Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

One of my most regular requests for help from clients is to design their bathrooms.  Refurbishing your bathroom is one of the biggest home investments you are likely to make, as well as one of the most disruptive.  And, once it’s in, that’s it.  The space can’t just be swapped around, and so it’s important to get it right first time to avoid making expensive mistakes!

The bathroom is where we start and end every day.  From getting us going on a workday morning to being a place of calm, to relax and unwind each evening, bathrooms need to serve two very different purposes, so it’s worth ensuring that this room influences our behaviour in the right way.

It tends to be one of the smallest rooms in the house as well, so you need to cram a lot of functions into a tiny space. However, it is still a room in your house and so needs to look like it belongs to the rest of it.  It is just as important to ensure you incorporate your personality in this space!

  1. Introduce colour and pattern

Just because a bathroom needs certain areas to be waterproof doesn’t mean it has to be bland.  Adding colour and pattern is one of the easiest ways to add personality to this space, and there are thousands of tile options to choose from!  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you need to restrict your choice of tiles to a maximum of three.  Be creative with your tiling, layering in colour and pattern.  Listen to your heart as well as your head when it comes to choosing your tiles, and have fun!

Other ways to introduce colour and pattern is with a statement basin.  The London Basin Company have some fantastic options!  And West One Bathrooms sell a waterproof wallpaper which is suitable for use inside your shower cubicle. 

Brightly patterned basin
Image: London Basin Company
  1. Incorporate wooden elements

Being a natural material, wooden furniture is a great way to introduce biophilia to your bathroom.  The most obvious place to do this is with a basin vanity unit.  Wall hung vanity units do help to create the illusion of space if your bathroom is particularly small.  However, if your space is large enough, then you don’t need to restrict yourself to bathroom-specific furniture.  In my bathroom, I have installed a Chinese-style cabinet, but vintage pieces also work brilliantly, as they are imbued with nostalgia and memory, and add narrative.  Just ask your bathroom fitter to cut out a hole in the top for the plumbing.

Bathroom showing wooden Chinese-style cabinet
  1. Use curved shapes and soft materials to soften hard edges

Bathrooms have a tendency to be hard spaces, so choose shapes that are as round and soft as you can, and add in further softness through window dressings, fabric covered lampshades, rugs and lots of towels.

Curved bath and basin add softness
  1. Add art, accessories and plants

Not all your bathroom walls need to be tiled, so where possible leave some of them untiled to allow you to hang art.  Get your picture framer to foil back your art to protect it from steam.  To help your bathroom feel like just another room in your home, incorporate plants and accessories too. 

Art and plants help to create a homely atmosphere
  1. Layer in lighting

Fitting your lighting at different levels adds intrigue and ambience to any space, and the bathroom is no exception.  At the very least try you should have ceiling lights and wall lights either side of a mirror.  These lights should be on different circuits, and on a dimmer switch, so you can create a more relaxed atmosphere when you choose.  You can also incorporate lighting in niches, on shelves, under cabinets.  And, if the layout of your space allows, it can also be possible to incorporate a statement chandelier.  Just do be sure to check that your lighting plans comply with buildings regulations.

Bathroom mirror lights
Niche lighting
  1. Plan in plenty of storage

Try to think outside the box when planning in bathroom storage.  Can you incorporate a small cabinet within the wall cavity behind the mirror?  And think vertically too.  In the tiny bathroom below I had a bespoke wall-to-wall cabinet made to sit on the wall above the towel heater, which meant the client had more than enough storage space without taking up any floor space.

A bespoke cupboard above the radiator
  1. Don’t forget the practicalities

It’s easy to overlook the practicalities in your bathroom – after all there are so many other decisions to be made.  But you will always need somewhere to hang the loo roll, so think about this when you plan the position of your toilet.  You’ll want your towel to be close to hand when you’re stepping out of the shower or bath, and you’ll need a towel near the basin for hand washing. 

By following these tips, you should be able to create a bathroom that feels like a comfortable extension of your home.  A space in which you’ll want to start and end each day!



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The latest report from the Happiness Research Institute was released earlier this year.  Titled “Wellbeing Adjusted Life Years”, this report investigates how can we produce the greatest happiness return for humankind?  Interesting reading, especially in light of COVID-19.

In many countries around the world, including developed countries, average wellbeing levels have stagnated or even declined despite continued economic growth.  No matter where in the world we look, health is one of the most important determinants of wellbeing.  In both high and low income countries, physical and especially mental illness often pose a greater threat to quality of life than unemployment or poverty.  Depression is shown to be the most burdensome disease in Europe!

