching romantic French movies transports you, you can tweak the space to serve that goal. “Maybe you paint an entire wall white and use a projector to watch those films on this huge wall so you can see them fully,” suggests Onile.
This, of course, will be very individual — one woman’s all-black kitchen dream is another’s design nightmare— but there are a few universal things that are almost guaranteed to boost everyone’s mood. “Natural light helps us regulate and lift our moods, and not having enough of it can have negative effects on a person,” says Amber Dunford, a former therapist turned designer and style director at Overstock.com, who lives in Salt Lake City. She notes that “dappled light,” similar to the way you’d experience sunshine while sitting under a tree, is optimal and can be mimicked by using basket-weave pendants. If you have limited windows or a smaller space? “A quick fix is to place mirrors on walls across from windows,” she says. “The light will reflect the view and make your space appear brighter and larger.”
“Humans tend to feel more intimate and self-disclose more under warm light.”
Dunford also suggests opting for warm-toned lighting. “Humans tend to feel more intimate and self-disclose more under warm light, making it a great choice for achieving a calming and relaxing space,” says Dunford. She suggests using small lamps or sconces in a kitchen, all the better for promoting heart-to-hearts across the island. “Our eyes tend to relax more around warm light sources and we actually look better under warm lighting.”
The shapes that surround us can also help create that calming feeling. “When choosing furniture pieces, look for curved shapes and rounded edges, which promotes a feeling of relaxation and can help calm the mind,” says Dunford. “This can also be achieved with choosing artwork that has free-flowing shapes or lines.”
You can use psychology principles to inform your furniture placement, too. “We do not like to sit with our backs to a door; this ties back to our evolutionary past and survival instincts, ”says Dunford, who recommends“ half-circle ”arrangements that subconsciously make us feel safe and encourage conversation.
It’s impossible to talk about homes and mood without mentioning color. We’ve all heard the old chestnuts — blue for a calming bedroom, green for a productive office — and while color preference is very subjective, there is some real physiology to consider. Red, for instance, has been found to have a negative impact on humans; Dunford points to studies in which people showed lower cognitive performance on tests when surrounded by the hue. “Red is also a stimulating color that increases our heart rate, signals rapid breathing and activates our pituitary gland. Our pituitary gland controls our general well-being, so being overly activated can lead to stress, ”she explains.
If being in a constant state of high alert is not your thing, Dunford recommends looking into the “biophilic” trend, which involves taking design inspiration from the colors and textures of the natural world. “We’re instinctively drawn to elements that feel connected to nature, such as raw woods and earthy color palettes,” she says. “We feel more at peace, creative and balanced in spaces that harmonize with nature.”
Onile wanted to feel like she was sleeping under a willow tree, so she covered an entire wall in her bedroom with an image of one. But creating a space that makes you feel good will be utterly unique to you. “Imagine if everybody played with their space, and you could walk into their home and just see them,” muses Onile. “How vulnerable that is! What people do not realize is that your space will always tell your story, even if it’s bland. You might as well do it intentionally. ”
Shop the story: mood boosters
Woven light fixtures give the effect of natural dappled light — add one above your kitchen table to feel like you’re breakfasting al fresco. This one is sleek and rustic at the same time.
Hang a mirror across from a window to boost light and the feeling of spaciousness. This golden framed one from Canadian brand Bouclair is subtle but adds a hit of geometric shape and visual interest.
Cover your walls with an enchanted garden. Grasscloth wallpaper is an investment but just imagine staring at this glorious Chinoiserie print every day!
Go on, buy the beautiful plates! You’ll get a little hit of pleasure every time you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc etc.
Sitting in this soft, curved, textured chair will feel like a hug. For added reassurance, place it in a cozy conversation circle of seating that feels cocooning and comforting.
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