Couple this with the fact that humans today, and especially with the ongoing effects of COVID-19, are spending up to 90% of our lives indoors. 

So, how can we design our homes to ensure that they nurture our mental health, and not exacerbate mental health problems?  There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.

Here are four main things that you can change in your home to improve your state of wellbeing, and live your best life possible.

  1. Eliminate Clutter

Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has climbed bestseller lists all over the world as people have embraced the awareness that clutter has a negative effect on our state of mind.  In fact, I have heard it said that being surrounded by clutter is as stressful to us as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!  So, it goes without saying that the first thing we should do, when it comes to making improvements to our homes, is to de-clutter. 

One way to help achieve this is to have adequate storage for the possessions that we chose to hold on to.  Storage is the one thing that my clients consistently ask for as it is often distinctly lacking in homes, both new and old.  Storage ranges from having a stylish box on your coffee table to hide those ugly TV remotes, to a large bank of built-in cupboards, and everything in between!

A place for everything and everything in its place
  1. Introduce Elements of Nature

Since the beginning of human evolution, we have been connected to the natural world, observing the changing seasons, learning what foods grow when, and when we can celebrate earth’s bounty, or when we need to build up reserves for the leaner seasons.

The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature.  It helps explain why flickering flames and cascading waterfalls captivate us; why forest bathing is such a powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world; and why having a pet has restorative, healing effects.

The use of biophilic design in our spaces has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.

Even as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature can lead to positive emotions, mental restoration and other health benefits.

Floral prints, textured surfaces, and fresh flowers bring nature into this bedroom
  1. Use Colour

Colour is an incredibly powerful tool to use in our homes.  As Karen Haller, author of The Little Book of Colour says, colour “… communicates feeling, creates a mood, affects our energy, our appetites, our sleep, and has a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing and on the behaviours of everyone we live with.” 

Colour has the power to positively support us emotionally, yet so often we chose to decorate with so called ‘neutral’ colours on behalf of the future buyer of our home, or because of what our friends and family will think if we don’t.  This results in us living in places we don’t really like, in the hope that others will.

However, it’s important to note that when choosing our colours, we need to be mindful to choose the right colour for how we want the space to feel, as well as picking the right shade for our own personalities. 

Pops of colour are incorporated in the art and the rug
  1. Add Personality

This is the final item that really turns a house into a home.  Stamping our own mark on our space restores our equilibrium in this world, reminds us of our journey through life, and inspires us.

Bringing personality into our homes involves layering in pattern and texture, and displaying art, decorative items and collections.  It is about choosing furnishings that play with scale or proportion, and adding in items with quirky, offbeat designs.  It’s the little things that make you smile.

Your home should always tell your unique story.

Layers of texture, books and a cherished childhood toy add personality

With these four tips, you can transform your space into one that nurtures you psychologically and physically, contributing to your overall health, happiness and well-being.

”Life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called human.”
Louis Barragánhe

In my last blog post I talked about the importance of Biophilic Design – adding that connection to nature to our interior spaces.  But so often, when I see examples of biophilic spaces, it is a sea of natural wood and indoor plants.  What is missing for me is those elements of joy.

Biophilic design with natural wood and indoor plants
Image: Hirouyki Oki

When I think of the photographs of nature that I have taken, they are more likely to be photographs of spectacular sunsets, bright splashes of colourful flowers, or eye-catching creatures.  It is the COLOURS of nature that make my heart sing! 

Bright oranges scenes from nature - hornbill bird, berries, sunset, mushrooms and a butterfly.

And so it should be with our homes too.  Incorporating certain tangible things into our homes can create that intangible feeling of joy.  Here are some of the ways that you can start crafting more joy in your home:

INTRODUCE COLOUR

All over the world, bright vivid colours are associated with joyful occasions – from the Carnival in Brazil, to India’s Holi festival.  In Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful, she says “Bright colour operates like a stimulant, a shot of caffeine for the eyes.  It stirs us out of complacency.”  Lively colours radiate optimism and sunshine and help us to marshal the energy we need.

I’m not suggesting that we all need to paint every wall of our homes in a bright colour, but we do need those bursts of colour in our indoor spaces, like flowers in a garden.

A pink chair

LAYER TEXTURE AND PATTERN

Along with colour, the layering of texture and pattern provides a sensorial richness, and a sense of abundance that is not only pleasurable, but vital to healthy neural development.  An environment that is too minimalistic acts as an anaesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions. 

I don’t know about you, but when I visit places such as Morocco, India, Barcelona, Turkey and Thailand, as a tourist taking in the architecture around me, it is the buildings that are the most gaudily decorated that grab my attention and make me want to pick up my camera and capture that feeling to bring home with me.

Layers of pattern and texture in a bedroom

ARRANGE ITEMS SYMMETRICALLY

Symmetry brings a sense of order and feeling of ease to a space.  It is the tangible manifestation of harmony through balance, rhythm and repetition.  Repeating colours, shapes or textures in different parts of a room helps us to view the room as a whole and brings structure to the complexity.  If your environment makes you feel stable, balanced and grounded you’re more likely to reflect these behaviours too.

Bedside tables arranged symmetrically either side of the bed

INCORPORATE CURVED FORMS

Circles and spheres are subconsciously associated with safety and positivity as there are no sharp angles to risk injury.  Round shapes are found everywhere in nature too – think bubbles and berries, and instinctively open us up to our playful impulses.  Think pom-poms sewn along the edge of a cushion, round side tables, or the Ball chair.

A round dining table creates a much more social dining experience, allowing guests to come together in a single conversation, and interact in a much more personal way.  And a spiral staircase brings a powerful kind of dynamism into a space.

A circular dining table creates a more intimate dining experience.

CREATE NEGATIVE SPACE

Negative space is the space around and between objects.  Having more space allows for a greater freedom of movement.  It also reduces the visual weight of a space, so objects with perforations will appear lighter than solid ones.  Think slender legs on furniture and translucent materials.

DRAW THE EYE UP

Drawing the eye up by highlighting the vertical dimensions of a room will create a space that feels uplifting, like painted ceilings in churches and mosques.  Think of your ceiling as the fifth wall and pay as much attention to its decoration as you would your walls.  If you have the ceiling height, incorporate decorative light fittings.

The height of a room can also be accentuated by using tall plants / sculptures, built-in bookshelves, full-length curtains, and wallpaper with a vertical pattern.

Full length curtains make a room appear taller

ADD SOME MAGIC AND SENSE OF CELEBRATION

A mobile that sways gently on a breeze, prismatic glass that creates rainbow reflections, mirrors that create the illusion of a larger space, and mirror balls and surfaces that shimmer and sparkle all add a sense of magic to a space.

Shapes that burst out from the centre, like fireworks, have long been a part of celebrations around the world.  Think tassels and juju hats, a starburst mirror, or a chandelier that captures the bursting quality of light in static form.

Flowers are also a great of capturing so many of the elements listed above.  Flowers come in different colours, and their shapes vary too – from cups to cones, stars to clusters.  Floral forms are found on fabrics and wallpapers, and are also an important element of biophilic design, so tick both of these boxes!

A bright floral arrangement adds a sense of celebration to a space

Ingrid Fetell Lee sums it up so beautifully – “The problem is that without joy, we may be surviving, but we are not thriving.  If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic … or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.”

And there has never been a more important time than now, with the uncertainty that lockdown and COVID-19 have brought, to ensure that our homes can inject joy into our lives!

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Since the beginning of human evolution, we have been connected to the natural world, observing the changing seasons, learning what foods grow when, and when we can celebrate earth’s bounty, or when we need to build up reserves for the leaner seasons.

The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature.  It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why forest bathing is such a powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world; and why animal companionship has restorative, healing effects.

The start of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s and into the early 1800s saw people moving to working in factories rather than outside, in the fields.  Industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people.  The result was huge economic growth and the growth of commerce, drawing people into office jobs, and into human created, artificial environments.

These days, we humans are increasingly spending up to 90% of our lives indoors – often highly controlled spaces, with even lighting, a constant temperature, and straight lines everywhere.  Add to this our growing addiction to our screens, and we are now very disconnected from the nature that used to be part of our everyday lives.  Stress, anxiety and depression are very real, modern day afflictions.

However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our indoor spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.  The use of biophilic design in our spaces has been proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and stimulate creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness.  Even as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature can lead to positive emotions, mental restoration and other health benefits.

1. Reduces your stress
A professor at Chiba University in Japan, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, has found that forest walks yield a 12.4 per cent decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, compared with urban walks.

2. Improves your mood
Academics at Derby University have conducted a meta study of existing research which concludes that connecting to nature can be linked to happiness and mental well-being. Spending time in nature releases hormones that relate to the pursuit of joy.

3. Frees up your creativity
In one study by David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, participants saw a 50% improvement in creative problem solving after three days immersed in nature with all access to modern technology removed.

4. Reduces high blood pressure
A recent meta study in Japan reviewed 20 trials, involving 732 participants, which demonstrated that blood pressure levels in a forest environment were significantly lower than those in a non-forest environment.

Providing people with healthy places in which to live and work is vital if we want to maximise our well-being and improve our lifestyle.  Of course, it’s important to try and increase the amount of time that we do actually spend outdoors, but by incorporating biophilic design into our homes, we can increase our exposure to nature without actually leaving the house.  Do get in touch if your home could do with some biophilic help?

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Homes that layer in pieces from different eras or cultures are dynamic and interesting. However, it’s important to follow a few simple rules to ensure you end up with a cohesive scheme, and not something where your eye doesn’t know where to land, and winds up confused and unhappy. Here are seven ways to successfully mix aesthetics:

COLOUR

Whether your scheme is monochrome or multi-coloured, using a consistent colour scheme will help your scheme hang together cohesively.  This doesn’t mean that every piece of furniture needs to be exactly the same colour though.  In fact I’d encourage you to mix and match colours, using accessories to pull all the colours together.

Image – Sophie Robinson

THINK SCALE

Don’t forget to consider the scale of your furniture in mind.  You don’t want a huge overstuffed chair sitting next to your grandmother’s dainty wooden carved loveseat.  And if you’re buying pieces whilst on your travels, then resist the temptation to buy something because it will fit in your luggage to get it home because the chances are it will be too small, and get lost in your scheme.

CREATE BALANCE THROUGH SYMMETRY

If you have totally different objects on either side of a bed, for example, they can create a balanced whole due to their symmetry within the space. However, it’s best to choose items with an equal visual weight to achieve this balance.

Image – Studio Ashby

DISTRIBUTE EQUALLY

Try to avoid having a confusing mix of solitary objects. When mixing in different styles, give each piece at least one ‘companion’ who shares the same characteristics (colour, era, culture, etc), and then distribute these items equally through the space.  This makes it easier for the eye to accept whilst adding interest to the scheme.

Image – Clarkson Potter

SHAPE

Choose pieces with complimentary lines and shapes. I find this easiest to do by creating a moodboard with all of the items together.  You should be able to quite easily tell if one item sticks out like a sore thumb this way.

ONE PIECE, TWO STYLES

Another way to unite a scheme is to have two contrasting styles in one object, for example an antique chair reupholstered in a modern fabric or pattern, or a traditional piece of brown furniture painted in a bright colour.

Image – Studio Ashby

MATCH MOODS

It’s important to think about how you want you space to feel.  If your living room is a place to kick back and relax, don’t layer in overly formal furniture. Make all your choices equally informal, and your space will feel right.

Using these simple rules, you will be able to create a successful space, where everything finds a way to get along.  Having said that, I couldn’t agree more with Dorothy Draper  who says, “I always put in one controversial item. It makes people talk.”   After all, rules are there to be broken!

“For a house to be successful, the objects in it must communicate with one another, respond and balance one another.”
Andrée Putman

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Not all of us have the luxury of a large house with plenty of space to spread out in, meaning that we have to be clever with the space that we do have.   Here are some design tricks you can try to get the most out of your space:

LOOK AT A FLOORPLAN

I always start off working on a design for a client by looking at the floor plan.  This gives a great overview of the size and proportions of the rooms, and allows you to see what direction they face, so that you can work out if the rooms are in the right places.  Just because someone is using a room as a living room doesn’t mean that’s what it has to be.  When I did my own side-return extension, rather than turning the room that led out onto the garden into a kitchen / diner, and keeping the living room at the front of the house, I decided that I wanted the room that led out onto the garden to be my living room.  You really need to think about your layout, how often you use each room, and what you are using it for.

Floor plan

I also look at how doors open, as in many cases additional space can be carved out of a room simply by changing the way a door swings.  One point to note, however, is that if you change a door swing, you’ll likely need to move the light switch too.

SELECT FURNITURE WITH SCALE IN MIND

The next thing to consider is what furniture you need in each room.  For your living room, for example, you might want enough seating for eight people on a regular basis.  This can be achieved through a range of different options – 2 x 3 seater sofas and 2 chairs, or a large corner sofa and a selection of chairs, etc.  Make a note of the dimensions of the furniture that you like, and draw it to scale in your floorplan.  This way you’ll be able to work out how well it fits – if it’s too big or too small; does it obscure a window, or sit too close to another piece of furniture. 

It’s also important to consider ‘traffic flow’.  This will help you to create a space where you can easily navigate around the furniture unhindered which will help the room to feel more spacious.   Don’t automatically place your furniture against the walls either. Sometimes placing a piece at an angle or surrounded by open space, will make a room look bigger.

Symmetrical furniture arrangements are generally more harmonious than asymmetrical ones, so try arranging similar size chairs either side of the fireplace in a living room.  And if the architecture of your space doesn’t give you symmetry, you can create your own by defining a line that you use to place items either side of.

REDUCE VISUAL CLUTTER

Whether your space is light and airy, or dark and cosy, you can reduce visual clutter by painting the walls, skirting boards, window frames and door frames in the same colour.  Painting the ceiling can also work miracles in creating a cohesive space. 

The more floor that is visible, the more spacious your room will look.  Choose wall hung shelving, furniture with exposed legs, or see-through furniture such as glass tables or lucite chairs.  All of these options will fool the eye into thinking there is more space than there actually is.

Tiny bathroom

When it comes to accessories, remember that less is more.  Use fewer larger decorative pieces, and make sure you leave enough negative space around them.  Mirrors, especially large ones, create symmetry by reflecting the space back on itself, which also works to make the space feel larger!

CREATE A COHESIVE SCHEME

Creating a moodboard will helps you to see how the colours you like work together and whether furniture styles coordinate.  I usually start from a selection of images from magazines / Pinterest to sum up the feeling you want to create in the room.  From there I add fabric samples (feel and texture is as important as colour and scale of pattern, so it’s important to get actual samples) and then paint colours.  Try to make the main colour swatches bigger than the accent ones so you get a feel of the proportions.  And then add the furniture and accessory ideas to the moodboard too.  This allows you to see whether all of the items will work together in the one space, creating a cohesive scheme.

Happy planning, and please do share your ideas on your social media.  I’d love to see how you get on!

“A house is very much like a portrait: the thought of arrangement, the curves and straight lines. It gives an indication of the character at the heart of it.”
Christian Louboutin

My front door is yellow.  I chose this colour because it’s a colour that says happy and optimistic and that’s the vibe that I want for my home so why not start with the front door!

If this COVID-19 outbreak has taught us one thing, it is the importance of home!  Last year The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen published The Good Home Report 2019.   In producing this report, The Happiness Research Institute talked to over 13,000 people about their home, and how happy they are in life. The survey included people from 10 different countries across Europe and from different cultures, age groups and social economic backgrounds.

The research answers the questions: What makes a house a home:  And what makes that home a happy one? 

“Our research shows that often we look for happiness in the wrong places. Sometimes what we think makes us happy and what really makes us happy are not the same. Our research builds on the belief that our homes shape our lives. Our homes are where we find comfort and safety. Where we let our guard down and connect with loved ones. In a world demanding more and more of our attention, our homes are where we can retreat to and seek refuge.”
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and author of best-selling book The Little Book of Hygge

 I am already aware of the fact that our homes have such a big impact on how we feel.  But the study highlighted that our homes actually account for 15% of our overall happiness, compared to only 6% from income, and 3% from our employment status.

We all have our personal preferences in style, colour and materials, but the study identified five core emotions related to happiness at home, no matter who we are or where we live – pride, identity, comfort, safety and control.

PRIDE

“First and foremost, we want a home we can feel proud of. Usually those feelings of pride come from our personal achievements, whether that’s a home improvement project we completed, or the time and energy we’ve invested to make a place feel like home. Pride is the core emotion that best explains happiness in general and happiness in the home.“

The research showed that having a home we feel proud of is the single most important thing when it comes to feeling happy at home, yet it’s also one of the emotions fewest of us feel!  So, what is it that makes us feel proud of our homes? The Happiness Research Institute found a strong link between how much pride people have in their homes and the time they spend improving their home.  Investing time and energy to create your own personal space, whether you are working with an interior designer, or ‘doing it yourself’, is proven to enhance pride and happiness.

And if we are proud of our homes then we are more likely to invite friends and family in to share our space, developing emotional connections, adding meaning and creating positive memories in the process.

COMFORT

“The world can be hectic, so it’s natural that we want our home to be a stress-free haven. A place where we can shut out the rest of the world, relax and unwind. Many of the people we spoke to talked about their home as a sanctuary or safe haven.”

One of the most important ways to create a sanctuary in our homes is to design our homes with a connection to nature.  Studies have shown that this, known as biophilic design, creates a space in which we can relax, physically and mentally, and recharge. Adding biophilia into our homes involves everything, from the layout and functionality of a space, to the colours and textures of the soft furnishings we surround ourselves with. 

IDENTITY

“It is important our home feels like an extension of ourselves. Somewhere we can express our own unique personality and sense of identity. Whether it’s the colour we paint the walls or the furniture we choose, we want to put our own stamp on the place we live.”

Personalising your home is one of my mantras, and I have blogged about this before.  It is important that our homes are a collection of our lives, who we are, and where we’ve been.  They should reflect the narrative of our lives, from the books on the shelves, to the treasures brought back from travels, to the furniture handed down through the generations – all of these things help to create a home that promotes that feeling of identity and belonging. 

SAFETY

“We want to feel safe and secure in our homes. That doesn’t just mean feeling safe from physical threats. It can also be about the condition of our home, such as whether the structure is sound or if the roof leaks.“

Safety is one of the most important human needs, as classified in Maslow’s 1943 paper on “A Theory of Human Motivation”.  His hierarchy of needs puts safety in second place, above our need for food, water and oxygen.

CONTROL

“Control is about the level to which we can decide what happens in our own home. This can be linked to things like budget or whether we rent or own the place we live in. It’s ultimately about whether or not we feel on top of things.”

Interestingly, the research found that home ownership, location, or size are not essential factors in our happiness. It is more important to people that their homes met their needs and that they are adaptable to life’s changes over time.  It is the perception of spaciousness that is more closely connected to happiness than simply having a big home.  Factors such as less clutter and more storage are key here, as well as rearranging our homes to create a greater sense of space.  Lack of space is cited as the single most common problem people experience, and that has the biggest impact on how we feel.

What to know more? You can read the full report here.

So how does your home rank in terms of your happiness?  We’d love to hear your thought on social media – and don’t forget to tag us!

“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”
Mary Davis

Finding sanctuary in our homes has never been so important.  A global pandemic can do that.  Our homes are our safe places – where we are isolating and social distancing with our loved ones.  They should be somewhere where we enjoy spending time, and should help us to feel relaxed, calm and safe in these difficult times.

Shades of green and natural materials make this bedroom a relaxing sanctuary

Having a home is something that many of us have perhaps taken for granted in the past.  (I can’t imagine how it would feel not to have somewhere safe to live right now).  But when Covid-19 arrived, it was as if we all suddenly found ourselves shunted right down to the bottom of Maslow’s triangle as we’ve had to focus on much more fundamental needs – health, food, shelter, family and community.

Before Covid-19, our homes were often just a space we came back to at the end of the day, and so we were less concerned about what they looked like.  But during the last few weeks, many of us have started to look at our own four walls with a fresh eye. This unprecedented period in lockdown has fundamentally changed our relationship with our homes. Our focus has shifted away from going ‘out’ – to work and meeting up for social and leisure activities outside the home, and instead our lives have been concentrated inwards, to the confines of our own homes.

Splashes of red and orange encourage dinner time conversations whilst the pale blue inspires creativity in this room that doubles as a dining room and home office

We’ve been spending more time gardening and baking, finding new ways of meeting or socialising online and even doing DIY jobs around the house.  We’ve learnt new skills and become more self-reliant.  We’ve had to reorganise the existing spaces within our homes to accommodate our new found routines. As we emerge from the other side of this, many of us will be thinking about how we can maximise the available space in our homes through re-configuring or expanding them to accommodate activities such as working from home on a more permanent basis.

The turquoise tiles in this bathroom are the perfect pick-me-up to get you up and out in the mornings.

But before we rush headlong into these new projects, it’s important that we take our time to get things right.  We need to design a connection to nature into our spaces.  And we need to think about things like how different colours cause us to behave and feel.  These are both important elements if we want to design a space that is truly a sanctuary – giving us feeling of relaxation, calm and safety, but also in inspiring us creatively and helping us to be productive when and where we need to be. If you need help achieving this, then you know where to find me!

“A home is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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How does your home make you feel?  Is it a supportive, comfortable haven that expresses and reflects who you are, nurturing your wellness and encouraging positive behaviours?  Or is it leaving you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, or bored and lifeless?

How we choose to decorate our homes, or more specifically, the colours that we surround ourselves with, affects our mood and energy levels, our appetites and our sleep patterns, and has a profound effect on our well-being.  And at times like this, when we’re all spending much more time than usual in our homes, creating a nurturing home is more important than ever.

Colour has a huge impact on how we feel.  As Karen Haller says in The Little Book of Colour, “You have only to think of how we are affected by the colours of the natural world to see [the psychological impact that colour has on us] in action: how the sun’s rays fill us with happiness and optimism, how the greens of a forest give us a feeling of peace and tranquillity, how a dark-grey sky makes us want to stay in bed under the covers.  All these are our subconscious and unconscious responses to colour.”

Choosing colours for your home shouldn’t be based on what colours we like, but on the behaviours that we want to see exhibited in our spaces.  And the most powerful way that we can impact behaviour is through our colour choices. 

So, let’s take a look at a couple of rooms to see how this would work.

In a living room, the behaviours that you are most likely to see are relaxing (watching TV, reading or listening to music), and socialising with family and friends.  So what colours are likely to encourage these behaviours?  The colours associated with relaxing are predominately brown, dark blue and green, whilst those associated with stimulating conversation are red (although too much can turn the conversations heated), orange and yellow.  So, if you living room has to accommodate all of these behaviours, then a balanced mix of colours that support them would be required, for example blue and orange, green and yellow, etc.

It is also important to pick colours that not only work together tonally, but that are also the tone suited to your personality.  So, for example, if you’re thinking of using a dark blue and you’re a Winter personality then you should choose a midnight blue.  Autumn personalities would be better suited to a dark teal blue, Summer personalities a cool navy, and Spring personalities a bright cobalt blue.

Bedrooms are spaces where we start and end each day, and we want them to help us to unwind and calm us for sleeping at night, but in the mornings they need to encourage us to wake, get dressed and get going for the day.  Colours that work well in bedrooms include pink, purple, light blue and green.  Red is the perfect colour for encouraging passion in an adult bedroom, but should be avoided in a child’s bedroom where it can overexcite.  Again it is important to pick tones that work with your colour personality.

Karen Haller sums it up perfectly – “Working with colour is always a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  We do not see colour in isolation, and the way colours work together is what creates our emotional response.”

If, at the moment, you are feeling exhausted and depleted, depressed or oppressed, bored and lifeless, then it could have something to do with the colours that you are surrounded by in your home.  Do get in touch to see how I can help you transform your home.

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.”
Wassily Kandinsky

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As we enter week 6 of lockdown in the UK, I thought I’d share with you the five Instagram posts that have brought me joy over the past week.  I think you’ll find they share a common theme!

First up is this image from one of Kit Kemp’s designs, a collaboration in the loft space at Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue in New York.  It is full of colour, pattern and texture, and effortlessly mixes in elements from different cultures.  I am a huge fan of Kit Kemp’s style!

Image: Kit Kemp

Next up is this magical gallery walkway that I came across on The Design Files.  It is in the home of Australian artist David Humphries, whose legendary career has seen him craft dazzling terrazzo art pieces in Australia, London and Los Angeles.  The bright Harlequin pattern floor is actually linoleum tiles, but I just love the intense colour they bring to this space.  It would be a completely different space if the floor were plain wood or concrete!

Image: The Design Files

Sophie Robinson is well known for being the queen of colour, and last week she posted this image of a little corner in her spare bedroom.  Again it’s a space that’s filled with colour and pattern – stripes and florals layered one on top of the other.  It is full of interest without being overwhelming.

Image: Sophie Robinson

Going outdoors now, I just love this image posted by Ingrid Fetell Lee – the #joyspotter herself!  The colours just shout sunshine, and although they are large blocks of colour, there is the pattern in the pink tiles on the orange wall, running down to the water spout. 

Image: Rosas & Xocolate

And finally, another Ingrid Fetell Lee post is this school by Japanese architect, Keiichiro Sako.  I can just imagine the patterns of light that would play through those coloured panels.  I would love to introduce some stained glass into my home.  I just haven’t figured out how to make it work yet!

Image: Sako Architects

I think it’s fairly obvious what brings me joy.  Do you know what it is that brings you joy?

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